Left Unfinished

Left Unifinished

I Corinthians 3:5-7 (NLT) After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.

For a few months now, I have been refinishing a table. It was thrown away like garbage, posted on line as a “curb side” alert. In my heart, I saw a new project piece and immediately thought of someone I knew who could use a gift. She was going through some difficulties in life and I felt the Lord impressing on my heart to bless her. It usually doesn’t take me this long to work on the furniture I find, but this process has been revealing. It seems that every time I begin to work on the table it turns out to be more of a task than before. Just sanding out all the marks and blemishes on the tabletop took days. It had been well-used to the point of abuse. The person who I have been repurposing the table for has been going through her own troubled time of transition. I know that for the last couple of years, the Lord put her in my path for encouragement, instruction and guidance through rough passages. However, just like the table, I have discovered that sometimes God doesn’t always make our work as believers a walk in the park.

I set out this weekend to finally finish the table so it can make its way to her house. I applied stain to the sanded top. I love this step in the process. To see the wood soak in the new color and watch a piece come to life. Well, not this time. The stain revealed some more imperfections that would require additional sanding and retracing some steps. After many attempts to get it just right, I walked away and began working on an old chair for our guest room. It is almost done. The painting went perfectly. The sanding a piece of cake. Recovering the seat was simple and I had enough leftover fabric to match the antique footstool. I stained the back of the chair reluctantly but it was perfect on the first try. Why is the chair taking a couple hours but this table just won’t seem to cooperate? Why isn’t the person who I have been supporting and believing God to renew and restore leaving unfinished? Why is she moving on? Why doesn’t she get it? God, have I let you down? Did I not do enough, say enough, or believe enough for the seed of Your Word to produce much fruit? Sometimes in life, God leaves work unfinished.

I planted. Oh boy, did I sow some seed in this situation. But the one day, the gate to the field closed. No more seed could penetrate the hard ground. The wishy washy rain of uncertainty seemed to wash many of them away. The leaves sprouting up looked like it might bear much fruit but alas it was all just a cover. Apollos, are you watering? There are many times that work is left unfinished but will not be undone. We must not stop planting just because we do not see God’s Increase. I think of all the people who sowed good seed in my life that was watered by others. Confirmed by more than one, just now revealing blossoms of fruit yet to come. I understand the process of growth takes time and many seasons. Sometimes, I must be reminded that God gives all increase. Human nature wants the satisfaction of seeing the harvest but with the Lord trust is obedience that continues to plant and water in the absence of harvest.

Ephesians 1:22-23 (NLT) God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

It is safe to say that my elbow will never meet my nose naturally. I cannot touch my nose with my elbow. Yet they are valuable and important parts of the same body. The cells in my nose have the same DNA as the ones in my elbow. The same brain makes them all work together. The blood that nourishes my nose is the same flow that reaches my elbow. Sometimes it is important to remember that the same body must remain connected even if they cannot reach the other. My hand and knee can reach my elbow even though my nose cannot. However, my nose doesn’t abandon my body or the elbow cease to move because of its lack of proximity. Just because the person you have invested time, energy and maybe even resources into does not necessarily “get it” or leaves our life an unfinished work doesn’t mean you were not faithful or seeds unfruitful. God evaluates our faithfulness to Him. Our dedication to love and be loved. Our commitment to Christ to become complete lacking no good thing. He doesn’t expect us to plant, water and grow. He expects us to be faithful, hopeful and loving. I am an unfinished work just like my friend. I must never forget who the One is that makes us full and complete – His Name is Jesus.

I Corinthians 13:11-13 (NLT) When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

I must be completely honest. Lately I have just wanted to drag the table I am working on out to the trash. As my frustration grew with the person, I suddenly abhorred the process of giving the gift. I know I am a terrible person. I didn’t do it. I have been rubbing, painting, sanding and staining just the same. It is hard to remember all the Christ has done for us once leaving the past behind. All the people who deposited His Love and Truth labeled the Gospel in our life. Sharing the Gospel is our privilege. The purpose of the Gospel is to love. I can give sound instruction. I can stand right by your side. I can encourage you when you are down. I can even hold you when you cry. However, if someone decides to chase after something else. Wander off into the wilderness. Or even just turn and walk way – it doesn’t end there. I am must still love them and pray for them just the same. I have done my part to plant good seed. I have tried my best to be the Light. Now I must wait and watch for the Lord to give His Blessing and Increase – in His Time according to His Plan. Lord, teach me to see that every seed comes from You. The Word I use for water to a dry and thirsty soul – it is You, Jesus. I cannot take ownership of the process that you created and divinely instituted. I am called to love. Let me love every unfinished work in my life with the unconditional and faithful love that deposits new mercy and overflowing goodness in my life each day.

