Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Check Please

I used to have a boss who would describe grace as God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense. I have a friend who call’s it unmerited favor. I believe it is more than not getting what you deserve, it’s getting something you don’t deserve. Since Adam and Eve we have gone against what God has commanded us. We have gone our own way, done things our own way and lived our own way. I’m not sure why He would still extend grace to us when we clearly don’t deserve it. But He does.

I have a friend who does an exercise in grace each Christmas. He and his family rent a hotel or cabin in some small town nearby when it gets close to Christmas. Everyone brings the money they were going to spend on Christmas presents for their kids and spouses. Once in the hotel, each person draws a card with a day of the week on it. On that day, that person picks the restaurant and whoever their server is gets the money they were going to spend on their family. They do it even if they get poor service.

They don’t make a big show either. He told me that they get such an amazing feeling by blessing others. It’s addicting. He said that now his kids can’t take it when it’s not their night to bless. So what the others do now is look around the restaurant and tell their sever, “I want to buy that families dinner.” Sometimes his kids end up paying for everyone in the restaurant and no one knows who did it.

When I think about it, that’s a lot like what God did for us. He came into this world unassuming. He came as a baby when we were expecting a king. He lived among us and did normal things. He then started blessing people who didn’t deserve it. He helped the poor. Then, when we weren’t expecting it, he did the ultimate act of Grace. He paid for our sins. We deserve to pay for the wrongs we’ve done, but when the check comes, it’s marked paid!

I’m so thankful that there is nothing I can do to ever deserve God’s grace. Just like when those customers get their check, they see what they deserve to pay, I know what I deserve to pay. I’m thankful each day that God sent His Son into this world to pay my check. I know at the end of each day, I should owe something for what I’ve done. As unworthy as I am, Jesus looks down and says, “I got it.”

Have you accepted that grace from Him for what you’ve done? If not, now is the perfect time. All you have to do is say, “Jesus, I know I don’t deserve your grace. My sins and faults are many. I know the debt I owe, but I accept your grace and your forgiveness to cover the check. Thank you for forgiveness. Amen.” If you were worthy of it, it wouldn’t be grace. God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense!

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Risk Your Gift

A few months ago I had my nephew read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. After he read it, we went to dinner to discuss it. He explained to me how the king had given servants silver and asked them to invest it while he was gone. When he came back for his money, one servant made ten times the original, another made five times and a third just buried it in the ground. The king was happy with the first two, but furious with the third.

After he explained it to me, I pulled out a hundred dollar bill. His eyes lit up. I slid it across the table to him and told him to invest it for me. I told I wanted him to think of a ministry he wanted to support with it. He quickly named a missionary in Kenya who had made an impact on him. I then told him when I come back for the money, we’ll give it to the missionary. He ended turning that $100 into nearly $500 in three months. Not bad for a 12 year old.

It got me to thinking about what am I doing with the talents God has given me. Am I using them? Am I growing them? Have I invested them so that when He comes to me and asks I can show a profit? Yes, the story is about money, but I’m talking about gifts God has enabled me with. Each of us has been given certain gifts and talents. Not one of us is talentless. Sure, some have more talent and gifts than others, but that doesn’t give us the right to bury ours in the sand.

What has God given you the ability to do? Some of us are good at growing and making money. Some of us are good at helping others in need. Some of us are good at meeting strangers and talking to them. Some of us are good at building and rebuilding things. Each of us have something that we love doing and are good at. How can you use that to honor God and grow His Kingdom?

Romans 12: 6-8, Paul tells us that no matter what gift God has given you, you should do it well. And in I Corinthians 12:7, he says that a spiritual gift has been given to each one of us so we can help each other. That means that God has given you a gift! He gave each one of us a gift. What would happen if you got your gift at Christmas, but refused to open it? Someone put thought and effort into getting a gift just for you, but you refused to open it. That’s not right.

There are many who do that with the gift God has given them. They refuse to open it and share it with the world. I think that is like the third servant who buried his talent in the ground. He told the king, “I hid your talent and kept it safe.” The king was displeased with this response. He didn’t ask him to keep it safe. He asked him to risk it. How are you taking a risk with what God has given you? What can you do to take a greater risk? There’s a saying in business that says, “No risk. No reward.” Don’t be afraid to take a risk today with your gift.

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Love Does

I used to think Bob Goff was my least favorite speaker. Now I know He is someone who leaks Jesus any way he can.

