Thursday, August 28, 2008
Does anyone know anyone who can donate this equipment…
4 umbrella lights
2 plain backgrounds
Email Chris if you can help with any of this at firstname.lastname@example.org
What are you waiting for? Don't pray about it...Do It! Is your church involved in Convoy of Hope? Why Not? Go to www.convoydc.org to see how you can get your church involved in an event that impact and transform lives in spiritual and practical ways through showing the love of Christ with those in need.
Email email@example.com to see specific areas you can be involved in.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. -Romans 12:1-2
We find in Romans 12:1--2 what we call a conditional promise. The promise is that you can know what the perfect will of God is for your life. The conditions are that you must present yourself to God and that you must not be conformed to this world.
Notice the order. First, you offer yourself as a living sacrifice, and then you will know the will of God. We tend to want to know God's will first and then decide whether we want to give ourselves to it.
It reminds me of when my son Jonathan was little. My wife would ask him, "Jonathan, are you hungry?"
Often the response was, "What are you cooking?" If it was vegetables, then he was not hungry at that particular moment. But if it was ice cream, then he was starving.
In the same way, we will sometimes say, "Lord, what is your will? Before I am going to surrender to it, I would like to know what I am getting myself into." But God may tell you something that you don't want to hear. The question is, are you going to do what He says?
It has been said that the condition of an enlightened mind is a surrendered heart. If you want to know the will of God, then you must have a heart that is surrendered. Present yourself to Him. Then accept His will, no matter what.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Can I be totally candid? I am getting FAT again. Not Good! For a year and a half, I was very faithful and disciplined about going. Unfortunately, I have been very inconsistent over the last year.
I believe we need to be disciplined spiritually, physically, and mentally. I believe if we take care of these three areas of our life that they work together in complete harmony. Unfortunately, too many of have a tendency to neglect one or two of these things and we become weak in those area.
Too me if I am off in one these area I can get off in other areas. We need to take care of ourselves spiritually. We need build up the intellect. We also need to take care of ourselves physically.
I am recommitting myself to getting back in to gym and it all starts tomorrow morning at 5:30 am. I am not going to focus on so much on building the muscle mass (free weights), I am going to focus more on cardio and toning and hopefully dropping the lbs.
I also want to take care of myself so I can stay healthy for my wife, my little boy that is coming soon. If I am healthy I can also longevity in life in ministry to fulfill God's purposes in my life. I have a lot of motivating factor to get me back to the gym.
Getting my playlist ready and preparing myself to roll in the morning, anyone ready to join me?
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. -1 Thessalonians 5:18
In her wonderful book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom relates an amazing story about the importance of being thankful. Corrie and her sister Betsy were held in a concentration camp known as Ravensbruk, where they lived in barracks that were plagued with lice. Lice were everywhere--in their hair and on their bodies.
One day, Betsy said to her, "Corrie, we need to give thanks to God for the lice."
Corrie said, "Betsy, you have gone too far this time. I am not going to thank God for lice."
Betsy said, "Oh, but Corrie, the Bible tells us, 'In everything give thanks.' "
Still, Corrie did not want to thank God for the lice. As it turns out, Corrie and Betsy were trying to reach the other women in their barracks with the message of the gospel, and they had been holding Bible studies. Corrie found out later that because of the lice, the guards would not go into those barracks, and therefore, they were able to have their Bible studies. As a result, they led many of the women to the Lord. So it turns out that God can even use lice.
If the Bible said, "In some things give thanks," I would say, "No problem there!" But it says, "In everything give thanks." That is not an easy thing to do.
This verse doesn't say we should give thanks for everything as much it says in everything. There are some things that happen, and I'm not glad they happened. But I am glad that, in spite of the tragedies, God is still on the throne, and He is still in control of all circumstances that surround my life.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
"Don't act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you." -Ephesians 5:17-18
When we think of being filled with the Spirit, we often relate it to an emotional experience or a feeling of euphoria.
But in reality, the word, "filled," could be translated, "controlled by." It is a word that speaks of what happens when the wind fills the sails of a boat and guides it along. So God is saying that we are to let His Spirit fill us and control our lives.
Another interesting thing about this word is that in the original language, it is in a tense that speaks of something that should be done continually. So you could translate this sentence, "Be constantly filled with the Spirit." This is not a one-time event. Instead, it is something that takes place over and over again, just as we repeatedly fill the gas tanks in our cars to keep them running.
God wants to refill us with His Spirit. It is a great thing to say each day, "Lord, fill me with your Spirit. Lord, fill me once again." You may have emotional experiences. You may not have emotional experiences. But that has very little to do with the reality of being filled with and controlled by the Spirit.
One other thing about this phrase from Ephesians 5:18 is that it's a command, not a suggestion. The Scripture is not saying, "If it works with your schedule, if you don't mind, would you please consider maybe letting the Holy Spirit fill and control you?" Rather, God is saying that He commands us, He orders us, to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Copyright © 2008 by Harvest Ministries
How can you? Your church? Your organization partner with us? Go to www.convoydc.org!
We are expecting 10,000 plus guests of honor to come out for this great event. We are providing medical and dental services; kids zone loaded with carnival games, moon bounces and other fun things. Family portrait areas; we will also have a Community services area; serving hot dogs and hamburger for all of our guests of honor. We will also be handing out 80,000lbs of groceries to the day of the event as well. We will also have a prayer tent set up the day of the event, to offer prayer for all of our guests that are need spiritually.
This will not be just a one day event, this will be a catalyst of life transformation through the power of Jesus Christ. We are looking forward to blessing the Washington Metro community and making an impact in our city.
If you would like to help out go to www.convoydc.org or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't miss out on this great event.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Then Peter said, "See, we have left all and followed You." -Luke 18:28
Peter had been listening in on the conversation between the rich, young ruler and Jesus. It revealed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that possessions had possessed this young ruler's soul. He could not do what Jesus had asked, and as a result, he went away sorrowful.
Peter, after seeing what this ruler couldn't give up, pointed out, "See, we have left all and followed You" (Luke 18:28). In other words, "What's in it for us?"
Now, what did Peter actually leave? He left a few broken-down nets and a fishing boat, but he left something. Granted, it wasn't a lot. But he left it behind.
Jesus answered, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life" (verses 29--30). Jesus was saying, "It will be made up to you, Peter."
This promise holds true today. Whatever you have given up for Jesus, it will be made up to you. Maybe you have lost a friendship here and there. Maybe you gave up a certain lifestyle. Maybe you have made changes in your life, and so you should have. But God will make it up to you.