Colossians 2:6-10 (NLT) And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

It looks like the table I have worked on so long will be finished today. God’s Word in my heart is to let it go. He is working all things together for this young woman as He promises to do for me as well. (Romans 8:28) This trust without borders things extends pretty far in our Christian walk as we sow seeds in every area of our life. When we choose to sow good seed in people, it is never wasted. There will be an Apollos down the road to water or maybe many more. The principle to hold on to, have faith in and find glory in is that God ALWAYS gives the increase. His Word will not return to Him void so if that is what you are sowing there will always be harvest down the road. Good seed will find its way through a furrowed, fertile heart so sometimes it is necessary to stumble or even fall to break a hard heart. Sometimes it takes a little darkness to find the Light of His Love. It is our union with Christ that gives us anything worthwhile to give. Sometimes I lose sight of the One who is doing the work focusing too much on what I am doing. My work is nothing without Jesus Christ.

Colossians 2:1-3(NLT) I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” These are the words in Revelation to the church of Laodicea. Paul “agonized” for these believers who were becoming lackadaisical about their ministry and calling to Christ. Lukewarm is the term used. As believers, it is our job to sow generously into the lives of other people. We are called to love them even when the work of God in them is not meeting our growth expectation. I am a planter. I am a waterer. From time to time, I am even a harvester. However, in all things – God is the increaser. Christ is the completer. I am only his servant. Nothing good can come from my life outside of Jesus Christ. God’s Power works through the more I am humbled by His Grace. People will pass through our life like seed falling through a farmer’s hand. It is up to me to plant the ones that need planting, water the thirsty and in all things trust the Lord for increase. Human nature would be to be weary in well doing when I do not see the outcome. To become tired of investing my time in people who just don’t seem to get it. To allow unmet expectation dissuade me from my purpose. Not today!

My prayer for all people who cross my path is this: “I want them to be encouraged and kit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.” I want them to discover “all the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge” that allow us to be complete lacking nothing in life. The Lord promises to perfect all that concerns me in Psalm 138:8. Today I entrust You, Lord with every unfinished work in my life. If it is in me, Lord I give myself back to You today for increase. Examine my life. Clean me up. Restore me. Lead me to the abundance and fulfillment hidden in my life. If the unfinished work is in others, forgive me for my bad attitude – Lord of the Harvest – increase their faith, hope and love today.

2 Corinthians 7:1 (NLT) Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

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Eat My Words

eat-my-words

Luke 6:44-45 (NLT) A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thorn bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

One of the perks of the holidays in our office are the many gift baskets and plethora of food sent to us by our clients. Breakfast is catered. Gift baskets carrying many delicious delicacies. One sent a case of chocolate covered strawberries although I am not sure that we have been that good this year. Digging into the boxes, there were a variety of berries large and small covered in milk chocolate rolled in chocolate chips, white chocolate rolled in sprinkles and more chocolate drizzled in with red and green frosting. The presentation was perfect. Carefully packaged to maintain their appearance. Packed with ice packs to stay fresh and keep their form. Such temptation could not be avoided. Biting into the first one it was so sweet and rich the chocolate melting in your mouth followed by the ripe, sweet strawberry. It was heavenly. So much so that I had to try just one more. The covering just as yummy as the first one, but the berry inside was sour and disgusting. Soft and nasty – it was beginning to rot ruining the experience entirely. I had to get it out of my mouth.

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart. What is the production of my heart that is flowing from my mouth? What is the flavor of my lips? When speaking to others, is it life or death? Do I nourish their soul or condemn their life? Our words reflect the cultivation and production of God’s Word in our heart. Barren conversation filled with gossip and bitterness only signifies a lack of growth and prosperity. When I have a tough piece of meat like a London broil, I usually take a meat tenderizer that looks like a torture device and plunge it into the cut of meat over and over again. This separates the muscle from the meat. Those veins of marrow they cause tough gristle to form is torn and severed by the sharp points as they pierce it. Afterwards I take the manhandled piece of beef and I marinate it not only to infuse flavor but to soften the meat so it is edible and delicious. After a while, I cook it at the right temperature for the right amount of time and it becomes a delicious meal. Hear me men and women of God. Hear me woman of God. Our words require no less. Our heart must be tenderized and marinated to produce the words that God desires of us. To present the message of the Gospel it must be covered in love and presented with perfection. I wonder could I eat my words today. Would they be palatable?

Psalm 19:14 (NLT) May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

“I am a sinner. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Caught up in words, tangled in lies” (Brokenness Aside) I love this song. I can identify with it completely. I AM a sinner. Though I try and try I still sin every single day. I used to think being a Christian and growing in Christ meant rising above sin and living a better life. What it really means in drowning in His Grace every single day in humility at the realization that apart from being totally absorbed in the Lord – I am desperately lost every day. One sin would have nailed Jesus to the Cross just the same. I think this is forgotten by those who know their Savior more than one day. To rid one’s life of certain sins means nothing. You and I are still sinners just as much as the one who comes in to church reeking like the club and accidentally throws a free drink ticket into the offering plate rather than the dollar they were digging for. The only difference is that I believe the one who was out last night is more honest than the prideful one condemning them one row over.

