Thursday, January 27, 2011

Revive the Urgency

After Pastor Ryan's sermon this past Sunday night on complacency, a category to which (before Sunday night) I thought I didn't apply to me. From then on, God has been showing me how wrong I was, even if it was a small, seemingly unimportant area of my life. God has been showing me how those areas we deem "unimportant" add up...and lead to disobedience, ultimately fulfilling the agenda of complacency. 

So naturally, God has also been giving me scripture to back this thing up :)

Go with me to Genesis 50:24-Exodus 1:1-14

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah;Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy[a] in all; Joseph was already in Egypt. Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them. Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.

Okay, I know that's a lot to take in, but I wanted you to see the context. Joseph dies and as he's dieing, reminds his brothers of that which God has promised them. A land that God has specifically ordained for them that would flow with blessing. 

But notice where does it say that Joseph's brothers and descendants began to seek God and pray that He would come to their aid and lead them into this promised land. No where does it say they fasted and prayed until an answer came. At the beginning of Exodus chapter 1, it begins to list the new descendants that we being born. It tells of their new fruit, and how they Israelites "multiplied greatly" in the land of Egypt....but no where do you see any talk of following God's promise. Why is this? How is it that within such a short amount of time, the Israelites forgot about a promise that they had heard all of their lives?

I believe that they got comfortable. They had just left a time of famine, had reunited their family before Joseph died, and we now being fruitful, experiencing much gain in the areas that they believed made them successful and "blessed". Everything was right in their world, and surely they wouldn't need to leave when everything was going well...right? Wasn't this what God had intended? They had 3/4 of the promise already...Maybe they didn't need to completely follow His plan to be obedient...


Why is this wrong? Read down a few more verses. The Egyptians began to see the growth and strength of the Israelites and feared their possible power...leading them to enslave God's chosen people. 

So if the reality they were living in was truly God's promise, would the leaders of that land have enslaved them? 

Clearly, Egypt was not the land that God had promised. So what brought them to their enslavement? It was their decision to sit back, and enjoy the comfortable place that they were in. After a long battle with famine and familial conflict, in our mind, this would be justifiable. In our mind, we would deserve the break...but God told us to run the race set before us, not stop and pitch a tent ten miles from the finish line, deciding that "almost there" is good enough. 

When it comes down to it, the Israelites failed to see the urgency in pursuing God's promise, and as a result became enslaved by the disobedience they chose to dwell in. By being content with Egypt when they should have been longing for the promise land, they became satisfied and inactive, when they should've been pursuing. 

When God promises us something, He doesn't always just hand it to us. While we can't try and make our own way to that promise, through our own scheming and planning, God expects us to do what He's told us to do; fast, pray, and read His word; and be obedient to His promptings that can lead us to His plan. Had the Israelites been doing this, they might have received instruction from God and entered the promise land before they ever became a threat to the Egyptians and became enslaved as a result. 

We must pursue God so fervently that we will never become satisfied with where we are. We must pursue Him with such passion that we will be able to hear His subtle promptings that lead us into the fruition of His promises. We must keep our hearts in such a burning state that we burn for the dream of God, and cannot be content with a watered down version of it.

If we fail to do this, we can become enslaved by the disobedience that surrounds our comfortable, complacent condition. If God's chosen can do it, so can we.

I don't know about you, but in this season of revival, I don't want to miss out just because I was content with having almost all of God's blessing. I want it all. I want to be a mighty flame that signals His glory to all the nations! I want to be a jar of clay, one that He has molded and can fill in order to pour out His glory into our dry land! I want to sit at His feet, night and day, studying His word and praising Him for His majesty and holiness! 

I know that I can't do that if I choose to remain where I am comfortable and not where I am consecrated.

Neither can you.


Is it a Sacrifice or is it Love?

After starting the journey of our 40 day Daniel fast, I began thinking of all the foods I was giving up for the milk, cheese, chocolate cake, garlic bread, Enrico's... And I kept saying, "You know, God, I hope you know what I'm giving up for you, because this is a lot more painful that I thought." 

Seriously, how stupid is that???

Extremely so. 

Later, when God and I were talking, He asked, "Do you realize what I gave up for you?"

(Insert cricket sounds here).

Needless to say I practically fell on my face and repented for a good bit. He wasn't sugary sweet as we imagine Him to be when He speaks...this was a literal glimpse of His wrath. Something I honestly have never experienced in that form before. 

Now I understand what it means to fear Him. 

