Thursday, March 29, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Mark 10:29-30 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

     Well, I came home yesterday afternoon. I'm here for a little over two weeks until April 13th when I'll fly to El Salvador. It's obviously great to see my family again. But besides family, the number one thing I missed most was working with the kids at church. Since my plane landed in the afternoon, I got to go to church last night and see the 3rd to 5th grade boys in Awana again. I'm so glad I got to go. I missed working with them so much and it was such a blessing. It's going to be difficult to leave them again in a couple weeks, but even though I know I'll miss them, I'm reminded of Mark 10:29-30. I know that as I leave Massachuseets and go to El Salvador, that there will be so many kids there that I'll fall in love with and be able to minister to just as God has given me a heart for the kids here at church and has used me to minister to them. And even though I might not physically be here working with the kids at my church, they'll still be in my prayers while I'm in El Salvador loving, building relationships, and ministering to the great number of El Salvadoran kids that God will bring in my path.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Matthew 11:6 - No Offense

Friday 3/23/12 No Offense

Matthew 11:6 – “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

     You ever have that decision to make? You know, the one where you can either follow the crowd or stand up for God and follow Him at the risk of looking silly or being made fun of? The one where you can either abandon God when things get tough or stick in there? The one where you can continue to follow what God says or just give up on His ways? Unfortunately, when those times come, it’s so easy to be offended because of God and forsake Him and His ways. After all, Jesus tells us that if we want to follow Him, we should count the cost. But He also tells us from this verse that if we do decide to follow and are not offended because of Him, we’ll be blessed. So this is one of those questions Christians must ask themselves often: “Is the blessing of not being offended because of Jesus worth the cost of following Him?”
     History and the Bible are filled with a huge number of people that had to make this decision and chose to stand for God. Look at Daniel and his example, for instance. Darius passed a law that anyone who prays to anyone but him would be thrown into the lion’s den. The peer pressure was on, but that didn’t stop Daniel. Daniel still prayed as usual. He was thrown into the lion’s den, but God delivered him. Daniel had a choice whether to continue praying to God or not. And because he chose not to be offended because of God and not to give into peer pressure, he was blessed enough to see the power of God as the mouths of the lions were shut. Imagine if he did give into peer pressure – even just for the period of time until the law was over. Then he would have never been thrown into the lion’s den, and he would have never seen the power of God shutting the mouths of the lions.
     How about us? When the world around us is telling us that we’re silly for believing in the Bible, do we give into peer pressure and suppress our relationship and prayer life with God, and in the process forfeit a chance of seeing God’s power work in our lives? The world may say that we’re sill for believing in God, but when we continue to seek Him daily like Daniel did, eventually God will reveal His power and prove that our faith in Him was not as silly as the world makes it out to be.
     Besides Daniel’s example, another example of a person who made the choice to stand up for God was the apostle John. At the moment Jesus was arrested, His apostles all fled. But later, we see John at Jesus’ cross. He made a choice not to be intimidated by any trials or persecution that might come with identifying with Jesus, and because of that, he got to see Jesus as He demonstrated the greatest act of His love and provision toward us by dying on the cross.
     If we forsake Jesus when times get tough, we’re going to miss the opportunity to see how He would have come through in our trials. Just like John’s case, it’s when we aren’t offended because of Jesus and stick through the trials He’s allowed in our lives, that we’ll be able to better see His love and provision in our lives.
     A third example of a person who followed God no matter what is Joseph. Some people can get offended because of God due to His rules and morals. “God’s too narrow-minded,” they think. “He just doesn’t want us to have any fun; He wants us to be miserable.” Joseph, however, refused to let himself think that way. God allowed him to be sold into slavery – quite miserable if you ask me. However, this young man still didn’t forsake God but continued to obey His rules. Even when Potiphar’s wife tried to entice him, Joseph stood strong; and for what? Just to get thrown into prison! But while Joseph was following God’s commands for his life, God was working everything out so that one day Joseph would be second in command. Likewise, God has a plan for us, but if we give up following His ways because we think it will get us nowhere, we’re going to miss out on what we could have been for God.
     So whether it’s peer pressure, trials, “narrow-minded” rules, or something else, if we get offended because of God or something He’s doing in our lives and we turn from Him, we’re only hurting ourselves and missing out on a blessing. He wants to show us His power; He wants to show us His love and provision; and He wants to show us what we can be in Him. But if we get offended and turn from Him during these times, we won’t stick around long enough to see the blessing He’ll do through these tough times.
     “Okay,” you might say. “These are all great examples, but let’s get real now. What about those people in history and the Bible who weren’t offended because of Jesus but got persecuted and even died for Him? There are lots of those examples too. What does the Bible say about those people?” Well, in Hebrews 11 we have what some people term as “The Hall of Faith.” These are the people who had faith in God and their acts showed that they weren’t offended because of Him. In verses 35-40, it talks about the people who were persecuted and died. Speaking of them, it says that the world was not worthy of them. In fact, verse 39 tells us that all these people of faith did not receive the blessing or promise this side of Heaven. But the key verse in this whole chapter is found in verse 16: “But now they desire a better [country], that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
     History and the Bible give us example after example of these heroes who refused to be offended because of God. And although many times they got blessed on this earth because they got to see God’s faithfulness when they wouldn’t forsake Him, the ultimate blessing that they – and we ourselves – receive is the blessing of knowing a God who is not ashamed of us and who has prepared a city for us in heaven that is so amazing that it’s beyond what we can even imagine. On the flip side, however, Jesus says in Mark 8:38 and Luke 9:26 that if we are ashamed of Him, He’ll be ashamed of us when He comes in His glory. I don’t know about you, but I think that the blessings of standing strong for Jesus greatly outweigh the temporary costs. So I’ve made my choice next time that decision comes around, have you made yours?