After enduring a season where lies, rumors and hurtful words cut to the heart of one of my children, I should not have been surprised to hear the rumor mill begin to stir about another. One would only hope that in the aftermath of hurt, separation and bitterness – Christians, believers, leaders, teachers, members and congregations would learn that words are power. Words will infuse life in a church or tear it down person by person. Not the case, hurtful words about others who need the Lord and are in the constant prayers of others. Torn apart and judged only because in this particular instance you made a better choice. Shame on you. Shame on me. Shame on us. The cancer of the church is found in conversations filled with words like “bless their heart” and “I will pray for them” only trying to disguise gossip and insecure people who think Heaven is earned and grace is not enough.

Do the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart reflect the Love I have been given and the Grace that I have received? What makes you or I more deserving of God’s Grace, Love and Favor than anyone else walking on the planet? He loves us all exactly the same. The one who is working and striving to build the Kingdom must never think it is okay to tear a single person down or condemn one of their choices without refuting God’s Word that promises He will work every detail out for those who love Him. The more I know Jesus and spend time in His Word the more I realize that there is nothing that I can do to earn His Love or deserve His Grace. I am a sinner. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Caught up in words. Tangled in lies. Women by virtue of numbers, it is our distinction to speak about 10,000 words a day – some more and seldom less. What am I saying? Do my words build others up? Do they tear them down? It doesn’t matter WHO we tell them to – it is what we release in the atmosphere. Have you heard of acid rain? Water is drawn into the sky and forms rain. If the source is tainted, it becomes acid rain that moves in a cloud and kills whatever it is released upon. We get caught in our words. We get tangled in lies. Have you ever heard the expression “enough rope to hang yourself”? Well…the enemy convinces us that our words don’t matter. Or even that because we add something like “bless their heart” or “I need you to pray for” that it somehow changes gossip to gospel. It doesn’t. I promise you that what is spoken in darkness will make its way into the light.

Proverbs 26:22-26 (NLT) Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart. Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils. While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public.

Have you ever wondered why your ministry is not growing? Why prayers for revival are not answered? Could it be that our words are not cultivating seeds of faith? Maybe it is our overflow of senseless and thoughtless words that is quenching the fire? Rumors kill churches if entertained. People are the Kingdom. Build up the people and churches will grow. Tear down sinners and there will be no one left. I wonder what might happen if we removed all the stages and platforms from church buildings. What if all church leaders and teachers were stripped of titles and there was no one left to cater to their office? What if the pastors in our congregations would be simple shepherds with a rod for instruction and a staff to guide with humility, gentleness, grace and love? Would the Holy Spirit do the rest? Could we trust God’s to take the Word and by His Spirit change hearts and lives?

Our pastors cannot lead churches and build the Kingdom because their schedule is full of appointments mediating members and settling issues with their leaders. Our congregations are caught up in words and tangled in lies. Rumors have sunk into hearts and killed those who came to be saved. Not able to live up to our standards, they thought that Jesus required the same. No love. No problem. I will just sleep in on Sunday. Oh, how I love sleep. Christianese covers the death sentences dealt behind doors and when we think no one else is listening. I do not want to be a glazed pot. Beautiful on the outside but worthless on the inside. I do not want my heart to deceive and my words to deal death. Lord, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit. I do not want to be part of the death and destruction of others but offer life in every conversation.

I John 3:1-2 (NLT) See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. 

I have five beautiful children. I have some who live to please me and maintain a right relationship with me at all times. I have others who must test every boundary and find their own way. They argue among themselves that I have favorites. I let them think what they want. The truth of the matter is that I love them all the same. I would lay down my life in second for any one of them without a moment’s hesitation. They are my children not because they make good choices or do the right thing. They are my children. (Period) When will we realize as individuals that this is the Heart of God for His People? We cannot build a Kingdom until it is understood that there is absolutely no condemnation in Jesus Christ. It is by His Grace that we are saved by faith in Him alone. We are family. Equals. Brothers and sisters no matter what because it is His Will and His Plan.

Religion is man’s way of seeking after God. God wants us to establish a relationship with His Son, Jesus. Once this is accomplished, Jesus tells us to create the same connection with everyone else. How are we doing? Not very well…no revival means no relationship. Early believers did not have time to tear each other apart because of their relationship and unity revival broke with thousands coming to Christ at a time. It can happen. It will happen. Are you willing to take a long hard look at your heart? Do you think it might be possible to go to those you have condemned with words and ask for forgiveness? Is it even thinkable to exalt another before our pride today and overcome insecurity to establish a bond with others? If we can’t get it right in our families, friendships and congregations…why would He give us nations? Why would He send our community? Why spark revival that will quickly be drowned in worthless words? Where the Spirit of the Lord there is freedom. Don’t get caught up in words and tangled in lies. Speak life today. Speak love. Give them Jesus in every conversation. And for goodness sake, if you have nothing nice to say…say nothing at all.

Colossians 4:6 (NLT)  Let your conversation be gracious and attractive[a]so that you will have the right response for everyone.

