Influencers Weekly Devotional
Friday, June 29, 2012
Is Joy A Choice?
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,?and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,?my salvation and my God.” Psalms 43:5 (ESV)
As it often happens, the first person I bounced my discovery off of was my wife, for she is familiar with being my sounding board, as I process thoughts that God may be revealing to me. Since I have been going through some challenging issues with prolonged pain for several years, the question I asked her was personal for me. You see, it is rare for me to dip into self-pity, for I know it to be a perspective the enemy of my soul wants to use against my Savior and me. But, I found myself tipping toward this dark place nevertheless. I have come to understand that the “Accuser” does his best to accuse God and His promises by causing us to doubt His love for us, or His involvement and care when we have to persevere through lengthy trials. It’s like what I’ve heard about water boarding terrorists to cause them to divulge their secrets. It doesn’t kill them, but the gag reflexes and other issues make them break, or think they will die if they don't. I have sometimes felt like I’ve been under the water board for a long time, as well. Even so, my long trial with pain has been endured for years and with a good attitude for the most part, while praying and hoping for healing and its removal. But, that particular day I had grown weary with it, and had even questioned why God would allow it to continue since He has the ability to change it. This is where the alarm went off in my spirit telling me that a breach in my spiritual armor was about to take place, for it is this place in our thinking that “self-pity” knocks on our door. If we chose to allow it in, it will become a downward spiral to much worst things, for it is an open invitation to oppression. Why do I say this? I have come to understand this from my own failures with it, and as well others who have reported the same effect. Oswald Chambers said: “Self-pity is of the devil,” and I know anything that comes from that fallen angel leads to destruction. Thank God the “ALARM” went off and caused me to seek a different perspective.
I asked my wife that morning if she thinks joy is a choice. What do you think? Before you give your answer, challenge yourself on this question, for you may be surprised with how “cause and effect” creeps into our thinking. What do I mean by “cause and effect?” Consider that we often think that joy is the result (effect) of being given that which we desire (cause) from God. Therefore, this results in our thinking that joy comes only after God acts on our problem. The problem that results from this perspective is that we linger for long periods of time, even indefinitely, waiting for God to act, and in the meantime, have no joy. Not all believers follow this thought process. However, if most are honest with themselves, they can identify that this is an initial thought process we are born with, and it has to be overridden. This is where a choice becomes critical. Consider some examples:
As I look at many of the heros in the bible and how they lived out their joy, I don't see “cause and effect” thinking in them. Rather than waiting to be delivered from prisons to find joy, I read about men who praise and worship God for Who He is, in-spite of their imprisonment. Joy was in their hearts and it was expressed through their songs and prayers before their prison walls came down. I also read about men who would not deny God, which was a condition for being delivered from a fiery furnace to find relief. I don't even read about them waiting for God's deliverance to find their joy. Instead, I read about these men standing firm in their trust in God's plan for their life, and with joy they faced their threat with this hope. They had no idea if God would chose to deliver them. He did, but make note that joywas found before their delivery. On and on I could quote stories from the Bible, and biographies of godly men and women, who endured their pain and challenges with joy. How did they do this? They chose joy, but they had to go where it is found, and this leads to another shift in our thinking about how to find it.
“Then I will go to the altar of God,to God my exceeding joy,?and I will praise you with the lyre,?O God, my God.” Psalms 43:4
What do you read about joy in the above passage? I'll give you a hint. It is not about finding joy itself. It is about finding Joy Himself. In fact, the writer of this passage in Psalmssays that God is his exceeding joy. Think about it. If our joy only comes after God acts as some require, then we seek Him as only a joy giver. But, if our joy is God Himself, then we find Him to be the real joy we seek, and place no condition on Him. The good news is that He is ready to receive us at any time, and it is this deeper relationship with Him that we all yearn for and gives us true joy.
The Psalmist who wrote 43:4 made a choice and we see him tell us what it was. It was to go to the altar of God. The altar at that time was a place for temporary atonement, and gave only a distant, shaky, relationship with God. However, through Christ we now have open access to God through His complete atonement which results in a permanent relationship with God. The Lamb of God was placed on His altar so that you and I can go to this altar and find our exceeding joy. We do not have to wait to find it. We do not have to be delivered from the threats that come at us to find it. Joy is waiting for us if we chose to go there, The question is, will you chose to go to this place to find your joy, or will you only permit joy to come only when you see an answer to your need.
Another “altar” is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2. This altar is when we offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice” for God's purposes. This also requires a choice on our part, for it requires an abandonment of ourselves to God. But, this is also the most direct path to the joy that we yearn for, and which often alludes us. Those men and women who could face all manners of trials and still keep their joy were those who had placed themselves on this personal altar, and found that it was their unshakable relationship with the King of the Universe that sustained them through all challenges. Like I said, it is the most direct path to the joy we seek, for it is God Himself. He is our exceeding, excessive, elaborate joy …. and He waits for you to come and get it. Do not tarry.
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Influencers Weekly Devotional
Friday, June 22, 2012
Truth or Consequence
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.”(ESV)
Ok, I realize this devotional might get me tarred and feathered by some of you men who have a different opinion on what I am about to say. Before doing so, please allow me to complete my thoughts before you draw a conclusion, for ultimately I will ask you to process what you read with prayer, and seek how God may be leading you to rethink your modus operandi. So here goes:
In the passage above, we see something that has occurred the last 2,000 years, regrettably many times over. One would hope that a true follower of Christ would understand the conflict he is in by going down a same path Simon the Magician traveled. But in matters of marketing our self or our services, instead of asking ourselves, “How would Jesus do it?,” we often attempt to create a hybrid strategy that borrows from one to make the other look credible. Like the Magician, we fail to understand that going down this path leads to regret and failure.
What we see in the above verse about the businessman Simon the Magician is that he is trying to buy Christian influence. He has already professed Christ with his mouth, and has identified himself publicly with Him. He probably thinks this act makes him look the part to the people he wants to impress. But, I’m not sure he really understands Christ by the way he thinks or follows Him. He outright tries to bribe Peter into giving him the Spirit of God, so that this Spirit could in turn empower his business. Like many professing Christian businessmen and ministers since that time, we see a person trying to capitalize on the name of Christ, and use the Spirit of God for personal gain. Peter looked him in the eyes and told him, “I see that you are in the gallof bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” He also told him point blank, “your heart is not right before God.” Simon the Magician was not thinking with the “heart” of Christ, but as an unethical businessman trying to leverage the name of Jesus to promote his business. Know anyone like that? How about you? Have you tried to leverage your relationship with Christ to help your business, or to impress someone?
It is not just with businessmen who call themselves Christians that do this. It happens in other religions as well. As an example, I was in Egypt a few years ago. Like most tourists, I went through the shops. Muslims ran most of them. I noticed that some of the Muslim merchants had smut on their forehead, and others didn’t. I inquired of our guide as to why, and was told with a sneer that both men prayed several times a day as required by Muslim law. But the men who left the smut on their forehead, instead of washing it off, were trying to impress their customers that they were pious Muslims, and as a merchant, they could be trusted. Did I say the guide told this to me with a sneer on his face? No matter if you follow Christ, or a false religion like Islam, most people detest a hypocrite, and hate to be manipulated.
Only today, I spoke with a pastor who recommended a roofer to his Elders based on a common bond in Christ. This roofer had entered his relationship with this pastor and his church because of having been involved with a similar discipleship process, and he professed to be a man of integrity. The pastor was assured that the roofer could be trusted because of a “heart” in common with his. In talking to the pastor, I heard a sad story of poor quality of work, overpricing, and failure of follow-up by the roofer. I also heard embarrassment for recommending him, and regret. Listening to this, I felt a grieving by the Holy Spirit that His name would be used to promote a business like was done, and worst of all that the man who did it would bring shame to the very relationship he connected himself with. What we see is an example of a man following the path Simon the Magician traveled, and it led to an integrity failure.
Before giving myself to full-time ministry, I worked in the business sector for almost 40 years. While in business I had to battle a conflict within me. Because of my love for Christ, I wanted to be identified with Him. I wanted my clients to know that I was a Christian. I wanted to be trusted because of it. I saw other godly businessmen who felt the same. Some of them attached some sort of Christian symbol to their card, or advertising to be recognized as such. Many did not. For those who did, some of them lost customers because of it. Some gained customers because of it. I was torn, for I wanted to be courageous, and faithful to identify with Christ as a businessman, but I wasn’t sure of my motives, nor how Jesus would want me to present my testimony. I prayed about it and what came from it was that God was more delighted in my being a witness than giving a witness. I also felt Him speak to my heart:
“How you identify yourself is not my concern. However, how you live your life is. I want people to get to know what you are all about not because of how you promote yourself, but rather how you treat them. They will know the truth of the man you truly are not by you leveraging My name, but rather by Me leveraging you. It is My Spirit in you that testifies of your honesty and integrity. Trust Me with this. You do not have to promote yourself if your heart is right with Me. I will do it for you.”
As businessmen we need to keep the marketing of our services, our businesses and our products separate from connecting them to a tacit endorsement by Christ to buy those services. Trust Him instead. If you are the real deal, He will promote you better than you can yourself. If you do add His logo to your calling card or advertisements, you better be the real deal or you will be found out as the roofer was, and it will be a great embarrassment to you. It will hurt you and your business. Whether you promote yourself as a Christian businessman or not, make it your purpose to have a right heart with Christ and with your customers. In both cases, go the extra mile. Let them see Christ in you by the way you talk, the way you act, and the way you serve them. Let this be your strongest voice of self promotion. When you do this, they will be attracted to Him who is in you, and you will bring your Savior great honor. And, oh, I almost forgot. He will be the best PR agent you will ever have.
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Influencers Weekly Devotional
Friday, June 15, 2012
Last weekend, I witnessed a very sad event. A mom who suffered an aneurism in her stomach was fighting for her life at the hospital, while over 50 family members and friends waited and prayed and cried as news came that she would likely not make it. Her three sons clung to each other and wailed loudly as they faced the prospect of losing their Mom. Everyone was at a loss as to what could be done, except to pray. I believe in James 5:14-16, which says:
“Is anyone of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
There happened to be 5 or 6 Elders from Debbie’s church in the waiting room, and I felt compelled to ask them if we could pray over her and anoint her with oil for healing. We all wanted to be respectful of the family, and we all recognized that James 5:14-16 indicates that the one who is sick is to request such a prayer and anointing. However, Debbie was unable to make this request, so we finally asked her husband, Greg. As we waited, I prayed silently, and I flipped through my Bible for answers and for courage. The Holy Spirit led me to Psalm 116, which seemed very appropriate to this situation:
“The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then, I called on the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, save me!’” Psalm 116:3-4
I believed with all of my soul, mind and strength that the Lord could save Debbie. If he wanted to use me as an agent for a miracle, I was available. The family decided they wanted to have the prayer of anointing, so we all walked into her hospital room. As I walked in and greeted Greg, he said, “She’s gone.” Debbie had just departed. We all stared at Debbie’s fleshly remains in disbelief and silence, until finally Greg asked us if we would join him in prayer. This brave man of faith said the most beautiful prayer I have ever heard, choking through tears of grief, as he gave his wife to the Lord. I grabbed Debbie’s lifeless hand, still hoping and praying for a miracle. It was not to be.
The next several minutes were in slow motion as the news spread of Debbie’s passing. So many tears, so much anguish, so much love. As I was about to let the Enemy tell me it was my fault for not acting quicker to ask to pray over her, the Lord prompted me to keep reading further in Psalm 116:
“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For You, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. O Lord, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have freed me from my chains.” Psalm 116:7-9, 15-16
Whereas I was reading Psalm 116 with hopes of a physical healing, I came to understand that this passage was talking about our soul being delivered from eternal death to a place where we walk before the Lord with no more tears, no more stumbling, in the land of eternal living. This is a precious event to the Lord. This is when we are truly free. The Lord knew it was Debbie’s time. She was free, in a way that she never would be on this earth. I found peace in knowing that.
Later in the week, my thoughts traveled back to some words I wrote a few years ago, which seemed to ring true to this situation:
The other day, while walking into the hospital, and seeing all the people coming and going, a simple thought entered my spirit. “This hospital is like an airport.” I began to think about how the hospital is the final departure point for so many people. Family members gather around to see them off and there are tears of sadness. However, there is also a sense of adventure in all the journeys. People from all walks of life are coming and going. We rarely stop to think about where they are going. If you took the time to talk to each of the passengers, you would find so many different stories about how they got to the airport. You would find so many different viewpoints of where they are going when they depart. Some are excited about their trip. Some are not ready to leave. Either they are afraid of flying or they are too heartbroken to leave their loved ones. Many times there are unforeseen delays in their trip, and people find themselves hanging around the airport much longer than they like. Sometimes flights are cancelled, and people are forced to go back home. Of course, there are not only “Departures” but also “Arrivals”. Oh, what a joyful experience as people welcome their loved ones back to home. Some have been given new life by medicine and some are fresh arrivals to this life, straight from Heaven. Yet, we tend to dread the “Departures”. Once, it was conveyed to me the thought of our final journey as a special trip which we’ve been planning our entire lives. Yet, when we get to the point of departure, all those around us are trying to keep us from going. They don’t understand that we’ve been looking forward to this for a lifetime. Oh, that we would understand the beauty that awaits all of us on our final journey. Oh, that we would put our trust in the pilot, Jesus Christ, who promises us safe passage. There’s no reason for sadness when someone departs. We’ll meet up with them later. They’re just going out early to check things out before we get there. Oh, that we could embrace our “Departures” with the excitement of a great journey…that we would lament delays…that we would long to be in the first boarding group. Oh, Lord, there is so much we don’t understand. Give us Your wisdom and Your peace in the midst of the unknown. Lord, help us pack and prepare for our trip. Thanks for paying for the ticket. Thanks for working out the itinerary. Thanks for upgrading us to First Class. One more thing…can you give us a ride to the Airport.
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Influencers Weekly Devotional
Thursday, June 07, 2012
God’s Word is a treasure chest full of stories, life lessons, insights and power, if we would only take time to open it up. As much as I love the New Testament and the accounts of our wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus and the adventure of the beginnings of The Church, I equally love reading and meditating in the Old Testament. Many may say that the Old Testament is Law and the New Testament is Grace or the Old Testament is the Old Covenant and the New Testament is the New Covenant. That may be true, but I believe “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”John 1:1. I believe every word in the whole Bible is there for a reason, and I yield myself to its lessons. I also believe that the men who are portrayed in the Old Testament are real, and we have much to learn from their lives. Sure, the New Testament introduces us to men with names like Paul and John and Peter, names which seem closer to our names. In the Old Testament, we meet men like Hezekiah. A funny name…but have you met Hezekiah?
Hezekiah was King of Judah. He became king at only 25 years of age. Here is what Scripture says about him:
“He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord, and did not cease to follow Him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.” 2 Kings 18:3, 5-7
Hezekiah was one of God’s men. He trusted the Lord. But if you read about his life, you will see that it was not without challenge. As most kings of that day, he lived during a time of war. The Goliath of Hezekiah’s day was Assyria. Sennacherib, King of Assyria, led a powerful army, and he was set against God’s people. After a three year battle, he was able to capture Samaria and the fortified cities of Judah, and next, he had his sights set on Jerusalem. As you read the account, it is easy to see that Hezekiah was fearful. He makes Sennacherib a peace offering of three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. He took these straight from the temple of the Lord. It seems he was buying time until Egypt could overtake Assyria.
Sennacherib sent messengers to Jerusalem. They came to intimidate Hezekiah. They laughed at his military strategy, and then, they went onto to blaspheme his God and his faith. Furthermore, they began to attempt to persuade Hezekiah’s people to turn against him. They planted doubt in their minds that God would really deliver them. Looking at all their military success, they could build a pretty good case for their confidence. The people of Israel looked to their leader, Hezekiah, to see what he would do.
Hezekiah did not know what to do except seek the Lord. He fasted and prayed, and he laid Sennacherib’s threats before the Lord. Even as he prayed, Sennacherib’s force intensified and the future looked uncertain. In the midst of all of this, we also read that Hezekiah received a word from Isaiah, one of God’s prophets, that he had a life-threatening illness. He was told that he should get his affairs in order, for he was going to die. Once again, Hezekiah fell on his face, crying out to the Lord. It would be easy to understand how Hezekiah might have doubted God. Everything seemed to be going against him. But he prayed, yielding himself to God’s will.
Isaiah assured Hezekiah that the Lord heard his prayers, and furthermore, the Lord had heard Sennacherib’s blasphemous words. He wanted Hezekiah to know that he should not worry, for He would defend the city Himself. And in verse 35 of 2 Kings 19, we read that during the night, an angel of the Lord put to death 185,000 Assyrian soldiers! The remaining army retreated, and not long after, Sennacherib’s own sons killed him. Isaiah also had more good news for Hezekiah. The Lord had heard his prayers for healing, and He granted Hezekiah 15 more years of life.
God delivered Hezekiah from the Assyrian army, and He delivered him from sickness! It should be noted that two times God says, through Isaiah, that the reason he is answering Hezekiah’s prayers is for His sake and for the sake of His servant David. It’s hard to understand God and why He does what He does, when He does it. We have to know that He has good reasons, and that He can be trusted. I’ve always wondered why God have Hezekiah 15 years more to live. What was the significance?
One year, at Christmastime, I discovered the answer. In reading the beginning Matthew, where we are given the genealogy of Jesus, I couldn’t help but notice Hezekiah’s name listed. Until that time, I never knew that Hezekiah was in the lineage of Jesus. As I dug further, I discovered that Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, who is also listed in the genealogy, was conceived and born AFTER Hezekiah was healed from his illness. It became clear to me. God allowed Hezekiah to live longer because He had a VERY important plan for him to fulfill, continuing on the line of David, which eventually led to our Lord Jesus and salvation for all mankind!
Men, we should learn from our brother Hezekiah. As men of God, we should understand that we will not be exempt from challenge. We will have enemies and we could face death. We will experience fear and doubts, and many people will be watching us to see how we react to life’s circumstances. We must be men of Prayer. We must be real with God, crying out to Him when we are confused and in anguish. We must trust His plans for they are way beyond anything we could imagine or conceive. We may make some mistakes along the way, like when Hezekiah gave away God’s gold, but God understands. He honors the man who will humble himself and pray.
God only knows how your story will go down in the annals of Faith. However, you should know that all that you are experiencing in life right now has supreme significance in God’s plans. Seek Him, Abide in Him, Trust Him….He is with you, and He will never leave you or forsake you. Bless you.
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
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Links & Resources
Influencers- Bakersfield, CA
Influencers-Bayside Church, Northern California
Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest"
Tulsa Men of Christ
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