I think, when you look back, it will only become clearer to you that you made the right choice in following Him. You will realize that not only has God made it up to you in this life, but also that He will make it up to you in eternity when you hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Copyright © 2008 by Harvest Ministries
Solution by Hillsong United
It is not a human right
To stare not fight
While broken nations dream
Open up our eyes, so blind
That we might find
The Mercy for the need
Singing, Hey now
Fill our hearts with your compassion
As we hold to our confession
It is not too far a cry
To much to try
To help the least of these
Politics will not decide
If we should rise
And be your hands and feet
Singing, Hey now
Fill our hearts with your compassion
As we hold to our confession
God be the solution
We will be Your hands and be Your feet.
Higher than a circumstance
Your promise stands
Your love for all to see
Higher than protest line and dollar signs
Your love is all we need
Only You can mend the broken heart
And cause the blind to see
Erase complete the sinners past
And set the captives free
Only You can take the widows cry
And cause her heart to sing
Be a Father to the fatherless
Our Savior and our King
We will be Your hands, we will be Your feet
We will run this race
On the darkest place, we will be Your light
We will be Your light
We will be Your hands , we will be Your feet
We will run this race for the least of these
In the darkest place, we will be your light
We will be your light
God be the solution
We will be Your hands and be Your feet.
God be the solution
We will be Your hands and be Your feet.
We will run we will run
We will run with the solution [2x]
We will be Your hands we will be Your feet
We will run this race for the least of these
In the darkest place we will be Your light
We will be Your light
Friday, August 22, 2008
Now I find myself in question
They point the finger at me again
Guilty by association
You point the finger at me again
I wanna run away
Never say goodbye
I wanna know the truth
Instead of wondering why
I wanna know the answers
No more lies
I wanna shut the door
And open up my mind
One of the first memories I have as a kid was running away. I ran away as a four year old, I grabbed my dog and walked. The ironic thing is that I ran away to school. Yes, that is correct at four years old my dog and I took a little trip to the elementary that my brother was attending. My brother Max is seven years older than me and at that time time I looked up to him even though he tortured me like most older brothers would. But if I ever got into a fight, which from a very young age I was always a little punk and I would start fights and have my brother come finish them.
Running away became typical of my life. I ran away both literally and figuratively many times after that day. Matter fact, when I wasn't running away I would think about running away. I always and still do enjoy long walks and I would just think and walk. I would think about life and keep going until I was miles aways. Nowadays, those times are prayer times, times where I seek God and His will, and yes I still continue think about life and all that I have been blessed with.
I believed as I ran away those were ways that I could escape. I felt like I needed to escape the pain,the hurt, the abuse, the anger and life in general. Most of the time I had no idea where I was going, but I thought if I got far enough away that I would leave everything so far behind.
Looking back, I think I felt locked up in my life and as early as I can remember I hated what I went through, I hated the family I was put in, I hated people. However, there were two things I always took with me at an early age, our family dog Pebbles (our current dog Pebbles' namesake) she was the only friend that I had as a child except for the five imaginary friends that I had and yes they all had names, Steve, Jack, Billy, Pete and Acker. Not only did I have Pebbles, I also has this little cassette/radio boombox, yes I loved my music even at an early age.
Not only did I start running away at an early age, but I also started my fascination with fire. I had tow incidence when I was five and six years old, the first was setting the woods behind my house on fire and it wasn't a little brush fire but it was a blazing fire that could have been potentially worse than what it was. I also set my parents bed on fire.
I guess I started out with a destructive nature and one of running from my problems. As I got older through my teen years and as an adult these things would manifest themselves in different ways.
Let me give you a little more back story to not only set up for the rest of the book, but the rest of my life.
On October 27, 1973 I was born Christopher David Jarrell in Alexandria, VA. I grew up on the southside of Route 1 in Alexandria. I was born into a lower middle class family. Before I was born my mom had several miscarriages after my brother, I believe there were about six or seven. I am the one that stuck in there, a precursor to my determination.
My mom's extended family lived in the area, most moved down from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, which brings about my love and passion for the Pittsburgh sport's franchises. That side of the family was pretty dysfunctional, I remember a lot of alcohol being drunk and a lot of cigarettes being smoked when ever we got together with them and even some fighting.
My dad's family lived in Tennessee. So I did not have much interaction with them growing up except for the summer vacations to visit them.
My mom's mother died just shy of my third birthday, I do remember that somewhat this was the first funeral I remember going to, but I also believe was a turning point in my young life. I believe this shook my mom emotionally and it had an affect on her for a long time afterwards. My mom seemed to become angrier and less of a nurturer to me.
When I was about five years old my mom had an hysterectmy, I remember this time because my great grandmother came to stay with me and my brother. This was also the time I set my parents bed on fire, I remember the fear on my brother's and great grandmother's face as they took buckets of water to but the fire out, it definitely could have been much worse. I basically got a hold of my parents cigarette lighter and started to light the tassels of their bedspread. I also remember the beating that I got from dad when he got home from work.
When I was six, my mom had a friend that she invited to live at our house and right around this time I also remember my parents relationship started to head south. My parents stopped sharing the same bed and there seemed to be a lot of distance between them. At the time I didn't totally understand everything that was going on, I just didn't understand what was going on. I do remember a lot of arguing from my parents, I would stay up late at night hearing them scream and yell at each other.
When I was seven on one our trips to Tennessee we left our dog Pebbles (my only friend) with some relatives, when got back home we found out the Pebbles ran away. This was one of the worst times in my life. I remember totally losing and crying all night. This was very devastating to me, I felt like I lost my best friend in the whole world. Pebbles and I were inseparable we did everything together, I felt like she understood me.
When I was ten years old, the inevitable happened, my parents separated and later divorced. Again, this was huge blow to me and it totally rocked my foundation. I felt like those I trusted most were letting me down.
Also, during this time I already felt the relationship between my mom was distant. I felt like she wasn't around to raise me, I would either get sent next door to our neighbor to a sixty plus year old woman who drank all the time, seriously she had her bourbon and coke everyday and she would always give me swigs. I would come home after school, go to her house, she would have her "drink" I would get to taste it, she would also have a cigarette sticking out the side of her mouth, I would sit around watching her "stories" with her. I would stay with until 6:00 or 7:00 at night, sometimes longer.
After a few years of doing this, I began to be watched by my mom's friend who lived with us still. For the most part she acted like my mother and I resented that, I already had a mother and she wasn't being a mother except to come home to discipline me or most of the time to beat me.