He, the Creator, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Master, the Judge, chose to make human beings for HIS glory, knowing all along what He would have to give up in order to remove the veil and be close and intimate with them. He gave up Jesus, His precious and beloved Son, so that we may be His beloved sons and daughters. HE turned HIS back on HIS SON while Jesus bore MY pathetic sin on the cross. He did that for me....for you...for all of us.

And I can't give up a piece of chocolate cake for 40 days.

You can't give up listening to certain music. 

We can't give up our family or our friends.

The world can give up it's complacency and comforts.

Because what would happen if we REALLY got to know God? If we saw how fearful and awesome He is? If we saw how giving and selfless He is? If we saw how loving he is? We'd see how insiginificant and pathetic we are as humans. We'd see how much we so desperately need God Almightly, because without Him, we are nothing.

Yes, God is a loving God, but He is to be feared! Honestly, I'm to the point that I fear Him so much that I don't want to step one toe out of line because I don't want to do anything that might hinder me from Him.

When I started thinking about all those who reject Him and say 'no' to Him, I cried. I said "Lord, but You're so beautiful and holy...why would anyone NOT want you?"

I felt like a child asking why her Daddy got fired from his job. 

God answered me with, "It's because they don't love Me."

This absolutely broke my heart, because it breaks my Daddy's heart. His children, who He created with the upmost care, love, and affection, reject Him on a daily basis because He's not what they want. To them, He's not worth giving stuff up for.

One minute I was fearing God, to the next minute seeing His heartbreak. Because this is what it's like to be fully engaged into a relationship with Him. He shows you every aspect of who He is when you're willing to notice and listen and see. 

Through this fast, God has fully altered my way of thinking. Not just because I'm giving up food. But because I'm willing giving up stuff that ties me to the world and hinders me from being with Him. 

I'm encouraging you to remember why you do the things you do for God, and for you to remember that A) You can't do them without God's help and B) it's all for HIS glory. 

We give up stuff for His glory.
We kill our flesh for His glory.
We say no the world for His glory.
We love others for His glory.
We love Him for His glory.
We worship Him for His glory.

It's all for His glory, everything we do, everything we are, and all that He has created is for His own glory.


Oh, Ouch! That Hurt!

Numbers 4:20 

".... The Kohathites must never enter the sanctuary to look at the sacred objects for even a moment, or they will die." 

This in a weird way shook me up. The Kohathites were the ones who carried the sacred objects in the time of Moses, you know, the ones that carried the big poles with the "objects" on it. Now, you'd think that the Kohathites were pretty special people, I mean they got to carry God's sacred objects. Thats a pretty important job in my eyes. And even though these Kohathites were more special than most: they couldn't even LOOK at the things they were carrying, lest they die. DIE! Just by looking! 

A lot of the time we forget God's "not so pleasant" side. We have the loving merciful and kind God down pat. We sometimes forget that God is also Righteous Judge, and has a wrath unlike any other. We forget that the same God that is loving and kind in the New Testament is the same God that is in the Old Testament. You know, the God that poured out his wrath, and destroyed entire peoples. 

The Kohathites couldn't even look at the thing, and we have ability to come even closer. The veil has been torn, and we can come into close fellowship with the Father. Glory to God, he allows us actually talk to him, and have him answer. US! Can you imagine? The Kohathites couldn't even look at the OBJECTS- and we were given opportunity to look upon His face! 

And we don't take advantage of this. How dare we come to the living God, the Righteous Judge, with an attitude of pride and that he owes us. 

He owes us nothing. Not only are we saved and delivered, we have the honor to come upon him. We owe him more than we could ever repay. When we come to him with this attitude of "gimme gimme gimme" it's like a slap in His face. What about when we disobey him? Or blow him off? Or not talk to him because we are too tired? Or blaming him for the mess we have gotten ourselves into! 

Imagine what the Kohathites would say to us? 

"Dude, i couldn't even look at the thing I was carrying, and you get the opportunity to talk to the God who made it? What are you doing?" 

We make excuses, all the time, 

" oh, I can't do my quiet time today, I just have ____________God is a understanding God, so will understand." 

Fill in the blank. 

It should be the highest honor to come before him, but the relationship has been perverted into the idea that God owes us. He is so amazing and glorious, it is a privilege to be called his child, to have access to his inheritance. 

But so often it becomes a chore to us. Oh man, do I have to do my quiet time today? I'm just so tired. No! It shouldn't be "do I have too" it should be "glory to God, I get too" 

Understand what I'm getting at? It's basically what God likes to hit me over the head with. That GOD let's us talk to him, and we blow him off! GOD! ( please insert the mental picture of me flinging my hands in the air saying God over and over. Think empowered ) 

I don't know if this affects you in any way, but every time God reminds me who he really is- I have to take a step back and reprioritize my life, placing him in first because I have the privilege to be able to. 

Oh God, forgive us. 


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Excuses, Excuses

Today, I was reading a piece of scripture in Genesis chapter 37. I'll share that first before we get into anything.

Then Reuben returned to the pit, and indeed Joseph was not in the pit; and he tore his clothes. And he returned to his brothers and said, “The lad is no more; and I, where shall I go?” So they took Joseph’s tunic, killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the tunic in the blood.Then they sent the tunic of many colors, and they brought it to their father and said, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?” And he recognized it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces." Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, “For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. Now the Midianites[a] had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard.

To give a little backstory, this scene occurred just after Joseph's brothers had sold him into slavery to the Midianites out of jealousy toward Jacob's favor toward his youngest son Joseph. If you want more backstory on Joseph and the intricacies of his story, then refer to the aforementioned chapter of Genesis and on (which I HIGHLY recommend...there are many good gold nuggets in the story of his life), but for now I want to focus specifically on the actions of the brothers. 

The brothers felt entitled and justified in their actions that ridded their lives of their favored brother. They must've felt "We're older, we deserve better treatment....We've worked longer for father, we should receive gifts like beautiful robes of many colors....Just because we're the sons of slaves doesn't mean we should get lesser treatment...", and an assortment of other excuses that permitted them to throw their brother in a cistern and sell him to slave traders. But if they really felt they had every right to get rid of him, and that it was the right thing to do...why did they cover it up? If they TRULY felt they were justified...why would they make it look as though Joseph's absence was caused by the murder of a wild animal rather than the cruel treatment of his envious brothers?

I believe that C.S. Lewis provides us an answer. In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S.Lewis addresses many philosophical and theological arguments that have been present within the Christian community for quite some time, but one of the most interesting that I have read so far (although I'm not very far in) would have to be the following concept. He states that there is always an accepted moral standard, and that no matter how fervently we deny it, that standard (the standard of God) is always there, and always present within us telling us what is right and wrong. Many disagree with Lewis, and say that such a standard is mythical, and standards of right and wrong are what we make them or simply vary from situation to situation. It is then that Lewis argues, if there were no such standard...than there wold be no reason for people to make excuses. He masterfully states that for someone to make an excuse, they must first acknowledge somewhere inside of them that what they have done is wrong, and requires explaining. After all, if we were truly right in a situation, it would not have any grounds for questioning that required an "exception" statement attached to it.

So, really, by creating a cover up, and by making justifications and excuses in their heads, the brothers of Joseph were proving that what they did was wrong...if they had simply acknowledged that fact sooner, Joseph might've never ended up in bondage...

Think this doesn't apply to you...bare with me ;)

How often do we make excuses? How often do we talk ourselves into making "exceptions" to the standard we know is right?...exceptions to the standard of holiness that God calls us to live? If "it's just ONE swear word...that doesn't make the whole movie bad", "He just wanted to show me how much he loved me, and it went just a LITTLE too far", "I'm just a teenager", "everyone expects me to do it", or "I just went to make sure he didn't drink too much, so what if I had one too" sound familiar...than odds are the speaker of such sayings has acknowledged what they are doing or what they have done is wrong...excuses just allow them to live in denial of that sin...a tactic that we use to live how we want, and the devil uses to keep us unrepented and out of communion with God.

My question is, if Joseph's brothers lead him into bondage by living in excuses and failing to accept their wrong doing, how many could we as Christians have lead into bondage through our excuses? 

They don't have to be as bad as the ones I previously mentioned...they could even include spiritually applied ones such as "They wouldn't listen to me anyway", "They've already skipped church for the past four sundays, it's not like me asking them to come again will change anything", or my personal favorite "I'm too young". 

How many have we lead down a wrong path because we were afraid to step out and tell them the truth? How many have we lead into bondage because we made personal compromises to live how we wanted?
How many of these actions have we simply "band-aided" with excuses so that we don't have to take the blame for what we truly know is wrong?

How many will go to hell as a result of our generation "excusing" ourselves from our responsibility as Christians?

In the beginning of this year, let's resolve to own up to where we've failed and live an uncompromised, outspoken, fully burning life for Christ in 2011.

Press out sin, Press into God, and Press on.


Leading Warrior Pioneers on a Narrow Road

Hey everyone!

I know we've been all out of whack about posting our devos due to various trips over the holidays, but God keeps telling me that we need to keep this up and remember why we started it in the first place! 

So, with that being said, I'm going to download into you all and remind you all of what it means to be a leader. I'm going to post a new aspect every day as the Lord reveals to me what He wants to be said (in addition to the other devotional posts), as this has been on my heart for over a month now. Today, I start with the basics...


Definitions of lead according to Merriam Webster:

-to guide on a way especially by going in advance
-to direct on a course or in a direction
-to serve as a channel for (as in a pipe)
-to direct the operations, activity, or performance of
-to take charge of
-to go ahead of
-to be first

Obviously, the word “pioneer” automatically jumped out at me when I read the definitions of lead, so I did a bit of dictionary referencing and found…

Pioneer: one of the first to settle in a territory. Originates from “foot soldier”. 
As a verb, pioneer means to open or prepare a way for others to follow. 

Ok, now I know we’ve heard Pino’s ‘Pioneer’ song, along with ‘The Narrow Road’, but we’ve also heard his ‘You’re An Army’ countless times on Sunday nights…

The term foot soldier sent me on a tangent. 

When you’re walking down a path that has yet to be traveled, you have to wrestle through the brush and branches to make the way navigable, correct? And this clearing out process is by no means an easy feat. You sweat, you ache, you tire, you thirst. But you keep on going, because you have some crazy passion inside of you to know what’s ahead. Not only are you paving a way for others to follow, but you’re walking on a narrow path that few will ever choose to follow. 

Bear with me here…

A foot soldier is defined as “a person likened to an infantryman especially in doing active and usually unglamorous work in support of an organization or movement”. A soldier’s job is to kill the opponent, to win the war essentially. But the battle field is a gross and gruesome place. The only way to conquer is to press on and fight harder, because the second the soldier gives up, he gives up his life and victory. The soldier also looks out for his fellow soldiers, stepping in when a friend is in need. Then he goes back to his task of combat. 

What exactly is the whole purpose for an army to set out into battle? They have an opponent trying to defile their mission, right? And by winning battles, the army clears the way for its people to do what they were called to do…

Therefore, not only are we leading warrior pioneers on a narrow road, we are the descendents of and ancestors to leading warrior pioneers on a narrow road (mouthful, isn’t it?). An army went before us to defeat an opponent so that we could settle into new territory. An army will come after us to continue the attack on the enemy that continually tries to ruin the destinies of the nations. But what are we doing as the here and now army? As the here and now pioneers? As the here and now leaders?

Are we fighting the devil (brushes/branches and enemy) with our God given weapon (sword) with all that we have? Or do we say “I’m starting to get tired and sweaty, and I’m hungry and I just don’t know what to do anymore” and start to give up because we don’t see the immediate results? 

I’m telling you, we all have been granted the ability to fight and pursue and press on because we are all children of the King, the Mighty Warrior. We are mere reflections of Him. He came when no one else did. He fought with blood when no one would. He did not give up or say that the job was too hard. He was not discouraged or run down by the lack of enthusiasm or participation or attendance. He looked for hungry seekers. He looked for the soldiers who would rise up and fight with Him to defeat the enemy. He came so that we would be victorious in every battle, and yet we walk into our battles acting as if we’re already defeated. 

HE was the ultimate pioneer. HE is our narrow way. HE is our mighty warrior. HE is our leader. HE took the keys and gave us the victory. HE came and HE conquered. 

It’s time for us to dust off our swords and start acting like the soldiers we are. It’s time for us to get up off the dirt path and start clearing the way again. We may hit rocks and hard places, but that’s when we turn to God and ask for help. That’s when we turn to the person next to us and ask for help. We may be clearing different paths, but we’re all going in the same direction. We may all end up in different ministries, but we’re all working for the same God. We are an army. We are not separate entities or individuals operating to our own accord. We are one body under God. One nation under God. And we need to start acting like it. 


Dont' Be A Piggy!!!

So I'm going to talk about farm animals tonight....funny how God makes us picture things, eh?

As I was watching "The Biggest Loser" the other night, I began to contemplate the situations the obese contestants were in. I'm talking...these people were 300, 400, 500 pounds. I almost cried at the beginning of the show because I kept thinking, "How can someone gain THAT much weight, and keep going, keep gaining, even though they know they're doing something stupid?" Now, I can say that over eating and over indulgence is stupid because glutiny is a sin. Which leads me to my animal revelation.

I began to think of a pig, as we often call people 'pigs' when they eat a lot, or in a messy manner. The pig is fattened up for the slaughter (sad but true...I love me some ham...hahaha), but the farmer doesn't take the time to cuddle it or nurture it as someone would a "normal" house pet. The pig pens are messy and smelly, and so are the piggies within it. They eat all the leftovers out of a trough, and don't think a second about it. Needless to say, it's gross. The more they eat, the happier the farmer is, because all he sees is the $$ in front of his eyes. 

Also on a farm, there are usually some horses. I think we can all say that they are generally respected breed of animals, and their competence has been valued for centuries. Horses are groomed, petted, loved on, feed fresh and yummy food. The farmer or rancher will saddle one up, and use it to go from one place to another, to herd other animals, or to just go on a ride. 

Bear with me here.

When we sin, we're like the pigs. We're a mess in our sin, and the devil..aka farmer... just fattens us up with more slop and gross stuff only to slaughter us and bring us down. The pigs pretty much know what's going to happen, I mean, they see all their buddies disappear, so why not them, right? Isn't this how we are when we live in sin? Our flesh says, "see, it happened to all these people, so it's going to happen to me, too. Might as well just go with the flow. I'm pretty comfortable with this messy life." 
Mark 5 talks about the possessed pigs being drowned in the river, when the demonic spirits asked to be sent there...interesting....

When we live in righteousness, we're like the horse. We're groomed and loved on by our owner, God...aka the farmer/rancher....but we're also used with a purpose. He saddles us, and uses the bit to direct us to the direction of His will. 

James 3:3 says: When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.

He'll either bring us out to herd His lost 'animals', to travel to another city, or to just spend some one on one time. 

The horse is more open to correction and obedience, the pig just squeals and runs.

Are we willing to be like the horse, open to correction and guidance? Or are you going to be a complacent pig, full of sin and ignorance?

(Now I know it may seem weird that I went from The Biggest loser to farm animals, but like I said, that's just how God talks to me. We're weird, ok? lol


David Had the Right Idea!

o I understand that this week everybody is away and doesnt have access to a computer: some are in Israel and some are in Chattanooga :) anyhow I will still write my devotion and expect you all to read it when you come back! 

Down on the floor with David :) 

I was watching the ramp for a short time on their friday night service when something dameon Thompson said stopped me in my tracks: it was a simple comment, nothing really exciting to get worked up over, but...SHABAM! 

" i believe this is a generation that is tired of being comfortable" 

Now, you know what hit me immediately as he said that? David 

David was a king, ruled over the land, appointed by god: A pretty legit guy. People watched him and followed his rule and reign. He was in all aspects a ruler, suposed to be calm and dignified and posses a royal air. Keep that in your minds: 

2 Samuel 6:17 
" They brought the Ark of the Lord and set it in it's place inside the special tent that David had prepared for it." 

In the beginning David built a special "tabernacle" until the big permanent could be found. 

Now we know that David would curl underneath the Ark of the Lord to try to get as close to God as he possibly could get: 

Now imagine what it was like underneath the ark: do you think it was clean and no dirt anywhere? With lots of plush pillows and blankets for David to lie on? And we can't forget the electric fan that was placed under there to keep the area a steady cool temperature? I think not! 

Imagine, David is this royal king, chosen to lead by God and here he is, crawling under the ark! 

The floor (if there was even a floor: it may have been dirt?) was a floor: not exactly comfortable! And laying, curled up, onto that floor for hours would have to get pretty uncomfortable: 

But, David didn't care about comfort, or appearances: he didn't care that he was lying on a floor underneath the ark: in fact he was so in love with God that he was willing to go anywhere, do anything to get into God's presence: 

So, I happen to agree with damon. This generation has gotten fed up with "comfortable". We've gotten tired of the plush thrones, and the lifestyle of ease. We are ready to get uncomfortable. Lying on the floor, crawling through the dirt, all of it gets us to God. We are a generation that is tired of sitting down with plush pillows and blankets, we are ready to get on the ground. Because we are so in love with our God, our Father, our Lover: we are willing to be uncomfortable if we can have him. 

So I challenge you to get on your knees these next weeks and crawl under that ark: get on the floor, get down in the dirt, do the uncomfortable! Be willing to anything that will bring you closer to his presence: