"Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, and your purity." - 1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT)
In my experience, some people seem to look down on others, or think less of others, who are young. At age 41, when I get together with many other pastors, I am still considered the "young one." I'll take that. :) And I have often used this verse to rally young people to step up to the plate and not be satisfied with the low-expectations of society nor self. If you've ever been a student of mine, you have probably heard me ask you to repeat after me, "Do NOT... let ANYBODY... look down on you... because you are young... including myself." Almost defiantly shouting these words as if to say, "YEAH! I'm a person too!"
But the truth of the Scripture here isn't defiance... it's righteousness. When you are a good example to othe…
"God, my Shepherd! I don't need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, and You find me quiet pools to drink from. True to Your word, You let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I'm not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I'm back home in the House of God for the rest of my life." - Psalm 23 (the Message)
There is so much packed into the most famous Hebrew Psalm! This morning the words that are fully engaging my heart are "Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life." Another translation reads, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."
I've read/heard these words numerous times throughout my…
"I am holding you by your right hand - I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, 'Do not be afraid. I am here to help you.'" - Isaiah 41:13 (NLT)
I have read that in ancient times, in Hebrew culture, the right arm was considered a symbol of strength and blessing. Perhaps this is because for so many people the right arm is actually the stronger arm. To hold up the right arm was a symbol of strength, power, victory and honor.
Do you see what God is doing in this passage from the prophet Isaiah? God isn't just saying, "Hey, I've got you," or "You know what, I've got this." It's specific - "You don't have to be afraid because I am here to help you... and I'm using MY strength to do it, not yours." God holds my right hand, which represents all of my strength, because I don't need it.
How often do we face trials, struggles, conflict, and noise, and pray something like, "Lord, give me strength!&q…
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened yo you." - Matthew 7:7(NASB)
Maybe you're like me, and read a passage of Scripture like this and you think, "Ok... why?"
Ask. Seek. Knock. Why does it work?
Growing spiritually happens when we desire for it to happen. God always wants spiritual growth to happen in our lives. So, when we are aligning ourselves with the purpose and will of the Creator, He is more than ready to give what we ask for. Ultimately when we are truly spiritual people, we ask for opportunities to learn, to love and to care about others.
When we seek God we find God, because God isn't hiding. Sometimes I treat God like we're in a cosmic game of hide-n-seek, and I'm "it." Of course, this is frustrating because who knows all the best hiding places any better than God? But He is not hiding. Mysterious? Yes. Mystical? Indeed. Bigger than my brain can really wrap aro…
"Happy are those who are strong in the LORD, who set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem." - Psalm 84:5(NIV)
"Setting your mind on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem" is a metaphor for "making a decision to follow the path of God." This makes a person happy and strong with a strength that is not your own. How do I tap into that strength? How do I live in this kind of happiness? What do I have to do to "set my mind on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem?"
Prayer. Spending time with God, talking with God, listening to God, brings His presence and His power right in the middle of my life, no matter the situation.
Earlier this morning, I was truly blessed to be able to share a few minutes of praise & worship and prayer, led by high school students, at Cutter Morning Star school. My son, Christian, and I joined with a bunch of other Jesus-followers and seekers for the See You At The Pole rally. As these young members of the Next Gen led us in …
"This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again." - John 3:16-17 (Message)
When we placed some of our favorite and most-inspiring verses of Scripture on the doors of the auditorium a couple of Sundays ago, I anticipated that John 3:16 would reoccur more than any other (go back to day 1/30 blog entry for explanation). These words truly do embody the Message of Jesus, but could it be possible that, for many of us, we have heard/said them so often that we don't even engage the brain... nor the heart... anymore?
One way I have found to keep these beautiful words of Scripture fresh for me, is to personalize the words "the world" and "anyone…
"I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid." - John 14:27(NLT)
At the core of my being, I want peace, don't you? Peace is something that I believe is essential to the human life; without it we become something less than human. But what is peace? The "peace the world gives" could be the absence of war or conflict... or noise. I have found a place where I have this kind of peace - the surf, the sand, and the sun.
My family lived in south Florida a few years ago, and I fell in love with the Ocean. Nearly every Monday morning I made my way to the secluded "locals only" stretch of beach just 7 miles from our home. In one of the noisiest areas of our country, I discovered a place where only the sounds of the Ocean could be heard. And on Monday mornings, with the exceptions of holidays and excellent surfing conditions, I might not…
"For the LORD sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes." - Proverbs 5:21 (NLT)
There are a couple of ways to look at this ancient Hebrew proverb. One could say that his is a warning like the old kids' song, "Oh be careful little feet where you go..." I once lived in a city where a store that sold musical instruments had this big sign that read "Jesus Is Watching You." Since I wasn't sure if that was to deter shoplifting or to warn those zooming by on the interstate to slow down, I went in and asked one day. I thought, "Maybe the owner is really trying to honor Jesus with his sign." The answer I received was, "You know what? There's a lot of Christians in this city, and I figure putting that on the sign would draw 'em in." Consumerism once again at the heart of the matter... and God sees it clearly.
Another way to view this proverb is as a promise. Could it be possible that the reaso…
"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns." - Philippians 4:6 (Message)
What a great and powerful piece of Scripture to embrace! In our culture, worry is a big part of so many lives. Maybe you hear it all the time too? "What's gonna happen with this economy?" "What about the oil spill in the Gulf?" "Look at those gas prices!" "What if he gets elected?" "What if SHE gets elected?" "Will I have money for retirement?" "What kind of world are we leaving to our children?"
Great questions to be sure. Certainly things to ponder and even be concerned about. But there is a distinct difference between concern and worry.
Concern is opening your eyes to the needs and potential results of our current action or inaction. Concern drives us to our knees in agreement that some things are too big f…
"Stay awake and be prepared , because you do not know the day or hour of my return" - Matthew 25:13 (NLT)
Jesus' theme verse for Boy Scouts who struggle with insomnia. ;)
The return of Jesus and things like "the end of the world as we know it" are talked about all the time. Jesus Himself said, "you don't know the day or hour..." and "no one knows the day or hour..." Too many of us obsess over the idea of going to Heaven... someday, and miss the central Message of Jesus that "the Kingdom of God is now here" and He came to give us "life to the full" in the now. Jesus doesn't just affect where/how you spend eternity; Jesus affects how you spend your now.
So how should I be spending my now? By staying awake and being prepared.
Staying awake is living with your eyes open. It is walking the path of your journey with all of your senses on alert - taking in the beauty all around you with the propensity to ma…
"Sing to the LORD!
Give praise to the LORD!
He rescues the life of the needy
from the hand of the wicked." -Jeremiah 20:13(NIV)
This is a classic "do this because of that" experience. As I'm meditating on these words today, I'm thinking of the context in which they were written. This is a part of a prayer of Jeremiah the prophet, which is included in his writings as poetry.
The "needy" here is not some generic "those people," but Jeremiah himself. Maybe we can all relate to this because on some level all of us are needy (not that too many of us like to admit it). But it's true - we need food, we need shelter, we need love, and yes, we need guidance. For Jeremiah, one of his needs was, in the midst of a time when most of his nation were turning away from God, to have at least the priests responsible for the spiritual direction of the people to be the "holy men" they were set apart by God to be. What happened …
Welcome to Day 1 of 30. Last weekend during the Gathering at Oaklawn church of God, I had everyone write a favorite verse of Scripture, or a "life-verse", on a slip of paper, then we taped them to the door frames of the four exits from the main auditorium (for my inspiration, see Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Afterwords, I had the idea to grab 30 of those passages and write a series of 30 blog entries over 30 days (give-or-take, if you know me). I'm actually going to begin with my personal "life-verse":
"You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!" - Psalm 30:11-12 (NLT)
These words have been a part of me since I attended a concert with my good friend, Justin, back in our college days in Oklahoma City. Playing that night were Five Iron Frenzy, Joy Electric, and my favorite band The Echo…
Confession time. As a Lead Pastor, with my particular personality-type, when someone(s) stops attending the worship Gatherings of the congregation that I am tremendously blessed to be a part of, I struggle with feeling like they don't like me. I know in my mind that this is not necessarily the case - actually, the opposite as I'm told, "We love your teaching, but..." yet in my heart I battle with the feelings of being left out, unappreciated, and unloved. Especially when I actually have no idea as to the "why???" someone, or a family, disconnects. This is when this struggle inside me puts the best MMA contest to shame.
I was feeling this last week, and then I began studying Genesis 15 for a "life of Abraham" class I am teaching on Wednesday nights. In this chapter of Abraham's life, God basically reminds Abraham how blessed a man he is. Abraham responds by complaining, "I don't have even one son, God. What good are these blessin…
According to the article, this group holds to a very strong "anti-Islam" doctrine. Here is a small group of people, on one hand claiming the Way of Jesus while on the other hand holding a major theological doctrine that, in my opinion, is the opposite of the Way of Jesus. And they get national and international media coverage?
The leader of this group says that the Quaran is "evil" because "it espouses something other than Christian biblical truth and"... get this now... "incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims." Ummm, excuse me Mr. Jones, how is burning a book, one that is held in such high regard by many people, NOT radical, violent behavior?
“God is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ. Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” –Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT)