Friday, January 29, 2010
Jonah set out on the first day of his walk in the city and proclaimed, “In 40 days Ninevah will be overthrown!” The men of Ninevah believed in God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth-from the greatest of them to the least. Jonah 3:4-5 HCSB
It may be thro’ the shadows dim, Or o’er the stormy sea, I take my cross and follow Him, wherever He leadeth me. B.B. McKinney*
As a child, I was captivated when I heard that Jonah refused to preach to the Ninevites, that he ran from God, was thrown into the sea, swallowed by a large fish, somehow managed to survive for three days, and was then vomited by the fish onto dry land. Now, I am amazed that it took Jonah three days to pray for help. He must have either really hated the Ninevites or had a serious death wish.
Jonah, even while he stood to preach, hated the Ninevites with a passion. I can imagine him simply quoting the verse above as his entire sermon. However, God used that simple message to save an entire city from destruction.
It’s easy to be hard on Jonah. But how many times are we guilty of not obeying God because of our own hatred, selfishness, or laziness?
Lord, help us to do what You want us to do when You want us to do it.
*Wherever He Leads I’ll Go
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. Proverbs 4:23 HCSB
As a payment for pleasure, it’s a high price to pay. For a soul that remains sincere, with a conscience clear, guard your heart. Steve Green*
When I was in college, I made a white tissue heart for a girl that I was dating. She smiled when I gave it to her, but later it she used it to blow her nose and tossed it into the trash. That evening, I decided to guard my tissue hearts more carefully.
Many of us today are careful to guard our investments, our families, our creativity, our homes, our ministries, and our friends, but if we are not careful to guard our hearts, we are in danger of losing everything. The values that we set our hearts upon will be the determining factor in the course of our lives. Just as a slightest move of a rudder can change the course of a ship, so the smallest indiscretion can change the course of our lives and ministries.
Lord, help us always guard our hearts.
*Guard Your Heart
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man holds it in check. Proverbs 29:11 HCSB
For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness. Ralph Waldo Emerson*
Well, I was on my way to work today,
Driving along the usual way,
When I stopped at a light before I turned right,
But before I could peer to my right did I hear
A honk from a man with a phone in his hand
In a white Lexus car and he did by far
Anger me much more than I’d been before
When driving to work, but, I tell you, this jerk
Made me want to curse, but what was much worse,
I threw caution aside because I did decide
To not let it go and to sure let him know
That the honk from his horn had caused a right storm,
Right inside my head and I wished he was dead.
I slammed the gas to the floor and peeled out before,
I even could see what was coming for me:
It was a giant Mack truck and I had no luck
In veering away on this my last day.
Lord, help us control our anger.
Monday, January 25, 2010
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away. Matthew 5:30a HCSB
What you allow in your heart is serious business. So take it seriously. Be willing to say, “I will do anything it takes to ensure that my heart is in the right place.” Tom Holloday*
When I was younger, I was frightened of the scripture above. I used to think, “If I cut off one of my hands because of my sin, then I might as well cut off both of my hands and both of my feet, pull out my tongue, shove cotton down my ears, and gouge out my eyes. At different points in my life, all of these body parts have caused me to sin.
Jesus wants to radically transform our lives. He knows that sin in our lives prevents that transformation from taking place. He doesn’t so much want us to literally cut off our hands that sin as he wants us to take serious measures to guard our hearts from anything that would cause us to sin.
Lord, help me to guard my heart and fight to keep it pure.
*The Relationship Principles of Jesus
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Have mercy on me, O God, because of Your unfailing love. Because of Your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. 2 Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. Psalm 51:1-2
9 Remove the stain of my guilt. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from Your presence, and don't take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me again the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You. Psalm 51:9b-12
Have you ever accidentally spilled gasoline on yourself? It’s irritating, isn’t it? Last time it happened to me, I was at a gas station filling my tank. I pulled the pump out too fast and gasoline drenched my hands. I ran into the station to wash them but the restroom was out of order. So, I wrapped some napkins around my fingers and drove home. At home, I ran into my bathroom and scrubbed my hands in white foamy soap. But when I rinsed my hands, the smell was still there. Frustrated, I drove to the hardware store where I learned about a hand cleaner called Goop. Right there in the store, I rubbed it on my hands and was finally free of the stench.
In many ways, sin is like the smelly gasoline that spilled on my hands. We don’t mean to get so involved with it, but somehow, we find ourselves soaked completely with its stench and realize that is noticeable to everyone around us. We try to cover it up with temporary fixes, but they don’t last. Finally, at the end of ourselves, we come to the realization that the only sin cleaner that totally frees us from the stench of our own sin is the cleansing blood of Jesus.
