Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #20: MINISTRY

I grew up on the Southeastern coast of Florida. As a teenager, my favorite thing to do was spend time at the beach. Here was a normal weekend conversation at my house...

Me: "Hey dad, can I go to the beach?"
Dad: "Sure, once you do your chores. You need to mow and trim the grass and don't forget to weed all the front beds!" 
Me: (out loud) "Ok, no problem." (in my head) "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"

I spent a lot of time growing up on my knees picking weeds out of our flower beds. I think my parents planting weeds in there just to torment me. To this day, I still hate pulling weeds from the ground!

This week's devotional word is MINISTRY. Ministry, simply put, is serving! 

Often I wonder if Christians today look at ministry the same way as weeding. On the outside we may seem ok with doing it, but on the inside screaming "nooooooooooo!" Every follower of Jesus is a minister, not just the "paid clergy" or pastoral leadership of churches. 

Here's the rub... God has called each of us to love and serve people. Ministry is putting the needs of others before your own. It's loving when you don't feel like it and even giving when it hurts. We struggle when we try and serve others in our own power. This type of serving is empty and unfulfilling.

True ministry is dying to self yet living life as a new creation of God. It's His Spirit and power at work in your life as you help others be reconciled to God. Check out this passage from the Bible... 
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

Ministry is washing feet in a 21st century kind of way. It is the living out of your faith in Jesus in real and practical ways knowing that it brings honor and glory to God. Pray for the Lord to open your eyes and hearts to the needs around you. 

Go and serve others in the name of Jesus. Love the least of these physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Do it with great joy and blessing understanding that God calls you to be His hands and feet used in powerful ways. 

That's true MINISTRY!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #19: TRANSFORMATION

I have to say one of my most favorite commercials of the past few years is the Geico one with two friends lifting weights. During the 30 seconds of commercial, one of the "bros" goes from being scrawny to having huge muscles. It's an incredible TRANSFORMATION right before our very eyes.

Now, I realize that the Geico commercial is just some good Hollywood special effects. But how about the people who experience the health/physical TRANSFORMATION in real life? I love to hear the stories of people who have lost a lot of weight... the testimonies of people changing their diets and lifestyles. I mean don't we all?! Why do you think "The Biggest Loser" was such a popular show? The "wow" factor of seeing the before and after pics!

Even more than that, I love hearing people's stories of how God has changed their lives. There is nothing like an incredible testimony of the power of God at work in someone's life.

This week's word is TRANSFORMATION. As used in the Bible (see verses below), it's the same greek word from which we get "metamorphosis" in English. This makes me think of the caterpillar in its cocoon being changed into a butterfly. This word means change that comes from the inside out. In the context of God's Word, it's the change brought about through the power of the Holy Spirit of God in one's life.
Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.   ~ Romans 12:1-2

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18

All of us long for personal growth. We want to be better friends, parents, spouses, workers, etc. The harsh reality is all of us face struggles, hardships and failures in this life. Many of us spend most of our life trying to move on from mistakes of the past... longing for the "do-over" button to push to bring about a grand "reboot" for life. It doesn't happen like this.

Here's the straight truth: God desires to bring about TRANSFORMATION  in your life. While you can't simply try harder to change yourself, you do have an important role to play. You ARE called to stop conforming (and numbing your hearts/minds) to the popular patterns of this culture. You ARE responsible for daily dying to self in surrender ("present your body as a living sacrifice") and consistently getting into the Word of God ("renewing of your mind").

Don't settle with where you are in life. Give up on doing life your way: Walk faithfully and intimately in your relationship with Jesus and watch Him supernaturally change you from the inside out! In this, I believe, God will get the most glory from your life.  

Looking up. Living (inside) out!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #18: PERSEVERANCE

Did you read about it? Did someone tell you about it? Did you see it on social media?

True inspiration was witnessed at the Boston Marathon a few weeks ago. An Army veteran and a Marine captured the hearts of so many people not simply by running the marathon, but by running the race with prothetic legs.

Earl Granville (Army)

Jose Luis Sanchez (Marines)

You see... both these men lost legs while serving our country in Afghanistan - Granville (roadside bomb in 2008) and Sanchez (IED in 2011). These men are living examples of PERSEVERANCE.

Perseverance is defined by Merriam-Webster as "continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition."

I wonder about each of these men and the journey of the past few years following their injuries while serving in the armed forces. I imagine how difficult it was for each of them to relearn how to walk. I think about the people close to them that stood by them as they healed inside and out. I'm certain there were days of extreme physical, emotional and mental anguish.

Yet here they were running the biggest race in the country. Every step they took in the marathon, every drop of sweat, every life that was touched was PERSEVERANCE lived out for all too see.

I think there are great lessons we can all learn from their example. The Christian life is not a sprint, but rather a marathon.

At the end of his ministry and life, the Apostle Paul looked back at his life and recalled "fighting the good fight... finishing the race... keeping the faith."

"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing"
~ 2 Timothy 4:6-8

No matter where you are in the marathon of this life, expect difficulties, failure, and opposition! The Christian life was never promised to be a walk in the park. If and when things get tough, keep running with perseverance. The end of your race will come in its due time. 
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with PERSEVERANCE the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
~ Hebrews 12:1-3

When interviewed after the race, Sanchez told a local news station that he ran the race "for others to be inspired, to be motivated." Mission accomplished!

Don't forget that others have gone before you and set the example. Many are presently running along side of you or cheering from a close distance. The Lord will give you the strength and provision you need to finish the race. Keep your eyes on Him!

I imagine we should all live this life the Lord has given us just like Granville and Sanchez ran the Boston Marathon... 

one step at a time!