     I will ask God to help me stand strong for Him when the decision comes to either abandon Him or stand for Him. At the end of the day, I’ll see if I was faced with this choice at all and what I did.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Matthew 11:5 - Seeing Is Believing...Or Is It?

Thursday 3/22/12 – Seeing Is Believing…Or Is It?

Matthew 11:5 – The blind see and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

     Seeing is believing! That’s a common misconception. Seeing is not equivalent to believing. I’ll prove it. If you’ve ever seen a magic trick, you saw something disappear or happen right before your eyes, but you know that it had to be some kind of trick. You don’t believe that what you are seeing is actually happening but rather you realize that it’s just an illusion.
     “Man, if I only lived back in Jesus’ day and saw everything He did, my faith would be so great!” we sometimes tell ourselves. This, however, is not necessarily the case. Many people saw the miracles that Jesus did – things that only God could do – yet many of them still did not believe in Him. Some of them, like many of the religious leaders, wanted to be blind and so God let them.
     Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is the complete opposite of what the religious leaders of Jesus’ day had. They saw the miracles and did not believe in Jesus; faith, on the other hand, doesn’t see but believes anyway.
     Perhaps God has given you a promise but circumstances are looking dim. Maybe you’re starting to have doubts that God really gave you that promise you thought He did. Perhaps you feel as though you’re losing faith and just wish you can see a sign. But signs and living by sight is not how God has called us to walk as Christians. Instead, “…the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk2:4b).
     When Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to His apostles, but Thomas wasn’t there. Thomas said that he wouldn’t believe until he actually saw and touched the nail prints in Jesus’ hands and put his hand in Jesus’ side. Later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and told him to touch Him and not to be unbelieving anymore. Thomas believed, but in John 20:29 Jesus says, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
     In this verse, Jesus is talking about faith. So while we as Christians might be longing for God to work through signs and show us things in order to help us through our current trials, while we might wish that we were alive when Jesus was on this earth and that we would see some of the miracles of the Old and New Testament, there is a blessing in living by faith and not by sight. It might just be that once we learn how to trust God and live by faith, we can have peace and joy when the rest of the world is panicking.
     So instead of wishing that you could see the answer to whatever your problem may be, I suggest that you instead embrace any and every opportunity you have to live according to faith. Eventually, things will start to make sense as God starts to reveal a little of what He’s doing in your life. But by the time you see it, it will be too late for you to exercise your faith. So in the midst of a trial and confusion, you are at a unique opportunity to let your faith grow. So instead of seeking a sign, simply thank God for the things He’s going to do in and through you and your situations even before you see how He’s going to do it. I’m telling you, sight will eventually come and our trials will eventually be over; let’s just have a little faith.
     Lately, I’ve been praying to God to make some changes in my life so that I’ll be more of the person He wants me to be. I know He will continue the perfect work He has started in me, and therefore, by faith I will today thank Him for what He’s going to do in my life even though I can’t completely see it yet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Matthew 11:4 - Open Your Eyes

Wednesday 2/21/12 – Open Your Eyes

Matthew 11:4 – Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John, the things which you hear and see.”

     John sent his disciples to go ask Jesus if He was the One they were waiting for. But instead of giving a straight out yes-or-no answer, Jesus tells them to tell John about the things they heard and saw. The things that Jesus was doing in the lives of the people around Him would undoubtedly confirm that He was indeed the Coming One. All John’s disciples had to do was look around them.
     The same thing can happen to us. We might be waiting for God to reveal Himself to us, or hear His voice or see Him move in our lives in a specific way. We might be struggling with our faith as we find it harder and harder to wait for the expected answer in the expected way we think it will come. But perhaps, God is telling us to look around. Perhaps, like He did with John, He’s not going to give us a yes or no answer, but tell us instead that He’s doing so many things in and through us that we just need to look around for the answer. However, what so many people do (Christians and unbelievers alike) is they attribute the small things that God does in their lives to mere coincidence or natural processes. If this is the situation we find ourselves in, then all we have to do is open our eyes. God’s around and He’s showing Himself – but the question is “Are we looking for Him?”

     Today, I will keep my eyes open for the small things in my life that God does to reveal Himself to me that I usually overlook because I consider it chance or just something that happened “naturally.”

Matthew 11:3 - Ready or Not, Here I Come

Tuesday 3/20/12 – Ready or Not, Here I Come.

Matthew 11:3 – And said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

     John’s disciples were asking Jesus if He was the answer they were looking for. At one point or another in our lives we all ask ourselves this question: “God, I’m so stressed with the situations in my life. Are You coming to help me, or should I look for another way out?” “God, I don’t have the love for that person like I know I should, are You going to give me that love, or do I have to look elsewhere to try to muster it up myself?” “God, I thought You gave me a promise in Your Word; are You going to fulfill it, or did I misunderstand and I’m all alone and now it’s only up to me and what I can do?”
     The answer to John’s question was that Jesus was the One they were looking for. And at the risk of sounding too cliché-ish, Jesus is and always will be the answer to our problems. No, it might not be as easy as calling on Him and then everything’s all “hunky-dory.” In this verse, He’s referred to as “the Coming One.” If you haven’t learned it yet, in God’s kingdom, there is a lot of waiting on Him and His timing. I honestly don’t get why it seems like we always have to wait; I wish I did. I would assume it has something to do with the whole idea of God’s thoughts being higher than our thoughts and letting patience have its perfect work in us that we might be complete, lacking nothing (James 1:4), but I get that it’s easier to quote these verses than to actually wait for Him when you’re in the midst of a trial. But that’s really all I can tell you – wait on Him and He promises to renew your strength (Isaiah 40:31). We have a problem and we’re looking for an answer. We don’t know when God will arrive to deliver us, but we do know one thing – He’s coming.

