Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Was Jesus Created?

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:15-20

The idea of Jesus being the “firstborn over all creation” is a little confusing, especially when you consider that God is three in one (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) (Matthew 28:19-20) and that God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). So, let’s look at the context of this passage.

The Colossian church held a belief that spirit is good and matter (stuff) is evil. Without getting too deep here, this belief basically made an excuse for why people are sinful. They held that the spirit is the only part that is eternal. It’s the only part going to Heaven. The spirit is our good part. So, according to this belief, the body was the bad part. They sinned because that’s what their bodies did. Bad body. Shame on you body. But, the body was going to burn anyway, so it didn’t matter. The body couldn’t taint the spirit, so their actions were justified and their souls were saved.

There are many problems with this belief. First, we are whole beings. Sure there is a difference between the physical and spiritual parts of our being, but it’s all connected. We can get ulcers worrying about something that will never happen. Our brains are actually physically configured according to our thought patterns. We are an entire being, not just the sum of our parts.

The second problem here is that everything that God made was good (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). Jesus was not part of that creation. Jesus was the Creator. The idea of “firstborn” has more to do with Christ’s authority over creation. Just like a firstborn prince would have authority over his father’s kingdom, Jesus is equal to God Himself and has authority over everything.

If anyone needed proof that Jesus was exactly who He said He was, the Son of God, this is the passage that proves it. Paul doesn’t pull any punches here.

So, what does this mean for those of us who aren’t struggling with Docetism or Gnosticism? Simply put, Jesus is more powerful than any other force in the universe. Whatever scares us, whatever worries us, or whatever threatens us is under the authority of Christ. Here’s the great thing about that: Jesus Christ lives in everyone who belongs to Him.

What are you up against today? What threatens you? What worries you? Turn it over to Jesus. He has the power to make a difference.

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I'm speaking at Brookwood Church

Hey, if any of you are around Greenville, SC this weekend, I am speaking at Brookwood Church on Sunday, July 4, 9, 10:30 and 11:59 am. I'd love to see you there.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When God Became Real for Me

the Father…has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:12-14

I have been a Christian as long as I can remember. Now, I did make a commitment to Christ several hundred times at least. As Perry Duggar says, “If you say you’ve been saved your whole life, that’s too long.”

I have attended church every Sunday since I was two weeks old. Going to church was not a question in our family. We were there every Sunday for Sunday school, morning worship, and the evening service. We were also there every Wednesday night and a lot of other times as well.

I always enjoyed going to church, except for the occasional Sunday night when something really great was going to be on the Wonderful World of Disney. If it looked especially good, I would occasionally feign illness in order to stay home and watch the program. This didn’t work very well. Between the guilt of my deceptiveness and the absence from church, surely if the Lord would return, I would not be going.

Then, in the summer of 1982 something changed. I was looking forward to my senior year of high school, so I could go to law school and become a high-powered, big-80’s corporate attorney. I wasn’t as interested in the law as I was in getting my next Porsche. Practicing medicine seemed so messy…But God had something different in mind.

That summer at youth camp, God did a work in my life. Lying on the red, yellow and orange shag carpeting of the camp chapel, God spoke to me. He called me. He called me to a life that was set apart. He called me into ministry. Any desire to do anything else left me. I belonged fully to Him.

At that moment, everything described in this passage became true for me. My sins were forgiven. I was redeemed. I was rescued from the dominion of darkness. God qualified me to share in His inheritance.

When did these things happen to you? If this hasn’t happened in your life, then it’s very easy to cross the line of faith and trust God fully for your salvation. If you have any questions, please send me a note or give me a call: 864-688-8244.

If you would like to share your story with me and the other readers of these devotionals, just follow the instructions below to leave a comment on the blog.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Try This Wealth Calculator and Give Thanks

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way …joyfully giving thanks to the Father Colossians 1:10, 12

The Bible prescribes a diverse remedy for living a life worthy of the Lord and pleasing God. We are called to bear fruit in every good work, grow in the knowledge of God, be strengthened with all power, and lastly joyfully give thanks. Giving thanks seems like an easy one.

These instructions reflect Paul’s teaching in First Thessalonians: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus”            (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). There is no clearer indication of God’s will for our lives in the Bible than this: be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.

We must note that God’s will is not “all circumstances.” God’s will is that His people would be joyful, prayerful and thankful regardless of the circumstances.

I have to admit. This is not an easy one for me. I can easily tell you everything that is wrong with the circumstance in front of me. But, I tend to take for granted what’s working well. If things are going good, isn’t that the norm? Isn’t that what I should expect? But these problems, can they just go away?

I want things to be better. I want things to improve. And, I am grateful for what God has given me. It just takes a little effort to stop and joyfully give thanks.

When it comes to things that aren’t natural for me, I find that I have to create a system or dare I say a ritual to make sure this happens. After a while, it will start coming more naturally to me.

When I was younger, I would become depressed at the beginning of the month when it came time to pay my bills. Now, granted 20 years ago, I was living in a room at the church and bringing in a whopping $250 per week. Did I mention that I also had a student loan to repay? I would sit down to write the checks (Do you remember checks?) and depression would just overcome me. I felt bad that I felt bad. I even felt a little guilty. I wasn’t living in the lap of luxury, but it was a very short commute to work.

So, I changed my habit. As I sat down at the table with my pile of bills and my checkbook, I would stop and thank God for providing for all of my needs. I would thank Him for allowing me to serve Him in full-time ministry. I would thank Him for the ability to take care of my obligations. This completely transformed my attitude toward paying my bills. Rather than grousing over what I didn’t have, I could joyfully thank God for what I did have.

You and I are some of the wealthiest people in the world. The vast majority would love to trade places with us any day. If you make $48,000 per year, you are in the top 1 percent of the richest people in the world. If you don’t believe me, check out this Wealth Calculator. (Please note, I am not familiar with the charities supported by this website. I would advise you to either give through your church or thoroughly investigate the mission and philosophy of any organization before you support them).

Where are you on the rich list? What can you be thankful for today? Make joyful thanks a habit in your life.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

God Wants to Give Us His Power

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience… Colossians 1:10-11

In Bible College, I used to hear guys pray, “Lord, show us your mighty power.” My thought was, “Uh oh, you don’t know what you’re asking for.” After all, when do we need God’s power? We need God’s power when life is completely overwhelming. We need God’s power when all hell has broken loose.

Maybe they were asking for God’s power because they were devastated by their circumstances. (Does putting off a term paper qualify?) Some, however, were asking because they wanted to be on the fast track to spiritual gianthood. Their prayer was really saying, “Bring it on.” I just backed away slowly watching for lightning to strike.

God wants to give us His power. Look at this verse: “Being strengthened by all power.” Yes! “According to His glorious might.” Yes! Yes! “That you may have great endurance and patience.” What?! The purpose of God’s power is to help me wait? I don’t want God’s power to help me get through it. I want God’s power to make it go away. So when it doesn’t go away, I feel that God has let me down. Maybe God feels that I am not living a worthy life that pleases Him.

God’s power is not our power. We need God’s power because we actually don’t have that much power. Think about it: in order to be patient, in order to endure, in order to please God, in order to live a worthy life, I don’t have much to offer. It requires God’s power for us to live a life that pleases Him. And, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Sometimes we get so frustrated because when we try to live up to what we believe God expects of us, we run out of steam. Whoever said that we have to provide all of the steam? God’s power resides in us through the presence of His Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7). God gives us all that we need to successfully live our lives for Him.

When we begin to feel that we don’t have what it takes to please God, we’re exactly right. But, what we have is not limited to us. We also possess what God offers to us, including his power.
Where are you really blowing it these days? Where are you weak? What are you impatient about? What are you ready to quit? God has the power that you need. You just need to ask.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Are You Headed to Bible Nerd Heaven?

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: …growing in the knowledge of God Colossians 1:10

Another part of living a worthy life and pleasing God is by growing in the knowledge of God. I think believers miss it on this one most of the time. We have grown to believe that knowledge of God is the accumulation of vast amounts of biblical information. If our goal was to become Bible eggheads to win some sort of Bible Jeopardy to make it into Bible nerd heaven, then I would be at the top of the class. But, that my friends, doesn’t cut it.

Part of the error surrounding the Colossian church was a belief in acquiring superior knowledge that would make them superior beings. Then, they could look down their bespectacled noses at other lowly, mere earthlings. Paul’s point here is that knowledge is not just from any celestial source. It comes from God. And, again, if this knowledge was only the possession of a few elite believers, then how could others ever please God and live a worthy life?

I have a Master of Divinity degree in Christian Education. I have to admit that I disagree with most of what I was taught. The accumulation of knowledge for knowledge’s sake misses the point. Avoiding your family and serving others to get your nerd on, is not the intention of knowing God.

I believe the knowledge of God goes beyond memorizing verses and parsing Greek verbs. To gain the knowledge of God, we must use a multi-disciplinary approach. At Brookwood Church, we call that Connect, Grow, Serve, Worship and Reach. We learn in community with others. We grow in the application of God’s Word, not just remembering facts. We don’t just read the owner’s manual. We also put the things we read into practice to learn them thoroughly.

We take what we learn and share it with others. We learn more when we teach others than we ever learn on our own. That’s why I would encourage everyone reading this to open your hearts and your homes to host a small group this Fall.

Worship takes us to a place where we sense and experience God unlike where studying will take us. Worship gives us the experience that we know that we know that we know the presence and reality of God Himself.

Now, don’t get me wrong. God gave us a book, and He gave us a brain. That’s not a coincidence. He expects us to spend time exploring and trying on His Word. But, He also expects us to do something about it. Francis Chan put it this way, “If I told my child to clean this room, and he only memorized my words, would that be enough?”

I apologize for being a little preachy today. I feel strongly about this point. If the accumulation of Bible knowledge was the sole point, then Jehovah’s Witnesses would be better Christians than we are.

A few years ago, we challenged all of our small groups to prepare and serve a hot meal to the homeless. We committed to every Friday night between November and March.

One small group was made up mostly of home builders. One member in particular, Alan, admitted to me later that his attitude toward the homeless was “Get a job.” He had built his business from nothing, so could they if they decided to work hard.

His group signed up to serve a meal to the homeless one Friday night. As he stood in the line serving, Alan looked each man in the eye. He began to realize that if circumstances were slightly different, he just might be on the other side of that line.

A few months later, he learned that a ministry was renovating a building in the Tenderloin in San Francisco. The building was soon to be a homeless shelter. Every Friday, Alan sent his crews to San Francisco to work on that homeless shelter instead of building multi-million dollar homes.