When sin completely overwhelms you, cry out to the Lord. Confess your sin to Him. Ask Him to forgive you of your sin, to create a clean heart within you, and to remove the stain of your guilt.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27 NIV
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one. C.S. Lewis*
Kathy and I were friends before we started dating. When I realized that there was an attraction between us, I was nervous. I didn’t want to do anything that might hinder our friendship, so I took things really slow. She had patience with me and I finally mustered up the courage to risk beginning a romantic relationship with her. A year later, I got scared and broke up with her. I spent a miserable summer in another state wishing I hadn’t done it. When I returned, I chased after her fiercely until she was not only my girlfriend, but my wife. Why? Because I knew she was worth the risk.
Jesus commanded us to love others as ourselves. He knew that loving our neighbors would be risky for us. He knew that we might even get hurt. He also knew that the risk was worth it.
Lord, help us to risk loving our neighbors as ourselves.
*The Four Loves
Thursday, January 21, 2010
But everything must be done decently and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:40 HCSB
Modesty is my best quality. Jack Benny*
I never would have believed it, but apparently there is evidence that some seventeenth century Baptists immersed their converts completely nude. According to H. Leon McBeth, some early Baptists were charged with immodesty during certain baptism services. He writes that Baptists were repeatedly accused of baptizing men and women together naked and of baptizing women in immodestly flimsy garments. Fortunately, in their 1644 confession, the Baptists added an explanatory note which states that immersion should be performed with convenient garments both upon the administrator and subject.**
I’ve heard it said that part of a worship leader’s job is to remove as many distractions as possible so that people might more readily encounter the presence the God. Certainly, nude baptisms would cause a person’s mind to drift away from the Lord. However, inappropriate clothing, on either male or female worship leading participants, can also be distracting and keep many from entering the presence of God.
Lord, help us to make appropriate attire choices. Help us always to remember that we are representing You.
**The Baptist Heritage, pg. 48
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Like many men, I am extremely goal oriented in almost everything that I do. Regarding my career, I set work related goals at the beginning of each quarter and work hard throughout the quarter to achieve those goals. Regarding my physical health, I set fitness goals at the beginning of each year and strive to find the time to exercise regularly in order to meet those goals. Regarding my financial savings, I set savings goals at the beginning of each month and pinch pennies throughout the month in order to meet those goals. Regarding my personal worship, I, uh, well…
Even though my job is crafting dynamic, creative worship experiences for large groups of people, I must admit that one of areas in my life in which I struggle the most is personal worship. This disturbs me greatly because I am a Christian leader. I am called by God to make a difference in this world. I am someone who stands before people and asks them if they are sure that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And all the while, I struggle in keeping my relationship with Jesus Christ strong, pure, and consistent.
What type of goals have I set about who I worship? If I am honest with myself, I realize that I have set none. I have stood with thousands of people and sang “Lord, I give You my heart, I give You my soul, I live for You alone. Every breath that I take, every moment I’m awake. Lord, have Your way in me.”* But in my personal life, when the crowds are gone and it’s just He and I, am I missing the mark? Am I truly worshipping Him or am I living for myself? Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will come out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”** So what type of goal can I set for my personal worship? If I had to wrap it up in one word, it would be “Remember.”
First, in my personal worship, I must have the goal of remembering who God is. Doing so puts everything else in its proper perspective. Remembering who God is takes my eyes off of myself and puts them on the One who is truly worthy of my praise and worship. It lifts me above the circumstances of our lives and helps me to focus on who it is that I are worshipping. On the day that David was rescued by the Lord from all of his enemies, including Saul, he wrote, “I love You, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (Psalm 18:1-2).”
Second, in my personal worship, I must have the goal of remembering what God has done. Remembering what God has done helps me to stand strong in faith, knowing that the God who has worked on my behalf in the past is the same God who will work on my behalf in the future. When Jehoshaphat stood before the people of Judah as Jerusalem was about to be attacked by the combined armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites, he prayed “Lord God of our ancestors, are You not the God who is in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can stand against You. Are You not our God who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and who gave it forever to the descendants of Abraham Your friend? (2 Chronicles 20:6-7).”
Third, I must remember that I am dependent on Him. Doing so in my personal worship shows God that I am completely dependent on Him for absolutely everything in my life. It reminds me that I can do nothing without Him. It takes the burden and worries of ministry off of my back and helps me to accomplish more. During the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples, “Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me (John 15:4-5).”
Fourth, I must remember that I have a relationship with God. This means that I have to communicate with Him in order to foster that relationship. It means that I must read the Bible and listen to what He is saying. It means that I must do what is best for Him and not for me. It means that I must love Him with all that is within me. Once, a Pharisee asked Jesus to name the greatest commandment. Jesus answered, "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 (Matthew 22:37-38).”
Finally, I must remember to press onward with my remembrance goals. I must take the time in my personal worship to remember who God is, remember what He has done, remember that I am dependent on Him, and remember that I must foster my relationship with Him. Paul once wrote, “I want to know Christ… (Philippians 3:10A).” That statement summarizes the purpose and benefit of all that I am and believe.
*Reuben Morgan, Hillsongs Music. I Give You My Heart.
**Ralph Waldo Emerson Wisdomquotes.com
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your brothers in the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9 HCSB
I’m sorry if I’m the one to break this news to you: you were born into a world at war, and you will live all your days in the midst of a great battle, involving all the forces of heaven and hell and played out here on earth. John Eldridge*
When I was a child, I had a very distinct idea of the identity of Satan. I knew that Satan was pure evil, opposing God in everything. I knew that he was out to destroy me, so I tried to stay as far away from him as I could.
I think I need to get back to my childhood picture of Satan. I need to remember that he only wants to tempt me, deceive me, accuse me, and devour me.
Lord, give me the wisdom to know when Satan is attacking me and the boldness to resist him.
*Waking the Dead
Friday, January 15, 2010
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man holds it in check. Proverbs 29:11 HCSB
A man is about as big as the things that make him angry. Winston Churchill*
The grocery store was packed. Somehow, my wife Kathy and I managed to squeeze through the crowd and find the cases of bottled water. I paid for one at the checkout and we walked out of the store and towards our car when a large Cadillac suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The driver of the car obviously wanted all of the pedestrians to yield to him so he honked his horn for an extended period. For some reason, this made me absolutely furious. I stepped out of the car’s path, but raised the case of water over my head and acted as if I was going to slam it onto the trunk of the Cadillac.
“Did you see that jerk?” I asked Kathy as I loaded the water into the car.
“Oh,” she replied. “Do you mean that man who was honking his horn or you acting like you were going to throw your water bottles on his car?”
Lord, help us always to keep our anger in check.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
“So they gave a negative report to the Israelites about the land they had scouted: ‘The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size… To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them.’” Numbers 13:32-33 HCSB
Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live. Dorothy Thompson*
Moses must have been flabbergasted. The Promised Land was right there before them, flowing with milk and honey, but the people were afraid to take it. As a consequence of not following the Lord, the Israelites were forced to wander in the wilderness for forty years.
Fear is a tool of the devil. He uses it to turn us into people who only see the problems in life. He uses it to diminish our confidence in the Lord. He uses it to defeat us. He wants us to see ourselves as grasshoppers.
As Christians, we must rise to a new level of faith. We must follow the Lord faithfully wherever He chooses to lead us.
Lord, help me to follow You faithfully even when I’m afraid.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
So the honor is for you who believe; but for the unbelieving, the stone that the builders rejected-this One has become the cornerstone. 1 Peter 2:7
Irony is a disciplinarian feared only by those who do not know it, but cherished by those who do. Soren Kierkegaard*
He was born in a stable and laid to sleep in a feed trough. The King of kings lived as a commoner. The Bread of Life and the Living Water chose to go without bread and water for forty days. The Sinless One was called a friend of Sinners. He who owns everything was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. The Carpenter had nails hammered through His hands and feet. The Breath of Life had His breath taken from Him. We killed Him, but He loved us. His temporary death gives us eternal life. His red blood can wash us white as snow. Light came into the world, but men loved darkness more than the Light. That Light shines in the dark, but the darkness has not overcome it.
Today, take some time to marvel at God’s redemption plan.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. John 15:5 HCSB
What is the question we always ask about the successful? We want to know what they’re like – what kind of personalities they have, or how intelligent they are, or what kind of lifestyles they have, or what special talents they might have been born with. And we assume that it is those personal qualities that explain how that individual reached the top. Malcolm Gladwell*
What makes some people successful? Some people believe that the secret to success is hard work. Some think that success completely depends on circumstances. Others argue that it comes from position and charisma. The key to fruitfulness, however, is not in hard work, although hard work is necessary. Neither is it in circumstances, though circumstances may play a role. It’s not even through position or charisma, although they may be important. The true secret to success lies in one’s connection to Jesus. If we remain in Him, the True Vine, success will happen naturally.
Jesus, help me to remain in You and trust You for success.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 HCSB
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. George Bernard Shaw*
Do you remember when the main purpose for a phone was person to person voice communication? People now use their phones for texting, checking email, taking pictures, shooting video, surfing the web, social networking, instrument tuning, storing audio and video downloads, video projection, microwave cooking, and shoe shining. Phones can now do so much, but I sometimes wonder if they have really enhanced communication.
I sometimes feel the same way about my prayer life. I’ve read books on prayer, gone to prayer conferences, listened to messages on prayer, and attended numerous prayer breakfasts where we ate way more than we prayed. All these other things are great, but I can’t help but feel that God would rather have us spend real time with Him in prayer.
Lord, help us to really communicate with You today.