To give you an idea of some of the beating that I received. there was one time when I had braces she would get on top of me and hit me with her fists and my mouth would be bleeding from the cuts inside of my mouth. There was another time where she was hitting me so hard with a wooden paddle that the paddle broke in half. I remember many times that I would get beaten like that and not understand why. This is the only thing that I remember my mom doing anything to "act like a mother". I felt in many ways as my mom got angrier, I was the one who felt the wrath of her anger.
Throughout those times I ran away many times or threaten to leave and never come back. I also began escaping the pain of the emotional, verbal, and physical abuse through drinking alcohol. While technically, my first drink was those sip I took from my next door neighbor's "drink". by the way, I always loved the taste of those drinks, it was always coke mixed in with some kind of whiskey, I think it was Wild Irish Rose, I still remember we used to drive her to the ABC store to pick up her liquor. Or my mom would pick it up for her if she could not get out.
So at the age of twelve on October 27, my birthday, I witnessed a huge fight between my brother Max and my mom, it go so bad that my brother was ready to strangle my my mom with a phone chord. Before any permanent damage was done, Max got up up walked out of the house and never came back, he was able to runaway and leave for good. This was a traumatic time for me and at the same time I wish it was me. I wish it had been who was able to leave for good.
This was really the first time I felt completely alone, I didn't have anyone around me that I could go to to protect and watch out for me. I was looking for my opportunity to runaway, my chance to escape, the only placed I turned was was drinking. I began drinking my mom's beers and any other alcohol that I could find around the house that I could get my hands on, this would be a regular occurance for me. I would take it into the would behind my house or the park that was pretty close to our house and drink down two or three beers or anything else I had, mainly it was beer at the time. I would also take packs of my mom's cigarettes and begin smoking. There was something I really enjoyed about the taste of alcohol mixed with the taste methol Newport cigarettes that my mom smoked. This was great way for me to escape and runaway from the hurt and pain I was experiencing, at least for the time being.
As I moved from elementary to intermediate school, my life seemed to full of a lot of turmoil, frustration and pain, as much as i thought as I was running away from things and life in general, things seemed to alway find me and catch up to me, especially severe anger issues.
I actually thought if I hurt other people, I relieve some of my own pain and anger. Again, another way that I ran away, and again no satisfaction, no relief in sight.
In intermediate school, I was introduced to marijuana. This was stronger and actually it worked better for me to escape than drinking did, so I figured I should combine the two together and I get far away from the pain, the anger, and the abuse I was going through.
During this time I began to live in a fantasy world, not playing fantasy games. But I created my own world apart from reality. Looking back it was like I had multiple personalities. I started to compartmentalize my life and have those different fantasy personalities deal with different things I was dealing with. I actually don't remember a whole lot about those years, I remember the drinking, the drugs which increased I also remember my anger getting out of control.
A great example of the anger that I remember other than the many fights I had. I pulled a pair of scissors on another student on the last day of seventh grade for no apparent reason and I wanted to stab him to death, this is an example of how bad things have gotten in my life. I just wanted to hurt people physically, with my words, or even pulling people down with me.
When I got into the ninth grade, I did not realize this was going to be one of the most pivotal years in my life.
When I began high school, I was still having many issues, however I didn't realize that this year would be a very pivotal time in my life both in very negative ways and very positive ways. I experienced so much during this time frame of my life both relationally, emotionally and spiritually.
It was during this time I started doing acid tabs and even tried heroin a few times. it was also during this time I started dating my first serious girlfriend, she was a year ahead me in school. Before she met me she never touched alcohol and drugs, it didn't take me long to convince her to try what I was doing. It was during this time I began to really start going to parties and sneaking out of the house at night. Before this time, i really only drank and did drugs by myself, it was more me to escape and runaway from my problems than doing with other people to try to fit in with a certain crowd.
It was in November of my ninth grade year that I experienced one the first tragedies of my life. Kim, the girl I was dating went to a party that I was suppose to go to with her, however this was one of the many times I was grounded, basically I was always grounded and was never even supposed to leave the front yard except to go to school and that was it. My mom kept a tight watch on me for whatever reason that night, or perhaps God used that to spare me (looking back, I think that was definitely the case).
That night Kim went to the party without me and not only did they have the supply of alcohol and pot, but they had some cocaine there as well. I have never done cocaine and neither did Kim, but that night she used it for the first time. That night, many of the people who were there decided to play a game of Russian Roulette, the game involves a six chamber gun, one bullet, and people who are drugged out of their minds pass it around rotating the chamber around until someone "wins". That night Kim "won". I felt so helpless, I wasn't there to help her or to stop her or even take the bullet myself. I felt like is was my fault, if I hadn't introduced her to drugs, she probably would not have gone that far. I held on to this for a long time, blaming myself carrying this weight with me.
After receiving the news, I remember running out of the house screaming with a pair of shorts on no shoes, my boombox, my stash of pot and not knowing where to go but to the park close to my house...it felt like I was there forever just crying, smoking, screaming, crying some more and hating myself and hating God, cursing Him, cursing my mom, cursing those at the party and contemplating how I could be with Kim. While I was listening to the radio, I know there were so many songs be played but the one song that stuck out that night, every time I hear this song it still takes back to those emotions and pain that I felt that night. The song was Hold On To The Night by Richard Marx...
Just when I believed I couldn't ever want for more
This ever changing world pushes me through another door
I saw you smile and my mind could not erase the beauty of your face
Just for a while won't you let me shelter you
Hold onto the night
Hold onto the memories
I wish that I could give you something more
and I could be yours
How do we explain something took us by suprise
Promises invade love that is real but in disguise
What happens now do we break another rule
and let our lovers play the fool
I don't know how to stop feeling this way...
This was the most intense pain that at the time ever felt and I held onto even into adulthood. Even as I write this I can feel it and visualize like it just happened.
With this loss, I smoked more pot, dropped more acid, drank more and contemplated and attempted suicide many time after this night. I was running and I did not know where to run to, I felt so lost, I felt like my whole world had crashed down and fell into deep depression that even still today I can be prone to.
Some of the attempts at suicide I tried was swallowing a whole bottle of Tylenol, dropping about 10 tabs of acid, running in the middle of Route 1, a heavily traffic area. Even beyond this incident I became suicidal at other times in my life, even as an adult I contemplated killing myself. This became a very suitable way to escape from everything I was dealing.
This wasn't even the end of it, my grades started to drop off in school and for the most part I started quitting on life and started an intense hatred for people. When summer came around, I had plans to spend the majority with my dad and my step mother, as well as spend it in Tennessee with my grandparents for two weeks so I grabbed a stash of pot to take with me and a sheet of acid tabs.
