What Are You Laughing At?

Laughter is one of the most wonderful things in the world. Admit it, you love to laugh don’t you. We laugh for many reasons. Mostly when something is funny, but there have been times I’ve laughed for other reasons. I remember the first time I saw a horror movie in theaters. I was so scared, that I laughed through all the scary parts. Sometimes we laugh when we are nervous. Other times we laugh when we hear something so outrageous, so out of the box, so counter intuitive to what we believe to be true that the only response we have is to laugh.

For example if you were to tell me that God has called me to be a professional football player, I would laugh. Why? I’m scrawny, out of shape and don’t like football. The idea that I would walk in that role is funny to me.

Let’s look at a moment in scripture when some people laughed at Jesus.

Luke 8:52-53 (NLT) The house was filled with people weeping and wailing, but he said, “Stop the weeping! She isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.” But the crowd laughed at him because they all knew she had died.

I talked about this story recently in “The Battle Between”

The people laughed at Jesus’ assertion that Jarius’ daughter wasn’t dead because it went against something they knew. They were there with her when she died. There wasn’t any question, the girl was dead and they knew it. But Jesus said she wasn’t. If what we know to be true goes against God’s word then what we know is wrong.

In Genesis 18:12 Sarah laughed at the idea that she in her old age could get pregnant. Once again we see someone laughing at the idea that God would do something that goes against what they knew to be true. It was seemingly impossible.

Let me pose this questions. If we serve a God of the impossible, then why are we surprised when He says He will do something impossible? It is during those times that we find out what our faith is really made of. Is our faith in our own knowledge or experience? Is our faith in science? Or is our Faith truly in God?

I believe that every word of God proves true! What word has God spoken into your life? What dream has God placed deep in your heart? Many times we have a dream, but we put it aside. Maybe it’s so outside of our capability that don’t see anyway for it to happen. Maybe it’s just been so long since we’ve first dreamed it that we figure it’s too late.

Friends, can I tell you today that it is never too late with God. If He has placed a desire in your heart to do something for Him then it’s time to dust off your dream. There is no statute of limitations on the call God has placed on your life.

We have to keep that dream in our mind’s eye and daily bring it before the Lord in prayer. A God dream, can only be fulfilled by God. Trying too accomplish it without His help leads to ruin. How many times have we let our desire for immediate fulfillment take over and rush us to pursue God’s dreams in our own way instead of letting Him take the lead?

I believe this is a generation filled with purpose. I believe we are on the precipice of the power of God being unleashed in new way, but it will only happen when God’s people step out in faith and act on the dreams God’s placed inside of them. Let’s no longer be held captive by fear. Let’s no longer laugh when God stirs our heart with fresh dreams, no matter how unlikely they may seem.

The Art of Waiting

Our mind is always racing. At any given moment there must be five different things battling for my attention and many times when I enter the presence of God it is a challenge to shut down the activity between my ears long enough so I might just sit and listen for the voice of my King.

Often we approach our prayer time as we do a checklist, a race to complete our devotion and recite our prayers. We want to fulfill our spiritual duty so that we can hurry and begin our day, or get back to the things we really want to be doing.

I once heard the title of a sermon, “Don’t just do something, stand there!” A twist on a fairly common expression when something is happening, “Don’t just stand there do something!” Sometimes we need to just stand there. We need to come into the presence of God and wait! It is important that we wait for His clear voice and direction, because our victory doesn’t come from our own ability, but from God!

Psalm 62:1-2 (NLT) I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.

Psalm62:5-8 (NLT) Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. 

Life is not without challenge, but the only way for us to face those challenges is to depend upon the security of Jesus. If we rush off and do things the way that seems best to us, we will eventually come to a place where we are shaken and feeling lost. Yet, when we depend upon our Rock and Refuge we can stand strong and not be shaken!

I had a student ask me recently, “Sometimes it’s easier to do things the worlds way, what do you do?” What a phenomenal question! It’s so true. The wisdom of the world is often easier than depending upon the wisdom of God.

Proverbs 16:25 (NKJV) There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

We must learn that what seems right, can be wrong. We must learn to stop depending upon our own natural understanding (Proverbs 3:5) and learn to depend on Jesus! When we wait on the Lord, He will change our perspective and gently guide us down safe paths.

