Wednesday, September 30, 2015

If You’re Willing, God Is Able

By Allen White

When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.
Matthew 8:28-34

Read that last sentence again – “They pleaded with [Jesus] to leave their region.” The whole town wanted Jesus out of town. But, why? Didn’t Jesus solve their problem?

The demon-possessed men were “so violent that no one could pass that way.” Wasn’t it helpful to the townspeople to remove this threat from their neighborhood? Now, they could peacefully pass through the area. They no longer had to fear these two men. But, rather than celebrating Jesus’ power and the deliverance of the two men, they wanted Jesus to leave.

Were these a bunch of commodity traders who just saw pork bellies falling? (Sorry. I couldn’t resist). Or, had the townspeople pledged so many things “when pigs fly” that they were now overly obligated? (Okay, I’ll stop).

The situation involving the threat of the demon-possessed men was bad, but they knew how to avoid it. Sure, they might have to take the long way around, but they knew what they were up against. With Jesus, well, they weren’t sure what they had. Two free men and a bunch of dead pigs was way out of the norm. Even though what they had before was bad, it was familiar. They knew how to deal with the problems. They didn’t know what to do with Jesus.

What bad things in our lives give us a sense of security? “If I’m always doing ten things, people will understand why I can’t succeed at one thing.” The person’s fear is that they can’t succeed. The multitasking becomes their excuse. “If I could shake this bad habit, I know that I would be healthier physically and emotionally. But, it’s my go-to, and I enjoy it.” Why do we resist change when we know it will bring freedom?

Familiar things are comfortable, even when they’re not good for us. Either we’ve lost hope that things can get better or we just don’t want to exert the effort. We live dissatisfying, mediocre lives when significance is within our reach.
I’ve heard speakers over the years say that the safest place in the universe is being in the center of God’s will. I’ve found that it’s actually the most dangerous place, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We find safety in the things we feel that we can control. The deception is that eventually these things control us. If you don’t believe that’s true, then why haven’t you quit already?

The question for all of us is if we really want Jesus’ power in our lives. It might be too much for us. It’s certainly going to challenge our status quo and lead us toward radical change.

Are you ready to allow Jesus to break the rules in your life? Are you willing to let go of the things that make you feel secure? If you are, then you’ll need to find some help. Who has victory in this area of their life? Could they help you? A support group or Celebrate Recovery might be the way. A prayer partner, life coach or accountability partner might show the way.

If you are willing, God is able.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bypass the Freaking Out

By Allen White

Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

 The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”
Matthew 8:23-27

The disciples didn’t know what they didn’t know. They knew enough about Jesus to leave everything behind and follow Him. But, they didn’t know enough to trust Him implicitly. They believed that Jesus was the Son of God, but they didn’t really understand what that meant.

As the storm began to rage, even the seasoned fishermen on board began to worry. In their heads, they knew that Jesus was the answer. In their hearts, they were freaking out.

The disciples did the right thing by turning to Jesus. They trusted Him to do something. They just weren’t sure what He would do.

Jesus, the Creator (Colossians 1:15-16), took authority over the forces of nature. Just like God had spoken the creation into existence, Jesus said just said the word. The wind and waves obeyed.

The disciples were blown away. “Who is this man?” They followed Jesus because they had never met another man like this. Then, they were astonished at His miracles, because they had never met another man like this.

The voice of fear said the disciples would perish in this storm. The voice of reason was shouting, “Amen!” The voice of faith realized the Truth was asleep in the back of the boat. The disciples versus a fierce storm equaled catastrophe. But, Jesus versus the storm meant something completely different.

Now, before we look down on the disciples, think about how we handle things. We know that God can solve any problem. We know that God is greater than anything we face. We face a problem. Then, we try to solve the problem. We get frustrated and freaked out about the problem. Finally, in desperation, we cry out to God for help.

