Thursday, March 31, 2011

Too Good

By Allen White


When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “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. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:12-17


Do you catch what Jesus is saying here? If Jesus is not too good to wash his disciples’ feet, then guess what? None of us is better than Jesus. Followers of Christ are not too good to serve other people. If nothing was beneath Jesus, then how could serving possibly be beneath us?


Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go to Africa or clean up after people who can’t care for themselves. But, it might. Often we are afraid to surrender to the will of God because we are afraid that God will require us to do something that we don’t want to do. I think being on the wrong side of God is far worse than anything we might be afraid that God would ask us to do.


I believe that God has uniquely wired each of us for a ministry that He has put us on this earth to accomplish. Our abilities, spiritual gifts, our education, our experiences, and even our personalities are specifically suited for what God has called us to do.


Maybe you’ve already found your ministry. If you haven’t, then I would encourage you to sign up for the PLACE class and see how all of this fits together for you.

 
But, there is another kind of service that all of us are called to do. I refer to this as “the ministry of doing what needs to be done.” Do you know someone who needs help? Help them. Do you know someone who needs to be encouraged? Encourage them. Do you know someone who is lonely? Listen to them. Do you know someone who has offended or harmed you? Forgive them. Okay, we were good until that last one.


But, think about this: Jesus has cleansed us. Jesus has forgiven us. Now, Jesus calls us to serve each other. Jesus calls us to forgive each other (Matthew 18:21-35). Wow, maybe Africa doesn’t sound so bad after all.


Who do you need to forgive? Maybe you’ve already tried to forgive them. How do you know if you’ve actually forgiven? When you can wish them well, you’ve forgiven. If you still secretly would like to see them get run over by a bus, then you haven’t. If you can’t get past the hurt, then ask God to help you forgive. He is an expert at forgiveness.




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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mean Christians

By Allen White


“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”


Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. John 13:9-11


Have you ever wondered why Christians can do such outrageous things? How can people belong to Christ and be so mean to other people? How can they knock other people down to put themselves ahead? How can they do what they do when no one else is looking? Maybe they’re not Christians at all.


Peter jumps from refusing Jesus to asking for the full spa treatment. Jesus took the opportunity of Peter’s impulsivity to reveal a spiritual truth.


Those who belong to Christ are spiritually clean (Hebrews 9:14). But, not everyone in the group necessarily belongs to Christ. Even among the twelve only eleven genuinely belonged to Christ. Judas did not.


Some would say that Judas had belonged to Christ and backslid. Others would say that Judas never chose Christ, or that Christ had never chosen Judas. Either way, in the end, Judas was out. Could he have repented? Absolutely. Did he? We don’t know. Was Judas following God’s will by betraying Jesus?


We know from prophecy and from Jesus Himself that His betrayal would take place. If Judas hadn’t betrayed Jesus, then someone else would have. Did God create Judas solely to betray Jesus? Honestly, I don’t think it’s that cut and dry. Often when we simplify the complexity of God’s work, we make God to be less than who He is.


So, where are you today? Have you surrendered your heart and life to God? Do you belong to Christ? Or do you just fit into the church culture? Being in church doesn't make you a Christian any more than being in a barn makes you a cow or being in a hangar makes you a pilot.


But, how do you really know that you’re saved? Have you prayed to receive Christ? (Romans 10:9-10) Do you have a desire to follow Christ? (Ephesians 2:1-5) If you don’t, then that would be something to pray about.


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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Don’t Even Think About It

By Allen White


[Jesus] came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”


Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”


“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”


Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” John 13:6-8


To be clean, you have to acknowledge that you’re dirty. To receive forgiveness you must admit that you need forgiving. Peter wasn’t too good to have his feet washed. He just didn’t feel good enough to have Jesus wash his feet.


It’s not that Peter’s feet were clean. He had collected plenty of dust in his sandals along the way. It’s not that Peter had never had his feet washed. Foot-washing was as common then as a shoe shine was 50 years ago. Peter’s issue was not with the what. His issue was with the who.


Peter would have let a servant wash his feet. He would have been completely comfortable with someone of lower stature bending down to cleanse his tootsies. But, the Son of God? That made Peter uncomfortable. Jesus tipped social convention on its ear. The Greatest was doing the work of the least.


While most of us would do anything for anyone in need, sometimes it’s difficult to receive help. We would give the shirt off our back, but to take someone else’s shirt is another matter. It all comes down to pride.


The self-righteous, like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), think that they don’t need Christ’s sacrifice. They don’t appreciate God’s grace. They might even take it for granted, because the dark side never seemed that dark. If we can live our lives well on our own, then why do we need Jesus?


