Red Lights

There are moments in life when God is sending green lights and you have the all clear to move. In those seasons you better move because God is opening doors and you can be confident His favor and blessing is on your life. Other times God sends red lights and is instructing you to stop. You’ve probably already guessed the right thing to do is stop, but come on don’t we sometimes wanna blow through the red lights? We’re having so much fun moving forward, we feel so productive, God is blessing us why would we slow down?

Because He is telling you to, that’s why.

You can be sure if God is instructing you to stop there is a good reason. When we ignore His instruction to stop and instead keep moving forward, we will find that His hand of favor and blessing will be removed and the road ahead will begin to get difficult. We will wonder why we aren’t seeing the same results. Why? Because before we were moving forward in obedience to God and now we are moving forward in opposition to God.

Jeremiah 7:23 (ESV) But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’

Life is made up of seasons. Some seasons are about seizing divine opportunities while others are about preparation. In every season through our purpose should remain the same. Obey the voice of the Lord as He leads us through the path of life.

Why am I writing about this today? At the beginning of the year, I very strongly felt the Lord leading me to begin writing and I have been using these devotions as the vehicle to fulfill that goal. This weekend, as surely as I felt that prompting to begin I have felt that it is time to stop. I can’t tell you why I feel that, only that I do.

For many of us, we like to have all the answers right away. However, that isn’t how God works. His word is a lamp to our feet, not a floodlight. We usually only ever see a little bit ahead of where we are going and rarely the final destination. I do not know if this means to stop writing always and forever. More than likely it is only for a season. I have learned to really enjoy writing and I don’t believe the Lord is finished using me to write and teach His Word.

All I know is that for the foreseeable future I will not be publishing consistent weekly devotions. I do believe the Lord is leading me into a new season, even if I don’t yet know what that season is.

Since this is the final one I am publishing for a while let me leave you with what I believe is the most important thing we can do. Listen for His voice and obey it! Obey every Word He speaks. Treasure His words and regard His Word (THE BIBLE) with the utmost respect. Read it, study it, meditate on it, apply it to your life and live it out every day without compromise.

It is without question consistent obedience to the voice of the Lord that will transform your life.

I want to thank those of you who have subscribed and/or been faithful readers. I am appreciative of your kind words and encouragement. I pray you will continue to grow deep roots as you pursue the Lord. I pray you will be a people fully equipped to build the Kingdom of God right where you are.

Listen for His voice and strive with all you are to obey the Lord.

Divine Impartation

Recently I had a new experience. As I slept my mind awakened and I felt the Lord say, “If I asked, would you get up.”

I thought for a moment and replied, “I would, but why?”

“I need you to get to work an hour early.”

I opened my eyes for the first time to see the clock. It was exactly 1 hour and 5 minutes before the time I would normally wake up! I don’t normally have conversations like that with the Lord, but sometimes when I’m just barely awake I hear the Lord more clearly than when I’m fully conscious. I got out of bed and began my morning prayer time.

I was reading a book about the anointing and as I closed it tears filled my eyes and I found myself on the floor hands raised and weeping in the presence of God. I can’t say for certain right now what He was doing in my life, only that He is doing something new within me. Had I not obeyed and began praying I would have missed out on the Lord’s impartation in my spirit.

If there is one thought I can pass on today it is this.

We need the Holy Spirit.

I think of John the Baptist. We know he was Jesus’ cousin, but he did not know that his cousin was the promised One until He saw the sign. In the first chapter of John, the author tells of how John the Baptist describes the moment he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove. 

John 1:33 (ESV)  I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

I love that everything Jesus did, He did not do as God, but as a man operating in the power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore this same Holy Spirit He gives to us. Yes, the scripture tells us Jesus is the one who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.

John 14:26 (NLT) But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

1 John 2:27 (NLT)  But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.

I love that the Holy Spirit is our teacher! We must learn again to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. When we read the Scripture we are not reading just to fill our head with knowledge, we are reading to hear the voice of the Lord for our lives. When we don’t understand something, we shouldn’t just shrug and say I didn’t know. We should ask the Lord to teach us.

I am not suggesting we never ask other people to teach us, only that we should rely on the Holy Spirit inside us. Even when we are learning from another, their lesson should bear witness to the Spirit within us. We can recognize false teaching because He will help us.

I believe we are not hearing His voice like we should for two predominant reasons. First, we are too busy and too distracted to listen. We are surrounded by noise constantly. Thanks to our smart phones we schedule ourselves to the MAX and have little time left to just sit and listen. We also are constantly bombarded with entertainment, from news media to social media, and from music to television we are constantly filling our minds with information and noise. However, none of it is useful for eternity.

