Saturday, January 31, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 21, John 21 - The Journey Continues

As this day approached I sensed a little sadness, almost like nearing the last day of vacation. It's been a wonderful journey, a tremendous experience, but what will happen next? Will things go back to their regular routine when we get back to "real life?" I don't want this to end.

And then I opened my Bible. That sentence tells you all you need to know - for just about every situation in life. As I read the final chapter on the final day of our 21 Days of Consecration, I was captivated by the familiar stories. I saw the tenderness of Jesus calling the disciples "Children" - such a term of endearment. I could hear the grunt of the fishermen as they tried to pull in the net that was miraculously full of fish. I stepped back to avoid being splashed on by Peter as he hurled himself into the water to greet Jesus with such gusto, and yet without his familiar bravado, unsure of his current standing with Jesus, his recent denials still ringing in his own ears.

I sniffed the smell of a charcoal fire with the aroma broiling fish wafting through the morning sun. Oh how thoughtful Jesus was to have prepared a meal for them. Sure they could have cleaned a few of the fish, started a fire, waited for the coals to get just right and tossed them on. But Jesus knew the antidote to their sleepless night was a hot breakfast and cool conversation.

After they finished and were licking their fingers clean, Jesus turns to Peter and asked him, "Do you still think you love me more than these other guys do?" Peter, ashamed that the question even had to be asked, cautiously replied, "Lord, You know how much I care for you." No more bravado. No more boasting. No more comparing himself to others, holding himself out as the example of a leader. Just "You know."

Expecting a harsh reply, perhaps a quick correction, instead he heard Jesus remind him of why He had called him in the first place. "OK, Peter. Remember to feed my little lambs that are so precious to Me."

What? That wasn't the answer he was expecting. Where was the stern rebuke? Where was the harsh reply? Where was the public humiliation in front of his peers? "I don't deserve this kindness," he thought. "I deserve to be put down, laughed at, thought poorly of by those who know my betrayal so well."

Another question interrupted the tangle of thoughts racing through his mind. This time not a comparison to the others, just a simple question: "Peter, do you love Me?" Unable to use the same word, "love," that Jesus had used, and not sure where He was going with this - still expecting the other shoe to drop, Peter haltingly responded, "Yes, Lord. You know that I really care for you."

A pause. A hesitation. "Does He doubt what I'm saying? How can I say I care for Him when I abandoned Him so quickly?" But before the thoughts could untangle Jesus' voice cut through like a spear, "You've got to take care of my sheep."

"How can He trust ME to take care of His sheep? I don't understand. I failed Him! I abandoned Him! I denied Him! I cursed Him! HOW CAN THIS BE?"

As the echoes of condemnation faded he heard the clear voice of Jesus softly and slowly rise through the mist of his tortured mind, "Peter, do you care for Me?" He could stand it no longer, a torrent of shame and guilt rushed from His mouth. All his hopes and fears, expectations and disappointments came tumbling together. There was nothing left. He was bare. He was empty. It all came out at once.

"OH LORD! You know everything! There's nothing you don't know. You know the deepest places of my heart. You know my failures and my self-loathing. And through all this you know that I truly do care for You!"

There. It was out. No hiding. No shifting blame. He hated himself for failing. ... But he still loved Jesus. He couldn't bring himself to use the same word Jesus had used, but Jesus had brought it down to his level. And he told Him everything. Nothing was hidden. It was all out in the open for all to see.

The next words rocked His world. "Peter. I want you to feed my sheep." With each question Peter had remembered his personal failure. And with each answer Peter had relived the horror of it. Yet with each response from Jesus Peter had slowly been restored. Back to his original calling. Back to his original love. Restored. Restored. Restored.

Jesus went on to talk about his future, to tell him that his journey wasn't over, that no matter how big the failure, there was much journey left to be had. There was an ending point to the journey, but this wasn't it. And in the meantime, he didn't have to worry about others, what God was doing in their lives or how God wanted to use them. He just had to follow Jesus. If God wanted to do greater things in the lives of others, that was ok. He was going to follow Jesus. Because the journey continues!

This chapter ends with this statement:
Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25 NLT)
There are many more chapters to be written, many more miles to travel. This journey that we've been on has not come to a close, only one leg of it. I don't know what tomorrow holds. But I know the journey continues. Will you travel with me?


Friday, January 30, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 20, John 20 -

On the morning of the resurrection there were lots of emotions and confusion. Some awoke that morning not knowing where to go next, what to do. They had invested 3 years of their lives in what now looked like a pipe dream. It had all vanished when Jesus died.

Some, however, knew exactly what to do. They didn't have time to figure out the secrets of the universe or to try to understand the whys. They just needed to be at the tomb, to find a way to demonstrate their love. Mary Magdalene was one of those.

Early in the morning, just as the sun began to glow in the east, she made her way through the dawny darkness to the unfamiliar place where Jesus' body had been hurriedly placed. When she arrived she looked around, unsure if this was the right place. The big stone that had blocked the entrance wasn't where she saw it last. A million thoughts rushed through her head as she tried to put the pieces together. Instantly it came to her - someone moved His body!

She rushed back to the only person she could think of who would do something - Peter! He might not know WHAT to do, but he would do SOMETHING! Peter called to John and together they dashed toward the tomb, arranging their clothing as they went. The younger John rushed ahead of Peter but his youthful zeal evaporated at the edge of the darkened cavern. He wouldn't go in there alone, but Peter barged right in, hoping the catch whoever it was in the act.

Amazingly what they saw was not the signs of a grave robbery. There wasn't a heap of disheveled burial cloths, but instead everything was neatly in place - except there was no body. The face-cloth was folded neatly and gently placed aside, almost as if someone had caressed His face ... and then ... what?

They didn't know. Confused, dazed, bewildered, each disciple went back to his house. John believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. Peter just wasn't so sure. He just didn't know.

Mary couldn't leave. She just couldn't. It was fine for others to leave, but this place was the last connection she had with Jesus and even if His body wasn't there any more, she had to stay there to weep. To mourn. Her love formed droplets of tears as they ran down her cheeks and dissolved into her clothing.

She ventured another look into the tomb and this time she saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus had been lying. They asked her why she was crying and in her grief she was too upset to question why angels would be there. She poured out her heart - "they've taken my Lord and I don't know where!"

As she spoke these words she heard a rustle behind her and saw the angels' eyes look past her, as if someone had come in. She turned and in the darkness of the tomb looking into the bright opening she saw the outline of a man, perhaps the gardener. He said, "Ma'am, what's the matter? Who are you looking for?"

Angry that perhaps this was the one who had disturbed her Lord's resting place she blurted out, "If YOU have taken Him somewhere, just tell me. I'LL go get Him and take Him off your hands. It won't be a bother, just tell me!"

Just then the Gardener opened His mouth and with the tender love that she had first heard from His voice so long ago He simply said, "Mary!" She knew! She knew!!! It was Him! It WAS Him!

Emotions flooded her soul, her mournful sobbing deepened into sobs of relief and joy and she lost all decorum, flinging herself at Him, clutching at Him, holding His head in her hands in disbelief and then clinging to Him so tightly she could barely breathe. It was Him!

He had been there. She just hadn't seen Him. She just hadn't recognized Him. But He had been there.

He gave her a message, told her of things to come, made her the first evangelist of His resurrection and sent her to tell the others. He called her name.

As I read this familiar story I was brought into the complex web of emotions and truly sensed the wonder of the morning. I also was captivated by the fact that Jesus stood there but she didn't know it was Him. How many times in our lives have we felt all alone, completely bewildered and confused - and He was there all the time? And when He calls our name - oh what joy, oh what peace, oh what comfort!

Today I hope you're encouraged that no matter what's going on in your life, He is there. You may not recognize Him. Your darkness may obscure His form. Your grief may prevent you from recognizing Him. But His is there. And all you need is to hear Him call your name. So pour out your heart. Don't hold back. Tell Him why you're crying and Who you're looking for. And listen for Him to call your name. He's there.

This YouTube video might bless you:
(If you can't see it, go to:


Thursday, January 29, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 19, John 19 - "It Is Finished!"

I'll admit to a little apprehension about reading today's chapter. I have thoroughly enjoyed our 21 Days of Consecration but as we approached the Cross I felt less than enthusiastic. I wasn't looking forward to reading the details of the One I loved being led as a Sheep to the shearers to be brutalized and victimized for my sins. I had enjoyed reading His teachings, His dialogues with the disciples and His prayers to the Father. I had fallen in love with Him all over again. And I didn't want to see Him go to the cross. (Maybe that's how Peter and the disciples felt when they said, "May it never be!")

But when I opened the pages and began to read, a sense of calm came over me. This was necessary. And it was good. Here are several things that really jumped out to me:
  • Jesus' innocence was repeatedly proclaimed (18:34; 19:4,6) demonstrating His purity. He was thoroughly examined and proclaim perfectly pure, the unblemished sacrifice.
  • Jesus was shown to be the King of the Jews on multiple occasions (19:3,11,14,15,19-22) though not in the sense of a political king that they expected. But He came to rule the hearts of men.
  • All of this happened to fulfill Scriptures (19:24,36,37). This was not fate, nor happenstance. There was a specific purpose for all of this.
  • Jesus was in complete control the entire time (19:11,26-27,30). He willingly laid down His life to set the captives free.
When I finished the chapter, even though we haven't gotten to the resurrection, I knew the work had been accomplished. When I heard Jesus proclaim, "It is finished!" I saw that Jesus died as a Victor and had completed what He came to do. And if you recall, He came to set the captives free!

This past Sunday we dealt with the topic, setting the captives free. Those who were here will remember we distributed half-sheets of paper with prison bars on them. As I ministered, I encouraged everyone to write the names down in the open prison door on their paper, as a reminder to pray for them. We also gave those who wanted to do so the opportunity to bring a copy and place them in the "bars" up on the platform. We assembled those names and yesterday sent them out to the Prayer Team. I also had Jenni take the papers back out to take a picture of them in the "bars", which you can see at the left.

On the 48 sheets that were turned in were over 270 names (not counting the ones that said "and family"). Truly there are many captives, who we love so much, that we want to see set free. And this is possible because of what we read in John 19. "It is finished!" That's the cry from heaven. That's the response when anyone falls to their knees and asks for forgiveness for sins. The work has been done. Now they must walk it out and walk in it.

Let's continue to pray for the captives in our lives, that they will truly be set free. We love them. That's why their name is on the list! And God loves them - that's why He had us put their name on the list! So let's do our part: Pray Unceasingly, Love Unconditionally, Share Appropriately. And God WILL do the rest!


