Influencers Weekly Devotional
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The Lord Provides
“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from the shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’” John 21:4-12
This fabulous story captivated me the other day. It spoke a truth to me that God has been speaking through more than one source. In the beginning of Jesus’ walk with these men, He told them He would make them “fishers of men”. He had greater things in store for them than just fishing for a living. He had significant, eternal plans in which they would play a part. Now, they find themselves, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, a little lost and confused. They go back to what is comfortable. They go back to a more predictable life. With Jesus gone, life may be less than miraculous, so they think. In one final lesson, He teaches them. He regains their focus and guides them to a miraculous catch of fish. Their eyes are, once again, opened up to the limitless possibilities of God. Then, after He provides for them more fish than they’ve ever imagined catching at once, He asks them to bring some of the fish to share with Him. This is interesting to me because the text says that Jesus already had some fish on the fire, along with some bread. And then, He says the words that really touch my heart, “Come and have breakfast.” Breakfast with Jesus- what a beautiful picture that is to me!
I don’t know if you are like me, but sometimes in this Christian life, I feel like I’ve been fishing all night long, without catching a thing. I get discouraged, depressed and I begin to think the fishing trip was a bad idea. At first, I was hopeful. I was excited about this adventure of faith, and I couldn’t wait to see how God might use me in His purposes. I thought I was a pretty good fisherman- so good, perhaps, that the fish might just jump into the boat. However, life seems to humble us at times to remind us that we might not be as great as we think we are. However, Jesus is always nearby watching us. He’s even calling out to us. If we will let him get our attention, He will tell us what to do. He will do miracles in our midst. He will provide for us in ways that we never imagined. Then, He will want to spend some time with us, feasting and sharing the harvest of His provision together.
How often do we try to do life without Jesus and fail? As a matter of fact, many times we even try to do work for God without Jesus. Steve McVey, in his book, “Grace Walk”, talks about the great lessons to be learned in the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:40-42:
Martha was stressed out while Mary was resting. People for whom Christian living is strictly service-oriented often get impatient with those whose level of measurable activity is not as intense. Luke says that Martha was “distracted.” Distracted from what? From Jesus! What was it that caused her attention to be distracted from Jesus? You got it- serving Him! It was a startling revelation in my own life when the Holy Spirit showed me that I had become more preoccupied with the work of the ministry than with the One who called me to it. Busyness in serving Christ can block intimacy with Him.
Guys, we are wired for performance. Whether it be competing on the athletic field, fixing things around the house, becoming financially independent, organizing events, stockpiling awards- you name it- we men want to DO something. We want to be significant. Even for those of us who have decided to follow Jesus, it is easy to measure ourselves against others. What we discover is that without a personal, abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, first and foremost, all our activity will turn into weariness, emptiness and fruitlessness.
However, if we go on this Journey of life WITH Christ, He will provide. Abraham knew God so intimately that when He asked him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, he obeyed without question. He trusted God completely with his life and his son’s life. He told Isaac, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”Genesis 22:9 Sure enough, God had a ram waiting in the thicket. God provides! He provided Abraham with the promised son, and He provided a sacrifice for that son, so that he didn’t have to die.
Men, I hope you get this. The Lord Provides! He knows what you need right now. Whether it be in your family, your work, your finances, your health, your ministry, He sees you out there, struggling to do it on your own. He’s calling out to you. He’s got something for you to do which will help Him answer your prayers. He’s waiting for you to listen so He can bless you. He can’t wait for all this to happen so you will recognize that it was Him. He can’t wait for you to jump out of the boat, like Peter, and come and have breakfast with Him.
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
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Influencers Weekly Devotional
Friday, April 20, 2012
I love The Journey! After guiding 8 Journey Groups, including one Couple's Group, I can tell you it never gets old. A friend of mine asked me when we were going to come out with some new material to keep it fresh. I said, "You don't understand. That's like saying the Bible needs an update." I say this because all The Journey does is guide men to the Living Water, the Eternal Word, the Living God. His mercies are new every morning!
So, every time I lead a Journey Group, and we go through the exercise of writing a letter to God, using the sailing, Holy Spirit analogy, I always participate. Yes, God has fresh revelations for me as a Guide, as a man on the eternal Journey, no matter how many times I've explored Him before.
This year, God inspired me to write a poem. I share it with you. I pray it blesses you, and I pray you never stop seeking Him and His beauty!
I’m out to sea, I know I am, for I feel so far from home. I’m navigating new waters, from wave to wave I roam.
The sea is rough and so immense, it strikes, in me, such fear. It makes me grip too tightly to the things that I hold dear.
I know not where I’m going, I’m not sure where I’ve been. I know that I’m not entirely free from the ugly pain of sin.
I cannot see the shoreline, and the life I left behind. And I know I’m on a mission for a purpose I must find.
I look for where I’m going, yet nothing is in sight. I only see the sun and clouds and moon and stars at night.
I stand on deck and ponder life and how I got this far. I know it wasn’t simple fate or a wish upon a star.
My restless mind works aimlessly, just looking for some task. I think I must do some great work, though I wasn’t even asked.
I resolve myself to just be still; I fall down to my knees. I ask the Lord to show the way, it’s Him I wish to please.
In my prayer, the waves calm down, Sun gently warms my skin. And then a breeze comes my way like a welcomed long, lost friend.
It beckons me to lift my head and open up my eyes. I look up toward the heavens and see a figure rise.
In my view, the wooden mast stretches toward the sky. I never saw its shape before, and it nearly made me cry.
It formed a cross, so strong and tall, hovering high above. In that very moment, I’d never felt such love.
In a worship moment, my arms fell open wide. I gave my adoration to the One Who, for me, died.
In my praise, my thoughts were clear; I didn’t fear the sea. There was no other place that my soul desired to be.
I was content. I didn’t care; I needed nothing more. No longer yearning for the things I left back on the shore.
In that peace, a gust of wind came blowing in so strong. Its whistling sound struck my ear like a new praise song.
Then I saw on my boat, a beautiful new sight. There appeared a mighty sail, so pure and so white.
It embraced the wind and billowed out, full of salty air. It thrust the boat and knocked me down, though I didn’t care.
The wind and sail and the boat moved swiftly through the sea. There seemed to be a smoothness in this newfound unity.
I felt as one with the Lord, a smile wouldn’t leave my face. The Journey now had just begun; there were new dreams to chase.
I know that there’ll be storms ahead and many cares to cast. But I will know beneath my sail, there stands that sturdy Mast.
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Influencers Weekly Devotional
Friday, April 13, 2012
What's Behind the Next Door?
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.'” Revelations 3:7-8 (ESV)
I have a dear friend who is being challenged right now in a deep, personal way. He has been a faithful man of God as long as I have known him, which is about 35 years. He and his wife are generous with their material resources and time, and care for people. He has been a brilliant financial planner, and very successful in his career. However, he has been presented an ailment that will force a job change on him, and the need to restructure his career. He still has much to offer an employer and a client, and I believe he will continue the quality, diligent work he is famous for in any new job he is offered. But, a change must happen, and the question is, “Will God be there for him behind the Next Door?”
I have been carrying out the role of being his friend, as my Savior has defined it for me. Mostly, I have befriended him with encouragement and a reminder that his very Best Friend, Jesus, is always near to him and to not lose hope. I've cried for him and with him. But, I have never despaired for him, for I know that God holds the key to the Next Door and behind that door is something better than the current challenge. As a friend, it is my Sacred Responsibility to my King to be a friend who reminds him that the cloud that hovers over him has the Son behind it. (Note, I spelled “Son” as I meant it.) He knows these things, but it helps to be reminded of this truth by a friend. How can I be so certain of the counsel I give to him? You've heard it before from me; “Experience trumps theory,” and it is my personal experience that God opens and closes doors, and when He opens a door for His man, there is no power that can overcome it. I don't despair for him, for I know Who is in charge of his life.
The verse in Revelations 3:7-8 reveals several things about an opened and closed door in a Man of God's life. First and foremost is the fact that God is sovereign, and His desired outcome will be accomplished. No matter what the power of man and evil that will come our way, God will trump anything opposed to His will and purpose for our life. The second thing revealed is the blessing from a closed door, and then an opened one. I would imagine that most of the readers of this devotional understand that the “door” being referenced represents the close of a place or position in life, and the entry into a new one. Most of the time, a closed door represents some kind of disappointment, and an open door represents a new opportunity. Would it be that we would all hate our old life and its circumstances so much that leaving one door to go to another causes us to skip like a prisoner let out of jail. This is the kind of closed and open door we all want, and it would make accepting it easier. But, it is not that clear cut. Often we don't want to leave where we are, no matter how limiting it might be. We are like an abused wife who would rather remain with an abusive husband than have no one in her life, even if it meant living with a cruel man. Sometimes we have grown accustomed to our rut. A friend of mine once told me that his rut is self-made and he has grown to like it. Both of these examples tell us that it will have to be a door closed in their face to make them leave their present life, and to then venture into that which lies behind the Next Door. Although it might seem a fearful endeavor, by faith, we can trust God to have a plan behind the closed and opened doors, and it is good. So, we don't have to fear it.
