Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Time For A Pop Quiz

freaking out
"For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow." James 1:3 (NLT)

Those dreaded words that strike fear in the heart of every student - "Time for a pop quiz!" Teachers always seem to have some psychic ability to know the exact moment when a classroom full of students know the least about a particular subject matter. It is at that moment they feel compelled to use a centuries-old torture method known as the Pop Quiz. The person who first came up with the concept of the pop quiz is clearly the ultimate Dungeon Master.

All kidding aside, testing is a necessary part of life. We can't survive without being tested. Without a test, a student will never truly be able to monitor his progress. A good teacher strategically plans tests throughout the semester to help the student track his progress and prepare him for the final test at the end of the year.

It has been said that life is a test. That is very true. God, in his great wisdom, puts us through tests from time to time to help us grow. Without these tests we would be doomed to fail in the long run. Like a wise teacher, he has strategically planned and carefully crafted tests along the way in your life to show you your strengths and weaknesses. I like how the New Living Translation says that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.

It is important to have a mature attitude toward the testing of our faith. A child believes testing is punishment and therefore dreads it. The mature adult, however, understands that testing is something to be embraced and is beneficial. Rather than dreading it, he looks forward to it knowing that it brings another opportunity to grow.

How do you handle times of testing in your life? Do you find yourself kicking and screaming, perhaps questioning God? Do you feel God is mad at you when you face tests? If so, perhaps you have an unhealthy understanding of testing. In 1 Corinthians 13:11 says, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me." There are two types of Christians when it comes to testing. The first first gets angry at God every time a test comes their way. They yell and scream and accuse God of not loving them. The second welcomes the test. They patiently walk through times of testing with joy and an eager expectation that they will come through with a greater sense of strength and faith and a deeper conviction of God's everlasting love.

What will you do when the next test comes? Chances are that before the day is over, your faith will be tested in some way. I pray that the testing of your faith will produce Godly character in you that you never had before.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Putting the Right Focus On Psalm 23

the Lord is my shepherd
Psalm 23 is undoubtedly the most well known chapter in the entire Bible. I can think of no other verses that are quoted more. The words of this chapter have brought great comfort to many in times of adversity and trouble. It is a powerful declaration of God's promised comfort, care, and protection for his children. However, the real intention of this Psalm is not what God will do for us but what we must do for him. The benefits described in this chapter are simply a result of something much bigger. To read Psalm 23 correctly we must come to the understanding that the focus is not what we will get from God but what we must give to God. With that said, take a moment and read that chapter in that context.

The Lord pointed out to me recently that we have been reading this the wrong way. Look at the first sentence: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Do you see the comma? That one little character puts the wrong emphasis on this entire chapter. Now, see what happens when we replace that comma with a period: "The Lord is my shepherd." Period! That punctuation mark changes everything.

We tend to focus on everything after that first phrase. We want the prize but overlook the requirement to receive it. We tend to focus on the gifts rather than on the Gift-Giver! We spend an inordinate amount of time and energy striving after getting our needs met, finding green pastures and still waters, a restored soul, peace and courage in the valley of the shadow of death, confirmation of his presence, comfort, anointing, abundance, peace with my enemies, goodness and mercy, and finally, eternal security. What we fail to do is spend our time making him our Shepherd. The focus of Psalm 23 is the first five words with a period after it. Until we make the Lord our Shepherd, the sole focus and guide of our lives, we will never truly experience the rest of the chapter.

I hope you are beginning to see this Psalm in a brand new light. You see, Psalm 23 is not about us. It is about Him! The goal of this chapter is not the things we get out of it. The goal is making God the true Shepherd of our lives. The rest of the chapter is simply a byproduct of that. Those things are the fruit of a life led by the true Shepherd. This should be our declaration as we begin each day: "The Lord is my Shepherd! That's all I need."

Who or what is directing your life? You, circumstances, or is God truly your Shepherd? Make it your sole purpose today to make him your one, true Shepherd. It will literally change your life!

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Breaking News

Many of you know that last September we took a step of faith in obedience to the leading of the Lord to step away from 30 years as Associate Pastors and pursue a call to become Senior Pastors. We felt the Lord spoke very clearly to us which was confirmed by some others we consider mentors and trusted advisers to walk away from our position at Trinity Church in San Antonio and begin the process of seeking the Lord's will. This has been one of the most difficult and scary things we have ever done. The logical way would have been to wait until we had some place to go BEFORE we left where we were, but that is not the way God wanted it done this time. Our faith has been tested. We have faced moments of great fear and uncertainty. We have been tempted to find a position as Associate Pastors since that is what we have always known. We have endured times of wondering if God has abandoned us during times of silence in this process. I can tell you that taking a step of faith like this is not for the weak of heart. It is not for those who are not interested in being stripped of all of the things that you have held onto. It is not for the impatient.

I do have to tell you however, that this has been the most rewarding and exhilarating season of our lives. We are learning to hear God's voice in ways we never have before. We are learning what it really means to put our complete trust in Him alone and to not depend on ourselves or anyone else to get us where we are going. We are also learning to walk together in single-heartedness as husband and wife in a dimension never experienced before. For these things, it has been worth it all and we are so thankful for what the Lord is doing in us as he leads us into the next chapter of our ministry.

Some of you know that we have been considered as Senior Pastor candidates at a church in the San Francisco area. We were scheduled for an interview this afternoon but after a lengthy time of prayer we felt the Lord clearly tell us that we are to withdraw our names from consideration there, as well as a few others that are looking at our resume, which we have done. We both feel very strongly that San Antonio is the city that we are called to indefinitely and we are focusing all our time and energy to pursuing God's will for ministry in this city that has become the love of our hearts. We do not know what that ministry looks like, but we do know that San Antonio is the place we are to be.

