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Archive for July, 2011

He Is Here.


By Vine.

From there he arose, and went away into the borders of Tyre and Sidon. He entered into a house, and didn’t want anyone to know it, but he couldn’t escape notice.Mark 7:24

The fame of Christ was known all throughout the country to such an extent that for Him to travel anywhere without being recognized would be almost impossible.

No doubt there was something in is appearance and demeanor that distinguished Him from other men and soon revealed Him.

There must have been a rare sweetness in His face, the outpouring of the great love of His heart.

There was no halo upon His features, as many artists have depicted in their paintings, and yet there must have been a glow of grace that revealed Him to sad and hungry hearts.

Christ never can never be hidden.

There’s no place in this world where His presence can not be recognized for too long.

You can hide sweet-smelling flowers so that they cannot be seen, but soon the fragrance will reveal their hiding-place.

So the sweetness of the Savior’s life and love will always tell when He is near.

When He enters a human heart He cannot be hidden; for soon His Spirit begins to breathe out in all the words, actions, and life of the new follower.

When He enters a home He cannot long be hidden, for the home is changed.

Worldliness, bitterness, and sin give way to prayer and praise — to the spirit of love and gentleness, and to purity and holiness.

When He enters a community He cannot remain concealed.

The stories of missionary work illustrate this. Christ will always reveal His presence in this world.

The same is true also of all faithful discipleship.

A Christian cannot be hid. If the love of Christ is truly in his heart, people around him will know it very soon.

They will see it in his character and disposition, in the way he honors God, in the way he treats his fellow-men.

When someone can hide his religion, she doesn’t have much of it to hide.

True religion breathes out in fragrance and shines out its light.

Apply This To Your Life Today… Is your religion hidden? How do those around you know you are a Christ-bearer?


Bible In A Year: July 30th…

By Book Old Testament New Testament Proverbs & Psalms
Isaiah 31-33 1 Chronicles 7-8 Romans 13:1-14 Psalm 89:38-45

Joy Busters: Jealousy (An Unhappy Existence).


Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, but who is able to stand before jealousy?

Proverbs 27:4

Recommended Reading
James 3:13-18

Wanda Holloway, the “Texas Cheerleader Murdering Mom,” attempted to hire a hit-man to kill the mother of her daughter’s cheerleading rival, hoping to give her daughter the upper hand.

The girls were only thirteen at the time.

This is unconceivable to us that a mother would be driven to such an action, but her desire to further her daughter’s cheerleading prospects was greater than her rational thinking.

She was driven by jealousy.

Jealousy is destructive–the Bible is full of evidence supporting its critical nature.

Cain killed Abel.

Saul attempted to take David‘s life.

Joseph‘s brothers sold him into slavery. J

ealousy sneaks into our lives and strangles those closest to us.

How can we overcome the jealousy that seeks to destroy?.

Rather than wish evil against someone, we can remember them in prayer.

When we pray for someone, it’s very difficult to desire evil in their lives.

Very few acts are more encouraging, even if the person never knows we’re praying for them.

And while we’re praying for them, we can also thank God for the many blessings in our lives.

When we focus on what we do have, rather than what we wish we had, our jealous tendencies begin to wane.

The cure for the sin of envy and jealousy is to find our contentment in God.

Jerry Bridges

Read-Thru-the-Bible
Isaiah 63:1-66:24
Jeremiah 1:1-3:25

By David Jeremiah.

You Can’t Teach A Frog To Fly, So Stop Trying.


Guest Post by Steve Brown (read more about Steve here). Few people make me laugh more than Steve. Enjoy…

I’ve had a lousy job for most of my life.

As you know, I’m a preacher/pastor and my job description is to keep people from doing what they obviously want to do.

I’ve often felt like an overwhelmed police officer at a rock concert charged with keeping the concert goers from using drugs.

With a job description like mine, you hardly ever get invited to parties, people are not very honest, and sometimes you feel like a wet shaggy dog shaking himself at a wedding.

I tell them that I’m trying to help and that God anointed me to reach out to them, but they simply don’t care.

Preachers are supposed to keep people from sinning.

I haven’t been very successful so far.

There are times when I feel like I’m standing by a cliff where people come to dance.

“Be careful,” I tell them. “It’s a long way down and the stop will be quite unpleasant.”

They look at me.

They sometimes even thank me.

