Saturday, June 17, 2017

When What We Expect Is Not What We Get


Expectation and reality. They don't always turn out to be the same, do they? No one knew that more than Jesus' disciples. 

Scripture makes it clear that the disciples expected an earthly kingdom and that Jesus would sit on the throne of David. The kingdom would be reunited. Wealth and power would abound.

The crucifixion wasn't what they expected.

The resurrection wasn't what they expected, either.

Forty days after Jesus rose from the grave, their expectations still weren't in line with reality. (Leanna Paraphrase coming up.)

The disciples were all gathered together, and Jesus was giving them some last minute instructions. 

"Don't leave Jerusalem until you get what My Dad has promised you. I've already told you about this, so wait for it. You're going to be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (from Acts 1:4-5)

"Oh, good. Is this when you finally overthrow the Romans and restore the kingdom to Israel?" the disciples asked.

I imagine Jesus shook His head in amazement at that question. "Don't worry about that. I'm telling you what's going to happen. You'll receive power and be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea, Samaria, and all around the world."

Without so much as a see you later, Jesus ascended into heaven. The disciples stood there in open-mouthed amazement. They were probably wondering how they'd get their palaces now.

What came next is very wonderful, but it still makes me laugh a little. The disciples heard the words "power" and "around the world" and you can well imagine what they thought. Power = kingdom and military might. Around the world = ambassadors of the new king.

Instead, they were in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost, waiting for power and ambassadorships, when a loud noise sounded. Tongues of fire suddenly danced over everyone's head. 

Pause to visualize that in your mind's eye for a moment. They must have been dumbfounded.

They all started speaking in different languages and spilled out the building into the street. 

Preaching broke out. Salvations. Baptisms. Thousands of people believed in Jesus that day.  

The Pharisees just thought they had trouble with Jesus. When the Holy Spirit descended, the real trouble began. None of it was what the disciples had expected.  The reality was so much better.

People were healed with a word. Blind men saw. Lame men walked. Demon possessed girls were set free. There was more power in their handkerchief than they'd ever known before.

The Holy Spirit had come, just like Jesus promised. They'd been given power, just as He'd said. 

Pretty soon, persecution began and the disciples had to flee Jerusalem to save their lives. They told everyone they met on their travels about Jesus. They became ambassadors (witnesses) around the world, exactly as Jesus told them they would.

It's a good thing their expectations weren't met. They were exceeded in ways they could never have imagined.

We, too, have expectations of what life will bring and what following Jesus will mean, but what we expect is seldom our reality. Today, let's surrender our dreams. Invite our Lord to replace our desires with His. Ask Him to do His will in us. 

That's when the real fun begins. 

What God has planned is not likely to be what we expect, but it will be worth it.

"I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Learning to Let Go

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Learning to Let Go


By the time I arrive home in the afternoons, the dogs are ready to play. They love fetch. When I throw the ball, Mamie races after it, grabs it in her mouth, and brings it back to me to throw again. 

Maggie, however, has a little problem she hasn't been willing to overcome. She races after the ball, grabs it in her mouth, lies down, and covers it with both her front paws. If I try to retrieve it from her mouth, she growls. I don't think she'd bite me, but I've never tried to snatch the ball. 

Mamie and I can play fetch until she's too tired to run anymore because she's willing to let the ball go. Maggie, however, plays a one-toss game of fetch because she refuses that most basic part of the game: releasing the ball.

Maggie's been taught the command, "drop it." She's pretty good at it, until it involves something she really wants, like the ball. Then, obedience goes out the window.

What she never seems to understand is that her insistence upon holding tight to her ball stops play time. It stops our time together. It stops the fun. 

I'm afraid we're a little like Maggie, holding on so tight we can't let go to enjoy all God has for us. It's a more common problem than we might think. We hold to the life we have, unwilling to let go of anything, yet God stands ready to lead us through untold adventure. 

We miss the amazing and incredible when we hold to the routine and comfortable.

