Obey Like Jesus

If ever there was a word that makes us cringe, it would be obedience. For a lot of folks, obedience has a negative connotation. Maybe it reminds you of your failures, your inability to measure up to some standard. Maybe it reminds you of someone in your past (a parent, or a pastor) who used religion to manipulate you.

As Parents you want your children to “obey” you. Not because they are afraid of you, but because they trust you. Lots of kids rebel against authority, especially their parents. They experiment on how far they can push it. They want to go their own way, even if you as the parent know better. Honestly many adults are also rebelling, doing their own thing and not obeying authority figures, especially God.

When it comes to obeying someone, it’s a lot easier to obey someone you trust and feel loved by. However, not everyone who insists on obedience does so out of love for us. Some people throw this word around like a hand grenade, and do a lot of damage in the name of God. Obedience is a power word. Usually when someone insists on our obedience it’s a “red flag.” Some people use this word to conceal their ambitions, hidden agenda, and selfishness. Emotionally abusive people love to use this word as they tread all over us like a doormat.

From a Biblical perspective, we’re always living in obedience to someone, or something. And so our obedience can be directed toward God, or it can be dislocated away from God.

“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Romans 6:16

We can be mastered by sin just as readily as anything. So we obey our addictions. We obey our lusts. We obey our appetite for caffeine, alcohol, sugars, carbs.  We obey our materialistic impulses–the idol of bigger, better, faster, newer, shinier. We obey our tech impulses, new and better devices. Few masters are more ruthless than our desires.

At first our lusts isolate us from others. We withdrawal to do our thing. Then they demand greater commitment. Time, energy, resources, relationships, life. At first we try to manage them, until they finally consume us, destroying us in the end.

In Mark 7:8 Jesus observes how we “lay aside the commands of God to obey the traditions of men.”

We can identify as a certain denomination instead of a follower of Jesus. We obey the traditions we learned instead of the person we love, Jesus. Instead of serving God, sometimes we can become servants of our religious/political ideologies.

The masses didn’t crucify Jesus because he was the Son of God, or was obeying God. They killed him because he didn’t obey their traditions. In John 12:43 he describes how people “love human praise more than praise from God.” How many times have you felt conviction about some great thing God put on your heart, only to realize that your spouse, a boyfriend/ girlfriend, your kids, a friend was not on board, or disagreed with you? So instead of pressing forward, you relented, and gave in to the pressure. Our need for affirmation, and approval is so strong, we will cave rather than risk the disapproval of others. It’s like a law has been passed: “I have to be liked.” I need a Facebook thumbs up, a Twitter retweet, to have the validation I need in life. Do we obey men, or do we obey God?

Galatians 2:16 says, “…we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law” (NLT).

The Bible describes how people believe they are accepted by God by obeying all the laws God has given. So like the Rich Young Ruler, people try to establish their own righteousness before God. Our checklists become a source of pride for us, and they become a sort of litmus test by which we gauge other’s sincerity, spirituality, or faith. “I don’t ever miss church. I read my Bible. I’ve been baptized. I tithe. I volunteer. I go to Bible study. I go on missions trips. I care about orphans, widows, prisoners, the hungry, the sick. . . I, I, I…” Our selective, cherry-picked lists can give us a false sense of confidence before God.

God’s standard is Galatians 3:10, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

Who or what do you most obey? Jesus’ obedience wasn’t oriented around things… it was oriented to Father. Look at how Jesus obeyed. In John 8:28-30 Jesus says, “… I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. “ And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”  

Philippians 2:8, “… being found in the appearance as a man, Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!” 

To Obey Like Jesus: First, obedience is all about relationship. “Obedience or trusting obedience is God’s love language.” The “heart” of obedience is pleasing the Father in everything–i.e. in all we say and do. He is pleased when we obey because he knows that means we trust him. When we trust God we want to obey God, When we have a relationship with Jesus and are intimate with our Father God we don’t obey out of fear, it’s out of love. 2 John 1:6 says, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

Second, grace is the basis for our relationship with God. We are saved through faith in Christ alone, by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, His perfect righteousness, His blood. The best we can do is respond to God’s offer of mercy. We can confess Jesus as Lord. We can repent and turn to God. We can pledge our lives to him in baptism. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” Faith in Jesus Christ leads to being born again spiritually. You are a new person and that new person begins to grow in love for Jesus. As that love grows, trust increases and obedience increases.