What Alan learned by serving that meal in the homeless shelter and what he committed to do after that was a far greater lesson than just discussing God’s attitude toward the poor. That experience changed what he thought. It changed how he felt. It changed what he did.

How is the knowledge of God changing you? Are you letting it sink down deep? What need is right in front of you? What can you do about it? Who do you need to forgive? What do you need to stop doing? What do you need to start doing? Take that step today.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Is Your Life Producing?

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work… Colossians 1:10

Living a worthy life and pleasing God starts with bearing fruit. We could immediately venture over to Galatians 5 and recite the fruit of the Spirit. But, that’s not where this passage is going. Paul throws a little curveball. It’s bearing fruit in every good work. Great, now pleasing God involves works. Bring in the guilt and condemnation. Here we go.

Okay, don’t go there yet. The New Living Translation puts it this way, “Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit.” So, we need to evaluate what kind of fruit our lives are producing? Get ready for a few ouch moments.

Where are you finding the best results these days? At home? At work? At church? Asleep? What is the best thing going on in your life right now? How does that thing reflect the values and nature of God?

If what we are producing demonstrates God’s character and His presence in our lives, then our lives are pleasing to Him. If what we’re excelling at has little or nothing to do with God, then we are excelling at pleasing ourselves.

Now, don’t get me wrong. You don’t have to close every business transaction with a presentation of the Four Spiritual Laws. God gives us the ability to work and make money. As long as making money doesn’t become our god. Pastor Mark Driscoll puts it this way, “When you’ve taken a good thing and made it a god thing, it becomes a bad thing.”

So how and where is God working in your life? Did you leave a friend more encouraged? Do your kids feel more confident? Does your spouse feel better loved? Does your boss view you as the up and coming linchpin of your organization?

Don’t misunderstand. The fruit of our lives is not bound for some sort of divine county fair. Our fruit is not judged on out-sizing or out-tasting everyone else’s. It has more to do with how we are connected to God. If we’re well connected to Him, then our fruit resembles Him. If our fruit looks like something else, then we’d better check our connection to God.

Fruit is only part of living a worthy life that pleases God. Tomorrow we will look at growing in knowledge. But, for today, take a couple of minutes and think about how God is using you these days? Where are you succeeding? Thank God for using you, and then ask Him for more.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What does God expect of us?

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

What does God expect of us? Paul talks here about living a life worthy of the Lord. Yikes. All of my legalistic roots are coming back to haunt me. I’m prone to feel a little like Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World, “I’m not worthy, I…” nevermind.

Paul follows up the idea of living a worthy life with pleasing God in every day. Okay, let’s go dig out the list: no drinking, no smoking, no card playing, no movie going (only applies to theaters. Netflix, Blockbuster, TV versions and mail order are exempt. Are you confused?), no cursing, no almost cursing (gosh, darn, heck, shoot), and many, many more.

The end result is that we can easily feel that God is unpleasable. We can’t be perfect. God expects perfection. Therefore, we will faithfully serve a God who is never actually pleased with us. He’s like a divine parent who has to feed and clothe us, but most of the time, He’s just waiting for us to turn 18 and move out of the house.

But, none of that is actually true. Why would Paul be earnestly praying for the Colossians to achieve something that was unachievable? That doesn’t make any sense.

Paul outlines four areas concerning a worthy life that pleases God:

• Bearing fruit in every good work
• Growing in the knowledge of God
• Being strengthened with all power
• Joyfully giving thanks to the Father

I am always amazed at Paul’s use of the run-on sentence. These six verses are made up of only three sentences. But, this is a very meaty passage, so it’s worth breaking it down. Over the next four devotionals, we are going to explore what each of these mean.

But, for now, what does it mean to you to live a worthy life and to please God? Does that excite you? Does that strike fear into your heart? Does that depress you? Right now, jot down five things that you believe please God and five things that you believe displease God. Then, throw the list away.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

The Hope You Need

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. Colossians 1:3-8

The trademark of the Colossians was faith and love that sprung from hope. What do you hope? How’s your hope? This isn’t “I hope I win the lottery, so I can pay off the church’s debt.” I’m not sure that the lottery is your best investment. This isn’t “I hope I get a promotion and a big raise for doing mediocre work and putting forth as little effort as possible.” This isn’t “I hope that my weight will magically disappear while I sleep.” Unless you’re sleeping on an exercise bike, you and I both know, it won’t happen.

This is hope based on two things: a home in Heaven and the Word of the Gospel. It’s not hope in hope. It’s hope in things that are lasting and true. It’s not hoping that things will just get better. It’s hope that says that no matter what happens, God is with us, and that’s enough reason to hope.

Some of us have had this hope for so long that the significance of it might have worn off a little bit. I have been a Christian for just shy of 40 years. I wasn’t much of a heathen before that. All I have ever known is growing up in church and following Christ. There are a lot of great things about that. The only problem is that God has been a part of my life for so long, I’m not as aware of His hope. I really don’t know what it’s like to be hope-less.