There were probably days when Moses wished he'd stayed with the sheep in the wilderness, instead of dealing with the grumblers in the desert, but, when the manna fell, letting go of the wilderness was worth it. When water flowed from the rock, it was worth it.

Elijah probably wished he'd stayed in Tishbe instead of going head to head with an evil government. When the fire fell on the altar, consumed the offering, and dried up all the water, however, dealing with Jezebel was worth it. When the still, small voice spoke, everything else was worth it.

God routinely calls us out of our comfort zones and into adventure. We miss the best, though, because we hold so tight to the good. 

Why not let go and see what God will do? Why not loosen our hold on the good and follow Him into the amazing and incredible God longs for us to have. When Jesus offers "abundant life," He doesn't intend us to have a routine, boring existence. He offers us more adventure than we can imagine, and it's worth all we have to release to embrace it.

Today, let's ask God what He wants for us, then let go of that to which we cling to embrace what He wants for us. In case you're wondering, it'll be worth it.

"The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." John 10:10 nlt 
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When Casual is Catastrophic 

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

When Casual Is Catastrophic


Not long ago, we participated in the Lord's Supper at church. That Sunday morning, we had an altar call in preparation for the sacrament. We were invited to come to the altar to pray and prepare our hearts to participate.

It was based on a passage in 1 Corinthians 11. The verses typically quoted for Lord's supper are right in the middle of a bigger passage that urges us to examine our hearts. 

The Corinthians had participated in the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner, and some of them were weak and sick because of it. The word translated as "unworthy" is anaxiĊs. It comes from a root word that indicates the meal has been treated "casually," or as something "common," and not something precious.

The sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf was precious, beautiful, terrible. 

He took our place, and it was no small thing. It was so huge that only He could do it. His death, burial, and resurrection are worthy of reverence and awe. 

The Last Supper (or Communion or Eucharist) was instituted by Jesus as a way to remember the terrible magnificence of His substitutionary gift. There was nothing casual about His uncommon act of surrender. 

We are not to treat the symbols of that gift with casual abandon, but with the respect and reverence they deserve.

Imagine how it might have happened in Corinth for a moment. Worshippers were hungry and hadn't had time to eat before they got to church. The bread for the Lord's Supper was tasty (not the bland wafers usually used today). The first man reached for his piece of the bread and thought to himself, "I'm starving. I'll take a big piece." He might rip off a chunk of bread and gobble it down to satisfy his hunger. He might guzzle a big portion of the wine to "wash down" the bread. He might even drink enough wine to become drunk. Clearly, he had treated the symbols with irreverence.

The communion wafer and tiny cup of juice we use today don't lend themselves to that kind of casual treatment, but we have our own ways of disrespecting the meal. When we come before the Lord with unconfessed sin in our hearts, we say to God, "My sin doesn't matter." 

When we come to the Lord's supper table with unconfessed sin, we say, "Jesus' sacrifice doesn't matter." 

How do you think God views that attitude? Scripture tells us He doesn't take it well at all.

Some people in the Corinthian church were sick. Some people were weak. The reason? Disrespect of the Lord's supper. Disrespect of His sacrifice. 

Their casual attitude toward the meal was catastrophic.

The truth is that unconfessed sin is never a good thing, and it can make us sick, even when it's not Lord's supper time. It was for freedom that Christ set us free. Bondage to sin is not freedom. Clinging to sin is not freedom. 

The freedom Jesus bought says, "This is my sin and it has to go. It's not keeping me bound up another minute longer." 

Freedom requires repentance, a 180-degree-turning from our sin that says, "I'm done with that sin forever," and never looks back.

That kind of repentance is not just for Sunday. It's an every-day repentance that demonstrates the preciousness of Christ's sacrifice. It says to God, "My sin matters because Jesus' sacrifice matters." 

We honor His gift when we turn from our sin.

Today, let's prepare our hearts as if we were about to partake of Christ's gift to us, because, as we face a new day, we are. His body broken for us, His blood shed for us, make freedom possible. Let's demonstrate our respect for that freedom with our lives. 