Then they jump.

But I keep at it. “Hey,” I say to the next group who approach the cliff, “not too long ago, I saw people go off that cliff and if you’ll bend over and look, you can see the bloody mess they made.”

Like everybody else, since I’ve been standing beside the cliff, they seem grateful for my concern.

They maybe even say something about my compassion and wisdom.

Then they jump.

Frankly, I’m tired of it.

In fact, I’ve given up standing by this stupid cliff.

I’m tired of being people’s mother.

I’m tired of trying to prevent the unpreventable.

I’m tired of talking to people who don’t want to listen.

And I’m tired of pointing out the obvious.

Just when I determine to leave my position by the cliff, to my horror and surprise…

I jump!

What’s with that?

Let me tell you.

There is a very human and undeniable proclivity of human beings to sin-to jump off the cliff.

We’re drawn to it. We love it (at least for awhile).

No matter who tries to keep us from doing it or how much pain it will cause, we are irresistibly drawn to that cliff.

Maybe we want to fly.

Could be that we have a masochistic streak in our DNA.

Could be that our default position is jumping off cliffs.

I don’t know.

But for whatever reason, we do jump, we do get hurt, and if we survive, we then climb back up the cliff and jump again.

There is a parable (author unknown) about Felix, the flying frog.

Even if I mix the metaphor a bit, let me tell you the parable.

Once upon a time, there lived a man named Clarence who had a pet frog named Felix. Clarence lived a modestly comfortable existence on what he earned working at the Wal-Mart, but he always dreamed of being rich. “Felix!” he said one day, hit by sudden inspiration, “We’re going to be rich! I’m going to teach you to fly!”

Felix, of course, was terrified at the prospect.

“I can’t fly, you twit! I’m a frog, not a canary!”

Clarence, disappointed at the initial response, told Felix: “That negative attitude of yours could be a real problem.

We’re going to remain poor, and it will be your fault.”

So Felix and Clarence began their work on flying.

On the first day of the “flying lessons,” Clarence could barely control his excitement (and Felix could barely control his bladder). Clarence explained that their apartment building had 15 floors, and each day Felix would jump out of a window, starting with the first floor and eventually getting to the top floor. After each jump, they would analyze how well he flew, isolate the most effective flying techniques, and implement the improved process for the next flight. By the time they reached the top floor, Felix would surely be able to fly.

Felix pleaded for his life, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.

“He just doesn’t understand how important this is,” thought Clarence.

“He can’t see the big picture.”

So, with that, Clarence opened the window and threw Felix out.

He landed with a thud.

The next day, poised for his second flying lesson, Felix again begged not to be thrown out of the window.

Clarence told Felix about how one must always expect resistance when introducing new, innovative plans.

With that, he threw Felix out the window. THUD!

Now this is not to say that Felix wasn’t trying his best.

On the fifth day, he flapped his legs madly in a vain attempt at flying.

On the sixth day, he tied a small red cape around his neck and tried to think “Superman” thoughts.

It didn’t help.

By the seventh day, Felix, accepting his fate, no longer begged for mercy.

He simply looked at Clarence and said, “You know you’re killing me, don’t you?”

Clarence pointed out that Felix’s performance so far had been less than exemplary, failing to meet any of the milestone goals he had set for him.

With that, Felix said quietly, “Shut up and open the window,” and he leaped out, taking careful aim at the large jagged rock by the corner of the building.

Felix went to that great lily pad in the sky.

Clarence was extremely upset, as his project had failed to meet a single objective that he had set out to accomplish.

Felix had not only failed to fly, he hadn’t even learned to steer his fall as he dropped like a sack of cement, nor had he heeded Clarence’s advice to “Fall smarter, not harder.”

The only thing left for Clarence to do was to analyze the process and try to determine where it had gone wrong.

After much thought, Clarence smiled and said…

“Next time, I’m getting a smarter frog!”

A number of years ago, I realized that I was, as it were, trying to teach frogs to fly.

Frogs can’t fly.

Not only that, they get angry when you try to teach them.

The gullible ones will try, but they eventually get hurt so badly they quit trying.

And the really sad thing about being a “frog flying teacher” is that I can’t fly either.

Let me tell you a secret

. If one is a teacher trying to teach frogs to fly, nobody ever bothers to ask if you can fly.