When our oldest son Samuel went back to the hospital for round two as a baby, we had already been wrung through the wringer emotionally. We prayed many prayers for his healing, only to watch him get sicker. We almost lost him. Then, after months of intensive care, we finally got to go home. We were home for one month. Then, we were headed back to the hospital.
About three days into the second hospital stay, our social worker who had walked us through some of the darkest days of our lives, called us into her office. She said, “It’s so good to have people like you here, because you have hope.” I just about fell off of my chair. She had seen us so devastated, questioning God, questioning everything, exhausted and at our wits end. How could she see hope?

Our hope was in Christ. It wasn’t something that we had to work up or maintain as a good Christian example of suffering to the hospital staff. Hope is what we possess in Christ.

For believers, we don’t need five easy steps to become more hopeful. Hope is already ours. Out of that hope grow faith and love.

This hope doesn’t promise that everything will work out the way that we want it to. But, this hope promises something better: a home in Heaven and the salvation of our souls. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

How’s your hope today? What do you need hope for? God has the hope that you need.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why Oprah and Jesus Just Don’t Mix

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. Colossians 1:1-2

This summer we’re going to explore the book of Colossians. Paul wrote this book while he was imprisoned in Rome around 60 AD. Colosse was a church that Paul had never visited. It was founded by Epaphras and other converts from Paul’s travels.

Word had reached Paul in prison that the Colossians were confusing a few things in their faith. They were combining what they had learned about Christ with other philosophies and religions including paganism. This syncretism wasn’t giving the Colossians the best of both worlds. It was producing the worst of everything. They questioned the supremacy of Christ and in that, were beginning to lose their identity as children of God.

Their situation isn’t actually that much different from what many believers or “spiritual” people do today. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying, “It’s my way or the highway.” But, here’s the problem if we take a little from this church and that church, and then we listen to this preacher and that preacher, and then we borrow a little from this philosophy and that, after a while we end up with a conflicting, convoluted mess. Then, we wonder, “Why can’t I hear from God? Why isn’t anything working?”

God is a jealous God. Jesus said very clearly and unapologetically, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). How narrow-minded of Him! How unpolitically correct! Who does He think He is? Well, Jesus is the Son of God.

It’s not up to us to figure out how we want to approach God. God has pretty much spelled that out. There’s only one road that leads to God. All of the other roads may be nice or appealing, but they don’t end up at the same place. That doesn’t mean that Christians are better than others. It does mean that true believers are blessed.

It all comes down to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You could be a Buddhist who trusts the saving grace of Jesus Christ and get to Heaven. You could be a Baptist who attends church every Sunday and still go to Hell. What we think is right doesn’t matter? The Truth has been defined very clearly through God’s Son and through God’s Word. Outside of that, everything else is just speculation.

Who are the major influences in your life? What speakers? What authors? What strategies or philosophies? How do they line up with the Truth of God’s Word?

You see we can’t trust God for salvation, and then trust Warren Buffett for our security, and then trust Howard Stern with our love life, and then trust Oprah with our salvation. It just doesn’t work. Now, I know that even a broken clock is right twice a day. We can learn something from everybody. But, how does what they’re teaching compare to what God’s Word tells us?

If you’re upset about Oprah, shoot me an email. (I am out of the office this week, but I will respond just as soon as I get back. I promise). We can talk about what Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, and A Course in Miracles. If you’re upset about Howard Stern, I’m not sure that I want to have that conversation.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

New Series Starts this Sunday

Dear Readers,

Thank you for following these daily devotionals. There are over 700 of you on a regular basis now and almost 10,000 views per month. Wow.

Starting this Sunday (Monday for emial subscribers) I am starting a new series for this Summer on the book of Colossians. This is a meaty book. I think you'll get a lot out of it. The devotionals will not follow the Brookwood Church series on Connections, but I think you'll survive.

We're not publishing a devotional book this year, so if you know of anyone who would be interested in these devotionals, send them over to: or

God bless and thanks for reading,

Allen White

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Avoiding Bad Advice

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. Psalm 1:1

I find the postures in this verse interesting. You are blessed if you avoid these three postures:

-- Walking in the counsel of the wicked
-- Standing in the way of sinners
-- Sitting in the seat of mockers

Each progressive position causes us to slow down and perhaps listen more: Walk, Stand, Sit. Think about it. When we walk and talk, it’s usually a casual conversation. We’re talking about the weather or shooting the breeze. When we stop to talk, we tend to stand there and talk about things that might interfere with our walking and talking coordination. We’re not in a hurry to get somewhere. We pause to give them a little more of our attention.

Then, there’s sitting. I stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast the other day. The drive thru line was ridiculous, so I parked and walked inside to get my sandwich. As I walked in, I saw a member of the church. I waved. He looked at me like “I know that guy from somewhere.” I walked over and identified myself. We started talking. Then, he said, “Would you like to sit down?” Now I had a dilemma, if I sit down to talk, then there is a possibility that the last car in the drive thru line might be at the pickup window before I have even ordered my food. This would defeat the whole purpose of parking and going inside. I sat down.

We talked for a few minutes. Then, I ordered my sandwich and headed for my car. I walked out of the restaurant wondering if this was actually a God thing that I went inside. I also wondered exactly where that blue minivan was in line at this point. Okay, not really. I don’t remember the color.

I have mentioned these three postures, walking, standing and sitting, in a positive way. But according to the proverb, the blessed person avoids these postures with the wicked, sinners and mockers. Well, doesn’t everybody fit into one of those categories? While none of us is without sin, there is a big difference between occasionally falling short and making sin a lifestyle. The wicked, sinners and mockers fall into the lifestyle side of things.