Let go of our sin and live free.

"If we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged..." 1 Corinthians 11:31 nasb

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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Why It's Not Good to Get Away With Bad Behavior

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.
#sin

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Why It's Not Good to Get Away With Bad Behavior


Sam and I were sitting on the patio late one afternoon, talking. The topic was consequences and how some people never seem to have them. 

"They's always consequences," Sam assured me. "If you don't get them now, you'll get them in the next life."

"It just doesn't seem fair to get away with treating people that way." I was indignant. 

"Maybe not, but it's a bad sign."

"How's that?"

"If you belong to the Lord, He ain't gonna let you get away with mess like that. If He don't discipline you, it's because you're not His. Them that don't get consequences now will get plenty when they get to hell." Sam was certain of his conclusion.

It was a startling perspective, but it came straight from Hebrews 12. The Lord disciplines the ones He loves, the writer tells us. If we don't receive discipline, "then you are illegitimate children and not sons." (Heb. 12:6-8)

It's been years since that conversation, but I haven't forgotten it. When I've seen people do scandalous things, seemingly unscathed, it's been a trigger for prayer ever since. It's also been a trigger for gratitude when I've been convicted of my own sin. 


The discipline of conviction is cause for rejoicing. We can be certain our Heavenly Father loves us, because He makes an effort to keep us on the right track. Whether we comply or not is a sign of our love for Him.

Lack of discipline is not likely to be a sign of sinlessness, but it may be a sign of Godlessness.

Let's take a few moments to consider our own lives. Is there clear evidence of God's conviction and discipline when we sin? If not, why not? If we've experienced the discipline of God, let's thank Him for the evidence that He knows us and our ways and cares about the sin in our lives.

"For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines..." Hebrews 12:6 nasb
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Please like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When Having Less is More Than Enough

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.
#sin

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

When Having Less is More Than Enough


We were seated on a bench, waiting for a train, in the heart of Jerusalem. I'm not sure how the conversation shifted to small electronic devices designed for reading, but one of the missionaries had a more advanced version that allowed internet connections. 

"We watched a movie on it last night," she told us.

I was incredulous. 

"It was free with Amazon prime," she assured me. Missionaries are accustomed to justifying even the smallest "splurge," lest donors think they're being frivolous with donations.  (The electronic device had been purchased on sale...)

My surprise wasn't that she'd watched a movie, but that she and her husband had watched a movie on a screen the size of a paperback book. "That's such a small screen. Could you see it?"

"Oh, yes. It was enough." She went on to tell us about the movie, as if two people crowded around a tiny electronic device to watch a full-length movie was the most common thing in the world.

I can't get those three words out of my mind. "It was enough."

Enough.

That's the problem, isn't it? We're not always content with enough. 

The children of Israel were a great example of discontent. Manna from heaven was enough, but they wanted something different. Something more. 

I'm afraid we want more, too. A bigger screen. A nicer outfit. A newer car. A better view from our kitchen window. We want more, and God often gives it.

I wonder, though, how He would respond if we asked for more souls saved, more lives changed, more hearts softened, more glory for Him.

In the big scheme of eternity, the size of the screen on which we watch a movie doesn't matter at all. The number of people we tell about Jesus does.

The size of our retirement fund won't matter in heaven, but how we cared for widows, orphans, and the poor will.

The square footage of our homes won't matter when we're with Jesus, but how we used that home to welcome the lonely will.

In this country, most of us have enough of what we need. What we lack is contentment, and that only comes by surrendering our worldly desires to Him and embracing whatever He provides.

Today, let's take time to thank God for all His gifts. Let's look around our homes, your lives, and thank God for all we have. Let's tear up our "want" list and replace it with a list of kingdom wants, things that please and glorify God. 

Let's ask God to teach us contentment - no matter what He gives.

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:12,13 niv
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Making a Choice and Choosing a Path 

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.
#contentment 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Making a Choice and Choosing a Path


We met at the park in Blue Springs recently for a political meeting. In the midst of chatting as we waited for the meeting to begin, someone noticed that the fire pit area under the pergola had been vandalized. 

