Are we listening?

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:27 NIV

I don’t know about you, but I have to be very intentional when it comes to listening. I am not talking about hearing. Listening is much different. It involves a deeper comprehension of what is being said. Listening has an element of learning to it. Simple acknowledgment that something was said does not correlate with taking it to heart. It’s vital to any relationship that both parties develop their skills in the art of listening. That is a key component to any communication. Therefore, it can be said that those of us in relationship with Jesus must also develop our ability to listen to Him, not to merely hear Him.

How often have you read the Bible and the next day or the next week, you couldn’t recall the specifics of what you had read nor the application to your life? I’ve done it. Many times. It feels like a wasted opportunity. I could have grown and matured spiritually. It could have had a tremendous impact of my perceptions for that day or week or even life, and I’ll never know because I let the lessons vanish from my mind. It’s fair and right to say that every time we read the Bible, Jesus speaks. So, isn’t it also fair and right to say that those of us who value a good healthy relationship with Jesus should also be listening?

Those who listen to their spouse, their parents, their kids, or their friends, have an intimate understanding of who they are and what makes them come alive. They know how to interact at a level that breathes life into the relationship. If we are truly listening to Jesus, then we are following Him. We will do the things that please Him. We will love and pursue Him. We will know the value and purpose He has placed on our lives. But we have to really listen. Meditation is not some odd eastern religious practice. It’s Biblical. God has actually asked it of us. Meditation simply means to think deeply or carefully about something. What better to meditate on then what Jesus is speaking into our lives? But are we listening?

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters

Receiving Rest from Jesus

Have you ever had those moments when God reached out to you at the perfect time? When He directly spoke to you? Well that happened to me earlier this week.

Driving to work a while back I realized I was a bit overwhelmed. My heart was not at rest. I was tired and my mind my was going in twenty different directions. Then I heard the words, “come to me.” By hear, I don’t mean audibly, but the overwhelming sensation and cognitive awareness that comes from the Holy Spirit moving in the heart and mind of a believer. Jesus was calling me into His presence. And like He usually does, those words were confirmed when I got to work and my desktop devotional was on this verse:

“ Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Isn’t it incredible how He orchestrates things in our lives ahead of time in order to speak to us in our time of need? He was reminding me of the words He spoke so many years ago, recorded here in Matthew chapter 11, and that He’s spoken so many times before to me. I would say that I was feeling very burdened, both physically and mentally. And Jesus found me in that moment (not as though He ever lost me). And His gentle voice whispered that same invitation that He’s extended to me many times before. But that invitation doesn’t just stop with sitting at His feet. Deep breathes and a refocusing are great, but are temporary unless there are lessons being learned.

Rest at His feet:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.””

Luke 10:38-42 NIV

Jesus said to learn from Him. The purpose of coming to Jesus, is to learn from and take on the character of Jesus. The purpose of faith is to abide in Him and to be transformed by Him. Coming to Jesus can’t be a pitstop on the journey of life. Coming to Jesus is the destination of our life. He is, after all, the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, and the author of our salvation. Each time I come to Him I should be changed. If I’m not growing during my times of rest, then I will eventually fall to the same traps, the same weaknesses, the same burdens, as I did before. It makes no sense to sit like Mary if we are going to get right back up and be a Martha.

Rest in His leading:

“Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”

Exodus 33:12-15 NIV

One critical key to finding rest is remaining in the presence of God. His presence isn’t stationary. That’s good news. We don’t have to always be sitting to be at rest. Life doesn’t stand still, but our hearts and minds can be still none the less. After coming to Jesus we need to be lead by Him. We don’t simply go our own way. The mention of His yoke is an image of being steered by Him. As Psalm 23 says, “ “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” (23:1-3) He doesn’t always lead us to the easy places but He does refresh us in all the places He leads us.

Rest in His purposes:

Whether you’re a mom raising kiddos at home, homeschooling, working one or multiple jobs, trying to make your way through new and difficult circumstances, or moving into a new and uncertain phase of life, you can have rest. Not outside of the hectic day to day, but in the middle of it. When we come to Him, have those moments at His feet, when we’re lead by Him, and when the purposes of our life is centered on God’s mission.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalms 127:1-2 NIV

When the busyness of our lives are for self centered reasons, they are feudal. But when they serve His purposes, then they have meaning. In our moments of reflection its good to ask, If God isn’t in it, what’s the point? Why am I wearing myself out? Is it to provide for my family or to buy the nice things? Is my career about making my name great or having an impact to make His name known? For what or for whom are we toiling? Is there eternal value in what I am filling my days with? If your heart isn’t at rest, then something needs to change. Some things may need to cease. Some may simply need to be rethought.