Who are you walking with? Who are you stopping to consult? Who are you sitting down with? We tell our kids that they will become like the people that they hang around with. So will we. “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33).

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Somebody Just Called Me a Fool

The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15

The words “fool” and “wise” don’t leave much room for gray. How you approach life makes you one or the other. There is no in-between.

If you believe that you are exactly right on something and that you don’t need to listen to anyone else, then you are a fool. I’m not calling you a fool. The Bible is. Sometimes the Bible calls me a fool too.

By contrast, the wise person assumes that they don’t see all of the angles. They know that they have blind spots. They know that evaluating themselves is difficult, because it’s too personal. So, they seek out others and listen to their advice. That doesn’t mean that they take all of the advice they hear, but it does mean that they process their decisions with others and work through things before moving forward.

The fool rushes in. The wise person counts the cost and weighs things out.

What seems right to you these days? What are you actively pursuing that you haven’t talked to anyone else about? We have all made foolish mistakes. Why not seek the counsel of others just to process your decision? You might just come out wiser in the process.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Who Can You Trust?

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14

I have followed a sales trainer for a number of years named Jeffrey. (We’ll call him Jeffrey, because that’s actually his name). He has interesting things to say about motivation and reaching others. In fact, I started writing this devotional blog as well as our Small Groups blog because of Jeffrey. Writing a daily devotional seemed like a daunting task to me. Jeffrey gave some practical tips on the writing process and here we are 12 months into these daily devotionals.

Jeffrey’s goal in life is making sales and making money. But, in that, he has a lot to say about human nature. He writes some interesting things. But, his life is not built on Christ from what I can see. In fact, he uses a coin as a business card. The coin states “In Sales We Trust.” Obviously, that’s a much different foundation from the one I’ve built my life on.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing bad about doing business. It makes the world go ‘round, right? We’ve all got to eat.

What I am saying is that when it comes to the foundational things in my life, the things that I stand for, I don’t go to people who are outside of the family of God. While they may be very talented, knowledgeable and successful, the core of my life is built on faith in God, not on a motivational speaker.

Ungodly people don’t understand the things of God. It’s not because they’re bad. The only thing that makes them ungodly is that they don’t have God in their lives. Without God, we were also ungodly once upon a time. People without the Spirit of God cannot understand the things of God.

Now, let me clarify something. If I’m in need of surgery, I want the best surgeon available be it Buddhist, Hindu, Presbyterian or Voodoo priest (okay, maybe I would reconsider the last one). I don’t want a mediocre surgeon just because he’s a Baptist. I want the best available.

But, when it comes to decisions about my life’s direction, I don’t want people with worldly values and mere monetary success. I want to consult with godly people. And, that doesn’t necessarily mean churchgoers in general. I want to surround myself with people who have Christ-like character, who are closely connected to the Father, and who forsake the ways of the world for the ways of the Kingdom.

Who do you admire? What do you aspire to be? Who are the godly and ungodly influences in your life? What advice are you taking?

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Playing from the Blindside

But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' Matthew 18:16

This passage is one that we typically go to for “church discipline.” Someone has broken the rules concerning what “good Christians” should or should not do, so now they must be disciplined, aka “adios.” I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this process work as well as it could. But, we can learn much from the heart of this.

These instructions from Jesus Himself fall between two parables. The first parable tells of a loving shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep behind to find the one that has strayed. The second parable concerns a servant who is forgiven a tremendous debt by his master. Then, the servant turns around and shakes down a friend who owes him a few bucks.

These parables balance two truths when it comes to confronting other believers. The first is that when someone errs in their ways or is headed down the wrong path, it is our responsibility as his brothers and sisters to get involved. It’s not our place to pawn it off to the pastors. We have the relationship with him. If we love him, we’ll have the conversation.

The second parable balances the responsibility to confront with the nature of our approach. We have been forgiven, which means that we have also erred. If it wasn’t for another believer pointing the way for us, we would still be as lost as a goose. Our responsibility is not to chastise him for his rule breaking. As people who require God’s grace, we extend God’s grace to our brother.

If he won’t hear us, then we go to this verse above. We bring someone along with us. We find a mature believer who would come along with us and talk to them. This doesn’t mean that we solicit every person we know until we find someone who agrees with us. That would turn us into some sort of Christian Goldilocks. “This one’s too hard on him. This one’s too soft. This one’s just right…”

The idea here is not just to find someone to confirm that the offender is off base. This is also someone who confirms that we’re not off base. This is especially important if the other person has offended us or someone close to us. When it gets personal, it’s easy for our objectivity to fly out the window. That trust friend or wise advisor will keep us from making a fool out of ourselves. They might even keep us from the receiving end of confrontation.

Here’s the great thing that happens when we bring another believer into the equation: by adding one other believer, we end up with three. Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). The community of even just two believers invites the fellowship of Jesus Himself in a unique way.

What situation needs to be confronted in your life? Why have you hesitated? Where do you need to check in with another believer to make sure that you have your head on straight?

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

You Could Get Too Much Advice

For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure. Proverbs 11:14

There are two extremes when it comes to seeking advice. On one side you have the folks who have to consult every possible person that they know out of fear for making the wrong decision. I have a friend who began the quest of changing the carpet in their house about 20 years ago. They have solicited many opinions over the years. A decision was never made. I don’t believe that the carpet has ever been changed. In fact, I think maybe they have a different house now.