The Messenger

Mark 16:15-18 (NLT)

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

Each Sunday night, I load up the car with kids then head out to a youth service in the county adjoining our own. It is a little church in the woods. You might drive right past it missing the drive as it does not boast a large well-lit sign. The praise team are a bunch of kids. The chairs are not padded. With a basic sound system, the Good News is preached. We are members of a church in town. It has the lighted sign, big building, high tech sound system and the works. But there is something to experience in that little place that is nothing less than miraculous. Week after week teenagers gather there, the leaders bring the gospel without the usual bells and whistles. It is Good News. It is all about Christ. It demands a choice. I have been for several weeks now. I cannot explain the Presence of God in that place and wonder sometimes why the door is not blown off with His Arrival.

In the media-driven society we live in, there is much to be said for entertainment. It has made its way into the church. Announcements on a big screen. Padded seats and temperature-controlled sanctuaries to make the experience more comfortable. Pastors bringing flamboyant and creative messages to woo others to Jesus Christ. The music is nothing less than professional and the place an organized event. I wonder if we somehow lose the point of the message in the mayhem. This is not a call to burn down fancy churches and resurrect tent revivals. No this is a plowing of the human heart. Has our message become about man and not the Messiah? How could I say such a thing? Well, last night a young man preached a five-minute sermon about connecting with God. It was simply based on John 15:5. His voice shook, his palms were sweaty as he paced back and forth. His vernacular laced with a Southern drawl and lots of y’alls. He had prayed. Sought the Lord. Allowed this Word to penetrate his own heart before he dared to share it. It showed. At the end of his “sermon” if you will, he invited the room full of teenagers to take some time to pray and ask the Lord for a deeper connection. He didn’t beg. He didn’t warn them about hell. He shared the Word that the Lord gave Him – nothing more or less. Without a moment’s hesitation the entire room fell to their knees in prayer, some rocking back and forth with intensity others openly weeping before God. I haven’t seen that kind of response in teens or adults for that matter in a very long time. I could do nothing but weep with them.

Matthew 4:23-24 (NLT)

Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all.

 

Before Jesus became our Savior, He was a Messenger. He traveled throughout Galilee, teaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. The Gospel was good before we partook of it. Nothing in us makes the Word of God any better but rather proves it to be true. The Good Work in us is all because of God’s Plan and the Gift of Salvation offered through Jesus Christ. I wonder if somehow we forget that sometimes in the midst of religion. Anything that I do to support the Gospel of Jesus Christ is nothing more than sharing the message that Jesus saves. His Holy Spirit produces the good fruit in my life from a sacrificed heart and surrendered spirit. When I sacrifice my life to become a messenger, the message does not change just the one baring the Good News.

Why would I say this or imply such a thing? Humility, my friend, it is the mark of a true messenger who carefully takes the Word they are given to share it with those it is intended for. When the message is added to or something taken away, it is no longer from the One who sent it. You cannot add to the Word or take away from it without convoluting or perverting it. When Jesus traveled and announced the Good News, what happened? People were healed and delivered. Signs and wonders followed this messenger. It should be the same today. This only happens when the messenger is true to his or her word. When what they preach or teach is from a broken and surrendered heart, not a haughty source of pride.

Mark 8:34-36 (NLT)

Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?

 

To be a true messenger requires a real sacrifice. We cannot walk and talk for ourselves and deliver God’s Word. It is impossible. When Jesus called others to become a disciple, he was very clear. If you want to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways. Without a turning, there is no repentance. You cannot have grace if you still want sin more than God. Harsh words but genuine. To demand grace yet love the darkness is a conflict of interest. To preach the Word but live your own way sends a mixed message. Where are the signs, wonders and miracles? They are inside the messenger that surrenders their own life to be a part of His Kingdom. They humbly come before the Lord each day asking for His Word to fill them and take the place of any harsh communication. They ask the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and direct them to those who need Him the most. But first, before a word is spoken or act carried out, they humble themselves before the Cross laying all they are down to take on Who He called them to be. These are the messengers who will deliver the Good News. These are the Ones who carry the Good News to others and see their lives changed. My words may offer temporary encouragement but it is the Word of God that makes the difference. I have to believe what I am saying, giving up my own life to save my soul, to carry a message worth hearing to anyone else. Obedience is a sign that there is a change. Twenty teenagers falling to their knees without hesitation is definitely a sign that the one who has spoken was anointed by God. How is the world responding to your message?

Romans 1:2-5; 16-17 (NLT)

(2-5) God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.

(16-17)For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

Are you ashamed of the Good News about Christ? It is the power of God at work in us and saving all who believe. Faith accomplishes the Work of the Word. If we do not have faith in Jesus Christ, real and genuine love and trust. The words that we attempt to share with others will fall on deaf ears void of any power. To be an effective messenger requires knowing the Word of God and applying it to our life first. We must believe. To be absolutely convinced that what we are speaking is the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth will impact our testimony of God’s Love and Power to save, heal and deliver. It will be convincing and convicting.

The Good News is God’s Plan for our life. It is completed predestined and prerecorded. It existed before you and will continue after your life on earth has ended. It cannot and will not return void. It must do what it set out to do. Our response is to humbly and completely accept our place in this miraculous love story. He is Good all by Himself. He is worth having without our seal of approval. To know this and live this allows us to share His Validity unashamedly with the world. It doesn’t matter if we are the only one who believes because we know without a doubt that His Love is real. The Good News is Jesus. He is the Word wrapped in flesh – nothing more and nothing less.