     Yesterday, my application was if I started to get depressed, anxious, upset, or in any way seem to be in a prison, I would bring my cares to God through prayer. Well, all day yesterday, I felt as though I was under attack from the enemy and my flesh. The times I went to God in prayer didn’t seem to help. Honestly, I was a little confused, disappointed, and still stressed. Today, I will remember that God’s the “Coming One” and although He might not give me immediate relief from my prisons, He will eventually come in His perfect timing. I just have to hold on and wait for Him.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Matthew 11:2 - One Phone Call From Prison

Monday 3/19/12 – One Phone Call From Prison

Matthew 11:2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples.

     You ever see movies where somebody gets arrested and they get one phone call. You ever wonder who you would call if that was you about to go to jail? Would it be a parent, sibling, friend?
     John the Baptist had been preaching repentance and had been preparing the way for Jesus. However, he had told King Herod that he was in sin by taking his own brother’s wife (Matt. 14). Um yeah….coming from an earthly view, telling someone who has the authority to throw you into prison that he’s sinning, might not be the wisest thing. But remember, we’re talking about John the Baptist here. Beating around the bush was not his forte. Remember, this was the guy that called the Pharisees and Sadducees a brood of vipers (Matthew 3:7). But now the tables have turned, he got arrested, and he’s now stuck in prison.
     Where is God? Why’s this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? Why aren’t I getting any answers? Why is everything so confusing? Do these questions sound familiar? They might have been the ones John was asking himself, or perhaps these very questions are the ones you yourself have asked over and over. Things don’t go the way you expect. You know what the Bible says about God – that He’s loving, gives good gifts, protects His children; and yet, something’s happening in your life that makes you question everything you’ve thought you knew about God. You feel like you’re stuck in some kind of prison like John was; and though you know God’s around, He seems to be somewhere outside your prison so far out of reach. Sometimes, at these moments, what we are tempted to do is sit and sulk. But that’s not what John did. When he was in prison, instead of just sitting there sulking, he talked with Jesus. He couldn’t talk with Jesus himself, but he sent his disciples with a message and Jesus replied.
     The same thing can happen to us who feel as though we are stuck in some sort of prison. Instead of complaining, we can seek Jesus like John did and bring our questions, confusion, and concerns to Him. So if you feel like you’re in a prison, seek God; talk to Him like John did. “It’s hard,” you might argue. “It’s difficult when I can’t see Him. He seems so out of reach.” John couldn’t see Jesus; he was stuck in prison and Jesus was definitely out of reach for him. But even though John couldn’t see Him, he did what he could by sending a couple of his disciples to go for Him.
     Sometimes, though, we can feel like we’re so down in despair within our prison that we don’t have enough faith to go to God in prayer. It’s interesting that this verse says when John heard about the works of Christ that he attempted to talk to Jesus. Likewise, if we don’t have faith, we won’t even bother going to God because “…without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). This verse makes me wonder if we’re lacking faith, why would we even go to God? If this is the scenario, what we need to do is take a step back and first take advice from Romans 10:17 which says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” If you lack faith to go to God, first open up God’s Word and hear about the works of Christ like John the Baptist did before he attempted to communicate with Jesus. Meditate on what Jesus did for others before and what He can do for you now. And then, with the faith that God gives you, take all your cares, pick up the phone from your prison cell, and give God a call.

     If I start to get depressed, anxious, upset, or in any way seem to be in a prison today, I will bring my cares to God through prayer.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March Update

Hi Everyone,
     So it’s nearing the end of my time here at the ranch. It’s amazing to think that I’ve been here almost three months. In some ways, time seems to have flown by, and yet in other ways, it couldn’t have gone fast enough because I can’t wait to get into the field and start working with the kids in El Salvador.
     I’ll be home on March 28th in just 11 more short days! I’m so excited to see everyone back home. I’ll get two weeks at home until April 13th when I’ll be flying out to Houston to meet up with my other two teammates (Jesse and Shaquannah). From there, we’ll be flying to El Salvador for six months until October 3rd. Then we’ll fly back to the ranch in Montana for another month. This time will be a debriefing time where our team will be able to meet up with the Costa Rica team and Kenya team. Then on November 5th I’ll finally be flying home.
     Even though I have less than two weeks here at the ranch God has been continuing to do great things in my life. He has been putting it on my heart to pray for the kids in El Salvador that my heart would be greatly burdened for them. I know that the greater the burden He gives me for the people I’m going to be serving, the better I can serve. He’s also been putting it on my heart to continually ask Him to make Himself the greatest desire in my heart so that I could be content with Him and Him alone.
     As this chapter of my journey comes to a close and the next chapter on the mission field in El Salvador is about to begin, I can’t wait to see God surpass my wildest imaginations concerning the things that He’s going to continue to do in and through me. Please continue to lift me up in your prayers, and thanks as always for the support and prayers you all give back home on my behalf. God bless you all.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Acts 1:8

