5 things to start the new year

As school is getting back into the full swing, I wanted to share five things to help us all look at the school year afresh. Even though I have students in mind, these things can apply to anyone, anywhere.

1) Start with God. I know it seems like a given but there’s no doubt that as time, busyness and complacency set in, starting each day with God may become a challenge. It’s important to not only be disciplined in having time with God but also to be directed. What does that mean? It means having a plan. Decide when and what you are going to read and study. Make it part of your homework routine. Use the Youversion Bible app for reading plans and then use a journal to record your thoughts and prayers. You’ll be amazed at how different your days will be!

2) Start praying for your classmates and friends. Inevitably there are people in your classes and friends on your bus…people that you work with who need your prayers. You don’t have to blatantly ask for prayer requests…just listen for needs that you overhear and pray silently about what God wants you to do. He may want you to speak up to help meet the need or He may simply want you to seek Him in prayer over a period of time. Praying for the people around you is a great way to see and be part of what God is doing.

3) Start seeing yourself as an agent of change. Regardless of where you are or how much you like being there, God can and does want to use you to bring about godly and lasting change. He can use you to demonstrate His mercy, grace, kindness, and love if you are willing to be that vessel for Him to pour it through. God isn’t limited by our inabilities but our unavailability. Will you be available to Him to bring lasting and effective change?

4) Start looking for ways you can be involved. As a servant of Jesus, you have to take a position of service. In what way can you help another? How can you serve your school or job better? How about the community? How can you give back? One of the greatest ways God uses us is by being involved in acts of service to those around us. Look for a way to be involved today.

5) Start giving your best. No matter what, you can always give your best to the situation. Remember you are not responsible for what someone else does but you are responsible for you. You can always rise above the gossip, crude jokes, meaningless banter and give the best version of yourself to others and to the Lord. Don’t withhold the good that is in you for fear of standing out. Be all that you can and were created to be and that will bring God glory. Use your brain, your gifts, your talents and your time wisely and give all you have to achieve the greatest good you can. Don’t compare your best with someone else. You’re not in a competition. You only have to answer for you and you and God know what your best is. So start giving your best to everything you do and you will most certainly bring the change God desires and the glory God deserves.

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…You Know… Who?

You Know Who-

Sometimes when we forget someone, we say “…you know… who?…what’s his face?” I’ve had this happen a lot actually, even with people that I know very well. There are times when the brain just doesn’t work the way it should!

But there are a lot of times when I simply don’t recall a person’s name or remember who they are because we have no relationship together. It’s kind of like running into someone from your high school at Walmart. You both see each other, know that you know each other, but the panic sets in because you can’t remember each other’s name.

Is this not how it is sometimes with GOD? We have forgotten His name because we haven’t spent time around Him? We don’t recognize His voice because it has become unfamiliar? I know that when I talk on the phone, and especially to someone I really want to hear from and love, it won’t take long for me to recognize their voice. How much more with God. All we have to do is stay connected.

Take some time today and reflect on some of the names of God. Get to know Him by sitting still for a few minutes in a conversation: catch up with each other.

Make a calling plan with God in order to stay connected to Him. Set up a time when you will give Him a call tomorrow. Do the same thing for the next day. Keep this appointment as you would any other one.

Take a trip to Walmart and see if you run into anyone you know. Who knows? You might even run into Jesus!

Devotionals For Leaders: Where? What?

Devotionals For Leaders (2)

It was by faith Abraham obeyed God’s call to go to another place God promised to give him. He left his own country, not knowing where he was to go. Hebrews 11:8

Obedience Is The Key.

Where do I need to be and what do I need to do? I have struggled with those questions often throughout my time on earth. You may have too. They are very important questions. However, I’m finding this to be true over and over again; God is more concerned about my obedience than my location.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that God has specific places for specific people. This does not negate the fact that God carries those people there. He sends those people there. He somehow manages to get those people there as would be the case for Jonah and the great fish.

Who I Am? vs. Where I Am?

The issue with God is not can He use me where I am or where He’s taking me. The issue is who I become along the way and through the situations. God’s greatest ambition is conformity to that of His Son. There is none who was or is more obedient than Jesus. Obedience is a benchmark of Jesus, even obedience unto death on a cross (Philippians 2).

God seems to have a greater concern about developing me into a certain person than taking me to a certain place. How does He do this? No other way than through the revelation of Himself. So often, I want God to reveal His plan instead of Himself. I want to know the in’s and out’s, the details, the lowdown but God does not cave into my desires. He instead fulfills me with Himself. For me to become all that God wants, I have to stop looking ahead and start looking up.

Which Way Do I Go?

Abraham went out not knowing where He was going but He knew Who he was going with. He was going with God. I wonder how many times I have gone without God…knowing where I was going but oblivious that God was not with me? The knowing of the Christian walk is not to a place but with a Person, the person of Jesus Christ. As we walk with Him we become. We move forward at times but we move inward all the time. Obedience is an inward job and the only way to accomplish it is to obey.

Maybe God is not sending me anywhere except to Himself? Maybe that’s the ultimate destination?

Observations Of A Prodigal #5

Prodigal

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. Luke 15:20

 

Sin’s A Domino!

Sin affects in many ways. We sin against God and man at the same time. Even if we don’t directly sin against man, our sin still affects our relationships with man and certainly every sin affects our relationship with God. Sin is the domino that sets off a ton of other dominos. This young boy learned that principle. His sin was not limited to a single relationship but multiple ones. I’m sure any of us can look back with great heartache and see the ways our sin has affected the way others respond to or treat us. It can leave a huge hole to climb out of!

Possessing Or Possession?

The boy’s perspective changed drastically. It’s amazing how some time, distance, hardship and heartache can do that! Initially, he thought he was somebody because of what he had instead of who he was. However, it’s who has us, not what we have that counts. For a while the possessions possessed him and now that they were gone, so was his self-esteem. His self- worth was in the dumps. But then again, how many us are right there with him? We somehow have forgotten that our worth is not based upon our choices but upon our birthrights! Once a son, always a son. This young man was worthy because he was a son not because of what he had or had not done. We must remember this. Our worth as a child of God goes beyond any goof-up, mistake or sin. We must make every effort to remember that it’s not so much about self-esteem as it is esteeming God highly. When we do that properly, we will understand how much we mean to Him too.

Far-Sighted?

I’m near-sighted, which means I can only see things close to me. I use glasses for this problem. I believe that this father was far-sighted because he could see the son a long way off, recognize him and respond to him! He also didn’t care about the stuff that was near, like the stench, the mud, or the dirt. So here’s a father running rather undignified, to his son with no concern for himself, his attire, or his protocol. It’s his son! And nothing is going to get in the way. Nothing! He’s been watching, waiting, and praying for this day and now it’s here!I love the fact that the son seems to be walking but the father is running. I love the fact that the father throws his arms around him and kisses him. These are all initiated by the father. The son simply receives all the father wants to give him. How much more the incredible picture of God running to us, taking the first steps in embracing and kissing us.

Full, Not Half.

The father was filled with compassion. He could have been angry, upset, bitter or any number of other justifiable emotions. Yet, he is full, not partly or half but full of compassion. The word “compassion” means “with suffering”. Ever heard: “this is gonna hurt me more than you”? That’s the case here. Every time we turn from God and go our own way, God’s heart breaks.

It Is Over!

The father was filled to overflowing with compassion. In his mind, the whole ordeal was over the moment he saw the boy again. The same is true with us and God. It’s over when he says it’s over. Some times we can’t get over it and there are definitely others that can’t get beyond it but God always does. It’s over before you even know it!

EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WANTED IS ON THE (2)

Think back on a time when there was a domino affect because of some sin you committed.

Is there something that has happened where others have not been able to let you live down or forgive you for? Have to been able to forgive them for not forgiving you?

Where do you find your self-esteem? How is your level of esteem? Where does your self-image find it’s roots?

How do you look at yourself? Does your image line up with what God says about you?

How does your self-worth issues affect your decision-making? Your response to others and to God?

What are you expecting from God? How do you think He’s going to treat you? Do you trust His heart?

What needs to be over in your life? Why not confess it and let it be so?

How’s your compassion for others?

The Inspired Mission: The Story Of Us

inspired mission

Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:21-22

At the moment we obtain a glimmer of hope we have inspiration. This inspiration leads to a renewed since of mission. All-of-a-sudden hope that was lost is regained. This is how mission works: someone is inspired and they transfer their hope to another.

Hope is not wishful thinking but the belief and assurance of a promised reality. When one is truly inspired they are fueled by a passion greater than any possible pain they may encounter in seeing the mission completed. They are able to see the possibilities and are willing to make any sacrifice for those possibilities to be realities. That’s hope. That’s inspiration.

In 2 Peter 1:21-22 the Bible tells us that scripture was inspired by God but written by man. These holy men of God were “carried along by the Holy Spirit”. This reveals how God has chosen to work: He inspires and we are moved to action. God’s Spirit carries us along in our mission. God’s Spirit gives, leads, enables, and seals the hope of every missionary. The mission is accomplished in us and through us when we embrace inspirational hope. The mission only becomes the mission when we are willing to embrace the potential pain and suffering to realize it.

David Crowder has a song called a Beautiful Collision, which seems to describe the moment when inspiration hits reality. Isaiah overheard God one day Who was basically asking: “who will tell the story of us”? Isaiah answered and gave himself to the mission. How about you? Have you overheard God talking about anything lately? That’s the story of us. People carry the mission along by conversations with others, by inspirations of God, which lead to pure motivations of love, sacrifice and service.

The story of all of us is really the story of God in us, inspiring us all to good works. God’s mission is fulfilled when His people move on the inspiration He has given and trust Him with the results.

Observations Of A Prodigal #4

Prodigal

“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ Luke 15:17-19

Centless And Senseless.

When he came to his senses. Why is it that sometimes it takes losing a whole lot of dollars to bring us to our senses? And not just dollars but opportunities, relationships, and friendships? It’s not surprising that the boy came to his senses, I mean they should have all been working well: the sounds of pigs squealing, the smell of manure, the feel of mud in-between his toes, the sight of a pig pen, the taste of humble pie. Sometimes the only way God gets our attention is when we begin to pay attention to our surroundings. It’s been said often, either change your environment or your environment will change you.  We must muster the courage to really look and admit that we are not where we want to be, need to be or were created to be!

This boy was the heir of a wealthy man. He was not made for this. And neither are we! We are heirs to the King of Kings, yet often we live like pigs. We live for so much less than what we were created for. It’s time to quit the nonsense! Maybe that’s it, you have no sense: no sense of direction, purpose, meaning in life. Maybe the joy, the pleasure of the Father’s house is a distant memory. What has to change?

At Last Will.

Well, his will was where he started. He asked for the father’s last will and testament but now it was his. He had to “die”. He had to lay aside all the earthliness and become one with the earth: a servant. He was willing to identify with the meekest, humblest, of His father’s employees, just to be back in his father’s care. How much more for us? It’s easy for me to think that I can or will only serve God in certain ways. But this is not the case. One who is a servant has no say in what, when, how, where, things get done. They just simply follow the wishes of the Master.

Back To The Beginning.

He went back to where he started. There are times when this is impossible but when it is possible, I think it’s very important! Go back to where you started off wrong. Figure out why you went down that path and make the necessary adjustments so you don’t do it again! Backtracking can be a great tool to keep us from backsliding! I’m sure as the boy traveled back home, he remembered certain parties, women, “friends” that helped lead him astray. The trip home was a lesson in remembering how much he lost. He grew from this time traveling back home. He became wiser, more mature, and turned his loss into gain.

Don’t Pay Out Without A Payoff!

I must admit that I have wasted invaluable lessons by not taking time to learn the necessary lessons God had for me. Let me encourage you that in each difficult time you pass through, make note of the mistakes; no sense in paying twice! You wouldn’t do it at the store, why do it in life? Turn your pain into gain. He came to his senses and made his mistakes pay off!

EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WANTED IS ON THE (2)

Can you think of a time when you made a serious mistake? Do you remember how you felt? What you ate that day? What you were wearing? What you were listening to? What you were watching?

How about now? In a place you don’t like? What senses is God using to reveal that to you? What senses is God using to reveal Himself to you?

Does anything make sense to you right now? How much nonsense do you have in your life?

Where do you want to be? Need to be? Where are you created to be? Has God’s sense revealed that to you? If so, why have you not obeyed?

How much of your will is still alive? Why not let your last will and testament be to please God in everything?

Have you ever died to your flesh and sinfulness? How do you die daily? Are you more dead than alive?

How have you changed your environment for Christ? Has your environment adversely affected you? How does your environment reflect your current standing with God? Do you think it does reflect your standing with God?

If you could go back to the future, where would that be? What mistakes would you fix? What do you need to take a mental journey back and take note of? What lessons can you pass onto someone else?

Is there any way that you are paying twice or three times for something? Why not end the trend now? How can you make your mistakes pay off? What will you do with it?