The Healing Move of God

In the Gospel of Matthew, just before Jesus performs that great miracle of feeding thousands of people – literally, thousands and thousands of people – we get a quick and yet beautiful encounter between Jesus and those who had gathered and needed to be healed. In Matthew 14:14 it clearly says: “When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.”

As evidenced throughout Scripture, our loving and gracious God has promised that He will respond to us when we faithfully come to Him. And in Matthew 14, God moved in the lives of those who those who gathered. He didn’t just heal some of the sick who had gathered, or the ones who perhaps were more deserving, but rather, moved by compassion for all He saw, Jesus healed the sick – every one of them. No matter who you are, no matter your past and no matter what the future holds for you, God desires to move in your life and bring forth His healing.

So perhaps you are on the shoreline, gathered and wanting God to move in your life and heal you.

In faith, you can seek the Lord and cry out to Him. You can seek to experience His healing, His transformation and His redemption. The Lord desires to compassionately move in our lives. To move us from death, to life. From darkness, to light. From defeat, to victory. From shame, to grace and from fear to faith. To move you from places of sorrow to great joy. To heal us of all of our bondage and to move us to a place of real freedom. Your loving Heavenly Father desires to heal you and move in your life.

All who gathered in Matthew 14 who were sick needed to be healed. Max Lucado writes: “Surely, among the many thousands, there were a few people unworthy of good health. Undoubtedly there were those in the multitude who would use their newfound health to hurt others. Jesus released tongues that would someday curse. He gave sight to eyes that would lust. He healed hands that would kill. Each time Jesus healed, he had to overlook the future and the past, something, He still does.”

Filled with great compassion, while knowing your past and with knowing your future, God will move and heal you. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. He will heal you according to His perfect will. Not so that you can claim some kind of self-promoting victory, but so that He can be glorified and that others will see His movement and healing in your life, and be pointed to Him and His mighty and gracious working because its all about His Kingdom, here and now, being displayed powerfully throughout our lives.

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So may we no longer wait for a move of the Lord, but may we daily be His movement of healed, of restored and of grace-filled Christ followers who live by faith and who, with great joy, live out a genuine and authentic life of worship. May we live out a holy pursuit of Him that passionately demonstrates the hope and holiness of Jesus Christ in our lives, in our homes, in our churches, in our neighborhoods, in our city, and throughout the places we call home.

Draw close to the Father, set aside your agenda, and let Him heal you and move in your life and the life of His bride, the church.

(Originally written for the “Nevada Appeal” on June 24, 2017)

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Moved by Compassion – Moved to Action

As I write this article, many are focused on what is happening with our nation’s tallest dam in Oroville, CA. More than 100,000 people (some news agencies reporting even 200,000) were told to evacuate from areas near the Oroville Dam in Northern California. Officials feared that an emergency spillway could fail, sending huge amounts of water into the Feather River, and other waterways which would have a profound and devastating impact on multiple communities.

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With the first evacuation ordered, people had to get out of town. The roadways were a mess. My heart was heavy thinking about many great friends who were in the throws of this impending danger. We were staying in communication with them, watching and praying.

And, then I noticed something. I noticed not once or twice but over and over again an outpouring of compassion from the greater surrounding areas as people opened their homes to those who had to flee theirs. I saw people begin to network with places housing people (like churches) to bring in additional items like blankets or clothes that those who left in such a hurry needed.

For a moment people were not fighting about politics and they weren’t debating about executive orders. They weren’t marching and protesting either. An entire region of people no longer focused on what divides them, but rather, focused on what they can do to love and serve one another. What one valued or believed to be “true” was not the focus – but rather, the person in need was the focus of their attention.

Have we lost sight of what Jesus said about loving our neighbors? Or even, loving our enemies? Do we hide behind the “submit” button of our social media outlets only to tell off those we disagree with? Have we lost how to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment? Does it take tragedy to awaken the people of God to be the people of God who are on mission with Him in our every day lives?