Third, obedience is God’s prescription for blessing. God’s commands carry a blessing, a promise, a reward. God’s promise to the children of Abraham is that if they obeyed God, it would go well for them, they would live a long life, and receive inheritance. If we sow obedience, we reap God’s very best in our lives. In Luke 11:28 Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  I even noticed in 1 John 3:22 that obedience makes our prayers more powerful. John says, “If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.”

Last, obedience is evidence our faith is alive, not dead. James says faith without works is DOA (James 2:17).  1 John 2:5-6 says, “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus lived.”  If our faith is alive, real, vibrant, sincere, it will show itself in how we live. Obedience is the inevitable fruit of saving faith.  In the end, God judges our faith by every word spoken, and every deed done, whether in public or private.

Who will you obey?

Pray Like Jesus

There is one thing can make a difference in everything… and that one thing is your prayer life! When you and I pray powerful things happen, When we pray God listens, he moves, he works, he answers. Sometimes we see it and sometimes we don’t.

Jesus said ask and you shall receive and James wrote in the book of James you have not because you ask not. Prayer is not only powerful in your life, but in a very real sense prayer is prophetic in your life. What I mean is that what you are praying about is a real indicator of what is going to happen in your life. Where God is working and what will happen in the future. It all begins with prayer.

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Praying like Jesus is the source of a power filled life. “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1 ESV. I find it interesting that is what they asked Jesus to teach them. They have seen him do miracles, raise the dead, cast out demons, multiply the loaves and fish, teach with incredible wisdom and draw huge crowds. They didn’t ask him to teach them any of that. They wanted to know how to pray like him.

When Jesus was facing a big decision like who would be his 12 disciples he prayed. “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” Luke 6:12 ESV

Praying like Jesus is the key to seeing God’s will done. “And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.” Luke 11:2 Jesus teaches us to not pray for our kingdom to come or our will to be done. He’s saying no, when we pray we are trusting God knows best, his will is best. God I want your way, your desire, what you think is best in my life or the people I’m praying for.

The hard part of this is that God’s timing is usually not our timing and his ways are not our ways. Often times as we pray God is also doing a work in us, he is shaping us and molding us and changing us. As we get closer to God the way we pray changes as we understand His ways better, and trust Him more.

God knows our motives, he knows our heart and when we are praying for things that are not good for us or maybe even hurtful to others, he knows he has work to do in us. It may be why he is saying no, or not answering your prayers. Keep on Asking – Keep on Seeking – Keep on Knocking! Don’t grow weary. Praying like Jesus means trusting that God will do what is best. Trust that God knows what is best for you and your situation. 

Forgive Like Jesus

How many of you have scars on your body? How many of you have ever felt judged? Maybe for the way you look or something you did in your past, or a decision you made. How many of you like being judged? Nobody raised their hand on that one.

How many of you have been hurt by someone? Maybe you were abused, rejected, made fun of or lied about you. Bullied? Maybe you were betrayed by a friend, or taken advantage of.

Being judged and being hurt can leave emotional scars in our lives. Those wounds stay with us and many times don’t heal right, they get infected and can spread and cause many other issues. Even when they heal properly they can still leave scars that remind us of what happened to us.

When Jesus was cornered and put in a bad situation, He didn’t lash out. Instead, Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. He didn’t blurt out an answer. He didn’t get sarcastic. He didn’t get angry, He didn’t run or hide. He basically ignored them. One translation adds, “he acted as though he heard them not.” 

But they keep pressuring Jesus for an answer about the woman caught in adultery. Again look at how Jesus responds. He doesn’t make a long speech, or teach a deep lesson. He made a very simple statement. Jesus said, “Whoever is without sin, cast the first stone.” When every left, she forgave the woman and encouraged her to sin no more.