While I was in Tennessee, I met a girl named Amy whose family were neighbors to my grandparents. She was a very attractive girl, a few years older than me and we absolutely hit it off and hung out together and she was into pot too and into making out as well, which was a bonus for me. Hanging out with her made that time in Tennessee go by quickly. When I left to head back home, we promised to write and to stay in touch, since was the first girl that I was serious about since Kim's death.
When I arrived back at my dad and step mom's place, they informed me that my mom sent this a note that pretty much said, "take your son, he is your brat now, I don't want him anymore." While I was happy that I didn't have to live with my mom anymore, I was upset how it went down and that it was me initiating me leaving. But living with my dad and step mom was the best thing for me. While I was getting used to a new area and looking ahead starting in a new school district and attending T.C. Williams High School.
It was during this time I started attending a church where my brother worked at as a caretaker for the facilities. I never went to church before and had no clue about Jesus, who He was or what He was about. I only knew that I didn't like God for all the pain and hurt I was experiencing, to be honest I hated God, from the time my dog Pebbles ran away when i was five years old until this time I never had a positive outlook on God and blamed Him for everything. To make it simple and to be perfectly blunt I was pissed at God and I definitely wasn't running to Him, actually I wanted to run far away from Him.
My brother invited me to come out to the youth group at the church, for whatever reason I went and started going on Wednesday nights usually stoned and pretty trashed. It was then during that summer I met an awesome youth pastor who is my best friend today, Mike Colon and a missions team from Youth With A Mission from Tyler, Texas. Why was this so significant to me? Because this was the first experience that I ever had with Christians, and this was the first experience that I had with people who reached out to me in a positive way. I felt very comfortable around these people, they had such peace in their life.
The team from YWAM knew I was pretty messed up so they invited me to go on this weekend retreat with them in Rock Castle, VA. This is one of those times I don't remember a whole lot about, only what I have been told later by the people I was there with and from my youth pastor who heard about it from the the team. Through one of the worship times at the retreat, I apparently started freaking out and I ran out of the space where the worship service was taking place. Apparently, when I was freaking out I was running away screaming, cursing God with deep groans with a lot of anger. A bunch of them actually got a hold of me and was able to gain control of me, from what I understand it took about five guys to hold me down. They began praying for me and for about an hour they were casting demons out of me that were manifesting themselves. As I am writing this it stills seems very surreal to me and kind of crazy. I found out later about what happened to me that weekend. I think I came to a point of confessing a faith in Christ, but I not sure what that meant at the time, so it it didn't really "stick".
For a time, I felt a little more peace in my life, but still smoke pot, still dropping acid and still drinking, at this time I was drinking a lot of hard liquor, Jack Daniels and Vodka straight. I would still show on Wednesday nights to church either stoned, tripping or drunk, I would also start going to Sunday School hungover from the Saturday before.
Towards the end of the summer I had another shocking call, this time from my grandfather from Tennessee. He called to inform us that Amy, the girl that fell for in Tennessee was killed in an accident. As she was delivering pizza she was trying to beat out a train by trying to cross railroad tracks he car was hit by the train and she was killed instantly. This was another blow to my already fragile psyche...another blow that sent me into further depression and deeper anger.
I was still going to church not because that I was seeking God, but because of the girls and because I felt like I was around people who actually loved me and I liked that, no matter what issues I had or crazy I was, this people loved me unconditionally. But I was still running away.
As I approached the new school year, a new school and making new friends both my attitude and my life became more destructive. Again, there were times where I ran away, one time leaving a note saying I am checking of here and checking out of life and left it for my dad and step mother (I later received this letter as a part of a Christmas gift from my parents many year later in a book filled with old report cards with failing grades and other things I was dealing with in my past. This was given to me as a reminder of where I came from).
I started getting involve theater and acting during my sophomore year. Looking back this was another way I found to escape reality and live in a fantasy world. I could be someone else. It gave me an opportunity to hide I could be someone else. I was also still doing a lot of drugs, a lot of drinking, and dating girl after girl, even two or three at time. Again, these are ways that I kept running, I wanted to escape from life.
I got to a point in my life where I was running away from God, my dad and step mother, my friends at church and my youth pastor. I was running away and getting tired, this was when I came to a crossroads in my life and for the first time ever that I felt like someone or something was chasing after me.
"The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was." -Exodus 20:21
Like the nation of Israel, we are each called to the mountain of God, but few are willing to pass through the darkness to get there. God wanted to reveal His glory to the children of Israel, but they were afraid to enter into His presence. They only wanted to know about God, rather than know him personally like Moses did. This grieved the heart of God.
Why wouldn't the people of Israel risk entering the darkness if it meant being in the presence of God? What did the people fear?
Perhaps they had fears like each of us. The fear of the unknown. The fear of what might happen. The fear that God might not like what He sees. Or, perhaps even the greatest fear: the fear of darkness itself and what lies behind that darkness.
Many of us have been satisfied to hear about God from God's messengers. But there is a greater calling for each of you - a calling to enter into His presence. Sometimes entering into His presence means we enter through an unexpected door - a door that appears to have nothing good behind it.
We do not need to fear entering the presence of God even if it means entering through a period of darkness. Above all else we must believe that God is a God of love. If He calls us into darkness in order to enter His presence, then that darkness will become an entry to new levels of relationship with a God who longs for fellowship with you and me.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." -Matthew 28:19
What does it mean to be a disciple? Certainly we need to know the answer to that question. After all, Jesus told us to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..."
But how can we make disciples if we are not disciples ourselves?
Are the qualifications of discipleship different from those of simply coming to faith? I believe the answer is yes.
First, Jesus tells us that if we want to be His disciples, we must deny ourselves. This is a foundational issue. We have a choice in life: we can either live for ourselves or we can deny ourselves. We can either ignore the cross, or we can take it up and follow Him.
The great barrier to being a disciple of Jesus Christ is summed up in one word: self. Self-obsession is not something unique to our generation, although the Bible does say that in the last days, people would be lovers of themselves and lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God (see 2 Timothy 3:1--5).
Certainly we are living in a time of great self-obsession, especially in the United States. Yet we can trace its roots all the way back to the Garden of Eden. When Satan came to Eve, he essentially appealed to her selfish nature.
That is why Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself . . ." (Matthew 16:24). Jesus didn't say, "Love yourself." He didn't say, "Have a positive self image." He said, "Deny yourself."
That is what we need to do, because that is what gets in the way.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
"These who have turned the world upside down have come here too." -Acts 17:6
The Christian life is more than just saying a prayer or walking down an aisle and getting "fire insurance," as it were. The Christian life is meant to be dynamic. It is meant to be exciting.