Friday 3/16/12

Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

     A couple verses earlier, the disciples had a one-track mind. They were egocentric and were concerned about the kingdom in the nation of Israel. However, here Jesus makes it clear that He’s not just concerned about Israel but all of the world. He has chosen people from all nations according to Revelation 7:9: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one  could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, with white robes, with palm branches in their hands…”
     Jesus is not a respecter of people or nations. He desires that all should come to repentance and be saved. I know I’m going to be going to El Salvador soon and that I’ll be a witness for Jesus there. But while I’m waiting to physically go to another country, I can still play a part in the people’s salvation all around the world by praying for them. I can also prepare myself by asking God to empower me with His Holy Spirit so that I’ll be a witness for Him wherever I am currently, whether it be Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, or the end of the earth.

     I will ask God to empower me with His Holy Spirit today so that I will be a witness for Him. I will also take extra time in prayer today to pray for the salvation of specific people that I know as well as groups of people around the world that need to know Him as their personal Savior.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Acts 1:7 - Happy Birthday to Me!

Thursday 3/15/12 – Happy Birthday to Me!

Acts 1:7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”

     If I asked you when your birthday is, most people in America (and other cultures who celebrate birthdays) wouldn’t need to hesitate to answer. It rolls right off their tongue. It’s such a monumental day in a person’s life and rightfully so. But here’s the cool thing: until the actual day you were born, that day was probably no different than any other day in the calendar year. In fact, until you were actually born, no one even knew if that would be your day. Yes, doctors probably gave your mother a due date, but many babies are born before or after that date. So while we might know the approximate time, there’s never a guarantee on when that special time for a baby will come. The only one who knew your special day beyond a shadow of a doubt even before it came was God Himself who puts all times and seasons in His own authority. While He does this with world events, realize that He does this with your life as well – starting from the day you were conceived.
     He orchestrates our lives and has everything planned out according to His timing. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God knows the works that He has prepared for us even before the foundation of the world. If God prepared the exact day you were to come into existence and the exact day about nine months later when you would be born, don’t you think that He also has exact times that He planned for us to do these good works we were created for?
     The problem for so many of us comes with patience. Sometimes, we can just taste and see that the Lord is good and we know that He has something great for us, but He’s having us wait for some reason. It can be the hardest thing at times. “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4). Imagine how excited your parents were when they found out they were going to have a child. Yet, they had to wait. And while they waited, your little body was being perfected inside your mother’s. Likewise, as we wait for God’s timing, He is sure to continue to make us perfected and sanctified in Him. God’s timing is coming and the due date is just around the corner; we don’t know when, but knowing our God, we know that something great is soon to be born.

     In a few weeks I’ll be going to El Salvador and I’ve been excited about that for months. I know that I’ll eventually get there, but right now is not God’s timing for me to be there. He still wants me in the States as He is continuing to work in my heart. It’s hard for me to wait for His timing, but one of the things He’s teaching me during this time is to be content with Him and Him alone. Therefore, I will continue praying today that He will make me so content with Himself that I won’t let anything else take His place in my life.

Acts 1:6 - Have You Got The Big Picture Yet?

Wednesday 3/14/12 – Have You Got The Big Picture Yet?

Acts 1:6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

     Like the majority of Jesus’ followers and the rest of the Jewish community, Jesus’ apostles had a narrow scope of what His plans were having not understood the concept of a spiritual kingdom. They originally thought that the Messiah’s kingdom was of this world and that He would set it up right away. When Jesus died, His followers had to reconsider their original concept of the kingdom and even thought that everything was over. But now that the apostles saw that Jesus was back from the dead, they went back to their original idea of Jesus having an earthly kingdom in Israel now that they could see how it would make sense again. However, for those of us who have the advantage of looking about two thousand years down the road, we know that the apostles’ assumptions about Jesus’ kingdom were a little off. They were concerned about an earthly kingdom just in Israel, but Jesus had the bigger picture in mind.
     Like the apostles, we can have presuppositions about Jesus and what He wants to accomplish. We can repeatedly try to understand God with our limited knowledge and assume our understanding of His kingdom and desires are completely accurate. Sometimes, we try to figure out God and put Him in a box. However, according to Isaiah, God says that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways aren’t our ways. So it might be kind of disappointing, but He’s not going to fit into our boxes. Imagine if He did. Imagine if Jesus’ plans for His kingdom went only as far as an earthly kingdom like the apostles thought. Then what hope would we have for eternity? If Jesus just came to set up an earthly kingdom in Israel, what hope would the Gentiles have? Praise God that His ways are so much higher than ours!
     That’s why in Matthew 6:10 when Jesus is teaching His disciples to pray, He says “…[Our Father,] Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.” This is how Jesus wants us to pray – that His omniscient heavenly will would be done on earth instead of our earthly will being done in heaven. Sometimes we just need to give up thinking that we know what’s the best thing to be done in our lives and in the world, and instead, simply pray that He starts putting His will and desires on our hearts, whatever they may be. We need to realize that God’s kingdom isn’t always concerned about the priorities and things that we think He should be concerned about. There are many examples of this in the Bible including Paul wanting to go to Asia but going to Macedonia instead, God giving Gideon victory through a small army instead of a large one, God letting Joseph be sold into slavery, and the list goes on. Really it does – there’s Jonah, Joshua and Jericho, Moses killing the Egyptian. Pick pretty much any character in the Bible – but really, I don’t have enough space to write all the examples. So I’ll close with this: In light of all that was said, instead of trying to get God’s will to conform to ours, we need our hearts’ desires and prayers conformed to His. Then, and only then, will we be able to see a little bit more of His big picture as He starts to give us His heart’s vision for our lives and the rest of the world around us.

     I will take time in prayer to ask God to show me what His desires are for my life and others so that I might learn what He wants me to be praying for. Already, I believe He has been calling me to pray for a burden for the people of El Salvador and for an even greater burden to be content with Him and Him alone in my life. So I’ll also pray for those two things.

Acts 1:5 - Double-Dipper

Tuesday 3/13/12 – Double-Dipper

Acts 1:5 “…for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

     I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept. You’re eating with friends and sharing the same dipping sauce. And then it happens – the worst thing, someone double dips. Maybe it was even you! But really, why do we double dip? Because we didn’t get enough sauce on our food the first time. Dipping our chips or fries into the sauce just once wasn’t sufficient enough to enjoy our food to the full extent so we needed a second dipping.
     The same concept applies in this concept. There are two baptisms here. The first is John’s baptism. This is an outward sign of you dying to yourself and your sin and being raised up in Christ as a new creation. The second dipping is an empowering of the Holy Spirit who helps you live the life of that new creation to the fullest extent. So many Christians will be saved and are a new creation in Christ, but they haven’t gone through this empowering of the Holy Spirit in their lives; instead, they are trying to live their new life in the flesh or under the law instead of in the Spirit. It’s like getting a new upgraded video game system and using an older video game controller that’s not usable with that system. The old controllers won’t work because it’s a new system with new products for using it. Likewise, our Christian life is a new life with a new way of walking. Galatians 5:16-18 says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Once the Holy Spirit is leading you, you need to stop trying to succeed according to the law in your flesh. You can’t help the Spirit along by obeying the law in your flesh because the Spirit and flesh are contrary to one another and the purpose of the law (which is being our tutor to bring us to Christ) is no longer needed (Gal. 3:24-25). Once you are in constant communication with the Spirit, He can lead you. The law will now be written on your heart (Heb. 10:15-16) as the Holy Spirit guides you according to the way that you should live. (Of course, this doesn’t mean we can’t quench the Holy Spirit. We must always be careful to not grieve Him.) God had given His disciples a new life, but now they would need His Spirit to be successful in that new life because the Old Testament law would not work anymore.
     So now how about us? We’re saved; but are we trying to live our new life by keeping the law in our flesh? The areas in our life where we answer “yes” to this question are the areas in our lives where we will always be lacking power. We’ve already died to our sin and have been raised to eternal life; now let’s “dip” down once more in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and die to our flesh and live our new life through the power of the Spirit and through His power alone. When it comes to Christianity, double dipping is okay – in fact, it’s the best way to go!
     Today, I will pay attention to how I’m living my life: am I trying to succeed in the flesh by the law or am I trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me? When I find myself not living my life in the Spirit, I will confess it before God and ask Him to change me.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Acts 1:4 - Wait For It.....

Monday 3/12/12 – Wait For It…..

Acts 1:4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me;”

     Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to many people. Now, He is about to go up to Heaven. But before Jesus leaves for Heaven, He needs to give His disciples some last minute instructions. He’s about to tell them that they are going to receive the Holy Spirit who is going to empower them to be His witnesses.
     However, in this verse, I find it very interesting that Jesus tells them to wait. It’s an exciting time because Jesus just conquered death; and Christianity as we know it is on a roll. One would think that Jesus would specify how short life is and how soon He’ll be coming back as He gives His disciples a pep-talk to get them all excited to go out and serve. You’d think He’d say something along the lines of “Don’t waste any time! Get out there as fast and as far as you can and go deliver the gospel!” But He doesn’t. He says “Wait.” So often, Jesus says “Wait” to us as Christians as well. The important thing to remember here is that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, His plans are not our plans, and His timing is not our timing. While we are so eager to get out and do something for the Lord and make a move in a certain direction, He might want us to wait.
     Why? Well there may be multiple answers. In Isaiah 40:30-31, I believe we see one reason why God tells so many of us to wait. “Even the youths shall faint and be weary. And the young men shall utterly fall. But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” If we do something for God at the moment we get eager, it’s possible that we would do it in our own strength and according to Isaiah 40:30 we’ll eventually faint and be weary. But in Isaiah 40:31 lies the secret to why Jesus was telling His disciples to wait – they would get the Promise (i.e. the Holy Spirit) from God and be able to do everything in God’s strength and not get tired.
     But along with telling us to wait because He wants to make sure that we are going to go forward in the Spirit’s strength and not ours, I believe there’s another reason. If the only reason was making sure that the Spirit was given first, then why wouldn’t Jesus just give them the Holy Spirit the second He ascended to Heaven? You see, as the disciples waited, they didn’t wait idly, but rather they spent time praying and seeking God. God treasures fellowship with His children; and when we wait on the Lord, if we’re doing it right, we’ll be seeking Him during that time. For instance, when I feed my dog dinner, I’ll tell him to sit and stay as I put his food in his bowl. He’s been trained not to get up and eat until I tell him he can. So while my dog’s waiting, you know what he’s doing? He’s looking to me, waiting and listening for the slightest hint that it’s time to get up and eat. And this, my friends, is the important part of Christianity. It’s not getting out and doing as much as we can in our own strength, but rather it’s keeping our eyes focused on Christ as we wait for His instruction and power in everything we do.