If you’re not at rest today loved ones, the first step is to come to Jesus. Come sit at His feet. Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Short-changing God

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Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.

Psalm 96:8 KJV

This seems like a tall order. First, how do we give glory unto the Lord? Second, how could we possibly hope to give Him all He deserves? Isn’t this the purpose of our very existence? We are made in His image, to bear His name, and to honor Him by the manner of our lives. But how does that look? I think the Bible answers that for us.

O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

Isaiah 25:1 ESV

Whatever we do, one thing that is paramount is worship. Our praise for God should intertwine the activities we do throughout the day, from the redundant, to the exciting and new. His children should elevate God above and beyond in within all things they do. Praise should be a constant, both privately and publicly. We cannot hesitate to shout His goodness from the mountaintops and tell the world of the great things He’s done for us for others.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16 ESV

God deserves our service. He deserves our energies and our resources. Not only should our lips shout the glories of God, but our actions should display them. In our love, we show God. In our character, we show God. In the way we lay our lives down for our neighbors, we show God.

Truth is, God deserves far more than we could ever give. But that should never stop us from devoting each waking moment to sing His praises and to put His love on display. Have a blessed day brothers and sister!

God overrides your insecurities

In the book of Exodus, God chooses to reveal Himself to an exile shepherd named Moses. In glorious splendor, God speaks to him as an unconsuming flame. The task God would call him to seemed insurmountable. For everyone reading the story, it would seem near impossible. Go to the most powerful ruler in the world and tell him to release his largest labor force. No one can blame Moses for how he responds. Several times he makes excuse after excuse as to why he’s not capable of the calling. And you know what? So do we.

Christ commissioned us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Many of us won’t even talk to our neighbors or coworkers about Jesus. Many of us won’t take the unknown path that God may be leading us in because we don’t feel like we’re able to. We make excuses all day long. We aren’t gifted enough. We don’t have the resources. Now isn’t the time. We aren’t worthy. Truth is, we’ve all said or thought things like these one time or another.

God didn’t let Moses off the hook, and He won’t let us off either. We’ve all been made for a purpose, and He’ll continue to guide us into that until we take our last breath. Some will make excuses the rest of their lives and never fulfill the meaning they were born. Some will enter into it late in life. Others will be prodigal sons and come home after living a life apart from God. Then there’s those who hear the call and walk straight into it. That’s who I want to be, but I’m afraid I haven’t for a good portion of my life.

No matter who you are, God can overcome your insecurities. No excuse we make is a valid one when it comes to following Jesus. If we don’t have the resources, God will provide them. If we aren’t gifted enough, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. If we aren’t worthy (which none of us are), God’s grace abounds all the more.

Moses was used to do incredible things. But he sure tried to get out of it. I’ll bet he’s glad God didn’t let him off the hook so easy. I’m glad he keeps giving me opportunities to. How about you? When the burning bush calls to you, will you respond?

Wasting Gifts

God is good. His goodness can be seen everywhere we look. And he’s given so much to everyone of us. What’s your response to those good gifts?

Let’s start with time as our first gift. How do we use our time? Sure, we’re all guilty of wasting some of it. Vegging out on movies or tv shows here and there. Watching sports, scrolling on the phone, etc…But is the majority of it used for good and productive means? What does that even look like? It should reflect service in some way. Do things to help and benefit others. Giving back to society, providing for a family, spending quality time with those we love, and helping those in need. Most of all, we should have quality time worked in everyday where we are in prayer, devotions, study, and worship. Yes, those can and should be intertwined into all our daily activities, but there’s something to say for getting away to a quiet place with the Lord regularly. Time is precious, and we have no way of knowing how much of it we have. So we need to treat it like the treasure it is.