The reality is that none of us can live our lives well enough. All of us have fallen short (Romans 3:23), probably more than we care to admit. If we feel self-righteous and better than other believers, then we’ve overly focused on avoiding obvious sin and carefully ignored hidden sin. Whether you’re dirty on the outside or dirty on the inside, you need to be cleansed.


I see this with men addicted to pornography. It’s addictive like a spiritual crack cocaine. It’s deceiving. “I can quit any time. This doesn’t control me.” Here’s the reality: if you could quit on your own, you would have. You’re not going to break this one on your own and just confessing to God won’t break it either. You’ve already done that and look where you are.


To break an addiction to anything: porn, food, internet, alcohol, drugs, work or whatever else, you have to humble yourself and confess to another person. James 5:16 says,


“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”


If you want to be healed, you must confess to another believer. After all, we are only as sick as our secrets. Wouldn’t it be great to be free?


Where do you need to be cleansed today? What do you need to confess? Who feels like a safe person to confess to? Don’t keep yourself in bondage for another day.


Once you’ve confessed, here are a couple of resources that can help you:


Celebrate Recovery: brookwoodchurch.org/celebraterecovery or celebraterecovery.com


Faithful Eyes: faithfuleyes.org


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Monday, March 28, 2011

Do You Know Who You Are?

By Allen White


The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:2-5


My son and I sat at the counter in a diner at the Baltimore airport. One of the servers was wrapping silverware in napkins and asked my son if he wanted to help. I told him that was a pretty good Tom Sawyer strategy there.


The server told me that he used to manage the cafeteria at the Rayburn House Office Building in D.C. I asked him if any members of Congress gave him any trouble. He said the representatives were fine, but their staffs were a pain. If things didn’t go their way, they would puff up their chests and announce, “You don’t know who I work for.” (If I was the cafeteria manager, I would be thinking “And, you don’t know if I spit in your food.”)


 The truly powerful people, the representatives of the people, knew who they were. They knew why they were there and how quickly they could get a one way ticket home. The staffers, well, nobody had voted for them. They lacked the same perspective.


Jesus knew who He was. Jesus could pick up a towel or pick up a cross and know He was and is Almighty God. No menial task could ever lessen His significance. Jesus, “who, being in the nature of God…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7). Insecure people have difficulty serving others. They can’t take the backseat. They must take center stage. But, those who know who they are can allow others to shine.


Jesus Christ was not a self-promoter. If anything, He was a self-demoter. Jesus knew who He was. He had nothing to prove. He had nothing to lose. He could freely love and give His all. Jesus didn’t need an ego and an entourage to make Him feel big. You couldn’t get any bigger than Jesus.


As followers of Jesus Christ, how are we tempted to promote ourselves? When, out of insecurity, are we tempted to make ourselves larger than we really are? What are we too good to do anymore?


You and I are not better than our Savior. When we feel that we need to be, then we have forgotten who we really are.




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Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Full Extent of God’s Love

By Allen White


It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. John 13:1


As Americans, we enjoy certain unalienable rights (sic) endowed by our Creator. Our founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence called for the end of tyranny and for the freedom of all people. As much as we enjoy these rights over time they had to be defended and protected by diplomacy and often by force. These aren’t rights that everyone respects.




Conflicts around the world for thousands of years have stemmed from people infringing on the divinely endowed rights of others. If these rights aren’t constantly protected, they can quickly disappear.


By the time Passover arrived, Jesus’ mission was nearly complete. His “hour” was at hand. This was the very reason that He came (John 12:27). His mission was to judge the world, to defeat the devil, and to be lifted up (John 12:31-32). This victory would be won once and forever. This battle would never need to be fought again. Jesus’ work was final.


The third sentence of this verse is worth noticing: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Who were “His own”? The immediate context might suggest that these were only His disciples, yet other references in John point to a much larger group.


John starts his gospel talking about “His own”:


“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:10-13).


The qualifications for God’s own people were redefined. Acceptance into God’s family was no longer limited to one race. Anyone who receives Christ is part of “His own,” including anyone reading these words.


The promise is that Jesus will love us to “the end.” The cross pronounced the end of sin and death. God’s love for us provides the way of salvation. God’s love also provides the ability to live for Him until the end of this life.


We don’t need to fight for our souls. Christ fought for us and won. We don’t need to exhaust ourselves trying to overcome sin and the flesh. Christ is victorious. As we depend on Christ that victory is ours.


How are you feeling? Maybe a little defeated today? Maybe it’s time to remind the devil of his bad news: He lost and Jesus won. Let Jesus win in your life today.


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Absence Makes the Heart Grow…Forgetful

By Allen White


Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25


But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13

There’s an old phrase that says “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I don’t know that it’s true. From my experience, it seems that absence makes the heart grow forgetful. There’s a story about a college girlfriend in there, but I’m not going to bore you with that.