It is meant to have a radical effect on the way that you live and your outlook on life, because Jesus Christ not only wants to be your Savior. He wants to be your Lord. Not only does he want to be your friend, but He also wants to be your God.
But I'm afraid that many today are living a substandard Christian experience. That term is really an oxymoron in many ways, because if it is a Christian experience, then it shouldn't be substandard. In a sense, that isn't even a technically correct term.
You really can't be a substandard Christian. Yet there are many who are failing to receive all that God has for them.
How did a handful of ordinary people living in the first century turn their world, as they knew it, upside down? They did it without television, without radio, without megachurches, and without all the resources that we think are so important today in reaching the goal of world evangelism.
How is it that they were able to do it? I think you could sum it up in one word: disciple.
They were disciples of Jesus Christ--not fair weather followers, but true disciples. They weren't living an anemic, watered-down, ineffective version of the Christian life. They were living the Christian life as it was meant to be lived--as Christ Himself offered it and as the early disciples apprehended it.
If we want to impact our culture today, then we, too, must be disciples.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. -Mark 16:12
I think it's interesting to note those to whom Jesus chose to appear after His resurrection. We don't read about Him appearing to Caiaphas or Caesar.
Now if it had been me, the first person I would have appeared to would have been Pilate: "Yo, Pilate! Remember me? Can't keep a good man down, can you?" Or I would have appeared to Caiaphas, the high priest who, for the most part, orchestrated the crucifixion.
But it is interesting how Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and joined them on their journey. We don't know who they were, and they are not mentioned again in the Bible.
The Bible tells us that Jesus appeared in another form to them as they went into the country. In other words, He was going incognito. They didn't know that it was Jesus.
The last sight they had of the Lord was His beaten and bloodied body. Surely they wanted to get that image out of their minds.
There they were, walking along, and Jesus was walking with them. It's a reminder to us that at all times, even when we don't realize it, Jesus is walking with us.
Isaiah 43:2 promises, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you."
Maybe when you are in church, you feel close to God. But wherever you go, you can know that Jesus is with you there too. When you are going through hard times, even when you cannot feel Him, Jesus is there.
It is no secret that I worked for Family Christian Stores for 10 years, so I was very happy to see this in their sales catalog this weekend.
CONGRATULATIONS PASTOR MARK FOR THE NEW RELEASE!
Monday, August 18, 2008
..."Everything is all right".... 2 Kings 4:26
The prophet Elisha often would travel through the town of Shunem, and in that town was a well-to-do couple who extended hospitality to him. At first, they simply offered Elisha a meal when he came through town. Then, seeing that Elisha needed a place to stay and study, they built a room for him above their house so that each time he came through town, he had a place to stay. He was so appreciative of their kindness that one day he asked the wife what he could do for her. His servant Gehazi later informed Elisha that the woman was barren and her husband was old. " 'About this time next year,' Elisha said, 'you will hold a son in your arms' " (2 Kings 4:16). A year later the son arrived.
One day the father was working in the field, and the son became ill and died. The woman ran to meet Elisha to inform him. When Elisha asked what was wrong, she did not panic and react in fear. Her response to Elisha seemed almost unnatural. "Everything is all right," she said. Elisha went to the boy and raised him from the dead. It was a glorious miracle. (See Second Kings 4.)
Faith looks at situations through God's eyes, not the eyes of our limited understanding. This woman did not panic, for she knew something more than the current circumstance. Faith does not panic, but realizes that what looks like devastating circumstances may be God's plan to bring glory to Himself by demonstrating His power. When Jesus appeared on the water to the disciples in the middle of the night, they exclaimed, "It's a ghost!" (see Mt. 14:26) First appearances can bring great fear upon us even to the point of paralyzing us. Find the Lord in your circumstance today. Exercise your faith today and trust Him for His outcome in the situation.
Friday, August 15, 2008
"For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless." -Psalm 84:11
If you were running for political office, what approach would your opponent take against you? If he wanted to launch a smear campaign, would there be any ammunition for him to use? Think how you would feel if the director of the opposing campaign came to you afterwards and said, "Sir, we tried to find something negative to play up in our campaign against you, but we couldn't."
What does it really mean to be a person who is blameless before God? Being blameless before God does not mean we are perfect. No human being is perfect. It means that we so fully trust in God that we are willing to make things right when we fail. We are willing to humble ourselves continually before the throne of God. "...Blessed is the man who trusts in You" (Psalm 84:12). God has a specific plan for the people who fully trust in Him. He promises to be their shield, to bestow honor on them. He will not withhold any good thing from them. What a promise! What motivation to be all that we can be in God.
Imagine living a life that God views as blameless, which allows Him to withhold no good thing. Pray that God would make you and me that kind of person.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
It is in my faith in Christ that I am a Christ follower. It is He who died to set me free. I have no rights apart from Him.
Why do people say these stupid things? Why do so many people put their hope in people, in their country? This perplexes me.
Just some random thoughts...
What I am posting will be very unedited. It will be very transparent as I will expose a lot of who I am and my journey.
Here is what I am hoping as many of you who have writing skills and great grammar could do to help me through this process is this: keep me accountable, edit, and give me your honest input and feedback (I can handle it, no really I can.) You can have a hand in helping me formulate and write this book.
Thanks for allowing me to bring you into this process and journey.
Your life is a flashback
A question, a photograph
A statement, a story, a struggle
A chance to laugh
Cuz if you don't laugh you cry
A last crescendo when you die
So hit the rewind and listen
It's the playback
The soundtrack to your life
As I sit and think about what I am going to put into the pages of this book. I wrestled with two thoughts, who am I writing this book to and how open will I be as pour out my life.
To answer the first question. First I am writing the book to encourage all those who have stories to tell, to share those stories. I am writing this book to all those who might be looking for hope of freedom in your personal life and journey. Finally, I am writing to pastors and ministry leaders who are living behind their own prison bars and have things you need to be released from.
To answer the second question, I am writing this book to be totally open and honest with who I am. To reveal honest and real struggles that I have faced and I believe so many people face in life and in ministry. I bare myself wide open. Look I truly believe each one of us is truly living a life a moment away from failure. In one moment we can lose everything, our family, our friends, our lives, and our ministry. If my story can help someone else, why not be totally open?
In this time in my life I have seen so many friends, family members, and colleagues in the ministry that have stumble, fallen and have never recovered from a failure in their life. It pains me to see others go through these things, so what I can do to speak into the lives of others, that is my prayer as I humbly and honestly write every word of my journey.
