Monday, November 19, 2007

When We Miss the Target

This excerpt is from www.MaxLucado.com - UpWords Weekly Devotional Email

When We Miss the Target by Max Lucado

Read the first verse of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus knew David’s ways. He witnessed the adultery, winced at the murders, and grieved at the dishonesty. But David’s failures didn’t change Jesus’ relation to David. The initial verse of the first chapter of the first gospel calls Christ “the son of David” (Matt. 1:1 KJV). The title contains no disclaimers, explanations, or asterisks. I’d have added a footnote: “This connection in no way offers tacit approval to David’s behavior.” No such words appear. David blew it. Jesus knew it. But he claimed David anyway.

He did for David what my father did for my brother and me.

Back in our elementary school days, my brother received a BB gun for Christmas. We immediately set up a firing range in the backyard and spent the afternoon shooting at an archery target. Growing bored with the ease of hitting the circle, my brother sent me to fetch a hand mirror. He placed the gun backward on his shoulder, spotted the archery bull’s-eye in the mirror, and did his best Buffalo Bill imitation. But he missed the target. He also missed the storehouse behind the target and the fence behind the storehouse. We had no idea where the BB pellet flew. Our neighbor across the alley knew, however. He soon appeared at the back fence, asking who had shot the BB gun and who was going to pay for his sliding-glass door.
At this point I disowned my brother. I changed my last name and claimed to be a holiday visitor from Canada. My father was more noble than I. Hearing the noise, he appeared in the backyard, freshly rousted from his Christmas Day nap, and talked with the neighbor.

Among his words were these:
“Yes, they are my children.”
“Yes, I’ll pay for their mistakes.”

Christ says the same about you. He knows you miss the target. He knows you can’t pay for your mistakes. But he can. “God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins” (Rom. 3:25 NLT).

Since he was sinless, he could.

Since he loves you, he did. “This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:10 NLT).

He became one of us to redeem all of us. “Jesus, who makes people holy, and those who are made holy are from the same family. So he is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters” (Heb. 2:11 NCV).

He wasn’t ashamed of David. He isn’t ashamed of you. He calls you brother; he calls you sister. The question is, doyou call him Savior?

From Facing Your GiantsCopyright (W Publishing Group, 2006) Max Lucado

Monday, November 12, 2007

Travel in Jesus' Boat

Greetings all! I was reading a newsletter from a Frontline Missions and came across the transcript of a message by Pastor Marcos - one of the pastors in Brazil. It was so simple, yet powerful, I wanted to share it with you. Below is the message...proverbs from the heart of someone who loves Jesus!

April 17, 2007
Message from Pastor Marcos at Leader Training Congress in Agua Fria, Brazil

I don’t have a Bible, but the Word of God is written upon my heart. So I am opening up my heart so I can speak the Word of God to you.

We are here for one reason-to worship and adore the Lord Jesus Christ. You brought Him here for He is with you, so let us adore Him.

We are called to take His message to the ends of the earth. We are all worshipping the Lord in many different ways. We are all correct – this brings Him joy.

If you seek the Lord, you will find Him

The Lord is returning to receive a spotless church and if your life isn’t right – correct it today.

As sure as the sun rises Jesus will return, so let’s take every opportunity to share with others.

Jesus Christ has all power on earth, in heaven and under the sea. He has all power everywhere.

This morning we all had partridge. If you want pork or beef you would have to go somewhere else. In the same way there is only one way to eternal life. Through Jesus Christ. Only one way!

You can not destroy the devil with a knife or stones, but you can destroy him with the Word of God. Study the Word of God, arm yourself with the Word of God. If you don’t fill your heart with the Word of God the devil will take advantage of you. You will fall if the Word of God is not in your heart.

Noah is our example and Jesus is our ark for our protection. The animals entered the ark male and female, husband and wife. Not man to man or woman to woman. He created us as male and female. Travel in Jesus’ boat. In Jesus’ boat is eternal life.

Don’t allow the enemy to plant sin in your life or rule over you. Like this plant when it is small it is easy to root it out but once it grows big it is very difficult. So sin is the same. Don’t allow sin to grow but turn to Jesus Christ because He has the power to root sin out of our life.

Let the Word of God grow in your heart. Jesus Christ’s word must be allowed to grow so sin cannot grow and then take His Word to others so sin cannot grow in their lives. Study the word of God so you can carry it back to others. The devil is like a jaguar that is seeking our cattle to kill them and carry them off. Likewise the devil is wanting to kill our brothers and sisters. He is a liar and a thief and a murderer.
When I’m in my village I never see the other tribes but I have been praying for you. Now I get to see you and it is good and I am glad. Now I will continue to pray for you for I am glad to see you have the Word of God.

If you are asleep and a song comes to you, get up and sing it. Likewise if you have a bad dream, rebuke it for the devil tempted Jesus and Jesus defeated him by using the Word of God. You can do the same. Use the Word of God to defeat the devil.

We are not better than anyone else. In Jesus we are equal. None better than others, but in Jesus we are all one.

The devil is at work today but Jesus Christ came to give you life eternal. The devil wanted to be all powerful but only Jesus Christ is all powerful. Serve Jesus Christ.

The Father and Jesus Christ created you. They gave you a mouth to speak the Word of God. Eyes to see His creation and read His words.

Jesus has given us the victory! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

If My People...

There has been a verse rolling around in my head for several weeks. II Chronicles 7:14 - "[if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land".

That's quite a promise.