The writer of Hebrews penned this letter to Jewish Christians who were leaning toward abandoning Christ and returning to the Old Covenant (Hebrews 4:1-11). What was familiar to them was overcoming their newfound faith. The writer’s job was to show them how much better the New Covenant was. (It’s an interesting study just to count the number of times the writer uses “better” in the book of Hebrews.)


Meeting together and encouraging go hand in hand. When believers are together faith is renewed. Lives are refocused on Christ. Fears are eased. Courage is gained to face what is next.


Left to ourselves, we don’t do so well. The cares of this world creep in. Even those of us who pride ourselves as “good soil” (Matthew 13:1-23) find that there are more thorns growing up than we care to acknowledge. We were not meant to live our lives alone. God intends for us to do life together.


Now, our faith can be encouraged by meeting together with several thousand fellow believers on Sunday morning. We sing together. We receive powerful teaching. We might even have a few brief conversations in the concourse. But, the early church added one more element to their weekly meeting.


According to Acts 5:42, they met in temple courts (think: Sunday mornings) and they met house to house (think: small group). Meeting people on Sunday morning is like drinking out of a firehouse. It could happen, it’s just a challenge. There are many ways to connect at Brookwood Church: small groups, BrookwoodU, Brookwood Rec, BWomen, MOB (Men of Brookwood), Singles, Brookwood Young Couples, Impact for Young Adults, Praise Choir, Serve Teams, and the list goes on.


How are you intentionally connecting with other believers on a weekly basis? I mentioned in my message a few weeks ago that I am an introvert. Left to myself, I tend to seek quiet and aloneness. But, what is comfortable to me does not help me grow spiritually.


So, I intentionally started a small group two years ago. We meet every Wednesday for lunch. I didn’t know any of the guys in my group before the group started. Today, you couldn’t pull us apart if you tried.


How can you encourage someone today? Do it. Right now.


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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Great Escape

by Allen White


After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18


What if we could leave all of our problems behind? One day we will.


One day the national debt will be a thing of the past. Evil will be eliminated. Terrorism will find a peaceful end. Every disease will be eradicated, and every body will be healthy. Everything that everyone on the planet is fighting over will become a moot point. Protesters will give praise.


The life we live on this earth is not forever, but there is a life that is everlasting (1 John 5:11). Those of us who belong to Christ are destined for another place (John 14:2). The time we spend on earth is just a drop in the bucket.


This doesn’t mean that we should start living irresponsibly. We shouldn’t rack up debt because “Jesus paid it all.” That’s not where these thoughts are going.


One day, when we least expect it, God is going to take us home. It may just be one of us at a time or it could be the day when God takes us all at once. We will shed the worries and limitations of these bodies and this planet. We will be at home with God.


I must admit, this is not something that I think about very much. It’s easy to become so overwhelmed with life that we completely lose perspective. Newscasters tell us all of the bad news. News commentators keep our glasses half-full. But, there is a life that is deeper than all of the busyness we face on the surface.


We gain glimpses of eternal life when we connect with God in worship. For some, worship is accompanied by music. For others, we connect with God in nature, by serving, through study, or in a rigorous theological debate.


When we look into the faces of young children and see their unbridled joy, we get a sense of the life God intends for us. But, we got so serious. And, there are serious things that we are responsible for.
Julian of Norwich put it well, “What God most wants is to see you smile because you know how much God loves you.”


I hope you smile today.


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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When You Need More than Romans 8 Verse 28

by Allen White


We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3


In Paul’s letters to the churches, the word “encouragement” is often accompanied by sending a person. Somehow encouragement couldn’t be adequately delivered long distance. There is no encouragement without an encourager. The Thessalonians needed encouragement. Timothy was the encourager.


As believers, we can fulfill both parts of the equation. Sometimes we need encouragement. We need to know that someone cares about us. We don’t need someone to fix our problems. We just need someone to help us process our problems. We need someone to help us escape from our stinkin’ thinkin’. We need more than a recitation of Romans 8:28 and a pat on the head. We need Jesus with skin on to be there for us.


Who encourages you? Who prays for you? Every believer needs at least one person in his/her life who loves you, but is not impressed with you. If you don’t have that person, then ask God to bring that person into your life. Sooner or later, you will need that 2 a.m. phone call. Whose number is it?


We can also be the encourager. A quote I often overuse is from Chuck Swindoll, “Every person you see is a person in need of encouragement” -- believe it or not. Whether they look like they have it all together or they look like a mess, they need your encouragement.


One of the best places that I’ve found to give and receive encouragement is in a small group. Why do we need such a formal group of friends? A small group has the express purpose of pointing us back to God’s Word. It’s intentional. It’s on purpose. Left to ourselves, we tend to drift. Our group can get us back on course.