My first impression of Bob wasn’t great. I was at Catalyst and he wasn’t anything like the other speakers who happened to all be preachers. To say he was different was an understatement. After he spoke, my two friends who went with me couldn’t stop raving about him. I just smiled and nodded along wondering what they saw or heard that got them so fired up. I saw a guy on stage with balloons and a funny laugh. They saw what I couldn’t.

It wasn’t until I started reading his book “Love Does” that I began to see Bob Goff for who he is. In this book, you will find story after story of some amazing things that you can experience when you see your normal interactions as an opportunity to say “yes” and show God’s love to someone else. All of a sudden, the life you’ve been living looks boring and the life God called us to live is anything but boring.

I took my time reading this book even though I could have read it in a day. I took my time trying to not just listen to the stories, but to learn the lessons hidden throughout. I mainly read it while on a plane flying from one city to another. I’m sure the people around me felt I had schizophrenia because at times I would bust out laughing. Then a few minutes later, I would have tears rolling down my cheeks as I was humbled.

“Love Does” is an amazing read that takes your perceptions and challenges them. It has caused me to question many things that I’ve perceived as standard ways to do things and shown them in a new light by looking at how Jesus responded in those situations. If Jesus acted a certain way, why should we act any differently? Bob shows how love changes everything. How when we leak Jesus, it has an everlasting effect on others.

One of my favorite chapters is how he got into law school. Oh yeah, he’s a lawyer, not a preacher. Maybe that’s why he stood out at Catalyst! I love the story of September 11th with his kids and the incredible journey that followed just by asking a dad question. There is a story of a stranger wanting to use his backyard to get engaged that ended with the Coast Guard getting involved. Another of my favorites was the story of how a practical joke of leaving $400 room service bill for a friend ended up changing who the Consul for Uganda was.

This book is filled with incredible stories written by an incredible man. This book makes me want to live better stories and the best part is that all I have to do is say “yes” when opportunities arise. The love Jesus showed wasn’t just with His words. It was shown in His actions. Our actions should show that same love to others whether it’s a stranger or a friend. We need to get off the tracks of life that go in a circle, spin a globe, put our finger down and begin an adventure that is planned by God, not us.

I’ve never personally met Bob, but I plan to. I may have to take a trip to his office on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland or just find an event where he is speaking. He, like his book, is not what you expect. I had a prepackaged idea of what to expect from a speaker at Catalyst and what a book called “Love does” was all about. I was happily wrong about both. Do yourself a favor and buy this book here. You’ll be helping educate children in Uganda if you do.

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Come Home

I’ve always loved the parable of the Prodigal Son. I’ve been able to identify with so many parts of that story throughout my life. I’ve taken my spiritual inheritance, ran off and squandered it before. I’ve come to the end of my rope and realized that the Father still has enough grace to call me His son even when I didn’t deserve it. I’ve even been the son who stayed home and was upset at how those who’ve returned home have flourished and been blessed.

When we read that, I think many of us are somewhere in that story. Some of us are on that journey away from home. All we have known is a Christian life and we somehow think we will find true happiness outside the confines of Christianity. We take what we’ve been given and throw it away. We live how we want to live. How we think we’re supposed to live. I can tell you just like the Prodigal Son could, it comes to an end at some point. There comes a time when all of that catches up and it’s not fun anymore. What was once freedom becomes a cage.

I know. I know. It’s not going to happen to you. Somehow you are different. You can do this on your own. Since the beginning, that is the lie we have all believed. Adam and Eve believed they could do it without God. Genesis 3:6 says that Eve was convinced and she wanted the wisdom that the fruit could give her. She wanted to get it on her own without God. Everything that God had given them was taken away for believing that lie.

The Prodigal believed it too. He figured he could take what was rightfully his and do better with it than his father could. As soon as it was all gone, there was a famine. Pride kept him from going home. He tried to stick it out as long as he could. He finally got so miserable that he had no pride left. He didn’t even see himself as a son anymore. There have been times where I haven’t seen myself as a son either. Where I did what I could to survive. It was miserable.

Thank God for His grace. He, like the father in the story, is patiently waiting for our return. He isn’t there to say, “I told you so.” No. He’s there to say, “I love you and I’ve missed you. Welcome home, child.” That’s the heart of the God we serve. He doesn’t sit and plot revenge on you for leaving. He sits and looks for your return so He can embrace you and call you His once again. He wants you safely in His arms where you belong.

