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.

United in Purpose

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On Apostle Paul’s final missionary journey he had been all over the Mediterranean. Towards the end of that journey Paul had been touring Macedonia and Greece for months. Then he spent a week at a place called Troas. Here a man named Eutychus was raised from the dead after falling from a third floor balcony (you know, you’re average trip to Troas). He continued his tour to Miletus on his way to Jerusalem. There he calls the elders from Ephesus to address them one more time before his departure to Jerusalem. He didn’t want to go to Ephesus because he didn’t want to be delayed on his mission to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost. Here he makes a few final statements to the leaders of the church because he feels his time is coming to a close. Included in those closing remarks is the following statements.

From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Acts 20:17-24

What kind of message is Paul trying to give? He starts by focusing on the consistency of his manor of living since day one of meeting them. He also emphasizes his boldness in sharing his faith. All along the way he was opposed constantly. But that never caused him to waiver. Paul was also undeterred by the uncertainty that lay before him in Jerusalem and beyond. He concludes his statements by making sure the leaders knew that the mission is more important than even his life, and the life of every believer. Verse 24 is the life statement for what it means to follow Jesus. This is what we are all about.

We label ourselves by a lot of titles, husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, our career titles, or even by the things we enjoy doing. But there is only one label that matters the most: follower of Jesus. All the other labels are good and fine. But only when they don’t derail us from the most important one. We have to stay focused on what matters most. Paul’s statement is exactly that. Your life, and mine, has been redeemed in order to testify to the world of His redemption. We’ve received grace to show grace. We’ve experienced His love in order to pass it on. We need to be true to who we are in the sense that we belong to Jesus. We need to have consistent living, not altering who we are based on who we are around. We can’t waiver or shrink back based on the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Truth is, we have far more differences than we do things in common. We have physical, emotional, political, and even theological differences. We all have different backgrounds and upbringings. We are ethnically and culturally different. And if we allow those things to dominate our view of others then we will never be as strong as we’re meant to be. Now more than ever, we need to be committed to fighting the spiritual war with a common purpose, in a unified effort. Because that which unites us is far greater than all the differences we may have. In the midst of all the divisiveness we have to stay on target. Reaching the world with the gospel. Our lives only matter to the extent we bear the image of God and show His love to the world. Everything else pales in comparison. Let’s spend our time giving it away. To encourage. To bring healing. To bring truth and love.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Our Love is measured by our generosity

If you’ve ever wondered just how loving a person is, you need look no further than how generous they are. The Bible defines love as being others focused. That means sacrificing and serving. It’s giving our time, energy, and resources to the improvement and benefit of others.

Generosity is far more than giving money. Think of the selfless parent who devotes every waking hour for their family. Or the spouse who actually stays by their partner’s side through sickness and health, richer or poorer, rain or shine.

Professions of choice can be a reflection of a generous heart. The soldier or policeman who puts their life on the line for freedom and security and their brothers and sisters in arms. Or the teachers who tirelessly strives for children, who are not even their own, to be able to have an education and a future. The nurses and doctors who work incredibly long hours to provide healthcare to society and save lives.

But we can’t set aside the times people use their financial resources to bless others, or more than that, even save others from ruin. I know more than one person who gave a vehicle away to people in need. They didn’t sell it cheap to them, they gave it to them. And they were good vehicles. Not junkets that they never use. I know people who have given thousands and thousands of dollars. Sure, not all of us have those resources, but we all have something. The problem for some of us isn’t that we don’t have enough, it’s that generosity is too big for us.

True generosity, the kind that honors our God, is the kind the causes us to sacrifice. Donating leftovers is no better than throwing table scraps to our dogs. Love is sacrificial therefore generosity must be as well. To be generous, it must cost us something. And I don’t mean that it costs a couple Starbucks drinks. I mean real cost.