     I will ask God to empower me with His Spirit and strength in everything I do today. I will then stay alert throughout the day for times when I am getting too busy. During these times, I will listen to hear if God’s telling me to stop what I’m doing and wait on Him as I take a few minutes out of my schedule to seek Him and His power.

Galatians 6:8

Friday 3/9/12

Galatians 6:8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

     The flesh will always reap corruption without fail. That’s why Paul says in Romans 7:18a, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells.” I’ve heard it said that the only thing worse than failing in the flesh is succeeding in the flesh. When you succeed in the flesh, you produce this beautiful looking fruit. You’re so proud of what you’ve done. But when you bite into it, you find that it’s corrupt. It looks good on the outside, but the inside is disgusting.
     That’s the way of the flesh. In the flesh you can do things that people will be impressed with. They might even tell you how spiritual you are or how blessed they were by your actions. But it’s not until you offer that fruit up to God that He bites into it and allows you to see the inside of the fruit. God’s not interested in appearances; He’s interested in the heart – He’s interested in our motives.
     Unfortunately, for me this happens a lot more than I’d like to admit. I try to do something good, but my flesh gets in there and corrupts the fruit. My motives become selfish and my focus turns inward on myself. So although I wish to produce the fruit from the Spirit, many times I find out that the fruit I’m producing is bad and corrupt because of my flesh. So with Paul I say “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7: 24-25a)

     I will pray to God that everything I do be seeds sown in the Spirit and not the flesh. I will ask Him to search my heart and motivation throughout the day and to open my eyes to the times I’m doing things in the flesh and not in the Spirit. I will then make sure to keep my eyes open today for good-looking but corrupt fruit in my life and repent of it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Galatians 6:7 - Nothing Happened! Now What?

Thursday 3/8/12 – Nothing Happened! Now What? – A Devotional on Persistence, Patience, and Faith

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

     This verse obviously talks about sowing and it talks about reaping, but if that’s where you stop at this verse, you’ve missed a very important part. It might not be explicitly stated in the verse, but it’s implied so strongly that no one can deny it. The one thing that any farmer will tell you is the longest and most important part of a crop is the waiting and nurturing period in between the sowing and reaping. No farmer plants something and expects it to be ready for harvest the next day. When you plant something you’re investing your time and energy. You know that it won’t bring forth fruit for a while. It might take weeks before you see a harvest; it might take years (particularly if it’s a tree). But having the faith that what you sowed you will eventually reap is what keeps farmers going.
     For a Christian trying to please God and obey Him, this period of time can be a trial. They know from this verse alone that God promises that what they sow, they will reap; but when the days pass and nothing happens, the temptation to give up gets stronger and stronger. We must have faith, though. Without faith, we won’t make it to the time of the harvest. Perhaps this is one reason why the author of Hebrews writes, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). It’s that “diligent” part that gets so many of us. We sow, whether it be by obeying God, doing good, or requesting our petitions in prayer; but we aren’t diligent enough to keep it up until the harvest comes. Jesus says in Matthew 7:7-11 that He wants to give us good gifts but we must ask, knock, and seek. In fact, in the original language of that text it implies that we are to continue asking, continue knocking, and continue seeking. We are to sow it the first time, but then we also need to be diligent to wait for the harvest as we water what we sowed by continuing to do what God told us to do or continue to go before Him in prayer. So if you’re dreaming of a bountiful harvest in your Christian walk, then get a few seeds and a lot of faith and patience and let the time of reaping come when God is ready to bring it.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9

     I am starting to read George Muller’s autobiography. I just read the summary of his life so far, but from what I know about him, he has gone down in history for his amazing child-like faith in God. I want to have this childlike faith, but I know that faith is something that needs to be exercised. Although I know God can give people great faith overnight just because He’s God and because He wants to bless His children with good gifts according to Matthew 7:11, I know that He also wants us to keep asking.
     Therefore, my application is that I will pray for this strong child-like faith in God that I know He wants to give me and will look for opportunities to exercise that faith throughout the week. I know that I might not see the fruits of my prayer immediately, but I will continue to ask for this faith everyday for a week at the very least, believing that what I sow in prayer, God will bring to fruition in my life in His timing.

Gatlatians 6:5 It's Heavy - Watch Your Back

Wednesday 3/7/12 – It’s Heavy – Watch Your Back

Galatians 6:5 For each one shall bear his own load.