I like to call it the art of waiting, because there is an art to it. There is something beautiful about coming into the presence of God and just waiting. Throw out your agenda, your schedule and plans, simply come before the Lord, “God, I’m gonna stay here with You until you release me.”

Too often we let our schedule dictate how much time we spend with Jesus when we should be letting our time with Jesus dictate our schedule. We do too much. If you are someone who struggles to find time with Jesus then I would challenge you to honestly examine your schedule. Has God led you to be involved in everything you are involved in? I promise God did not call you to be so busy that you have no time for your relationship with Him. 

We must be intentional about our time with Jesus. We must prioritize our prayer life, not just enough to check it off our list, but we need times where we can just wait in His presence. My favorite times with God are when I have an afternoon free and can just spend it in His presence, praying, reading.

Some might look at that time as wasted, but time spent with Jesus is never wasted. It’s an investment into eternity.

Way of Escape!

I’ve always been fascinated by escape artists. They put themselves in seemingly impossible situations, where any ordinary man would certainly meet death and somehow stunningly survive! Have you ever found yourself in an impossible situation? There are moments in life when we feel desperate, as if hope is lost.

I love this story in the life of Jesus when He found Himself in the middle what I would consider a hopeless situation. He had been teaching at the synagogue in Nazareth, where He grew up, and He claimed to fulfill the prophesy found in Isaiah 61:1-2. The people were amazed at Jesus’ words, but also confused because they knew Jesus, they knew His father, Joseph. They were eventually offended and made an attempt to hurt, or maybe even kill Him.

Luke 4:28-30 (NLT)  When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff,  but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.

It’s hard to know how I might respond if after I finished preaching a sermon the congregation decided to mob me and corner me with the intention to throw me off a cliff. That might mark my final day in ministry. The part of this scripture that amazes me is that Jesus passes right through the crowd and continues on His way.

I don’t know if you’ve seen an angry mob or not, but to move right through such a group of people is nothing short of miraculous. They would not have been inclined to simply let Jesus pass without incident, but with God in the equation even the constants become variables. Nothing is impossible with God!

Sometimes in life we can become overwhelmed by impossible odds, but we have to remember that God is on our side and who can overcome the Lord? No one! When trouble comes we can always depend on God to be our place of safety and to fight for us!

Psalm 46:1-2 (NKJV) God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

No matter what circumstance you face in life, be confident that God is on your side! No matter the storm, no matter the obstacle you are an overcomer through Christ! No matter the attack of the enemy, you have nothing to fear.

The enemy is crafty sometimes isn’t he? Somehow he manages to know our weakness and give us plenty of opportunity to give into them. Temptation is lurking around every corner and we must always be alert. One thing we must never do is give into a feeling of aloneness.

The enemy would have you suffer temptation in silence with no one knowing your struggle. Thoughts of shame will plague your mind. You will fear the opinions and disapproving looks of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Don’t let the enemy lure you into silence. Voice your temptations, and be encouraged by 1 Corinthians 10:13.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

You are not alone in your pursuit of Jesus! No matter what comes your way, God will provide a way of escape. Be quick to depend on your fellow believers to help  you overcome your struggles. If you try to carry your burdens on your own they can be soul crushing, but together there is nothing we can’t handle.

Listen, Learn, Obey

I don’t like the word learning. It reminds me of school and while education is important I never found joy in learning things I had no interest in. However learning is the most important thing we can do, we must never stop our pursuit of greater knowledge of God’s word. Moses made clear the importance of learning and remembering what you have learned  as he was instructing the people of Israel.

Deuteronomy 4:9 (NLT)  “But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.

Deuteronomy 5:1 (NLT) Moses called all the people of Israel together and said, “Listen carefully, Israel. Hear the decrees and regulations I am giving you today, so you may learn them and obey them!

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (NLT) And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

We do have a tendency to forget things don’t we? How many times have we heard something and thought, “Wow! That is life changing!” Only to go home and be left scratching our heads, unable to remember what was said. How can we pass on what we don’t remember? How can we obey the Lord if we don’t know what He said!