The problem with too much counsel is that you sort of allow too many cooks into the kitchen, if you will. Rather than having one or two great cooks to guide you, you have everybody weighing in. That’s only a great place to be if you don’t really want to make the decision at all.

The other extreme is to just make a decision without any advisors. Whether you just go with your gut or toss and turn for many sleepless nights, you make the decision on your own. Right or wrong, good or bad the decision is yours alone. You will probably be blindsided by something because it’s very difficult for one person to see every side of an issue.

This proverb is advocating something in the middle of that. Again, proverbs are not a money-back guarantee of any kind. But, they do indicate what typically works in most cases.

We are directed to seek out many advisors (but not too many). Obviously, we would need to consult with everyone that the decision would affect. But, we also need to find trusted advisors who have no stake in the matter. They can give us a more objective opinion and help us weigh things out.

Sometimes when we want something badly, it’s easy to invent ways to believe that what we are doing is right. We all need people who know us well enough that they can tell us to cut the bull and look at the situation more realistically.

Who advises you? Do you have people of noble character in your life? Are they experts in their field? Do they share your values and beliefs? Are they a little older than you? Have they given you good advice before? Seek out wise advisors when you make a decision.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Two Tests to Know God’s Will

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

God gives us the ability to know His will, but it requires a couple of on-going tests on our part. These aren’t complicated tests. But, they are challenging.

First, God wants us to be “living sacrifices” to Him. Years ago in Bible college, a chapel speaker made the statement that “It’s easier to die for Christ than to live for Him.” I suppose if you’re dead, then the struggle is over. You get your reward. You get to dwell with Jesus forever. But, to live for Christ, that is a whole other matter. But, this verse isn’t challenging us to pretend to be Jesus. The emphasis is on the sacrifice.

Imagine Abraham preparing his son, Isaac, under God’s direction, as a human sacrifice. Isaac didn’t have much say in the matter. Isaac didn’t need to prepare by reading “101 Keys to being a Good Sacrifice.” He was tied up and placed on the altar. His fate was entirely in the hands of his father and God. God provided another way for Abraham and Isaac that day. But, think about what it means to be a living sacrifice.

A sacrifice has completely surrendered their will. They don’t have grandiose plans for the future. Their future is in the hands of the One they’ve surrendered to. Personal ambition has been cast aside in hope that God will offer something greater. But, this isn’t martyrdom. This is a living sacrifice.

So, think for a minute: how do we go about our daily routine as a living sacrifice? How do we set aside our will and our personal ambition when it comes to our families, our jobs, and our leisure?

That was just step one. The second test is to forsake the opinion and views of this world in exchange for allowing God to renew our minds. We were born with a sinful nature into a sinful world. That’s two strikes against us. Sinful people fit well in a sinful world. But, godly people who are prone to sin have a tougher time.

We have to find ways of turning off the noise around us and allowing God’s thoughts to supersede ours. That’s not as complicated as it sounds.

The world indoctrinates us through media, through thoughts and attitudes, and through temptation. Every electronic device that delivers the world’s viewpoint has an off button. Now, I’m not saying trade in your car for a black buggy and travel back in time to 100 years ago. There was sin back then too.

What I am getting at is that you and I have the ability to control what influences us. We can choose to watch endless hours of TV. We can choose to read and study God’s Word. We can even choose to read inspirational blogs if we want too.

Our minds are renewed by the Word of God. Much of what God’s Word says is counter to what the world says. On some issues, this is a relief. On other issues, it’s a little harder to swallow. But, God’s ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).

When we surrender our ambitions and agendas and forsake the world’s way of thinking, then we can discern God’s will more clearly. We are no longer drawn toward possessions, pleasure or prestige to define who we are and what we are meant to do. We know that we belong to God and that trumps everything else.

How can you daily surrender yourself and all that you do to God? How can you immerse yourself in God’s Word and tune out the world?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Are You Living in God’s Will?

He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22:41-44

Accepting God’s will is easy if He’s offering something that you want. If God is directing you to marry the woman of your dreams, that’s an easy one. I got to do that ten years ago. If God is directing you to a place you’ve always dreamed of living or to a job that pays a lot more money, those are no brainers. But, what if God’s direction leads us to less rather than more?

If God’s will is leading us to what we think is a downgrade or demotion of some sort, then we have a much harder time accepting God’s will. If God directs us to stick it out in a tough situation, we wonder if we’ve really heard from God. It’s easier to obey when life seems easier. It’s essential to obey when everything seems difficult.

Maybe God has led you to a job that you don’t really like so that you will learn to enjoy your family more. Maybe God has put you in a difficult relationship so that He can produce Christ-like character in you. Maybe God has put a difficult person in your life, so that you will learn to become more loving. (Think of it the other way, if everything is going well, then maybe God is using you as the difficult person for someone else).

No one is more closely connected to God than Jesus. In fact, Jesus only did the things that He knew that Father wanted (John 5:19). The entire purpose of Jesus’ life on earth was to fulfill His mission. The Father’s will led Jesus all of the way to the cross.

In the Garden, Jesus cried out to God. His divine mission and His human emotion intersected in a moment of anguish and pain. He never refused to do God’s will. Jesus just needed to make sure that He was hearing things correctly.