As I pour myself out in these pages, one of the biggest influences in my life has been music, it has either spoken to me, has been my voice when I could express what I was feeling, has drawn me to God or has me question that I needed to answer. With that said, I am beginning each chapter with lyrics of a song that has spoken to where I was at in my life. These songs and lyrics are soundtracks to my journey.
My life has certainly been a journey. I have experienced a lot of anger and pain, but I have also experienced a lot joy and peace. I desire that through me sharing my personal experiences I can inspire, influence, encourage and give hope.
So I as you read these word and look through these pages don't see my story but see God's story working through me. I am here today because of His love and truth. If it wasn't for His grace and mercy, I would be dead today or in prison.
"Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." -Job 42:3b
If there was any one man on earth who had reason to question God's love, it was Job. He lost his family, his health, and his wealth - all at the same time. His friends came to his side only to question his spirituality. God had already answered the question of his integrity. Job was described in the opening verses of the book as "blameless and upright" (see Job 1:1). His calamities were not born from sin. Job acknowledged God's right to do anything in his life until one day he could take it no longer. He questioned God's motives.
God answered Job, but not in the way he wanted to hear. God answered him with a series of questions that represents the most incredible discourse of correction by God to any human being. Three chapters later, Job realized that he had questioned the motives of the Author of the universe, the Author of love. He fell flat before his Creator and realized his total depravity. "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know."
Have you ever questioned God's activity in your life? Have you questioned His love for you based on circumstances that came your way? The cross at Calvary answers the love question. He sent His own Son in replacement for your sin. If you were the only person on earth, He would have done the same. His ways cannot always be understood or reconciled in our finite minds. That must be left for a future time when all will be understood. For now, entrust your life to Him completely. Embrace Him in the hard times and the good.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
As I look back on my own life both as a follower and a non follower of Christ, I have experienced a lot of pain and suffering...many through my own actions and choices and some from outside forces.
One thing I have learned over the years is this, how I deal with suffering and react to things to things that happen is my choice. I react much differently now as a Christ follower than I did before I crossed the line of faith.
I do believe things happen for a reason and ultimately for God's purposes. I don't think things are mere coincidences.
Here are a few thoughts on suffering...
Why God Allows Christians to Suffer
Never forget that God is in control of all the circumstances that surround a believer's life. God is in control of your life, and involved in all the details.
Your suffering has not escaped His notice. Your situation has not somehow been buried in His inbox. He is intimately aware of everything going on in your world, and no detail is too small to escape His attention. The word "oops" is not in God's vocabulary.
And as we can so clearly see from the book of Job, the devil can do nothing in the life of the believer without the express permission of God.
Okay, you say, but if He's in control, why does He allow these hurtful things to happen to me and to people I love?
1. Suffering makes us strong
The apostle James tells us:
"When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don't treat them as intruders, but as friends. Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. . . . you will find you have become men of mature character, men of integrity, with no weak spots." (James 1:2-4)
God allows hardship in our life so that our beliefs will become more real to us, and less theory. We can start living out our faith-life in the real world.
I'm reminded of all the people you see driving SUVs. Most of these fancy rigs have 4x4 capabilities. Some guys take it a notch above that, putting lifts in their rigs, buying those big gnarly tires, and mounting huge lights on top.
And what do they do with these powerful vehicles? They brag to their buddies, and say, "Yeah, just look at this thing. Look at what it can do. I could drive this baby up the side of a building."
"Well," someone might ask, "do you want to go out in the dirt?"
"Are you kidding? Do you know how much I paid for this thing? No way! In fact, I was just on the way to the car wash."
So they never want to actually use that vehicle for its intended purpose--what it was actually designed to do.
We can be that way with our beliefs. I can imagine God saying, "You know, you have a lot of really great beliefs. You talk about them all the time. I think it's time you started putting some of them into practice. You talk about how you trust Me. You talk about how you believe I can provide for your every need. Let Me put you in a situation where you have no other resources and really have to trust Me for that provision."
You see, God can allow these hardships and trials and shortfalls in our lives so that we will exercise our faith muscles, and step out on trust alone. We need to transfer our faith from the realm of theory to reality.
2. Suffering can bring God glory
Any person can be happy and peaceful when the sun shines down from a blue and cloudless sky. But when those qualities shine out from the midst of a dark and destructive storm, that's another matter entirely.
That, in essence, was the challenge Satan laid before God. "Job follows You because You have blessed him in every way, but if those things were taken away, it would be a different story. He would curse You."
In order to show the falsehood of Satan's argument--and to strengthen Job's faith at the same time--God allowed these multiple tragedies to crash into Job's life.
The result? Job not only refused to curse God, he actually blessed Him. What a rebuke to the enemy! What a witness to the world.
It is a powerful testimony when a believer can praise God while suffering. Remember the story of Paul and Silas, arrested for preaching the gospel in the city of Philippi? The Bible tells us that the jailer had them stripped and flogged. Then they were put in a dungeon, where their feet were fastened in stocks.
How did they respond? Here's what the Bible says:
"But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them." (Acts 16:25 nkjv)
That word "listened" could be translated as listened with great interest. Why? Because they had never heard anybody sing praises to God in such a place. And that's about the time the Lord sent an earthquake:
"At once the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" (Acts 16:26-28 niv)
The jailer responded by saying, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" In effect, he was saying, "I've been watching you guys. I've seen how you have taken such terrible punishment without cursing. I've seen how you can worship in the worst circumstances, and how you could have escaped but didn't. All I can say is, whatever you have, I want it."
Your circumstances may not be as dire as those of Paul and Silas. But people are watching you. If you're in the midst of a hardship or a difficulty, they're watching to see if you will really practice what you preach, and live out what you proclaim. The way you handle suffering in your life can bring great glory to God.
Paul the apostle also suffered from an unnamed "thorn in the flesh." No one really knows what it was, but he spoke of it in his letter to the Corinthian church, and said that he had asked the Lord on three separate occasions to remove it.
But God said no. Even though God had done miracles through Paul, bringing healing to others, He chose not to bring that healing in the life of His loyal servant in this particular situation.
When Paul asked why, God gave him this answer: "My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Was Paul discouraged by this answer? It sure doesn't sound like it! He goes on to say, "So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (v. 9-10).
So God can be glorified through your weakness. His light and power can shine through the chips, cracks, and cracks in your life, drawing others to Himself.
