BREAKTHROUGH: When the Holy Spirit Moves

I am excited to announce this NEW daily devotional:

BREAKTHROUGH: When the Holy Spirit Moves

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The Book of Acts tells the historical events that shaped the early church through the powerful, dynamic movement of the Holy Spirit. This power is still available and working today all over the world.
As we encounter the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we have the great kopportunity to watch God do incredible work in and through us.
This daily devotional walks us through the book of Acts so we can experience a personal revival and help us experience a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit in our own lives.

You can order your Kindle or paperback option from Amazon: Click here to order.

Our Lives Look Different

Christmas is a wonderful time of year for many and a tragic, depressing or sad time of year for many. This time of year for others is…frustrating.

Advent is a time of preparation for the birth of the Christ child into the world, and into our hearts once again. How we live demonstrates our devotion for Christ. This does not mean that we earn our way into God’s favor or we have to work to get grace. What this does mean is that our lives should reflect the outpouring of God’s grace upon our lives. Our lives should be different from those who do not believe (either never believed, or have fallen from belief).

Our scripture for this week is Jesus speaking of the end of time and about the Son of Man’s (His) return in glory. You can read the scripture for this week here.

What stand out to you today? One thing I would like to bring into the conversation is, how we react to this passage, about the end of time, shows how we’ll act toward God and others here and now. We do not know when the end will come and when Christ will return. Jesus says to “be on guard so your hearts will not be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life…” We are to live as people of faith with hope in all God has done, is doing and will do in the future.

We do not have to be worried or be part of anything that will take our minds and hearts off of Christ. We trust that Christ is with us and will continue to be with us during difficult times. So, what we watch on media, what we read, what we write should all be different from those who do not have faith.

Our love of and for God and people should set us apart. It is through our actions and our lives that may people will see and experience Emmanuel (God with us). God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is working in and through us to show the world He is here and is working for restoration and reconciliation.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

“Becoming Great”

Mark 10:41-43  Now when the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with James and John. Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the ones who are considered the rulers by the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.

There have been may times that something I have said has made another person, or even a group of people, angry or upset. I have gotten upset over words from another person (hearing a voice or via written message). We can easily allow what people say to upset us and let our emotions determine how we act.

This is how I imagine the disciples mindset at this point in time. I cannot blame them for feeling the way do at this point. It is easy to understand what might be going through their minds at this point. If they would have taken time to talk with James and John, would they have gotten angry? Would they be able to understand the brothers’ background and meet them where they were? Did the other ten disciples want to have the same position of greatness and were angry because they did not ask first?

I wonder if James and John understood why the other disciples were angry.

Jesus teaches his disciples about true greatness. He tells them that earthly position and authority are fragile. We should not strive to gain earthly recognition, but to strive for the glory of God.

To live for the glory of God means we live our life for something bigger than we are. When we do this, we become more humble. Becoming more humble means we begin to be a servant rather than a master. It seems backwards. Becoming a servant to become great. I think this makes good sense when we think about it. We cannot just jump to becoming an owner, we have to work for it. We have to be able to do the lowliest tasks in order to become ready for the bigger tasks.

“Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.”

Impossible Possiblilites

Mark 10:27 “Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible with human beings, but not with God. All things are possible for God.”

What does this verse mean to you? If I were to guess, I bet there are several ideas about what this means.

Remember, we should read this verse in context. Jesus just finished talking to a young rich man wanting to know how to enter into eternal life. Then the disciples are perplexed at how difficult it seems Jesus is making it to enter into eternal life and they just asked, “who can be saved?”

Now, Jesus says this. First of all, we should remember that we are saved by grace, by the Grace of God. It is God who has saved us, not anything we have done (see Ephesians 2:8-9). In this context, nothing is impossible with God!

But there is more. Look back at Genesis and God creating the entire world and heavens out of nothing. He created people, delivered His people, fought battles, sent angels, and so much more throughout the Scriptures. What an incredibly powerful God we serve and who has called us!

If our God has done all of this, what is there He could not do? We obviously want Him to intervene more often; but what if He does and we don’t see it? I think it is incredible how God has filled us with His Spirit. Our God is all around us and in us. God can and does work through His people. If He wanted to, He could end all evil right here, right now and everything would be perfect.

God is incredible and is with you. He has done the impossible and saved you. Because of Jesus Christ you are saved into eternal life. All we should do is accept and acknowledge this great gift.

God is powerful!

Children of Grace

Mark 10:13-16 “People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” Then he hugged the children and blessed them.”

Children. The joys they bring. The laughter. The frustration. There are so many great things about children. Now, I am not going to pretend I am an expert on raising children. One thing is for certain, Jesus welcomed the children.

There are several verses that people use to elevate children. My guess is that e usually think about children as under 10 years of age when we read passages like this. 1 Timothy 4:12 is also used, along with the similar verses in Matthew and Mark.

What if Jesus wasn’t just talking about people under the age of 10? What if there is something more that he is trying to say. Yes, I believe Jesus welcomes children with open arms and loves all the people (including children) in the world. I have read that some scholars do not think Jesus is simply talking about young children. Instead, they say that “children” would have been used describing the young; but also describing someone who is under the authority of a teacher, or their father. We’ll see next week that Jesus called His disciples “little children.”

One of the points of this could be that Jesus is showing that grace is open to anyone and everyone, not just the people who seem to have it all together. He is especially showing that the insignificant people of society are welcomed graciously into the Kingdom of God. So if a student is one fire for the Lord, and studying, Jesus could be talking about them as well. We are not to quench the Spirit. We are to be enthusiastic about following Christ daily. This is what I believe Jesus is talking about when he says, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child…”

So, the challenge for us is to see how and who we can nurture faith in without trying to stop the fire they have in them.

Grace is available to all people.

Unjoining Union

Mark 10:2-8 “Some Pharisees came and, trying to test him, they asked, “Does the Law allow a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus answered, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a divorce certificate and to divorce his wife.” Jesus said to them, “He wrote this commandment for you because of your unyielding hearts. At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Because of this, a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.”

Today, we look at a passage that can be a place of argument and division among people. There may be things I say people may not agree with, and that’s okay.

What is happening in this passage? The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus by getting him to say anything contrary to the Law that was passed down by Moses. In one way, I think, they were trying to show their own superiority based upon their knowledge and were trying to show how “ignorant” or “uninformed” Jesus was. As we already know, Jesus proves the contrary.

The Pharisees were asking about a Law that was given by Moses. Right away, we can see they were elevating Moses to the position of God by saying his law had more authority. Jesus listened to their question, and answered their question directly. Not really going into further details or explanation except what had been written down in the Scriptures. The Pharisees were looking at this life from the point of view of man. Jesus was looking at life from the point of view of God the Father.

So, where does this leave us? I believe there is something in Jesus’ words that we can take out and help guide us today. What was He talking about? Division. Separation. Consequences of doing our own things.

The line that strikes me more than any of the others is “Because of your hardness of hearts…” The people were given what they wanted, a chance to break union “because of their hard hearts;” because of the human rebellious spirit. Now, to be clear on something, I don’t see Jesus here saying that every divorce is because of a person’s rebellious spirit, just wanting to get what ever they want. Commentators point out that Jesus was simply answering the question of the Pharisees. He wasn’t, here, giving regulations or stipulations that are acceptable for divorce.

I do think that Jesus is bringing the human condition to light. We simply want things our way, and will try in whatever manner to get it. Instead of leaving this statement alone and walking away, Jesus points all the way back to the beginning…God. He stressed the basis and purpose of God’s creation of humans, to be in relationship with one another. Then He talks about the two becoming one.

Glue is fun to use. I like to glue objects together to try and fix the brokenness. What happens when I try to take apart something that has been joined together by glue? A mess, the two piece are never the same. There has been an unjoining of the union. The two are no longer part of the one, they are separated. If this were done on people, we would feel a lot of pain.

I believe one of our purposes is to be in relationship with other people. Our relationship with people should be based upon our relationship with God. But our hard, rebellious hearts cause us to not look to God. But, we can go back and see God’s original purpose. At points like this, we can see grace because God has not left us.

Get ‘Em

James 5:19-20 “My brothers and sisters, if any of you wander from the truth and someone turns back the wanderer, recognize that whoever brings a sinner back from the wrong path will save them from death and will bring about the forgiveness of many sins.”

James has been a great series to be in for this month. The ending is not what we might consider “normal.” After all, what has James been doing the entire letter up until these verses? Getting the community of faith to live their lives in the manner they speak and worship.

There have been ups and downs, as with all aspects of human life. Living to a higher standard, is difficult. It is possible to try and live a decent life through good works; but it is because of our faith and living out our faith are the works we do elevated to give God glory.

Prayer is a communication between man and God and God and man. This is one of the most powerful things we can do in our lives. When people get together as a community and pray, souls are aligned. This is one reason I believe Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” (Matthew 18:20). There is just something special and powerful when we get together as a community.

There are times when there is a rift, a division within the community of faith and a person has abandoned the faith. People will run off and do there own things. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians that he handed people over to Satan for their benefit so they would come back to God anew. When someone decides to walk away, James says to go get them!

Now, we do not go bring them back so numbers will be higher, or giving will increase. We go because God desires all people to have a saving knowledge of Him. We grow in our faith because of the community of faith we are part of. If a person walks away, it becomes easy to hold on to the parts of our life we are ashamed of. We miss out on the opportunity to take the burden off our hearts and confess sins, confess wrong doings.

Confession, repentance and forgiveness is something powerful that we cannot ignore. Going to get people who walk away, or who have never known the faith helps us maintain relationships and walk with people through their hurts, their joys, their life.

Who do you believe God is leading you to go get?

What Drives You?

James 3:14-18 “However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic. Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.”

This week, we’re continuing to look at wisdom and our lives. Today, I’ll ask the question, “what drives you?” Maybe a better way to ask this is, “where do you get the motivation to do what you do?” I think this is a very important question to ask because it shows where we get our “wisdom” from: culture around us or God in heaven.

If we get our wisdom from the culture around us, we’ll be more interested in what the majority of people think. We’ll look to news and media for sensationalism and entertainment instead of seeing the world as a broken place that God is working in. We’ll say it’s okay to be jealous because people are messing with “our possessions” or our relationships. We’ll focus more on what we want and do anything to get it instead of doing what we can to improve the lives of those around us, including our own.

Wisdom from God is different. It is a way of life that sows the seeds of the gospel for the good of the Kingdom of God. We’ll see evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in our life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Our way of life, our actions will show this. God gives us a spirit that, if nurtured, will grow and bring forth fruit that will transform the world with the power of God working in us and through us.

What drives you?

Jesus, we call on you to work in our lives and nurture the gifts you and given us. May we have the wisdom to hear from you and allow you to continue to work in us and through us for the transformation of the world. Amen

Recognizing Christ

2-fish-5-loaves

John 6:1-15 After this Jesus went across the Galilee Sea (that is, the Tiberias Sea). A large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat there with his disciples. It was nearly time for Passover, the Jewish festival. Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip,“Where will we buy food to feed these people?” Jesus said this to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, “More than a half year’s salary worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted. When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw that he had done a miraculous sign, they said, “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world.” Jesus understood that they were about to come and force him to be their king, so he took refuge again, alone on a mountain. 

This is a passage we read a lot and think we hear the same message each time. Today, I invite us to look at this passage in a different light.

(These notes were presented in a sermon on Sunday, July 26, 2015)

Where do you see God in your life? What motivates us to see God in our everyday lives? Do we simply go when we’re hungry or need something? Do we only praise God when things are going right and forget about him when things go “wrong”? Or do we see and praise God in all aspects of our lives, recognizing he is part of every part, including the seemingly ordinary parts?

There are people sitting down, reading this, and need to be reminded that Jesus is with you. He is not turning you away. We can go to be with Jesus any time, and he will care for us. Jesus is with you and cares for you, even in the ordinary parts of the day, like meal times. All it takes is for us to see and notice his presence.