So, where are you in this story? Have you left? Are you out having the time of your life not realizing what’s coming? Are you in that desperate place trying to figure out a way home so that you will be accepted again? Maybe you’re home now contemplating leaving. I can tell you that wherever you are in this story, God sees you. He knows where you are. Don’t believe the lies that take you away or keep you away. There is freedom in Him. There is joy in Him. There is security in Him. It’s time to come home and be His child once again.

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Your Spiritual Ancestry

I read a book last year by Mark Batterson called “Primal”. It was one of the most spiritually challenging books I’ve read. In it, he starts off by going into the catacombs in Rome. As he is looking at the graves of early Christians, he refers to them as our spiritual ancestors. I had never thought of the early church as ancestors or what they would think of the church today. They made sacrifices for the faith that many of us will never have to. They faced lions, ridicule, beheadings, torture and more.

I would call it bravery what they did, but I think it was more than that. It was the epitome of faith. Being sure of things hoped for. They believed with all of their heart in Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven and salvation. They did not count this life on earth as more valuable than the life which is to come. Their faith was certain even in the face of death.

I often wonder how I would react if I were ever in their situation. It’s easy to sit here in my air conditioned living room in a free nation to say I believe in my faith enough to die for it. It’s another thing to have those freedoms erased and having to live my faith in secret. I’ve lived in places and am friends with people who aren’t as fortunate as I am. They meet in secret to hold church. They are under constant threat of their lives for their faith.

I’ll never forget being with some of these friends one night. After our service, when we got back to the place we were staying, men formed a circle with me in the middle. They leaned over me as I squatted and walked from the car to the house. Their bodies were shields for me from snipers who would like to kill us for being Christians. It’s an humbling thing to have others risk their lives to save yours as if somehow your life was more valuable than theirs.

For generations ahead of us, our ancestors, spiritual and otherwise, have made sacrifices so that we could enjoy the heritage and freedoms that we have today. When I think of that, it challenges me to want to make sure I continue the heritage that was passed to me. I don’t want to be the one who the line ends with. I want to make sure that my children and the next generation receive it and carry it on. One day I will be someone’s ancestor and I want to make sure they can look back in gratitude on the part I played in handing it down.

What can you do to pass on the heritage you received? How will that shape the decisions you make today, how you raise your kids or how you share your testimony? Each of us are a part of a greater story. Our role is to live how God called us to live so that our faith is interweaved into the next generation. To put it how Paul put it in Ephesians 4:1, we should live a life that is worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. You have been called. What are you doing with it?

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What God Sees

I’ve been thinking about a lot about the story of David being anointed king of Israel. Samuel approached his father Jesse and announced that one of his sons would be king. Jesse quickly gathered his sons together and I’m sure had them dress up. I can see him putting them in order of who he thought would make a great king. As Samuel looked over each one, God never gave him the go ahead. He began to worry if he had heard The Lord.

Finally after looking at all of them, he asked Jesse if he had any more sons. I love how the Message writes this answer. Jesse replied, “Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.” David didn’t look kingly. Not even in his own father’s eyes. His own father didn’t even think to bring him in when he heard one of sons would be king. I’m sure his brothers laughed when Samuel told them to send for him. The moment David came through the door, God spoke and said, “This is the one!”

Samuel, Jesse and each of us can learn a lesson from what God spoke to Samuel. In verse 7 of I Samuel 16, God told Samuel, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by the outward appearance, but The Lord looks at the heart.” Part of human nature is to judge by the outward appearance. We rarely take inner beauty into consideration. I’ve heard it said that you form an opinion about someone within 3 seconds of meeting them. It’s sad that we are that quick to judge.

It’s a good thing our worth isn’t dependent on what man sees. It is based on who you are in Christ and what He sees in you. Even you may look into the mirror and not see much, but when God looks at you, He sees royalty. He is the King of Kings and we are His children. That means that as a child of the King, you are a prince or princess. You were formed in His image and called to be His ambassador here.

When God looks at you, He shouts, “That’s the one!” You are whom He chose to bear His name. To be His light. To share His love. You may see yourself as the runt, but God sees a king or queen in you. All throughout the Bible, the people that God chose to use were not the ones you or I would choose. Moses stuttered. Esther was scared. Jonah was disobedient. Mary wasn’t married. Peter failed. Paul murdered Christians. The list goes on.

Don’t let someone else keep you from being who you are in Christ. Don’t let what you or others see prevent you from doing what God called you to do. You may be a klutz, short, fat, ugly, tall, thin or any other label that this world places on you, but don’t let that define you. You are a child of God. Romans 8:17 says that since we are His children, we are His heirs. God sees who you really are. God sees you as His child. God sees you as His perfect creation and is ready for you to step into the role He called you to.