P.S. This Sunday is going to be a Consecration Celebration! You'll have the opportunity to share what God has done in your life during these 21 Days of Consecration. And we'll close with communion - it's going to be "off the hook!!!" I can't wait! Let's finish strong!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 18, John 18 - Favorite Meeting Place

Do you have a favorite hangout? A favorite place you like to meet with your friends or family? I have several. For many years my family (Dad, Mom, brother, sister, etc) has had "Family Lunch" together. It used to be on Fridays but then moved to Thursdays and we meet at same place every week - PoBoy Express! (Yeah, we're big spenders! [G]) A couple of years ago I started having regular lunch with a friend and now its grown to include several men. We meet every Friday at Logan Farms - "Lunch with the Guys" is a standing thing for us. They know we're coming and usually reserve the same tables for us.

Jesus had a place like that with His friends too. In the story of Judas betraying Jesus we get a glimpse of it:
"When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples." (John 18:1-2 NASB) (See picture of Garden of Gethsemane at right, courtesy of
Did you catch that last part? Jesus often met there with His disciples. There's a certain intimacy and familiarity about the verse that speaks comfort to my soul. Jesus had a favorite hangout with His friends. And in those moments when He wanted to get away, to just be with His friends, that's where He went. So He could talk with them, be real with them, let down His hair around them. (OK, I doubt He ever wore His hair up, but you get the point! :-) )

As I think back over these 18 days I realize we've developed a new "favorite meeting place" with Him. Each day we've met with Him in the garden of His Word. And each day He has shared some new intimacy, some new peek into the corner of His heart for us and our loved ones. We've also met with him in the garden of our soul and together we have weeded and pruned and lovingly cared for what He sees as a beautiful place.

Even though our 21 Days of Consecration journey is drawing to its destination (I'm a little sad about that), our favorite meeting place doesn't end on Saturday. I believe He still longs to meet with us in the garden, to share heart intimacies with us, to experience life exchange. We've got three days left - but let's make it just the beginning of regular "gardening time" in our new favorite places: the garden of His word and the garden of our soul.


P.S. I've been given 25 tickets to the Louisiana College basketball game Thursday night. Women play at 5:30, men at 7:30. I've got Community Group that night but I'd love for these tickets not to go to waste. Just give me a shout if you'd like some!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 17, John 17 - For Their Sakes

Sometimes when you come to a familiar passage it's good to look at it from another perspective so that you don't just pass over precious truths. This morning I decided to listen to John 17 over at, one of my favorite Bible sites on the 'net. (Near the top is a button to listen to it being read to you.) To hear the words of Jesus and let them soak over me through my ear-gate was refreshing. Try it sometime!

As I was listening something really jumped out at me from near the end of the chapter:
"For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." (John 17:19-21 NASB)
Obviously I was deeply touched by the fact that in Jesus' prayer for His disciples He included you and me ... "for those also who believe in Me through their word". That's a powerful truth that we need to remember. Jesus is praying for me!

The the thing that really jumped out to me was the phrase "For their sakes I sanctify Myself...". Instantly I thought of where we are in our 21 Days of Consecration, that here in week 3 on the 17th day we are consecrating ourselves for the sake of others, to set them free from the prisons that have held them captive. It's like an encouraging word from Jesus to us to say, "I did it for you. You can do it for others."

PLEASE don't misunderstand. We can't save ANYONE! Our lives are not poured out in sacrifice for others. Jesus is the ONLY atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. But the issue of sanctification, or consecration, or setting yourself aside for the Father's purpose, has precedence in what Jesus did for us. It makes us available to Him, ready to be used.

So keep on! God WILL set the captives free. And He will use US to help achieve that, as we pray, love and share under His leadership. By consecrating ourselves to Him, we are in better position than ever to be used by Him. I'm ready! How about you?!


Monday, January 26, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 16, John 16 - Don't Stumble!

One of the most important things about racing is "don't fall down!" It doesn't matter how fast you are, it's hard to recover from a fall. Even in a marathon when speed isn't as important, it's important to stay on your feet. And what about just being out for a leisurely stroll - stumbling is no fun.

We are into the last week of our 21 Days of Consecration. The finish line is just around the bend. You can hear the distant chant of those gathered around the checkered flag. You can smell the fresh-baked bread of champions. (OK, maybe I've been fasting too long!!! [Grin]) But we're almost there. Don't stumble now! Listen to Jesus:
"These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling." (John 16:1 NASB)
While this is talking about stumbling in our overall walk with the Lord, let me apply it to our 21 Days of Consecration. You've come so far and made such great strides in your personal consecration. Whether you've been fasting, giving up some pleasure/leisure to replace it with spiritual intimacy or reading through John one chapter at a time, don't give up now! Kick it up! Pick up the pace! Press on to through the week to the finish line! Finish strong! And if you haven't joined in, start today! There's still time to finish strong!

As a reminder, this week we are focusing on the loved ones in our lives who are in captivity in some area of their lives. We are "standing in the gap" for them, praying, loving and sharing (when appropriate). Later today we'll be compiling the list of all the names that were turned in for prayer and will be sharing them with our prayer team. If you'd like a copy of that list, just let me know and we'll get it to you.

Thank you for joining me on this journey of 21 Days. It's been a powerful time. Let's encourage each other to finish strong!