If you’re not in a small group, then find one. With all the DVD curriculum out there these days, you don’t need a “teacher.” The DVD provides the teaching. I would recommend that you find a few people that you actually like and start there.


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Monday, March 21, 2011

We Win, So Stop Living Like You’re Defeated

by Allen White


But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 (NLT)


Okay, we’ll start this morning with a little etymology lesson (not entomology – that’s bugs). The word enthuse, is built on the Greek word for God, theos. To be enthused is literally to be “in God.” That’s a lot to be enthused about.


Paul’s last word in this letter to the Corinthian church follows a very long passage about the hope of future resurrection. The short of these 58 verses is “We win, so stop living like you’re defeated.” Nothing done for God goes to waste.


Are you living like a winner or a loser? Some say, “Well, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose…” Yeah, losers say that. You’re a winner. You don’t have to worry about losing.


We can even afford to be enthusiastic when things don’t appear to be going our way, because in the end, we win. We can be generous with forgiveness, because sin has been defeated, and we’ve been forgiven for all of our sins (Ephesians 4:32). We can be generous with our earthly resources, because God has generously provided for us and has much better things in store in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20). Rick Warren puts it this way, “It’s not a sin to be rich, but it might be a sin to die rich.”


We can be enthusiastic about our prayers, because we know that they will be answered (Psalm 17:6). Or, we can watch a lot of cable news, get ourselves worked up into a frenzy that the country’s going to H-E-double hockey sticks in a hand basket, and dig a bomb shelter or something. Put a helmet on!


But, we’ve won. This is an occasion for excessive jubilation in all that we do. God is with us. We are in God. We are en-thused.


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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Are We Working Hard at the Right Things?

by Allen White


I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. Romans 1:11-12


Often we shy away from talking about our faith. The assumption is that while we know that we’re inadequate, we assume that everyone else is adequate. We think “They don’t have the struggles that I have. They don’t have the doubts I wrestle with. They don’t lack the commitment that I do.” Guess what? We’re not so different.


Every believer struggles with something. It’s part of having a spiritual nature and a sinful nature simultaneously working inside you (Romans 7:21-25). If we weren’t saved, it wouldn’t be as much of a struggle, well, unless we got caught. Our struggle is normal. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I’m normal.” Bear in mind, we’re unsure of the definition.


Don’t get me wrong. We can talk the spiritual talk. But, the question is: Are we working hard to maintain a religious culture or are we being transformed? Many of our discipleship strategies tend to make us more like the Pharisees than like Jesus’ disciples.


In many Christian gatherings, there are a couple of pink elephants in the room. First, as Rick Warren says, “Everyone is in one of three situations. You’re either in a problem, coming out of a problem, or about to have a problem.” There is no problem-free option. Christians have problems.


The other pastel pachyderm is that every one of us has a measure of faith, but if we share it, we think we’ll be accused of being super-spiritual. Every one of us has a deep need to share that faith with others, and to be encouraged by each other’s faith. This is what Paul looked forward to sharing with the Roman believers.


But, how do you start that? Do you walk up to a Christian friend and say, “Let me encourage you with my faith”? That’s kind of weird. Maybe the conversation goes like this: What is God teaching you these days? What prayers have you seen answered? How has God used you to help someone else? Then, look for real answers, not Sunday school answers.


We can talk about everything else under the sun. “Who’s going to win American Idol? Boy, it’s a nice day. Man, this pollen is killing me. What athlete got traded where?” When do you make space to talk about the most important thing in your life, your connection with God?


Maybe the first step is to share this devotional with a Christian friend, and ask them what they think. Let these words erase some of the awkwardness.


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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rainbow Falls or Bust

By Allen White


You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:36


On a beautiful Saturday a few weeks ago, our family decided to go on a hike at Jones Gap. We didn’t have a trail map, but we had a trail head and that was good enough. Our little clan of five, the youngest is three, headed out. And then, we reached a fork in the road.


The blue trail was five miles long. The red trail was shorter and led to Rainbow Falls. The kids were all for it. We set out like Dora the Explorer: across the streams, up the mountain, to the waterfall. About 30 minutes later, legs were beginning to ache. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.


I began to interview hikers on their way down the mountain. They confirmed that the falls were too far for them (no three-year-olds in their pack), but the top of the mountain had a great view. So, we were off to the top of the mountain.


We climbed higher and higher, but we weren’t quite reaching the very top of the mountain. I asked another hiker how much higher the trail went. He told me that we were about as high as we would go, but that the falls were only five minutes ahead. What?