Generosity also doesn’t include loans. In fact, God tells us not to demand repayment or to give to those who can repay us. To give a loan, means you’re getting payment in return. Banks aren’t considered generous, they a business. So is the person who gives expecting repayment. And that goes further than money. Reciprocal giving and serving is not generous. If we expect or demand anything in return, it can’t be labeled as generous.

We have to get in the back seat of our lives. If we are to grow in love, we must grow in generosity. Pray for me and I will pray for you. Peace and Christ brothers and sisters.

Growing Gardens

Recently I gave a message at the church I attend and I wanted to share it with you all. I hope it is an encouragement to you all. Blessings!

In 2019 a movie came out that would go on to be the highest grossing movie of all time. Any guesses? Avengers Endgame is the culmination of 22 Marvel Universe films over an 11 year period. All of those films built up to one peak moment. The villain, Thanos, was attempting to reset the universe by eliminating a third of all living creatures. His methods weren’t based on merit or the salvation of the righteous but solely on mass destruction to preserve those left behind.

Besides what some of us may think, we don’t live in a superhero universe. But we do have an endgame that all of life is building up to. So what’s the endgame? As believers in Jesus, what is all of this leading up to?Is it heaven? Is it something else? For all of my childhood and much of my adult life, I was under the impression that heaven was the goal. After all, we’re told that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20) and that Jesus went away to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). But none of those things speak of our final destination. You see, heaven is just another temporary stop on our way home. To understand the end, we have to go back to the beginning.

“then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis‬ ‭2:7-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The garden was created as a place for Man and God to coexist. It was a place where heaven and earth overlapped. God and His creation could experience and intimacy unhindered by brokenness and death. It was a place filled with beauty and purpose. The entire salvation narrative is imaged in these few verses. God forms us, He gives us life, and then he takes us to a home prepared for us. But it wasn’t to last for Adam and Eve. After an unknown number of years, they messed up and the result was exile. Refer to Genesis 3:23-24. Ever since we’ve been living in exile with a longing to get back to the garden. Throughout the remainder of the Bible our attention is constantly drawn to the Garden.

The tabernacle and the temple both contained illusions to the garden. The Gold and onyx, the lampstand, the flowers And vines, the olive oil used, etc. It was a place where God’s holiness resided. A place where a certain few could come and meet with Him. The promised land is also a picture of God bringing us back to Eden (Num 13 the fruit that the spies brought back). It was a land flowing with milk and honey. A place between the Great rivers.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation‬ ‭22:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Tell me that doesn’t sound like a garden. Earth will be renewed. We are coming back with our Savior King. The Holy City will descend and Heaven and Earth will be one. Intimacy with God will be final and glorious.

Understanding our origins and our destiny helps us to know our purpose here and now.

Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19 and 2 Cor 6:16). So what does that mean? We have the garden living inside of us. Our hearts desire new things, eternal things. God resides within us. If the tabernacle and the temple were meant to be sanctuaries of God’s peace and love and truth, then that’s what we’re supposed to be. Christ’s sacrifice opened up a whole new intimate relationship with our God that hadn’t been enjoyed since the Garden. Even the tabernacle and the temple had a veil, but Jesus tore that down. So what does that mean for our purpose?

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”” John‬ ‭7:38‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Our role is to water the soil of our surroundings and work to bring the kingdom of heaven to our place on earth. We are springs of living water and we are called to help perpetuate new life. Not that we can give life ourselves but that we show people the source of living water within us. The believer is a Gardner. Our homes should be a garden. Our area of the workplace should be a garden. Our relationships should be a gardens. Think of all the words Jesus spoke comparing us to the branches and Him the vine and how we need to remain connected to Him to bear fruit. Or later when Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit that all believers should be hearing. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness should all be growing within us and spring forth into our homes and relationships.

Our words, prayers, and actions can bring about healing, encouragement, and hope. Our life should point others to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. The only way that’s going to happen is if our spring isn’t stopped up. My hope for you and me is that the springs of living water would break free within us.

Let’s go plant some gardens!