In Romans 2:1 Paul tells us “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”

To be like Jesus, we must learn to be quick to forgive, not quick to judge, or condemn. Paul tells us that “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

When you acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, he is quick to forgive and brings no condemnation or judgment. He wipes the slate clean.

Jesus also teaches us to pray for those who abuse us, in Luke 6:28 — “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Praying for people we care about is easy. Praying for people we don’t know well is also fairly easy. Praying for someone who hurt us or someone we loved is hard.

The reason Jesus tells us to do this is because He knows that our enemies, those who have hurt us in any way, can only be forgiven with the help of God. Praying for them helps us to break through the pain and see a person. When we pray for those that hurt us it begins that process of spiritual strengthening that is needed to truly forgive a person.

You might start by simply saying be with them, or maybe help them, or do something in their lives. Then you can get to the point where you actually ask God to bless them, make something good happen in their lives. Then maybe even deeper where you start to pray for their salvation, or their healing from whatever hurts they have.

Your prayers for others may or may not change them, but it will always change you. Forgiveness is more about you than the other person. Unforgiveness does a lot of damage in our hearts. It stays inside us right on top to the hurt and that often leads to negative emotions like anger, bitterness, frustration, and even things like depression and anxiety. 

Forgive as you have been forgiven. Jesus quickly forgave you! The moment you put your faith in him, the moment you asked. He is saying we should forgive that way. Forgiveness does not mean you will forget. You can’t just erase those memories and the hurt. But once you are free and healing you don’t think about it as much and eventually it’s not something you think about at all.

Forgiveness is not a feeling it is a choice, on our own we will never feel like forgiving, but with God’s help we can choose to forgive. Choose to give grace, and forgive, and speak the truth in love while not judging people as part of living like Jesus.

Choose a life of Self Giving

I believe life is about growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ. When we do that the rest of our lives find direction, meaning and purpose.

And one of the ways of God that leads us deeper into this kind of relationship is the pathway of self-giving. 

I’m not talking about giving your money, though the happiest and healthiest saints are always the most generous. I’m talking about giving yourself. 

We know from experience and from the Bible that the path of self-giving is the path of greatest joy and growth. It’s not free from risk and pain. But it is the path of greatest joy. 

Paul said in Acts 20:35, “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” More happy. More deeply satisfying. More rich and solid. Especially giving yourself.

This is who you are as a Christian. The moment you become a Christian, you are a giver by nature. self-giving is part of your nature, your essence, your identity.

Listen to Jesus: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him [that’s what it means to be a Christian] will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). 

That is who you are. You are a spring. You don’t do a spring. You are a spring. Whoever believes in me, Jesus said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). That’s who you are. You are a spring. You are a fountain.

And what makes springs and fountains happy and healthy is when they make streams. If you stop them up, they stagnate. If you let them give — if you let them become what they are — they stay clear and healthy and life-giving and happy. 

Let’s turn to 1 Thessalonians 2:1–12.

Seven Ways Paul Gave Himself

Now listen to Paul as he tells us seven ways that he gave them himself. Please, don’t think of this as for someone else. Be encouraged to become what you are in Christ, a fountain, a spring, a giver of yourself.

1. First, Paul took a risk.

Verse 2: “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.”

Going to church or going back to church is risky. Many of you have had bad church experiences, you’ve been hurt or disappointed or neglected or even rejected.
Taking the step of going is big. Walking into a new church with all the unknowns, is taking a risk

It’s the same thing getting into a small group or volunteering to serve. It’s risky, you could get hurt again, you could be disappointed again, you might not click or it might not be the right fit.

But that’s what the Gospel is all about – taking a risk, living and giving our lives to others. Loving and serving and growing. You can’t do that if you live an isolated, careful life. 

Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones and take a risk

2. Paul lived with integrity.

Verse 3: “For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive.”

He gave them the truth and kept himself pure (that word for “impurity” is regularly used by Paul for sexual sin). He wasn’t doing this to find an inappropriate relationship.