So, where do we go from here? More waiting, seeking, praying, and walking by faith! Whether God calls us to pastor an existing church, plant something new, or pioneer a ministry that has yet been done before in our city, God will unfold His plan before us and to those it will involve in due time in His own sovereign way. One thing the Lord spoke to me several months ago was that when we get to where it is He is taking us, the only person who will get any credit for making it happen will be God, and God alone. He gave me Psalm 42:3 as a promise that says, "Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him."

Will you partner with us in prayer not only for us, but for our city, that God will unfold His plan for how He is calling us to impact San Antonio for His kingdom? Pray for patience, strength, provision of financial needs in the process, clarity in our vision and hearing, and for His will to be done. We believe that things will happen in a much more accelerated time now and we are excited about what lays around the corner.

Thank you for your prayers! They mean more than you could ever know. We will keep you updated on things as they happen.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

We Are Called To Be Bridge Builders

building a bridge
Wouldn't it be wonderful if God just took us immediately to heaven the moment we got saved? It would sure make things a lot easier and less complicated. But he didn't save us to make life easy for us. Now that we are his, he has a divine purpose for us here on earth. It has been said that you are the only Jesus people will ever see. If God removes you from this earth and the people around you, how will they ever know about what God has done for them? You are now a member of God's Holy Priesthood and your assignment is to build a bridge between God and the people around you just as someone did for you. He could surely do it without you. He has the power and can certainly do anything, but the beauty of his plan is that he wants you to partner with him in his plan to reach the world with the good news of salvation. He doesn't need you, but he wants you and that is why he chose us.

We are given the mandate to build bridges between God and people in 1 Peter 2:9. This is done by declaring who God is and what he has done for us. A large part of this mandate is accomplished simply by telling others around us who he is, but it must go way beyond our words. It must be declared by the way we live our lives. If we say one thing yet live another way, our words become meaningless. You can quote scripture and preach on the street corner all day long, yet people will reject your message. But there is one thing the people who know you simply cannot deny and that is the reality of a transformed life. By watching you, they have become eyewitnesses to the life-changing power of Christ and that is indisputable. Peter had much to say during the time he walked with Jesus, but it was his personal transformation that spoke volumes more than he could have ever said with his mouth.

The same is true for us today. I believe the number one reason why our culture has become so hostile to the gospel is because those who are proclaiming it are simply not living it. Actions speak louder than words and that one fact should leave us shaking in our boots. When our actions contradict the truth, we create a noise that blocks out the world's ability to hear the truth. It causes deafness in the ears of those around us, preventing them from hearing anything else. Nothing will build bridges faster and more effectively than people walking in the fullness of God's salvation and Christ-like character before men and nothing destroys those bridges faster than a life living in contradiction to the truth.

May the way you live your life today build bridges, not burn them.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How To Walk In A Deeper Dimension With The Lord

blind man crossing street
"For we walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7 (KJV)

The book of Joshua begins a new chapter for the nation of Israel. Moses has just died and Joshua is now the leader. More importantly, God is now ready for Israel to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land. This is what they have waited for and the day has finally come for them to step into the destiny God had for them. They have a new leader and tomorrow they will be living in their new home. From this moment on everything changes. Everything! For 40 years they walked the same route. Everyday a cloud led the way and every night they were led by a pillar of fire. They didn't ever need a map or have to worry they would get lost. God led them visually every step of the way. But now the rules have changed. There would be no more landmarks or clouds or pillars of fire to lead the way. Notice what God tells Joshua in verse 3 of chapter 1: "I will give you every place where you set your foot." God was now letting Joshua set the pace and the direction rather than Him setting it for them. He's saying, "Joshua, I'm giving you the helm now. You've spent 40 years following my direction, listening to my voice and learning to obey my commands. Now you are ready to inhabit the land I have given you. Now go for it." I can imagine that Joshua was both thrilled and scared to death at the same time. Do you see what God is doing here? It's time Israel learned to walk by faith and not by sight anymore. God got rid of all the visual markers and now they had to live by the Spirit which would require complete faith.

There is much to glean from this story for our own personal lives. It's easy to walk by sight. Anyone can do that. Just give me a good map or let me use my iPhone navigation app and I can get around just about anywhere in the world now. But there comes a time in our spiritual walk that we have to step into a deeper dimension with the Lord. To step into your destiny, you have to step out of your security! If you want to realize the destiny that God has birthed you for, you have to get rid of everything that could allow you to rely on yourself or anything but God alone. It is unfamiliar territory with no familiar landmarks. There is no map or navigation system to map it out for you. All you have is God's voice and the direction of His Spirit. Scary, I know, but it's is the only way.
You can settle for a life of wandering where it's easy, familiar and safe, but living in the wilderness is hot and dry. It's boring and routine and there is no real future ahead. Or you can step into the land God has for you where there are wide open spaces that you have only dreamed of - a place of new beginnings and an unlimited future. To do that, you have to be willing to give up your sight. That's right. You have to kick the habit of relying on what you can see. You will have to learn to see through the eyes of your spirit. This is a good thing because there will be giants along the way and if you rely on your sight, you won't be able to handle those giants. Those who try to walk by sight in the Promised Land don't survive. But if you walk by faith, those giants will appear as grasshoppers in your sight . You see, when you walk by sight, everything seems impossible. But when you walk by faith, nothing is impossible!
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