Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 11- Time to Be Alone...with God

"And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone."
Matthew 14:23

Sometimes life saps you of all of your strength. Have you ever felt like the daily grind just leaves you exhausted? I have...and I'm glad to know Jesus felt it as well.

Matthew 14 is another chapter in the life of Jesus filled with ministry to people. He had just fed 5,000 people with two fishes and five loaves of bread. He had spent time teaching, feeding, organizing and listening to people...and it left him needing some down time.

So he went into a mountain to pray. He was there alone...alone with God, that is. We need some time alone. We're so busy balancing school activities, baseball games, after-school activities, family schedules, dinner and ministry that we must not neglect some time alone...with God. If Jesus needed it, rest assured you need it as well.

Prayer emphasis for today: Find a quiet place and spend 15 minutes with God. Just be alone with Him and see if you don't feel better.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 9 & 10- Pray for FOCUS

Commission. The word means "an authoritative order, charge or direction, the power thus granted, and the act of committing or giving a charge." Lots of things are commissioned. A quick Google search of the word "commission" will bring up links to "European commission, national commission on terrorist attacks on the United States, Federal Trade Commission, California Energy Commission, the Warren Commission..." You get the idea.

However, the commission that Jesus gave the church is different. It's not a government agency or a group of people put together to investigate something...No, this commission is great. Important. Critical. Essential. Great.

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matt. 28:19-20).

The commission is simple: Go and make disciples. Simple doesn't necessarily mean easy. Simple doesn't always mean elementary. It is simple, yet it is profound.

Our willingness to follow, obey and live out that commission will affect the nations. FOCUS 2010 is aimed at bringing our focus to the commission.

Days 9 & 10 prayer emphasis: For the next two days I'm asking you to pray for FOCUS. This is an important weekend for our church family. Tomorrow (Friday) I will also be fasting. If you would like to join me in this fast, please do so. We need clarity. We need FOCUS. We need our passion for the commission to be renewed. Please pray toward that end.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 8- Focused

"Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest."
John 4:35

Jesus made this statement in the midst of a dialogue between Him and His disciples in John 4. The disciples had gone into the city to buy some bread. While they were away Jesus had an encounter with a woman who became convinced He was the Son of God (Jn. 4:29). When the disciples returned with bread they said to him, "Master, eat" (Jn. 4:31). Jesus responded in a rather peculiar way: "I have meat to eat that ye know not of" (Jn. 4:32). The disciples were bewildered: "Did someone bring food to Him that we're not aware of?"

Jesus used this moment to teach the disciples about their focus...or lack of focus. "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (Jn. 4:34). Jesus was tired from his journey and physically needed rest and nourishment (Jn. 4:6). However, His heart was still focused on the spiritual needs of people. That's why the harvest is always now.

People need a relationship with Jesus even if they've just pushed away from the table following a Thanksgiving lunch. The spiritual need for a relationship with Jesus is not dependent on physical sustenance. The harvest is great. The spiritually malnourished are all around you. You just have to look at people through the eyes of Jesus.

The spiritual needs of people was the focus of Jesus. The cross shouts this truth to the nations of the world! What is your focus?

Day 8 prayer emphasis: Ask God to bring to your heart those in your life who are spiritually hungry. Then ask God for the courage to reach out to them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 7- Loving No Other Gods

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
Exodus 20:3

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment in the Bible, He responded with, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind...and love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:37, 39). He followed that up with this statement- "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:40).

In other words, a love for God and others is the foundation of the entire New Testament. We can view every Old Testament law through the lens of "love God, love others."

Before your prayer time today, read the first of the Ten Commandments through this lens and ask yourself the following questions:
  • If I have other gods before God, what does that say about my love for Him?
  • How will having other gods before Him affect my love for others?
  • Why is God to be loved supremely?
Day 7 prayer emphasis: Spend time searching your heart and life for gods (anyone or anything you love more than God). When they come to your attention, confess it and ask God for His help to love Him more.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 6- Party in Heaven

"Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receives sinners, and eats with them. 3And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 4What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5And when he hath found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance."
Luke 15:1-7

We throw parties for everything: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, Super Bowls, quinceañeras, Sweet 16s and baby showers. We send out invitations, we make plans for the food and fun and then we celebrate.

I've always found the parable of the lost sheep fascinating. It goes from an accusation (Lk. 15:2) to a celebration (Lk. 15:5-7). Jesus was accused of the horrendous act (according to the Pharisees) of receiving sinners and eating with them. Jesus' response is direct and powerful: I came to rescue sinners. And not only does He rescue them, He rejoices in doing so. The parties thrown in heaven aren't for birthdays and anniversaries, it's for salvation.

Jesus came to rescue people- and heaven awaits another opportunity to rejoice. Will you go and rescue the lost today?

Day 6 of 40 prayer emphasis: God, send me out to find the lost. Help me to be the cause of rejoicing and celebration in heaven.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 5- Love God in Front of Your Children

"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6And these words...shall be in thine heart: 7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up."
Deut. 6:4-7

I've had lots of people who have influenced my life- teachers, pastors, friends, my wife, my kids and others. However, before I ever met my first teacher, heard from my first pastor, chose my friends, met my wife or had kids of my own, I had mom and dad. They're the single greatest influences in my life.

That seems weird to say, doesn't it? They (plural) were the single (singular) greatest influences in my life. It's because they were one- and I'm not just talking about their union in marriage. They were one in influencing me for Christ. I don't separate the things my mom taught me from the things my dad taught me. My mom didn't teach me one way to live while my dad taught me another way. They were one. Their life was one shining example of what it means to love God and follow him at all costs. I am thankful for them.

I want my kids to learn to love God from me. I know the value of praying for them, but I need to pray with them. I know the importance of teaching them what it means to love God, but I need to model what loving God looks like in front of them. I want my boys to grow up and love their wives, but I know they'll learn that from me.

Being a parent is a tremendous responsibility. However, by God's grace we can mentor our children to love God with heart, soul and might- and we should. Even if we don't have children we should love God in front of our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family. Be a shining light of God's love today. Love God out loud.

Day 5 prayer emphasis- Love God through prayer. Thank Him for who He is and all that He has given you in Christ. If you have children, love God in front of them by spending some time in prayer with them.

Day 4- A Change in Perspective

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
Matthew 28:19-20

Perspective is how you see things. Our perspectives can change in a moment. I was driving to church on Monday morning only to find myself blinded by the sun. As I squinted and looked at the road ahead I began to feel around the car for my sunglasses. I knocked over a drink cup, picked up some papers, opened the glove compartment and finally found them. I put them on and my perspective completely changed. It was a relief, I must say. Too much bright sunlight can give me a headache. My eyes get tired from the squinting.

Look around you today as you're driving to school, work or the grocery store. Look at all the people whose perspectives are being influenced by sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses makes it much easier to stand in the sun.

God's perspective never changes. When mine doesn't line up with His, I've got to change. For the past 7 months God has been changing my perspective. It's been painful at times- but the results have brought much relief. My perspective change has to do with the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His church in Matthew 28:19-20. For most of my life my perspective on the Great Commission fell short of God's perspective.

I read the commission in this way: go and reach the lost with the gospel. That is certainly a part of the commission and it is essential. However, just as essential to the commission is the part I've been missing- make disciples. My purpose as a pastor is to make disciples. Our purpose as a church is to make disciples.

The commission has 2 sides: reach and teach. "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I've commanded you" is just as essential to "go and reach them with the gospel." The gospel is essential for salvation; the teaching is essential for sanctification. In other words, the gospel saves us and the word of God shapes us to be more like Christ. For far too long I've been reaching the lost with the gospel and neglecting the "teaching" part. Not anymore.

I want to be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ who loves God, loves others, grows in faith and serves the world who, by God's grace, makes disciples who love God, love others, grow in faith and serve the world. Fulfilling all of the commission is the way that will happen.

Day 4 prayer emphasis: Ask God to change your perspective on the Great Commission. Our call is to make disciples, not just converts. Ask God to help you fulfill that commission with your life.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 3- I Love You More

1 John 4:10- "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

"He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me!" In real life, surely no one thinks flower petals would serve as the sign of true love. No one lives this way...or do we?

God loves you. There, I said it: and I believe it. God loves you with an everlasting love and a love so great its ends cannot be reached, its height cannot be measured, and its depths cannot be explored completely. His goodness knows no bounds, His mercy is everlasting and His thoughts toward you are priceless. God loves you.

"I love you." There, He said it. You don't have to impress Him, you can't do something to earn it, and you don't have to pick flowers off a petal to determine whether or not its true. You don't have to wonder whether or not He loves you. You shouldn't doubt it. He loves you- and the cross says it all.

Day 3- Spend time today praising God for His love.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 2- No More Identity Crisis

Psalm 139:23-24- "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

We all have moments where we look in the mirror and don't like what we see- our weight, our complexion, our hair, our teeth, our clothes. Mirrors don't lie. They tell the truth. They show what's there even if we want to sweep it under the rug.

With God, there are no rugs under which our words, actions, thoughts or sin can be swept. Before he prayed for God to search him and try him in verse 23 David had already made this statement in verse 1- "O LORD, thou hast searched me and known me." He sees it all. He knows when we sit down and when we rise up (Ps. 139:2). He knows our deepest thoughts (Ps. 139:2). He knows our ways and the words of our mouths (Ps. 139:3-4). If you go to heaven, He's there. If you make your bed in hell, hide in the darkness, live in the sea or live in your mother's womb, He's there (PS. 139:7-13).

We can't hide. But like Adam in the garden, because we know God sees everything, we hide behind fig leaves of shame, regret and forgetfulness. That's right- we forget. For those who have placed faith in Jesus Christ, you're His child. He loves you with the love of a caring Father. Loving, caring Fathers don't sweep destructive behavior under the rug. It has to be corrected. But in the midst of that correction and painful searching of our hearts we can say, "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made...Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect...How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them" (Ps. 139:14-17).

Many Christians suffer from an identity crisis. Yes, God searches our hearts. He knows us in the deepest places. He knows our sin. He knows our failures. He knows what path we're taking. It's painful when we look into the mirror of God's word and the light of God exposes us for who we really are. Yet we are fearfully and wonderfully made. His precious thoughts toward us are too many to count. Remember that today.

Day two prayer emphasis: Pray through Psalm 139. Read each verse, meditate upon it and take it to God in prayer.