So, as we look at this passage, I invite you to consider the question, “What motivates you to go to be with Jesus?” We all have our reasons. Some person reading this may need to feel justified. Another valued. Another loved. Another seeking a friend. Someone may have hit rock bottom and are searching for a reason to continue living. Whatever our motive, we are still moving toward the presence of Christ.

The people followed Jesus up the mountain because they had seen him do miraculous signs of healing and they wanted to see more. The people seemed to be following Jesus as an entertainment venue. We can see throughout scripture how the people “missed it” and did not see what was really going on. It is easy to look back at events and see what happened, after all hindsight is 20×20! But if we think about it, we do the same thing today. We go to God and ask, plead for miracles. Do we stay and still praise him even when what we want doesn’t happen? It is challenging to want to be in the presence of Christ and not expect to be entertained or expect him to do something for us.

A point that we should not miss is that it doesn’t matter why the people were following Jesus up the mountain. Verse 5 says, “Jesus looked up and saw.” That is great news for us! Jesus took the time to, not only look at the people and notice they were there, he took the time to assess the situation and “see” what the people needed. The people wanted to see signs of a great prophet or magician, and Jesus knew they needed nourishment. He saw this need in all of the people present.

He saw the hurting. He saw the hungry. He saw the “religious.” He saw the hypocrites. He saw those hungry for God. He saw those hurting and seeking God. He saw the religious studying God. He saw people wanting to leave their hypocritical lives behind. He saw everyone! He sees you too.

So, Jesus asks a question. He asks Philip where they could get food to feed the people. Philip answered by saying there is not enough money. Jesus was asking WHERE (meaning we are going to feed these people) and Philip answered with a HOW (meaning I don’t see how we can do this task). Isn’t it amazing that the ones who were with Jesus daily and saw all the things he could do, still didn’t understand the power of God through Jesus? We all miss seeing and recognizing what Jesus can do in our lives and the world.

How is our response when we feel a nudging from the Holy Spirit to do some task? How do we respond when we sense a nudging to help someone? If we’re honest, we respond like I do a lot of the time. We’ll look at our limited resources and forget to keep the possibilities in mind. We can ask ourselves this to help keep things in perspective, “If we allowed God in the situation, how would it be different?” We could be so focused on the issue or problem at hand that we have tunnel vision and do not pay attention to the little opportunity right in front of us that could be a solution that God wants us to use.

It is in times like this we should recognize God and see he is still there and still working to take care of the needs of the people. When we allow God to come into the situation, we can see that we actually do have enough (and sometimes God somehow multiplies resources) to take care of the needs and situation. The amazing thing is that everyone is taking care of! He even provides for his people.

God is in all aspects of our lives, and his presence never changes. He is the same God from the beginning of time until the present day. He is the same when life is easy and when it is challenging and difficult (almost impossible). How do we know this? Jesus.

I love the book of John because there is always an underlying message in the book. Jesus is showing he can take care of the physical needs of the people; but he is really showing that he takes care of the spiritual needs (spiritual nourishing). Jesus is the Word made flesh. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:1-2) Jesus was right there in the beginning. God has been the same. We can see this by what Jesus has the disciples do. He asks them to collect the left over bread and fish in baskets and there was enough to fill 12 baskets. The bread (12 loaves for each tribe of Israel) within the Holy of Holies, in the Temple, was taken by baskets. Jesus was showing the God of the Old Testament is still the same today.

This is one of those miracles that can leave us with many questions. How did he actually multiply the bread and fish? Was it in a cave hidden already? Did people just share the food they brought? I’m not sure how it happened. I do believe Christ has the power to multiply food. His purpose was not to just feed the people some bread and fish. His purpose was to show the people he will feed with food that matters and will not leave us or go bad.

We can recognize that Jesus is more than we realize at times. How do you want Jesus in your life? As a “magic man”? Or as the Source of your life who can sustain you and provide you with everything you need?

The challenge for us is to recognize who Jesus is and see him as he really is.