It hurt my heart to see such a mess. What was the point? Nothing but destruction.

Several of us hurried over to straighten it up and repair the damage. "Who would do this?" someone asked. We didn't know, but a verse came to mind. "The enemy comes only to steal, kill, and destroy..." 

It took a while, but we managed to straighten everything back up, rebuild the fire pit, and re-stack the wood. 

It was easy to recognize the destruction that resulted from the vandal's decision. What's not as easy to recognize is that we constantly face decisions with the potential for devastating consequences somewhere down the line. 

The first taste of alcohol that leads to a lifelong struggle with alcoholism...

The everyone's-doing-it choice that leads to unimaginable pain and suffering... 

Even something as simple as a "cheat" on our diets, repeated over time, can lead to undesired health consequences, one cookie, one serving of fried food at a time.

I love the NLT translation of John 10:10: "The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." 

Jesus' desire is to give us a life of abundance and joy, but we only have it if we choose it. The problem, of course, is that having the life Jesus promised requires more than one decision. 

We gain our lives one choice at a time, and every decision has a down-the-road consequence. If we could only see where they would lead, perhaps we would choose differently. 

Today, we will have many choices, all of which have potential outcomes, so let's choose well. Life or death. Joy or destruction. The path is clear. The direction we follow is up to us.


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Please like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post:Why We Need to Stop Doing Nothing

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Why We Need to Stop Doing Nothing



Our monthly prayer circle met yesterday and my two great-nieces joined us. They had just returned from Passion Week at the beach. Louie Giglio was one of the speakers. As always, he had cut straight to the heart with his words. 

They both shared what they'd learned and what had spoken to them the most. Each girl was moved by different things, but one point hit home for both of them. 

Jesus is coming back and we're not ready. 

The harvest needs to be gathered in and we're not fully in the field. 

We pray for Jesus to return soon, yet we aren't doing what it takes to share the good news to every people group in the world. We're not even sharing the news of Jesus with the people we know and with whom we work and go to school. 

If Jesus is delaying until all have heard the gospel, we need to get busy and start telling others about Him. There's kingdom work to be done and more than enough to go around. 

We can't do nothing anymore.

As I've pondered the lessons the girls had learned, I had to agree. If we want Jesus to return, and we should, then we must stop contenting ourselves with social media, cute clothes, and nice fingernails. There's nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, but they can't be the extent of our lives. 

A well-toned body and physical strength are admirable, but they aren't enough. Our spirit must be well-toned and strong, as well. 

Participating in a Bible study or watching a Christian video is a good use of time,  but not if we fail to put the lessons we learn into practice. The point of Bible study is not a notch on our spiritual belt. It's supposed to transform us and the way we live, to make us more like Jesus than we were before. 

Posting a Scripture meme is not the same as sitting down over coffee with a friend and sharing what Jesus means to us. 

How dare we pray for His return yet fail to prepare for that return with a lifestyle of discipleship? How dare we anticipate that glorious day without sharing the glorious news? Are we so callous that we want to keep all of heaven for ourselves and not invite our friends and family members to come along?

I might be wrong about this, but I believe we've stopped modeling our lives of discipleship on the original disciples and contented ourselves with a second-rate form of religion. Those early men and women of God were tireless in the cause of Christ. 

Some years ago, I realized my circle of friends and acquaintances was filled with believers. There wasn't an unbeliever in the bunch. It was a simple prayer, but no less heartfelt. "Lord, send some lost people my way..." and He did. God longs to fill our lives with people who need Him, but it's pointless to send them our way if we won't share Christ with them when He does.

If we know Him, let's live like it. If we love Him, let's share Him. If we believe He's coming back, let's prepare by telling everyone we see that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ is returning. 

His return could be any day. Let's stop doing nothing and live like we believe He's coming again.

"You know the saying, 'Four months between planting and harvest,'? But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. John 4:35 nlt 
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post:Guest Blogger Lindsey Knott: Rejection

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.