With renewed momentum, our family made our way to Rainbow Falls. There was jubilation. “We did it. We did it. We did it. Hurrah!” But, what had we done?



 
Once we made it back to the car (only 80 minutes after the trails were closed, but who’s counting?), I decided to investigate what we did. I discovered that we had hiked for five miles, ascended 1,000 feet, and had conquered a “strenuous” hike. It’s a good thing we didn’t know that going in. “We can’t do that Rainbow Falls trail. It’s a strenuous hike. Our kids are nine, five and three. We’d better stay on the easy trail to Jones Gap Falls.” You know what I’m saying.


As a result of that day, our family is ready for another hike. We probably won’t conquer the “highly strenuous” trek to the top of Table Rock just yet. But, we are confident in tackling anything that is strenuous or less. Not a bad start for a three-year-old.


Going into our hike, we knew that we were going to hike at Jones Gap. We didn’t know exactly what to expect. We didn’t know exactly where we were going. We didn’t always believe that we would go the whole way. But, we kept going.


Our lives are much the same. As believers, we know that we will follow God. We know that we want to fulfill God’s vision for our lives. We don’t know all of the twists and turns. We don’t know how far there is to go or what obstacles we might face. But, what we do know is that God has a plan, and we’re in it.


What seems impassable in your life these days? Where are you running out of steam? What appears too strenuous to climb? Don’t give up. The payoff might be just around the corner.




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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Impossible Possibility of Forgiveness

By Allen White


Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32


What would the church look like if every believer put this verse into practice? What if you did?


There are two ways to read this verse. There is a guilt-inducing way to read this verse that goes like this: “God forgave you, so you’d better start forgiving other people, before God decides to take His forgiveness back.” When we make this verse a “have to” instead of a “want to,” we create a heavy burden.


Fortunately, there is a life-giving way to read this verse: “God’s forgiveness enables us to show kindness and compassion to others and to forgive each other.” That’s not so bad, except that when people hurt us, we tend to want them to “pay” a little bit first.


Forgiveness seldom comes easy. Some things seem nearly impossible to forgive: insults and abuses, betrayal and injustice are more than a little difficult to get past. What are we supposed to do?


If we back track a few days in these devotionals, we understand that this verse came about because God’s Spirit inspired it and intended for us to read it.


We also see that God’s Spirit lives in us. When we are at odds with other people, the Spirit will bring a verse like this to mind, or beat us over the head, whichever we need.


The third piece is that the Spirit possesses the power that raised Christ from the dead. Jesus, who lived a perfect life and never sinned, forgave the sins of the entire world, and was raised from the dead by the Spirit’s power. Is it harder for us to forgive than for Christ to overcome death, hell and the grave?


Now, don’t get all tied up in knots. Put this before God. “God, you know what they did to me. You know how I feel about them. You know what kind of people they are. Yet, Your Word directs me to forgive them as part of Your vision for my life. I don’t know how to do that. I need You, Lord, by Your Spirit to help me, because this is not something that I could possibly do on my own.”


Pray a prayer like that, and then pay attention to what happens next. God will prove Himself to you. God will provide a way. God will help you. It works every time.


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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

All the Power You Need

By Allen White


But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8:10-11


I’m often frustrated that I’m not a better Christian. I committed my life to Christ almost 40 years ago. Why am I not further along?


Some things in Scripture are just so contrary to my nature. Take for instance: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (James 1:19). Now, put that verse in reverse, and I’ve got it nailed: quick to get angry, quick to speak, slow to listen. It’s much easier.


Yet, God didn’t give us a book of rules that is impossible for us to follow. Well, let me put that a different way. God gave us a task that is too much to accomplish on our own: to conform to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Sure, we can try harder, but after a while, we just run out of steam. (Anyone broken any New Year’s resolutions lately?) So, what are we supposed to do?


God has already given us the power to achieve His will for us. The same Spirit who inspired God’s Word to be written (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21) is the same Spirit who lives in us (Romans 8:9). This is also the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead. Read that again. The Spirit of God who lives in every believer is the same power that raised Christ from the dead. What could we not accomplish with that?


One of our small group leaders, Shane, was advised by his doctor three years ago to undergo weight loss surgery. That wasn’t the first thing that Shane wanted to do. But, as time passed, he learned that he would need to start medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. But, he really didn’t want to start taking medication.


Shane chose to lose the weight instead – on his own. He started watching what he ate and exercising. In just a couple of months, 30 pounds fell off. Then, he got stuck.


By his own admission, his self-control got 30 pounds off, but couldn’t get him any further. Shane turned to God and prayed, “Lord, if you will help me, then I will work to get the rest of this weight off.” It’s been seven months now since Shane first started his weight loss. He has lost 101 pounds. His blood pressure is lower. His cholesterol is lower. He’s never taken any medication. Shane’s willingness and God’s power have transformed his life.


