Friday, April 18, 2014

Jesus Died So His Enemies Could Live

cross with purple robe and crown of thorns
"For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" Romans 5:10 (NIV)

Throughout history, millions of men and women have laid down their own lives in battle against an enemy that threatened to take away their freedom. They died, not only for their friends, but they willingly died for people they didn't even know. On this day nearly two thousand years ago, a man named Jesus willingly laid down his life for every human being to defeat an enemy that threatened to enslave us for all of eternity. That enemy was Satan. In one fell swoop, Jesus defeated him by offering himself as our once-and-for-all sacrifice.

That is only part of the story. What separates Christianity from all other religions is that our God is the only one who died so that his enemies could live. Think about that for a moment and let the reality of that sink in. Jesus didn't die on the cross because we loved him. He died on the cross because we didn't love him. Isaiah 53:3 says, "He was despised and rejected--a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care." Yet, he died for us anyway. Man's method of dealing with his enemies is to kill them. God's method is to reconcile them so they can live with him.

Wait! There is more. Not only did the God of the universe die for his enemies so that they could live, he made them his very own sons and daughters. John 3:1 says, "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" That is the good news of the Gospel. We were enemies of God but now we are his sons and daughters. Wow! I can think of no better definition of lavish love than that.

As you celebrate Good Friday today and remember what Jesus did for you on the cross, my prayer is that you would come to the full knowledge and understanding of the love Jesus lavished on you that changed you from his enemy into his son or daughter.

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 6:17-19

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

To Know the Power of His Resurrection Requires We Become Like Him In His Death

man kneeling at cross
"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." Philippians 3:10

Many are willing to follow Christ in the power of his resurrection, but few are willing to follow him in the fellowship of his suffering. Resurrection is the easier of the two paths-it's exciting, powerful and dramatic, joyful and full of celebration. Suffering is none of that. It is not pretty or dramatic, it's hard and lonely, and not very exciting. The truth is that we cannot know Christ in the power of his resurrection until we first truly know him in the fellowship of his sufferings. There cannot be resurrection without death first. Resurrection requires it.

To know Christ in the fellowship of his sufferings is not complicated. It's very simple. No, it's not an easy thing and is very painful. It simply means that we lay down our own life for him as he did for us. It is the daily act of crucifying our will and desires. It means putting to death the sinful deeds of our flesh. It also means letting go of our plans for our life. This is becoming like him in his sufferings for he gave up his position in heaven and became flesh. He surrendered his will in the garden of Gethsemane as he prayed, "...nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done." He literally gave his life for us. The only way to truly know Christ is through the fellowship of his sufferings. In the very instant that we enter this dimension, we then join with him in the power of his resurrection. As we lay down our lives and die to ourselves, our spirits are then resurrected to new life and power through the power of the Spirit. Power comes through death. This is the great paradox-we can't live until we die.

Do you truly want to know Christ? To know him requires your death. To understand the power of his resurrection requires that you understand the fellowship of his sufferings. You can't have one without the other. This is how you become like him. It's not pretty, fun, or exciting. There is no fanfare or celebration but it is the only way to life. That is what Easter is truly all about. Jesus would have been powerless to take up his own life again had he not given up his own life first. The true is same for you and me. The power of a life in Christ comes only by laying down our lives for him as he did for us. May you have a happy Resurrection Day!
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

There Is No Cover-Up In God's Kingdom

garden hose
Several years ago, I was in a church prayer meeting. As we spent time in individual, quiet prayer, I had a vision that was so vivid, it felt as though it was actually happening that moment. In that vision, we were praying but outside, sitting on a large concrete sidewalk. As we were praying, the Devil began to write each of our sins with chalk on the concrete in front of us. The atmosphere began to get heavy due to the shame and guilt we all felt as our sins were exposed before one another. Then something amazing happened. Jesus walked over to us, and without saying a word, turned on a garden hose and when the water hit the sidewalk, the sins that were written immediately disappeared. As Satan walked away, Jesus said, "Whenever he tries to remind you of your past, remember that in the eyes of the Father, it has been erased."

Did you know that the blood of Jesus does not cover up our sin? No! It removes it from us. There is a huge difference and we must understand that to fully grasp the power of the cross. I have heard many people refer to the sea of forgetfulness, referring to how God treats our sin. Did you know that there is no such thing? Psalm 103:12 says, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Notice the wording here - he removes our sin. God does not forget our sin, nor does he cover it up. At the moment we make him Lord of our lives, our sin is obliterated and gone forever, never to be brought up again. In fact, the way God sees things, it is just as though we never sinned. That is what justified means. We have been declared not guilty in the court of our Heavenly Father and have not just been set free, but there is no longer any record of wrongdoing. That means no one can ever bring a case against you. Not the devil, not yourself, not even God himself even if he wanted to. No evidence against you exists. Are you beginning to get the picture? Yes, we were guilty! Yes, we deserved to be punished! It's not that we were wrongly accused and God cleared our name. Through the blood and death of his only Son, Jesus, we now stand before him innocent. Wow!

I don't understand how or why the God of the universe would do that for me, but I'm glad that he did. Today, walk in the total reality of this truth. Every time you try to bring up your past, God looks in his record book and reminds you that the only thing written under your name is, "not guilty." Case closed! Walk in the reality of God's amazing grace today.
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Positioning Yourself to Hear God's Voice

listening ear
My family often eats lunch out on Sundays after church. This is not my favorite time of the week to eat out because restaurants are usually very crowded at that time and I’m starving after a long, busy morning and am not in the mood to wait. I don’t like it when I am given a pager and the only place there is room to wait is outside. They assure me that they will page me and call my name over the loudspeaker. I don’t trust those pagers. I prefer to stand in the lobby so that I will be ready the instant my table is ready. I don’t want to take the chance that I might not hear them call me and give my table to someone else.