Sunday, January 25, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 15, John 15 - Abide

Today is Day 15 and the beginning of our final week of the 21 Days of Consecration. What a tremendous time it's been of personal alignment and breaking yokes in our lives that keep us back from serving God fully. As I read John 15 this morning, here's what jumped out to me:
"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (John 15:7 NASB)
Today our focus shifts off of us to those loved ones in our lives who are in captivity, whether they know it or not. We love them so much and want to see them set free. In this morning's service we'll be talking about this subject and they will be the subject of some intense prayers in the days and weeks to come.

What captivated me about this verse is the promise that God would answer our prayers if we abide in Him and His word abides in us. We've spent two weeks of intense abiding, feasting on His word, setting new habits in our lives, delighting in Him. And now He invites us to "ask whatever we wish" - and because we've been abiding in Him, we want what He wants! And He wants the captives free!

This week as you pray, the Lord will put the specific people on your heart to pray for. He'll show you how to love them unconditionally and how to position yourself through love to share the truth at the right time. All because you've been abiding in Him! And His words are abiding in you!

So keep on! Don't get discouraged! Don't let up! In whatever area of consecration you've begun, don't give up - keep pressing on, whether it's fasting or some other area of consecration. This is the week that will make a difference! And if you haven't joined with us yet, start today! Read John 15 today and commit to read a chapter a day with us for the rest of this week. Commit to abide in Him and let His words abide in you! As the old saying goes, "You'll be glad you did!"


Saturday, January 24, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 14, John 14 - Do Not Let Your Heart Be Troubled!

The disciples had just received disturbing news - Jesus was leaving them, His death was imminent. On top of that, Peter had just found out he was going to deny Jesus three times in the face of the impending danger. How do you react to this kind of information?

Jesus' very next words tells how He wants us to respond:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me." (John 14:1 NASB)
During these past two weeks of spiritual alignment and breaking yokes you may have discovered some things about your life that troubled you. You may have discovered some ways you've failed the Lord or let Him down. Or, you may have received some news that was discouraging. Jesus' answer is still the same - Don't LET your heart be troubled...believe!

Belief is the antidote for a troubled heart. Jesus had never let the apostles down. Not one time. So He goes on to talk about the future He has planned for them. No matter how difficult the situation now, or how many times we've failed Him, He still loves us and has prepared a place for us so that we might be with Him. That's how much He loves us! That's good news!

Today is the 14th day of our 21 Days of Consecration. We've been focusing on our lives getting in line with God and breaking the yokes that keep us back from serving Him fully. Tomorrow we start our last week where we will focus on the people in our lives who are captives. We want to see the captives set free! Spend some time asking the Lord who He wants you to focus your prayers on and let's believe together. God's going to do it!


Friday, January 23, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 13, John 13 - Timing is Everything!

In 1982 I was a junior and the first chair tuba player in the Pineville High School Band. My best friend, John Tabler, was first chair trombone. Together we were a big part of the low brass section, the foundation of the band. We had both decided to transfer to a different school for our senior year and were working up the courage to tell our band director. Finally, the night of our Spring Concert we worked up the nerve to tell him right after the concert. His face was crestfallen and he didn't say much until he said something I'll never forget: "Timing is everything. You could have waited til any other time to tell me this."

The long of the story is that neither of us transferred, we both finished our senior years at PHS, John and his family moved back to Georgia and he went on to bigger and better things. (And you know about me.) But I'll never forget the look on Mr. Clement's face, the disappointment, the hurt that showed. And I'll never forget the way I learned the eternal truth that "Timing is everything."

I thought of that experience when I read the first verse of John 13:
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. (John 13:1 NASB)
On several different occasions John mentions Jesus' time or hour. Prior to now, each time it was to say that it had not come (John 2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20). But now the hour has come. Jesus had been moving inevitably toward the destiny for which He had come - the cross. That's why He had never feared the crowds or the death threats or the cliffs. His time was in God's hands. He knew that timing is everything.

In our lives we're always in a hurry, trying to rush along to the next outcome, trying to speed up things, wanting to grow faster, mature more quickly, etc. But what peace comes from knowing that our time is in God's hands and His timing is perfect. If we can rest in that assurance, it will bring a great sense of settledness to our souls. Even if we don't see things the way we like them - just hold on, timing is everything.

This even applies to outgrowing the yokes on our lives. Is it possible that the Lord allows certain yokes to remain so we WILL grow stronger and eventually break them by the strength HE provides? Perhaps He is saving our victory for just the right moment? I don't have all that figured out in my head but one thing I do know. Timing is everything! And MY time is in His hands! How about yours?


Thursday, January 22, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 12, John 12 - Sin Grows! Deal With It!

Here in the Southeast there is a plant that was imported from Japan about 130 years ago called kudzu, or "the vine that ate the South". It's called that because it can grow up to a foot a day during the summer! That means the average vine grows over 60 feet per year! And that's just one vine!

Kudzu was first brought from Japan to the US in 1876 and promoted as an ornamental plant and a cure for erosion. However, the hot, humid summers, mild winters and lack of natural predators allowed kudzu to take off like gang-busters. (That a highly technical word for "a lot" [Grin]) Now it's listed as a "pest weed" and costs around $500 million annually in lost cropland and control costs. (Source: Wikipedia) While they help prevent erosion, the vines can also destroy valuable forests by preventing trees from getting sunlight. And they take over EVERYTHING! (Just check out the car in the picture. Yes, that's a car!)