I do not know what will continue to happen with this situation in Northern California but I do know that we, as Disciples of Christ today, need to focus on three things. First, repentance. Have you failed to genuinely love your ‘neighbor’ and be a true conduit of God’s grace and redemption just because they differ so much from you? If so, then seek forgiveness – both of God and of man. Second, restoration. For each of us this will look differently – and I believe that is on purpose – but whatever it is that moves you to respond with compassion, then use that as your fuel to restore the brokenness found in failure. Live a life that will connect others with God’s heart to redeem and restore all things unto Himself. And third, respond. Do something. Don’t just post something on social media. Don’t just call your neighbor to tell them what you think. Go and serve. As you go and meet the need, do so in the mighty name of Jesus. We do this, in love and in grace, so that God will be glorified and that those who see our actions and efforts, will praise our Heavenly Father.

With more weather expected in the Northern California region, the need for great compassion will continue. And yet regardless of what happens there, we need to respond to loving others and pointing them to Jesus in each opportunity that God has placed within our reach.

(Originally written for the “Nevada Appeal” on Feb. 18, 2017 – Adapted)

Priorities.

We live in a day marked by pressure in almost every arena of our lives. There are family pressures, world problems, economic problems, personal problems, and the problems of friends and loved ones. In the midst of such pressures, there is one thing that will determine the course of your life: YOUR PRIORITIES.

Let me ask you a question: what matters most to you? Not just for this day, but in regards to the legacy you are building – what will your life show about your priorities?

Our priorities determine our future because they speak to how you spend your time, with whom you spend your time, and how you make decisions. Your priorities keep you from being battered around by the waves of pressure and help you to steer a clear course toward the proper destination.

I have heard it said, that “if you want a deeper relationship with Jesus, feast on Him until you loose your appetite for anything else this world offers.” Priorities—godly priorities—are so vital and a genuine thirst for the Lord should be your chief aim, your greatest priority in every season of your life.

Psalm 63 reveals the priority of a man of God under pressure and it shows us that David’s priority was to seek the Lord. Seeking after God should be our most important priority. No matter what pressures come into your life, you will be able to handle them properly if you maintain this one priority above all else. God must saturate every area of your life. He must be at the center of every decision you make.

He must be the Lord of every relationship you have. You manage your money by considering what His Word says about it. There is no area of your life, be it your business, your family, your education, or whatever, where God is not an integral part. There is no division between sacred and secular; all of life is related to God.

And so here is David in Psalm 63, his kingdom is in a huge mess, he is on the run while seeking to protect his people. It would be understandable if God were temporarily squeezed out of the picture. But David is “following hard after God,” as the King James Version puts verse 8 of Psalm 63. God was at the center of David’s present and his future. There no area was off limits to God and there should be none in our lives as well if we truly will thirst for the Lord in all our ways.

Writers & Bloggers, Ryan & Selena Frederick of FIERCE MARRIAGE believe “that a Christ-centered marriage takes a fierce tenacity that never gives up and never gives in.” They have shared a simple reminder of how we can keep our priorities clear and simple each week. They said “keep it clear and simple: First is Jesus, second is your spouse, third is your kids and family, and fourth is everyone (everything) else.” This practical advise is a good reminder for us to consider on a regular basis – especially as you begin to plan out each week. Seeking God, following hard after the Lord has to be our very first pursuit and planned action each day.

So how is it with you and God? Take some time to review this past week or even this past month and ask yourself, “Did my schedule reflect that seeking God was my number one priority?” You say: “Well, that’s my priority, but I’ve been under a lot of pressure!”

Pressure is what reveals your true priorities. When the pressure is on, everything but the essential gets set aside.

The Holy Spirit is telling us through Psalm 63 that “A THIRST FOR GOD IS ESSENTIAL!” If it’s not essential for you, then you’ve got to join David, the man after God’s heart, in making it so and you can do this by turning to the Lord, soaking up His truth from the Word of God, and by surrendering yourself fully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

(Adapted. Originally written for Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – July 2016)

Encourage Me!

Everyone wants encouragement, right?  And yet, far too often we fail to build others up in quality ways.

Jesus said: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Jesus taught what it means to love others. He told them, “love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

When we as disciples of Christ truly love and encourage those around us, we then can be genuine conduits of God’s mercy and grace. Encouragement, Christlike saturated encouragement, is an avenue in which those seeking to be faithful disciples of Jesus can separate ourselves from lukewarm or even hypocritical Christians that are tainting the mission of Christ and who are making living for God more about their agenda and preferences. Most of the world that is apart from Christ has a view of Christians that doesn’t reflect God’s love – they have a view that Christians are judgmental, or even hypocritical. After all, they see churches “competing” with one another and see those in church gossiping about one another or putting down other churches!

Scripture gives us a pattern of encouragement to follow. Hebrews 3:13 says, “encourage one another day after day…” In 1 Thessalonians 4:18 we are told to “comfort one another” with words, and in the next chapter, in chapter five, verse 11 it says to comfort or “encourage one another and build up one another…”!

God’s heart for encouragement isn’t focused on complementing someone’s haircut or telling them how good their homemade lasagna tastes. That kind of encouragement is nice, but Christ saturated encouragement is rooted in the love of God and in seeking to build His kingdom through this work. Christ saturated encouragement is shared with the hopes that it will point others to the Lord. It points out evidences of God’s grace in another’s life to help them see that He is at work. It points a person to God’s promises that assures them that all they face is under His control.

Thought the book of Acts, we see encouragement at work in places like Acts 13:15, or 16:40, or 20:1-2. What they did was they share Christ statured words of encouragement with one others in order to push people towards God, to inspire one another on in faith, hope, unity, joy, strength, fruitfulness, faithfulness, perseverance, and to the truth that God is coming again. Encouragement was and is an essential way of extending grace to one another. God doesn’t just say: “encourage someone else if you feel like it or if it easy to do so.” Encouraging others is a command of God for those who call themselves His disciples.

So what should you do? Start by praying, asking God to make you an encourager. Then take to study people in the Word of God who had true hearts of encouragement. This will help you to make encouraging others a daily discipline in your life and it will allow you to be in tune with the Holy Spirit so that as He reveals to you needs, you will be able to hear and respond with Christ-saturated encouragement. After all, we should be praying regularly, asking God to show us who we can love and how we can encourage them and how we can point them to Him.

If you need something to encourage people with then run to God’s Word. Nothing encourages us like promises from God’s Word. Make a list of Scriptures that God has used in your life so you are ready with that list of promises to share with others. And when you encourage, be specific in what you say, and be honest and real. Don’t blow smoke. Don’t just look for something to “celebrate” and try to be nice. Love doesn’t lie. Love is honest and real. Regularly look for ways you can encourage your family, your friends, people at your job, even your pastor and church leadership. Take your eyes off of yourself and let God transform your heart for reflecting His love and heart for encouragement.

So go get started! Who can you encourage right now? Who has encouraged you recently that you can thank? How might God use this action to speak His message of love and hope and redemption?

May we seek God and to reflect His love for others and His heart to seek and save the lost and hurting of our community. And may God create a culture of encouragement in your life, in your church and in our community.

(Originally Published in the “Nevada Appeal” – May 2016)

Finding Contentment

While at the store, I watched a parent respond to their child’s request. The child said, “I want it, and I want it now.” To which their parent said, “not right now, be content with what you have.” In one way or another, most of us can relate to this desire. Contentment is an illusive commodity today. In fact, there is this deliberate effort in our culture today that tries to make us feel dissatisfied with life by making us believe that we are not significant if we do not posse the best or the newest. Yet wanting something more, isn’t always a bad thing. The problem comes when our desires are never satisfied, and we are no longer are able to fully enjoy life because we always feel like we are lacking something.

The Word of God sets the standard for contentment. Godly contentment is a state of satisfaction that is anchored in our confidence that is found in the Lord, one that produces a joyful celebration of life every day. When Paul wrote to the church in Philipi in Philippians 4:11-12 he said: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” His contentment was anchored not in circumstances or in having something. His contentment was anchored in personally knowing God was for him and with him in all that he faced.

I believe each person wants to have a content life. Contentment is something we learn, it doesn’t come naturally. Contentment is not about possessions or circumstances. Contentment comes in our lives when we grow spiritually and learn to appreciate all that we have in Christ.  It begins to grow when we come to understand that our greatest treasure is our relationship with the Savior. Discontentment comes from feeling that we have been deprived. But when we understand what we truly “deserve” and compare it to what we have received in Christ, then we will be able to say that nothing else matters other than having Chris30-March_Learning-Contentment-fc36036f49a1ccb99bbc82869d59dd3ct. Our contentment is anchored in relationship. We are encouraged by Paul to know that we can face and know joy in any and every circumstance because of the strength we find in Christ, so we must purpose to abide in Him.

I have also learned that we can find contentment in the grace of God, in the providence of God, and in the promises of God. It is only when I have realized the value of God’s grace in my life that I began to also find contentment. We draw our sense of satisfaction from the providence of God. Our comfort comes from the truth that God is in charge. He is overseeing the events of our
life and using them to deepen and develop us. We can have contentment in the good and the bad, the easy and the hard, the enjoyable and the painful times of life because we trust the one who guides the of circumstances in our life. Paul believed that God was using and building him in the hard times and putting him in a position to bless others in the good times. We find contentment in the fact that God has promised that He would take care of us. No matter what the circumstances of life, the promises hold. He will protect. He will defend. He will guide, and He will strengthen all who follow Him.

Do you want to know contentment? Then be present, in the present moments of life. Don’t focus on what might have been or what could be. Enjoy today. And understand that material things are just tools to help, not an end in themselves. Contentment comes as we grow in our love for God each day. Do you really want to know contentment? Then run straight into the arms of Jesus. Receive His grace, believe His promises and trust His providence in your life. And as you turn your eyes upon Jesus, you will find “that the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” And, when that happens you will begin to enjoy all the moments of your life. Leave the worries about tomorrow with the Lord and accept every situation as God’s wise classroom for your growth and transformation. When this happens you will find that in good times or bad, pleasant or painful, you will find contentment.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for Your love – for Your faithfulness – for all that You provide us with for living a life of truth and purpose. May we not loose sight of the greatness of Your love. We look to you for true joy and fulfillment. Forgive us of us the things we have said or done that make contentment about what we can do apart from You and lead us afresh into trusting in You, abiding in You and pursuing You every day of our lives. May we exalt You in all we say and do, we pray, in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen. 

(Originally written for the  Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – February 2016)

Living the Kingdom Experience

As we begin a new year, my heart is drawn to 1 Corinthians 4:20 which says: “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” Warren Wiersbe writes that “the church has known for 2,000 years that Jesus is coming again, and yet many believers have become lethargic and drowsy. They are no longer excited about the soon-coming of the Lord. As a result, there is little effective witness given that the Lord is returning.”

Is this you? Be honest here – are you an effective witness for the Kingdom of God or are you just a lot of dull talk? Do you have an excitement for sharing about the Good News of God’s love with others? And, have you ever truly responded to the Good News of God’s love for you?

The final part of the Matthew 25 addresses the final judgment of the entire world. Leading up to this, there are four parables that (Matthew 24:43–25:30) have all alluded to judgment, and have concentrated on right living in this life. So although this last part is told using illustrative language, like a parable, with the final judgment being compared to a shepherd separating sheep from goats, it is not a parable. Jesus ends his teaching here in Matthew 24 & 25 with an emphasis on the eternal judgment of the entire world.

It reads almost like an exact description of what will happen when Jesus comes again, as if Jesus wants to make explicit what was implicit in the parables. This is a very moving and very solemn passage. It reminds us of certain things that will be true about the return of the Lord. From this passage there are four things we learn about the return of the Lord. First, He returns in glory (v. 31). Second, He returns as the Judge & for final judgment (vv. 32–33). Third, He returns to bring us into His Presence for Eternity (vv. 34–40). And fourth, He returns to confront wickedness (vv. 41–46), a truth that should compels us to not delay in seeing others come to know Jesus Christ personally – to be fully committed to daily living the Kingdom experience this next year.

So how do we do this?

We have to actually apply these truths from Matthew 25 to our lives. Start by pointing others to His glory by living a vibrant, Holy life. Secondly, let God, be God – let Him be the Judge others. And lastly, we must not forget that others need to know the truth about Eternity in His Presence. Much like the first truth we learned from Matthew 25, we must also recognize that with all of our holy living that the conversation about eternity must still happen. Being “Christian” is just the start to this – sharing Christ consistently with others is what makes the good news of Jesus Christ powerful, real and authentic – so share your story!

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We must not forget what 1 Corinthians 4:20 said: “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” When you and I are living by God’s power, there should be an infusion of the Holy Spirit within us that makes us and our way of living refreshing & exciting to those around us. Are you an effective witness for the Kingdom of God or are you just a lot of dull talk? Are you living the Kingdom experience daily?

What Jesus shares in Matthew 25 was meant to clearly communicate what it means to be ready for His return & how to live until He comes. We must be an effective witness for the Kingdom of God and we must not waste our opportunities. You may feel as if you may not have a great deal of ability to reach others, to impact them, but you can choose to be faithful with what you do have – for all of us must be faithful, as we daily seek to live out the Kingdom experience by pointing other to His Glory by living a vibrant, Holy Life; to let God, be God – to let Him be the Judge of others; and to be faithful to share with others their need to know the truth about Eternity in His Presence forever.

May you live the Kingdom experience throughout this year and may those apart from God, see your action, your desire to live by God’s power each day, and praise Him for it – drawing closer to the Lord as their Savior, their Creator, their Healer and Redeemer!

(Originally written for: Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – December 2015)

legacy

At a retreat, the gathering was asked to break into groups and discuss: “what will your legacy be?” The gathering broke into various, mixed groups. I walked through the groups and heard a variety of people respond. And yet, the majority of the responses were very similar. From males and females, from young and old, the responses to this question were very similar. The majority of the answers answered the question by looking into the future of ones life, at what they saw as the end of their life.

Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 2:9 & 10: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”bigstock-legacy-dictionary-definition-17668370

When we talk about “leaving a legacy” for others, then looking far into the future or close to the end of our lives, that makes sense, but perhaps we are missing some valuable opportunities in the here and now. This truth in First Peter reminds us of what matters right now.

The job you currently have, well it may not be your job in another 5, 10 or 15 years. The home you live in, the neighbors and friends you have now – you might move, they might move – things will probably chan
ge. And things like jobs and relationships, our neighborhoods and communities we live in currently, they all have huge and far-reaching impacts on our lives right and we need to see to it that we have an impact and legacy in those arenas
we are in, right now.

Even if you only serve at one job for a few years, or live in a certain place for a short period of time – you will leave a legacy, so what will it be? You don’t have to be in one place for a multitude of years to make a forever impact. I’ve heard this to be true with kids in foster care. They had this brief encounter with a volunteer, a foster parent, a coach, a teacher, that perhaps didn’t last long, but in the midst of a long season of personal turmoil, that one person in that short moment made that forever impact on their lives.

As disciples of Christ, we are called to live in such a way that we make a forever impact on the world in which we live, but for the glory of God. The dynamics in your home, in your marriage, or with your famil
y may be very difficult – but don’t loose sight of how you are to live for Christ in the midst of personal chaos and even pain. In the midst of hurt and pain, shine all the brighter now for Christ. Live a life worth following, no matter what season of life you are in now, so that you can build a legacy that is going to point people to God, right now. Our legacy is important. Living a life worth following, that honors and glorifies the Lord, is highly important. It is our responsibility in the here and now to “proclaim the praises of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

We exist so that people can look at us and say, “What a great God they serve, right now!” We exist to know God and to make Him known, right now. Yes, we are building a legacy for the future, but don’t loose sight of the fact that a change might come your way and your legacy in this season, with this group, in that arena, will be done. Will you have lived in such a way, a life worth following, that no matter how short the season, that people when they have encountered you will have been pointed to Jesus Christ in meaningful, genuine and Christ-honoring ways?

(Originally written for: Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – November 2015)