Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Live Life Firsthand

Paul’s First Missionary Journey

So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus. There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God. John Mark went with them as their assistant.
Afterward they traveled from town to town across the entire island until finally they reached Paphos, where they met a Jewish sorcerer, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas, the sorcerer (as his name means in Greek), interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Barnabas and Saul said. He was trying to keep the governor from believing.
Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye. 10 Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? 11 Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him.
12 When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord. Acts 13:4-12 NLT

Okay this was Paul's first missionary journey.  I love it because this is where it is first mentioned that Saul, was sometimes known as Paul.  If you start reading in verse nine you get to see Paul truly minister what he knew!  Before Saul served God he was traveling on the road to Damascus to torture and kill the Christians. The word says that a bright light blinded Saul and that is how God got his attention, it was a pivotal moment for him.  It was when he was blinded for three days that he was desperate and prayed to God for help.  If you want to read the story it can be found in Acts 9.  So fast forward to Acts 13 and now Paul is on his first missionary trip to tell others about Christ.  So how did Paul minister? Paul shared what he knew that worked for him! He basically prayed or used the authority of the Lord. to make this man BLIND! 

Let's shift gears for a moment. Let's say that I am struggling with my weight and someone really heavy tries to sell me this amazing weight loss program but they are still heavy, why would I want to invest in that program?  However if someone who used to be heavy, and lost weight with this amazing program then shares with me her before and after pictures, wouldn't I be more inclined to invest in the program for myself?  Same thing with our walk with Jesus.  We need to experience it for ourselves and then share what we have learned!

Paul ministered what he knew and what he had been through.  Isn't this how we should minister? When we spend time with God, in word and prayer, He teaches us in how we can apply his word to our lives.  It is what we have learned through those experiences that we can share with others because we have lived it out for ourselves! When we spend more time reading books and listening to sermons about other's experiences (not that it isn't good to read books or listen to other pastors) than we do reading the word, we are regurgitating someone else's stories.  When I read stories on Facebook about "someone's neighbor's cousin" how do I know if it is true? When all we have to share is other people's testimonies it does not have the same effect, because we haven't experienced it for ourselves firsthand.  When we spend time with the Lord we are developing our own relationship with him. When we live out our own encounters with God first,  then we can effectively share what we have learned with others!

Praying that you live life first hand!


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Decision Time

“Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:14-18 NLT

This is a great story about three young men taken captive from their Country.  Not only were they kidnapped but their captor changed their names from Hebrew names to Babylonian names.  Hannaniah, which means, “My God is gracious”, was changed to Shadrach (which is believed to be a reference to a pagan god, Marduk).  Mishael’s name meant “Who is what God is?” was changed to Meshack (another reference to Marduk). Azariah (Yahweh has helped) was changed to Abednego which meant servant of Nebo.  The young men were immersed in the Babylonian culture and language.  This was all part of the plan of assimilating them into becoming Babylonians.

The three young men were placed in a position of where they were ordered to bow down and worship this statue.  When they refused to bow down they were given a choice, worship the statue or you will be put to death by being thrown into a furnace of fire. Now although these young men had learned the language, culture and name change, they still loved God. 

Let’s reflect on this situation for a moment.  How many of you let your circumstances determine your current relationship with God?  These three young men were kidnapped, had their names changed, immersed into a foreign culture and now were being forced to either bow down before a statue or die.  Not once does it say that they abandoned their faith.  It certainly would have been easier to bow down when commanded.  After all, there was a bit of peer pressure being put into play. I have heard so many people say, “Well when I prayed and asked God to do this and it didn’t happen, I decided to no longer believe in him, or I got so angry with him.”  Let’s pick back up in the story verse 16.

Their response was to stay faithful to God and not bow down or cave in to the pressure.  They made a decision that they were going to remain faithful to God no matter what happened.  They answered the King, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”  I love verse 18, but even if he doesn’t…  They had made a decision to serve God no matter the circumstance and it showed.  They had made a decision to serve God no matter the outcome, even when faced with death.  Wow, that is so impressive. 

Did you know that when it was all said and done, the three young men were thrown in the fire?  They were bound by ropes and thrown in to be burned alive.  When the King looked in to watch them burn, he didn’t see three men, he saw four men.  He said that the fourth man looked like a god.  He had them brought out of the fire and not even their hair was singed or was one thread of their garment burned, shoot, they didn’t even smell like smoke! What a testimony of God’s greatness!  Even if they would have died, it would still have been a testimony of serving the Lord God Almighty.