Here’s a little secret – save yourself the frustration – bypass the freaking out. When you feel the first signs of worry, turn the situation over to God (Philippians 4:6-7). The worst thing we can do is keep Jesus on reserve while we fret over our circumstance.

What are you worried about today? Anything you think about more than three times is a worry. Take a moment to give it over to God. The next time you worry about it, even if it’s three minutes from now, pray about it again. Jesus will calm the turmoil in your heart.

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What’s Preoccupying You?

By Allen White

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake. Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

 Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

 But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.
Matthew 8:18-22

Jesus had nothing against funerals or the Holiday Inn. He wasn’t advocating a bohemian lifestyle where everyone just went with the flow and landed wherever they happened to be. On the other hand, God requires first place in our lives. Anything that we desire more than God hampers what God has called us to do.

When we read passages like this, we have to remember that Jesus, being God, is omniscient. He knows everything. While Jesus heard their words, He also knew their hearts.

Jesus knew that the religious leader who pledged to follow Him anywhere needed the comfort of a soft pillow and a warm bed at night. Following Jesus isn’t always that easy.

Another disciple wanted to bury his father. This disciple wasn’t one of the twelve, but he was a regular. His desire was to follow Jesus, but his family obligation impeded his allegiance to Christ. We have to read between the lines a little here.

God gave the fifth commandment to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Jesus was well aware. But, there was something about this disciple’s family obligation that went beyond attending a funeral service. There was an attachment that would interfere with following Christ. Just like the rich young ruler who wouldn’t release the burden of his wealth, this disciple wouldn’t trust his family to God.

Now, don’t get me wrong – God doesn’t want us to disown our families or become homeless to follow Him. But, are other things standing in the way of serving God? What is keeping you from becoming preoccupied with God?

It’s easy to be preoccupied with television programs or social media or the Maryland Terrapins’ new football uniforms. But, in the end, does it matter if Dog the Bounty Hunter captured the perp or if Ashton Kutcher retweets our tweet? Besides, do you even know a Maryland fan?

What is keeping you from becoming preoccupied with God? He is at work all around you every day. What is He up to? What does He intend when He puts a person or a situation in front of you? How will He help you live for Him in your workplace, family or neighborhood? What’s holding you back?

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Who Are You, Really?

By Allen White

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” Matthew 8:14-17

Jesus was a powerful and authoritative teacher. No one won an argument with Jesus. The religious leaders often left frustrated and tongue-tied. But, Jesus wasn’t merely clever. His words reflected who He is.

In this account, Jesus walks into the house, takes authority over an illness, and then they get about the rest of what He and the disciples were doing. Peter’s mother-in-law was healed with a silent touch. No words were exchanged, but the authority was demonstrated.

Jesus had power over demons and other sickness. These physical signs proved that Jesus was exactly who He said He was. Other false prophets and false teachers had tried to charm the people with their words. Jesus was exactly who He said He was. His words and actions proved to erase people’s doubts.

Jesus didn’t heal people just because He could. He wasn’t casting out demons for show. Isaiah had prophesied centuries before that the Messiah would have this kind of authority (Isaiah 53:3-5). These physical proofs demonstrated who Jesus was and fulfilled the prophesies about Him.

Jesus lived an integrated life. What He said and did reflected who He was. His words and actions fulfilled the mission He came to fulfill. You have to admire the clarity in Jesus’ life.

Our lives can be quite scattered and compartmentalized. Most people, I would daresay, don’t understand their life’s purpose. What were we put on this earth to accomplish? Our spiritual gifts along with our abilities, personality, passion and experiences have a lot to say about our life mission. A course like Network, SHAPE or PLACE is helpful to put this in focus.

So much seems to get in the way of what God is trying to accomplish in our lives. Wounds from our pasts blur our vision and often taint our responses. Sometimes we know the direction we should take, but we lack the motivation to get there. The person we want to be is conflicted with the person we feel like being. Then, there’s the person others think we ought to be.

The easy solution is that we would have our work self, our home self, our church self, our fun self, and somewhere in there our real self. No wonder it’s easy to forget who we are. After all, in the sage words of George Costanza: "A George divided against itself cannot stand!" And, neither can we.

We all know when we are putting on – saying things or doing things so people will accept us or think well of us. We don’t need to do this. God made us to be who we are. Despite our perceived inadequacies and woundedness, God put each of us on this earth to accomplish His purpose. Our authority doesn’t come from our impressiveness. Any authority we possess is God’s. God will make us adequate to the mission.

Why has God put you here on this earth? What needs are you drawn to? What is keeping you from doing something about it? You are exactly who God has made you to be – no more, no less. Who you are is enough.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Faith Versus Proof

By Allen White

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)

Abraham had faith based on God’s promises to him in 
Genesis 12:1-3. Abraham didn’t have “sight.” God gave the promise of making Abraham into a great nation, but at the time Abraham didn’t have any children. God gave Abraham a promise of making his name great and of being a blessing to all peoples. Abraham didn’t even have a square foot of land or a place to park his camel. Abraham started his journey with plenty of faith, but absolutely no “sight.”

Faith and Sight relate like light and darkness. When we enter a dark room and flip on the light, darkness is quickly overcome by light. When we have sight, whether we call it proof, evidence, miracle or fulfillment, we no longer need faith for that thing to happen. If we believe that God will provide for our needs (
Philippians 4:19) and our needs are met, then we don’t need faith for that. We don’t need faith for something we can actually see.

We hear people talk about the great faith that produces miracles (sight). The reality is that “Sight” doesn’t come from great faith. When we gain “sight,” we no longer need faith. It’s when we lack sight, when we’re unsure, when we reach our wit’s end (or as John of the Cross calls it “the Wall”), that is when we need faith.

What is faith? Faith is not believing something so strongly that it comes into reality. I could work myself up into an emotional froth believing that my car was red, but at the end of the day, it will still be black.

Faith is a gift from God (
Ephesians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 12:9). Faith is assurance and certainty when we lack sight (Hebrews 11:1). Faith doesn’t make anything less real. Faith shows that God and all that He promises is real.

What do you need faith for today? Ask God. He will give you the faith you need (
Romans 12:3).
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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Who’s In and Who’s Out

By Allen White

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:10-12

To put this in context, the centurion, for whatever reason, believed that he wasn’t worthy to have Jesus in his home. Rather than Jesus appearing in person to heal his servant, the centurion, understanding that Jesus had the authority to heal, told Jesus that He didn’t need to come, but just needed to give the command. Today’s verse is Jesus’ reaction.
[Rope line pic]

Now, before we get nervous about which subjects of the kingdom get thrown out, we need to take a breath and consider when and where Jesus said these words. Before Jesus’ coming, God’s kingdom was limited to His people, the Jews and those who converted to Judaism.

Those who followed the traditions, the Law and the sacrificial system were invited to the table. The problem was that people can perform religious rituals, yet their hearts can be far from God.

Jesus used this occasion to point out that the agreement or covenant between God and man was on the verge of change. Once Jesus fulfilled the Law through His death on the cross providing atonement for everyone’s sin, the Roman Centurion may very well become one of God’s people. This was a completely foreign concept to the people of that time.

Those who thought their place with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, particularly their descendents, thought their position was secure. Their heritage and their pedigree were impeccable. Who would challenge them?

This situation is in a culture and a time that is 6,000 miles and 2,000 years removed from us. It’s a great bit of history, but how is it important to us?

People today can fall into the same trap. Rather than possessing living faith, they cling to nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong. Our history is important. My family has been a part of the same church since 1969. In fact, I’m an “Honorary Member” of that church. Yet, if I depended on honorary church membership to claim membership in God’s Kingdom, I would be dishonoring God.

Faith is not something we get once and put in a safety deposit box. Rather than longing for the places where we used to meet God, we should meet with God.

Position and pedigree have very little to do with belonging to God. Not long ago, I met someone for the first time at church. I asked what he did for a living. Then, he asked what I did. I told him that I was a pastor. He asked, “Where?” I thought, “Oh brother.”

It’s sort of the feeling we get when someone knocks on our front door to witness to us. What’s our first response? “We go to _____ church.” If someone came by offering a free sample, would we say, “No, thank you. We shop at Aldi.”

It doesn’t matter what Bible-believing church we attend. What matters is that we belong to Christ?

How do you know that you’re part of God’s family? How is your faith growing? What assumptions do you need to rethink?

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Taking an Educated Leap of Faith

By Allen White

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. Matthew 8:5-10, 13

The centurion created a new paradigm of faith. Up until this time, everyone who was healed was front and center in Jesus’ presence. But, the centurion revealed an attribute of God that others weren’t aware of. God is omnipresent – present everywhere all of the time.

The centurion took his cues from his own life experience. If he gave a command, his subordinates would follow it whether he was there or not. This is how authority worked.

He recognized that Jesus had authority over sickness and disease. It wasn’t the touch or the exact wording that cause healing to take place. God’s authority determined the outcome.

I spent time living in the “Show Me” state of Missouri during college. Nobody was going to pull the wool over a Missourians eyes. After all, seeing is believing. But, seeing is not faith.

In faith, we see things that aren’t as if they were (Hebrews 11:1). Now, this isn’t some New Agey visualization technique. Faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8).

Folks who always need more proof to believe in God tend to struggle in their faith. (And, it’s okay to struggle – that’s how we learn to trust God more deeply). Jesus said the centurion had the greatest faith in all of Israel, because he could believe without seeing.

Now, that doesn’t mean that God expects us to take a blind leap of faith. That’s Existentialism, not Christianity. Christians take an educated leap of faith. God gave us a book, the Bible, and He gave us a brain. That is no coincidence.

Based on what God has revealed to us, He has given ample grounds for faith to grow. While God doesn’t give us everything that we want to know, He gives us everything that we need to know.

Where do you struggle in your faith? When is it easy to believe? When is it more challenging? Challenging times are often a greater incubator for faith. Where do you need God to help you with your unbelief?

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Touching the Untouchables

By Allen White

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Matthew 8:1-4

Jesus healed in many different ways. Sometimes He touched the ill person. Other times He just said the word and healing took place (Luke 18:35-43). In the case of the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), Jesus spoke the word from a distance, and the servant was healed. He healed a blind man by making mud (Matthew 9:1-12). We get the impression that the Son of God can heal whomever He wants in any way He wants.

Lepers were considered unclean or untouchable. In the vast Scriptural teaching on infectious skin diseases (take a look at the book of Leviticus), the one overarching principle was to stay away from them. If there was a case for verbally pronouncing a healing, the leper would be at the top of most people’s lists.

Jesus chose to touch the leper. Nobody else had probably touched this leper in a long time. No hugs or handshakes. No fist bumps or even an elbow jab. Lepers were untouchable, yet Jesus touched him, and the leper was healed.

Who is untouchable in our culture? Well, technically no one, other than the Dalats in India. But, who would we hesitate to touch? An AIDS victim? A homeless person? A prison inmate? A disabled person? The mentally ill? An addict?

Basically, all people are the same. Every person is body, soul and spirit. Every person matters to God. Some have more to deal with than others. Some are coping with the wounds of a painful past. Some are trapped in the sum of their mistakes. But, God loves every one.

What would you do with the leper? Would you touch him? Would you encourage him? Would you send in a check? Would you change the channel?

Who in your world is difficult for you to connect with? Why do you think they are so different from you? How does Jesus want to touch this person through you?

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Are You Living a Shouldy Life?

By Allen White

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Matthew 7:24-27

A while back, I led “Bible time” with our kids. Our first lesson came from this passage. I had each of my children build houses out of Legos. After each child completed their creation, we went out back to the kiddie pool.

