Fulfillment Requires Obedience

True and lasting fulfillment requires obedience. True obedience to the Lord is fulfilling. God’s perfect love has provided the pathway to real obedience.

For many, however, the conviction to obey is saturated with a concept of negativity. Why do I say this? Well, far too often when one thinks about obedience, it normally brings about a feeling of completing a task, apart from the actual desire or longing to do it. Meaning, we associate obedience with obligation, rather than what it was intended for: fulfillment. When Jesus walked among us, He demonstrated fulfilling obedience. He carried out what many would see as a very different lifestyle of obedience. The life Jesus lived demonstrated what obedience to our Heavenly Father should look like in each of our lives today.

Obedience to the Lord is about making the choice, it is about purposing to live each day, (a lifestyle) to live a lifestyle of Biblical love and devotion to God, the same God who has fully and completely loved us with an enduring and extravagant, perfect love.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 15, Jesus said: “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (vss. 9 & 10) So why then is it so easy for us to miss the heart, the intent of God, when He calls us to pursue true fulfillment through obedience? Jesus demonstrates in John 15 that He purposed to live in such a way that it reflected, and it reciprocated the love He was shown by the Father. He lived His life in obedience to the Lord out of the depth and wealth of relationship He had – never out of simple duty or obligation. Jesus asks: will those who follow me now, do the same?

Another Biblical example we have regarding fulfilling obedience is in the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus states the greatest commandment in Luke 10:27“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” The heart of God for us incredible, as He does not call us to a lifestyle of obligation, or even undesired sacrifice – rather, He calls us to a way of living each day that enables us to fully reflect and reciprocate the abundance of love that has be demonstrated in Christ and poured out for all the the world. The Lord does not merely set rules before us, rather He has made a relationship with Him the goal. He is after your heart – which comes in total and complete surrender to Him.

Our culture is often marked by its self-seeking, self-satisfying agenda – but, the Lord in His strength and power and wisdom, has set us free from this, enabling us to step outside of the burden of living for ourselves. We have been freed to live for others, by reflecting and reciprocating the perfect love of God when we live out a life of fulfilled obedience to the Lord. Our current way of living is often marked with the weight of pride, but God provides a way of freedom. The Father pours our His unceasing, selfless love which has the power to transform us into His beloved who can abide in the Lord and reflect His heart of truth, love and obedience.

If we purpose to truly obey the Lord, to abide in God’s commandments and to love wholeheartedly, we will experience true satisfaction that is unknown to those around us that are filled with the pursuits of our culture regarding selfishness and pride. We can and we will experience the abundant life promised to us by God if we abide in Him alone, if our identity rests in Him, in what He has revealed in His Holy Word, and when the Lord is our source of approval, and the source of a fulfilled life. 

May we abide in the commands of the Lord, choosing to live a lifestyle of wholehearted love for Him and of others. May we choose to live in obedience to Him, in response to His profound love for us. And as we do, may we discover the power, the purpose, and the radical freedom that comes from serving others with the very love that has been demonstrated through Jesus Christ for us, and them. May we experience fulfillment when we truly obey that which God has commanded His beloved to do.

Mulligan

If you play or watch golf, you are probably familiar with a mulligan. It’s a action in golf that brings restoration from a bad swing. Often at fundraiser tournaments you can even buy a few – a mulligan gives a player a chance to re-do one play, to be restored.

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Our journey as disciples of Christ is full of mulligans. One of the disciples, Peter, he is a great example of this process. 

In Mark 8:27-33, Peter gets the identity of Jesus right, but he got the mission of Jesus wrong. He goes from one extreme to the next. He needed a mulligan. In Mark 10:17-31, with this shot, Peter made it back to rough for he understood that a sacrifice on his part was needed to follow Jesus. And yet, the rich young man that approached Jesus was not able to give up what he values on earth in order to be fully surrendered to Christ. In Mark 14:27-41, at first Peter nails it again, claiming his devotion to God at any cost but in the next few verses, Peter is with Jesus in the garden and he and a few other disciples, they could not keep watch like Jesus asked and they fell asleep. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Peter is about to slice it into the woods in Mark 14:66-72 when he does, in fact, disown Jesus, just like he had been told.

