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Fully Aiive

Our Easter focus this year at Grace Capital Church is on becoming and being ‘fully alive’ in our walk with the Lord.  Perhaps we don’t even know the power of becoming fully alive by surrendering to Jesus and being filled with the Holy Spirit.  During one of my journaling times this week I was led to one of my favorite verses in the book of Psalms (Psalm 69:1).  The verse is simple and reads like this, “Save me, O God!  For the waters have come up to my neck.” Image 

I think this Psalm speaks to a lot of us who feel overwhelmed by all of the things we carry on our plates.  We can feel as if our very next breath will be our last, like we cannot live unless God intervenes for us and saves us from the rapidly rising waters that are quickly up to our neck.  With today’s fast paced and technology filled days, we can feel this way easily.  

As I thought about this more, though, I think God wants me to be in a place where the waters are up to my neck and I must depend solely on Him for my next breath.  I’ve discovered that as I’m living this way; with the waters up to my neck, that’s when I feel fully alive.  I feel fully alive when I’m to the point of depending on God to save me for the waters have come up to my neck.  

If I’m wading knee deep in the water, then I can be self-sufficient and work at half-capacity to get things done.  But, I’m afraid this isn’t the fullness of life that God has called me to.  I want to live a life that is fully alive by being neck deep in what He’s called me to, knowing that I can only succeed, only take my next breath by the strength He gives me and by the grace and mercy that He always affords to me.

Are you fully alive?

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Regardless of cost

Do you ever wonder about the cost of following Jesus?  Sure, sometimes we talk about the cost when we are talking about missionaries sacrificing so much as they sell all their belongings and move to some remote part of the world or we talk about tithing and the sacrifice that is involved in giving God what already belongs to Him.

However, I recently read the story in the book of Mark where Jesus set a man free from the demons that were plaguing him and I started thinking a little differently about the cost of following Jesus.  He had come to this region and preformed a powerful miracle, requiring the Legion of demons to flee from this man who had been tormented for years.  The man was made whole and the demons were expelled to the herd of pigs that was feeding on a nearby shore.  The pigs then ran straight into the water and drowned themselves, presumably costing the pig herders lots and lots of money.  Now, all of a sudden, they were anxious for Jesus to leave the area. Image 

I wonder how many of us welcome Jesus into our lives, our towns, our churches, and our families until it starts to cost us something.  Do we welcome him as long as he’s doing miracles for us, prospering us, and not requiring sacrifice from us?  I’m afraid we do view things this way sometimes. Do I want Jesus to do miracles for me and my family, but then when he calls me and my family to something that looks like it will cost us money ask him to leave the region because I can’t afford to have him meddling around any longer?  

I want to welcome Jesus and his miracles regardless of the sacrifice I have to make.  I want to trust him beyond the miracles that require nothing from me and allow him to do miracles in me that require my obedience and sacrifice.  

This is a hard lesson that hits us in a sensitive area; our wallets.  But, it’s a lesson that opens up our lives to great growth in our walk.

Audience of One

Have you ever felt like no one notices your contributions?  I remember seeing a cartoon once that gave a good, but funny, description of this.  The cartoon had one guy in it.  He was dressed in a business suit and he said, “doing a good job around here is like wearing a dark suit and wetting your pants, you get a warm feeling but nobody notices.”  I think we probably all feel that way sometimes regardless of whether we work in a factory, an office, or at home.Image

Sometimes, though, we are working only for an audience of one.  We can work, serve, struggle, fail, and move forward and the only things that seem to draw notice is the struggling and failing part.  It’s important, though, for us to remember that God recognizes all of our efforts and He is pleased with our heart of service, our willingness to struggle, and our desire for excellence.  He doesn’t just seek out the things He thinks we could do better, but He sees our hearts and loves us for serving.  He is pleased.  He sees our desire to grow His Kingdom and He rejoices.

So, the thing for us is to be encouraged as we are serving this audience of One.  He sees, He cares, and He is pleased with us as we serve.

A Dream Fulfilled

The story of Joseph is so interesting to me.  There is so much to learn throughout the whole story of his life; leadership lessons, lessons in perseverance , God’s providence, and even dreaming big dreams.  Joseph definitely dreamed big dreams.  When he told his brothers about his dream; that they and his parents would bow down to him someday, the brothers got a little upset.  They got so upset that his circumstances when haywire; his brothers start to hate him, they try to kill him, sell him off into slavery, he gets accused of rape, put in prison, and ends up the guy second in charge to the Pharaoh.  That’s a wild ride!

ImageThen, despite all the circumstances, his dream is fulfilled as his family does come before him bowing to him.  It seems that Joseph’s dreams came true without his pushing, scheming, or making them happen.  It almost seems that his dreams were fulfilled serendipitously.  

But, in looking further I can see two things that I think were important about Joseph’s dream coming true.  Joseph kept his dream alive in his heart and Joseph continued to serve and honor God despite his circumstances.  

Maybe the key to us fulfilling our dreams, then, could very well be keeping the dream alive in our heart and continuing to serve God and allowing His Holy Spirit to work in us.  As this happens, I’m sure the Holy Spirit will prompt us to do things to get us closer to our dreams, to take the next step, but the key is to remain true to the dream and close to the heart of God.

 

Order in creation

I especially enjoy my Bible reading plan in January as I start reading in the book of Genesis and then continue to read some of the great stories of the Bible.  In Genesis I read of creation, of Noah, of Abram who becomes Abraham, and then of Joseph and his amazing story.  I love re-reading these and being reminded of the timeless truths found in such old stories.

ImageJust as I was reading Genesis 1 this week, I was reminded of some of the things that God has put into order as he created the earth.  For example, in Genesis 1:12 I read, “The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.  And God saw that it was good.”  

The creation story fascinates me every time I read it.  God created heaven and earth out of nothing.  And He did it with such great order.  Not only did He do it with such great order, but He even tells of of the order we can expect from His universe.  We can expect, and only expect, that a pine tree will come from seeds of a pine tree; a maple tree only from the seeds of a maple tree, and fruit trees from the seeds of fruit trees.  

This seems pretty elementary, but it is a basic tenet of God’s creation, things reproduce and only reproduce what they are.  If we choose to plant maple trees, then it’s maple trees we will get.  If we choose to make bad decisions, then it’s bad consequences we will get.  This is a universal truth that cannot and will not change.  

So many of us think we can change this universal truth.  We think we can plant our maple seeds and get pine trees or we think we can plant seeds of deception and find truth or we think we can plant seeds of hatred and find love.  The universe just isn’t made to work that way.  We have to acknowledge that God has set the world up with such universal truths and, although God could do a miracle to work around this truth, all we do is subject to these things.

We reap what we sew.

Promises

I really enjoy reading and re-reading Hebrews 10 and 11 where the ‘faith hall of fame’ ist listed.  I love reading about those of old who had so much faith and walked it out just because they heard what God said for them to do and they believed Him.  What lessons I can learn from Abraham, Noah, Gideon, and others!

For example, Hebrews 11:17 says, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.  He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son.”  Abraham was able to see beyond the obvious problem of sacrificing his son, Isaac, because he had already received the promise of God that he would be the father of a nation.  I believe that once we receive God’s promise for us, we are able to see that the things many people consider problems are just details (and sometimes miracles) for God to work out.  

It’s so important for us to receive God’s promises by faith so that we can live victoriously as we walk and work and pray through what seem to be problems.  There are plenty of circumstances in my life that I can look at as problems if I forget about God’s promises.  Over and over again, I can come back to God’s promises that are listed in His Word and see that for every problem I can conjure up, He has a promise that will sustain me.  

My focus on the problem is really the only problem that keeps me from the promise!

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More Than Keeping the Rules

follow-the-rulesI’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler in the book of Matthew lately.  This ruler comes up to Jesus and asks him what he must do to get eternal life.  Jesus first tells him what he probably wanted to hear; keep the commandments, honor your mother and father, don’t kill anyone, don’t commit adultery, etc.  I think the rich man was happy to hear these because he could answer Jesus by saying, “I’ve kept all these rules since I was a kid.”

Then, Jesus follows up with the hardest part, though.  He says something like, “yes, you’ve kept the rules but now you need to sell everything you have and give the money to the poor and then come follow me”.  Whoa!  I can imagine the rich man thinking something like, “oh no, anything but that.  I’ve worked hard all my life to acquire these riches, I can’t get rid of them!”

I think life would be easier, more black and white, if I could just know what the rules are and follow them.  If I know the rules, I can follow.  But, when it comes to just putting my agenda aside, walking away from all the comfort that I’ve worked so hard for, and following Jesus wherever he leads me, life becomes a little more difficult.  First, I have to get to know Jesus and trust him so I have to be in the Word.  Secondly, I have to discern his plans for me and put these plans (plans that are often only fueled by faith) ahead of the plans I might have for myself.  Thirdly, I have to surrender my plans to his plans daily so that I don’t get off course.  These things are hard, they aren’t black and white, but they are the key to finding all that God has in store for me.

The question comes to, “am I willing?”  Am I willing to do whatever God wants me to do even if it doesn’t coincide with my own plan?  Am I willing to serve Him wherever He wants me to, even if that means obscurity and humility?  Am I willing to go wherever He chooses for me?

It’s easy to judge the rich ruler for walking away sad because he held so tightly to his money and possessions, but we shouldn’t be so quick to judge because we need to answer the same question from Jesus, “Are you willing to go beyond following the rules and follow me?”