Tuesday, June 29, 2010

If God is in control of my life, what does it matter what I do or don't do?

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.
Mark 1:14-20

On March 13, 2008 I received an invitation that changed my life forever. That invitation came in the form of a physical visit from God, offering me life, a life I could not even begin to imagine. God wasn't exactly on my radar screen back then but I knew at that moment that I needed to follow Him and I called out His Name, Jesus Christ! And he rescued me!

In today’s "Scripture To Consider" Mark tells us that several fishermen received an invitation that changed their lives forever. That invitation came in the form of a call, from a rabbi, a teacher named Jesus, who was just starting out his ministry proclaiming the good news that the kingdom of God was near. Jesus was just walking beside the Sea of Galilee. He found four men fishing in the lake and said to them: “Come, follow me.”

As I looked at this verse I though, what a strange thing for a rabbi to do. I don't think that rabbis went around visiting places of business to invite potential disciples to come follow them, just like I don't think the pastors of today go out door-to-door making house calls. If anything it is the eager new Christians who would probably approach an elder or a pastor from their church for the privilege of discipleship and/or studying under their teachings.

But that’s exactly what Jesus did when he issued his invitation to Simon and Andrew, and James and John. In Mark’s Gospel, there was no indication whatsoever that these fishermen had anything special about them that would have caught Jesus’ attention. Those four were just minding their own business when Jesus took the initiative to seek them out and to issue this invitation: “Come, follow me.”

What a strange thing for a rabbi to do. But at first glance, even more strange, even more amazing in my mind, was the fact that when Simon and Andrew heard Jesus’ invitation, verse eighteen says, “at once they left their nets and followed him.” There seemed to be no hesitation on their part. They simply let go of their nets, which were their means of livelihood and symbols of their lifestyle and identity, and followed Jesus. What Simon and Andrew did has always puzzled and intrigued me. No one in his right mind would just let go of everything to follow a teacher, just because he said, “Come, follow me.” Right?

Apparently, Jesus was no ordinary teacher. In the very beginning of his Gospel, Mark had already identified Jesus as the Son of God. While there was nothing special about those fishermen whom Jesus called, there was definitely something very special about Jesus.

For those of you who God has entrusted to operate a business for His glory such as myself, imagine Bill Gates visiting your office with the invitation: “Come, follow me.”

For those who play basketball, imagine Micheal Jordon entering your gym with the invitation, “Come, follow me.”

For you aspiring Hollywood stars, imagine if Tom Cruse or Jennifer Aniston came knocking at your door and said, “Come, follow me.” Imagine the top person from your field or profession coming to you inviting you to come and follow, and I imagine some of you might be tempted to let go of everything and accept this one-in-a-lifetime offer.

Even so, it is hard to imagine how Simon and Andrew could immediately let go of their nets, their only means of livelihood as fishermen, in order to follow Jesus. But that’s not all. In the next verses, Jesus issued the same invitation to James and John, and they not only let go of their nets, but they also left their father Zebedee, left their boat and their hired men to follow Jesus. James and John let go of family ties, let go of possessions and let go of a life of being served in order to answer Jesus’ call.

It’s hard for us to imagine letting go of so many things in order to follow Jesus. We are a people who have been told again and again to “grab all you can” and “you can have it all.” We often don’t know what it’s like to let go and give up some things in order to pursue the best path God has for our lives. Maybe that’s why we overextend ourselves in our work, we overextend our credit limits to accumulate more than we need, and we overextend our schedules and our commitments. Sometimes, it is possible to allow our lifestyles, our possessions, and yes, even our families to become our idols. As Christians, our work, our accumulations, our schedules and our families are not bad things in and of themselves, but when we cannot let them go and when they begin to occupy a higher place than following Jesus, then we may be missing out on a life of discipleship that Christ calls us to live.

I don’t know about you, but in my life, I find that when I’m afraid to let go, many times it is because I fear what will happen when I’m no longer in control of my life. Those who know me know that I’m a planner obsessed with the details. I’m compulsive about details and I always want to prepare for the contingencies, leaving nothing for chance and always with a plan B.

But when Jesus called to invite me to follow him, He was basically asking me to hand over the reigns and full control of my life to Him. The question was, “Was I willing to let go of control and let God be the Lord of my life"

When Jesus invited the four fishermen to “Come, follow me,” Jesus didn’t map out a three-year plan with full benefits and retirement. He did not give many details and the unknowns we endless. Jesus’ invitation was simply a call to journey with Him, to commune with Him daily, to literally follow Him wherever He went-twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week-living the way the He lived, observing and learning from the minute details of the His life, and training to do what He did.