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Doers not Planners

A couple of years ago I was sitting in a board room with my peers, my district manager, the regional director and president. We were having to defend our results for the quarter and show projections for the next quarter. One of my peers was talking about what his results would be for the next quarter when the president noticed a huge gap between what he just produced and what he was going to produce. She asked him, “What are you doing to get those numbers changed that much?” He quickly answered back, “We’re going to…” and then she interrupted him.

She said, “I didn’t ask what you are going to do. I asked what are you doing.” He again said, “Like I said, we’re going to…” Again she stopped him. She looked at him, but the message was to all of us. She said, “I don’t want to know what you are going to do. I want to know what you are doing right now. If you were going to get those kind of results, you wouldn’t wait to do it. You’d be doing it right now!” I don’t think I’ll ever forget that meeting. Partly because I was next up to deliver my results and also because of the message.

As Christians we often talk about what we’re going to do for the Kingdom, but we rarely get to it. Life gets in the way. Schedules get packed. Traffic jams slow us down. Kids have games and practices we have to go to. Things just happen and keep us from doing what Christians should do. They keep us from helping widows, orphans and even our neighbors. They prevent us from stopping to help a stranger on the side of the road. It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s that we haven’t made it a priority.

All of us are good at saying what we will do, but few of us are good at doing it. I’m guilty of this myself. I make plans to do things, but often the execution gets lost in other priorities. Each day I pray and ask God to open my eyes to see that need in someone else. I ask Him to help me to be His hands and feet to someone. I also ask that He would speak through me to someone. At the end of the day, I often ask myself, “Did I help anyone today or was it all about me?”

In the book of James, the first chapter tells us that we are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Most of us are good at going to church and hearing the message. Most of us can’t remember that message on Monday though. We do what James warned us about. We let it go in one ear and out of the other. God called us to action. To do things for Him. To be present in our generation and not stagnant. It doesn’t have to be great or big or world changing. Doing something small for someone else could be great or big or world changing for them.

If enough of us start making an impact on just one person’s life a day, the Church could rise to be who she was called to be. She could be effective in this broken down world. She could get the results that she was forecasted to make. It’s not going to be done by one of us. It will be accomplished by all of us. What is something you can do today to be the hands and feet of Jesus? Who is someone in your path today that needs an encouraging word? Don’t plan on doing it tomorrow. Do it today!

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Storm Survival 101

When you grow up along the Gulf Coast, you are trained in school and reminded on the news constantly how to survive a storm. If you are at school, you get under your desk, knees to chest, clasp your hands over the back of your neck and face down. If you are home, you need to find an interior room without windows (like a bathroom), huddle up in there and assume the other position. If it’s really bad, lay down in the bathtub and pull a mattress over you. Once the storm has passed, you then can asses the damages and move forward.

What’s true for surviving physical storms is true when facing life’s storms. For most of us though, we don’t seek shelter from the storm. We don’t assume a kneeling position. We don’t look for a covering. Instead we run headlong into the storm and try to fight it or withstand it on our own. I see people try that all the time. I’ve tried that myself. It doesn’t work. It prolongs the storm and creates more damage. Damage that you are trying to avoid.

The first thing we should do is seek shelter. Psalm 91:2 says, “I will say of The Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I confidently trust.” God is your refuge from the storm. He is your shelter, but for some reason, when storms come, we run from God. We end up blaming Him instead of trusting Him. We question Him instead of relying on Him. Verse 4 of that same Psalm says that His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Rely on His promises.

The next thing we should do is assume the safety position. Coincidentally, it is the same position as kneeling in prayer. Spend time alone with God in your struggle. Cry out to Him in your distress. He hears even the softest whimper of a prayer. He sees you in your fight and wants to converse with you. Take time to spend time with Him during your storm. In Psalm 46:10, God says, “Be still, and know that I am God!” We need to stop running, get on our knees and recognize Him as our God.

After that, get a covering. You need support from friends, family and other church members who will lift you up in prayer. There are times when our struggles and pain are so intense that we don’t have the strength to even lift our heads to Heaven to pray. When you can’t, others can. They need to know your need though. You need to share your struggles with others so they can lift you up and provide a covering for you. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens.” Someone else can only help you carry the load if you share it with them.