You have the power you need to fulfill God’s vision for your life. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead lives in you. What is impossible for God?


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Monday, March 14, 2011

Water Offering Total

The 3,976 folks at Brookwood Church gave a total of $4,186 yesterday to provide fresh water to 4,186 people through Water of Life. What an awesome day! One person giving one dollar can change the life of one person in West Africa or India. Not $1 per month, or $1 per year, but $1 provides fresh water for the next 20 years. (Not a typo)

If you would like to get involved with Water of Life: http://www.givefreshwater.org

The Spirit Reveals God’s Vision for Your Life

By Allen White


For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:14-16


The Holy Spirit is not just the possession of Charismatics. You don’t have to speak in tongues to be Spirit-filled. God gives His Spirit to every believer, and then God gives spiritual gifts (charismata) to every believer as well (1 Corinthians 12:7).


In fact, according to this verse, if you do not possess the Holy Spirit, then you cannot be God’s child. Don’t worry. There aren’t any snakes involved.


Let’s put something together. Going back to yesterday’s devotional, we understand that the Holy Spirit inspired and directed the writing of the Bible. Add to that the fact that the Holy Spirit lives within every believer. This means that the same Spirit that inspired Scripture to be written lives inside you and me.


When we, as Spirit-filled people, pick up God’s Spirit-inspired Word, an amazing dynamic takes place. Sometimes it seems that words jump off of the page. Sometimes we read things that somehow we never seemed to read before, though we’ve read the passages many times. God speaks to us through His Word. But, before you get nervous about that, there is a backup.


Scholars and theologians have been writing about and interpreting the Bible for thousands of years. If we come up with something that contradicts what orthodox scholars teach, then we need to make sure that it was the Holy Spirit speaking, and not just indigestion. A quick scan of the notes in a study Bible is a great indicator of whether we’re hearing right.


The Bible was written for us. The Bible wasn’t written to us, but it was written for us. That’s why it’s good to learn about the different types of literature in the Bible and how to interpret it. This is where a BrookwoodU class could be helpful.


As you sit down with your Bible, start by praying and asking God to reveal His truth by His Spirit. Then, pay attention to what you read. What thoughts enter your mind? How do you feel about what you are reading? What do the words prompt you to do? Then, do it.


Reading the Bible is a powerful and supernatural exchange. There is no other book like it.


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Sunday, March 13, 2011

God's Vision for Your Life

If you missed my message, God's Vision for Your Life, today, it will be available online at http://www.brookwoodchurch.org/mediaplayer on Monday morning.

If you'd like to contribute to Water of Life and provide fresh drinking water to people in West Africa and India: http://www.givefreshwater.org

God bless,
Allen

The Bible Reveals God’s Vision for Your Life

By Allen White


For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21


I love books. Like some people love chocolate, I love books. At any given time, I am in the middle of six or more books. Always. So, you can imagine that over the years, I’ve collected quite a few books.


So many books, in fact, that when we moved into the new offices at Brookwood Church, there wasn’t enough room in my office for all of my books and me. My books are in my office, in my house, in my garage, and in other people's offices.

What do I read? I’m so glad that you asked. I read books on leadership, discipleship, spiritual formation, sales and marketing, reference, theology, commentaries, novels – all kinds of pastor/leader/teacher sorts of things.
 Most of my books were written by one author. Sometimes there is a co-author. But, among my sets of biblical commentaries there are many authors and a general editor. Since each book is written by a different scholar, the general editor makes sure that the whole thing makes sense together. You don’t want a legalist interpreting James, and then an antinomian translating Galatians in the same set of books. That would be confusing. The thoughts have to flow.


I have one book that was written by 40 authors over 1,500 years on three continents in three different languages. It has no general author. How could it? The writing took 40 generations to complete. That book is the Bible.


The Bible is a remarkable book. Using the personalities and experiences of the writers, the Holy Spirit led them to compose different elements to reveal God’s vision for our lives.


Both kings and peasants wrote of grace and redemption. A murderer reveals the origins of the universe (Genesis). A tax collector translates Jesus to a Jewish audience (Matthew). A terrorist leads us down the Romans Road of God’s grace.


No one could have planned the Bible. There were no cheat sheets as to what should be written next.


We aren’t told everything that we want to know, but we are given everything that we need to know. Are these the end times? We don’t know that. What we do know is that God has given us His power to win the lost (Acts 1:6-8). But, what about all of this turmoil in the Middle East? Is that a sign?


If it is a sign, it points us to look up from the internet and look across the street to our neighbor who needs Christ. The answers to their problems are found in God’s Word.


