Monthly Archives: October 2016

Looking For Loopholes


Growing up, I looked for loopholes to get out of things I didn’t like doing. I spent more effort looking for loopholes than it would have taken me to just do the work. It’s sad to think how much time and effort each of us spend trying to avoid doing things we are responsible for. We will often wear ourselves out trying to avoid what we hate instead of doing it. My parents had to get good at closing loopholes and creative at how they explained what they wanted done, and how they wanted it done.

If you’re like me, and find yourself looking for loopholes, we are not alone. There was a guy in Luke 10 who asked Jesus, “What do I need to do to get eternal life?” (MSG) Jesus asked for his opinion, “What does God’s Law say? How do you interpret it?” He then gave the two greatest commandments (Love God and love your neighbor). Jesus said, “Good answer! Do it and you’ll live.” Verse 29 says, “Looking for a loophole, he asked, ‘And just how would you define “neighbor”?'”

Just like us, there were people this guy didn’t like. He may have had a neighbor who stayed up late and was noisy. He could have had one that didn’t care for his house or lawn. He could have had one that always got him in trouble with the HOA. Surely God’s Law didn’t mean he had to love them. He wanted a loophole to just love the neighbors he liked. I’m sure he had expended extra effort to avoid the neighbors he didn’t like, and now he wanted to justify it with God’s Law.

But Jesus didn’t play by His rules. He told the story of the Good Samaritan and asked him who was the victim’s neighbor. Jesus closed the loophole and let him know that “neighbor” isn’t defined by neighborhood, class, religion, color, or nationality. He told him to go and love everyone the same way you love yourself if he wanted eternal life. He learned a valuable lesson that day about who to love and about trying to find loopholes in God’s commands.

Which of God’s commands do you find yourself trying to find your way out of? We all have them. There are certain parts of the Bible our human nature wants to avoid doing, so we look for loopholes to get out of it. I think what Jesus did for Him is what he wants to do for us. He wants us to quit looking for loopholes to get out of our responsibilities. He wants us to trust that His way of living is the best. If we will use as much energy living His way as we do trying to avoid it, our lives and the world will get better.

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Drop Your Stones


One of the most intriguing stories in the Bible is the woman the Pharisees brought before Jesus who had been caught in adultery. With stones in their hands, they told Jesus that the Law of Moses commanded them to stone her for her sin. Then, in John 8:5, they asked Jesus, “What do you say?” (NLT) I love that Jesus went back to what He was doing, which was drawing in the sand like He was bored. They demanded an answer from Him. He looked up and said, “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” One by one, they dropped their stones and walked away.

I love this story because if any one of us had been there, we would have had a stone in our hand too. At the same time, each of us has stood where that woman stood. Each of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Even though we’ve been forgiven a great debt, we still pick up stones to throw at others who sin. It’s time we quit carrying stones, and started being thankful that God not only forgives our sins, but the sins of others. If God’s grace was sufficient for our sins, it’s sufficient for theirs. 

Here are some Bible verses on grace and forgiveness.

1. When Jesus raised Himself up, He said to her, Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you? She answered, No one, Lord! And Jesus said, I do not condemn you either. Go on your way and from now on sin no more.
John 8:10-11 AMPC

2. In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.
Matthew 6:14-15 MSG

3. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Colossians 3:13 NLT

4. Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven.”
Matthew 18:21-22 GNT

5. And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32 AMPC

6. My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.

James 5:19-20 MSG

7. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop.
Mark 11:25 AMPC

8. We all arrive at your doorstep sooner or later, loaded with guilt, Our sins too much for us— but you get rid of them once and for all. 
Psalm 65:2-3 MSG

9. If you want people to like you, forgive them when they wrong you. Remembering wrongs can break up a friendship.
Proverbs 17:9 GNT

10. There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1 GNT

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Faith That Grows

On our trip to Israel, the travel company gave us a bag of gifts as a sign of appreciation for using them. In that bag, was a smaller bag that contained mustard seeds. It was a nice gesture that showed us the size of the seeds since most of us had never seen one before. I’ve heard many sermons preached on them and have been told how small they are. I’ve even quoted Jesus’ famous words in Matthew 17:20, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move” (NLT). The question is, what does that even mean?

