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Who Told You That?

We all know the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and about how the serpent tempted Eve and both Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of course, this changed the course of mankind forevermore.

An interesting story within a story happens when God comes into the garden for His daily walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. This time, Adam and Eve were hiding from God. Of course, God searches them out and finds them (can we ever really hide from God?). He asks them why they hiding from Him and they replied that they were hiding because they were naked so they hid themselves. Now, they had been naked all along, the Bible tells us they were naked and unashamed, but now they felt the need to hide themselves from God on account of their nakedness.

Then, God asks them an interesting question. God says to them, “Who told you that you were naked?” God had created Adam and Eve, had walked in the garden with them while they were naked, and knew them intimately. He wasn’t offended by their nakedness.

Adam and Eve, it seems, had listened to Satan who had told them that they needed to hide from God because they were naked. God hadn’t told them they were naked. It was Satan’s plan for Adam and Eve to run from God, to hide from Him, and be separated from Him. 

That’s Satan’s plan for us today, too. Satan tells us things about ourselves that can make us feel like God doesn’t care for us anymore. He might tell us that we have done too many bad things in our past. He might tell us that we’re used goods because of past relationships gone bad. He might tell us our criminal record disqualifies us from walking with God. He might tell us that the abuse we endured in the past makes us dirty and God doesn’t want anything to do with us. Maybe Satan tells us that addictions, or habits, or failures in the past makes God mad at us so that He doesn’t want to spend time with us.

These things are lies. Before this scenarios plays our in Genesis 3, we read that God was in the garden looking for Adam and Eve. He wanted to spend time with them. Of course, He knew that they had sinned and eaten the fruit and He came to be with them anyway. God’s plan for us includes reconciliation, regardless of where we’ve been or what we’ve done. 

So, the next time you feel like you’re not good enough to have a relationship with God ask yourself, “Who told me that?”

Fan into flame…

The apostle Paul wrote raised up Timothy as a follower of Jesus and as a leader in the church at Ephesus. Paul had raised Timothy up as a leader, had placed his hands on him and released him to lead in the church. Now, after some time, Paul sends Timothy a letter that today we call 2 Timothy. 

Paul encourages Timothy throughout this letter, reminding Timothy of his calling and of the good works that Timothy has done to grow the church in Ephesus. One of the most encouraging words that Paul has for Timothy, though, is found in 2 Timothy 1:6. “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” 

Paul had raised Timothy up to lead. He had laid his hands on him and released him as a leader. Now, Paul wants Timothy to remember these things; he wants Timothy to be encouraged by the memory of Paul’s laying on of hands and releasing him to lead.

It’s almost like Paul saying to Timothy, “I believe in you. Remember, I raised you up as a leader and released you. I laid my hands on you, prayed for you, and released you into good works. I still believe in you. I know you have what it takes and I want you to know that you do have what it takes and I am here, walking alongside you, to make sure you continue in what you’ve been released to do.”

I want to encourage all of you, like Paul encouraged Timothy. Remember that you are called to lead your LifeGroups. Remember that I believed in you as I released you to lead your LifeGroup and that I still believe in you as you lead today. You have what it takes! 

So, please fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…                               Image

More Power than I Know

I read the story in the book of Luke today of Jesus and his disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee.  I came across a truth that I have overlooked as I’ve read this story in the past.  I think it’s a pretty important truth; one that speaks to me now more than ever.

In Luke 8, verse 25, I read:  He said to them, “Where is your faith?”  And they were afraid and they marveled , saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water and they obey him?  Image

The disciples were in the boat with Jesus, the one they believed in and followed.  They believed in him as their Master and as the Son of God.  Yet, it seems that they had no idea of the magnitude of power that Jesus has, so they were living in fear.  Do you think they would have been so afraid if they really knew the power Jesus has?  Jesus has the power to calm winds, control waves, and end storms.  His disciples, those closest to him, were unaware of it and so they were very afraid.  

This is probably how things are today, too.  We know Jesus and we follow him and yet so many times we walk around in fear like we don’t know how powerful he can be in our lives.  We live defeated lives.  We think our circumstances are caving in on us, we think the wind and the rain will wreck us, and we think the waves will overcome us.  

I believe there is a different way to live.  I believe there is an empowered way for us to live, acknowledging and knowing the power Jesus has in our lives and over our circumstances and living boldly on account of that knowledge.  I believe I can stop worrying about circumstances that seem to be in control and follow Jesus and trust that his power is enough to overcome all circumstances.  

I’m sure I spend way too much time and brain energy worrying about circumstances when I should be resting in the knowledge that Jesus isn’t overwhelmed by those very same circumstances.  He’s faced the winds and the waves and came out victorious.  Maybe I’ll spend more energy and brain power on the promises that he has spoken over me and I’ll let the power of the Holy Spirit that is in me take care of the circumstances.  

Endurance

We’ve been thinking and talking a lot about endurance at Grace Capital Church over the past few weeks.

I think people look at endurance in two different ways. Some feel that endurance is slogging through life, enduring all the troubles that come along with life, with the hope of making through yet one more day of life. Others feel that endurance is one step closer to victory; endurance is building ourselves up to be victorious over all the trials that do come.

I believe that endurance is a positive thing that can only lead me to victory. I believe that slogging through life with the hope of making it through one more day is better defined as perseverance. There are times we have to preserver, but we can always endure.

I’m training for a half marathon that I’ll run in October. My training is designed to build up my endurance, not my perseverance. Endurance sets me up for victory, perseverance sets me up for weariness. (Writer’s note: Victory for me in this half marathon is defined as finishing strong and within the timeframe I have trained for; I have no visions of winning the entire race.)

The funny thing is that I can endure or I can preserver; I can set myself up for victory or for weariness in the same circumstance. Think about it. I can preserver through a 9-mile training run and feel weary at the end, or I can endure a 9-mile training run and feel victorious at the end by knowing that I’m closer to my goal and that I’m setting myself up to reach that goal.

So, I can choose to endure. I can choose victory. Or, I can choose to persevere and become weary.

For me, endurance makes me stronger so I will choose to endure.Endurance

Lead by Influence

Sometimes we lead by position, because we possess the title of leader and are even paid to be the leader sometimes. Sometimes, though, we lead by our influence only. Perhaps we are not the positional or recognized leader, but people end up looking to us as leaders. This is influential leadership and is as old as time itself. 

I saw this recently when I was reading from the book of 1 Chronicles. In chapter 11 before King David was king I read; In times past, even when Saul was king, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord your God said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prime over my people Israel.’ 

David was to be Israel’s shepherd. It’s interesting that God was telling him he would be shepherd and not king. Shepherds aren’t usually looked up to as leaders but here David was being put onto the position of shepherd. Image

True leaders lead! They lead regardless of their title or position. This can be where our leadership gets its foundation. We usually don’t start out in an organization as the top leader but we can still lead with our influence. People want to follow those who lead well ,those who are servant leaders, those who lead with integrity and truly care for those who follow, regardless of their title. We don’t need a title for this; only the mantle of leadership that God places on us.

Seeing things differently

I continue to be amazed at the wickedness that is our world today. It seems that the crowds of people in this world are so corrupt, so far from God, even so dangerous, that it almost makes me feel hopeless to make a difference. 

But, today I was reading the 9th chapter of Matthew and read a verse (probably for the 500th time) that really struck me. Matthew wrote it this way in the 36th verse. “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Did you read that? Jesus was looking at the crowds of people, those people who would not listen to him, would not follow him, and would end up killing him, and he had compassion on them because of the state of the world they lived in and because of the state of their hearts. Image

Jesus saw beneath their stubbornness, beneath their sin nature, beneath their arrogant rebellion, and beneath their desire to do things their own way and he felt compassion for them because they were helpless and harassed. 

How many of us in the church today look at the crowds that way? How many of us look out into a crowd of people who are far from God, rebellious, and doing their own thing and feel compassionate toward them? I’m afraid the feelings that so many of us have toward the crowds is far from compassionate. 

I believe it was the Holy Spirit that opened Jesus’ eyes to see people differently than we do. I believe the Holy Spirit opened his eyes so he could see their hopelessness and helplessness and feel compassion toward them. But, I believe that same Holy Spirit that lives inside of us can open our eyes to see things differently, too! 

I have to ask the Holy Spirit to let me see people differently. I have to ask him to fill me and change my eyesight so I can see things differently; then, I pray that I will be able to look out amongst the crowds and see the helplessness, the harassment, and the hopelessness and feel compassion toward them. 

Then, I pray that my compassion spurs me to action. I pray that I will act on that compassion. Perhaps its just speaking encouraging words to someone. Maybe it’s helping someone lift a heavy load. Maybe it’s buying a warm cup of coffee or a cold bottle of water for someone. My action born of compassion could manifest in many different ways, but it can only be born of the Holy Spirit. 

I can’t continue to look at the crowds the way I have in the past. Holy Spirit give me eyes to see things differently.

Living like Caleb

Caleb is my hero.  Even as he got older and older, he was always active, always ready to be a part of the team, always ready to join his countrymen in battle.  He seemed tireless, healthy, and ready for action.

ImageI’m talking about Caleb from the Old Testament in the Bible.  Remember the ten spies that were sent into the promised land to check things out and bring a report back to Moses and the Israelites?  Caleb was one of the two who came back excited about the prospects of taking the land because God had promised it to them, even though the current inhabitants were like giants compared to the Israelites.  

About 45 years after his spying mission, we read more about Caleb as he came to Israel’s current leader, and his old spying buddy, Joshua as they were finally settling in the land.  In Joshua 13:11, Caleb said this, “I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.”

So, Caleb is now 85 years old and he’s telling his leader that he’s as fully alive now as he was 45 years ago when he was called into service to spy.  He stood strong in the days he was called to spy the land and he stood strong years later when it was time to fight for and inherit the land.

Caleb didn’t retire and let the young guys do the work.  He kept himself fit so he could work alongside the younger guys and lead them, direct them, teach them, and mentor them.  Caleb is my hero.

Caleb is a hero for me because of the strength he maintained throughout his life.  He didn’t let old age make him old.  I picture him as a guy who was very active all of his life, working hard, playing hard, living a balanced and healthy life.  Caleb was fully alive!  I see Caleb as one that multiple generations looked up to as a role model of balance in life; physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  

That’s the kind of role model I want to be as I get into my 50’s.  So many in our society would write of a 50 year-old man with big dreams, but I just remember Caleb and his strength and get encouraged to live out those dreams, fully alive.  I want to be that guy who is physically ready to do whatever God calls him to do, so I stay in shape and get plenty of exercise.  I want to be that guy in his 50’s who is so enthusiastic about growth and change that I lead the next generation into growth and change. 

There is so much a 50 (or 60 or 70 or 80) year-old man can do if he stays young in heart and mind.  There are so many dreams that can be fulfilled by older men and women that can lead and inspire younger folks to dream and plan and live fully alive.  

Let’s be sure we don’t write someone off just because they don’t fit in the ‘young leader’ demographic.  Let’s recognize the energy and enthusiasm of those who might be a little older but who are living life fully alive with no plans of slowing down.  I plan to be that guy!