Peter was ready to give up on the mission and return to fishing. He was in a desperate need of a mulligan. Yet, a mulligan is not something he can give to himself. And despite what people say, it is not something we can buy either. Peter needed a mulligan, big time. Do you?

Do you constantly replay your failures? Or maybeyour problem is re-committing the same sin over and over again? While others around you are experiencing spiritual victory, you feel plagued with the same problem, the same temptation, the same sin. And after awhile, you give up on asking for a mulligan. You give up on becoming the Rock that Jesus said we would be.

We cannot give ourselves a mulligan. Mark 16:7 says: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Why was Peter singled out? For restoration, for a spiritual mulligan-experience He probably did not feel like he was worthy of and yet, just like that, Peter receives it when in Mark 16:15 when Jesus says: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

We cannot give ourselves a mulligan, only God can do that. And some of you reading this article right now are in desperate need of a mulligan. You need something only God can give you. This is more important that Christmas shopping or holiday parties. You have looked for that restoration, that re-do, from so many other things and other people. You may have even thought you got one through some other route, but no, that was nota true spiritual mulligan because it did not last. When you really receive a true spiritual mulligan, it keeps you out of the woods.

Will you seek restoration with God now? Will you receive the mulligan He wants to offer you? Will you humble yourself and let God restore you into a right relationship with Him? Right now is the time to receive that much needed mulligan, just stop and go to our gracious Lord in prayer and seek His heart of forgiveness for your life. He will restore you, you are His prized possession, His beloved.

(Originally written for the “Faith & Insight” column of the “Nevada Appeal” in December 2014)

advocacy

One dictionary defines “advocacy” as “active help, especially of a cause.” And, in my opinion, one of the best advocacy efforts happens every October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – an annual campaign aimed to increase the awareness of this cancer. Pink is the color and we see it everywhere. My favorite football team has tones of pink this month in their uniform. You see pink and you think…well, we know what you think.

In late August 2014, many were blown away at how quickly the cause of ALS had spread. In such a short period of time, people from all over and from every walk of life were participating in the “ice bucket challenge” and donating to the cause. The ALS Association reported that they had “received $88.5 million in donations compared to $2.6 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 26). These donations have come from existing donors and 1.9 million new donors to the association.” This was a powerful advocacy effort – one that surprised everyone.

Breast cancer awareness month is very intentional. Events and activities are planned out. The ice bucket challenge grew faster and went farther than anyone could have planned for. Both have made a huge impact for their respective causes.

eggpictureRecently I went to the grocery store. I went to buy some fresh eggs. My favorite eggs right now are Egg-land’s Best. As I reached for my beloved egg and was a bit shocked, but then, I actually wasn’t. Why? Well, the labeling looked different. It was all shades of pink. And instead of their own company initials stamped on each egg, there was also a pink ribbon.

Apparently this company places a high value on advocating for the disease of breast cancer. I wonder why? I wonder what happened at HQ that caused them to say: “this is a cause worth promoting.” Perhaps it isn’t anything deep. Perhaps it has less to do with good intentions and more to do with corporate partnership and shared publicity. Regardless, they have joined in the promotion of this cause.

As I went to crack those eggs for a meal, I was reminded of something very valuable. As a disciple of Christ, advocating the mission of Jesus should be our chief aim. It should saturate every aspect of our lives – our thoughts, our actions, our schedules, and our choices. His cause, should be something that is marked by all that we do. And what is the mission, the cause of Christ? 1 John 2:1-3 says:I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the ]propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments…” His cause was to advocate on our behalf so that we would be able to experience eternal life. When this happens, it forever changes our future. And this change should produce within us a strong desire to see others experience the forgiveness of our loving and gracious God. His advocacy for us, is to be duplicated in our lives – as we too are to advocate for this cause in others.

Romans 1:16 says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Has His advocacy impacted your life? Have you taken on the cause of Christ to live out and proclaim His desire to restore and redeem a lost and broken world? What are the “causes” that you have been committing your time and energy to? Is being His disciple and making more disciples of Jesus Christ the greatest cause in your life? If not, then what is keeping you from being a fully devoted, fully committed advocate for the cause of Christ in your community?

In his book, “The Dangers of Shallow Faith,” A.W. Tower said: “Either God is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.” Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and to show you were there needs to be less of yourself, and more of Him. May your advocacy of the cause of Christ represent your radical personal pursuit of true intimacy with our Heavenly Father. May you seek to grow daily in God’s grace and truth, while sharing with the world around you His plan for restoration. And may you be unashamed of your advocacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all that you say and in all that you do.

Be Unashamed

What truly matters to you?

What are you passionate about?

As followers of Christ, as fully devoted and fully committed disciples of Christ we are called to boldly proclaim the Good News about Jesus Christ.

3d3b44d7ab943d5f5e60bbacf4938c00Romans 1:16-17 says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’”

The Apostle Paul was proclaiming a message about a Messiah who had reconciled humanity with the Lord through the cross – and this message, His allegiance, it was a scandalous offense to those around him. And even though the Jewish people of the day longed for the Messiah to come – they took offense with what He was proclaiming. The Jews, the Greeks and even the Romans had these things that truly mattered to them, items and people that they placed their hope and allegiance in for this is what they were devoted to. And all of it, was never a bold confession and devotion to the Lord. If any of them were to do what Paul did here in this truth, declaring that Jesus is Lord, it would be at the risk of their very lives and they could not comprehend that.

But Paul did – do you? As a disciple of Christ in our community, do you get what you are called to do with your life? And, are you actually doing it? If you believe you have been doing this – then what does the fruit of that work look like in your life? Paul boldly proclaims that he was not ashamed to declare that Jesus is Lord. He had been a leader to the Jews, an influencer in the world he was surrounded by and he even held Roman citizenship – but His journey as a disciple of Christ dramatically changed all of that and he radically, boldly and powerfully declared: I am not ashamed…!

Does a statement like this reflect your heart?

Does saying, believing and acting this out matter to you?

What Paul declared, also matched with what he was doing for God. This is very important for us to grasp. We must be fully surrendered to the Lord and fully devoted to doing God’s work. Stop thinking your busyness is the Lord’s work. If we are truly living as disciples of Christ, making more disciples of Christ then this community of believers we live among, it would be seeing more and more people coming to salvation in the Lord. We are called to be His disciples and to make more disciples for Christ and we do this when we are unashamed in what we proclaim about God and when we live out our faith in such an authentic way that it faithfully declares to those around us that we belong to God and that we long to see Him redeem and transform their lives.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ can hold its own against any challengers. Do not live in fear of what your friends or family might say or do when you boldly and faithfully live a Christ like life in this present moment. Clarence Bence said: “Although there are strategies for countering the criticisms of the skeptics, or compensating for the failures of less-than-perfect believers, or coping with spiritual adversaries, faith is the key to experiencing the good news of salvation in one’s life.”

Does your faith in the Lord reflect your belief and action as His beloved, as a truly devoted disciple of Christ?

Paul was fully committed to making sure that with the rest of his life, with all that he had, that those he encountered would know the Good News about Jesus Christ.

Does proclaiming this message, that Jesus saves, does it truly matter to you?

Are passionate about sharing with others God’s plan for Salvation – how God has saved you and how He has transformed your life? 

What has the impact of being unashamed for Christ’s on your life – on your family – your marriage or other relationships – what has that impact been and how has it changed you?

May you cultivate in your discipleship journey an overwhelming confidence in God’s power to redeem a lost and hurting world. May this motivate you to use every aspect of your life to share with others the gospel message that Jesus saves. And, may you be unashamed to proclaim, in your words and actions, that Jesus is Lord of your life and that you want others to surrender to His lordship for their lives!

holiness

Lately my life has been very full, so whoever said that things slow down after the holidays – well they we wrong, at least in my case. In the last few weeks life has been very busy. Busy with greats things and busy with hard things as well. It has been filled with joy and excitement. It has also been filled with heartache and pain. And that my friends is what we call life, right? 

So how does one who claims to be on mission with God, stay focused on pursuing the holiness of God when their life is always full and busy? With all that this world demands of us – from being a parent & raising a family, to running a business or managing a team – with all that is coming our way and with all that we must do each day, how do we avoid living a life that is absent of a daily pursuit of the holiness of God? 

Brennan Manning writes: 

“Since the day that Jesus first appeared on the scene, we have developed vast theological systems, organized worldwide churches, filled libraries with brilliant christological scholarship, engaged in earthshaking controversies, and embarked on crusades, reforms and renewals. Yet there are still precious few of us with sufficient folly to make the mad exchange of everything for Christ; only a remnant with the confidence to risk everything for the gospel of grace; only a minority who stagger about with the delirious joy of a man who found buried treasure.”

Is my life – is your life, the right response to a daily pursuit of the holiness of God? Are we apart of a remnant that has the confidence to risk everything in this busy life, for more intimacy with God? The simply answer might be: pray more! Or another one might be: read your Bible more! And although those are good things to do, do they really make us more holy? Do they really give us the confidence we need to “risk everything for the gospel of grace”? Doing more, probably won’t make us any more confident. And doing more, won’t really bring us more and lasting freedom either. 

Between our hearts and God, there is a huge disconnect. I see it all the time. In college students trying to work and go to school. In single parents, trying to work and raise their family. In the business owner and this guy – right here! We think that since we are busy being parents, or being leaders at our job or in our community, and that if just stay busy enough that then we will accomplish great things in our lives – and perhaps even for God. Now don’t get me wrong, God wants us to be faithful to our spouse and love them relentless. God wants us to humbly serve Him in whatever capacity He has called us to. But we cannot neglect the former – a daily pursuit of the holiness of God – we cannot neglect the former and hope to achieve the greater – risking it all for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

This is a holiness issue. We have lost what it means to pursue the very holiness of God for our lives. 

I follow a group called Renovaré USA on a social media site. Today they posted a prayer of St. Augustine that helped me gain some much needed perspective. In the midst of trying to manage my stuff, in the midst of trying to do all that is before me – there came this simple reminder through a prayer of St. Augustine: 

“Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.”

Being busy, will always be there. There will always be an e-mail to write, a phone call to make, a card to send, a person to help, a need to meet. There will always be something that will demand our attention. If I get caught up in meeting that need, then we will always feel consumed with being busy. We will also then be more concerned about doing things, then being truly connected to God in vibrant and intimate ways. When we pursue the holiness of God, it transforms our prayer life. It brings wisdom and power to what we encounter in the Word of God and it gives us the right perspective to handle the things we face throughout each day.

How is that possible? It is possibly through God’s grace for us as our focus is on Him, first.  

When I do pray, I want that time with the Lord to be real and sincere. When I do spend time in His Word, I want the truth of God to explode within me. So excuse if I say no to you – to the demands of this world – to spend more focused time on the feeding of my soul. Excuse me if I don’t sign-up for everything or help with every project that comes before me. I don’t do it to be mean. I don’t do it to be selfish. I do it with a purpose – so that God may truly impact my life in every way possible first, so that I may be able to truly represent, with all the courage I can gather the power and holiness of the gospel of God’s grace – first in my home and then throughout the rest of my life.

May we purpose with great passion and strong conviction to seek out true intimacy with God each day Blocking out, or putting away the negative and false things from others that we face while remembering that it has always been and always will be about Jesus and our focused pursuit of intimacy with Him. May you find the freedom to say no to things of this world that are robbing you, so that you can you truly and fully say yes to a genuine pursuit of the holiness of God in your life that will have radical and profound implications on all that you do and say. 

guarding our time with the Lord

“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words. My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.” (Pslam 119:147-148)

During this next month may you be encouraged to carefully consider your prayer life. Reflect on how and when you pray. This is not done to form legalistic patterns or to measure time or volume of prayer to dictate it being enough or even good.

We should seek to monitor and guard our prayer time with the Lord. Our truth today reminds us of how very important this truly is.

Is prayer a priority in your life? Is seeking God’s heart for your life and for the elements of your day the first thing you do? Many people hear stories of great saints who get up early to pray. They pray for a long time and people attribute success of their leadership because of their devotion to God through a vibrant prayer life.

Most of us won’t have that luxury. Maybe on a retreat and all alone we might have that experience every now and again. But most of us daily won’t be able to spend hours in prayer each day. And sadly, many of us feel shame over that fact. But we shouldn’t – could you grow in this area? Probably! Should prayer and spending quality time with God, consistently, be more of your focus? More than likely yes – but feeling shame over “not doing enough” only keeps you more at distance from doing “quality stuff” with God.

We have to stop comparing ourselves to others for there are many things that distract us from spending time with God in prayer.  We have to fight against those things. Life can get messy, a job can get busy, and a family member be be in terrible need. But we must not neglect the former (consistent time in prayer with the Lord) if we are going to make an eternal impact on the future.

Make an appointment with God. Ask your spouse to help you guard this time each day. Write verses of scripture on paper and tape them to your shampoo bottle. Redeem those moments in the shower or in front of the mirror as a time of prayer – by putting on the armor of God for you and family each day. Find the best time of the day for you to connect with God and make it a priority to do it then. Not when your tired and not when you are consumed.

Find someone you know who loves God and who will pray with you. Call them. Text them. Ask them to help you build up this area of your life. Start there. Start somewhere – and grow from that point.

Through prayer, God forms our hearts and transforms our lives. Through prayer we have direct access to the Lord. And through prayer we can develop our intimacy with God and our thirst for Him and His holy, righteous ways.

Is prayer a priority in your life? May you be encouraged throughout this month to reflect on your prayer life and seek ways to grow in this spiritual discipline.

(NOTE: the post today was taken from the “Daily Devos” that I write. To sign-up to receive them go to: http://nickolasemery.us6.list-manage2.com/subscribe?u=026a704b43a1b6cd8af81e245&id=c95886fdad

the love factor

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“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Our truth today is simple: if a person truly loves God, then they must have a real and genuine love for others – whether that be a family member, friend or a neighbor. Not only do we sometimes struggle with having a true and genuine love for God, but we also struggle sometimes with authentically loving others. Yet loving others is connected to love and devotion to the Lord.

Why do we struggle with loving others? Sometimes they have hurt us and sometimes that hurt has been so big and it has made such a mess that loving them seems like we accept them or what they did and they we feel confused because why would we – how could we – love a hurtful person? Why should we love those who have made us feel like garbage?

Well thankfully God has never withdrawn His holy love for us when we made Him fell like we didn’t care, or didn’t want to obey Him. I am sure God has felt pain – especially with some of our decisions and actions, yet His love and mercy is always abounding.

Loving God with all that we are – heart, soul and mind – is a declaration against logic and feeling. It also plainly and yet powerful demonstrates that nothing else in this world is our focus or our aim – that nothing is a god or idol in our life – for the Lord alone is who we worship and in whom we live for.

Yet often we allow our anger or other feelings to become our idols and we serve those feelings and fan them into flame within our lives or even within others. In doing so, it not only breaks our connection with others, but also it affects our devotion to God. This is how the two are so deeply connected. This is why Jesus spoke what He did in this truth.

Did that person hurt you? Yes! Should they be punished! Probablly. But when we resist loving them still – when we let our feelings guide us and we serve them, then all we do is deny ourselves the joy of being centered in a loving and intimate relationship with God.

When we stop letting those idols of feelings control us we have freedom then to overflow with the love and generosity of God towards others, regardless of what they have said or done. No longer do we let lies control us, nor do we let others actions steal from us and cause us pain. We surrender all those feelings and all that sense of justice and fairness to foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ and we purpose to walk in the freedom of God that is found when we are centered on His complete & full love.

As you wrestle with this truth today – ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you how your view of others and their actions is keeping you at bay from being centered in God’s love. And ask the Holy Spirit to show you have you might more faithfully demonstrating God’s redemptive love to others.

(NOTE: the post today was taken from the “Daily Devos” that I write. To sign-up to receive them go to: http://nickolasemery.us6.list-manage2.com/subscribe?u=026a704b43a1b6cd8af81e245&id=c95886fdad