 

Romans 10:13-17 (NLT)

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from hearing that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

We are God’s Messengers to His People today. Anyone who has chosen to be a disciple of Christ is tasked with sharing the Good News with everyone who they come in contact with. He is not asking you to preach a sermon or even teach a single scripture. What the Lord is asking is for you to share the Good News about Christ with other people. An authentic message pouring from a broken and humble heart will yield Kingdom results. Hands willing to help. Ears willing to hear the cries of those in need. Voices willing to speak a message the world does not always want to hear… at first. Hearts filled with compassion rather than bitter judgment. A sacrificed life produces an undeniable message to this world. It is followed by signs, wonders and miracles that those around us will want to experience. The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God we choose to invest in our life and produces fruits that feed thousands. Where are the messengers today? I, for one, have found them in a tiny building in the middle of the woods on Sunday nights when most churches have closed down for the night. Open hearts and open mouths declaring the Word of the Lord from broken hearts and ravaged souls overtaken by His Love. That’s good news. I want to be that kind of messenger.

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NLT)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Turn Down for What – A Devotion

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Romans 1:16-17 (NLT)

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

 

I have a confession to make. When I am working out at the gym, I do not always listen to Christian music. It is not a guilty pleasure but more of the need for beat-driven music to motivate my feet to keep up with the elliptical machine. I have discovered that the beat of most secular music is perfect for running, stepping and moving but quick frankly is garbage for the mind. So I must be very selective in what I listen to because most of the time, I am oblivious to the words as most people are. We play the radio in the car, at work, in elevators so much in fact that it is the background noise is almost every situation. One popular song that I recently discovered is called “Turn Down for What”. If you don’t believe the Lord can speak through just about anything, then you may have forgotten about the little scenario of the donkey in the Old Testament. It’s crazy that this song only has three basic lines with no real clarity of meaning yet it is a hit sensation. Fire up that loud – another round of shots – turn down for what. There you have it in a nutshell. Now surround it with a pretty good beat and you have a hit. According to the Urban Dictionary, there is a meaning to the song. “Turned up” means being drunk. So the Lil’ Jon is asking, “Turn down for what” or why should I sober up. Now it makes a little more sense, but it makes me sad at the same time. Our generation has no voice that is calling it from the vile perversity of the things of this world to a waiting and watching Savior who can set them free. Who turned down the volume of the Good News of Jesus Christ? To allow hidden meanings of horrible lyrics to have our kids singing about things that will destroy their lives rather than building them up. In the midst of a crowded gym, trying to keep up with the spinning machine, my heart grew heavy. The church is silently allowing this world to change the heart and mind of its people while we quietly attend powerless services and meet in quaint home settings. We were not called to be religious but relentless in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

What happened? I believe that there are three main factors that have muted the Body of Jesus Christ and stopped the Gospel from spreading around the world. People are afraid. They live in doubt which has them overcome by disbelief. It is a problem caused by a convoluted Gospel. When I was in high school many, many, (okay many) years ago, I attended a retreat. At this gathering, it was encouraged that we no longer listen to secular music citing backmasking and hidden messages. So when everyone got home they began smashing their record albums (see I told you that I was old). Back then the variety of contemporary Christian music was limited, and many churches feared it to be just as bad as the alternatives. I do not believe that as Christians that Jesus Christ has called us all back into bondage such as not living in the world. We are in the world but not of the world. The Holy Spirit gives us discernment. I allow my kids to choose music but encourage them to listen to the lyrics comparing them to Christ. This is not a call to boycott secular music but rather turn up the volume and preach the Good News to a world looking for an escape as clearly expressed in the music of today.

 

Acts 18:9-11 (NLT)

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the Word of God.

 

Why are we afraid to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in the world today? Why won’t we tell family, friends and co-workers how great our God really is? The primary reason for fear is the absence of faith. If we knew just how great, powerful and wonderful God really is and experienced His Presence in our life, we would have faith turned into confident hope. Confidence is the absence of fear based on truth. The more we try God and determine that He is faithful the more that we have to tell others about. If I asked you about your favorite political figure, you would immediately tell me. If I challenged your answer, you would be quick to defend him or her and give me a number of reasons why I should also vote for them in the coming election. But if I asked you about God – what would you say? Could you defend your faith or wave off the conversation in fear? The Lord told Paul, “Do not be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! I am with you…” Paul answered the call to turn up the volume, will you? The reason we are quick to defend our political position is because we have taken time to get to know the candidates. We have watched their governmental activity and where they stand on issues that are important to us making our choice. We place our confidence in these people to be our voice in Washington. Jesus Christ is our Voice in the Kingdom of God. He daily makes intercession to God on our behalf. We must decide to live fearlessly which means that we must be faithful.