I mentioned my personal experience with the Next Door. Several years ago, I was on the short list for a new job. It was something I had prayed for, and once it looked like a possibility, the anxiety that it might not happen came knocking on my door. I listened to this spirit of anxiety long enough to allow it to drive me close to the King for His comfort and wisdom. It was in this seeking that God gave me the verse and assurance mentioned in Revelations. As I processed through the verse and how it applied to my life and the circumstance I was in, I could hear two opposing forces trying to capture my attention. One voice was evil, and it reminded me that my hope would not be fulfilled and that he and his followers would make sure of it. No matter what the truth was, or how well suited I was for the job, he would make sure it didn't happen. The other opposing force was God's assurance that He alone closes and opens doors. I was then asked, “Who do you believe, the Father of Lies or the Father of Truth? You are required to make a choice with whom you will believe if you want to find peace. But, either way, whether it be what you want or not, I have a plan for you, and you must trust My involvement with the process.” I chose my Advocate's voice, and decided to trust that whatever might come my way would be by God's design, and not an enemy in the flesh or the spirit world. My experience with trusting God with the Next Door was rewarded, as He indeed had His way, and nothing on this earth could shut the door He opened. This was a good example to teach me that God is in control. They have not all been so clear and what I hoped for. But, they have all turned out good, which is the truth with the way God works.
There have been other closed and shut doors since that time. Some have not been as immediately delightful as the first, but the process would be the same, as I would be challenged to trust God with what is unknown and behind the Next Door. Will it be ugly? Will it be frightening? Will there be disaster, or pain, or ruin behind the Next Door? Certainly these thoughts come to mind during the process. But, what about the other side of those questions: What will the Next Door be like? Will it be delightful? Will it be freeing? Will it be a joyful place. But, most of all, will God be there with me?
“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” Ps 139: 7-10
Men, if there was ever a man who had to face many closed and opened doors, it was King David. His life was a revolving door with changes that came his way. Some were good, and some were bad. This was a man with experience, and he tells us like it is. He tells us that there is no place we can find ourselves where God and His provisions will not be there for us as well. Paul had a similar message when God told him that His grace will be sufficient for him in all circumstances. So, we must conclude that we should not fear the Next Door, or the Closed One. Instead, we should trust God with the process, and allow His peace to assure us that He is in control.
Are you like my friend who is facing a closed and open door right now? Does it have you frightened? Well, I've got to believe that this devotional was inspired and written for you. God is telling you to not be afraid. He is with you as you go through the Next Door, and you can count on Him.
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Influencers Weekly Devotional
Thursday, April 05, 2012
God's Capacity to Forgive
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46
It is the Thursday before Easter as I write this devotional. While I write it, I ask for God’s insight about this week that occurred over 2,000 years ago when Jesus was crucified. That week began with His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We call the day “Palm Sunday.” It was a major build-up for those who suspected that the prophesied King of the Jews was about to take the throne and reject the Romans from their occupation of the land. They applauded Jesus and laid palm branches before Him as He rode a donkey through town. However, the applause stopped when this King was crucified. In fact, He had only a few of His followers around Him when He hung on the cross; John, His mother, and a few women. Have you ever gone through a living nightmare alone? You will remember how the time seems to slow down, and being alone in our pain and suffering compounds the nightmare. Jesus, for all practical purposes was alone in His struggle. Even His Father turned His back to Him and is why He cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? I’ve often asked this question, myself, of the Father as I re-read the account of the crucifixion each year. Why did the Father forsake Him?
As a father of one son who I love more than my own life, I think I have come to understand why Jesus’ Father turned His back to Him during that time. It would be like me watching my son suffer the agony Jesus did and the pain of this would cause me to either interrupt the process or turn my eyes from it. Could it be that God the Father's pain was so great that He had to turn His back on Jesus to keep from seeing it, or else He would stop the process? What if He had stopped it? What if He had said “Too Much!” and ended the crucifixion? It would also have ended our hope for redemption. Thank God, He suffered the agony of the cross along with His Son …. for our sake.
There are some of you who might fault me for trying to humanize God with such emotion as this. However, I would ask those who do, to consider that the Son and the Spirit have emotions, as clearly stated in scripture. They can be grieved and delighted. Jesus wept and showed anger. Why would the Father not have emotions as well, for Jesus and the Holy Spirit are perfect representatives of the Father and His characteristics? As you consider this, can you not in turn appreciate the complete sacrifice that God the Father made for us with the gift of His Son, and that it hurt Him deeply to offer His Son up? If not, you might need to check your heart and ask where you’ve lost it. As you go into this Easter, it would be good to look at it through the grid of a father and son's sacrifice together to get in touch with the reality of what occurred on Good Friday.
We know that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Therefore Thursday would have been the night of Passover when He shared it with His disciples. The events of the night are recorded in the Gospels, and we read about Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, His preparing the disciples for their future without Him, His prayer for them, and the betrayal by Judas. Thursday night and Friday seem to be seamless as the Last Supper on Thursday evening transitions from the Upper Room to Gethsemane to the cross on Friday. It was a runaway train once the process began, except for those who were there. For those who were in the drama, and Jesus, Who received the beating and crucifixion, the time had to seem agonizingly slow. Have you ever been in a real life nightmare when you felt like time was standing still for you, and your life was like a broken disk stuck on a repeating cycle of pain or some kind of hardship? Multiply your experience a thousand times over to understand what the disciples were going through. However, no matter what our experiences in our life have presented us, we can never know what Christ faced that day.
As far as Wednesday of that week, there is some interesting trivia to consider. Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches sometimes recognize this day before Easter as “Spy Wednesday.” It is believed it was the day that Judas Iscariotfirst conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus for thirty silver coins, and it is recognized as such. This day would never be celebrated, for it was a despicable act by Judas, one that has been remembered long after his death. However, didn’t Peter and all the disciples except John desert Him at the cross, and leave Him to agonize alone, beginning at Gethsemane on Thursday night? Sure they did. Why do we not camp out on those acts around Easter along with Judas' betrayal? It is because their acts of desertion are overshadowed by the Cross, the Resurrection and Christ's forgiveness for the weakness of their courage. These men were forgiven by Christ and restored to their fellowship and purpose, as any repentant sinner would be if requested from Him.
I have been asked about God’s capacity to forgive. Some have even asked me if Judas Iscariot had waited until the resurrection instead of hanging himself at Blood Field, would Jesus have been capable of forgiving even him if he requested it? My personal conviction is yes. Like the disciples and even Judas, I’ve been loved by Christ and yet I’ve sold Him out by denying Him at times. I've turned a deaf ear to Him when He wanted to guide me, and I've been ashamed of the Gospel and not shared this “Good News” when it was the only answer for a troubled soul. Still, He has loved me and forgiven me and restored me to fellowship with Him when I've repented, for that is the way He is. Therefore, I cannot help but believe that if He can forgive me of such things, He can forgive anyone of any sin they confess, and His forgiveness completely restores us to Him, including a betrayer such as Judas. But, Judas was overwhelmed by his guilt and took matters in his own hands by taking his life, and the forgiveness that could have been his was missed. If this thought challenges you, consider this truth: The capacity God has to forgive is directly related to His capacity to give. He gave the greatest gift He had to offer when He gave His son to be the Sacrificial Lamb for our redemption. Could there be a greater gift as evidence of the Father's intensions? Could there ever be any gift that could match it, or any sin it would not be sufficient for? Absolutely not! This act alone, by God the Father shows His unfathomable capacity to forgive us our sins against Him, and that His provision through Christ the Son is complete.
As you consider the agony of the cross and the victory of the resurrection this Easter, also consider that there was a Father involved with His Son's struggle, and acknowledge the sacrifice He made for us as well. There is so much we do not understand about God. We have a glimpse into His character and heart by what has been revealed to us by Jesus. To me it is evident from this source and His word that the Father struggled for our redemption with the Son. He did not hang on the cross as the Son did. But, He struggled, as any loving Father would as He watched His Son carry out the purpose He was born for. In fact, He struggle so much He had to turn His eyes away from Him …. for our sake.
Happy Easter…He has risen!!
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
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Influencers- Bakersfield, CA
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Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest"
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