I want to be like that when it comes to listening for God’s voice. I don’t want to be caught off guard and miss it. Listening for his voice is like being in a noisy, crowded restaurant lobby waiting to be called. It’s hard to hear the hostess calling your name. In 1 Samuel 3:1-3 we read something interesting about the boy Samuel. We read that Eli, the High Priest, was lying down in his usual place, but Samuel was lying down in the temple where the ark of God was. Samuel, unlike Eli, was strategically positioning himself in a place where he could hear God’s voice when he spoke. He didn’t want to miss it. This young boy was so hungry to hear God speak to him that he wanted to be as close as he could possibly be to God. That night God’s voice came and Samuel was listening. Eli missed it because he was lying down is the same spot he did for years. He wasn’t hungry for God’s voice and he missed it.

The reason God spoke to Samuel and not Eli is because Samuel lived his life in a way that strategically positioned him to hear God’s voice. It had nothing to do with age, title, experience or status. God is speaking to his people right now. Those who are in the right place will hear it. Are you desperate for God’s voice? Have you positioned yourself in a place where you are able to hear him? I want to be like Samuel. I want to be somebody who is not only ready to hear him, but who can recognize his voice when he speaks.
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday - Preparing A Way For The Lord

crooked road
Today Christians all over the world will be observing Palm Sunday. If you are in the nursery business, you most likely have been frantically filling orders for palm fronds for the churches in your area that will be waving them in celebration of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem 2000 years ago. On the day of Christ's entry into that city the crowds were preparing the way for their coming Messiah. This was a fulfillment of the words of John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus' ministry when he said, "Make straight the way for the Lord." (John 1:23) He was quoting Isaiah 40:3.

This is a perfect time for us to take stock of our lives and see if there are any areas where the Lord is wanting to enter. If you have already made that initial invitation for Him to come into your life, that is wonderful, but it doesn't end there. Jesus is still calling us to prepare the way for Him to enter the areas of our heart that we have yet to allow Him to occupy. The call is to "make straight the way of the Lord." I think of a road that needs to be cleared of obstacles and debris; perhaps some potholes need to be fixed so that He can have a clear path.

There are a few places in my own life that I am clearing out this week because I want Him to come into them and make them His dwelling place. We have some work to do, but it is going to be worth it. Isaiah 40:3-5 clearly tells us that when we prepare a way for the Lord in our lives, it opens up the pathway for God to accomplish something wonderful. It says, "Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it."

Join me this week and together let's prepare a way for the Lord and welcome His entry into new areas in our daily lives. Then together we will witness the glory of the Lord around us!

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Start Living Today Like It Is Tomorrow

welcome to the future
"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." Joshua 3:5

There is an interesting and powerful concept in this verse that if applied, will change everything for you. It has the potential of catapulting you out of where you are and have been, and launching you into a dimension that you could never have imagined. The context of this verse is the story of Joshua and the nation of Israel camped out on the shores of the Jordan River three days before crossing into the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Joshua gives the people one last order in final preparation for the moment. He tells them to consecrate themselves today because tomorrow he will do amazing things.

The word consecrate is usually translated to turn away from something, particularly sin. But that is only half right. The full meaning of the word is to turn away from something and turn towards something else. It is primarily referred to turning from a life of sin to a life of salvation, but in this context, it goes a step further. What Israel is being commanded to do is to turn away from their way of life that they had known for 40 years and turn to a brand new way of life. But here's the kicker - God is asking them to do this  before they actually cross over. The command is to not wait until they get there. Do it today. Don't wait until tomorrow. Their way of life in the Promised Land would be completely different than it was in the wilderness. For 40 years they had walked by sight as the Lord directed them visually by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. In the Promised Land they would now have to walk by faith. There would be no more visual markers. To simply put this, God was asking the nation of Israel to throw away their crutches before they stepped foot into the Jordan. This was because he wasn't going to part the waters for them before they started walking like he did at the Red Sea with Moses. This time they had to step into the water by faith first and then the river would part before them.

For you and I to begin walking in the destiny that God has birthed us for, we must start living today as though  we are already there. We must say goodbye to walking by sight. There can be no more trusting in what we can see, feel or touch. We must walk completely by faith. To do this requires that we rely upon him for every step. It requires that we trust him even when it doesn't make sense. It means learning to not be led by our emotions, feelings or what we see around us. When we begin to do this, we remove the spiritual barriers to the miraculous. The word consecrate in the context of this verse adds a third dimension to it. When we turn away from our former way of living and turn towards God's new way for us, he then releases his hand to begin doing amazing things among us. That word holds a divine promise - when you do this, God will do amazing things.

Don't wait for tomorrow because it never comes. Start living today like it is tomorrow and you will see amazing things.
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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Unleash Your Potential As A Leader

climbing a ladder
Character is what sets great leadership apart from all other types. He who leads out of character doesn't pursue his own agenda but a much loftier one--he pursues God's purpose and therefore, will reap eternal results that will last. The leader who leads apart from character is simply pursuing his own agenda and will only reap temporary results.

Without character a leader limits himself because he is striving to get people to follow him. With character a leader's potential is unlimited because he is leading people to follow God. Motivation is how you spot the real thing. Character's motivation is for the betterment of others. Without it, the leader is simply out for himself at the expense of others.

Unleash your potential as a leader and let character be your foundation. That puts God right in the middle of your leadership and with that you can't lose. Character is the difference between failure and success.

How can you become a better leader of character? Start with your motivation and be honest with yourself about  why you are leading. What are you in it for? At the end of the day, who benefits from your leadership the most - you, or those you are leading? Once you settle that question you are on your way to really start leading.

Click here to read more on character and leadership.
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