Today, I read that scripture in context. That text is God's answer to Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple. Solomon cried out to God and put many scenarios before Him. Solomon reminded God of the promise to his Father, David, that their line would be blessed and would sit on the throne of Israel. He asked God to keep His promise. Solomon presented the house which he had built for the Lord and asked God to live there, to remain there, and turn His eyes and ear towards the people and their prayers in that place. He asked specific things of the Lord.

"Listen to the supplications of Your servant and of Your people Israel when they pray toward this place; hear from Your dwelling place, from heaven; hear and forgive" - II Chron. 6:21

"If Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You, and they return to You and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication before You in this house, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You have given to them and to their fathers." - II Chron. 6:24-25

"When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin when You afflict them; then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants and Your people Israel, indeed, teach them the good way in which they should walk. And send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people for an inheritance". - II Chron 6:26-27

Solomon goes on and on asking for forgiveness for the people and the foreigner who turns to the Lord. He notes multiple consequences of sin and rebellious disobedience. There are consequences in relationships, in health, on the land, and on the freedom of the people. All of these things are consequences of turning from the Lord. But, Solomon begs the Lord to have mercy on the people if they will humble themselves, pray, return to the Lord, seek His face.

In Chapter 7, verses 12-22, the Lord gives His answer to Solomon:

"Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, "I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

"Now my eyes shall be open and my ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.

"As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, even to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne as I convenanted with your father David, saying, 'You shall not lack a man to be ruler in Israel.'

"But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot you from My land which I have given you, and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all the peoples.

"As for this house, which was exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, 'Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?' And they will say, 'Because they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them from the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this adversity on them.'"

What a promise God gives..."I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land". But, something is required of us. We are to humble ourselves, pray and seek His face. We are also to turn from our wicked ways. He is waiting with grace and healing, but we have to ask for it and truly want it. I've wondered lately how many of us truly want it and are willing to humble ourselves and let go of our wickedness.

Recently, I was faced with a temptation...a serious weakness for me. I have learned from my past failings and put safeguards in place for myself. Instead of fighting the battle on my own, I made myself accountable to people I love and trust. I shared my weakness and fear with them and asked them to check in with me and follow up to make sure I didn't fall. That accountability was vital to my success in avoiding a situation I knew was bad for me. Our flesh is weak, but the Spirit is greater and always gives us a way out. We just have to take it. We have to turn.

As a teacher and worship leader, I have some built in accountability as well. It is much harder to choose disobedience when you are telling others to choose to follow Christ. I couldn't imagine standing in front of my church or the young women I teach if I were engaging in intentional sin. We all sin...that's not the kind of sin I mean. We are all likely to fail at times, maybe even often. What I mean is the kind of sin that is continual and deliberate, even when we know it's not in our best interest and grieves the heart of God. It is in those moments when we have a choice and we choose our own desires over obedience to Christ.

That's where the last part of the passage comes in. Not only does God promise to heal and forgive us if we ask, but He also promises to punish us if we turn from Him. Not only that, He says He will make us a proverb and a byword to all. I don't know about you, but that is NOT how I want to be remembered! I do not want to be an example of what happens when you disobey the Lord.

I'm afraid that the church in America may become that Proverb for all people. No doubt there are large numbers of people following the Lord and wholeheartedly obeying His commands here in the States. But, haven't we gotten lazy? We have the freedom to follow Christ however we choose. No one is beating down our doors and confiscating our Bibles. We aren't being sent to prison, or worse, for our beliefs. And we take those facts for granted. We’ve become complacent, lazy, and lukewarm. We put in our weekly time at church and then live the rest of the week as we choose. We hem and haw about making a stand for Christ even when it costs us little. We “play” at the game of Christianity while there are still people who have never even heard the Gospel. We carefully avoid stepping on someone’s religious toes while our counterparts all over the world are literally risking their lives to share the Gospel, the GOOD NEWS, with everyone they meet.

Is it any wonder that our nation is falling into such turmoil and despair? Where is the Church? Where are the believers? Are we to be made a mockery before the people of the world because we choose to chase our own lusts instead of turning to the Father and away from our wicked ways? I pray that it may not be so. But, we need to wake up and stir the passion within us. We need to fall on our knees in thanksgiving for the freedom we have to share the Gospel. And, then we need to embrace that freedom and live lives of boldness for Christ. I am guilty of this complacency. My heart is crushed because of the time I've wasted. I want to make a difference...I want to do something BIG for God.
Where do we start?

On our knees. "and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land".

Humble Ourselves.

Pray.

Seek His Face.

Turn from our wicked ways.

The promise awaits...

God will hear from Heaven.

God will forgive our sins.

God will heal our land.

We are in need of healing. Our land is in need of healing. As the Church, we need to be on our knees...on our faces...before the Father pleading for Him to hear us. We must do battle from that place of humility. Fight for our churches. Fight for our children. Fight to not become a byword to the nations.

What are the areas of famine in your life? Where are you showing signs that you have sinned against God? In what ways are you in captivity?

Is there discontent in your church? Humble yourselves. Pray. Seek His face. Turn from your wicked ways.

Is there discord in your family? Humble yourselves. Pray. Seek His face. Turn from your wicked ways.

Is there a disconnect in your relationships? Humble yourselves. Pray. Seek His face. Turn from your wicked ways.

Don't wait on someone else to do it. If you can't get through to the people involved, let God battle for you. "The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place" (Deut. 1:30-31).

It’s time for us to fight, Church! It time for us to fight with, not against, each other. I have been deeply challenged to pray for my own church and my areas of impact. I have not been fervent in my prayers for my pastor, my fellow team mates, the members of my congregation. I have not been vigilant in my prayers for my community. That has to change. I can’t change many things, but I can change what is in my power. I can change me.