I love what is said in Deuteronomy 5:1, Moses wasn’t just talking to talk. He was speaking so the people would not only HEAR him, but would LEARN and OBEY.

Simply hearing God’s word is not enough, we must put action behind His words otherwise we put ourselves in great danger.

James 1:22 (NLT) But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

I believe this generation is in great danger. Too often we cherry pick the best parts of God’s word, and ignore the uncomfortable. We must take the entirety of God’s word and work to obey Him in every situation.

Growing up I heard the story of the wise man and foolish man who built their houses, but I never fully understood. Both men knew Jesus, both men heard His teachings, yet only one of them obeyed all that Jesus said.

Luke 6:46-49 (NLT) “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?  I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it.  It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built.  But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

Today let us work to remember the mighty deeds of our God! Let us work to live out the Word of God in the entirety of our life. Let us pass on what we have heard to our neighbors, our friends, our children, our family, our coworkers, our classmates. Let us not neglect to proclaim the truth of God’s Word!

When our lifestyle lines up with our message, the very power of God will be evident.

 

Am I Thirsty?

Have you ever been in a situation where you desperately needed a drink of water, but it wasn’t readily available? Maybe you were on a long trip or you were playing basketball. When our body is depleted of water our level of thirst becomes desperate, nothing could be more satisfying than a drink of water.

I love how David describes his thirst for God in this psalm.

Psalm 63:1 (NLT) O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

How can I read a passage like that and not question myself, “Am I truly thirsty for the Lord?” What is my level of desire for Jesus? Most of us would gladly proclaim that we desire more of Jesus, but do we really? Do we long for Jesus with our whole body in a parched and weary land where there is no water?

Do we view the world in which we live as parched and weary? If we are taking sips from the waters of the world then our thirst level will be low. Worldly water is readily available and pleasing to our lips, but it also will never satisfy like the living waters of Jesus.

Jesus once told a woman at a well, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (NLT) 

The only water that truly satisfies is the presence of Jesus Himself. Too often do we look for satisfaction outside of His Presence, when nothing this life has to offer compares to the wonders of His love.

Psalm 63:3 (NLT) Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!

Psalm 63:6 (NLT) I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.

Here we see the mind of someone who is truly captured with desire for the Lord! When we lie awake in the middle of the night what do our thoughts turn to? Possibly our thought drift to frustrations we’ve had throughout the day? Maybe a conflict we are having with someone in our life. Perhaps we are filled with excitement for something the next day holds. Sometimes our mind just lazily drifts as we try to find our way back to sleep.

Our mind does not naturally turn to thoughts of God, at least not initially. Has anyone ever had an experience when you are completely infatuated with someone? You’re crazy about them, and you try to convince yourself you’re not. “They’re just a friend, I don’t feel anything more than that.” Then you see their face, or get to spend time with them and it’s like, “I’m so in love with them.” Then for the next day or two they’re all you think about.

I believe that we can experience the same thing with God, but we have to choose to live in His presence. To seek a deeper intimacy with the Lord, to gaze upon the wonders of His love. Let us reflect daily on how wonderful He has been to us. Let us fall so in love with Jesus that He consumes our every thought.

As I was reflecting on these scriptures I wrote this prayer in my journal, “Let Your Word always be on my mind and You praise always be on my lips.”

When we fall so in love with Jesus, not only do we think about Him, but we tells the world of the goodness of God. Evangelism shouldn’t be some dull recitation of theological facts, but a true expression of love that overflows from the waters of your Spirit. I pray today that our love for Jesus stirs a thirst in the souls of those living in a dry and parched world for a water that satisfies beyond any satisfaction they’ve ever known.

I’ve Made Some Typos

In several of the last few blogs I wrote, I realized there were some pretty big and glaring typos. My e-mail subscribers were probably left scratching there head more than once. I don’t like making typos, yet I seem powerless to make them again and again. From the depths of my soul I just wish there was some way they could be avoided!

It turns out that while it may not be possible to avoid them completely, they can be greatly lessened through a practice called proof reading. Most of us learned this concept in school, and you’re likely thinking in your head that I should already know this information. I do. However, knowledge of proof reading has no value if we don’t put it into practice.