If you find that you are in a storm, take cover in the shelter of the Most High God. He is your refuge from the storm. Spend time on your knees. Don’t run from God during this time. Run to Him. Don’t run from the Church. They will provide you with the covering you need to help protect you during this time. Allow them to share in your burden. You need to be surrounded by people who love you, know you and will pray for you. You weren’t meant to weather the storm alone. You have shelter, help and hope.

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Jesus is for the Weak

When Jesus was ministering on this earth, the religious scholars and leaders of His day were confused by His ministry. They wondered why He didn’t cater to the rich? Why would He hang out with the poor and the worst of sinners? It was opposite of what they were doing and people followed Him more than them. It angered them that He was able to draw such huge crowds. They followed Him to see what He was doing and often were the ones asking questions of Him.

One day they approached the disciples while He was doing just such a thing. In Mark 2:16, they asked the disciples, “Why does He eat with such scum? (NLT)” Jesus knew what they had asked and responded, “Those who are strong and well have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick. (AMP)” Jesus came to help the weak not the strong. The strong can defend themselves. Maybe that’s why in Psalm 72:12 it says, “He will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.”

In our world of mega churches, I often wonder what is the goal of our churches? Are we trying to grow numbers so we can get larger offerings to do more things? Are we so caught up in a numbers game that we are forgetting our call is to help the weak? Have we forgotten James 1:27 that says true religion is “to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need (AMP)”? True religion isn’t pandering to the rich and powerful. It isn’t having the largest church. It is caring for the weak.

Jesus was and is for the weak. He is for those who have no defender. He is for those who have no voice or someone to speak for them. He came into this world to show us that our lives should make a difference in those less fortunate than ourselves. We should do what we can with what we have to defend orphans, to care for widows, to provide for the poor and to give water to those who thirst. I always think of the scene in “Schindler’s List” when he breaks down and says, “I could have given more. I could have sold this car. I could have…”

I don’t want to get to Heaven one day with a list of “could have’s”. I want to show up broken, bruised, beat up and scarred by what I did to help and defend those whom I was called to defend. I want to hear Jesus say, “Well done. You followed my example of defending and helping the weak.” Today, this blog is putting that into action. It is sponsoring a tee at a golf tournament raising money for CoreLuv International. Their dream is to bring hope to orphans, through Jesus Christ, by partnering with communities and orphanages around the world to provide 6 basic needs: clean water, food, education, healthcare, job skills and a loving environment to call home.

Jesus is for the weak. Are you? If you don’t know where to begin, donating to people who are already making a difference is a great place to start. I recommend donating or buying merchandise from CoreLuv International. I personally know the ministers who head it up. They are making a difference in the lives of children in Haiti and around the world. You can to by simply partnering with them.

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The Problem with Fear

I rarely watch the news, but this week, the hotel I was staying at had it on during breakfast. As I watched each day, I remembered why I don’t watch the news. It seemed like all they were doing was making people afraid. Every story created new fear. Fear over election fallout. Fear over a fiscal cliff. Fear over a divided government and country. In the age of 24 hour news channels, it’s easy to get addicted to the news. It’s also easy to let it control your emotions.

Fear is the author of inactivity. It paralyzes. It causes your imagination to run wild and can create hysteria. I think maybe that’s why throughout the Bible, God’s message to us is “fear not”. God spoke to him in Genesis 15:1 and said, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you.” Fear had caused Abraham to start doubting. That doubt lead to questioning God. When we question God’s promise, we fail to act on them and rob ourselves of the blessings He has for us.

For many of us, we know what God has called us to, but the vision is so large that we are afraid of it. That fear will keep you from acting on what God has called you to do. He has a plan for each one of us. To some He reveals far in advance where they are going. To others He gives them one step at a time. For both, the course of action is the same: take that first step of faith. Do not let fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of insecurity or fear of unworthiness keep you from your calling.

What God has called you to is for you alone. Everything in your life is preparation for your future. Your past victories, failures, storms, hurts, loss and gains are all there as preparation to equip you to take that next step. If you need the courage to take that next step of faith, turn around and look back. See how far you have come by faith. You are further along than you ever thought. You didn’t arrive to where you are without His help. If He has brought you this far, trust Him to carry you the rest of the way.

God puts you in position to help others too. Where you are now is not just for you. He aligns us with others along the way to be a helper, a challenger or an encourager. You cannot let fear keep you from doing what God asks of you. It doesn’t just affect you. Be the person God has called you to be when He’s called you to be it. In John 14:1, Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” The choice is yours to either let your heart fear or to overcome it. You can listen to fear or you can listen to the voice of God and take that step. Don’t listen to fear. Take it.

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