This is what I thought of when I read part of John 12 today. Listen to these verses:
"But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus." (John 12:10-11 NASB)
How do I associate kudzu with these verses? Well, it's actually pretty easy - sin grows! In yesterday's reading we hear Caiaphas, the high priest that year, say, "... it is expedient for you that one man die for the people..." (John 11:50b NASB) Now they've gone from wanting to kill ONE man to planning to kill TWO! All in just one chapter! Sin grows!

This week we've been dealing with the issue of breaking yokes in our lives. On Sunday one of the yokes we talked about that keeps us back from serving God fully is sin. Others included bitterness, selfishness, religion, habits, addictions, etc. There are lots of things that can keep us back from serving God the way we long to. But if we never deal with them, the yoke will actually grow and become more heavy. (I probably should have written "heavier" there - but "more heavy" sounded more ominous! [Grin])

Once you've identified the yokes in your life and brought them to Jesus, it's time to OUTGROW them by doing what Jesus tells us to do. In our Community Groups notes this week I've asked you to share what steps the Lord has given you to deal with them, so that they can help you remain accountable. I hope that's going well for you.

So how about it? Are you dealing with the yokes in your life? Or are they growing? Because they will grow, left untended. And they'll be more than a pest weed. They'll actually consume your life! Let's Deal With It! ... Together! Don't forget to leave me a comment or send me an email about what God is doing in your life! I love hearing from you!


P.S. Here are a couple of other devotional resources you might enjoy from others who are participating in the 21 Days of Consecration (also called "Awakening"):

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 11, John 11 - Martha gets a bad rap!

Before I get to my thought for the day I want to take a moment and share something. When the phone rings at 3:30AM it's often not good news, especially when you're a pastor. (You can just imagine!) But this morning the 3:30AM call was good news! Kyle and Heather had a baby!!! Heather worked all day yesterday and through the night and early this morning little Miss Emma came into our world, ready to rule the roost! I'll have more particulars later, but I wanted to pass along this first picture so you can help them celebrate. (BTW, if you plan to visit, please wait until this afternoon as they are ALL exhausted!)

OK, on to my Rambling for the day!

When most folks think of Martha, they think of the story of her being kitchen serving and a little jealous of her sister Mary, who is sitting and Jesus' feet. We hear Jesus' gentle rebuke almost as a swipe against serving and we promise to be more diligent about our quiet time. But if you read the account in Luke 10, you'll see that Jesus was indeed gentle with her, calling her "Martha, Martha" - a way of expressing affection.

However, Martha still gets a bad rap. But as I read today's chapter it seems to me that she is the who believes in Jesus the most. Just listen to a couple of these verses:
"Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. Martha then said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.'" (John 11:20-22 NASB)

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?' She said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.'" (John 11:25-27 NASB)
Wow! That's one of the strongest statements of belief you'll find from ANYONE in the entire Bible. There were times Jesus' own disciples didn't believe as much as she did! It was her belief in Jesus that sent her running to meet Him while Mary stayed back in the house. It was her belief in Jesus that caused her to proclaim that even after Lazarus had been dead four days, "EVEN NOW I know whatever You ask of God, God will give You." It was her belief in Jesus that caused her to proclaim that He was the Christ, the Son of God for all to hear.

Yes, she did later complain about her sister - she thought she should have been helping her serve the One she believed in to demonstrate her love and belief in a practical way. Jesus gently corrected her, acknowledging her service but helping her see what was truly important. Why? Because He loved her and wanted to help her keep her focus on the right things.

Have we ever gotten a little out of alignment or needed a gentle nudge of correction? If so, let's not make Martha out to be a monster. Instead, let's emulate her faith and belief in Jesus, even in the face of the impossible. And we will see the impossible become a reality!!! (BTW, I picked the picture on the left because I see a hint of a smile on Martha's face and her belief in Him is seen in the way she looks at Him. At least in MY opinion!)

That's it for today! We're on Day 11, which means we've passed the half-way point of our 21 Days of Consecration. If you haven't joined in with us yet, why don't you start today by reading John 11. And share with me the things the Lord is speaking to you. Because,

I LOVE serving Jesus with YOU!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 10, John 10 - He knows my name!

Every Friday I go to "lunch with the guys" and we typically go to the same place. It's something I doing started a couple of years ago with one of my friends and it's grown over time. The place we go sometimes has slow service but the food is pretty good. One unique thing they do is when they take your order, instead of giving you a ticket with a number, they write your name on it. Then, when your order is ready, a worker comes out and calls out your name for you to raise your hand and they bring it to you. We've been going there so much that for most of us they don't even call out our name - they know our name and just bring it straight to our table.

That illustration came to my mind today as I read verse 3 of John 10. Let me show you part of verse 2 and 3 for it to make sense:
"...he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." (John 10:2-3 NASB)
We live in a big society where more often than not we are just a number, either a social security number, an account number, a driver's license number, an order number, a number in line waiting to be served, etc. It's so good to be KNOWN. That's probably why we have a tendency to go back to the same places - because they know us. Do you remember the old theme song from the TV sitcom Cheers? It has a line that says, "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name." That captures the essence of our heart - we long to be known ... by name!

I'm so grateful my Shepherd knows my name. He knows me individually, my needs, my wants, my wanderings, my strengths and weaknesses too. And that verse goes on to say that He "leads them out." He doesn't drive them, but He walks before them and they follow Him because they know His voice. (See verse 4.)

Because He knows our name, He's able to minister to us individually, even through the same sermon. It's almost like the Lord has a divine mail merge where He inserts to each one of us just what WE need to hear and we wonder who talked to the preacher about our need! It's because our Shepherd knows our name. That's a good thing, isn't it?!

Today's a monumental day. A new president will be inaugurated whose election was historic. I'm praying for him, for his success, for him to truly rely on the God of the Bible upon which he will rest his hand when he takes the oath of office. Everyone in that crowd of hundreds of thousands of people know his name. But of that multitude there are only a relatively few that he knows their name. What a privilege that is, to be known by someone like that.

You are known by the Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, the Magnificent Benefactor of all things good. He formed you and fashioned you in your mother's womb. He wrote a journal about your life before you ever lived a day. He intended GREAT things for you and wants the best for you. He knows YOUR name. And don't you forget it!

Be encouraged!

Monday, January 19, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 9, John 9 - "So he went."

The first story we come across in John 9 is Jesus healing the man who was blind from his birth. The disciples wanted to talk about who was to blame for his being born blind, but Jesus was more interested in doing the work of God and shining the Light into the darkness. Take a look at this quick anime video from Youtube to refresh yourself on the story:

The part of the story that really jumped out to me is that Jesus desired to heal this man, to remove the yoke of blindness, but the man never would have been healed if he hadn't done what Jesus said. Listen to this part again:
"...[Jesus]spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, 'Go, wash in the pool of Siloam' (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing." (John 9:6-7 NASB)
Broken Yokes at the foot of the CrossDo you realize that if the man had not gone to the pool of Siloam to do what Jesus said he would have remained in his blindness? He would have died an old blind man with a crust of divine mud around his eyes.

Yesterday was a powerful service at Christian Challenge. I ministered on "Breaking the Yokes" and we provided slips of paper with a picture of an ox-yoke on them. I encouraged everyone to ask the Lord to help them identify yokes on their lives that were holding them back from serving God fully. At the end we brought out the cross we had nailed our "certificates of debt" to in March of last year. (We had taken down the slips of paper, but it still had the nails on it, which ministers to me every time I see it.) I invited people to come bring their yokes to the cross and tear them up, symbolically breaking breaking the yokes, and leave them at the foot of the cross. Broken yokes at the foot of the crossAs you can see from the pictures, a lot of healing and freedom took place!

But now's the important part. It's not enough to have the point of contact, which is what that act of tearing the yoke was. Now it's time to DO what Jesus says! For many of us, upon identifying the yoke the Lord will show us what actions to take to break the yoke, to outgrow the yoke. (You'll have to listen to the sermon to understand that point from Is 10:27. Here's how the NIV translates that verse "In that day their burden will be lifted from your shoulders, their yoke from your neck; the yoke will be broken because you have grown so fat.") But if we don't do what He's given us to do, then we'll remain in the yoke.

So what is He telling you to do? What action steps is He calling you to, what changes of habits or routines or thinking does He want you to begin making? Whatever it is, be like the blind man who when Jesus said, "Go" the Bible says, "So he went!"


Sunday, January 18, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 8, John 8 - Breaking Yokes

It doesn't matter how many times we hear the story of the woman caught in adultery and Jesus saying, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone", the story never ceases to enthrall us. And yet, as many times as I've read it and heart it I learned something new today. I never realized this story took place in the temple! (See John 8:2) I always imagined Jesus stooping down to write in the dusty street or countryside. I never realized this took place on the site that was consecrated to God.

That just goes to show that the enemy of our soul likes to turn worship into religion, which is an excuse to put yokes of accusation and condemnation on people. That's what religion is - man-made rules that pretend to have a heavenly origin. Religion causes people to do strange things like seek for power, form cliques, ostracizing others not like the "in" crowd. The Pharisees were so intent on catching Jesus in error that they turned a court of worship into a court of accusation.

But Jesus came to break yokes! This morning I'm going to be teaching on the second part of our ABC's of Consecration. (Spiritual Alignment, Breaking Yokes, Setting the Captives Free.) As we look at the issue of Breaking Yokes I'm going to talk about seven difference classifications of yokes - and many of them are found right here in this story - sin, religion, "pointing fingers", habits/addictions - but you'll have to hear the teaching, which will be on our website sometime this afternoon, for it to make sense. I hope you're able to be with us this morning. It's going to be a powerful service as we see the Lord truly break yokes in our lives that are keeping us back from serving Him fully.

As for our 21 Days of Consecration, we're on Day 8, the beginning of the second week. The number 8 stands for "new beginnings". If you have joined with us yet or if you've struggled along the way, today's a good day to start over. Join with us in reading through the 21 chapters of John, one per day, picking up today with chapter 8. And ask the Lord what area of your life you should consecrate to Him - many are fasting food, but I'm also hearing of some fasting from TV and even from the Wii! Whatever it is, make your own decision to replace something with time with the Lord. You won't be sorry! And don't forget to come to church this morning because ...

I love worshiping Jesus with you!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 7, John 7 - A Good Alignment Question

We've reached Day 7 of our "21 Days of Consecration". For those who are fasting, you're 1/3 through by the end of the day. Hang in there - you're doing great!

As you'll recall our focus during these 21 eays is on the ABC's of Consecration: Spiritual Alignment, Breaking the Yokes and Setting the Captives Free. This first week has all been about Spiritual Alignment. From what I'm hearing from you, the Lord is doing some significant spiritual alignment in all of us, which brings me to the verse I want to highlight today.