 

2 Timothy 1:7-9 (NLT)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

 

I have discovered that it is important to know what comes before and after our favorite verses in the Bible and 2 Timothy 1:7 is no different. We love to claim the “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love and self-discipline,” but miss the real meaning and what it is for. “So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.” God has given you His Power, Love and Self-Discipline to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. God saved us to live a Holy Life so that not only will we experience the Grace found in Jesus Christ but to invite others to do the same. However, because of a lack of faith in God we put our expectation in people. To tell others about Jesus may cause rejection or worse abandonment. Faith in God says “I will never leave you or forsake you” making us fearless witnesses even if it does cost us a few friends who were really just acquaintances after all. There are people in other countries who die every day for sharing the Gospel. There are some folks in America who have died for professing Christ as well. What profit a man if he gains the world, but loses his soul? Jesus asked this very question. “Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:37-38)

 

Isaiah 42:13-16(NLT)

The Lord will march forth like a mighty hero; he will come out like a warrior, full of fury. He will shout his battle cry and crush all his enemies. He will say, “I have long been silent; yes, I have restrained myself. But now, like a woman in labor, I will cry and groan and pant. I will level the mountains and hills and blight all their greenery. I will turn the rivers into dry land and will dry up all the pools. I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will brighten the darkness before them and smooth out the road ahead of them. Yes, I will indeed do these things; I will not forsake them.”

 

Perhaps you have seen the message of the gospel on a sign at a sporting event that say, “Jesus Saves” or maybe on an old country road painted on the side of a barn “Jesus is Coming Back.” Did you get the message? Jesus is coming back. This is a true and valid statement whether or not we choose to believe this is a personal choice. I believe that He is coming back and have decided that I must strive to live in preparation for that day. I do not doubt that He will return for the righteous. Like many other believers, this does not exempt me from the temptations of life including doubting the Lord from time to time. When our son got cancer that pretty much changed for me. As doctors and medicine have proven no match for the disease in his body, I know that Jesus Christ is our only hope. It will require all my faith in God to make it through this test. Not because God requires all my faith but because doubt separates me from God. When I doubt I choose something else as worthy of my confidence removing my situation from His Hands. He will not force me to hand over my problems but waits patiently for me to surrender every worry and burden to His Loving Care. As doubt diminishes in my life, I find that confidence in God begins to rise up and as a result it has become a lot easier to share Jesus with other people. He has become credible in my life as faith turns to confidence. The more confident that I become in the Lord the more likely I am to share the good news. It is not strained but matter of fact which is believable to the listener. Some think I am crazy, overboard and maybe even a Jesus-Freak. Maybe I am? But all I know is this “I was once blind, but now I can see!” (John 9:25) I have put my trust in the Lord and He has not failed me. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. (Romans 1:17) What better way to share the Gospel than when we can personally testify to His Goodness, Mercy and Love? Preaching the Good News with our life will turn up the volume of the church dramatically in the world in which we live. Living by faith demonstrates confidence in our right standing with God enough to maintain it. As God heals, delivers, renews and restores our life filling us with unspeakable joy even in the midst of tragic circumstances, this is the God people want to get to know. This is the One who they will look for. He is the One who they seek!

 

Revelation 12:10-11 (NLT)

Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last—salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth—the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.

 

Are you tired of being drug around by your emotions? Are you exhausted and powerless against the circumstances in your life? Are you a Child of God? Have you been covered by the Blood of the Lamb? If so, the only thing missing is your testimony. We defeat the enemy every single time we trust God and have faith in Jesus Christ. It is a blow against his initiative to lead people blindly away from righteousness back into sin. The Power to overcome disbelief lies in the Blood of the Lamb partnered with our testimony. Our testimony relates our personal experience with the Lord. It is the message of when we trusted the Lord and He came through in more ways than one. (He always does.)

 

1 John 5:5-9 (NLT)

And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross—not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony. So we have these three witnesses—the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and all three agree.Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about his Son.” (1 John 5:5-9)

 

I promise you right now that if I walked into any church and played the song, “Turn Down for What”. Every person under the age of thirty would probably jump to their feet, clap or at least crack a smile because they are familiar with the song and its beat. For some it may take them back to the party they attended last night, or a recent outing with friends. These are the same people that refuse to stand on their feet, clap, lift their hands and usher in the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. See the music makes them feel good, but they have not fully experienced the life-changing Love and Power of God firsthand. We must learn to believe. We must find a way to trust the Lord exchanging fear for faith and doubt for confident hope. We must have a new attitude about sharing the Love of God demonstrated through Jesus Christ. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

 

Isaiah 52:6-8 (NLT)

But I will reveal my name to my people, and they will come to know its power. Then at last they will recognize that I am the one who speaks to them. How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation,
the news that the God of Israelreigns! The watchmen shout and sing with joy, for before their very eyes they see the Lord returning to Jerusalem.”