The second reason we struggle to hear His voice stems from the first reason. We are not taking the time to really study His word. We barely have time to read it, let alone meditate on it, thinking about what it means and how it applies to our lives. Recognizing the voice of the Holy Spirit is learned, not innate. We learn to recognize it because it always, and I do mean ALWAYS, lines up with the Word of God.

When we learn to recognize and listen to His voice we will see an undeniable increase of Divine moments in our day to day living. I don’t want a mundane Christian life, being sustained from church service to church service. I want to live a life full of Holy Ghost encounters that not only leave me transformed, but leave the world shaken and in awe of the mighty power of God.

This is what is available to us when we put aside everything else and truly make our focus one primary thing, Jesus.

Increased Reliance

Life is not always a positive experience. People offend you, circumstances change, we don’t always win and things don’t always go our way. Your attitude in many ways determines how you will respond. In life, we all have set backs, but some people quickly rise above them while others seem to constantly complain about what could have been.

If I hadn’t lost money on that decision, I would have kept going.

If that person hadn’t offended me, I’d still be in church.

If things had only gone different, I’d have been a huge success.

Negative changes in circumstance simply mean we get to increase our reliance on God. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can absolutely control what happens in us and how we respond to those around us. When hard times come do we roll over and give up, or do we turn to the Lord for guidance?

I guess we have to ask ourselves, “What is the end goal?” As we grow in physical maturity we see increased independence. We set out on our own to make our own way in life. However, with spiritual maturity, as with many spiritual matters, it works differently. As we mature we don’t grow more spiritually independent.  Instead what we should see is an increased reliance on God.

I have this one certainty. No matter what happens to me in life if I can be in the presence of God then everything is fine. If I find success, but don’t acknowledge God then it is all for nothing. I read this scripture this morning in my morning Bible reading.

Psalm 27:4 (NLT) The one thing I ask of the Lordthe thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.

No matter what life may throw our way, fair or unfair, we can rely on the presence of Jesus to see us through. Often that means we have to move past our anger, frustration, and negativity to see Him.

The verse of the day in YouVersion Bible App (I just love that app) said this:

Psalm 84:10 (NLT) A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.

My life goal is to please God, not to obtain by the world’s measure success. I would rather be small in His presence than great and never know Him. A lowly career that pleases the Lord is better than a lofty career that pursued only to please myself.

Not too long ago I had one of the worst youth services I’ve ever had. Everyone seemed extra distractable, there were interruptions right as I was trying to make my big point. In the aftermath, my mind was jetting about in many different directions. Was my sermon just not good? Should I have done something different? Where did it derail? In the end, those questions could drive me crazy! 

It was a bad week and it would be so easy to be down about it. However, next week is coming. Instead of being devastated over what could have been, I choose to focus on what will be. I study, I pray and I seek the Lord’s direction, and creativity for that service.

My challenge for you today is simple. Don’t let the negative moments in life, no matter how big or small, keep you from remembering the Lord. Instead of focusing on the giant problems, focus on a much greater God. Rely fully on Him. Even if you are in a season where you are struggling to see hope, remember God will not let you down and He is never far away.

In Case of Emergency Break Glass

We as a church are often inside a Christian bubble made of glass. We don’t realize how many very real needs there are in our communities, or sometimes even inside our church buildings. We pray as if everyone has perfect lives. This is partly because we don’t know and partly because we don’t want to know.

In times of national crisis or tragedy, you see a unifying effect. The south has recently been hit by incredible storms that have left destruction in their wake. Suddenly the whole world can see great needs and spring into action. Churches, Christians, and many great people and organizations have responded to the call for help, but why does it take such great tragedy for us to recognize needs people have?

Church, what about the spiritual need that is so desperate in our communities? Too often we become a silo Christian community and focus only on our Christian needs. Meanwhile, the world around us finds it harder and harder to believe in God. We have our church services, but what are we doing to reach our community and show them God’s love?

This is an excerpt from the prayer Jesus prayed with His disciples right before His death.

John 17:15-20 (NLT) I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. 20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.

I understand we are supposed to be separate, but it’s almost like we’re trying so hard to not be “of the world” that we’re not even in the world anymore. We are content inside our glass dome of safety. We at least we do have that sign, “In case of emergency break glass.

I am always inspired when I hear stories of how churches have helped and met needs during the difficult times these past few weeks as well as historically. However, I fear it won’t be long until we soon retreat once again into the safety of our glass bubble as things return to normal.