One of the things I love about the Amplified version of the Bible is that it puts additional words into verses to show the original intent and meaning of words. For this verse, it says, “If you had faith that was living.” Jesus used a mustard seed because it’s a living thing that has a ton of potential. The seeds in my bag will never grow and reach their potential as long as they are in that bag. They’re dormant until I plant them. We can’t cast mountains aside or into the sea of our faith is dead or dormant.

To reach their potential, those seeds must be planted. Surface level faith doesn’t produce anything. Our faith needs to be buried deep inside of us so that it can grow. Until it has been tested and can grow roots deep inside of us, our faith remains small. It was never intended to be contained in the small package of a seed. Your faith has always been intended to grow. Think of how big a tree is compared to the size of the seed. God’s desire is that our faith would grow exponentially, but we’ve got to plant it first.

In my yard, I have sweet gum trees and oak trees. This time of year, my yard gets filled with the spikey fruit of the sweet gum and also acorns. Year after year, they scatter their seeds all over my lawn in hopes of reproducing other trees. God’s desire is not just for your faith to grow into a tree, it’s so that you will scatter seeds of faith and reproduce as well. A tree that doesn’t reproduce is worthless. Remember the fig tree that hadn’t reproduced figs (with seeds in them) when Jesus walked by?

Today, let’s stop focusing on casting mountains aside or into the sea part of this saying. Let’s focus on having an alive faith that grows and reproduces. Yes it would be nice to be able to do those things, but that is the potential of our faith. It is the end result of a faith that is planted and grows inside of us. I’m thankful for my bag of seeds from Israel, but quite honestly, they’re useless if I just leave them in the bag. Don’t leave your faith in the bag. 

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A Change In Leadership


Several years ago, I owned a childcare center. One of the conversations I had with new families to the center was about authority. I would tell them, “Once you walk through the door into my center, I am your child’s authority figure. I need you to take a back seat. No man can serve two masters including your child. They will test the boundaries to see who is in charge, and they need to know it’s me. Otherwise, I won’t have any authority over them when you walk out that door.” I learned early on that if a child thought their parents had more authority over them than I did, they would start breaking the rules the moment their parents showed up, and the rest of the class would follow.

I tell you that story because you and I have a very similar issue with our flesh. It likes to do whatever it wants, and quite often, we let it get away with it. When it’s hungry, we feed it whatever it craves. When it’s sleepy, we go to bed or hit the snooze button. Also, when it wants to satisfy its sinful desires, we give in. That’s why it’s so hard for us to stay awake when we pray and also to want to fast. Our body throws a temper tantrum because it’s not getting its way, and we appease it to get it to calm down.

When we walk through the door of salvation, we need to cede authority to Jesus. Our flesh needs to understand that you and it are not in control anymore. Inviting Jesus to be the Lord of your life means that you are giving up your authority over your flesh. In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (NLT). Taking up your cross is about giving up authority over your flesh. It’s telling it, “I am no longer your authority. Jesus is. You have to obey Him.”

The hardest thing for any of us to do is to give up that authority. I’m sure that’s why Jesus compared it to being crucified daily. It’s a hard process, but a necessary one if we are going to follow Him. We have to let Him lead us, and our flesh, which means we have to get out of the driver’s seat of our life. Being a Christian is more than saying a prayer. It’s the transition of leadership in your life. It’s a lifestyle change that you’ll battle your flesh over ever day of your life. If you truly want to follow Jesus, give Him the authority He’s asking for in your life.

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Storms Are Temporary


One of my favorite stories when I was younger was “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”. Back then, I thought it was hilarious, but now I can relate. If you’ve lived, you’ve experienced days like Alexander. But what happens when the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day turns into a week, a month, or even longer? How do we respond? How do we recover? How do we survive? Periods of things seemingly always going wrong in our lives can be relentless, but they do come to an end.

When they do occur, I recommend going back to God’s Word. When we go through days, weeks, or months of things going wrong, we risk thinking that those circumstances are our truth. We begin to think that this is how life is and will be for us. That’s why it’s so important to force yourself to go back to God’s Word. It alone is your truth. You can’t afford to let those storms define you. Instead, let God’s Word define your storm.

One of the things I pray over people going through rough times is that God would silence the storm. I also pray that if the storm isn’t over, to give them peace in it until it passes. Hard times play a huge role in your development. It’s part of the growing process and the solidifying process. God uses them to place you on a path you could never get on otherwise, and He uses them to cause your roots to grow deeper into Him. Spending time in prayer will help this process. Prayer puts God and your storm in their proper places and helps you keep perspective as to which is bigger.

