Facing The Fog

There’s something eerie about driving down the back roads after midnight. Especially on those nights when the fog hovers low, blanketing the road ahead. This is an image used often in horror movies to evoke a specific aboding atmosphere. With your vision obscured, fear naturally emerges deep in the recesses of your mind.
When was the last time you were completely overcome by fear? I don’t mean you saw a snake, panicked and took off running. I’m talking about a moment when the world finally stopped moving, in bed hoping to sleep, yet hundreds of unanswered questions flood the mind. No answers in sight. Only one thing is certain. I’m so scared.

Many people to find themselves frozen in a fog of fear. It appears without warning clouding our mind and smothering our confidence. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring and when fear grabs our focus it can be overwhelming. We remember past mistakes and fear repeating them. We are aware of our many flaws and worry we’re not good enough. What if we just flat out fail? 

What do you do when the face the fog? How do you overcome it? The answer to that question is both devastating and yet uplifting. As long as you are trying to answer the unanswerable questions of tomorrow, you will never overcome the fear. Too often we find ourselves looking within ourselves to clear the fog when the solution to fear comes from a shifting perspective that has nothing to do with you. We must upward lift our eyes and remember, we are not the source of our own strength.

Part of what makes the Christian life such an adventure is who we are in covenant with. We serve the King of kings, the God of all creation. We get to spend time every day in the presence of God! Try explaining that next time your friends are boasting of their big weekend exploits. “Oh, yea? I spent time with Creator of life, He spoke to me. No biggie.”

God created everything out of nothing and He is on our side! Why do we fear? He can certainly take our past and use it for our good. Our primary problem is that too often we make God in our own image, and we make Him far, far too small. Today, let us remind ourselves of WHO GOD IS!

Isaiah 40:12, 15, 22, 26, 28 (NLT)12 Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?

15 For all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales. He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand.

22 God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!

26 Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.

28 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

Isaiah 41:10 (NLT) Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Romans 8:31 (ESV) If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:28 (ESV) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Psalm 56:11 (ESV) In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

God is so much bigger than our minds are capable of imagining, let along comprehend. Furthermore, we are the apex of His creation and His love for us is unfathomable. He is on our side. He is our strength. What have we to fear? 

Next time the fog threatens to tear you away from the threshold of opportunity, put away the questions and remember how BIG God truly is. You might be facing the fog today, but have enough trust to let His light guide you. You may only be able to see a few feet in front of you, but God sees it all and He will not lead you astray. Be bold, move forward with confidence and unwavering trust in our mighty God!

The Adventurer

Recently I asked some of my students to tell me about their greatest adventure. Stories ranged from riding insane and unsafe thrill rides to a close encounter with a bear. Every story they told had one element in common. RISK. A life without risk is a life without adventure and a person who lives such a life is a person with no stories to tell. Tragically, too many Christians live such a life.

When people hear the word “Christian” it conjures up different meanings. Some people think of a loving Savior. Some think of delusion. Others think of Hypocrisy. There are many, even in the church, who simply think, boring. Is Christianity supposed to be boring? Were the disciples bored? Was the Apostle Paul bored? Why would people think Christianity is boring?

Ok I know, we’ve all been to a boring church service before, but beyond that, I believe people think Christianity is boring because so many Christians live boring lives. We are content and comfortable with the mundane. We lack a deep desperation for the miraculous.

There are moments when it feels like, we know we’re saved and so we clutch our one-way ticket to Heaven, keep our head down and desperately try to make sure we don’t lose it. One of my students reminded me that we are supposed to be the army of the Lord. If an army spends all their time hiding in the trenches then it is largely ineffective and will be defeated. We aren’t called just to try and avoid hell. We are called to march out and make an impact. We are called to build the Kingdom God

Matthew 16:18 (ESV) And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The church isn’t supposed to be on defense, but offense! We know this because it says the GATES of hell can’t prevail against us. A gate is defensive, therefore we as the church should be on the move. If we truly lived understanding our mission, life would be an adventure.

What does an adventure look like? Here’s what I’ve learned. An adventure should be fun and often involves the unexpected. Our lives should be full of unexpected moments of God’s presence and leading. Moments where He shows up unannounced to spend time with us. Times where He shows up speak to us and lead us to reach out to someone in need. We miss this one many times because another word for unexpected is inconvenient. He sometimes shows up at a time when we have other plans and He interrupts our lives for His purposes. We can go about our business, or we can live on the edge and let Him interrupt and maybe catch a glimpse of the miraculous!

An adventure should involve risk and many times will have a great cost. The problem is many times we are afraid of the risk and we aren’t willing to pay the cost. We already know it will risk being inconvenienced, but there is also the risk of embarrassment. The risk of failure. The risk of losing friends. Ultimately it comes down to this: Do we trust the Lord enough to take the plunge and risk it all? Because I promise you, when we risk it all for His purposes it is always worth the risk. It is always worth the cost, no matter how great.

