More To Your Story

There is an interesting line in Genesis 37 that says, “This is the account of Jacob’s family line.” (Genesis 37:2 NIV)

This is actually a pretty significant line. Have we paid attention to it before? We can think it is talking about the people that descended from Jacob, and it does; but there is more to consider.

For one thing, we have to remember who Jacob was. He was the grandson of Abraham. Jacob’s name means “deceiver or heel.” When he was born, he was grabbing the heel of his twin brother Esau.

His name fits him. After all, Abraham set the example when he would lie to keep himself safe in other countries. Abraham was the person God had called out to be the father of the Hebrew people, God’s set apart people.

Along comes Jacob, and he seems to only want to play by his own rules and only get what he wants, even if it means to run people over. He would get upset when others would cheat him. Many people could have thought that Jacob’s life path was set, that he would be a swindler and cheater all of his life, only concerned about himself.

But, when we realize God is with us and we are part of His story, we realize that it is not our past, or even our present, that defines us. It is God who defines us. Jacob’s story was not over, and neither is yours or mine.

Genesis 37:2 says, “This is the account of Jacob’s family line.” Jacob’s story gets to live on, because of God’s grace, through his family!

Yes, there are many examples of how the people of Jacob (people of Israel) left God’s path, and God guided them back. Yes, there are times we will stray from God’s path; but there God is guiding us back as well.

God somehow uses our past and redeems it. God works through our past to bring healing, transformation, and ultimately redemption.

Your story is not over yet. There is so much more that God can do and will do with your life, your family line. Look no further than Jesus Christ.

When Jesus was on the cross, his arms were outstretched. We can think of this as him having his arms stretched out to embrace the world. He not only came for the world; Jesus also came for you.

Just think about all Jesus Christ can do in and through your life. When you feel discouraged or down. Or your past seems to get in the way on visioning for a bright future, remember this:

“This is the account of Jacob’s family line.” Jesus was part of this family line. Because of Jesus, your life, my life, and the world will never be the same. There is always hope and a chance to experience an incredible future and life because of Jesus.

Journey to Revival Week 9

REVIVAL FREEDOM

1 Thessalonians 5:23 “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We are on week 9 of a 12 week time of prayer and study for revival and awakening.

This week, our topic focuses on the freedom God has given us to be able to choose his power, his love his grace when we are seeking and experiencing revival.

Below the video link is a historical example of revival.

You are invited to go through this time of study and prayer either individually (i.e. journal), or gather a group together to pray and discuss each week’s topic. Our guide for this time will be the scriptures, prayer, and the book “Revival Rising.” You can get this book at http://www.seedbed.com

Feel free to share this video study with your friends.

Revival Experience from the book Revival Rising:

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Journey to Revival Week 5

REVIVAL GLORY

2 Corinthians 3:11-12: “And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.”

We are on week 5 of a 12 week time of prayer and study for revival and awakening.

 

This week, we’re talking about allowing God’s glory to shine though our lives. Below the video link is a historical example of revival.

You are invited to go through this time of study and prayer either individually (i.e. journal), or gather a group together to pray and discuss each week’s topic. Our guide for this time will be the scriptures, prayer, and the book “Revival Rising.” You can get this book at www.seedbed.com

 

Feel free to share this video study with your friends.

 

From the book Revival Rising:

EXTRAORDINARY EFFECTS

Revival love pours out on Jonathan Edwards’ church in 1742. This revival under the ministry of Mr. Buell exceeds the one eight years before. A visit by George Whitfield some months earlier triggers events leading to the revival.

In the month of May, 1741, a sermon was preached to a company, at a private house. Near the conclusion of the discourse, one or two persons that were professors, were so greatly affected with a sense of the greatness and glory of divine thing they were not able to conceal it—the affections of their minds overcoming their strength, and having visible effect upon their bodies. . . .

About the beginning of February, 1742, Mr. Buell came to this town. . . . There were very extraordinary effects of Mr. Buell’s labors; the people were exceedingly moved, crying out in great numbers in the meeting-house, and a great part of the congregation commonly staying in the house of God for hours after the public service. . . .

Mr. Buell continued here a fortnight or three weeks after I returned: there being still great appearances attending his labors; many in their religious affections being raised far beyond what they had ever been before: and there were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining perhaps for a whole twenty-four hours motionless. . . .

Beyond Jealousy

Click here to read the passage for today: Acts 5:17-42 CEB.

Jealousy. We all get jealous at times. Sometimes we don’t even want to admit we feel this emotion. Jealousy, when left unchecked, causes us to act in irrational and hurtful ways. Oh, we want to feel excitement for the accomplishments and gifts of other people; but deep down we wish it was us getting that recognition, so we can try to do anything to undermine the work of another.

Often times, when I write a blog about scripture, I can see my own flawed nature. This is hard because I would like to think I am always striving to encourage and develop others; but honestly, this is not always the case. My guess is this same thing happens to you, would you admit it?

So where does jealousy come from? Our flawed humanity seems to be always seeking to acquire and use what we do not have. This is why the 10th Commandment is “do not covet anything of your neighbor’s.” (See Exodus 20:17) Why is this included? I believe this commandment is part of the other nine because if we desire to have what our neighbors (those around us) have then we will never be content with what God has given us and we will seek to be made in the image of the other person rather than being formed and molded into the image of Jesus Christ.

Have you ever thought of that? Why would we want to be a replica of another person who is flawed and imperfect? Why wouldn’t we strive to be made perfect through the grace of God working in and through us? People who are in leadership positions most certainly fall into this way of thinking and of life.

Whenever another person seems to have more success than you do, be careful not to fall into the trap of doing everything exactly the way they do. The other person has different gifts, and a different area to work in. Just because success is happening in a specific way in one area does not mean it will work in your area. Just because another company, organization, church, group has something we don’t have doesn’t mean we have to go out to bash it, to try and stop it, or even try to replicate exactly.

We see this behavior all over the place. Spectators who want to be coaches instead of fully enjoying the nature of the game. Bystanders who want to know they are not getting what they want instead of being part of the activity, ministry, mission to serve other people. Deep down, there is a desire to be better than the person next to us.

Instead of waiting our energy tearing down another person or group because we’re jealous, let’s instead find a way to say “thanks” for the work they’re doing, for how they are using their gifts from God, for the opportunity to work together for the common good and goal of ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let’s take Gamaliel’s advice to the Jewish Council speak to us today, “Here’s my recommendation in this case: Distance yourselves from these men. Let them go! If their plan or activity is of human origin, it will end in ruin. If it originates with God, you won’t be able to stop them. Instead, you would actually find yourselves fighting God!”

So let’s praise God for the way he works through many different people and in many different ways. Let’s praise God for the way he works through you and me. Let’s allow more thanks and praise to flow from our lips. We have so much to give praise for because we, along with those around us, have the presence God working in us and through us AND we get to watch his work through other people.

REDEEMED: The Thief & The Garden

Holy week is about to be upon us. This is the final week of Jesus’ earthly life right before the cross on Good Friday. People seem to approach Holy Week in different ways. Some like to dwell in the darkness and focus solely on the gruesome cross. Others take the time to go through this week recounting the last days of Christ. Still others seem to skip or avoid Holy Week altogether and go straight to Easter Sunday and the celebration that Christ has risen.

Yes, the Christian faith is based upon the risen and living Christ. When we take the time to study and go through the final days of Jesus Christ, we remember the resurrection could not have happened without the crucifixion. Everything toward the end of the week is built on top of the events that happened at the end of the week. I invite you to take time to remember and go through Holy Week events, activities, worship services, etc. As you do, I hope the power of Christ’s resurrection means so much more than it may have before.

The scripture I would like you to look at this week is found in the Gospel of Luke. Click here to read Luke 23:32-43. Jesus is lifted up on the cross and is placed between two other criminals. This is an incredible passage that shows the hearts of the two criminals hanging there with Jesus.

(Brief side note: When you think about the cross, try not to image it as a tall structure. The cross would not have been as tall as we might try to think. Think of the cross as actually about eye level. Bystanders would have been able to see the agony and details in the faces of those hanging. Spoken words would have been heard easily.)

One of the criminals was taunting Jesus, right there with the crowd who made sure Jesus was crucified. The other was attempting to show mercy to Jesus, who had the same fate as the other two yet did nothing to deserve the cross.

When I read this I think about our daily conversations. How often do we avoid talking to Christ (through prayer) or about Christ when we are in mixed company because of the reactions people might have? One person boldly proclaiming Christ or praying to Christ in public will have a better chance of hearing from Jesus Christ then a person who refuses to speak. Now, this is not saying that we have to force conversations to happen. Instead, like the thief who spoke mercifully, we speak when it comes naturally in the conversation.

Because one thief heard God’s promises spoken to him before he died, he was able to die with his soul being at peace. We do not have anything in scripture that Christ spoke to the criminal who went with the jeering and taunting of the crowd. I believe the same is true for us today. When we take the time to talk mercifully to and about Jesus, we experience a peace in this life that doesn’t make sense to the rest of the world. When the world is in turmoil, we can have a supernatural peace.

This peace reminds us we have been redeemed from the curse and slavery of Sin and death. Jesus speaks of bringing the criminal into paradise. The Greek word used for paradise is describing a garden. This could mean the Garden of Eden: God’s garden.

Jesus Christ came into the world to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). “God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17).

Jesus came to redeem the world. His life, death, and resurrection redeemed you. You and I are able to come into the presence of God and experience paradise in a broken world. Jesus came to redeem and to restore creation back to it’s original state of perfection.

One day the Kingdom of God will be known fully here on earth. For now, trust that Jesus Christ has redeemed (paid the cost for) the world, which includes you.

This is why it is important to go through Holy Week and allow yourself to experience and meditate on the events that lead up to the cross. Jesus Christ’s actions on the cross and his victorious resurrection are revealed to us in a more powerful way than when we skip the activities of Holy Week.

NOTE: This is based upon a sermon series concept posted on www.seedbed.com called “Redemption.”

REDEEMED: Out of Egypt

This week, I want you to think about what your defining story. This would be a story that defines your life journey from where you were to where you are, and are going.

The defining story of the Hebrew people is the Exodus, the escape from Egypt. I invite you to read the passage for this week, Exodus 12.

Now if you had a story like the Hebrew people, you would definitely remember what happened and how your past changed you into the person you are today. This is one of the things we should reflect upon during the season of Lent. When we remember where we have been, we keep in focus who we are being formed into. The question we need to keep thinking about is, “what are we being transformed into?”

The Israelites moved to Egypt as a family of 70 people (see Genesis 47-50) and grew into millions of people in the next 400 or so years (Exodus 1). There came a time when the Pharaoh of Egypt forgot about Joseph, the son of Jacob (Israel), and enslaved the Hebrew people for fear become too numerous and too powerful and they would take over the country of Egypt.

So, the Israelites were praying for deliverance from the oppression they lived in each and every day. There were times, I am sure, the people lost hope at times because their situation had not improved.

But God did not forget the people of Israel, and raised up a man of power to deliver the people of Israel out of the slavery of Egypt. This man was Moses. Moses was not who the Hebrews thought would be their deliverer; but God showed otherwise. God used Moses, who was raised as Egyptian royalty by Pharaoh’s daughter, and knew how to move through the governmental system to get to the right person, Pharaoh himself.

Moses was still not the right person in the Hebrew people’s eyes because he murdered and Egyptian for beating one of the Hebrew people. He had to flee because he was going to get found out. Moses ended up spending the next forty years in the desert as a shepherd.

When the time was right, God called to Moses and had him go back to Egypt. The unlikely person of Moses, now 80 years old, was going to lead millions of Hebrew people out of Egypt.

Whenever the Exodus story is told, they remember the faithfulness and power of the God who delivered them from slavery and lead them into freedom.

Now, what about your defining story? What was it you were enslaved to before you met Jesus Christ and lead into freedom and salvation (the presence of God). Or, what is holding you back from entering into the freedom God gives? What are you enslaved to? Addiction? Porn? Alcohol? Money? Fame? Pride? News? Self?

There are many things that can and do enslave us, especially when we allow ourselves to stay in that state of being. It can get so bad that we can lose hope that everything will not get better.

God constantly showed His people his faithfulness and His power throughout the Exodus redemption story. He does so today to. My friends, God has placed the right people in our lives to help us hear and experience His grace and His presence. He has been right there with you your whole life.

Because of the grace of God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit we have the opportunity to fully experience and embrace love, mercy, grace, God himself. We are different after an encounter with God.

This week, as you take time to reflect on who you were before you met Jesus Christ personally, thank Him for changing your life and bringing your freedom. If you have not yet experienced grace, why not? Why would we allow ourselves, or other people in a state of life that is not joyful?

The story of God is written all through your life. How will you remember it? How will you tell it?

NOTE: This is based upon a sermon series concept posted on www.seedbed.com called “Redemption.”

REDEEMED: The Rescue

One of the great aspects of going though the season of Lent personally before heading straight to the resurrection is that we have a chance to slow our lives down and really contemplate the full life and death of Jesus Christ before we witnessing him rise from the dead, defeating it’s power forever.

We have been going through scripture to help us see how God has been redeeming people, and the world. A couple weeks ago, we looked at the interesting story of Hosea (Chapter 3) to see God’s unconditional love for us and how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us a great glimpse into this vast love. Last week, we talked about the Prodigal Son parable in Luke 15, looking at it from the father’s point of view. This week, we’re looking at being rescued by talking about the story of Abram (later Abraham) rescuing his nephew Lot from captivity.

I invite you to read the passage for this week, Genesis 14:1-16. If you would like further context, feel free to read chapters 12 and 13 also.

Abraham gets word his nephew Lot is in danger and is being held captive as a prisoner in a war. Without missing a beat, he gathers his men to go rescue Lot. He is not really concerned about what it will take to get Lot back. He is more concerned for Lot’s safety. What makes this story really good is that Lot went on his own way after getting too big (with all of his possessions) to stay with the safety and security of Abraham and his people. Abraham goes with just a little over 300 men to go against armies much larger and completes the mission of “Operation Rescue Lot.”

Does at least sound somewhat familiar to you? I hope so, because what I just described is what happens to our lives as well. Think about it for a second. Lot and all of “his” possessions got too big for them to stay with Abraham. Starting to see? When we allow what we know, what we have, what we desire to be too big to stay following God, we go off on our own to find “more space” and more things for us to do and get. The safety and security of being in God’s presence no longer satisfies when we think about our stuff more than Him.

The beauty about all of this is, God does not leave us alone when we get ourselves deep in danger, deep in sin. He comes to the rescue. He finally sent Jesus Christ to release of from the power of sin and death and the grip they held over us. Lot could have said he did not want to be rescued, that he would rather stay in captivity and go with the people who were taking him away. We can choose to stay in love with ourselves, our stuff, our intelligence instead of being released from the burden they carry.

Here’s what I see happen when we allow God to rescue us. We become free! This freedom means we use what we have, and have been given, for God’s glory instead of our own. We are no longer bound to the power the “stuff” has over us. We see everything as a gift and use our lives more wisely.

Jesus did not die on the cross so we could say, “oh, that’s cool he died for me. I’m glad I’m saved.” No, when He died on the cross and rose from the grave, He did so to show us a life that we can enter. A life that is fully in the presence of God. What a gift.

As we go through this season of lent, consider how much of a grip our “stuff” really does have on us and hold us back. Then take time to ask Jesus to release that “stuff’s” power over you and give you true freedom.

Three more weeks until Easter. How are you preparing your heart to fully grasp the incredible love, power, and majesty of Jesus Christ? Are you truly free?

NOTE: This is a sermon series concept posted on www.seedbed.com called “Redemption.”

Boasting About Christ

This is the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. I’m going to take tomorrow off and then start writing again on Sunday to begin going through Ephesians in the month of February.

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Galatians 6:14-18 14 But as for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through him, and I have been crucified to the world. 15 Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t mean anything. What matters is a new creation. 16 May peace and mercy be on whoever follows this rule and on God’s Israel. 17 From now on, no one should bother me because I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. 18 Brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. 

So this month has been challenging for me, and has also been encouraging at the same time. As I have read through the entire letter this month everyday, I have discovered many things about myself and have seen grace in the midst of Paul’s writing and in daily life more clearly. Reading the entire letter each day and focusing on a small portion to reflect on during the day has been fun and I look forward to continuing this.

We do have freedom in Christ and we can choose to live in that freedom daily or we can choose to go our own path and find that we actually become slaves to circumstances or even superstitions along the way. But we also have to be careful that we do not allow this freedom we have to go to our head; but instead allow it to control our actions.

There is so much we have to boast about in our life; but it all really boils down to one word: CHRIST. If there is anything we can brag about it is Christ. We cannot really brag about God’s grace because we haven’t done anything to earn it. We can’t brag about the life we have because God is the source of our life and the giver of our talents and gifts.

Here’s a challenge for all of us that we can do starting today: “Give thanks in ALL circumstances.” When is the last time thanks was given for the challenges and frustrations in your life? When was the last time thanks was given for the opportunity to fail? When we live our lives in this manner, God’s light is shining through us and then God is the One who boasts on us.

So may we continue to live in faith and freedom and shape our lives around Christ. Brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. 