The fall had arrived and with it cam the Jewish feast of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. To commemorate their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Jews would built huts or booths to live in outdoors during this 7-day feast. If they lived in the land of Israel they would travel to Jerusalem and built their booths there. (The picture at the right shows modern day sukkas on a Jerusalem street and apartment balcony. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.)

Jesus' brothers, who were not believers at that time, wanted to prod Him into taking his "road show" to Jerusalem, to be seen publicly by the whole land. I don't know if they thought that would put an end to their Brother's eccentricities or what, but Jesus knew better than to succumb to their manipulative pressure. However, they did say something very interesting that goes to the issue of alignment we've been focusing on. Listen carefully:
"For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." (John 7:4 NASB)
Unwittingly they had told a truth about motives of the heart. They just didn't understand Jesus' heart. They thought He was doing all these things to seek publicity, to draw attention to Himself! They thought he was an "attention-hog." Everyone remembers the PE classmate who never passes the ball to anyone - we called him a "ball-hog." Well an attention-hog is someone who always somehow weasels their way to the center of attention. You know the type, the kind that always has a "me-too" story for every experience that's shared. (I could also name a few celebrities here, but I'll leave it to your imagination!)

This brings up a great alignment question - how many of our "religious activities" are because we're "seeking to be known publicly?" Jesus refused that temptation. He did things only to please the Father. This is a great motive-check, a great heart-check. "Why do I do the things I do?" If I'm doing them to draw attention to myself, then I'm no better than the hypocrites Jesus described in Matthew 6, whose only reward would end up being the attention they received.

So as we end the week of focusing on Spiritual Alignment, let's ask ourselves this question, "Why?" Why do I sing on the worship team, mow the church yard, give, teach Sunday School, lead a small group, clean the church, work on the hospitality team, lead in Awana, volunteer my time, treasures and talent? I think most of you would say you're doing it to change the lives of others and to honor the Lord. And that's the right reason. But if any of us find that we're doing any of these things "to seek to be known publicly," it's time for some more Spiritual Alignment!

Well, that wraps up Week 1 of our "21 Days of Consecration" and I'm loving it! Tomorrow I'll be ministering on Breaking the Yokes and I can't wait to see the Lord sets us free from yokes that have kept us back from serving Him wholeheartedly!

Before I leave, I just have to brag on one of my daughters a little bit. Hope tried out for the Rapides Parish Junior High Honor Band and got 2nd chair in the bass clarinet section! (She's the one highlighted in the middle of the picture. Sorry for the bad quality but I forgot to bring a REAL camera so all I had was the one on my cellphone. I used Picasa 3 from Google to make the blur so she'd stand out a bit.) They sounded GREAT! Congratulations also to Joseph Carrier (Trombone) for making the Junior High Honor Band and to Brandon Dorsey (French Horn) and Jacob Mott (Bass Trombone) for making the High School Honor Band. You guys are AWESOME! And it was great to see your families there supporting you.

Well that's it for this update. I hope you reading enjoying them as much as I do making them. Please feel free to email me or leave me a comment on the blog to let me know what God is doing in your life during these 21 Days of Consecration. I'm loving the feedback I'm getting. And most certainly...

I love serving Jesus with YOU!

Friday, January 16, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 6, John 6 - God Knows What He's Doing

How do you narrow it down to just one thing? There are 71 verses in John 6 and it would be easy for me to give you a multi-point entry today, but let me keep it to just one thing - God knows what He's doing!

The chapter opens with a large crowd following Jesus out away from town. Jesus is concerned about their wellbeing (that gives you some insight into His character) and asks Philip, who is from the area, where to buy bread to feed the crowd. You know the rest of the story - Philip says we don't have enough money, Andrew brings a boy with some bread and fish, Jesus multiplies it and feeds the 5,000, 12 baskets are collected from the leftovers and great teaching comes out of this story.

But there's a little verse tucked away in the middle of this narrative that gives us a great insight into God's heart:
"This He was saying to test him [Philip], for He Himself knew what He was intending to do." (John 6:6 NASB)
When Jesus asked Philip where to buy bread, He already knew what He was going to do. But He was testing Philip. How many times in my life has the Lord allowed me to ponder a decision while all along He knows what He's planning to do? He did this to Abraham when He told him to sacrifice his son Isaac - ultimately God stopped Abraham because the motive of his heart was pure. He passed the test.

I think the point of the test is not so much for God to see what's in our heart, but for US to see what's in our heart. At the end of the day we see where our heart lined up with the Father's purpose and where it missed the mark. So these tests are good things.

As for God, He definitely knows what He's doing! And His plans are ALWAYS for good! To get a feel for that, listen to His words to Jeremiah the prophet:
"'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'"
Sounds like God's plans are good plans! And we can trust in that. God knows what He's doing. And He's always doing something good. Another verse that drives that point home is found in Romans:
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28 NASB)
So I can trust Him. The point of the test is to see if I'm trustworthy. And with every test He makes me grow more and more like Him. So whatever I'm facing today, whatever quandary, whatever question, whatever impossibility before me, God knows what He's doing. And I can rest in that!

