Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How one word can change your life

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”—John 1:1 (NIV).

If you’ve never made a New Year’s resolution, you’re in the minority. However, we all have one thing in common—time. In an article for “Pulpit Helps,” author Steven B. Cloud wrote,    “As we look into a New Year, we look at a block of time. We see 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds. And all is a gift from God.”

Our lives have become so busy, yet we add to the burden each New Year by making a list of resolutions that most of us will fail to accomplish—quit smoking, lose weight and get healthy or save more money. This is just a partial list but some of the more popular ones. That’s why we see so many advertisements promoting products and gyms to help us accomplish our goals. Stroll through the aisles of a bookstore and you’ll find so many self-help books, it’ll make you go cross-eyed with confusion.

One book, however, has the power to change your life. The Bible is filled with words of wisdom and encouragement. In Luke 11:28, Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

In January 2007, Pastor Mike Ashcraft challenged his congregation to ditch their New Year’s resolutions and each pick one word to focus on that year. Embracing this new idea to approaching personal change and spiritual growth, church members realized the simple plan is more effective than making an overwhelming list of resolutions each year. Why? Called God’s instruction book for life, the Bible addresses every aspect of our lives—spiritually, physically, emotionally and financially.

 One word can change your life when it is grounded in faith.

Because we lead busy lives, we tend to focus on the surface-level of issues, forgetting God has numbered our days. Trying to manage our lives and our time, we fail miserably because we haven’t taken the time to seek God’s wisdom. Ultimately, says Pastor Ashcraft, that’s what the “My One Word” project is all about. 

Willpower and self-effort only get us so far. When we’re overwhelmed with a long list, it’s even more difficult to achieve lasting change. That’s why, according to Ashcraft, the One-Word project works. 

To choose a word for 2015, Ashcraft suggests asking the following questions:
1.      What kind of person do I want to become this year?
2.      What drives my desire to be this kind of person?
3.      What characteristics define this type of person? Make a list.
4.      Reduce your list to 10 words or less, research those words using a dictionary and Bible.
5.      Choose one word from your list as your word for the year.
6.      Choose a Bible verse that speaks to you about your chosen word and memorize it. This will provide a foundation of truth you can continually return to and will fuel your hope to change.
7.      What initial expectations do you have regarding the impact of your word?

One word can change your life when it is grounded in faith.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014



 “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). God could have judged us and condemned us to hell without mercy, and no one could have questioned Him. Instead, He made provision for our redemption, and did not rub our sins in our faces, even though He is without sin and hates sin.

Having responded to God’s love, we became partners with Him to draw the rest of the world to Him in love. How can we achieve this? The best and surest way is to follow our prototype, Jesus! The apostle Paul admonishes us to “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly beloved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:1-2). 

So how did God show us His love? Definitely not by rubbing our sins in our faces, but by presenting the gospel of salvation in love and letting us know the consequences of ignoring it. He implored us to come to Him, and so we did, and now we are set for life.

If we are going to be imitators of God, we need to know what our prototype did and how He did it. Remember when Jesus was out with His disciples, and they went through Sychar, a Samaritan town? Jesus sat by a well because He was tired. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well, Jesus asked her for a drink of water. The two had a conversation that led the woman to admitting her immoral life style. Jesus didn’t condemn her for her lifestyle; He offered her the Living Water that wells up in a person to eternal life. (Jn 4:1-26) 

On another occasion, the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery; they wanted her stoned according to the Law. Jesus did not go along with them; He rebuked them for their hypocrisy (Jn 8:7b), and then encouraged the woman to give up her sinful life.  He said to her, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (Jn 8:10b-11)

As Christians, what should we do when, based on the Word of God, people’s lifestyles are clearly wrong?  Should we shame and condemn them? No! Our approach should be sharing the love of God and salvation through Christ. If we follow up with love, God will give the increase at the right time, leading them to faith. Then when we encourage them to read and study the Word, the Holy Spirit will convict them of whatever they happen to be doing wrong.

Let’s remember that we are not called to judge or convict people. We are called to “Go and make disciples of all nations, and baptizing them in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20a).   

For now, let’s show people love and the way to salvation in Jesus, and leave the convicting, judging, and condemning to God for the appointed time!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

What Will You Do With Your Spiritual Opportunities in 2015?

You Get to Decide. How Much Faith Do You Have?

Does you Christian walk need an energy infusion? Are you lacking clarity on what God has in mind for you? Is your current ministry turning into drudgery? Has your prayer and devotion time dwindled down to nothing?

Every single day is the first day of the rest of your life. But we are coming up on the first day of 2015, which will be the first year of the rest of your life. As you close out the last days of the first part of your life, are you ready to face Jesus and have Him judge your work? 

In a unambiguous and less than humble bit of self promotion, I recommend "God Called - He Needs Your Decision!" The purpose of the book is to help you answer all of the questions above and a whole lot more. The cost is $.99 on Kindle and will take two or three hours to read.

If you really believe the Bible and what Jesus and his Disciples have laid out for you in the New Testament, you will live your life differently in 2015 than you did in 2014!! That applies to Franklin Graham and Greg Laurie and every single Christian. But if you are honest, you just don't believe what Jesus is asking of you. Review the beatitudes as a starting point. How about 1 Cor 13?

We are called upon to love God and love others. We are called upon to "feed my sheep." We are called upon to "do unto the least of these." We are called upon to pray, worship, tithe, fellowship.

Risk 99¢. Waste an hour or two. Pick up a copy of "God Called - He Needs Your Decision!" Use the book as an outline for your new approach to Christian living in 2015.  Find it on Amazon

Friday, December 26, 2014

Re Born

“David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife.”
 (Matthew 1.6)

Bathsheba, aka Uriah's wife—the last of the women mentioned in Matthew 1 as part of Jesus' bloodline. Lets just say from the beginning, Bathsheba gets a bad rap. 

If you know the story, you can skip this paragraph. If you don't--Cliff Notes version. King David hangs out at the palace while the other men go off to war. He sees a beautiful woman bathing. He summons her and sleeps with her. She gets pregnant. Oops. As a last ditch effort, David has her husband killed in battle, marries her, and believes it's all covered up happily ever after. Like that ever happens.

It seems like we can't bring ourselves to say that King David could commit anything so heinous as he does, though we have plenty of evidence both in Scripture and in our own lives to prove that good people can do rotten things in the name of self-interest.

So often, commentators and scholars dole the blame out to her, as if bathing on your own house was just asking for the king's salacious attention. (Times have not changed, in far too many ways, ladies. Sounds like a familiar argument.)

The simple fact is, we don't know. We don't know if she was a willing participant in adultery or if David exercised his kingly privilege to take any woman he wanted. We don't know if she adored her husband and mourned his death. We don't know if she had a happy content life or if she coveted the higher plane she got. We don't know anything. 

Perhaps it's right that she's mentioned in Matthew only as “Uriah's wife.” She is the beautiful but invisible woman, whose life is played with and altered by those around her rather than under her own control.

Aren't there Bathshebas all around us? Girls working in sweat shops as young as eight? Fourteen-year-olds branded by their pimps as property with which they do what they please? Wives and girlfriends locked in abusive relationships because they fear an unknown alternative? If you don't think so, think again. It's right in front of you, and you're not seeing it. In the hallowed “Christian” upper class suburbs around where I live, it's far more common than we want to believe.

But what about the lesser slaveries? Girls who believe their bodies have to look like Victoria's Secret posters in order to be wanted? People who have made so many mistakes they believe there is no road back? Women who are convinced by various conflicting doctrines of their culture that they have to be submissive, aggressive, young, working, stay-at-home, sexually “free,” obedient—anything and everything but what they feel in their God-gifted souls they were created to be. 

We are all slaves of what we choose to listen to. And so many have lost the ability to hear the message God spoke into their souls when He created them.

I'm sure Bathsheba did. The despair she must have felt at the loss of her old life, her husband, and her child must have crushed all belief that her life would ever be her own.

Of course, the message of Christmas is that it isn't. It never was. But when it's given to Christ, it's returned in fuller form that we ever imagined. The baby born under the star gives us birth as well.

Bathsheba is included in the list because she had to muster the ability to begin again. And beginning again is the Christmas specialty. It's what Jesus came to explode into our lives. The chance, the vision, the flat-out non-theoretical capability, to start over. From wherever you are. To have control of your life—just as soon as you turn it over to the only One who wants to set you free.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous Gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sins and enter in,
Be born in us today.”

Be born in us. No matter what our mistakes. Regardless of what has been done to us. Despite any and all circumstances of our past. Be born in us, and let us be born again.

Not a cheesy, televangelist born again. Real, sweat and tears, labor and screaming, born again, away from all the hell of the past and toward the promise of the future.

It's the promise. It's yours. You just have to ask. Because it's Christmas.