What are you unsure of these days? What’s going on in your life that you think might be out of God’s will? If it’s sinful, then you can know for sure, that it’s out of God’s will for you. If it’s difficult, then it might need more patience and evaluation.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Our Weaknesses Might be Our Greatest Asset

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. John 15:16

“I didn’t sign up for this.” I hear this statement from Small Group leaders usually when something has come up in their group that is far more complicated than practicing the one anothers or figuring out who will bring the brownies next week. Maybe there’s a conflict. Maybe someone’s headed down a path to disaster, but they don’t see it. The leader needs to step in.

Once we’ve talked through the issue, I remind them that they didn’t sign up for this, but God signed them up for this. God wants to use them. I’m sure they are muttering under their breath, “Thanks, jerk.”

But, here’s the thing, God works through us more in our discomfort and inadequacies than through our strengths. God doesn’t want us to confuse the result of using our mad skills with bearing spiritual fruit. So, if you’re very well organized, we might give you points for self-control, but you’ll probably blow it on patience. Just sayin’.

God signed us up to bear fruit. We find the fruit (not fruits) of the Spirit in Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

What fruit do you see in your life? Where do you need to grow? If the sweetness of joy has been replaced by the bitterness of sorrow, don’t give up. As Pastor Rick Warren says, “God uses the opposite quality to produce godly character in our lives.” As we depend on God’s work in us, before we know it, He’ll exchange our mourning for dancing (Jeremiah 31:13).

Monday, June 7, 2010

God Knows Where You Are and Why

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Acts 18:1-3

Paul was drawn to Aquila and Priscilla, not because they were believers, they weren’t, but because they were tentmakers. Paul’s ambition was to preach where people had never heard the Gospel (Romans 15:20). This was his first trip to Corinth.

Paul didn’t have the luxury of supporters sending checks from home. He worked his way through Asia Minor making tents. If Paul were alive today, maybe he would support his mission through telecommuting. Who knows? Maybe he would have supporters.

Paul met up with Aquila and Priscilla who were Jews newly kicked out of Italy because of an edict by Claudius which evicted all of the Jews in 52 AD. In Corinth Paul crossed their path and became their co-worker in tent making. Pricilla and Aquila’s house was used as a meeting place in Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:19). Then, somewhere along the way in 18 months of tent making with Paul, Priscilla and Aquila cross the line of faith and are introduced as “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3).

You wonder if Paul had days when he wished he could just preach the Gospel and not have to make tents. Yet, it was through tent making that Paul was introduced to Aquila and Priscilla. He preached the Gospel through his work. The result was that not only did his coworkers come to faith, they led many others to Christ as well.

While Paul was in Athens, he spoke these words, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live” (Acts 17:26). Considering his move from Athens to Corinth to meet Aquila and Priscilla, Paul knew exactly what he was talking about.

Where are you? Why has God put you where you are right now? Maybe you’re asking the same question. This is not an accident. God has a plan for you. Ask Him how He can use you in your current circumstance. Sometimes seeking God’s direction doesn’t have to do with choosing what’s next, but determining what He wants you do to here and now. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Do You Need Peace?

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

How many times have we found ourselves longing for a little peace? Whether we’re experiencing chaos at work or chaos at home or chaos in traffic between the two, peace seems like a welcomed relief.

The peace mentioned in this verse supersedes chaotic situations. This is the peace mentioned in Philippians 4:7 that “passes all understanding.” It’s a peace from God that overrides our natural system of worry and doubt. There is no logical reason for this kind of peace. You just know that you know that you know that God is with you and that He will work these things for your good.

Notice the position that peace holds in this verse. The job of peace, if you will, is to rule our hearts. Some translations actual call this position an umpire. Peace calls the balls and strikes. Peace rules whether something is out of bounds.

Some may look at having peace as a copout for not dealing with their life. They want to reject anything that brings discomfort or unease because it violates their peace. But, peace is so much more than merely an emotional state.

Peace is a quiet confidence and assurance that God has a plan for us and that He is guiding our steps. The great thing about peace is that we can possess God’s peace even when the world around us is falling apart. God’s peace gives us the hope and the courage to face hardship and trials. Because of peace, we can persevere in difficult situations.

Some things, however, are not compatible with God’s peace. Guilt violates God’s peace. If we feel guilty over something, we feel plenty of unease, and we should. Hopefully our discomfort causes us to make things right so we don’t feel guilty. If we’ve offended someone or done something wrong, we should reconcile. If we’ve sinned, then we need to seek God’s forgiveness. He’s always willing to give it (1 John 1:9).

Shame also interrupts God’s peace. While God convicts believers of sin, He doesn’t condemn them. Shame is a condemning sort of thing. It’s a tool the enemy uses to convince us that we’re not fit for the great things God has for us. We’ve all done things that we’re not proud of. As far as God is concerned, those things are as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). As far as we’re concerned, when the enemy brings shameful things to mind, we need to say, “Yes, I did do that. That’s the way I used to live. But, I’m washed. I’m clean. I’m forgiven. I’m God’s child. God isn’t holding those things against me anymore” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

When we are seeking God’s will for direction, God speaks through His peace. God will give us peace for the things He directs us to. This is different from being excited about something or wanting something desperately. Sometimes we want things that God doesn’t want for us. In your heart of hearts, God will direct you by His peace. It’s not a guarantee that everything will work out alright. But, it is assurance that He is with you.