They had a choice. They could either place their house on a brick in the kiddie pool or on a mound of sand. All three children chose the bricks. My test house was placed on the sand. Then, the rains came down and the floods came up via the hose.
To confirm Jesus’ words, the houses on the bricks stood firm. The house on the sand went splat. It’s a fairly simple principle, maybe until we apply it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way,
“Sow a thought and you reap an action;
sow an act and you reap a habit;
sow a habit and you reap a character;
sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

We usually take this quote in the negative: bad thoughts develop bad actions, which lead to bad habits, bad character, and a bad everything else. But, this principle can swing to the positive side just as well.

If I took a poll about which foundation most churchgoers were building on, the answer would be: solid ground. After all, they do go to church, right? But, here’s the thing: thinking about building something and building something are two different things.

What we do daily determines the quality of our foundation. While we like to think that our life is built on a firm foundation, the reality is that some of our life is built well, and some of it is not. Too often there is a fault line between the solid and the shaky ground that runs right down the middle.

Think about your day so far.
Woke up on time, first cup of coffee, shower – solid foundation.
Worried about a situation – shaky.
Prayed about the situation and received God’s peace – solid.
Thought about something a co-worker did to you and how much you dislike them – shaky.
Yelled at your kids because you’re upset about your co-worker – shaky ground.
Reading this devotional – solid.
Thinking about deleting this devotional – shaky.
You get the idea.

This is not a list of rules or worrying about what you should do. “I should pray, but…” “I should talk nicer to my kids…” “I should forgive my co-worker…” Don’t get caught up in a shouldy life.

What if you could have peace in your heart instead of anxiety? What if you could have love in your heart instead of hate? What if you could feel good about your interactions with your children rather than regret? This is the difference between building on solid ground and sandy ground.

What you do daily determines the kind of life you will have. A better marriage doesn’t come by how you’ve always handled things. A positive outlook comes by receiving positive input and laying off the negative.

Connecting with God, choosing His ways over your ways, heeding Jesus’ words – these build lives on solid ground. Neglecting time with God, doing things our way, ignoring Jesus’ words – there’s a whole lot of shakin’ going on.

How can you turn your day around? What do you need to stop doing right now? What do you need to start doing?

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Friday, September 18, 2015

A little clarification

I have a couple of questions arise since my big announcement, so let me fill you in.

1. Even though I am working with churches across North America, we are planning to stay in the Greenville area. We love our church. We enjoy this community. Our kids are in great schools. We're not moving as of right now.

2. The devotionals will continue. I took the week off this week, but starting Monday, they will be in your inbox every morning. No worries.

God bless,
Allen White

Monday, September 14, 2015

Personal Update

Hey Folks,

Thanks for faithfully reading the daily devotionals and financially supporting the Galatians 4:19 Ministry. It seems I hear from one or more of you everyday. I even appreciate those who hit "Reply" instead of "Forward." Don't be embarrassed. It shows me your reading and passing it on!! (And, I love you too).

Over the last four years since I left Brookwood Church, I have been working with churches all across the country along with Brett Eastman and Lifetogether Ministries. I had actually left Lifetogether in 2007 when my family moved from Orange County, California to Greenville, SC to take a position at Brookwood. So, I went back to work for the same guy I had stopped working for 8 years ago! And, yes, I know the definition of insanity.

Now, I am doing something new. I am going out on my own to work with churches. My first "client" is Chip Ingram and Venture Church in Los Gatos, California. They just launched 365 new groups (at last count) for Chip's new Holy Ambition study. Chip is great to work with, and we had a lot of fun in the studio together.

My mission is not working with more megachuches, even though I have worked with quite a few. Here's the list. I want to help all kinds of churches across the country. I am doing this by developing online courses, working with groups of pastors at a time, and then, working with a few churches individually. Oh, and I'm writing a book on launching small groups. If you go over to, you can sign up for my newsletter and download my ebook.