 

God shows His Messengers the Power of His Name. If you will be His Voice, you will experience His Victory. God does everything for His Glory. If you are willing to tell others what the Lord has done for you, watch out. He will overflow your life with His Goodness and Favor because it is not returning void but productive. It is our job to tell others the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are missionaries no matter who we are or what our other profession is. Jesus is coming back and wants to take as many people as He can with Him to His Kingdom. You play a major role in securing souls. He has promised you overcoming power by His Blood and the Word of our Testimony. Our testimony is all the great things God has done for us. Nobody can do for you what the Lord will do to every part of our life surrendered to His Power for the Glory of His Namesake. Our son has had cancer four times in less than three years undergoing chemotherapy three times and now is on his fifth relapse and fourth round of chemotherapy yet his blood resembles that of someone who has never had cancer or chemo. With each dose, the resurrection Power of God through Jesus Christ in every cell causes it to recover so quickly that it has the doctor attention. It is that phenomenal. Maybe you are thinking yes, but he has had cancer four times. Yes, but the Lord has healed him four times. Our faith in God is stronger than it has ever been before. His Hand of Provision more evident than we have ever experienced. I cannot begin to tell you the ways that the Lord has revealed His Love, Mercy and Grace in our life throughout this ordeal and His Favor to match. My heart breaks with each diagnosis. His Comfort restores my joy each morning. My mind races to win over fear. God gives me something in His Word to hold on to that proves credible each time. I cannot begin to tell you what faith in God has done for us through our son’s battle against cancer. We would never have survived without Him! This is our testimony. I have no problem telling you or anyone else how Good and Great Our God is, but I did before it all happened. I was turned down just like so many others. I hate that our son has had to go through so much but he has endured and will to the very end. The Power of God is alive in him and working through him to the Glory of God. Somebody needs to shout! But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nationswill hear it; and then the end will come.The Blood of the Lamb and your testimony create the Resurrection Power in our life every day. If we would only strive to turn up the volume and use our voices to proclaim the Good News we have been given – I believe the Power of God would come back to our churches giving us a reason to turn it up louder and louder until His Kingdom comes!

 

Psalm 30:11-12 (NLT)

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

 

Psalm 96:1-3 (NLT)

Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

 

The Vital Church – A Devotion

Acts 2:41-47 (NKJV)

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

 

Is the church today vital? Acts 2 is a powerful account of the development of the church after Jesus Christ. However, the notion of ministry is just a greater representation of the life chosen by Jesus Christ and the twelve disciples that chose to follow Him during His Earthly Ministry. There is no argument that the ministry of Jesus Christ was most certainly vital in the lives of people. Acts opens with a now what? Jesus ascends to Heaven after appearing to His Disciples after the Resurrection and spending time with them, exhorting them and preparing them for life after He is gone. The orderly business of choosing another disciple to take the place of Judas Iscariot who forfeited his position and his own life has been decided and Mathias is chosen. Jesus has promised the arrival of the Holy Spirit will come as they wait in Jerusalem. One can only conclude that many were looking around saying, “Now what?” Without Jesus Christ to lead them, what were these followers of Jesus Christ to do? So they wait… The church today waits as well, but what are we waiting for?

Acts 2:1-4 describes the arrival of the Holy Spirit as Jesus Christ once again fulfills His Promise and sends His Spirit to empower His People. Peter is moved to exhort and encourage these people and fulfills the Lord’s Purpose as he spreads the foundation for the early church. (Matthew 16:18) Not bad for a new church, to begin with over 3,000 members. However, this would be no ordinary church. This early church was a vital church. The churches of today especially in America lack the vitality of the first church. When something is vital it pertains to life. But many churches lay dying in the aftermath of a poor economy and the fall of mighty men and women of God. A vital church is illuminated with remarkable energy. It shows signs of life and liveliness. The church is to be the source of life. It should be a source of life and necessary to existence. Effective ministry affects the existence, well-being and truth of something. It will make an impression of its surroundings. Things which are vital are of critical importance and the absence of such will cause an impact. Sadly this is not the state of the current day church. But I have great news, it can be. We can all be part of a vital, essential, necessary Body of Christ.

The essential ingredient to a thriving church that is pleasing to our God and exemplifies the ministry of Jesus Christ is people who are full of the Holy Spirit. A group of individuals who have truly repentant hearts that drives them to the foot of the Cross and binds them there as a necessity of life makes up this body of Believers. Their hearts are torn before the Lord and must maintain a humble position in His Presence to sustain life. How can such a broken position represent a powerful life? Our natural body is bound to death but our spirit in communion with God’s Spirit brings life. Humility also produces many life changes that make us agreeable with others. Selfishness is a divider of the church. The church was never intended to be about a group of people growing exclusively but rather a living breathing organization that constantly was regenerating lives and growing more disciples. The church was to be alive. A building cannot live. It was the people that brought life to the church by giving their lives. How did they do this? These people did not just embrace the Lord but others as well. It was a joining of lives seamlessly through a collaboration of the Spirit. No longer did they have personal lives but co-existed corporately. Other people became equally as important to them as their own existence. There were no elaborate programs or fancy buildings with its annual campaigns. It was a simple life – people loving people while chasing after God. It was this kind of thinking that pleased the Father. Signs and wonders followed this group as well as dreams and visions. Many may say that was then and this is now. I really do not think as finite human beings there is any way that we can quantify time in relation to Eternity. But God can! It is highly unlikely that His Purpose of the first church has changed over time, but we have changed the church.