I want to reflect a little further on the story for a moment.  What would you do if you were placed in a situation like this?  Would you stand by your decision to serve God no matter the circumstance or outcome?  Think back across your life, when tough times have happened did you press into God, or when things didn’t go as planned did you just jump ship?  If you have gotten mad at God, it’s okay, He won’t abandon you, He loves you.  He simply desires to have a relationship with you.  It’s not too late to make a decision.  When you are weak, He is strong.  Cry out to him to give you strength.  Sometimes he delivers you from those tough situations and other times he walks with you.  He will walk with you through the fire or floods.  Isaiah 43:2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
Bottom line, you are loved.  He desires to walk with you through good times and bad!  Make a decision today!  Choose Jesus.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Devil is a Liar

8-11 Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does. I Peter 5:8-11 Msg                                            (the Message is a paraphrase)

I remember writing a devotion years ago about the devil is like a lion roaring, seeking whom he may devour.   Did you know that the purpose of a lion’s roar is to transfix and actually paralyze its prey?  Well, that is what the enemy would like to do to you.  Paralyze you in fear, so much, so that it consumes you, instead of picking up your sword of faith and going forward into battle.  He likes to distract us from prayer, from ministry, and from focusing on Jesus.  The enemy would love to do nothing more than kill, rob and destroy you.  If he can simply conquer you by making you afraid (paralyzing you in fear) then he has nothing to worry about.

The second thing that I noticed is that most usually, the Lion represents Christ, however the enemy loves to counterfeit the King.  He has counterfeited so many things of the Lord, twisting them about until they are so distorted and nothing like the original, our Abba Father.  The Word of God says that he comes as an angel of light (total counterfeit).  It says in 2 Cor. 11:14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 

This morning I was reading from Reality Exercises to Develop the Inner Man, by Janice Seney.  I found it funny that just as God reminded me about my devotional that I had done before, that this would be one of the first things that I read in her booklet.  I would like to quote her prayer.

“Knowing that my enemy roams about like a lion seeking someone who will allow him to devour them, I bring myself under the mighty hand of God, casting all my care over on Him.  I am calm and watchful.  As the enemy approaches I stand firm and resist him because I understand he uses the same methods on us all.  As I stand firm in faith, under pressure, then my God will make me mature, establish me, strengthen me and settle me.”

If the enemy has been roaring in your life, know that he is looking for an opportunity to scare and distract you.  Keep your focus on Jesus and keep praying.  God’s Word will prevail and it never fails. I hope that this speaks to someone today.  God is faithful and bigger than any circumstance.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Living Life in Full Color

Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.

Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!”The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene,[a] get up and[b] walk!” Acts 3:1-6

I love this passage of scripture.  I have read and written about it many times but today I saw it a little differently.  Yes the physical healing is still the miracle of the story but something different stood out different to me today. In verse 6 Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have.”

Today we see people begging for money every day.  Money may help their problem for the short term but what if we were to give them what we have that would last forever?  What if every time someone asked us for something, that we gave them all what we have, Jesus.  Jesus is the ultimate solution.  We have been given this amazing gift of salvation and relationship with Jesus.  Shouldn’t we share Jesus? 

I see people who are so excited about their make-up or the latest weight loss supplement and they can’t seem to talk about anything else and they want to share this love of theirs with the world.  I see people who cannot seem to focus on anything except for politics and they literally cannot talk about anything else without relating it to the latest political temperature.  If we have Jesus, shouldn’t we desire to share him with as much passion as a political meme, a patch, or a tube of mascara? If we were to stop and truly examine the troubles of this world, we would see the need of Jesus, our Savior, the Redeemer, Restorer, Healer, Provider, and our only Hope.

If you don’t have hope or know Jesus, can I share Him with you?  He really is real and He loves you so very much.  A relationship with Him doesn’t cost money; He has already paid your lifetime membership. Don’t you get tired of carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?  Let Him carry your burdens for you.

If you are a Christian already, may I challenge you to reconsider your focus, your Band-Aid approach to today’s epidemic?  You should filter everything through Christ.  Listen to what you “preach” into the world by your words or actions.  Do you season your words with grace and love?  Listen (or read) to what you say, can you take the “red face” test and pass?  Who are you representing with your passion? Are you being a good representative of Jesus or are you leaving a bitter taste in people’s mouths?  Maybe it is time for a refresher or realignment in life! It is never too late.  You will find that when you change your focus to Jesus, everything in life is a little sweeter.  It is like going from a black and white film to a Technicolor production! 

Living every moment of my life in living color!