The final thing I’ve learned about adventure is that it always leaves you with a story to tell. Once you set out on this lifetime adventure and begin to live a life of risk, the story becomes an important part of it. First, your story will encourage other people to step out in faith and walk in greater obedience to the Lord. Second, your story changes the game on witnessing. You begin to develop an arsenal of personal experience to share with the lost. You not only have your story of salvation and what God is done in your life, you also have stories of how God has used you to pray for the sick and bring healing. Stories of times God gave you a word of knowledge and led a stranger in the grocery store to Jesus. Stories of the time you prayed for a waitress and she burst into tears and the Lord brought healing to her heart.

Are you ready to step out in faith and live a lifestyle of risk? Are you tired of the mundane and ready to step into the miraculous? If so the time of waiting is over. Begin to ask the Lord to give you opportunities and then spend each day looking for those opportunities to step out and live the life of an adventurer.

Uncommon Weapons (Part Two)

Some people are constantly in the middle of conflict. They spend every single day fighting, but the truth is we are all in a battle every single day. The struggle with the spiritual battle is that we must fight with spiritual weapons and sometimes the best weapons aren’t the ones we automatically think of. I call these the uncommon weapons.

Yesterday we looked at the first two, Community and our spiritual heritage. These weapons remind us that we are not in the battle alone, nor are we the first to fight such battles. God has been faithful to bring victory in the past and He will be faithful to provide victory for today.

The third uncommon weapon is a weapon that should not be considered uncommon, yet seems to be considered less and less normal all the time. The gifts of the Spirit. I believe God wants to demonstrate His power among us and many times He uses the gifts of the Spirit to do that. God wants to give prophecy. He wants to give words of knowledge and gifts of healing. Not so we can boast in His power, but so that He can accomplish His purpose through us and bring people to Jesus.

Continuing the story of Jehoshaphat as he stands before Judah under threat of attack from 3 different nations we find one of the gifts of the spirit activated, not upon the king or a prophet, but just one of the men.

2 Chronicles 20:13-17  (NLT) As all the men of Judah stood before the Lord with their little ones, wives, and children, 14 the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there. His name was Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite who was a descendant of Asaph.

15 He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”

What an encouragement this prophecy is! This is a good reminder for us every day. The battles the Lord leads us into will be won, not because of our greatness or our battle plan, but because of His greatness and His battle plan! He will fight, but we have to be humble enough to lay down our weapons, step back and let Him lead rather than charging into the battle.

2 Chronicles 20:18 (NLT)  Then King Jehoshaphat bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the Lord. 

The final weapon we will look at is the weapon of worship! They bowed down low, surrendering to the Lord. There is power in giving glory to God. We give Him honor when we obey Him and living a lifestyle of worship will literally turn our lives into weapons. What I love about this is that worship literally became their battle plan!

2 Chronicles 20:21 (NLT) 20 Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.”

21 After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!”

22 At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. 23 The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other. 24 So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.

The thought of sending singers into the frontline of battles seems completely crazy, but the Lord was with them. The song they sang was a song of gratitude. They gave thanks to the Lord before the battle had even begun. They gave God the glory before the victory! God doesn’t want glory because He is an egomaniac, rather it is best for us that He gets the glory because it tells the world that He is our God!

I would wager if they had fought in their own strength that other nations would have looked at Judah and said, “We could take them.” However, the Lord fought their battle…

2 Chronicles 20:29-30 (NLT) When all the surrounding kingdoms heard that the Lord himself had fought against the enemies of Israel, the fear of God came over them. 30 So Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.

I pray today that we would rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, remembering this battle is God’s battle, not ours to fight. Throughout the whole battle let us worship and give glory to God! God’s weapons are sometimes uncommon, but they are far more effective than any human attack.

When we let God fight for us, we know He will win.

Uncommon Weapons (Part One)

WAR! When you charge into battle you want to engage with the best weapons available. So naturally, when it comes to spiritual battles we must rely on God’s weapons. We are familiar with the weapons found in Ephesians 6, but are those the only weapons we have? I would propose that there are some lesser known weapons that we can rely on as well! These uncommon weapons are far more effective than our own human effort ever could be.

These weapons are found in 2 Chronicles chapter 20. This passage begins with three different nations declaring war on Judah. The King Jehoshaphat was understandably concerned. No, terrified.

2 Chronicles 20:3-4 (NLT) Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. 4 So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help.

Here we find a terrified king who relies upon a powerful weapon we don’t always think of as a weapon, community. He called his people together and he called them to join him in seeking the Lord. Too many times when we face challenges we try to take them on alone instead of reaching out to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who can stand with us.

