Learning, Doing, and Becoming with Jesus

Trying To Figure Out The Lord | May 15, 2017
The ways of the Lord are counter-intuitive. Through every century and age, men and women have been trying to figure out His ways. In this chapter, Paul tries to explain the unbelievable grace that has been shown to those who were not of Jewish ancestry.

God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep
that it is impossible to explain his decisions
or to understand his ways.
“Who knows how the Lord thinks?
Who can become his adviser?”
Who gave the Lord something
which the Lord must pay back?
Everything is from him and by him and for him.
Glory belongs to him forever! Amen!
Romans 11:33-36, GW

Responding To The Lord | May 16, 2017
This verse, like many others, can become meaningless over time if we do not meditate upon it. Like John 3:16, these "memorized" verses can lose their power to transform if we just rush on by without taking into view the power of the truth. 

Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God’s compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you.
Romans 12:1, GW

Your Unique Calling | May 18, 2017
As I was reading Romans 12 on Monday, I realized that I wanted to take a slow stroll down through the chapter with you. With so much treasure to be mined, it would be a shame to rush along. So we come to the second encouragement today. The first is to respond with your life. The second is to be reminded that God has uniquely designed you as you transform as a spiritual son or daughter. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2, NIV

Overcoming Through Faith in Jesus

Do Saints Struggle With Sin? | May 9, 2017
As we come to today's chapter, we see the classic struggle of the desire over action. This struggle is one that we all face, even as children of God who are set apart with Him. Yet, while the struggle is real, the victory is sure. 

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
Romans 7:19-20 (NASB)

Power Over Sin | May 10, 2017
As we come to today's chapter, we continue our discussion regarding our struggle with sin and how to be set free. Yesterday we saw that there are at least three elements that work against us. The power of the law, the power of the self, and the power of sin.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Romans 8:1-2 (NASB)

God's Stumbling Block | May 11, 2017
The next portion of this letter addresses the question of "What happens to the Jews?" Since Christianity grew from Judaism, how is it that most followers of Judaism don't also follow Christ? In this chapter, Paul tells us that everyone who truly comes to the Father comes through one singular way... by faith.

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written,
     “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,
      And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
Romans 9:30-33 (NASB)

Never Disappointed | May 12, 2017
We come to the end of the week with a repeated statement from Paul in this next chapter. "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." This is a cornerstone promise to all who trust in Jesus. 

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:11-13 (NASB)

Walking Faithfully with Jesus

When There Is Nothing Left To Hope For | May 2, 2017
This set of verses has brought me more courage during times of challenge than any other. Abraham, looking beyond any resource he could call upon naturally, kept believing God for more. I love the way the God's Word Translation puts it, "When there was nothing left to hope for..."

In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “SO shall your descendants be.” Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.
Romans 4:18-22 (NASB)

The Doors Faith Open | May 3, 2017
Faith in Jesus is the key to opening many spiritual doors that we are often unaware of. Once we put our trust in Jesus, this key is turned and all the treasures of heaven are opened up to us. In this chapter, Paul begins by telling us that as we have put our trust in Christ, four profound things happen. 

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)

Are You Really A Sinner Still? | May 5, 2017
I hear it all the time. "I'm just a sinner." Sometimes but rarely, the person may say, "But I'm saved by grace." This has bothered me for a couple of decades, because God calls those who have trusted Christ and have come into a relationship with Him, "saints," not sinners. We are holy ones, not "sinners." 

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:10-11 (NASB)

Trusting Jesus In All Things

Imparting The Spiritual Gift Of Encouragement | April 25, 2017
Coming out of the Easter season, I wanted to read and reflect on the letter to the Romans, the comprehensive theological treatise of Christ and His work. Paul is writing from the perspective of a father who wants His children to know how the spiritual life works.

In this first chapter, Paul introduces himself to us and shares his longing for the readers to know who he is and what his passion is for them. In these two choice verses, he tells us he wants to share a gift with us.

For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Romans 1:11-12, NASB

Passing Judgement On Yourself | April 26, 2017
There is an old saying that when you point out someone's fault, there are "three fingers pointing back at you." How true it is when we point out the sin of others and do the same thing. Each day we "pass judgement on ourselves" when we focus on the faults of others. 

So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Romans 2:3-4, NIV

How Do I Stay Righteous? | April 27, 2017
In this chapter, Paul addresses the Jew or in our more modern terms, the "religious" person. While reading the first two chapters, it is easy to say to ourselves, "Wow, I am glad I am a good person. At least I follow the moral laws those flunkies have blown through." This self-righteous justification is the downfall of many people. When we believe our righteousness in following whatever morality we hold is enough to meet God's holiness, we are sunk. 

Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
Romans 3:27-28, NASB

Jesus, Our Example for Right Living

That's Not What I Meant To Say | April 11, 2017
When Jesus tells us we must "deny ourselves," what we deny is the way we try to control our lives, our spiritual life, and growth. We are always wanting to be the master of our transformation and spirituality. When I deny myself, I put Christ as the leader of my life. 

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
Mark 8:34 (NASB)

Trapping Jesus | April 12, 2017
We have all tried to use Jesus at one time or another to get what we wanted. We have all leaned into His grace to try to ensure ourselves a more comfortable life. We all know what it is like to try to "trap Jesus" and use Him to our personal advantage.

Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.
Matthew 22:15-16 (NASB)

Burning Bridges | April 13, 2017
Jesus was in rare form in his last week before His passion. If He would have simply played the politician, He would have skated happily by into the following year, enjoying the festivities at the Passover feast. 

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
Matthew 23:29-33 (NASB)

Religious Violence | April 14, 2017
One of the most common malfunctions of any religious system is when it uses the cover of protecting truth and avenging God as a precursor for violence. When religious people feel the need to hurt others to ensure that morality and truth are kept intact, they have started to head down the slippery slope of hell. 

Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?”
Matthew 26:67-68 (NASB)

Leaning on Jesus for Wisdom

Pivotal Decisions | April 3, 2017
Paul's decision to appeal to Caesar altered the course of his life forever. The simple statement, "I appeal to Caesar," begins the wrap-up of the book of Acts. Every time I read this chapter, I wonder what would have happened if he simply waited a few days to make his appeal. He might have been released. After waiting two years was he in such a hurry to resolve this that he missed God in his decision or was this part of the Lord's plan for him?

Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, “You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.”
Acts 25:12 (NASB)
And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Acts 26:32 (NASB)

The Good News In A Minute | April 5, 2017
If you had only a few minutes to explain the reason for your faith in Jesus, what would you say? This was Paul's dilemma in this chapter. He is now standing before King Agrippa, the most powerful person in the land. Paul, speaking with simplicity and boldness, shares the good news with him.

"...to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me."
Acts 26:18 (NASB)

Knowledge or Wisdom? | April 6, 2017
Today's chapter is exciting. It is full of boyhood type adventure and with a little imagination is quite dramatic. One of the things I love about this is its first-hand account. Luke is writing from the first person. I am sure it is where the passion of the chapter comes from.

When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them, and said to them, “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul.
Acts 27:9-11 (NASB)

How Well Do You Jump To Conclusions | April 7, 2017
This is a classic story in the life of Paul. It shows us how quickly human opinion can change concerning a person's reputation. It also illustrates how people are subject to conclude that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people.

But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.
Acts 28:3-6 (NASB)

Trusting Jesus with Your Life

Going For It All | March 27, 2017
Today's chapter is one of the most tender in the New Testament. Paul is saying goodbye to his friends of many years and telling them that this would be the last time they would see him. It reminds me of the wonderful relationships that are built around the gospel. The closest friendships of my life are those forged in the fires of ministry.

But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
Acts 20:24, NASB

Putting Our Lives In God's Hands | March 28, 2017
There are times in our lives when we may have insight or experience that we could use to try to guide or even control the lives of others. Even though we may be certain of the outcome, we may not be able to persuade them. This is common with parents of older children and friendships. When all is said and done, we must simply commit them to the Lord.

Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, “The will of the Lord be done!”
Acts 21:13-14, NASB

Telling Your Story | March 29, 2017
The good news of Jesus is personal. I don't mean it is personal in a manner that one should keep it to themselves, but rather that He meets each one of us in a different way. It is this personal encounter, dramatic for some and simple for others that presents us with our Christian story.

And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’
Acts 22:14-16, NASB

Our Unfulfilling Vows | March 30, 2017
Today's exciting chapter in Acts has a interesting wrinkle in it. While Paul is awaiting trial on charges of bringing an unbeliever into the temple, a group of people decide to band together to kill him on the way to that trial. When I read about the oath I had to laugh a bit because these guys were going to die hungry and thirsty.

When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul.
Acts 23:12, NASB

What To Do In The Longer Seasons Of Life | March 31, 2017
This verse is very easy to read for us, but for Paul it represents 730 days of being isolated and without a resolution in a chapter of life. As I read this, instead of rushing, I decided I would refocus on the lessons of waiting through long seasons.

But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.
Acts 24:27, NASB

Learning to Love Others as Jesus Does

Called To Pass The Jesus Blessing | February 27, 2017
Yesterday at VLC we talked about our vocation or calling to "see people" and to give them the "Jesus blessing." As we begin reading the book of Acts this week, the concept is once again reiterated to us by Jesus. To paraphrase, "Keep the main thing the main thing. Be animated by the Holy Spirit and let people see Jesus shine through you everywhere!" 

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Acts 1:7-8 (NASB)

Sorting Through Perspectives | February 28, 2017
As God is doing a work in our lives or in the lives of those around us, we often try to interpret them from our own perspective. On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, only a few understood what God was doing. Those without the "intimate" understanding were left to sorting out what was happening through their own perspective. 

And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”
Acts 2:12-13 (NASB)

Do You See Me? | March 1, 2017
One of the recurring themes that captures my heart is what I call, "the invisible man" theme. Because I am self-focused and live in a world of self-focused people, it is rare for myself or others to see each other. Now I don't mean "see someone," I mean "see someone."

When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.
Acts 3:3-5 (NASB)

The Ultimate Conductor | March 2, 2017
It is hard for us to see the "God-Connections" when we are experiencing difficulties. We seem to equate bad circumstances with the absence of God. However, the reality of this scripture and many others affirms that God is in ultimate control over every aspect of our lives. 

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
Acts 4:27-28 (NASB)

Miscommunication | March 3, 2017
Sometimes we will not escape the cruelty, jealousy, and judgement of others. Even if it is against wisdom, emotions run hotter than reason. Though this story is tragic at its base, it is a classic case of miscommunication. 

So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them.
Acts 5:38-40 (NASB)

Learning from Jesus on How to Be Human

Underestimating Our Humanity | February 22, 2017
We all want to please the Lord with our whole life. In our words, our actions, our service, and our character, we are pressing forward to honor Him in all we say and do. However, there is this one challenge we all have. We are human. Humans are broken, weak, and have been known to break very sincere promises they make to the Lord. 

But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” And Jesus *said to him, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.” But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing also.
Mark 14:29-31, NASB

The Power Of Silence | February 23, 2017
We live in a noisy world. With the rise of social media, it has gotten even noisier. Now everyone can post, tweet, blog, and kvetch in just about any manner they please. Opinions, arguments, accusations, retorts, and personal positions are all there for everyone to interact with. Then we have Jesus...

The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly. Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!” But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.
Mark 15:3-5, NASB

Afraid To Speak | February 24, 2017
Many people live with a strange sense of dread for the future. Even if life is being lived at the fullest level and God's blessings are abundant, there is a little demonic voice that tells us that it is too good to be true. 

But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Mark 16:7-8, NASB

Walking with Jesus Beyond Our Comfort Zone

Help My Unbelief | February 13, 2017
We probably all have areas of our lives where we have given up hope. Yet, as children of God, there are times when we encounter Jesus anew and He reminds us that meeting with Him is the boost we need to be able to see beyond our present situation. 

And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
Mark 9:21-24, NASB

Valentines Forever | February 14, 2017
To be a Valentine forever, we choose the pain and blessing of love over all other things. This ensures a healthy relationship as well as a healthy heart. Forgive; stay vulnerable; seek oneness in the other. These will keep you in love for a lifetime.

They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” But Jesus said to them, “ Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.
Mark 10:4-5, NASB

Becoming A Radical Forgiver | February 15, 2017
In this single verse, Jesus makes the case for the most important activity anyone can be a part of, both from a blessing perspective and from a personal perspective. I think that sometimes we choose not to get this verse because it seems like Jesus got it wrong somehow. Let me explain

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.
Mark 11:25, NASB

Are You The Example Jesus Is Using? | February 16, 2017
This chapter is full of drama. Challenged on every side, Jesus reveals his brilliance, displays His wisdom, and commends those who are getting the essence of the Kingdom life. When He finishes these tests of wit, He sits down by the offering box and examines the habits of the givers. In this, He discovers such an outstanding example, He calls His disciples to teach them the lesson. 

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
Mark 12:41-44, NASB

Are You Focused On What Lasts? | February 17, 2017
It is easy to get distracted by the many things in this life that parade themselves as beautiful, valuable or important.... Love, beauty, Spirit, peace, and joy are gifts that the poorest of us can access and own. Pause for a moment and allow Jesus to give you the wealth that is free.

As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
Mark 13:1, NASB

When Jesus Challenges Us

When All Seems Lost | February 6, 2017
Why does it seem that Jesus is sleeping when we think we are on the brink of perishing? Why does He seem so cozy on the cushion while our lives have gone over the edge? It seems the story is clear. He's not worried like we are. 

Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
Mark 4:38, NASB

Coming Up Behind Jesus | February 7, 2017
Sometimes we feel the need to approach Jesus from a different direction to get what we need. Of course if we were truly conscious of who He is we would never resort to such tactics. However, sometimes our minds can still be subject to our unclear or ignorant beliefs. 

After hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.”
Mark 5:27-28, NASB

The Problem With Jesus At Home | February 8, 2017
When Jesus visits His hometown, the people there judged Him on their familiarity with Him rather than on who He really was.

But Jesus told them, “The only place a prophet isn’t honored is in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own house.” He couldn’t work any miracles there except to lay his hands on a few sick people and cure them. Their unbelief amazed him.
Mark 6:4-6, GW

What Is Going On Inside? | February 9, 2017
Many of us have been taught how to appear spiritual and to curb behaviors that would appear "un-Christian." While these approaches have some measure of prudence in them, they fall far short in the development of the heart and the spirit. 

After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man."
Mark 7:14-15, NASB

Do You Have Built In Faith? | February 10, 2017
Immature and underdeveloped faith tries to find its footing on signs, wonders, and acts of God. These are self-evident to the mature, for they have no need for a "show" from God.... What would your faith-life be if Jesus said to you, "Truly, no sign will be given to you." Would it cause the faith in us to rise or the faith outside of us to be discouraged?

The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him. Sighing deeply in His spirit, He *said, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Mark 8:11-12, NASB

Letting the Good News of Jesus Speak to Us

Below is a digest of the daily email messages composed by Pastor Stuart Nice as he leads us in reflecting daily on the Gospel of Mark. Click the title of each to read the full article.

The Re-Beginning Of Good News | February 1, 2017
I am struck by the first words...The beginning... There is a definite starting place in the Lord. Sometimes it is a re-beginning.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
     “Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
      Who will prepare Your way;
      The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
     ‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
      Make His paths straight.’”
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
Mark 1:1-5, NASB

Can Jesus See Your Faith? | February 2, 2017
This classic gospel story is packed full of application for us, but the phrase that stands out so clearly to me is Christ's response, "When Jesus saw their faith..." There is something so charged in that statement. These four men were determined to get their friend to Jesus, because they knew He was able to help. Their tenacity, their perseverance, and their faith drove them forward.