Monday, August 11, 2008
"They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your might, so that all men may know of Your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom." -Psalm 145:11-12
How do you measure your effectiveness in God, or should you even be thinking like this? The early Church turned the world upside down in that first century. What made them so effective? Was it their theology? Was it great preaching? Was it due to one man's influence apart from Jesus?
The Scriptures are clear as to what made the early Church effective. It is at the core of God's heart, and it is quite simple. God desires to reflect His nature and power through every individual. When this happens, the world is automatically changed because those who reflect His glory affect the world.
We serve a jealous God. He is a God who will not share His glory with anyone. God sets up situations in order to demonstrate His power through them. He has done this since the day He created man. His desire is to reflect His glory through you and me, so that all men may know of His mighty acts and the glorious splendor of His Kingdom. The apostle Paul understood this principle: "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power" (1 Cor. 2:4-5). If you do not see His glory being reflected through your life, then you need to ask why. He has promised to do so if we will walk in obedience to His commands.
With all that said, Lora and I had great friends come into town from the Richmond, VA area, a place where we lived for six great years, we love the area and love the people there. Our friends spent the whole weekend with us which is a rare treat, unfortunately I was not able to spend as much time with them as I would like. However, we did go to the Washington Redskins/ Buffalo Bills preseason game with them after service on Saturday night. After a stellar weekend, I had a chance to chill and think about priorities in my life, I want to make sure I have things in the proper place in my life. I think we all need to evaluate and re-evaluate our priorities and put things in perspective.
As I get older and as I grow more into the person that I am, I am beginning to set personal boundaries, personal priorities in my life. I feel like I am starting to say no more, which is really hard for me to do, I also feel I becoming a little more firm in keeping my priorities (not sure if this good or bad, however i feel that it is the right thing to do for me.)
Priority #1 is God...my relationship with God through His son Jesus is at the very top of everything else and everything I do flows from that relationship. ****Added Ministry to me begins here, if I not feeding myself and allowing God to work in me, everything else is meaningless.****
Priority #2 is my wife...I must do everything that I can to nurture that relationship and allow absolutely nothing to come between Lora and me. God has blessed me with an amazing wife, I will do everything I can to protect, guide, serve, and honor her. ****Added: my ministry begins here to my wife.****
Priority #3 my future son...I am responsible for him, I must care for him, teach him, love him, demonstrate God's love to him through my actions. ****Added: Again, ministry begins here.****
Priority #4 my family and friends...I am an extremely loyal person. To me my friends are my family, my family are my friends. I have been bad over the years to really make time for friends and family, but within the last few years, I feel like they need to be a priority, I need to put time and energy into them. Why? Because people are important to me and I love them and the love me as well in spite of what I do or who I am. This is why I enjoyed having our friend hang with us this weekend. I would give my life for my family and friends. ****Added: And yet again ministry begins here.****
Priority #5 my health...to be quite honest this was further down on the list. After what happened recently, I realize if I don't have my health and if I don't take care of myself physically as well as spiritually, I am really no good to anyone. I also realize with my little boy coming a long in a few months that I need to be healthy for him and be the father that God has called me to be. So, if I not healthy or if I don't take care of myself, I can not do this.
Priority #6 my calling/career...I am absolutely fortunate, my calling is my career and my career is my calling. I love what I do and I give all that I can to do what I do. I am passionate about being a pastor and it is a great honor for to be able to inspire, influence, and share God's love with people through my action and words. I strive to it with absolute integrity and humility. God has totally blessed me with a dream position here at NCC and I would not give that up, except for the previous 5 priorities.
What do you think? What are a few of your top priorities? Do you think I have my priorities in the proper place with the proper perspectives? Did I forget anything? Perhaps I am way off base, I really don't believe I am. What are your thoughts?
Friday, August 08, 2008
I was eighteen years old God when called me into ministry. I just had come to faith in God and, I had a lot of issues that I was still personally dealing with and I was for the most part uneducated Biblically. As I stepped out and began to actively serve in the church I was attending, my faith started growing and my pursuit of God became more intense. During this time of serving and pursuing God it wasn’t so much what God was doing through me, but it was about what He was doing in me.
One of greatest ways we can pursue God is through serving Him and serving those that He created. He hasn’t called to focus inward, but to look upward towards Him and outward towards others. The picture of this is found in one of my favorite passage of Scripture, known as, the Great Commandment, Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).
The greatest way that you can display love genuinely is by acts of service; through giving of yourself unconditionally. For me, there is nothing more satisfying, nothing more rewarding than giving with all of my heart, soul and mind. This is the picture that Jesus Himself gave us when He lived and gave up His life on this earth as displayed in Matthew 20:28.
I believe as we pursue God, we can become more like Christ and be willing to serve as He did, to give of ourselves to those we are called to love. The greatest definition for compassion is this, showing love with your action. If we truly love those that we do life and are around every day we must be willing put action behind our words.
Romans 12:1 states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. “ The word worship is the Greek word latreia, which means “divine service”. When we offer ourselves in acts of service to God, it is worship. It is holy and pleasing when we offer all of ourselves, heart, mind and soul to spiritual acts of “divine service.” What an amazing way to pursue God!
I believe each of us are a part of God’s production, and we have an important role to play. We hold our own copy of the script, God’s Word and our ears practice the art of listening. We have to listen to cues for our turn to speak, our turn to act, and our turn to obey. When we step into God’s story and begin to be people of action; His story becomes more than static history. It moves from being white noise; to a living history. God’s story becomes our story, not through unengaged recollecting, but by diving in, getting plugged in, getting involved, and pursuing God through acts of divine service. Through this we experience God’s Word moving in and through our lives. But it is up to you take an active role in serving the living God.
So, if you want to truly pursue God, you can pursue Him through acts of service. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
Once you were wandering like lost sheep. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls. -1 Peter 2:25
On more than one occasion, the Bible compares Christians to sheep. I don't know if I'm really happy about that, because sheep are not the most intelligent animals on earth.
It would have been nice if God had compared us to dolphins. Now there's an intelligent animal. I once had the opportunity to talk to a man who trained dolphins. I asked him, "Are dolphins really as intelligent as they seem?" He said, "In some ways, yes, and in some ways, no. They are very intelligent in many ways, because a dolphin can read a symbol and understand what it means." That is amazing to me.
But Jesus didn't compare us to dolphins. He compared us to sheep. And sheep are some of the stupidest animals around.
They are easily spooked. They are vulnerable. They have no defense mechanisms to speak of. They can't run very fast. They are in constant need of care and attention. They have a horrible tendency to follow each other, even to their own death. It has been documented that if one sheep walks off a cliff, the others will follow.