I know he was the King so he might have a little bit more authority than you feel you have, but I love that he didn’t just ask them to pray, he called them to fast. There will be times when we as a community need to fast together. There may be a time when you need to call your family together and say, “We need to fast.” Or maybe even a select group of friends. Fasting is always effective, but how much more effective is it when we join together with a group of like-minded individuals, believing for victory?

The next weapon we see him using is his spiritual heritage. He stands before his people and reminds them of all the amazing things God has done. How God brought them out of Egypt and how God has always been faithful to his people.

2 Chronicles 20:7-9 (NLT)  O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? 8 Your people settled here and built this Temple to honor your name. 9 They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war, plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’

2 Chronicles 20:12 (NLT) O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”

They were standing in the very temple that Solomon built, the same one God promised they could come into and pray and He would provide rescue. They remembered His promises and they proclaimed them. They weren’t just reminding God of His promises, but they were reminding themselves. They were remembering that God is bigger than the situations they faced.

We must rely on our spiritual heritage, remember our past and what God has done for us and our families. Maybe you are struggling to think of victories God has provided. Don’t forget we also have a powerful national heritage. From the foundation of our great country, it was determined to build it on the principles of God’s word. More than anything we too can turn the scripture and remember what God has done for His people. Recognizing our role as His sons and daughters we can claim every promise in His Word as our own!

Tomorrow we will look at two more powerful weapons we have in our arsenal, but as we close out today I want to encourage you in these two things. First, look to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Recognize the community you have in your church. Maybe you’re not close to anyone in your church, and you feel disconnected. I’m sorry that you feel that way, but make every effort to build stronger relationships in the body of Christ. We NEED that community to help us stand firm in the things of the Lord.

Second, study His Word and write down the promises you find. Claim them for yourself. Claim them for your family. Claim them for your friends. Stand secure in His Word and have faith that He is on your side.

Rely on these uncommon weapons and find that the victory truly has already been won!

The Blessing Will Come!

Gardening and I don’t get along. I don’t have the gene. I don’t have a green thumb. Plants die around me and I can’t explain why. I can do everything right (as far as I know anyway) and it just doesn’t work out. I also lack the patience. Let’s be honest, when you plant something the early days are kind of a drag. The seed is planted and you’re pouring on the water, but you don’t see any growth. It feels like you’re just watering the dirt and making mud. That’s fun when you’re a kid, but as an adult, it’s still actually pretty fun. Just not three days in a row. After three days and I don’t see any growth, I get tired of waiting and I move on with my life.

There are moments in our Chrisitan life when we feel the same way. There are moments we are trying to be consistent in our devotions, but we aren’t seeing the results we want. We pray for someone to come to Jesus and no matter how much we pray, or how many times we reach out they don’t seem any closer to salvation than when we started. We try to do good deeds and show the love of God to people, but some days we just end up getting spit on and it feels so meaningless. We do good, but we don’t see any results. It can be very tiring and we eventually reach our limit. We desire to quit and give up.

Galatians 6:9-10 (NLT) So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

There is no shame in feeling tired, wondering if you’re effort is worthwhile. That’s a common human experience and I’m pretty sure it is unavoidable. However, our decisions are not dictated by how we feel. We have a choice and I urge you to make a decision to keep moving forward. Don’t fix your eyes on the drudgery, rather remember the promises of God. Think of eternity. We are not living for today, but for Heaven. Keep seeking to do good to everyone.

The scripture tells us at just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. I wonder how many times we’ve given up just before the blessing? The challenge is that we don’t get to choose the right time. Our timing would be when it is convenient for us while God’s timing is when it will yield the most fruit for His Kingdom. We can trust His timing, and we can rest assured His blessing is worth the effort. It’s worth the sleepless nights. It’s worth the sacrifice. It’s worth the tears.

The danger of being on the edge of giving up is that we often close our eyes to all, but our present circumstances. The scripture tells us to do good whenever we have the opportunity. We must remain diligent and keep our eyes open for opportunity when the Lord brings it our way. Do good to people who don’t know Jesus. Do good especially to your brothers and sisters in Christ. We all need encouragement. Who knows, the good deeds you do today may keep someone else from giving up their pursuit. Remember we are in this together!

Galatians 6:2-3 (NLT) Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

I hope today that you are encouraged by this devotion.

Don’t give up, the blessing will come!

Clear Out The Box

I don’t like eating healthy. Some days I try to anyway. If I have options on my side orders, I will usually get broccoli, one of the few vegetables I can manage to swallow. I can tolerate it. I don’t particularly like it. Since I know this I always try to eat the tiny green trees before the rest of my meal. Why? When I’m hungry the veggies go down a little easier. If I’m not hungry, I am less likely to eat the broccoli, which is what my body probably needs the most.

Recently I was thinking of my life as if I was standing inside a box. I was praying that God would invade my box and fill it with His presence. I felt as if He spoke to me and said, “Clear out the box.” Therein lies a truth. How many times do we say we want more of the Lord, but have our containers full of other stuff?

I love to drink water. I almost always have a cup close by. When I’m at home, I might occasionally desire to drink some apple juice or strawberry lemonade. I take my cup and throw the water down the drain so there is room in my cup for what I really want.

God won’t fill a container that is already full. What might be filling your container today?  Our containers are often full of life concerns and worries, gossip, sinful desires, entertainment, frustrations, anger, hopelessness, heartache, wrong relationships, fear, insecurity, confusion and many other things.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

The first step to emptying your box is to step into the presence of Jesus in prayer. Mentally take a break from everything else around you and get alone with God. The scripture tells us THEN we will experience God’s peace. Instead of filling our mind up with everything else, make a conscious effort to seek the presence of Jesus instead.

At times emptying your box will sometimes require an extra step. I can’t tell you what that step will be. It might be throwing out some magazines, pulling away from friends, ending a bad relationship, stepping away from social media or other kinds of entertainment, seeking accountability with a sin issue. As the Lord reveals to you what step you should take, I strongly encourage you don’t wait. Take that step as quickly as possible.

We have the unfortunate ability to talk ourselves out of doing the things we need to do the most. More than once I have felt prompted to do something in prayer and then later on after I had left His presence I talked myself right out of it. Now I try to take immediate and unchangeable action so I don’t give the enemy time to deceive my oh so susceptible mind.

Galatians 5:13-14 (NLT) For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I wanted to close with that scripture because it reminds me our number one priority should be loving people. Too often we spend too much time thinking, “Don’t put sinful stuff into the box!” I challenge you to approach today a little bit different. Prayerfully ask this instead: “How can I creatively serve someone in love today?” That question will allow the Holy Spirit to lead you into incredible opportunities to risk it all for Jesus!

Mark of Maturity

Long ago I witnessed a news story of an adult man who would behave as a baby. I know what some of you are thinking, “That is every adult man, they’re all babies.” No! This is different. He would actually dress in a diaper, sit in a play pin and hire a nurse to take care of him. Most of you would agree that is unusual. An adult shouldn’t act like a baby. As we grow and mature we learn the art of language, we no longer need diapers and we eventually can take care of ourselves.

As Christians, there is also a process of maturation. We should be growing into maturity, but sometimes we get stuck. Maybe we’re not sure what maturity looks like or how to get there. I have long believed that love is the mark of maturity. I am fully convinced that as we grow in love for the Lord the natural result is to grow in a love for people. Love for our fellow believers, love for those who need Jesus, love for those who love us as well as those who hate us.

In Ephesians 4  the apostle Paul speaks of the five fold ministry, pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets and evangelists and then he says something I find remarkable.

Ephesians 4:12-14 (NLT) Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

The responsibility of the ministers is to equip the people of God, YOU, to do the work of the Lord and build up His church. We often have this mindset that the pastor builds the church and we just attend. Sorry, wrong. He, of course, should do his part, but the church is not a one man shop. We are all part of the body and share the responsibility to build the Kingdom together. In fact, it is important that we do! Verse thirteen tells us that as we continue to work we increase in unity, faith and knowledge of Jesus. In doing so we are going through the maturation process.

It is as we step out and act out our faith in serving the Lord that we move from immaturity into a steadfast people. Stepping out in faith actually acts as a cementing process. Using our gifts to love people is an essential aspect of growing in maturity. We can’t just wait until we feel like loving to begin demonstrating love to people. In fact, as we act out the love of Jesus, it will grow greater inside of us.

Ephesians 4:15-16 (NLT) Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

There will be moments when our love is challenged. This is where the true test of our maturity comes in. How do we handle it when someone wrongs us, betrays us or just plain hurts us?

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

These are real emotions we feel at times. In times of hurt, we are tempted to lash out in harsh words or even return to evil behavior. The scripture instructs us to overcome our emotions and instead treat each other with kindness even forgiveness. This is certainly not an easy process, but when we remember all the times we have offended God and the depths of His forgiveness it begins to contextualize the way we should forgive others. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Offer to others the same grace and mercy you received and in doing so we show, through our love, that we truly belong to Christ. That we are maturing to become more and more like Him.

John 13:35 (ESV) By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

When we truly love each other we send a message to the world about who Jesus is. Sadly, the opposite is also true. When Christians are fighting, backbiting, hurting each other and operating in bitterness we also send a message to the world about who Christ is. A false message. For us who bear the name of Christ, all we do represents Jesus.

Today I encourage you to ask yourself, how are you representing Jesus? Perhaps you have identified a few ways where you are falsely representing Him to the world. Take it to the Lord in prayer and allow Him to begin the process of  transformation

Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT) Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Simply put, the mark of maturity is to be like Jesus and properly represent His love to the world.