God’s Word is alive and active. It’s not a dusty old book. The Bible is the bestselling book of all-time, yet it’s nearly 2,000 years old.


What do you need to hear from God today? The Bible reveals God’s vision for your life.


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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Putting Yourself Forward Only Moves You Backward

By Allen White


Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews. Esther 10:3


Mordecai now occupied the spot that Haman once held (Esther 3:1). What Haman scratched and fought to attain, Mordecai was given as a reward for his faithfulness. The last person was now in a high position, the one putting himself first, Haman, was no more. The end of the story is poetic. The good guy finished first. The one who did the right thing got the reward. It was just. It was also Christ-like.


Jesus didn’t come to be served, even though God Almighty deserves our service. Jesus came as a servant to seek and save the lost (Matthew 20:28). When His disciples argued over who deserved what, Jesus very clearly explained that in His kingdom putting yourself forward only moves you backward, but the guy at the end of the line is better positioned to lead (Matthew 19:30).


Mordecai supported Esther and guided her along the way (Esther 2:7). Mordecai reported the plot to assassinate the king (Esther 2:19-23). Mordecai mourned the plight of his people (Esther 4). The humility of sackcloth and ashes brought about the power to save God’s people.


Our temptation is to self-promote and to brag about what we have done and what we can do. This is opposite to Jesus’ attitude:


“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:3-7).


I don’t add this verse to shame us. God’s way is completely different from how we are wired. This is part of our fallenness. But, God doesn’t leave us there.


Rather than beating ourselves up with Paul’s words about Jesus, ask God to build this kind of character in your life. Granted, God often uses opposite situations to forge our characters. Surrendering to God is a dangerous prayer. But, depending on ourselves is far more dangerous.


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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I'm Speaking at Brookwood Church This Sunday

If you live in or around Simpsonville, South Carolina, I will be speaking this Sunday, March 13 at Brookwood Church on "God's Vision for Your Life." Services are at 9, 10:30 & 11:59 am. For directions: brookwoodchurch.org.



Don't forget to "Spring Forward" this weekend. We lose one hour of sleep on Saturday night as we move our clocks forward one hour. Free coffee is available in the concourse.

The Beauty of Being Back Into a Corner

By Allen White


On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them. The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those determined to destroy them. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them. And all the nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king’s administrators helped the Jews, because fear of Mordecai had seized them. Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful.


The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them.


So the king commanded that this be done. An edict was issued in Susa, and they impaled the ten sons of Haman.


Meanwhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder. This happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy. Esther 9:1-5, 14, 16-17, 19, 26


The Jews no longer feared the people. Instead, the people feared the Jews. Rather than the palace officials apprehending Mordecai, they were advocating for him. In fact, many of the people who once despised the Jews, now became Jews (Esther 9:17). The tide had turned. Just days before, a Jewish identity was a death sentence, now it was a badge of courage and strength.


The secret weapon of God’s people has never been their prowess or their military might. Their battles were never won on superior strategy or a show of force. The strength of God’s people has always been their God. No one else could have engineered a scheme to deliver them. In fact, the odds were completely stacked against them.


If not for God’s grace, the courage of a beauty queen, and the encouragement of her cousin, the Jewish people would have perished that day. Instead, God’s intervention brought victory on the scheduled day of their defeat. God was the only explanation for their deliverance. That’s the beauty of being backed into a corner and having no options.


When we are completely stuck and have no answers, when we’ve tried everything that we can think of, when we’re consulted every person that we know, when we’re at a complete loss, then we’re ready for God to work. Now, we could certainly ask God sooner, but many of us are not wired that way.


When God is the only one who can deliver us, then it’s very clear that God is our deliverer. No one else can claim the credit. No one else receives the glory. It all goes to God.


What corner do you find yourself backed into today? Have you exhausted all of your ideas and all of your resources? Don’t despair. You’re in a perfect place for God to help you. Just ask Him.




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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Thou Shalt Party

By Allen White


For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them. Esther 8:16-17


The king’s second edict was cause for a party. The Jewish people celebrated that day, and every year since. Purim, named for the lots cast by Haman to determine the date of the massacre (Esther 3:7), has occurred around the 15th of March every year since (March 20th for 2011).


A careful reading of Scripture will show that God commanded many parties: Passover (Exodus 12), Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25), the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16), and others. Why would God mandate parties? It seems like God’s commands come across more like “Thou Shalt Not…” rather than “Thou Shalt Party…” In God’s eyes, celebrations are just as important as surrender.


How do you celebrate God’s goodness in your life? What has God’s grace accomplished in your life? So often we focus so much on what’s going wrong that we forget about what’s going right.