     You ever pick something up the wrong way and someone told you to “watch your back”? If the load is heavy, you can really do a lot of damage if you’re not careful. Well, how about a spiritual burden – you ever feel mentally, emotionally, or spiritually tired or weary? You ever feel like you’re carrying a heavy burden and that you’re the only one who can carry it? If so, I’ve got something you need to hear: You’ve been lied to! The devil has been deceiving you, but don’t listen to Satan because there’s One who can help. 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast “…all your care upon [God], for He cares for you.” Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” According to Galatians 6:5 we are to bear our own load; but if that load has us bogged down, tired, condemned, or just weary, we know that God’s plan is not to burden us down but to lift us up and give us rest; and perhaps it’s time that we re-examine the load we are carrying and see if it’s not the wrong one.
     A father and his seven year old son went hiking one day. They had been hiking for no more than ten minutes when the boy looked up to his father with barely any breath left in him. “I don’t think I can go any further,” he panted.
     The father looked down at his young son worried. “Well, we’re not even half way there yet. If you’re tired now, how are we going to make it all the way up the mountain?” The boy frowned and shrugged his shoulders. “Well,” the father smiled lovingly, “Then I think it’s time that you let me have my backpack back and I’ll give you yours?”
     The boy pulled His backpack off as it plopped to the ground with a thud. He stared at it astonished. “Dad, I’ve been carrying your backpack this whole time!” He exclaimed in surprise.
     You see, too many Christians are like the boy in the story. They’re carrying around a burden that they were never intended to carry. Instead, it was intended for their Heavenly Father to carry for them. The burden itself was given to us to bring us to God the Father. Some of us carry our Father’s backpack not knowing that we are carrying a burden that only God can bear for us. Others of us know we have our Dad’s backpack on but we insist that we can make it up the mountain carrying it by ourselves. What kind of burdens are you forcing yourself to carry? Perhaps it’s time to stop carrying your own load in your own strength. The Bible says that God is our strength. When we are weary with our load, it’s time to bring it to God as we kneel before Him in prayer. Yes, Galatians 6:5 says we all must bear our own load, but it doesn’t say we must bear it alone. So I’ll say it one more time in case you missed it: If you find that your own load is just too heavy for you to lift, you need to watch your back and go before God as you learn to bend with your knees instead.

     Any load that I feel I have taken upon myself today that is too much for me to bear, I will go before God in prayer and ask Him to carry the load for me as I just concentrate on seeking and obeying Him.

Galatians 6:4 - Why Dare to Compare?

Tuesday 3/6/12 – Why Dare to Compare?
Galatians 6:4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

     “I wish I could sing like that.” “Too bad I can’t pray that well.” “Why aren’t I that holy?” “Shouldn’t I know that much about the Bible, too?” You ever find yourself comparing yourself to others? I do. Well, instead of examining the works of another, according to this verse, we are to examine and rejoice in our own works. Easier said than done, we might argue after reading the previous verse Paul wrote and realizing that we’re nothing. If we’re nothing, how then can we find any good works in our lives, let alone rejoice in it? Quite simply, actually. Are you a Christian? Then according to 2 Corinthians 5:21 we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. God sees us not according to our own works, but according to His Son’s work – He sees us as righteous. The work that Christ did for us on the cross and attributed to us as righteousness is the work we can rejoice in.
     But not only do we benefit from the work Christ did on the cross for us as believers, but we become the work as well.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Do you realize that no matter how badly you mess up, you’re not a piece of work to God? Instead you’re His workmanship? However, the cool thing about God’s work in our lives is that it is unique. Granted, we are all saved by grace through faith in believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection; but our walk with Jesus is not going to be exactly the same as our brother’s or sister’s, and therefore, the plan God had for us since the foundation of the world is naturally different. He’s doing something in each and every one of our lives that He’s not doing in anyone else.
     There are at least three different times in the Gospels when people compared themselves to another person, and in all three times they were rebuked for doing so. One comes from Matthew 20 which is the parable of the laborers who worked out in the vineyard for different lengths of time but got paid the same. Another one is found in Luke 10 when Martha judges her sister Mary for not helping her in the kitchen. And the last one is found in John 21 when Jesus told Peter to follow Him and Peter asked what about John, and Jesus replied not to worry about John and His calling. “…What is that to you? You follow Me.” Jesus told Peter (verse 22).
     So when we get tempted to compare our lives with another person’s, God asks us the same question He asked Peter, “What is that to you?” We don’t need to worry about what God’s doing in another person’s life. While it’s definitely good to be praying for others and to edify and help them in any way we can, when we start to compare what God is doing in their lives to what He’s doing in our lives, that’s when we cross the line. Realize that people are different, have different histories, different convictions, different gifts and talents, and ultimately have a different plan for their lives from God. Naturally then, God will be doing different things in these people’s lives than He’s doing in ours. He’s a big enough God to be able to do that. We, however, will wear ourselves out if we try comparing ourselves to others. Fortunately, we don’t have to. God has such a great plan for us that we can spend all our energy and focus just on contemplating what awesome things lay in store for us and still be amazed. What joy that will bring us as we meditate on the works God is doing in our own lives and will continue to do. You don’t have to compare yourself to anyone else anymore. God has a unique calling and plan for your life, He’s given you unique gifts and talents for that plan, and He’s working in your life in a unique way as He’s molding you into a one-of-a-kind vessel that will bring Him the ultimate glory and you the ultimate joy. So let’s take our eyes off of others and focus them on our own work as we examine what God is doing in and through us and simply rejoice in that.

     I will examine my own life and what God is doing in and through me and then thank Him for the work He’s doing and will continue to do in my life.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Galatians 6:3

Monday 3/5/12

Galatians 6:3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

     When we get saved, the God of the universe comes into our hearts at that very moment. Right at the moment of salvation, we have all of God that anyone can have, for it says in Ephesians 1:3 that God “…has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” and in Psalm 37:10 that “…those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” So the moment we get saved, God doesn’t just give us a little bit of Himself and then waits to give us the rest. No, not at all, for that would definitely be withholding a good spiritual blessing from His kids.
     So the question becomes, “Why then do we not see God in our lives as much as we should if we have all of Him. Perhaps John the Baptist said it best when he, speaking of Jesus in John 3:30 says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” That’s the answer. When we get saved, we still have ourselves – our flesh – that dwells in us. We have all of God in our hearts, but the rest of our Christian life here on this earth becomes a daily lesson of learning how to decrease as we let God increase in our lives.
     So now we come to this verse. When we think we are something, we are putting value on our flesh and are implying that we have something we can offer God. But this verse says that this is not the case for we are nothing. No wonder Paul says that the person who thinks this way is deceived. So when we get prideful and think that we have something to offer God, we need to follow John’s example and ask God to take away our pride and help us decrease as He increases in our lives.