To follow Jesus means the transformation of our lifestyle so that it conforms to the way that Jesus lived His life. Jesus’ invitation is first and foremost a call not to a plan but to himself: “Follow me.“ Jesus’ invitation is secondly a call to a continuous journey with Him rather than a single act toward Him: “Follow me.”

Who among us does not want to live a life of significance? Who among us does not want to live a life of influence that points others to God? Who among us does not want to live a life that will make a lasting, positive impact that carries on long after we’re gone? The truth of the matter is, God has bigger plans for us for the sake of His Kingdom than we could ever dream about. But in order for God’s plans to come into fruition, we must be willing to let go of the nets in our lives and let God have control over our lives. If Simon, Andrew, James and John had not let go of their nets, their fathers, their boats and their servants, and if they had not let God direct their lives, then chances are, I would not be writing this devotion this morning.

The world’s a better place because throughout history, there have been ordinary people who were able to let go and let God. Theologian Leonard Sweet said it well: "The world’s a better place because:"

  • "Noah didn’t say, “I don’t do arks and animals.”
  • "David didn’t say, “I don’t do giants.”
  • "Daniel didn’t say, “I don’t do lion’s dens.”
  • "Mary didn’t say, “I don’t do virgin births.”
  • "Paul didn’t say, “I don’t do letters.”
  • "Jesus didn’t say, “I don’t do crosses.”

This list reads like a Hall of Fame of the heroes of faith. We might think: “There’s no way that I can attain that level.” But Jesus is not calling you to be the next Moses or David or Mary. Jesus only calls you to be the very best you can be. And the Good News is that Jesus never calls us to a place where He hasn’t been before. Jesus knows what it was like to let go of the status, prestige, and power that was rightly in His possession!

This morning, we are invited to let go and let God. But that’s not all. For if we were to do just those two things, we might be tempted to sit back passively, letting go of everything and letting God do everything. There is one final thing. In response to Jesus’ invitation, Simon and Andrew, James and John, not only let go and let God, but at the end of this passage, Mark tells us that they basically said, “Let’s Go Do This!” and they followed Jesus on a journey of faith.

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord"
Psalm 37:23
"A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."
Proverbs 16:9
"But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil." Proverbs 1:33
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."

Proverbs 3:5
"Thus says the Lord, Your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go."
Isaiah 48:17
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way should go; I will guide you with My eye."
Psalm 32:8
"For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death."
Psalm 48:14
"The Lord will guide you continually …”
Isaiah 58:11

Help Us To Let Go Of Our Nets And Follow YOU!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Am I really supposed to pray at all times? How is that possible?

Scripture To Consider:
"With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints."
Ephesians 6:18

"Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart."
Colossians 4:2

"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Jesus Christ."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Big T's Thought To Ponder:
I love these verses...for many months after reading in Thessalonians, I ask myself this question - How can anyone pray at all times without ceasing?

One possibility is "popcorn prayers"... A close friend of mine just shoots short spontaneous, brief prayers up to God as a habitual response to every situation he encounters throughout each day. This is good stuff!

As we deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ along this breathtaking journey He has prepared for each of us uniquely and personally, these scriptures seem to come alive and are simple instructions that have to do with setting our minds on the things of above. To simply order our lives around God's desires and teachings so that our life actually becomes a prayer.

This kind of intimacy with Christ doesn't require you to isolate yourself from others or from your daily work routine in order to pray... you can make prayer your life and your life a prayer. While we live in a world full of distractions wickedness and the evil one's snares lurking around each and ever corner of life, it is paramount that we remain focused on our relationship with Jesus, that we stay alert and allow our minds to linger in the presence of Lord without ceasing.

God is our Wise Counselor, we should seek Him first for all things! This means every decision that we make, what we watch, what we listen to, where we spend our time, in our relationships, in and about our finances, in every B.H.A.G. and in every minuscule decision of our life.

Look at it this way, if we never spoke to our spouses or listened to anything they might have to say to us, involved the in any of life's decisions our marriage relationship would quickly deteriorate. It is similar with God, communicating with God through our prayers is what keeps us connected, grounded and distraction free from the lies of Satan.

One of the simplest reasons to spend time in prayer is because the Lord repeatedly instructs us to pray throughout scripture. If we can just cut through the fat - we should be in constant thought, prayer, communication and wrapping God around our minds because our Daddy and Mighty Creator says so! Obedience is the nature by-product of discipleship and He just wants the best for us, so we just need to listen and trust...

He has prepared the way through His Son Jesus Christ, He has prepared the good works for us; He has lit our path and is the lamp to our feet - Now all we have to do is walk in the finished work He has completed by communicating with Him through simple prayer in order that He can point us in the right direction and keep our walk straight.