He’s saying look guys our motives for helping you, for sharing the Gospel with you was from a heart of integrity. Integrity is not living perfect, but it’s being quick to admit your failures, your mistakes, asking for forgiveness – It’s being open, honest and of good character.

Our desire should be to live lives of integrity so that we can be a positive helpful influence on others.

We are not perfect, but we do have Christ, we do have the Holy Spirit.

3. Paul was not a People Pleaser.

Verse 4: “We speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” Verse 6: “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others.”

People-pleasing makes people into phonies or pretenders. It usually means they are deeply insecure. 

What they want most is your approval. And so they are not real. They will do or say anything to make you happy, to avoid conflict or get you to like them

We all have some of these tendencies of wanting people to like us or to get their approval. That’s not wrong, it’s just should not be our primary motivator for doing things..

That is not giving yourselves. You never really know the real person. Paul will have nothing to do with that. He was all about pleasing God – His focus was on listening to God, obeying God, Sharing the good news about Jesus.

Relax in Jesus, and be who you are — warts, wrinkles, scars, and all.

4. Paul was Honest & Humble.

Verse 5: “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed — God is witness.”

Flattery is using language not for the sake of truth, but for the sake of manipulation. You want something. 

In this case, Paul was being accused of buttering them up as a way to get money. They say he wanted their money, not their souls. And he says, “you and God know that is not true.”

We should live our lives the same way, not trying to manipulate people to get what we want, to get our way, to make more money.

We should not go to church or get into a small group to better our financial position or our status or to take advantage of someone else’s generosity, but to give ourselves.

Listen to verse 9: “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.” He was not after their money. He was after their hearts for their good, he wanted them to have a relationship with Jesus. 

He was there to give them himself. When you give yourself, you don’t flatter, and you don’t position yourself for money, and you don’t expect to be served. You are there to give. That’s who you are in Christ — a giver.

That should be our attitude when you go to church, when we join a small group, when we volunteer to serve. Not what can I get, but what can I give.

5. Paul Cared Deeply for others.

Verse 6–8: We could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

He exchanged a relationship of power for a relationship of affection. This is a very vulnerable thing for a leader to do, or anyone really. 

Caring about people and caring for people is part of our calling to give ourselves to each other. 

Don’t ever think you are above this. Don’t ever think you are too sophisticated or too self-sufficient, or too cool to give yourself like this — showing tender affection like a mother with her children.

Who can you show kindness to? Where can you build meaningful relationships that lead to care and friendship.

For some of you it starts in your homes, with your spouse or with your family. But don’t stop there. You can be a part of a group, serve on a team, be a mentor or pray for people and encourage people that are hurting or struggling.

Ask God to change your heart, to help you care deeply about other people and how you can love and serve others.

6. Paul treated people right.

Verse 10: “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.”

He is not saying he was sinless. What this means is: We honored God, we treated people right, and we gave no one a legitimate reason to blame us for our behavior

He was above reproach. What a beautiful thing — what a compelling thing — when we can be real and be good. He walked in integrity.

Paul was open, vulnerable and real. There was nothing fake about him. He was genuine, he treated people with respect, love and care. He was full of truth and grace, which made it hard for people to find fault in him or accuse him of anything shady.

7. Paul was an Encourager

Verses 11–12: “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”

And the legacy was not the memory of himself, but the kingdom and the glory of God.

Paul was a great encourager, just like a father encourages his children, so we can be known as an encourager, instead of a complainer.

Who can you encourage? Write a note, send  a text, say a prayer, visit, call.

Bottom Line: You Have Something to Give, Choose a life of giving Yourself.

My Top 10 Spiritual Leadership Principles

The year 2020 has been quite unique with the COVID-19 virus, the protests and riots, the political unrest and the economic turmoil. That’s just in the first 7 months.

As I look back over the first part of 2020 there is so much I have learned or that has been reinforced in me. I’ve been in some sort of leadership position since I was in my early 20’s. Over those 30 years I’ve learned a lot about leadership, made a lot of mistakes, and had to unlearn some things as well.

There are some guiding principles that have helped me to lead better, whether at work or at home. This tough year has reenforced these principles for me and I hope they will help you as a leader.