     I’ll spend an extra thirty minutes today in prayer and God’s Word seeking God so that I can allow Him to increase in my life.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Luke 17:10 - Humbly Taking Pride In Your Work

Friday 3/2/12 – Humbly Taking Pride In Your Work

Luke 17:10 “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”

     When you just accomplished a huge task, how do you feel? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment? Do you ever want to just take a step back and take pride in your work? If you do a good job, that’s probably the normal thing to do. And taking pride in your work is a good thing. We even teach our kids to do their best and take pride in what they are doing.
     So why here, does Jesus not say that after we have done what we were commanded we can step back and take pride in our work? It’s because there’s one flaw when you apply the principle of taking pride in your work to the Christian walk – none of it’s your work to begin with! We might think we have something to do with it, but in Philippians 2:13 it says “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” James 1:17 mentions “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…” and the next verse goes on to say “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth…” So the Biblical principle that in us nothing good dwells apart from God and that without Him we can do nothing is a fact that we as God’s servants must bear in mind even when we accomplish the greatest tasks. For if we start to take the glory for the tasks we accomplish for God, it turns our eyes on ourselves and it will only be a matter of time before our flesh disappoints. No matter what great things we do for God, we must always keep a humble attitude, realizing that we are unprofitable servants saved and growing only by God’s grace and our only duty is to let God be God and get all the glory in our lives.

     At the end of today, I will look back at the tasks I did and the accomplishments I achieved that I am proud of and give God all the glory for them, asking Him to continue doing His work in my life as I just stand aside and let Him be God.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Feburary Update

Hello Everyone,
     So the past month has been great. For the most part it’s been the regular schedule, but we did get to do some cool stuff. For instance, one thing we did one Friday night was go to a rodeo. We got to see some real Montana bull riding. It was great going to my first rodeo. They even had an ambulance there in case anyone needed to go to the hospital. (Don’t worry, nobody did.) I can’t really tell you what was more entertaining about the rodeo, watching the guys riding bulls or watching them try to get the bulls back inside the gate afterward.
     However, bull riding wasn’t the only cool thing we got to do this month. Last weekend, we went over Bruce’s house for some pizza. (Bruce heads up the maintenance department at the ranch; he and his wife are great.) Well, I was told before, that his house is probably the most photographed house in all of Montana; and when I got there I could see first-hand why. It was like a museum! He had so many animals that he had hunted mounted around his house. On the walls were deer and moose heads. There were bear furs too, but the walls were so crowded with the other animals, that the bear furs were on the ceiling. He even had a bobcat he had shot! It was pretty neat to see.
     Although there’s only a few weeks left, one thing I’m pretty excited about is that I’ve been asked to teach some beginning Spanish to the other interns that are going to El Salvador and Costa Rica. For the last few weeks we are here, I’ll be teaching Spanish for one hour a day, twice a week. I’m thankful I can use my skills that God has given me for His glory by helping others get a little more equipped for the field. I must admit, though, teaching Spanish in and of itself is pretty fun too.
     It’s weird to think that we have less than four weeks here at the ranch. On top of that, it makes it even weirder to know that we interns will be splitting up and going to different countries for six months and won’t be seeing each other after we got so close these past weeks. But by the time we meet back at the ranch around October, I’m sure we’ll have so much to share with each other. Please continue to keep me and everyone else at the ranch in prayer. I can’t mention enough how powerful prayer can be. There may be less than four weeks left here at the ranch for me, but God keeps reminding me that that’s plenty of time for Him to continue the great work He’s already started.
Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this  very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Luke 17:9 - No Reward for Hard Work...Or Is There?

Thursday 3/1/12 – No Reward for Hard Work….Or Is There?

Luke 17:9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.

     A servant is expected to work. If he does a good job, he might not always get thanked. However, chances are that he will get something – more work. The reward for responsibility is more responsibility. We see this principle many times in jobs. If an employee is doing a good job, chances are, that will be the employee who the boss will come to when he needs to get something done.
     In Matthew 25, we see the parable of the talents. Three servants got a different amount of talents. One got five, one got two and one got one. The first two were faithful carrying out their responsibility and ended up doubling their amount. The last one just hid his talent. Although the master had some strict things to say to the last servant, to the first two he said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” (Matthew 25: 21 and 23). Although getting more work for a job well done might seem like the opposite of someone thanking you, it actually should be taken as a compliment. They see that you are a hard worker and know that they can trust you.
      Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the amount of work I have to do. I’m the type that likes to get it over with as soon as possible. And if for some reason I can’t, I start to get anxious. But really, there’s no need for me to get anxious. I’m God’s servant and He says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. All I need to do is, in His strength, concentrate on the single task He’s given me to complete at that moment, and to the best of my ability glorify Him. More tasks will come – especially if I’m doing them right. I want God to be able to trust me and be pleased with my work; I want to be the one that my master feels comfortable giving more responsibility to. And if that’s the case, I need to learn now to be comfortable with a lot on my plate and a long “to do” list.

     When I get anxious about all the work I have to do, whether it’s doing homework, KP (Kitchen Patrol - i.e. cleaning up after meals), or whatever it is, I will focus on simply doing the task God has commanded me to do at that moment.