God's Truth - Promises - Challenges:
"Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation with overpower you. For though the Spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!"
Matthew 26:41

"And then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up."
Luke 18:1

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep praying for all the saints."
Ephesians 6:18

"Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without wrath and dissension."
1 Timothy 2:8

I love this quote from Dr. Stanley:

"We All Tallest And Strongest On Our Knees"

Friday, June 25, 2010

Does God care about my attitude as long as I still do what he asks?

Scripture To Consider:
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 2:1-5

Big T's Thought To Ponder:

According to the Webster, the word "attitude" means "an internal position or feeling with regard to something else." Other descriptors: "disposition, feeling, mood, opinion, sentiment, temper, tone, perspective, frame of mind, outlook, view, or morale."

As a former Jet Mechanic, I know that airplane pilots often use "attitude" to describe their horizontal relationship with the runway then they land. If their attitude is not aligned properly, the plane will make contact with the ground at the wrong angle and it will cause them to crash.

So it is safe to say that our attitude is our inward disposition toward other things outside of self, such as a person or a circumstances. Just like an airplane, attitude hits the radar whenever you must deal with something other than yourself.

God’s word tells us that when we come to know and trust Jesus Christ, we become a new creation and a part of the new you is the development of a new attitude... our attitude is to become Christ like. Scripture tells us above, that our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:22-24

Bad Attitude:

It's impossible not to see a bad attitude because it is typically on display for all to see in out outwardly demeanor. This can be in our words or actions, such a negativeness, criticalness, rebellion, defiance, impatience, uncooperative, discouragement, independence, arrogance, self-centeredness, rudeness...

As Christians we are instructed to lose these examples of bad attitudes. However, keep in mind, attitudes are inner dispositions of the heart and mind — they are the hidden intentions which will eventually serve as the basis for our actions. In reality, no one else really knows the thoughts of your heart, except you and God! Attitude is something that only you and God can work out — a change which must take place inwardly.

Good Attitude:

My Aunt Lela used to say "your attitude determines your altitude" and she was so right! According to scripture, our attitude toward life, our circumstances and especially toward other people should always be through the lens of Christ Jesus and in alignment with the Word of God.

It's impossible not to see a good attitude because it generally wreaks of positivity, encouragement, love, humility, teachable, cooperative, considerate, selfless, loyal, persevering and so on. Sound like anyone you know?

In the book of Galatians we find the instruction of our Almighty Savior for what a good attitude looks like: "

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

God's Truth - Promises - Challenges:

To God — Our attitude should be reverence, submission, love, trust, humbleness, obedience, worshipful, and prayerful.

(Psa. 111:10, Mark 12:30, John 14:15, Jas. 4:7, 1 Sam. 15:23)

To Our Brother and Sisters — Our attitude should be love, forgiveness, consideration, caring, encouragement, kindness, humility, unselfishness, respectful, and impartial.

(John 13:34-35, 15:12, Rom. 12:10, 13:10, 15:7, Jas. 2:9, Eph. 4:2, 4:32, Col. 3:16, 1 Thes. 5:11, Heb. 3:13, 1 Cor. 13:4-8).

To Our Trials Our attitude should be patience, thankfulness, persevering, believing.

(Rom. 8:28, Gal. 1:9)

To Our Church — Our attitude should be generous, authentic, respectful, faithful, cooperative, helpful, willingness, dependable, participating, encouraging.

(1 Cor. 10:32, 1 Cor. 14:12, Heb. 2:12)

To Service— Our attitude should be faithfulness, responsibleness, obedience, cooperation, endurance. (Luke 16:10, 1 Cor. 4:2)

To Unfairness — Our attitude should be patience, humility, confident in God’s justice. (Rom. 12:19, Luke 18:7)

To Disappointment or Tragedy — Our attitude should be humility, submission to God, prayerful, confidence in God’s fairness. (Psa. 62:5, Jer. 17:5, Deut. 32:4, Job 13:15, Rom. 8:28)

To the Lost — Our attitude should be compassionate, forgiving, encouraging, helpful, reconciling them to God. (2 Cor. 5:18, 2 Pet. 3:9, Matt. 18:11-14)

To Sin — Our attitude should be uncompromising, unaccepting, intolerant, unsympathetic, yet compassionate and reconciliatory for the repentant. (Matt. 18:8-9, Gal. 6:1)

To Success — Our attitude should be humble, grateful, God-glorifying, not self-exalting or forgetful to God. (Jas. 4:6, 10, Prov. 16:18)

To Misunderstanding — Our attitude should be peacemaking, reconciliatory, patient, forgiving. (Col. 3:13, Matt. 5:9, Phil. 2:14)

Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude - Soar High Today For Jesus!