What is ruling your heart these days? Worry? Fear? Doubt? Ask God for His peace. Ask Him to reveal anything that is violating His peace in your life. God doesn’t necessarily promise a peaceful path, but He does offer a peace that passes understanding.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

God is Far More Stubborn Than You Are

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." Isaiah 30:21

This prophecy of Isaiah begins with “Woe to the obstinate children…” (Isaiah 30:1). Have you experienced an obstinate child? Have you been one? This is a child that refuses to listen and stubbornly refuses to change. This isn’t just in something that they say. Every fiber of their being speaks their unwillingness very loudly. They are stubborn and that’s just the way it is.

God’s children were obstinate at the time of Isaiah. They ignored God Almighty and chose gods that were easier to control, or so they thought. They worshipped gods that allowed for their bad behavior and selfishness. They honored gods who couldn’t speak, so they didn’t have to listen. But, God never gave up on them.

While we often see the prophets as the deliverers of Hell-fire and brimstone messages, after Isaiah points out their wrongs, the prophecy turns to “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion” (Isaiah 30:18). If obstinate children are stubborn, they have certainly met their match with God. He is relentless in His love and pursuit of us, even when we are completely opposed to Him. Just like we wouldn’t reject our own obstinate children, God wants to reconcile. His heart toward us is never “I told you so.” God’s heart is always filled with grace and compassion.
Since our own way tends to lead us down the wrong paths, God offers to direct our lives. He doesn’t lead us in the your-life-must-be-boring-because-all-fun-is-sin approach. God wants to give us the desire of our hearts. If those desires aren’t so godly, then He will redirect them toward something that is even more fulfilling.

Where do you stand with God today? Are you ignoring Him? Are you obstinate? Are you just too busy to even think about Him? God doesn’t want to scold you. He wants to love you and guide you. Listen and He will speak.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What if Plan B is Actually God’s Plan A?

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

Proverbs are not guarantees. But, a proverb does point out what typically happens the majority of the time. They’re sort of like how an investment firm reminds its investors that past performance doesn’t guarantee future results. But, for most people on most days following Proverbs is a wise choice.

I think that this proverb is great, except that there are some things that I have committed to the Lord that actually failed. For instance, every Bible college student pursues the answer to basically two questions: What is God’s Will for my life? And, Who is God’s Will for my Life? Nothing that I committed to the Lord in 1984 actually came to pass. I didn’t become a missionary, and I didn’t marry the girl I was dating. The good news is that God has used me in ways that I never imagined, and that I married someone who is way out of my league.

I found success, not in getting the answers to my specific prayers, but in the fulfillment of godly desires for ministry and marriage that far exceeded my expectations.

We really want this “commit to the Lord” thing to be like a GPS. We are at point A. We would like to arrive at point B without any detours, roadblocks, inclement weather, or for men, no potty breaks.

I’ve been reading a book called Plan B by Pete Wilson, who pastors Cross Point Church in Nashville. His premise is “What do you do when God doesn’t show up the way you thought He would?” It’s a great book, especially for those of us who have been frustrated or devastated by a Plan B.

The interesting thing is that God only has a Plan A. When His Plan A doesn’t correspond with our Plan A, then God’s plan seems like Plan B to us. Just look at next proverb in chapter 16, “The Lord works out everything for his own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster” (Proverbs 16:4).

Rick Muchow, the Worship Pastor at Saddleback Church, wrote a simple song that has encouraged me over the years. It says,

Trust God, from the bottom of your heart,
Don't try to figure out everything on your own,
Trust God, for where your life is going,
God is in control, God is in control (repeat)

Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and your plans will succeed,
Pray Lord, I'm available to you, Here I am, Lord use me, Trust God…

You can listen to the song here:

How are you trusting God these days? What Plan Bs has God thrown your way? How is using these roadblocks and obstacles to build your faith and shape your character?

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Has God Become Your Neglected Housewife?

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:12-13

It’s easy to think that God doesn’t need anything. He’s God. He created the universe in six days. He is sovereign over all things. “He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning” (Daniel 2:21). What does God need from us?

There are plenty of reasons why we need God. We need salvation. We need assurance. We need answers to prayer. We need help! Sometimes we treat God like a vending machine or a short-order cook. “I ordered this over easy not over hard.” We pursue God in a crisis. But, we basically ignore Him when things are going well.

St. Augustine gave this insight: “God thirsts to be thirsted after.” Just like a young man pursues his beloved, God wants to be pursued. But often we don’t treat God like we’re young and in love with Him. We tend to treat God like “the wife.” He’s always there. Why does God need to be pursued? How do you pursue someone who is always there? Now, we have lessons to learn about both God and marriage.

How do you pursue someone when you were dating? (Can you remember back that far?) You spend time with them. You give them your attention. You talk to them. You listen to them. You just hang out with them. You focus on them. You think about them when you’re apart.

So, let’s go back and look at that paragraph again, and replace “them” with God:

You spend time with God. You give God your attention. You talk to God. You listen to God. You just hang out with God. You focus on God. You think about God when you’re apart. (Okay, God is omnipresent, so that last one will be a challenge).

How can you practically connect with God? He wants to be pursued.

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