The Bible says, "All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God's paths to follow our own" (Isaiah 53:6). Think about how many people have bought into the same lies, generation after generation. They fall into the same junk, the same addictions, and the same traps again and again.
We are like sheep. That is a fact. The question is, are you going to be a smart sheep or a dumb one? Smart sheep stay close to the Shepherd, and that is where we all need to be.
Copyright © 2008 by Harvest Ministries
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Peter said, "I swear by God, I don't know the man." And immediately the rooster crowed. -Matthew 26:74
Peter's denial of Jesus did not happen over a period of seconds or minutes, but over a period of hours. An hour had passed from the time the first person said, "You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean," to the time Peter made his second denial. He had ample opportunity to hightail it out of there, but he remained in this situation.
It just reminds us of the fact that no person is safe from temptation except the one who flees from it. Peter, having been warned by Jesus himself, of all people, should have avoided any place where he could be weakened. He definitely should have steered clear of all roosters.
I would have said, "Are there any roosters here? Because I'm leaving if there are. The Lord mentioned a rooster."
Greater men and women of God than most of us certainly have been compromised by lowering their standards and allowing themselves to be drawn into sin.
People like Solomon. Samson. David. They all found out the hard way. Are we better than they were? Are we more spiritual than they were? I don't think so.
If someone like Simon Peter was capable of falling, then surely we are. 1 Corinthians 15:33 tells us, "Bad company corrupts good character." Peter was around people who were dragging him down spiritually.
Are you in a similar situation today? Have you entered into relationships where people are dragging you down? Maybe it's a romance. Maybe it's a close friendship. Are you finding yourself compromising your principles to fit in and not offend anyone?
Perhaps you need to reconsider who your friends are. Perhaps you need to make some immediate changes.
Copyright © 2008 by Harvest Ministries
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him to death. -Matthew 26:59
We might wonder how the religious leaders of Jesus' day could be so heartless as to take Him and put Him to such a quick death. Where was their compassion? Where was their sense of fairness?
Even if they didn't accept Him as the Messiah, what was behind this hatred toward Him? Why did they desire such a quick execution?
We could take the same question and apply it to the broader issue of why people reject Jesus Christ without ever taking time to consider His claims.
Why do people reject the revelation of Scripture, when in most cases, they have never taken the time to read it for themselves? Why is that people refuse to give at least a fair hearing to the message of the gospel?
Jesus said, "Their judgment is based on this fact: The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil" (John 3:19).
Someone may say, "The reason I am not a Christian is because I disagree with this or I have problems with that." According to Jesus, the real reason is that their deeds are evil. They don't want to come into the light, where their deeds will be exposed. Everything else is nothing more than an excuse those people hide behind.
I am not saying that people do not have legitimate questions to ask. I am not saying people do not grapple with some of these truths.
What I am saying is that when people are true seekers of God and they are presented with the answers to their questions, they will believe.
Copyright © 2008 by Harvest Ministries
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
In many ways, I felt like much of my life can be compared to being prison, either by own doing through choices that I have made or people have put restraints on me and told me over and over that I can't.
Here is kind of a preliminary idea for my book and hopefully I can begin to develop it further. My title and some chapters, these are chapters within my life and experiences.
My Own Prison
Living within a moment from failure
I Am Nothing
Loss of Time
Power of Forgiveness
No Turning Back
Taking the Mask Off
He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground, praying, "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine." -Matthew 26:39
There are some people who teach that we should never pray, "Not my will, but Yours be done," because it supposedly voids what you have just prayed for.
What nonsense. If Jesus prayed this, certainly we should follow His example.
He gave us the same pattern in the Lord's Prayer when He said, "May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). I never need to be afraid to say, "Lord, Your will be done."
Then there are those who say that we should only pray for something once; otherwise, we are demonstrating a lack of faith.
Yet Jesus taught His disciples, "Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened" (Luke 11:9). We give up far too easily sometimes.
We won't always know the will of God in every situation. Then there are times when we will know the will of God, but we won't like it. Finally, there are times when we will know the will of God, but we don't understand it.
I like what the late D. L. Moody said, "Spread out your petition before God, and then say, 'Thy will, not mine, be done.' " Moody concluded, "The sweetest lesson I have learned in God's school is to let the Lord choose for me."
Have you found that to be true? We must never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
Copyright © 2008 by Harvest Ministries
Monday, August 04, 2008
Then Jesus brought them to an olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, "Sit here while I go on ahead to pray." He took Peter and Zebedee's two sons, James and John, and he began to be filled with anguish and deep distress. -Matthew 26:36-37
If I had the opportunity to know my entire future from today on, I think I would pass. I would rather not know.
But Jesus, being God, knew everything about His future down to the smallest detail.
As He agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, He knew that in just a few short hours, He would be nailed to a Roman cross and crucified. He knew that He would be humiliated. He would be beaten. He would go through a horrendous whipping. He knew the great anguish that was ahead.
The Bible tells us Jesus was "a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief" (Isaiah 53:3). The Bible also says in Hebrews, "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it" (4:15).
In other words, God knows what you're going through. You have a High Priest--that is, Jesus--who has faced the challenges you presently face. Jesus was in this horrendous, difficult time, experiencing deep loneliness and abandonment by His friends. Yet He went through it.
The next time you face difficulty, the next time you face hardship, the next time you feel misunderstood and abandoned, remember that Jesus already has experienced those things. You have someone who understands you, sympathizes with you, and is there to strengthen you.
Copyright © 2008 by Harvest Ministries
Friday, August 01, 2008
“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” -Acts 20:24
Imagine that you have just come out of a wonderful restaurant and had a great meal. You are thinking, “That was great.” Then you happen to glance over at the gutter, where you notice a discarded burrito from a fast-food restaurant.
Are you going to say, “All right! A burrito,” and pick it up? Of course not. You will not eat that thing, because you are satisfied.
You have just experienced the real thing. You don’t want a cheap imitation.
In the same way, when you know the Lord and have been experiencing a real relationship with Him and then the devil comes along and offers you some cheap imitation, you will see it for what it is. When you see who Jesus is, then you see what the world is. But if you are only looking at this world and not spending enough time with the Lord, you will have a diminished view of God and an exalted view of this world—when it should be the other way around.
Everything you need in life is found in a relationship with God. You can discover that the easy way or the hard way.
Are you finishing your race with joy? Or are you going outside of your relationship with the Lord, trying to find some happiness that this world might offer?
I can tell you right now that it will be a dead-end street. It will never satisfy you, because once you have had the real thing, cheap imitations will never suffice.
Copyright © 2008 by Harvest Ministries