In fact, if you pretend that you’re an expert and tell a lot of stories about flying; if you can throw in a bit of aeronautical jargon about stalls, spins and flight maneuvers; and if you carry around a “Flight Manual” and know your way around it, nobody will question your ability to fly.

You just pretend you’re an expert and tell stories, and the students will think you can fly.

The problem is that you become so phony you can’t stand yourself.

So I’ve repented.

Now I just send them to Jesus and try to get out of the way.

Come to think of it, if you’re struggling with sin and aren’t getting better, don’t come to me.

I like you okay, but that kind of depends on how my day is going.

Instead of coming to me, run to Jesus. He’ll love you and maybe even make you better.

By Tullian Tchividjian.

Leading Worship in Light of Christ’s Perfection.


[Editor’s note: the article below was adapted from a blog post by Bob Kauflin that first appeared at www.worshipmatters.com.]

Not too long ago a group of friends and I finished reading together The Cross And Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson.

It’s a book every Christian leader could benefit from. One group member, Matt Richley, wrote down a few thoughts about two quotes he found in chapter 2.

I thought you’d enjoy them. Here are the quotes, followed by Matt’s response.

“It is idiotic – that is not too strong a word – to extol the world’s perspective and secretly lust after its limited vision. This is what the Corinthians were apperently doing; that is what we are in danger of doing every time we adopt our world’s shibboleths, dote on its heros, admire its transient stars, seek its admiration, and play to its applause.”

“We must come back to the cross, and to God’s plan of redemption that centers on the cross, and make that the point of our self-identification.”

I was challenged by this when I considered how I lead people in corporate worship.

I was aware that often, I would be riddled with nervousness, feeling the continual battle with pride and the fear of man.

I was concerned with my musical ‘performance’ and how well I would articulate verbal transitions between songs.

I was aware of my weakness, which is good because it helps me recognize my need for and dependence on God.

But instead of giving Him glory, in those moments I was craving the praise of man and wanted people to think well of my leadership and musical skill (not that my gifting is particularly significant).

What I find so funny and ironic is that the gifting I do have, by the very nature of a gift, was given to me by someone else, namely God!

And yet I try and claim some achievement or prideful ownership over those gifts.

I was convicted by Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians:

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?  (1 Cor 4:7)

In the midst of discussion about these things, the other guys helped me see what I was initially blind to.

Here’s what I gleaned about preparing to lead the church in corporate worship in a way that redirects the focus from ourselves to the risen Savior:

Don’t Expect Your Own Perfection – Lead in Light of His Perfection

Romans 3:23-24 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

If I’m aiming to lead (speaking and/or musically) flawlessly then I am dooming myself to discouragement because I will never do it perfectly!

Yes, I could do it better, (and evaluation is a useful tool to cultivate humility) but I do it from the foundation that I am already accepted in Christ and that my worship is pleasing to God through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice.

Christ has done the work that no other could do, and the work is finished – His worship was perfect.

Our worship then, through redemption is in Christ.

It is cleansed through his blood and is a pleasing aroma of Christ to God.

Because our righteousness is in Christ – ‘prepare’, ‘practice’ and ‘lead’ in the good of that

Prepare for, practice and lead in light of the fact that ‘our righteousness is in Christ’.

We don’t have to prove our worth or value as a member of the church or hold up an identity of ‘The Worship Leader‘!

We just need to show/remind people of the greatness, mercy, kindness, love of God, the pinnacle of all these being at the cross.

That doesn’t negate preparation and practice, but our identity isn’t in our role or position or in how well we do, but as a redeemed child of God.

A good signpost doesn’t say, “look at me, what a great sign I am, aren’t I so clear, bold and striking!”

No, a good signpost doesn’t distract or call for attention to itself, but points you to something greater. Humble leaders point people to Jesus.

The Spirit of God Does The Work…so don’t you try to!

Bryan Chapell says this,

“The Holy Spirit uses our words, but his work, not ours, affects the hidden recesses of the human will.”

We may bring words, but God does the work, and He does so through and in spite of our sin tainted hearts and weakness.

As we take comfort in this, we don’t have to try and manipulate a response in people’s hearts from smooth progressions and eloquent speech (not to deny their value).

God loves his church and He and He alone does the work through His Spirit and can do so with or without me or you.

One Last Quote From Carson…

“Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.”