Here are 10 principles that guide my leadership:

  1. Vision is Vital – In times of turmoil, fasted paced change and chaos, a clear compelling vision is so important. It’s during those hard times that vision gives people the right perspective, and helps people to focus on the right things. Communicating the vision on a regular basis is also vital. Great leaders repeat themselves over and over when it comes to vision. Consistent, clear communication of where you are going as an organization or a family will keep your team pulling in the right direction. Most people need a regular reminder for why they are doing what they are doing, and why they are part of the organization.
  2. Be Flexible with your plans but firm on the vision – When things are uncertain and chaotic in the world around you, being able to change plans quickly can be the difference between success and failure. The best leaders are always evaluating their plans and strategies to make sure they still make sense and are working. Listening and asking the right questions can really help in knowing when to be flexible and when to be firm.
  3. Pray for Wisdom – Being in leadership means that you have to make some difficult decisions. It also means that you will be criticized and questioned. Asking God for wisdom is a way to gain clarity, check your motives and gain deeper insight. James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Connecting with God is a huge advantage in leadership, making this part of your daily life will make you a better leader.
  4. Learn to be patient and decisive – This one is so hard, especially for high D leaders. Often it is wise to pray and wait, to plan and wait, to think and wait. One of the keys to great leadership is the ability to be patient and yet bold and decisive when the timing is right. That means you have to understand your vision, your people, your culture and the world around you. As a leader you never have all the facts and you can’t wait for a perfect time. Managing the tension between being patient and taking action is a leadership skill that takes time to get good at. Often it takes trial and error, life lessons and lot’s of prayer to get really good at this.
  5. Seek wise counsel – The people you have around you, and the people that you listen to are so critical for any leader. When things are chaotic you need some wise mentors that can speak into the situation and ask the right questions. Great leaders are constantly looking for the best mentors to help them navigate the uncertain waters and avoid making big mistakes. Seeking out counsel can help you avoid unnecessary pain and struggle.
  6. Make time for important relationships – When things are changing around you and your busy and stressed, it’s vital to take time for family, friends and teammates. Don’t neglect the people around you, plan and schedule time with them to stay connected. Fight against isolating yourself as a leader. Those relationships will nourish you emotionally and strengthen you personally and the people around you.
  7. Find a regular rhythm of rest – This is another hard thing to do for hard charging leaders. Resting looks different for everyone, but find those things that recharge you, and disconnect you from the day to day stress of your leadership. Take at least one day a week off and really rest. It makes you sharper, more likeable and may even help you live longer.
  8. Spend time with God Daily – This is one of the most important things you can do no matter what is going on around you. Daily prayer, reading God’s word, devotions, meditating on Scripture are all ways Christian leaders can stay sharp and focused on the right things. Taking care of your soul helps you keep your priorities in the right place, and helps you grow spiritually.
  9. Pay attention to your emotions – It times of chaos and stress emotions can get out of whack. Negative emotions are a warning sign that something is wrong. If you are getting lots of negative emotions it can spiral you downward into depression, anxiety and darkness. In that state of mind it’s very difficult to make good decisions and lead well. If your struggling emotionally, ask for help. Talk to a trusted mentor, go to a Christian counselor or trusted Pastor. Talk about what is contributing to the negative emotions. You can also work on what your putting into your mind like social media and news. Be careful who your listening to, and make sure you are spending time with God.
  10. Lead with Love – This is all about your heart and what is motivating you. Caring about the people you lead and wanting what is best for them builds a great culture. When it comes to leading with love Paul gives us great advice in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonors others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” You may not have thought about that as a leadership verse, but think about the kind of leader you love to follow. Usually it’s because they are doing much of what Paul wrote about in those passages. At work or at home, lead with love.

Those are a few critical principles that have helped me along the way. Keep working on yourself, because the healthier you are as a leader the healthier your organization and the people around you will be. Lead on and Lead well.

Worry vs. Prayer

Big Point:  Worry is focused negative thinking, while prayer is focused spiritual thinking.