George Buttrick, author of the book, Prayer, tells this story:

“A lecturer to a group of businessmen displayed a sheet of white paper in which was one blot. He asked what they saw. All answered, “A blot.” The test was unfair; it invited the wrong answer. Nevertheless, there is an ingratitude in human nature by which we notice the black disfigurement and forget the widespread mercy. We need to deliberately call to mind the joys of our journey. Perhaps we should try to write down the blessings of one day. We might begin: we could never end: there are not pens or paper enough in all the world. The attempt would remind us of our ‘vast treasure of content.’”


 Are you focused on the small blot in your life? Take a moment and look at all of the clean, white space around the blot. The white space represents God’s blessings. If the blot seems large and daunting, then take a step back. See it’s smaller now.


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Monday, March 7, 2011

God Never Wastes a Hurt

By Allen White


The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies. The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. Esther 8:11-12


The king’s edict brought about a radical new turn of events. Now instead of the Jewish people fearing their captors and neighbors, they were charged with defending themselves. It was probably wise that the king allowed the Jews to defend themselves. After all, their enemies probably hadn’t had time to check their email or twitter since they were busy preparing for battle. If word hadn’t reached those who were planning to attack, then the edict really made no difference at all.


Now, instead of being sitting ducks on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month according to the first edict (Esther 3:13), the Jews would experience the other side of the coin. The day that was intended for their destruction would now be a day of victory. God turned things around.


One of my favorite verses in the Bible comes from the story of Joseph in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Satan’s plan is to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10), but God has other plans.


Over the years, I have witnessed people who have suffered the pain of divorce reach out to others who are experiencing divorce. I’ve seen drug addicts and ex-cons, deal with their addictions and help others find recovery. Our enemy intends to destroy us. God intends to deliver us, and those around us.


A few years ago, several of our members lost their spouses. We didn’t have a Grief Recovery group in place at our church in California at that time, but I knew that we needed to do something. I ordered the curriculum, but had no idea who would lead the group.


The curriculum arrived on a Monday morning. Later that morning, I received a communication card that someone put in the offering the previous day. The card said, “My husband died in a car accident while I was pregnant with triplets, then I lost one of the triplets. If anyone needs help dealing with their grief, I am available to help. Brandy.” I had never heard of this person before. I was dumbfounded. I looked at the box of grief curriculum, and then I looked at the card in my hand. Then, back at the box, then back at the card. Only God could have put this together.


After a quick check to see who knew Brandy and could vouch for her, I called Brandy and told her the story. She told me about the painful events of her life and how God’s people had come to her aid. A church she didn’t attend supplied three of everything she needed for her new babies. Brandy was ready to bless others out of her tragedy.


Paul writes, “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God certainly enabled Brandy to use the comfort she had received to comfort others.


How has the enemy intended to destroy you? What things have hateful people done to try to do you in physically or emotionally? There is a sweet sense of victory, when we can turn these things around on the enemy and use our painful experiences to glorify God. How can the pain on your life help another person and glorify God today?






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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Never Assume

By Allen White


Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him.


“If it pleases the king,” she said, “and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?”


King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have impaled him on the pole he set up. Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.” Esther 8:3-8


Haman’s plot had been exposed, and he was punished by death (Esther 7:9-10). Haman’s estate was given to Esther to be run by Mordecai (Esther 8:7). This was certainly a surprising turn of events. For a queen who was hesitant to enter the presence of her king out of fear for her life, her brave actions paid off. But, one thing remained undone.


Even though the king understood Haman’s motivation to eliminate the Jews, the edict was still in place. The king knew the truth, but his kingdom did not. Esther made another bold entrance into the king’s court.


This time she was warmly received. Esther had kept the king from making the egregious error of killing all of the Jews, helped him avoid public humiliation, and allowed him to sleep at night. She had enough credit in the bank that she didn’t fear approaching the king this time.


Esther didn’t assume that the matter would be resolved. She took action to assure that the edict would be revoked and her people would be protected. It’s easy to assume if everyone appears to be in agreement that a decision has been made and action will be taken. But, if Esther hadn’t enter the king’s court the second time, then all of her efforts would have been in vain. Sure, Haman was dealt with, but his plan would have continued on as prescribed.


While you would think that the king would have acted on his own immediately, that assumption would have been the end of Esther’s people. Clear communication trumps assumption every time.


How many times has an assumption led to disappointment or conflict? You assumed that the other person understood things like you did. You assumed that after the conversation that they would do the right thing. You assumed that they would use their God-given common sense. Never assume.


What open loops do you have today? What were you expecting to be accomplished that’s still pending? Have you checked in with that person to see what’s happening? Maybe it fell off of their radar. Maybe it’s wasn’t as important to them as it was to you. Now, don’t get all obsessive and controlling. Ask, but only once.






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