It’s so easy for leaders to be more focused on musical techniques and smooth transitions (though they are helpful and we don’t want to be distracting).

But our aim is to be leaders that are focused on Christ and Him crucified so that we can help others magnify Him who in His unsearchable greatness has saved sinners like us.

~ Matt Richley

By Bob Kauflin.

New Wine.


And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

John 2:3

Signs and wonders are given to us to reveal Jesus’ glory, and for no other reason.

John said that because of the miracle of turning the water into wine at the wedding at Cana, Jesus’ disciples then believed that He was the Messiah (John 2:11).

When Jesus arrived, He was met with mankind’s universal problem: They had no wine! Wine is always symbolic of joy in the Bible, and this is the area that always starts to deteriorate first as we face the day-to-day problems of life.

But what was Jesus’ action?.

First, He commanded the servants to bring the water pots to Him.

As living vessels, we must first present ourselves in our current state, to the Lord.

Jesus then requested, “Fill the vessels to the brim.”

If we will give Him what we are, He will change us into what we should be.

If we will pour out all that we have—our dreams, our hopes, our plans for the future—He will fill us with joy unspeakable and full of His glory!

Jesus, I thirst for Your new wine in my life.

Refresh me.

Make me new so that I may contain Your new wine.

Fill me with unspeakable joy. Amen.

By ROD PARSLEY.

{ Day 210 }.


Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8

Gazing at the heart of God is what made David a man after God’s heart.

That’s what brought intimacy with God—intimacy that captivated him his entire life.

Beholding and becoming does the same for us.

By pressing into God’s heart through study and a personal pursuit of our relationship with Him, we become men and women after His heart.

We experience what David experienced when he gazed upon the almost indescribable heart of God.

I’m convinced that if we beheld what David beheld about God, we would live as he lived, and we would carry our hearts before God as he did.

We would become different as a result.

Without even thinking about it much, we would follow in the footsteps of this ancient, yet very modern, king.

You see, David was no superman.

The things he beheld in God’s heart are still there, available to you and me as they have been available throughout history for men and women who cared to pursue Him with all their might.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

When I read the story of David, at times I feel inadequate to experience friendship with You as David experienced it.

But that is the yearning of my heart.

Let me be a person who lives in intimacy with You.

God invites you and me, right now, to behold the very things David did.

By MIKE BICKLE.

The Harm of Being Headstrong.


. . .endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:3

Recommended Reading
Ephesians 4:1-6

Pastor Larry Osborne, in a book about church unity, wrote, “I don’t think it’s an accident that Jesus predicted church growth but prayed for unity.

If left unattended, or taken for granted, unity can disappear.

All it takes is a few wrong people on the board, or even a series of minor annoyances left to fester…

That’s why I’ve taken to heart Paul’s advice in Ephesians 4:3.”1

While we need to remain true to our core beliefs, we shouldn’t be difficult and opinionated.

Some people have a personality that adds to the chemistry of the group; others are so headstrong in their ideas they unwittingly harm church unity.

A church that is composed of encouragers is a unified church.

On the other hand, it’s hard to stay united in a church where a handful of members are easily offended, get their feelings hurt, air their grievances, want their own way, and criticize the leadership.

Are you endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?

In essentials, unity; in differences, liberty; in all things charity.

Philipp Melanchthon

1Larry W. Osborne, The Unity Factor (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1989), II, 16.

Read-Thru-the-Bible
Isaiah 58:1-62:12

By David Jeremiah.

Loving By Doing.


girl with paintbrush

“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and truth.” 1 John 3:11

The rain had stopped and the sun broke through the clouds revealing a glorious valley in the hills above Ensenada, Mexico.

As a team of twelve from the Crystal Cathedral, we pulled a trailer packed with lumber up to a small vacant lot.

Yet it was not the glorious view that caught my eye, but a six-year-old little girl who clung to her mother’s leg.

I’m sure she had been told that her family was receiving a small loft house that day to replace the stick and tarp structure they currently called home.

However, the sight of the trailer filled with prefabricated walls, floor and ceiling, let alone the crew of volunteers there to erect it, was a bit overwhelming.

Over the next few hours, I watched as this little, 6 year old was pulled out of her shell by the love of the volunteers.

A paintbrush was soon in her hand, along with paint on every stitch of her clothing.

Her smile was now from ear to ear and would not fade.

By the time the peanut butter sandwiches made an appearance, there was no shy left her.

These volunteers were now family, right down to the massive hug each one received from her as the keys of the new home were handed to her father.

As we drove away, I could not help but wonder how different that little 6 year old’s life was now going to be.

She had witnessed the love of strangers coming in the name of the Lord to put a roof over her head, and then walk away asking nothing in return.

My friends, there is a very real Christ-centered love power in 1 John 3:11.

When you give without expecting anything in return, lives change in an instant, not the least of which will be your own.

      *                       *                      *

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, help me to love through my actions expecting nothing in return.

Show me the person You want me to bless today.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*                       *                      *   

  

Can you relate to the experience of the little girl?.

When has someone done something for you out of the love of God?.

When have you done something for someone else out of that same love?

Written by Jim Penner.

Don’t Let The Chaos Scare You.


Have you ever set out to clean a closet or your garage and as you really get into it, you look around and things look worse than they did before you started?

Or have you ever began a DIY (do it yourself) project and halfway through it doesn’t look like the end result will be anything you expected?

The “process” can look and be very chaotic at times–sometimes to the point that you begin to doubt if you’re even proceeding correctly.

You begin to ask yourself all kinds of questions like, “What did I get myself into?”

Or “What in the world was I thinking?”

You might make declarations like, “I can’t do this anymore!”

Or, “I should have left well enough alone.”

When things look and feel chaotic it’s easy to be discouraged or disheartened, but there is hope in that chaos.

A pastor in Florida shared this with his congregation: “CHANGE looks like CHAOS until it is COMPLETED.”

We are constantly asking God to change something or fix something in our lives, but we want everything to happen instantly.

When things start shifting we get anxious and nervous and start crying out for help or even asking God to stop the process before it’s done.

We must understand that the process may get uncomfortable, may even get messy, but we have to keep our focus on the end result.

More importantly, we have to continue to have faith that if God brought us to it, then He will bring us through it.

Relax and find freedom in the fact that there is nothing too big for God.

No matter what “it” looks like through your natural eyes, God is still God and even in the midst of the chaos, He will complete the work that He has started within you.

So the next time you want to give up while change is taking place around you, remember how good that closet or garage looked once you sorted through all the mess and chaos.

Remember how that DIY project turned out when you finally put the finishing touches on it.

Be encouraged and continue to move forward regardless of the chaos that may surround you, and remember: “Change looks like chaos until it’s completed!”

Scripture Of The Day: “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ – Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

By Tanya S. Martin-James.

What Defiles?.


By Vine.

That which enters into the mouth doesn’t defile the man; but that which proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.Matthew 15:11

There are many applications of this principle.

The food we eat does not affect our moral character.

No external ceremonies really touch the soul.

Indeed, nothing in this world has any power to defile a heart while it remains outside and is not allowed to enter.

A man may be a coal-miner, always black and grimy, and always working in dirt, and yet he may have a soul white and unspotted.

This is true of living amongst temptations.

So long as we keep them outside, they have no power to harm  us.

Luther says somewhere that we cannot prevent the birds flying about our heads, but we can prevent them building their nests in our hair.

We cannot prevent a great many evil things buzzing around us continually, but we can keep them from entering our hearts and nesting there.

And as long as we do this, the worst things in the world cannot lay a spot upon our souls.

Jesus says that it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles us.

So, then, there may even be evil in the heart which does not defile unless it is allowed to shape itself in thoughts, words, or deeds.

The suggestion of wrong-doing is not a sin until the suggestion is accepted and entertained. Temptation to sin is not itself sin. Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11).

Suggestions of evil were made to Him by Satan; yet Jesus never sinned, because these suggestions never found any resting place in His heart, and therefore never found any expression in word or act, or even in thought.

Temptations will often come to us from outside us — we cannot stop these things from happening — we are not responsible for them and there is no sin in merely having them happen to us.

But the sin begins the moment we open the door to one of these sinful invitations.

It’s the things which “proceed out” that defile us.

Apply This To Your Life Today… What temptations do you allow to find a resting place in your heart? Ask God to help you resist them.


Bible In A Year: July 29th…

By Book Old Testament New Testament Proverbs & Psalms
Isaiah 28-30 1 Chronicles 6 Romans 11:33-12:21 Psalm 89:30-37

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