I was thinking recently that our time spent in prayer and reading God’s word is kind of like proof reading our life. Every plan we make, every dream we pursue, every step we take should be brought carefully and prayerfully before the Lord. Pursuing your plans without first bringing them to the Lord for guidance is like rolling a dice and hoping it works out. How often do we make plans and pray the Lord blesses them instead of seeking to make plans that bless the Lord?

Some of you may have noticed I took the last two weeks off from writing this blog. Sometimes in life we have to step back from what we are doing and review. Are we really pursuing the dreams God put inside of us? This is why I always encourage my students to have a journal and write down what they feel God speaks to them.

Every now and then we need to pull out that journal, not for writing, but for reading. It is sometimes healthy to look back to September 13th and see what God spoke to you on that day. It’s good to see what scriptures spoke to your heart three months ago, or even three years ago.

Sometimes we veer off course and we realize that even though we heard God speak to us, we didn’t put into action the plans of the Lord. Just hearing God’s voice isn’t enough, we must do what He says.

James 1:22 (NLT) But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

Again having knowledge is not enough, we must put it into action. The ability to hear God’s voice is irrelevant if you do not apply what the Lord has said to your life. In fact, if we do not obey the Lord then overtime our ability to recognize His voice diminishes. This is why I firmly believe in reading His word and obeying everything it says.

Unlike this blog, life once lived can’t be edited. We must learn to hear His voice and honor Him with obedience. Instead of just rushing into action based on a heightened emotional state, we should a pause and review our plan of action. Bring it with you into prayer and allow the presence and peace of God to proofread your plans.

Don’t Talk About Sin

Above all else make people comfortable. That seems to be the missions statement of some churches. Discussing sin makes people uncomfortable, so let’s not spend a lot of time there. This scares me, because if we don’t talk about sin then it lessens the urgency of repentance.

Today I want to examine parts of Psalm 51 which is for me one of the most powerful ones. David writes this after being confronted for his sin. God sent Nathan the prophet to call David out on his adultery and his murder. (That story can be found in 2 Samuel 11 & 12)

Psalm 51:1-4 (NLT) Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing loveBecause of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinnedI have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.

We all sin, but many times when confronted we throw up our arms in offense as if we are a picture of innocence. David doesn’t do that. He immediately confesses his guilt. I think David knew the character of God. He knew that God was full of unfailing love and because of that willing to offer mercy. David knew that wrong doing, is ultimately against God and therefore it is His forgiveness we must seek.

I love that it says “Your judgement against me is just.” David accepted the consequences of his actions and our sin does often have consequences here and now, but what I love is that God is just! One of my favorite scriptures is 1 John 1:9 which says in the New King James “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Not only is God faithful to forgive us, but God is JUST to forgive us also. He is right in His decision to forgive us. Praise God that we are pardoned from the eternal consequences of our sin.

Psalm 51:10-12 (NLT ) Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

“Create in my a clean heart” is becoming one of my personal daily prayers. The heart is naturally deceitful and wicked! (Jeremiah 17:9) I know what my heart will choose left to its own devices so I choose not to ignore my natural inclination for sin and instead pray, God make my heart clean.

As Christians the thing we should ache for the most is the presence of God! In the moments when I have found myself caught in sin, I am grieved most of all because it is sin that separates me from God’s power and presence. We must humble ourselves and come broken before God then He can restore the joy of our salvation. It is HIS PRESENCE that makes us willing to obey Him! A Christian who never gets into the presence of God is a Christian who is less likely to be concerned about their sin.

His presence will convict us and His presence will purge us of our wicked desires, that is why we should constantly set aside the busyness of our schedule and get into His presence in prayer and worshipping our God!

Psalm 51:16-17 (NLT) You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

God will never reject us when we come broken before Him ready to turn from our sinful nature and repent fully before His throne. No matter how long I have been a Christian, I will always confess when I have wandered down the wayward path of sin. I will come before the Lord and ask Him to make me clean again.

We never outgrow our need for repentance and Praise God He is always faithful and just to forgive us.