#LiveFreeInChrist

Standards of Life

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Galatians 6:11-13  11 Look at the large letters I’m making with my own handwriting! 12 Whoever wants to look good by human standards will try to get you to be circumcised, but only so they won’t be harassed for the cross of Christ. 13 Those who are circumcised don’t observe the Law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised, so they can boast about your physical body. 

This is nearing the end of the letter to the Galatians and Paul is giving a reminder we all should follow. There will be times when we will want to try to please people, for the sake of being accepted by them. Children, teenagers and adults are no different in this area. We all have the desire to be accepted by certain people or certain groups. But Paul is looking at the motivation of the groups or people who make us try to do things so we “fit in” with their crowd.

We see this all of the time; all we have to do is watch any TV show, movie or look at group initiations. There seems to be something we have to do in order to be like the people we want to join. But these are all “human standards.” These standards will change over time based upon the culture and the people in leadership. This is one reason why it is not good to try to meet human standards.

So now we should ask, “what have you done to try to fit into a group or get certain people to like you?” If we look back at some of our past actions, we can see that we live with the wrong motivations at times. Human standards will change; but God’s will and standards do not change. God is asking that we live holy, set-apart, lives and to be people who love God and love people. This should be our standard of living.

If we love God then we can see Him in all aspects of our lives and we will meditate on His word and actions. We will remember how merciful and patient God is with us which will cause us to be humble around other people and show compassion. Each one of us have lived lives that show we do not love God as much as we say we do; but God is always with us and has never nor will ever leave us. Just because we forget at times who we are really living for, doesn’t mean that we can’t get back on the path.

When we love God with our entire lives, we will begin to truly (not conditionally) love people. We can then see the incredible potential each person has and the giftedness God has placed in their lives. We will also see, with compassion, the brokenness each person has and do what is necessary to walk with that person or people in the manner they need.

This way of life is not to impress other people, or even to impress God. We live this life because this is how we are called to live. Called to be in relationship, not isolation. Called to serve and love God with all of our lives. There are many people who think this way of life is not right, not cool, etc; but we do not live life to impress other people, or show off how “good” we are. We live life in this manner because we are FREE to. This freedom that Jesus Christ gives is incredible motivation to do what we are called to do and be who we are called to be.

#LiveFreeInChrist

Sharing Life

Today, we begin the final chapter in Galatians. This is a great chapter on how we should live in community with others in the faith.

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Galatians 6:1-5 Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves. Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others. Each person will have to carry their own load. 

Throughout the letter of Galatians, Paul is speaking of a personal faith in Christ and how Christ gives individuals freedom. Now in chapter 6, the last chapter of this letter, Paul shifts his focus from the individual to the community. This should remind us that Christ is working in us personally, but Christ is also working through the community. I am not going to pretend that living in a community is easy; nor will I say it is peaceful. When we add other people into our lives, life becomes more, not less complicated. But, Paul is reminding us how we should live and encourage each other.

Paul reminds us that we should be gentle. Oftentimes we say that the other person needs to be told just like it is and it doesn’t matter how the words come out. They need to know they are wrong! This is true; but there seems to be a way to correct, but also build up so that the other person can become better. We can affirm the person’s strengths and good qualities, then we can speak of what went wrong. The end of verse one is something we should also keep in mind: Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. This reminds us that we are also susceptible for the same kinds of actions and attitudes as that of the person we are there to correct.

We do not live this life alone so. This statement by Paul reminds us how we should be with each other: Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. I think it is awesome, Paul found another way to say the simple phrase, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s the law of Christ. We should be the people who do not allow others to live, or think they live, this life alone; there are always people there for them even when life seems to go down the drain. But he also goes on to say, If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves.” To me, this means we need to be humble and not think highly of ourselves. Many times if we are trying to help someone in need, we want them to get the help they need, our way. It becomes hard to listen to a person who thinks they are more important than they are.

Conversely, we should not compare ourselves with anyone else. We should be the people who do our work to the glory of God, which means we do it as best as we can. Then, when our work is tested, we know for sure we did what we were supposed to do. We have our own work to do, so we must do our job and not add to other people’s work load just because we don’t want to do it.

Our faith in Christ gives us absolute freedom to be there for people, no matter how different they are from us, and to do our work the best we can. When we live in this way, we proclaim Christ with our entire lives, words and actions.

“LiveFreeInChrist

*photo credit: counselingoneanother.com