Monday, August 29, 2011

Better Than Orange Juice

It's a Monday morning as I make this post.  It's early (as usual), and my head is between my ear buds...pumping very anointed Praise and Worship music into my existence.  I cannot accurately express in words what I feel...but I'll give it a try.

Besides just plain ole good, something really special happens when I require myself to spend quality time in God's presence.  I seem to experience a full dose of the reality of what I already know.  For instance, I know that God is good.  And I know many verses that substantiate God's goodness from the Book.  But when the Holy Spirit energizes that fact abruptly, I began to experience for myself the reality of what my head already knows!  It's life-changing!  I know that God can do anything. But when I am in His presence I begin to experience what I already knew...God CAN do anything.  It's more than good comes alive!  One more example.  I know that God inhabits praise.  (See Psalm 22:3).  But when I enter into His gates with a heart of thanks, and come into His courts with praise...I experience the reality of God inhabiting praise!

I don't know everything.  And God can teach and show us many things while in His presence.  However, what I do know, and what I have learned becomes a tangible reality when I am in His presence.  No, not all at once, but whatever He desires to bring to reality...He does.  It moves from being great information stored in the memory banks of our minds, to a tangible reality in our spirits. Yep, God IS good!  Because such a big, mighty, holy God would consider you and me worthy to even come into His presence.  And on top of that, He would bring to reality the promises He has already presented to us in His written Word.

And let me say that requiring yourself quality time in His presence is even better than that orange juice commercial.  You know, the one where everyone at the breakfast table is telling a certain person that at such and such a time during the day, bad things would happen to him.  To every bad thing he says "Great.  Fantastic.  I've had my orange juice!"  You can face the day and tackle anything because you've been in God's presence.  And you don't just know all the great things about Him...this very day you have experienced them!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Time That Transforms

Goodness gracious!  I had a great time with Jesus this morning.  I simply love the early morning!  It's that time of day when I get alone with the God who created our universe. Yea, He's a big God, but He spent one-on-one time with me this morning.  Just God and me!  You may have spent time with him simultaneously, but still...He was with me!! That's how big He is. But what I really, really love about Jesus is that he is also very intimate.  He waits longingly for us to come to Him, just to be with Him.  Just He and you (or me)!

the Word says His mercies are new each morning.  Well, if His mercies are new each morning so is His presence.  You can't live today solely on what you received yesterday (or last week).  The fact that His mercies are new each day strongly confirm that His presence is also fresh and new each day.  Without His infinite mercy we would not experience one lick of His presence!

It is incredible to experience the freshness of His Spirit along with the freshness of a brand new day.  There is no doubt it forms one's outlook of the entire day.  Time in God's presence transforms a feelings riddled, negative outlook of the day into a "God is in control" and "I'm expecting God to do great exploits through me!" kind of a day.  Let me encourage you to make an appointment with God each day.  Give up a little sleep if you have to.  God is much greater than the amount of sleep you lose.  And He is definitely greater than the weakness you may feel as a result of losing an hour of sleep. According to Paul, God is strongest through us when we are weaker!  so make that appointment...and keep it!  You will be blessed!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Are You Forsaking Church?

It's a great Sunday morning, I'm up early anticipating a great time in the Lord's presence at Pursuit Church.  But then I'm always up early, anticipating a great day filled with God's presence! However today (Sunday) is extremely special because I get to share it with some great people who absolutely love Jesus like I do!

There is something very encouraging about being with God's people...especially when you're one of them.  Listen to what the book says, "...and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." (Hebrews 10: 24-25)  This writer of Hebrews is saying we must consider how to stimulate each other to love and good works by gathering together.  When we don't gather, we're not stimulated!  He says we need more encouragement today than yesterday.  Why?  Because the day is approaching.  What day? The day Jesus comes, or the day we go to Him.  Either is "the day" we meet Him.  The closer we get to "that day", the closer we need to be to Jesus. The word "stimulate" from the original language actually has the meaning of "provoking" one another.  This is a hard-core form of encouragement.  It is the kind of encouragement one receives in a gathering when God's Spirit shows up!  This writer is saying you miss out on this type of encouragement if you miss the gathering.

Obviously some of the folks written about here were missing the gatherings, and they were missing the encouragement as well.  They were not being stimulated/provoked to love and good works for Jesus.  Instead they were becoming hardened and some were even falling away.  Because of the positive effect gathering has on God's people, the writer here considers "not" gathering a type of forsaking the gathering.

The bottom line here is that two crucial characteristics of the body of Christ are missing as a result of not gathering together:  Love and good deeds. These two characteristics are designed to carry beyond the gatherings and reach into the week ahead - out there in the world.  When one habitually misses the gathering of the church they lack the encouragement necessary for love and good deeds outside the gathering.

So let me say to you...go to church.  If you don't have a church...find a church. Find a church that is out there on the edge.  Don't go to a church that has been steeped in tradition and religion for the past 50 to 300 years!  Find a church where the people are not bonkers...but they ARE bonkers for Jesus. Hang with folks who simply won't stop talking about Jesus.  Find a gathering of folks who are praising Him with all their body, soul, mind, and strength! Gather with folks who are worshiping in Spirit and in Truth.  This is the way Jesus said we ALL should worship our God!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

God of the Nations

As long as I can remember I have always been keenly interested in other cultures.  When I was a kid someone from "out of town" really caught my interest.  When I was a kid our next door neighbors (from up north) hosted two cousins about my age also from up north.  I was fascinated that they called the sofa (we just called it the couch) the "davenport".  A family once moved to my home town.  I got to know one of the boys my age.  I was intrigued to know they ate "biscuits and gravy" every single morning for breakfast.  We ate eggs and bacon so I just assumed everyone else in the world did the same.  The very woman I married 37 years ago (and still married to) was from out of town.  I was intrigued at the beautiful girl (hottie) from Alabama.

I guess that's why I have such a keen, interest in the nations of the world.  Of course God has everything to do with that.  But as a child, before I met Jesus, He was already preparing me with a heart for other peoples.  

When I was 17 I traveled to Mexico City with the Mississippi Lions Allstate Band.  It was an incredible experience.  Mexico is not the farthest place from the U.S., but it is definitely a different culture.  I was walking with Jesus when I joined the Air Force, and my first assignment after tech school was three years in Germany.  What an experience!  While in Germany we visited several of the European nations.  I was also assigned temporary duty in Saudi Arabia for seven weeks.  The time in Saudi was a milestone for my Christian walk.  Talk about culture shock!  In 1991 I was able to return to Mexico...this time as a short-term missionary.  In 1997, I visited India for the first time as a pastor simply to check up on the ministry we were supporting as a church.  It changed my life!  Since then I have made 8 trips to India and am now planning India Reach 2012.  My affiliation with the folks in India has influenced my walk more than any other.  However, my love for the nations is even broader.  In 2000 God opened the door for me to go to Guatemala for the first time (and several since).  And in 2007 I was able to visit Honduras two times.  And I just returned from my 3rd visit to Honduras.  Visiting other nations and cultures has given me what I believe is a more proper perspective on my place in God's universe.

There is something deeply spiritually significant in the heart of God about the nations of the earth.  In His eyes He is the Lord of all.  In His heart, He longs for praise and worship from every culture.  There is something eternally significant about the nations.  I believe that all the diversity of every culture comes from His heart.  However, He is the only God.  I've been so blessed to hear passionate worship coming from the lips of Indian people, Hispanic people, German people, Saudi, Pakistani, British people and more.  But the cry is to ONE God!  I believe part of the significance of having a heart for the nations is that all the diversity points us to just ONE God!

In case you haven't heard...the earth is not flat and the universe does not revolve around our nation!  The universe revolves around ONE God!  From every nation people are crying to Him from the depths of their hearts!  God is not glorified in and from our nation alone.  No, He is glorified from every nation on earth.  That makes us matter what nation or culture we are from.

In heaven...when all is said and done.  God's throne will not be surrounded with just Americans. will be surrounded with folks from every single tribe, every single tongue, and every single nation!  To have a heart for the nations is actually having a heart for God's kingdom and His heaven, and God's heart is expressed through those who love Him.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Acceptable Worship

I teach a series entitled "Passion with a Purpose". In the second session I cover the subject of "Acceptable Worship". Let me say something we must all understand right at the beginning: The way we worship and approach God MATTERS to Him. God establishes the protocol for approaching Him and has laid it out in His Word.

From what I have experienced in worship there are two types of worship: Acceptable worship and token worship. What is token worship? Understanding that a token is a substitute for the genuine, token worship is something offered to God to please self alone. How does that happen? Some people do church to do their time. Who does that please? Themselves. Somewhere within there is a self-gratification that says "I have met the minimum requirement". But that is token worship. The same is true in group praise and worship in the church. Some endure the praise and worship (it's very obvious on their faces) thinking they are offering something to God. The truth is they are doing their time. They think this actually satisfies God too! The truth is God doesn't receive or accept token worship! Token worship (which pleases man) is pure religion!But then there is acceptable worship. This worship is accepted by God. Cain and Able are a very good example. (See Gen. 4)  At harvest time Cain brings an offering to God from his crops. God doesn't accept Cain's offering. Cain is very upset! God says "Cain I'll accept you're offering if you respond to Me in the correct way!" Abel shows us the correct way. The Word says Abel brought several "choice" lambs from the "best" of his flock. The difference? Cain brought God a token offering. Abel brought an acceptable one! Cain brought God a little somethinsomethin'. Abel brought God the very best he had.  Is your worship token or acceptable?  Just asking.

The real lesson in this story is that when God accepts your offering, He accepts you! When He does not accept your offering (Cain) He doesn't accept you! Pay close attention to this scripture. "Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; bring an offering and come into His courts." If the worship we present to God (in group or individual worship) is acceptable to God - we get in! When we get in to His incredible Holy Place we are never the same!  He eagerly waits for His folks to "enter in" to His presence...with acceptable worship.  Remember, the way we approach God and what we offer to Him does really matter.

Monday, August 8, 2011

How Will You Face The Day?

Wow! Another morning...another day filled with opportunities. Some people wake up each morning and say "Good morning Lord!" But others wake up and say "Good lord, It's morning!" Which one are you? How do you look at a brand new day? Today is filled with opportunities, many of which won't pass your way again. Will you look at today as another God-given adventure, or perhaps more time to pass until the weekend?

If you are like me (and I know you are because you are human), you tend to magnify the negative things until you don't see any positive. But the truth is, the positive things in your life are much more numerous than the negative. Sometimes we allow one truly negative occurrence to ruin our day or our week, or for some, their entire outlook on life.

So how will you look at today? That will determine how you live today. Will you head out to work dreading the grind of the job, focusing on all the negative aspects (and there are some)? Or will you focus on the positive things of your life? When is the last time you thanked God for your job? I'm just saying. When is the last time you thanked God for your coworkers? When is the last time you thanked God for your family, health, and home? When is the last time you thanked God for your church family?

Here's a suggestion for you. Deliberately have a grateful heart today and see if your day is any different. Just try it. When your are tempted to focus on negative stuff, arrest those thoughts and be grateful for the good things. Sometimes life can be hard and people can be harsh and cruel. However, there are so many wonderful gifts directly from God that I thank Him for...all the time. Here are just a few: My salvation, His Spirit, my bride, children, grandchildren, friends, and church family. Man! Yea, I said it! Those things are enough to dwell on! Try it. I challenge you to take on today as a day filled with incredible opportunities! You won't regret it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Process or Directive?

This year God has begun to breathe into our spirits fresh, clear vision of the essence of our call as He prepares us for a higher level of His ministry.  Needless to is very exciting! Sometimes it takes time "out of the woods" to clearly see the forest.  Ministry has a culture itself, much of what is unintentionally man-made.  If one is not careful, the burden becomes a desire to please man and self.  The motivation can be to compete with others so others can be impressed with what you do! The only problem with that (outside of it not being God) is that those you think you're competing with are too busy competing back and marveling over what they have built!

Not everyone will agree to this statement but much of the ministry in our culture is designed to reach those who are not hungry for God.  As a result some ministry becomes nothing more than entertainment relating to the intellect, but not the soul.  I'm not saying we should not reach out to those who openly deny God, especially if one is called to a particular group.  But God put it this way to me a couple of months back.  "Pray earnestly and diligent for those who are not hungry.  And GO to those who are hungry." If you know of a person or people or people group who are hungry for God, spend your time, energy, and resources reaching those people.  Because out of these may come the ones who can reach those who openly deny God!  Yes, Jesus died for everyone.  But on this day, there are people who are ready to receive Him. God says find them!  Go to them! Seek Him to know who and where they are!

Prayer is the key to impacting others for Jesus.  Only through prayer will the hard heart be softened. Only through the supernatural force of prayer can the Holy Spirit direct us to the hungry.  It seems to be so easy to "do" what everyone else does without praying.  The whole evangelism process should not be a process.  It should be a directive with specific instructions as in the early church.  While Peter was praying, the Holy Spirit told him to go to the home of Cornelius.  While Ananias was praying He was told to pray for Saul. Evangelism is not a process. It must be a directive with specific instructions. And again, that only comes through consistent, fervent prayer. When more of God's people pray consistently and fervently for the lost, more people will be saved and more stuff will happen!

The Cost Of Following Jesus (Part 2)