donotdespiseJesus warns those who have big aspirations and big plans not to despise the small steps it takes each day to reach them. Many live disappointed lives because they have been told to dream big but not taught to take responsibility for the small beginnings of those dreams.

Let no responsibility be too insignificant for you. Rejoice in how something is done as much as what is accomplished when things are done. If you want a clean house, you can’t despise cleaning. If you want to build a house, you can’t despise laying the foundation.

Don’t trample down your future by stepping over responsibilities that need to be undertaken today. (Make sure of this in all that God has required of you as you begin the new year. Live today not pro crastinus, or for tomorrow. God’s gift to you is today.)

Joseph’s dreams came true because he was faithful over where God placed him while waiting. Joseph also found fulfillment and joy while waiting. (Genesis 41: 50 – 52) It was God’s gift to him.

Do not despise these days of beginning to Read through the Bible. We still may need to learn how to listen for the Lord’s voice in the midst of our reading. We still may have to guard against other things trampling on our reading time.

Know this responsibility may be small but it is an important responsibility. Jesus says, if we don’t learn how to listen to Moses and the prophets, we won’t be able to hear or “be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” (Luke 16: 31)

prodigalLast night, I was pitiful. I had a headache. I was in a bad mood and I certainly wasn’t supposed to be. We’re on vacation. We had good friends over visiting and we were playing cards: “18”. (It’s like Phase 10, only longer.) After I got stuck on hand #9 for the eighth time; well, like I said, I was pitiful.

Everyone was gracious enough to stop at that point in the game and we agreed to resume later. I got ready for bed and Karen took care of entertaining our friends.

I thought I would read today’s Scripture before going to sleep and it hit me. I soooo need to repent. I already took the Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen for my headache. But, my bad mood was trying to hang on a little bit too long.

Then, I read from Luke 15 and its description of the scribes and Pharisees: murmuring, muttering, and complaining about who Jesus is meeting, greeting, and eating with. And, a few verses later I see a shepherd who has found his sheep but is too busy rejoicing over finding him than to complain over the fact he was lost to begin with. A few verses later, I see a woman rejoicing over finding her lost coin but never complaining about her forgetfulness or the fact that the coin was hard to find.

Then, a few verses later, I see a father who is in a hurry but not to complain. He is in a hurry to hug and embrace his boy. He is in a hurry to rejoice.  He is in a hurry to meet, greet, and eat with his son.

The word for hurry is ‘ταχυς’ where we get our word tachometer. The contrast here is amazing. When faced with a challenge, God revs up his patience and compassion. Tonight, I was revving up something else.

Lord, help me when faced with the challenge of frustration or disappointment or pain to not stand in sharp contrast to you but stand in grace and glory with you, matching the challenges I face with patience and compassion. And forgive me for not being there already. Amen.

norentalIf we are going to honor the Lord, we learn from Noah, Abraham, and now Jacob what I was first taught as I listened to the late Dr. Edwin L. Cole over thirty years ago: ‘pitch your tents but build your altars’. Our worship is an investment of our whole lives into the Lord. We are cutting a covenant of grace with the Lord. The farmer is reminded of this as he plows his land for a new season. I am turning everything over to the Lord. The land is the Lord’s. My labor is the Lord’s. “In all my ways, I acknowledge and submit to him.” (Proverbs 3: 6)

Today’s Scripture reading brought me to Genesis 33: 18 – 20. “And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city. And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces of money. And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel,” which means mighty is the God of Israel.

What I observed was that Jacob bought the land where he spread his tent and where he built his altar. I know it is convenient sometimes to enter into a rental or lease agreement where the maintenance of things and the day to day responsibility of where we stay is handled by someone else. But, when we enter into a relationship with the Lord, it’s buying in with everything we are and have.

It’s counting the cost and recognizing how surrendered all things must be. Jesus said it this way, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. ‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish’.” (Luke 14: 26 – 30)

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14: 33)
Let today be a day of turning to the Lord and trusting in Him. Let it be a day of being strengthened by the Spirit and sharing that strength with others. Lay it all out for the Lord and see that ‘mighty is the God of Israel’ and of us!

nothingventuredTo follow my own advice, posted January 13th, I want to invite you to join me for a brief mini-concert on Facebook live Tuesday, January 24th at 7:00 PM EST where I’ll share a couple of the songs I recorded at Serenade Studios with Joey Gore. Tune in for the mini-concert plus a word of grace that will encourage you.