About 19 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, but far more suffer from mild anxiety or worry that has not yet developed into a disorder.  For many people today, worry has simply become a mental habit. Automatically thinking the worse case scenario for the events that happen in their lives.  It’s also playing the “what if” possibilities over & over in their minds.

This has become the normal for many people, however there is a better way and a better normal.  This way leads to less stress, more peace and better health. Philippians 4:6-7 gives us the better way “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

So, prayer is the better way.  Pray should be our normal response to anything that comes our way.  Pausing to talk to God, ask for his help, for wisdom, for courage, for patience.  Expressing our frustrations, fears and doubts to him instead of having a negative conversation with ourselves leads to peace.  It also leads to better health both physically and emotionally.

Read and Reflect:  Read these passages of Scripture several times.  Each time you read it emphasize a different word.  Then reflect and think about what you noticed.

  • Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7
  • “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
  • “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4
  • “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9
  • “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Questions to Consider:

  • What do you tend to worry about the most?
  • What benefits would you gain by praying more instead of worrying?
  • What is one thing you could do to remind yourself to pray more throughout your day?
  • When was the last time you memorized a passage of Scripture?  If it’s been awhile consider memorizing one of the verses in this devotional.

What’s Next?

  • Memorize one or more passages of Scripture this week.
  • Focus on Jesus by reading the story found in Luke 10:38-42
  • Make a list of all the things that you are grateful for
  • Build prayer into your daily schedule, with reminders until it becomes normal.

Pray:
Dear Lord,
I need you now because I am full of stress and anxiety. Reading your Word brings comfort, as I ask you to come and take my heavy burdens. I take each burden, one by one, and lay them at your feet. Please carry them for me so that I don’t have to. Replace them with your humble and gentle spirit so that I will find rest for my soul today. I receive your gift of peace of mind and heart. Thank you that I can lie down tonight in peace and sleep. I know that you, Lord, will keep me safe. I am not afraid because you are always with me. Please keep me daily, Lord, in your perfect peace.
Amen.

Why Are We So Afraid?

It seems these days that many people are living in fear. Fear and anxiety are a common every day occurrence for people. We fear the economy getting bad, we fear losing our jobs, we fear something happening to our children, we fear getting sick or being infected with the Corona Virus. We fear people we don’t know, we fear the other political party, we fear being rejected, failing, being misunderstood. I could keep going.

Why are you so afraid? Jesus spoke those words to his followers after he calmed a storm. It’s a question he is still asking all of us. Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?

Here is what was happening at that time. Jesus had been building his ministry and was attracting many people. He had just spent most of the previous days teaching the people gathered about the Kingdom of God.

So after a day of teaching and then explaining the teaching in simple terms to his disciples, he said to his disciples “Let’s go over the other side.” So off they go to cross the Sea of Galilee. This sea is known for having violent and unexpected storms. When the storm hit, these seasoned fishermen panicked, thinking the storm was going to sink the boats and they would drown. As this storm began, Jesus was sleeping. He was tired from a long day of teaching. They finally woke him up and said; don’t you care if we drown and die!

Does any of this sound familiar? Our lives are full of unexpected violent storms. Things happen that are completely out of our control. It often feels like Jesus is sleeping and does not care that we are in this storm. We feel like we need to cry out and wake him up. We want him to keep us safe and take the storm away.

The disciples knew who Jesus was, they believed what he was teaching them, yet they underestimated his power. They did not fully trust that he would not let them die. We are the same way, we believe in God and may even have read and studied what he has to teach us; yet we don’t always fully trust him with the storms that come up in our lives.

What did Jesus do? Jesus stood up and commanded the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be Still!” Then the wind stopped, and it became completely calm. That’s Jesus! He’s in control, He is all powerful, He loves us.

Think about the storms in your life, the situations that cause you great anxiety. Whatever your difficulty or challenge, you have two options:

  • You can worry and stress and assume that Jesus no longer cares like the disciples did.
  • Or, you can resist that fear, and trust that God is in control and He will guide you through the storm or calm the storm.