     Several days later Jesus came back to Capernaum. The report went out that he was home. Many people had gathered. There was no room left, even in front of the door. Jesus was speaking God’s word to them.
     Four men came to him carrying a paralyzed man. Since they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. Then they lowered the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying.
     When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2:1-5, GW

Accusing Jesus | February 3, 2017
I have for some time, whenever I read about the Pharisees, try to find myself in the story. It is a little uncomfortable because I hate to admit that I might be less spiritual than Jesus, and possibly part of the problem, rather than the solution. When I set myself up to "judge" their actions, I realize I might be in their story. 

Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, 
Mark 3:2. NIV

Life Lessons from Following Jesus

Speaking Words Of Life | April 22, 2016
Our words have an incredible impact on our lives and the lives of the people we interact with. It only takes one word to hurt, and a few words to heal. Everyone you meet today "NEEDS" an encouraging word from you. There are no exceptions

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
Proverbs 10:11a, NIV

What Kind Of Giver Are You? | April 21, 2016
Jesus draws an interesting comparison in this short vignette at the Temple. The level of generosity of the giver is measured by their faith in God's provision and in His ownership of the believer's resources.

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Luke 21:1-4, NIV

The Character Of God | April 20, 2016
When you are reading your bible, don't forget to highlight those attributes that reflect the perfect character of God. They will bring you closer to Him. 

I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
   Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
   and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
   upright and just is he.
Deuteronomy 32:3-4, NIV

Is Christ Your Life? | April 19, 2016
These verses take me back to my formative years as a disciple of Christ. In that period of my life, I had nothing and needed nothing so Jesus was my life, and pleasing Him was my entire aim. But then, as I was faithful in the little, He began giving me much. In fact, the Lord has given me so much in every realm that often I find myself actually thinking that my life is about those things and I get lost from my true purpose. 

Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20, NIV

Are You Blocking The Way To Jesus? | April 18, 2016
This verse has challenged me every time I have come upon it. Here is the story of a blind man crying out for Jesus and the disciples and others were doing everything they could to block his way. I wonder how many times I have been a hindrance to others in their quest to connect with Jesus.

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Luke 18:39, NIV

Being Corrected by Jesus

Can You Be Trusted? | April 13, 2016
How we view and handle money is one of the defining values that reflect our spiritual life and growth. Since the Lord uses money as a test of these, we should be aware of its influence and power in our lives.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
“No one can serve two masters.
Luke 16:10-13, NIV

April 12, 2016 | Are You Doing Side-By-Side Worship?
There are a lot of things that are vying for our attention in the culture we live in. The fast pace along with options cause us to lose focus on what is important in the eternal scheme of things. Our time is limited so we are tempted to try to multi-task, extend our day by sacrificing sleep, and wake up each day with an anxious and distracted heart. 

Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the Lord your God, and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the Lord your God hates.
Deuteronomy 16:21-22, NIV

Letting Go Of Your Control | April 11, 2016
Trying to control our circumstances is one of greatest hindrances to the spiritual life.  Wherever we try to choose control over trust, we are hindering the work of God and our own spiritual progress. 

I put no trust in my bow,
my sword does not bring me victory;
but you give us victory over our enemies,
you put our adversaries to shame.
Psalms 44:6-7, NIV

Staying True to Jesus

A Thirst For God | April 7, 2016

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God
Psalms 42:1-2, NIV

Take this verse in again. Go ahead. Read it again. Ok. Now one more time. Can you catch the passion? Can you catch the desperateness? Can you catch the desire? While many follow Christ habitually, few follow with this fervency.

What Is God's Desire For You? | April 6, 2016
Plain and simple, Abba's desire for us is that we would experience His full blessing and experience the joy of knowing Him. In fact, this desire is not just for us but for our children as well. However, there is a caveat. 

Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!
Deuteronomy 5:29, NIV

Right Answer, Wrong Heart | April 5, 2016
The story of the "Good Samaritan" is set up by this interchange with Jesus. The "expert in religion" answers correctly about the priority of loving relationships with God and man being supreme above all other things. However, since this is very difficult to do, he sees if he can "stay correct" while relieving himself of the obligation to love all people. 

And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?"
Luke 10:28-29, NASB

Are You Still Following Jesus | April 4, 2016
Walking with Jesus over the long haul requires a perpetual focus upon who He is as our Lord....  Following Jesus is "Jesus" focused. 

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."
Luke 9:57-58, NIV

Following Jesus into Holy Week

Humbled By the Cross | March 25, 2016
The cross is the place of peace. It brings us to Jesus in our true self. This sacred place helps us to realize that we are nothing without Him. Though our selfish pride rejects wisdom and trust in exchange for waywardness and self-reliance, the cross puts all of this to rest. We simply release our nothingness and embrace His fulness.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Philippians 2:7-8, NLT

The Most Humbling Activity | March 24, 2016
I was reading a book recently and the author made this statement..."I pray that I will experience humiliation regularly to test if I am growing away from my pride." That is a prayer I have never thought of praying. I don't want to be seen as weak, incapable, inept, or foolish. In fact, if you are like me, we want people to perceive us as having it all together, being on top, and being "successful." 

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet."
John 13:13-14, NIV

The Practice Of Stillness In The Storm | March 23, 2016
There are few things that will rock our world like being out of relationship with others. The whole of Psalm 37 is an encouragement to be humble and stand instead of fight and run when relationships are being challenged. 

Be still before the Lord
   and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
   when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Psalm 37:7, NIV

Going Backwards | March 22, 2016
Today's reading reminded me of something that crops up in my heart from time to time. It is the tendency of my thoughts to want to pull back to some time in my life where there was less stress and responsibility. The problem is that my memories are over-simplified thoughts of a different stress and responsibility. Most seasons of life have pressure. The Israelites would rather trade the memory of their pressure of slavery in Egypt to the perceived pressure of warfare (even with God fighting for them). 

So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt."
Numbers 14:4, NASB

The Tempter's Opportunity | March 21, 2016
As we come to Holy Week, we can see that the final testings were all set to converge.  Jesus was about to confront the religious leaders, the disciple's faith, the betrayal, and the cross. There was enough on His plate to even discourage Jesus. 

When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.
Luke 4:13, NASB

Putting Our Relationships First

The Prayer Of Relationship | March 18, 2016
There are many types of prayers we are instructed to utilize as believers. We are taught to intercede, supplicate, petition, entreat, and offer thanksgivings. While all of these are useful and necessary, my favorite prayer is simply the prayer of relationship. This type of prayer does not desire anything but the Lord for Himself. 

Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, so He spoke to him
Numbers 7:89, NASB

The Blessing | March 17, 2016
Sometimes there are gems hidden in the text of seemingly mundane or boring parts of the bible. This is one of the reasons we should read through our bibles once in a while, for we shall glean and capture these treasures. While today's "blessing" is well known by most, it is tucked in the middle of some interesting commands. 

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
“‘“The Lord bless you
      and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
  and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
  and give you peace.”’
“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."
Numbers 6:22-27, NIV

Called to the Mundane | March 16, 2016
Many think that God would have them be involved with something really exciting, especially if it has to do with ministry. Our greatest calling is actually to the mundane, un-exciting, obscure service that only the Lord sees. 

As part of all their service at the tent, they are to carry the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts and bases, as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs, ropes, all their equipment and everything related to their use. Assign to each man the specific things he is to carry.
Numbers 4:31-32, NIV

Fighting for Promises | March 14, 2016
Anyone who has been a follower of Jesus for more than a few days gets the idea that the promises of God don't always fall out of the sky like rain. Most often they are obtained through battles. From our salvation, to baptism, to 40 days of testing, to ministry, either ourselves or someone else has had to battle for our blessing.

You and Aaron are to count according to their divisions all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army.
Numbers 1:3, NIV