Please pray, as this is the first time I will try to do something like this.

 

When we are afraid, it is best if we don’t make important decisions based on our fears. Instead, the Lord shows us through Jacob that we should lead with our gifts.

There is no denying the fear Jacob felt when he heard the news that Esau was coming to meet him and their reunion would be accompanied by 400 men who came with Esau. In his fear, Jacob divided his people into two bands, thinking if Esau attacks one, perhaps the other can escape.

But, then Jacob slowed down his thinking and spent some time before the Lord in prayer. It was after a night of prayer, Jacob “selected a gift for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, ‘Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds’.

He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.’ ”  He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him.  And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.’ ” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.”

So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.” (Genesis 32: 13 – 21)
Leading with our gifts means we move things forward based on what we have instead of what we don’t have. Leading with our gifts is meant to work the same way as leading with love; they’re meant to cover and bridge the distances between us. Leading with our gifts can be risky as we offer our best first but learn from Jacob that the offering of our gifts can be portioned out and shared sequentially.
Don’t get stuck as Simon Sinek points out, “only able to see what keeps us from what we want.” Lead with your gifts as you set your sights and focus upon what you want.

smileOne of the books I am working on while on vacation is called The Face of Grace. I want to share an excerpt from it with you today and give you the opportunity to answer the question: Do you have a face for evangelism?

…Think about it for a minute. What is the facial expression of your faith? What is it when you know God has given you the one thing you need to have “everything that pertains to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1: 3), and because God gives you the one thing, God will give you all things?

How could our face be downcast? How could we look disappointed when God does “more than all we ask or imagine”? (Ephesians 3: 20)

“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8: 33) Why do we keep that paranoid look on our face? It is God’s Word that tells us who we are.

Why do we get so defensive and upset when other people say things about us? When Jesus went to the cross, all the insults and accusations that could be leveled against us because of our weakness and sin were borne by him. He bore that weight for us.  This is what the word ‘bring any charge’ means. Accusers are calling us on the debt of our sin. But, why should our expression make us look like we’re still guilty and Jesus’ grace and forgiveness doesn’t apply to us?

Is there something we need to confess? Something, for which we need to repent? Then, by all means, let’s make things right with God. But, having done that, don’t let our expression deny the mighty work God has done.

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8: 34)

Why should our face be instead stuck on a look of thanks and joy? Jesus is praying for us. Why should our face be stuck on a look of thanks and joy? We are a blessed people.

There are three things in this one verse that establish that blessing. Jesus died for us. Jesus was raised for us, and Jesus is interceding for us. Ecclesiastes 4: 12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” No one can undo what God has done for you and me.  The added strand of Jesus’ intercession means no one can undo what God is doing for you in the present or will do for you in the future.

Count on it. Let your face show it. God will be with you and together you will overcome…

 

johnwoodenquoteI know many of us wrestle with improving our weaknesses rather than honing our strengths. But, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan exhort us, “When you want the absolute best chance to succeed at anything you want, your approach should always be the same. Go small. ‘Going small’ is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It’s a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want. It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.” Keller, Gary; Keller, Gary; Papasan, Jay; Papasan, Jay. (The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results (p. 8). Bard Press. Kindle Edition.) I lift this quote about ‘going small’ because we waste time and overcomplicate our lives when we don’t take one thing and make it better.

Now, think about it? What would make the greatest difference? Making one small improvement to a weakness or making one small improvement to something to which we are already very good. Let me ask you a different way. Since Jesus said, we are the light of the world, which would make us grow brighter- a slight improvement in our weakness or a small refining work to what we do best?

I believe we should focus on our strengths and focus on improving them one degree at a time. Delegate out for your weaknesses, like the disciples who called for their partners when their nets began to break under the blessing of God. They didn’t stop and try to mend their deficient nets; they spread the weight of their catch out with others.

This is the observation I got out of my reading today, especially when I read Psalm 4: 2. “O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after deception? Selah.” God says we have been set apart to reflect God’s individual handiwork and glory and that we should be glad we are unique. In light of that God asks, how long are we going to try to change what we do well into something we’re embarrassed about, or how long are we going to waste our time turning ourselves into somebody that’s not who we are?

Remember, God says, ‘I set you apart for Myself’. Don’t waste your energy and time trying to satisfy someone else’s desire for you to be more like them.