It is a known fact that you cannot impact people from a distance. You have to be a part of their lives. As long as we are divided they will not hear our message and we will be blinded to their great need. Yes, the spiritual climate of our nation is in a state of emergency, but because of our glass bubble we do not see it and so we remain content behind the unbroken glass.

We must break the glass. There is a high possibility that someone you talked to this week is going through something major, but you didn’t realize it. We must listen, really listen. People often understate what’s going on. They’ll casually mention something as if it is no big deal and we can just dismiss it. Or we can really hear what they said, take the time to pray with them. We must try and put ourselves in their shoes. People in our communities are broken and in desperate need of healing, but we don’t feel their pain.

In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus tells of a Jewish man who was beaten up and robbed. Several religious leaders walked right by him because they were too busy to help, but a man who would have been rejected by Jews stopped and helped the man in need.

Luke 10:33 (NLT)  “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.

He had compassion. We must stop turning a blind eye to the need within our cities. There are great physical, emotional and spiritual needs that we are uniquely qualified to meet. We are the only ones who can lead people to Jesus. If we remain silent, locked away in a glass bubble of separation, we rob the world of hope.

This is not a drill!

Eternity hangs in the balance. This is life and death, heaven and hell.

Together let’s rise up and break the glass.

Unfinished

Do you remember all the times you started something only to not finish? Books? TV Shows? Writing assignments? Building projects? Cleaning? There are many reasons why we might not finish something. We’re busy people! We have lives and the when unexpected comes up we have to give up other things to accommodate. Let’s be honest though, most of the time we don’t finish because we lose interest, it’s challenging or just plain old fashioned neglect.

I’ve started writing several devotions this week, only to end up putting them in the trash, forever unfinished. They either weren’t good, or they just weren’t coming together. The inspiration for the idea never fully hit. Is there anything more unsatisfying than leaving something undone?

I was finding myself completely frustrated since I like to have 10 devotions written in advance. And I was watching the number dwindle 8…7…6 scheduled posts. Even today’s devotion I started it, only to come back a week later to try and finish it. At one point I cried out, “Lord, why can’t I finish anything? I’m so glad You’re not like me” That was an encouraging thought, God never leaves anything unfinished!

Philippians 1:6 (ESV) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

At various points in my life, I have been discouraged. I’ve felt like I’m not making as much progress in my spiritual life as I should be. Admittedly, at times that feeling could be contributed to my own personal neglect of my spiritual life. Other times though I’ve felt like I’m doing everything I should be doing, but still not going anywhere! It’s hard at times not to feel like God’s forgotten us.

Then I remember His Word. God will complete the work. It sometimes takes longer than we expected. A few months ago I was crying out to the Lord about this exact thing and I felt Him speak to me, “I will lead you. I will guide you, but right now I want you to enjoy My presence.” Sometimes in our urgency to feel useful we forget to just enjoy time with our Heavenly Father.

I believe it is when we simply trust in Him, rest in Him and abide in Him that He truly begins to work in our lives, shaping us into the person He created us to be. Preparing us for the Work He has given to us.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

1 John 2:27 (NKJV) But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

Don’t lose heart. Continue to pray for opportunities to do His will. You are not forgotten. You are a valued child of the King. God won’t leave you unfinished! You are created in His image and as we continue to abide in Him, He continues to make us reflect His image more and more.

Maybe you’ve been feeling as if you aren’t fulfilling your purpose lately. Can I encourage you? It’s ok! We all have seasons of restlessness. Continue to abide in His presence. Enjoy time with God and He will continue to teach you what you need in order to do the work He’s called you to do.

Afraid of the Dark

Remember as a child being afraid of the dark? It was always worse when my closet was left half way open. I could kind of see in, but I couldn’t see clearly. Just shadows and shapes combined with my imagination and I was certain there was a beast ready to devour my soul. In those times I would go wake up my Mom, not my Dad, so I could sleep on the floor next to their bed. I knew I was safe next to my parents. If I woke up my Dad he would take me back to my room, pray with me and leave me to the darkness. I liked Mom’s way more, but his solution was probably the better one.

I think there are times in our Christian faith where we need to retreat into the shadow of our Mighty God and there are other times where we need to recognize the light He’s placed within us and face the surrounding darkness!

Ephesians 5:8-13 (NLT) For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    rise up from the dead,
    and Christ will give you light.”

I love that it says we should carefully determine what pleases the Lord. What a marvelous thing to consider. Our decisions are not our own to simply make as we please, but to prayerfully consider if He is pleased. Light does not join with the darkness, rather it exposes what lies in the darkness. It’s a scary thing when the lines between the churchgoer and the nonbeliever are blurred.