There was a rich young ruler who once met Jesus. He longed to be with the Savior and follow Him. He inquired about such a position. This man believed in Jesus Christ. He had grown up in a home that had taught the Law of Moses rich with religion. He was a wealthy young man. In the midst of his inquiry Jesus revealed not only the heart of the man but what would become the heart of the church. “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:21-22) There is no condemnation in the voice of the Savior simply love. He has offered each of us this same position. It is an opportunity to be sold out to Jesus Christ. It is a ministry position. Yet many of us choose to return to the comforts of life rather than accept the call. The church lies in ruins as our lives prosper with the “things” of life rather than the “One Thing” we desire the most.

The church’s vitality rests in the heart of the people. The day of Pentecost marked a new era of ministry in the life of Jesus Christ. Through His Resurrection Power and relocation to Heaven, there was a great gift bestowed on His People. The Holy Spirit, a deposit of all the Power of the Kingdom of God would be given to us – mere humans. Like all great superheroes, the power was given only for good and never evil. But the price would be high. It would mean self-sacrifice. Jesus is coming back for His Church…even if there is not much left. He is shaking the church looking for life. His Spirit is of great enormity and was not emptied on the day of Pentecost alone. (Joel 2:28) Jesus promised His Spirit to all flesh which includes you and me.  It still flows from Heaven for those who desire it. Is that you today? Are you ready for your life to mean something? It will require giving it away – not only to Jesus but the world. Discipleship comes with a great cost. Those willing to give it will experience life. Your vitality found in Jesus Christ when fully committed to follow His Call will result in a vital church but it begins with each person. The Lord did not build His Church on concrete but in the human heart and until hearts change neither will the church. Be vital, essential, life-giving, and necessary with remarkable energy as a life source to the world. It requires your whole life but will gain Eternity!

Hebrews 3:4-6 (NKJV)

For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.

Life Coach

Matthew 18:18-20 (Message)

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

The day was cold, bitter and rainy not exactly perfect football weather. Tailgaters huddled under small canopies attempting to make the best of this momentous occasion. Raincoats and ponchos covered the colors of game day as the masses hurried into the warm, dry cover of the stadium concourse. Anxious to get out into the stadium, it was apparent that while many were here for the final game of the year even more were here to pay respects to a man who had clearly touched their life. “Thanks, Bobby!” was everywhere. Today would be the final football game for football legend, Bobby Bowden, to be the Head Coach of Florida State University as he walked into the next phase of his life – retirement. The bowl would see more fans that it had in history and even the cold, dreary weather would not stop loyal followers from paying respects to their hero.

It was clear that the people in the stands that day were captivated with seeing a glimpse of the great football coach. The game was a victory for Florida State. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, the clouds cleared and though still cold the sun began to shine over the field. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the crowd went wild. But the usual crush for the aisles did not happen, instead people stood with their eyes fixed on the field. The cheers and high fives ended and everyone just stood still. After attending many football games, it was a sight that could not go unnoticed. The victory celebration would wait for the last words from their favorite coach. It was time to hear from Bobby Bowden and his parting exhortation. Ironically, the sound would go in and out making it nearly impossible to hear those coveted words. It would be okay because this coach chose to live out the greatest final words ever spoken. The words spoken by Jesus Christ as He would leave this world behind – “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life…”

There are many good football coaches in the NCAA but there are some Godly ones. The Men of God who look beyond a young person’s athletic capabilities into their hearts to share with them the greatest gift that will take them farther than their human gifting ever will! Coaches and players of such individuals carry legacies that will last beyond Halls of Fame. These great coaches use their sphere of influence to introduce others to the Greatest Coach of all time – Jesus Christ. The One who can lead them to absolute victory each and every time. The One who can heal every injury both to body and soul. The One who will never leave them in a lifetime no matter what color jersey they choose to wear. These coaches make an eternal investment that comes from understanding that sports are games but souls are forever. In that moment in the breezy sunshine, I witnessed such a man who understood that He was just a football coach with a mission beyond recruiting great players, teaching plays and skills for the football game, and sending them on to fabulous careers. It shone on the faces of all the men and women in those stands whose lives He had touched. Jesus said, “If I am lifted up, I will draw men unto me.”(John 12:32) Those who are willing to share the love of Jesus Christ to others unconditionally will draw and captivate the attention of people.

Philippians 2:16-17 (NLT)

Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.

Jesus commissioned us all to share the Good News of the Gospel. Coaching is to instruct or advise. To disciple means to teach and to train. How clever that both terms mean essentially the same thing. There are life coaches and eternal disciplers. In the stadium that day while everyone looked on the field for a glimpse of Coach Bowden, I looked at their faces and realized that we all have the same call. As a Christian, I am a coach called to build and teach those destined for eternity. The question came to mind, “Have I been faithful with those God has placed around me?” When I reach final retirement and meet my Savior I long to hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” or maybe He will say, “Good job, coach!”