So, off I go, swinging from the trapeze without a net. That's kind of how I roll anyway.

Here's how you can help me:

1. Pray. Pray for the right opportunities. Also, pray for my family through this transition. It's a big step. Pray for pastors and churches, who are needing to make changes, but are reluctant to do so. Pray for church members who are stepping out to start or join groups this Fall. Since the beginning of the year, nearly 5,000 people have taken a step to LEAD a group in the church I've been working with.

2. Donate. While most of my consulting clients are paying customers, I have discovered a great deal of interest from missionaries and churches in other countries. The idea of creating curriculum not only in their own language, but also in the context of their culture is huge. When I get to a place where I can fully support my family with coaching clients, then I'll just help all of these folks for free. But, I'm not quite there. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to help one of these countries, please click this link:

Again, thanks for your continued support of this ministry.

God bless,

Thursday, September 10, 2015

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, September 9, 2015

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, September 8, 2015

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, September 7, 2015

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, September 6, 2015

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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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Jesus’ Opposite World

By Allen White

That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her.  The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman’s estate.
Esther 8:1-2

Mordecai was a faithful man. He faithfully raised his cousin, Esther, as his own child. He faithfully watched over her while she lived in the harem. He faithfully advised her in how to handle herself. He faithfully reported the assassination plot against the king. He faithfully mourned for the fate of his people. Mordecai was a man who chose to do the right thing without thinking of himself or how he should be rewarded. The world could use more Mordecai’s.

Mordecai is a good example of the opposite world that Jesus introduced in His Kingdom. “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45).
That’s not what they taught us about standing in line at school.

Jesus said, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-32). Boy, we can sure get caught up with things.

It’s easy to get our priorities out of line. When everyone else is looking out for number one, we feel that we’ll be left behind if we don’t do the same. Often we become so concerned for our own happiness and well-being that we don’t allow room for God to provide for us. Sometimes we become so focused on the here and now that we lose sight of eternity. Our time on earth is remarkably short compared to our life in eternity.

The Serenity Prayer closes this way:
“Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.”

If we’re scraping to get it all right now, we are certain to lose our serenity in the process. Don’t fret. Your life and good deeds, and even your suffering, will be rewarded, just not yet.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds

By Allen White

The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.

Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining.

The king exclaimed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?”

As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits [about 75 feet] stands by Haman’s house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.”

The king said, “Impale him on it!” So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided. Esther 7:7-10

What started as a personal grudge against Mordecai escalated to Haman’s demise. Mordecai refused to bow to Haman (Esther 3:2) out of loyalty to the Jewish people and their 1000 year issue with the Amalekites (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Rather than take up the issue with Mordecai, Haman decided to eliminate Mordecai and everybody else like him. Haman’s ego caused his emotions to go overboard. His lack of self-control eventually led to his own undoing.

Blinded by pride and selfish ambition, Haman did everything he could to elevate himself in the king’s eyes. On the surface, things were going well for him. But, then reality set in. Haman’s plot led to his own undoing. By choosing to globalize the issue with Mordecai, Haman created a problem that he couldn’t escape or avoid. If only he could go back and do it differently now. (There’s a joke in there about Haman finally getting the “point,” but I’m not going to go there).

How many small issues given time become huge issues? By refusing to handle things early-on with individuals, people tend to put things off, involve other people, draw up sides, and create major problems. Do you know someone who was offended by some little thing 20 years ago and now there is a family feud? “Well, if he’s coming, then I’m not going because I can’t stand to be around him.” And why can’t they stand him? Maybe he said something stupid 20 years ago. Since we have never said anything stupid, we have every right to judge him.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. In fact, neglecting our wounds and refusing to forgive infects our souls and causes us to die a little bit. By refusing to reconcile, we are not only missing out on them, we are also missing out on us.

What situation is an open loop in your life? What do you need to close it? What can just be considered water under the bridge at this point? What needs to be talked out? Before you bring harm to yourself, what can you do to resolve the issue?

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