Now let’s look at another huge gift: salvation. Maybe I should phrase this as access to salvation, because some reading this may not have tasted the goodness of God’s salvation in Christ’s atoning work. Some are still carrying the burdens of sin, worry, depression, anger, and addiction, among other things. The salvation that Christ made available is alive and powerful. It’s freedom, in this life and the next. It’s a new life. A new way of doing life. A new outlook. A restoration back to our original purpose. If God didn’t give us a single good grace in life, He still would have given us more than we deserve in the salvation of the Son. But so many have spoken the words, called on the name of Jesus, and are still not walking in that freedom and newness. We waste our salvation by not walking in that salvation. We waste it by not sharing it, both by telling others and by proclaiming it through our actions. Salvation is something that is meant to be shared, not kept to ourselves. We are, after all, the lights of the world when we choose Him.

A third gift is placement. You’ve been given people, family, friends, teachers, students, community members, neighbors, and even strangers. You’ve been placed where you are and when you are for a reason. The people in our lives aren’t always easy but that in itself can be a gift. We are all molded by the people around us and it’s up to us whether that molding is making us more or less like Jesus. Sometimes it’s the hardest people and the hardest situations that can make us the most like Him. We also have the opportunity to pour into those people (yes even the difficult ones). Jesus said to love those who hate us and bless those who persecute us. We waste our placement in this world by allowing others to sour us or harden us and by refusing to lay down our lives for others or by seeking ways to be served by others. We can’t take those in our lives for granted.

A forth gift is the world itself. There is so much beauty all around us. In the mountains and plains, deserts and lush forests, there’s so much for us to enjoy. Do you slow down enough to take it in? We waste the gift of nature when we neglect opportunities to take care of it. We waste it when we don’t slow down and just let it pass us by. We waste it when we don’t praise God for all the ways nature provides for us. For the rain, the snow, the breeze, the sunshine. It’s all part of God’s common graces.

Lastly, let’s get more personal. We all have gifts, as in things we are predisposed to and passionate about. For me, it’s writing, drawing, teaching, and certain outdoor activities. How about you dear reader? You are gifted. You have passion. You are creative. So create. Follow your passions. Develop your talents. And do so in a way to point others to the one who gave you that talent. Talent is wasted when it has the aim of self promotion. It’s best spent when it is spent in His honor. Spend your gifts bettering society, bringing beauty, sharing truth, and revealing God’s glory.

When we stop and think about it, we really have been given so much. And these things only scratch the surface of God’s gifts. How dare any of us live as ungrateful. We all probably need to be much more intentional about not wasting these amazing gifts. I know I do. Pray for me and I’ll pray for you.

As always, peace in Christ’s brothers and sisters.

Wake Up!

So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus *said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. But I knew that You always hear Me; nevertheless, because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Out came the man who had died, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus *said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:38-44 (NASB)

You’ll notice when reading the verses leading up to this portion in John that Jesus was overcome by emotion. I think we can conclude that Christ also weeps over the dead soul that is yet to be awakened. That Christ weeps over the sinful acts of His children. That Christ feels greatly for those who are in the tomb or return to it. But the question is, do we? Do act as those who looked on to the tomb of Lazarus with such grief over the unsaved soul? So we plead with Christ for those who are dead just as Martha did for her brother? In the book of Ephesians chapter five we see Paul revealing to us how we’re supposed to walk as Christians. We’re told to walk in love, light, and wisdom. Isn’t it safe to say that if we aren’t living that way than Christ is weeping over us? Isn’t it safe to say that this is what Christ died for? In verse 14 of this chapter Paul makes a statement which parallels what Christ has called out to Lazarus.

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 5:14

Christ weeps for you and me just as He wept for Lazarus. But even so He cries out “watch this!” Jesus says I’m going to show you all something that will astonish you. You will see the Glory of God. When Christ stood outside my spiritual tomb He shouted the same words…”Brook, come forth!” Rise to life because you are mine. Awake from the dead and I will shine on you and others will see the glory of God through your transformed life. Not only did Christ call us out of a spiritual slumber but He also said, “Unbind him/her and let him/her go.” We weren’t saved to remain in our burial clothes. We have been raised to so much more. We’ve been raised to freedom and a new life, and a new hope.

Laboring in Vain

You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.