We too often try to take control of the ship and fix things on our own. When we do that and exclude God, he patiently waits for us to come to him and trust him, to put our faith in him.

Here are two lessons we learn in life’s storms:

  • You and I must trust what God has told us. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.
  • You and I must remind ourselves who’s in the boat with us. When God permits us to go through a life storm, it’s usually to show us that there is no problem he can’t solve. There is no storm that is too big for him.

Traveling through these storms with Jesus in our boat strengthens our faith, develops our character and deepens our relationship with him. That only happens when we completely trust him no matter what comes our way. Even when we don’t understand why something is happening, God wants us to trust him and not be afraid. When we try to lean on our own understanding we will fall down and miss what God has for us.

Proverbs 3:5-6 say “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Leaning means putting our full weight on him, resting on him without fear of falling. God knows what is best for us, because he has a much bigger perspective than we do.

If you are in the middle of a life storm, know that Jesus is in the boat with you, or you can invite him into your boat. Once there, he will never leave you, he will stick with you through the most violent storms imaginable. Lean on him when you don’t know what your next move should be. Trust God completely, he might not make the storm go away, but he will not let you drown.

Generosity is …

Generosity is a quality that most people want to be around. It can be inspiring and heart warming to see genuine generosity. However, generosity is a heart issue, it’s what is happening in our heart that causes us to be generous.

Paul wrote most of the New Testament and he talks a good bit about generosity. in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 he unpacks some amazing truths about what generosity is. Take a moment and reflect on these 11 truths and then ask yourself how generous you are? Where do you need to grow?

  1. Generosity is unrelated to income and wealth – You can be generous no matter what your economic status.

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 8:2

2. Generosity is never forced – it’s a choice we make everyday.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own. 8:3 

3. Generosity cannot be contained! – When we are transformed to see as God sees, and care as God cares, we understand the honor we have in giving. Giving is contagious.

And they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 8:4 

4. Generosity is always focused first toward the Lord – When we give ourselves to the Lord, our hearts turn from selfish to generous.

And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. 8:5 

5. Generosity is tangible evidence of our love for God – It is outward evidence of the inner change happening in us.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 8:8 

6. Generous people meet needs – God helps us to notice the needs around us and gives us the discernment to know how to best help those in need.

At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need . . . “[He] who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” 8:14-15

7. Generosity honors the Lord – It is an act of worship and brings glory to God.

What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 8:19 

8. Real generosity is expressed cheerfully – It’s a joy to give. When we give we are a blessing to others and when we give we are blessed ourselves.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 9:7

9. Generosity is personal between us and God – It’s a personal choice to give, we should always pray about our giving and make plans to give.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 9:7 

10. God provides the gift for the generous to give – God owns it all and supplies it all.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous . . . 9:10–11 

11. Expressed generosity moves others closer to God – Our giving impacts people in ways only God really sees.

So that you can be generous…and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity . . . 9:11–13 

Three Words for 2020

Blessed, Satisfied and Successful. Those are words that most people would want to say about their lives.  When we are feeling blessed, satisfied and successful, we are most likely going to be happy and content.  However in order to achieve those things in our lives there needs to be some other qualities in our lives.  Here are three thoughts about how to be blessed, satisfied and successful:

  1. You must be broken in order to be blessed.  In order to receive God’s blessing in our lives, we often must go through a period of brokenness.  When we go through difficult times, it often brings us to our knees and our pride is stripped away.  This is when we remove the distractions and desperately seek God for help. When we allow God to break us, we can experience breakthroughs in our life.  When we stop pretending and get real with God by admitting our weakness and our dependence on Him, we can experience blessing on the other side. Brokenness is painful yet that pain can bring about a transformation that leads to blessing if we stay on the path God has for us.
  2. You must Surrender in order to be satisfied. Satisfaction comes when we surrender to God and allow Him to have control.  When we can stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting in Him, our level of peace and satisfaction will increase.  Surrender involves a decision to turn everything over to God. Everything includes our finances, our marriages, our friendships, our children, our work, our free time, our ministry, our relationships, our hobbies, our possessions, our attitudes, our emotions and our minds.
  3. You need to sacrifice in order to succeed. John Maxwell has a saying that you have to give up in order to go up.  Sacrifice is necessary to succeed in any area of life. In marriage, it takes sacrifice in order to love and serve your spouse.  Selfishness will destroy any relationship, so the person that is willing to sacrifice can find success and healthy relationships as a result.  To succeed in any area of life it takes sacrifice and hard work. When we bring God into the picture, He can give us the strength we need to sacrifice and humble ourselves in order to bring success.   Success is not about performing better, it’s about being willing to sacrifice in the short-term in order to be successful in the long-term.

God desires to have a personal, growing relationship with all people.  He is the one that can bring blessing into our lives. He is the one that can bring satisfaction and success.  Having a relationship with God does not mean we will have no problems, there will be problems and pain in our lives.  A relationship with God means that we have an all powerful, all knowing, loving heavenly father that will always be with us through every trial and triumph in our lives.

Are You Facing Adversity?

I have been thinking about this topic for awhile now. I am passionate about growing in faith, character and leadership. That has been my personal mission statement for many years. Often times we forget that to grow, we must face adversity. If we do not have adversity we don’t fully develop. The Christian life is intended to be one of continuous growth. We all want to grow, but we often resist the process.

So how can we learn and grow through adversity? The first thing is to accept the fact that we will have adversity in life. We need to submit to the fact that life will have difficulties and we need to look for the lessons involved with each adversity. We also need to apply God’s word when we face adversity. There are many Biblical principles that we can put into action in times of adversity. Can you show Christian love when someone offends you or treats you unjustly? Lastly we must remember the lessons learned in times of adversity

Adversity does several things in our lives. It prunes us of the the unfruitful stuff in our lives. An unpruned vine will produce a great deal of unproductive growth but little fruit. I was talking with my Amish neighbor that runs an orchard. I asked about the peach trees they had been working on. He said that they had to knock off three fourths of the budding peaches in order to get the best crop of peaches. If they would not do that they would get a bunch of peaches that are small and not very tasty.

Adversity also helps us to become more like Christ. This is called holiness. God uses adversity to enlighten our minds about our own needs as well as the teachings of Scripture. He uses adversity to shape and mold us into the men and women He desires us to be.

Adversity causes us to be more dependant on Christ. God teaches us through adversity to rely on Him instead of ourselves. Adversity forces us to look to God for strength, wisdom and courage.

Adversity also develops perseverance. Hebrews 10:36 says “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised,” and in 12:1 it says “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” To persevere means to press forward. To keep pushing on despite hardships and roadblocks. To stay on track with God’s will for your life no matter what gets in the way. This can sometimes be a long drawn out process that can take years. That process will develop your character and prepare you for what God has in store for your life.

God also uses adversity to equip us to serve more effectively in ministry to others. Adversity allows us to identify with others that are suffering or hurting. It allows us to help them through similar times.

A great example of what I have been talking about is the cecropia moth. This moth is a beautiful creature, but it must go through a great struggle to get out of it’s cocoon. I read the story about someone that was watching this moth go through this struggle. In an effort to help, the viewer snipped the shell of the cocoon. Soon the moth came out, with its wings all crimped and shriveled. But as the person watched, the wings remained weak. The moth, which in a few minutes would have stretched those wings to fly, was now doomed to crawling out its brief life in frustration of ever being the beautiful creature God created it to be. What the person that “helped out” the moth did not realize, was that the struggle to emerge from the cocoon was an essential part of developing the muscle system of the moth’s body and pushing the body fluids out into the wings to expand them. By unwisely seeking to cut short the moth’s struggle, the watcher had actually crippled the moth and doomed its existence.

The adversities in our lives are much like that moth in the cocoon. God uses them to develop our spiritual, emotional and relational muscles. Many people go undeveloped and never realize their full potential because they sidestepped adversity or did not learn from it. Sometimes we can do the same in others peoples lives by “helping them out” and not allowing God to develop their character. We need to be careful how we face adversity and how we help others face adversity.

James 1:2-4 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”