There’s an Irish proverb that says, “In times of trouble, friends are recognized.” In your hardest times, it’s important to surround yourself with friends who can pray for you, encourage you, and help you win the mental battle. Your true friends will shine in these times of your life. They’ll walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with you. They’ll defend you while you are defenseless. If you don’t see friends coming to you, they may not see the storm you’re facing. Go to those you can confide in and find shelter. If they don’t know you’re struggling and in a storm, it’s unfair to expect them to help you.

Remember that according to Romans 8:37, you are more than a conqueror through Jesus. In Ephesians 6:10-18, you have been given armor to help you to continue to stand after you e given it your all. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus told Peter that all the powers of hell would not conquer His Church. As a Christian, you have all three of these promises to hold onto. You cannot be defeated unless you give up. You are guaranteed victory, but you have to stay in the battle to achieve it. Your terrible, horrible, no good very bad time will end and you will emerge victorious. Focus on what’s eternal (God’s Word), and lose sight of the temporal (your storm).

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The Bread Of Life


Not long ago, I read the story of a fisherman who was forced to move because of a house fire. In the move, he asked his aunt to hold onto his good luck charm, which he had kept under his bed for over 10 years. He took her a 75 pound pearl that his boat anchor had caught on all those years ago. Each day, he would touch it before going fishing hoping it would bring him luck so he could catch a lot of fish. It turns out, as he’s struggled to make a living for the past ten years, he’s been sleeping over a $100,000,000 pearl! He had no clue what’s its value was as the world’s largest gem quality pearl.

That story reminds me of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Mark 6. There were hungry people and it was getting late. The disciples asked if they should spend 200 silver coins to buy food for everyone. That’s when, in verse 38, Jesus asked them, “How much bread do you have?” (GNT) They went to check and came back to tell Him, “Five loaves.” Jesus then had them seat everyone. He broke the bread and the two fish they had, fed all 5,000 men (plus women and children), then took up 12 baskets of leftovers.

When Jesus asked how much bread they had, they had already seen Him heal the blind, raise the dead, cure leprosy, and so much more. In fact, they had just returned from being sent out to the towns and villages performing miracles themselves. They knew the power of God was with Jesus and had flowed through them, but it never crossed their mind to ask for a miracle for a crowd. Until this time, with the exception of the wine in Cana, most miracles had been for individuals. But to me, the question of how much bread they had was a test.

They had more than five loaves. They had the Bread of Life with them and not one of them thought to include Him in the number of loaves of bread. Whenever you add Jesus to whatever you have, you will always have more than enough. We can’t stay in the same mindset they had. We can’t look at physical problems expecting spiritual results unless we are willing to add in the Bread of Life to the equation. We can’t see through blocked roads, huge obstacles, or insurmountable odds because we’ve been keeping Jesus under our bed as a good luck charm. He’s worth more than $100,000,000. He’s the answer to your struggles. Give what you have to Him and watch Him multiply it.

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The Power Of Touch


Think about any video of a famous person walking through a group of people. What is everyone doing? They’re holding their hands out in hopes that they will touch or shake their hand. People reach their arms through the crowd just hoping for the slightest touch. I remember as a kid, I got to shake hands with a famous person. I said, “I’m never washing my hand again!” Why? Because of the power of touch.

When Jesus was ministering, the Bible mentions that He touched people in order to heal them. There were also times when people wanted to touch Him. The crowds pressed in on Him with people reaching out their hands, desperate to touch Him. Where is that desperation today? Where is that desire in our hearts to touch God? I believe He desires to touch us and for us to touch Him. I love “The Creation of Adam” painting by Michelangelo. God is reaching out to Adam, and Adam is reaching out to God. It’s the perfect example of what our relationship with God should be like.

The Bible is full of examples of touch. Here are a few verses for you to read about it.

1. One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.
Mark 10:13 NLT

2. Then they came to Bethsaida; and some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged Him to touch him.
MARK 8:22 AMP

3. And I will give them one heart [a new heart], and put a new spirit within them. I will take from them the heart of stone, and will give them a heart of flesh [that is responsive to My touch].
EZEKIEL 11:19 AMP

4. He had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him.
Mark 3:10 MSG

5. Then the LORD reached out and touched my mouth and said, “Look, I have put my words in your mouth! Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant.”
Jeremiah 1:9-10 NLT

God is reaching out to touch you. Are you reaching out to touch Him?

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