What’s so great about light is that you absolutely cannot hide it. Light always stands out in the darkness and that makes people uncomfortable. Ever been in a room and suddenly a bright light appears? You instinctively squint.

I remember being in a really nice room that had great soft lighting. One day someone turned on the big lights instead of the atmospheric lights and the room changed. The floors were dingy and the walls were pretty scratched up. None of that was noticeable before.

We are sometimes afraid to go into the dark for those very reasons. When people are exposed to your light they may give you some funny looks. They may also see aspects of their lives in a less satisfying way, but that doesn’t mean you dim your brightness. Light absolutely exposes flaws, but until things are seen they can’t be challenged. We must shine so they can see Jesus all the more clearly.

Ephesians 5:15-20 (NLT) So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The question then becomes how visible is your light? Is it blinding or is it dimming? The scripture clearly instructs us to make the most of every opportunity. Rather than acting thoughtlessly, we are to operate in wisdom and understanding of the Lord’s plans. That only comes from carefully studying His Word and choosing to invest your time in the presence of the Lord. Do you fill your life up with worldly things or with the Holy Spirit?

There are many things that can dim our light. Participating in sinful deeds clearly diminishes our light to the point of being barley visible, but there are other things that can make our light less attractive. Negative attitudes and complaining will quickly turn people away from whatever truth you have to offer. Constantly being consumed with worry and fear will make people wonder why they should trust God when you clearly don’t.

So often the solution for some of these things is exactly what is prescribed in the Scripture. Singing songs and giving thanks to the Lord. Remembering all we have to be thankful for diminishes our focus on negativity and complaining. Reminding ourselves of all the Lord has done reestablishes our trust in Him that He will continue to be faithful.

We are not called to hide from the dark, but to courageously charge in sharing the light of Jesus with the world. This is a call to all Christians to stop hiding from the darkness, but to boldly shine bright so the world can see the fullness and beauty of Jesus.

A God Kind of Love

When you were young did you ever find yourself imitating your parents? It’s funny sometimes how kids will want to be just like their parents. Sometimes they admit it, other times they don’t realize it, or if they do they try to hide it. I remember once I was with my Dad at a friends house watching the Seminole/Gator game, yea it’s a big deal cause he’s a HUGE Noles fan. I was just casually sitting there with my hands behind my head and I looked over and saw my Dad sitting the exact same way! Naturally, I changed positions. I’m pretty sure my Dad called me out on that, “Caught yourself sitting like your Dad huh?”

We all have someone we look up to and want to be like. Hopefully, the One you most greatly want to imitate is God!

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NLT) Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

This scripture instructs us to imitate our Heavenly Father! It then immediately tells us to live a life of love. Why is the Bible so insistent that we love one another? Have you ever noticed how often it mentions that we are to love each other?

Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)  Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)  Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

John 13:34-35 (ESV)  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

There are plenty of other examples, but it is clear God wants us to love each other! It actually says in the last verse that our LOVE will by how the world knows we belong to Jesus. I think a non-believer would be offended by that because let’s be honest, there are a lot of great communities of people out there that show love. Truthfully, there are some groups that are better at loving and more accepting than many churches. We don’t have a reputation for love, we have a reputation for rejection.

I’ve never been one to care about reputation. What I care about is obeying scripture and I’m called to love people. Not only that but Jesus said to love each other “Just as I have loved you”. Ephesians 5:1 told us not only to live a life filled with love, but a love that follows the example of Christ who loved us and gave His life as a sacrifice.

The love of the Christian should stand out because it isn’t just a warm feeling, but a love that will drive us to a lifestyle of self-sacrifice. Within the church, that might mean laying down your opinion or preferences for the sake of being unified in mission. I assure you when the world looks at a church divided and full of conflict they want no part.

Outside of the church, it means reaching out and demonstrating love to all people, even when it is inconvenient. We can’t just live our lives in tiny boxes and say that this time is for evangelism and this time is just for me. We must be open at all times because we never know when divine opportunity will strike.

It is wrong to say we love sinners if we never do anything to demonstrate our love for them. Love not acted upon is just words and words alone have never changed the world. It’s time we rise up with a God kind of love. The kind of love that boldly and unashamedly laid down His very life for the sake of humanity. I’m not suggesting we should make ourselves martyrs, only that we think a little less of ourselves and our own satisfaction and consider the needs of our community. Those we sit across from at Starbucks. What needs might our coworkers have that they’ve kept to themselves because you weren’t interested enough to ask?

Love is the very thing that identifies us as Christ follower.

Today I encourage you to ask yourself, “What can I do to demonstrate Christ’s love to the world?”