I hope that blesses you. I want to mention another resource you might enjoy. Our friends up at Life Church West Monroe are also taking part in the Awakening (21 Days of Consecration). Their pastor, and my great friend, Joel Dyke is writing daily comments on his blog from his devotional reading and I've been so blessed by them. Yesterday's entry was especially poignant for me. I hope you'll check out his blog at - you'll be blessed.

Wow! We're on Day 6 and it's hard to believe we're already more than a quarter way through our 21 Days of Consecration! God is speaking to us and drawing us to Himself and I'm so in awe of what He is doing! Keep on telling me what God is doing in your life - I have GREAT expectancy for what He will do in us collectively. And remember...

I love serving Jesus with you,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 5, John 5 - God cares, Initiative and Love

So many things are jumping out of God's word that it's hard to narrow it down to just one thing to share with you. So I'll do what preachers do - I'll give you three points! (But I'll spare you the poem! [G])

God Cares

We often think of God's miracles in terms of instantaneous answers to sudden problems. For example, Peter walks on the water, sinks, cries out and Jesus saves him. Or the people get hungry and Jesus feeds them. Or someone dies and Jesus raises them. But in our text today we find a guy who's been sick for thirty-eight years! And Jesus shows His concern, even for the long-term struggle.

That give me hope! Just because I've struggled with something for awhile doesn't mean I'll have to struggle with it forever. God cares! And he wants to intervene in my life, in my struggle.

Today is my study day for Sunday and I'm contemplating our next sermon in our "21 Days of Consecration" series. I've been talking about the ABC's of Consecration and last week we talked about Spiritual Alignment while this week we'll be studying Breaking the Yokes. There may be some yoke (bondages, habits, sins, sicknesses, etc) that we've struggled with a long time. And I'm convinced that God Cares - and wants to set us free. I hope you'll have that anticipation for our Sunday service!


Last week when I was talking about Spiritual Alignment the final key I gave you was to Learn to Live from Heaven's Initiative. We talked about how the binding and loosing commands in Matthew 16 and 18 were to be the things that were already bound and loosed in heaven. We also talked about how Jesus said "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." (John 5:19 NASB) Well as I read further in John 5 I came across this statement of Jesus:
"I can do nothing of My own initiative." (John 5:30a NASB)
He spells is out so plainly! Jesus lived from heaven's initiative and we must also. It's easy to come up with good ideas and ask God to bless them. But how about seeking God about what HE'S blessing and doing that? Hmmmm.


The final thing I want to share with you today is from verse 42 where Jesus was talking to the religious leaders who were upset that He was "doing these things [healing] on the Sabbath" according to verse 16. He recognized that they were very religious, but they lacked one thing:
"But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves." (John 5:42 NASB)
It doesn't matter how religious you are, how outwardly aligned your life is with standards of righteousness and how much you go to church. If you don't have the love of God in you, you've missed the whole point. Jesus came to teach us how to love as the Father loved. John later wrote "We love, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19 NASB). Let's get the love-factor down right and everything else will fall into place.

Well, that's it. No poem - just three points from today's reading. What is God telling you on this journey of consecration? I'm really enjoying your feedback. Keep those emails and phone calls coming (although I probably won't answer on Thursday! [G]).


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

21 Days of Consecration - Day 4, John 4 - Weariness

It's interesting how the Lord will speak to you right where you are. In today's reading a couple of things really jumped out to me. First the part about weariness:
"He [Jesus] left Judea and went away again to Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob's well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour." (John 4:3-6 NASB)
Following these verses is another one of the incredible interchanges between Jesus and someone He's ministering to, a dialogue that all of us are so grateful for. But what jumped out to me is that the whole reason Jesus stopped at the well was because He was "wearied from His journey."

Sometimes our weaknesses are the very things used by God to bring about powerful ministry to others. It's not always when we plan on it or when we're at the top of our game. Paul spoke of this in 2 Cor 12:9. He had asked the Lord to remove an area of weakness from Him and the Lord responded: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." So Paul said he would prefer to boast about his weakness for that's when Christ's power is perfected in him the most.

Those of us who are fasting know what weakness is. Here on day 4 we've probably all experienced a moment of wooziness or some fatigue, and even a headache or two (or two hundred!). And yet, through this weakness the Lord is sharpening our mind, clearing our focus, brushing aside the cobwebs of our thinking and helping us see Him more clearly. And thus we are more useful to Him, because of our weakness.

This applies in other areas of our lives as well. So often we tend to hide our shortcomings, thinking if others knew that we didn't have it all together, we'll be lowered in their estimation. (This is a particular problem for preachers. (How about that alliteration? [GRIN])) The truth of the matter is that when we are honest with others about our struggles, it actually empowers us to have a greater impact in the lives of others who are struggling too! So let's all commit to let the Lord use our weaknesses that He may be glorified.

Let me bring you to one more thing that really jumped out to me from this chapter:
"Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, 'Rabbi, eat.' But He said to them, 'I have food to eat that you do not know about.' So the disciples were saying to one another, 'No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?' Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.' (John 4:31-34 NASB)
If you're fasting, you are finding that this is true! Hopefully, like me, you're experiencing God's grace when it comes to hunger. My previous experience with fasting has been that by day 4 the hunger diminishes greatly, and that's proving true this time as well. I hope it is for you also. Truly by focusing on the Lord we are being reminded that what we think are needs are really more like wants. And we are sustained by His Word. So in the words of Hosea:
"So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth."
(Hosea 6:3 NASB)
Let's press on together! What an adventure! Until tomorrow ...