Haggai 1:6 (NKJV)

In life we can tend to get pretty busy. We often times will strive after things that we want and push ourselves to the point of exhaustion over things that matter little in the grand scheme of things. Have you ever noticed that when we go after things and don’t involve the Lord in it, that it is far more likely to drain us and bear little fruit?

I believe these verses are great reminders that from the moment we rise to the moment we lay our heads on our pillows, we need to involve the Lord in everything we do. Of course God is always with us, but it is the invitation, the recognition, and the reliance on our behalf that makes a huge difference. To see God and want God in all things that we do will transform our thoughts and decisions, and ensure that what we do brings glory to His name.

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Psalm 127:1-2 (ESV)

Not in Vain

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain…

1 Corinthians 15:10 (NKJV)

The Apostle Paul was addressing the church at Corinth expressing his unworthiness to even be considered an apostle, considering all he had done to the Church of God prior to his salvation. In applying this to my own life, I have long considered myself unworthy to be a servant of Christ. In the words of John the Baptist (an amazing man of faith) I am not even worthy to stoop over and loose the straps of Christ’s sandals (Mark 1:7). The fact is, I’m not worthy, and none of us are. This makes Christ’s sacrifice and God’s grace so much more amazing. There is no one righteous (Romans 3:10, Ecclesiastes 7:20) and God chooses to save us anyway. I say that’s an amazing Savior.

He is a great and awesome God Who saves us and invites us into His work which He has prepared ahead of time for us (Ephesians 2:10). As Paul stated, God’s grace in his life will not be for vain but he will labor all the more, even more than the other apostles. Even though grace is not based on works, it is given so that we may abound in this life and love people more, forgive more quickly, serve more wholeheartedly, and persevere with patient expectations that our God will come through. God has created me and His grace is molding me into the man I am today and will one day be. I don’t want to waste His grace.

Peace in the grace of Christ brothers and sisters.

God’s Focus

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NKJV)

What is God’s focus for our lives? Does God want us to focus on material gain, emotional satisfactions, physical pleasures, or every day comforts? Does God want us to focus on promotions, new jobs, new cars, fancy clothing, nice jewelry, a big television, iPad, or iPhone? Does God want us to pour our hearts into sports teams, movies, or tv shows? Or does God want our focus to be on godliness, faithfulness, loving others, serving, sharing the gospel, and laying our lives aside for Him and others? God is calling us to pour our time and energy into things that bring glory and honor to His name and draw us and others closer to Him. Everything else is fading away with this world but God’s will is eternal (1 John 2:17). As Job said, “naked we came into this world and naked I’ll leave so praise the Lord!” (Job 1:21).

Our focus determines our actions because our focus reflects our hearts (Matt 6:21). If we place a lot of value on the things of this world and the comforts of life then our actions will try to acquire those for ourselves. But if our hearts are for God and the mission He’s called us to, then our actions will reflect the fruits of the Spirit (love, peace, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control). God knows your focus. Others know your focus too. It’s obvious by how we live our lives, the decisions we make, and the impact we’re having. We all owe it to ourselves to take a close look at our lives. Do you need to refocus?

We all have it in us because we have Christ in us. We all have the mission written on our hearts because God did it Himself. We all have what it takes to live the life we were designed for. We were made for more than what most of us will settle for. Let that not be your story.

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NKJV)

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters.

Partnership

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The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

God is living among us, with us, and in us. Because of this we have a genuine partnership. God created us for His purposes, for His kingdom, for His will. As Christ said, we must deny ourselves and follow after Him. As tough as that sounds we have been dropped into this story that God is writing and we all have a role to play in it. No one else can fill it for us so we must rise to the occasion or others will pay the price. We must speak into the lives of those around us, live by faith, lead by example, help those in need, bind up the broken, encourage the weary, and cherish those that God has entrusted to us (Isaiah 61:1-3). Through all of this we have an unending source of strength from a God who takes delight in those who serve Him. He also calms our fears with reminders of His love. He is, at this moment, singing a joyful song over us. Ushering us into a life that has power and impact for His glory and a hope and encouragement to those in our lives. God is glad that you are His child and the people around us should know it. We are partners in the greatest story of all time, where He is the main character, love is the story line, and the best happily-ever-after awaits. God doesn’t invite us into this relationship because He has to, but because He wants to. And that is an encouraging thought.

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters.