Friday, February 14, 2014

"I Have Failed, Can God Use Me?"

Matthew 26:33-35 (before Jesus was crucified)

26:33 Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
26:34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee that this night, before the cock crows, thou shalt deny me thrice.
26:35 Peter said unto Him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

John 21:14-17 (after Jesus resurrection)
21:14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (Agapeo) thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (Phileo) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
21:16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (Agapeo) thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (Phileo) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
21:17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (Phileo) thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, lovest (Phileo) thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love (Phileo) thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

This passage in John deals with Peter seeing Jesus after He was risen from the dead. Peter was understandably ashamed, as he had boasted prior to Jesus being crucified that he would never deny Jesus, but would die for him, yet when the true life test came, Peter denied knowing Jesus.

Now let’s get some insight into this passage by looking at the Greek words Agapao and Phileo.

For the sake of keeping it simple I’ll go with the following basic definition (someday maybe we’ll do an in-depth study on Agape).

Agapao - An unselfish, unconditional, sacrificial love, and is often referred to as the God kind of love.
Phileo - A friendship, fondness or to have the same interest with another person.

Now let’s look at this passage again with the the Greek meaning to the words LOVE.

21:14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me with an unselfish, unconditional, sacrificial love more than these?" He saith unto him, "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love you as a friend." He saith unto him, "Feed my lambs."
21:16 He saith to him again the second time, "Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me with an unselfish, unconditional, sacrificial love?" And he said unto him, "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love you as a friend." He saith unto him, "Feed my sheep."
21:17 He saith unto him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me as a friend?" And this time Jesus used Peter's word, "phileo." Peter was grieved because Jesus said unto him the third time, do you love me as a friend? It hurt Peter deeply that Jesus had come to his level in essence saying, Peter, you do love me as a friend. And he said unto him, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love you as a friend." Jesus saith unto him, "Feed my sheep."

Note: Some believe, as Bob Deffinbaugh states:
Peter was grieved because Jesus found it necessary to ask virtually the same question three times. I do not like to be asked the same question repeatedly. I conclude that either the person asking the question wasn’t paying attention (this could not be the case with Jesus), or that my answer was not acceptable or credible. The three-fold repetition must have registered with Peter as being related to his three-fold denial. Peter was grieved because he realized that the bold and even arrogant claims he had made proved to be empty. Peter is not distressed with Jesus; he is grieved over his own sin. Jesus is not attempting to shame Peter; he is seeking to reaffirm his call to service

Either or both ways you look at this passage you find one thing for sure, Peter was feeling inadequate for the task of feeding Jesus' sheep. Jesus still told Peter feed my sheep.

Do you feel inadequate for whatever it is that God has called you to do? 
Are you saying Lord, I have failed you, I have acted ashamed of you when I should have stood up for the name of Christ?

Lord, I just don’t feel I love you like I should, and Jesus may very well be saying, do what I have called you to do anyway! Jesus knew what a man of God was in Peter, and Jesus knows what a Servant of God you can be.  Jesus hasn’t changed His purpose for you, so don’t doubt what God may have for you to do. Just like Peter we need to obey the Lord even during the growing process while we are feeling inadequate, not qualified for the task at hand. God says, "Feed my Sheep."

So take this as an encouragement to obey whatever the Lord is calling you to do.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"We Are ALL On A Mission From God"

BibleFood "classic" Devotional [slightly updated] 



"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and YE SHALL BE WITNESSES unto ME both in JERUSALEM, and in all JUDAEA, and in SAMARIA, and unto the UTTERMOST PART OF THE EARTH." - Acts 1:8 



Over the years I have ministered to the lost and hurting through various means. Some periods in my life were more full of sharing Christ, other times just seemed as dry as could be.  I have cried out to God to help me get back to sharing the Gospel with the lost and hurting more.


I believe God led me into a form of evangelism that I had not used often enough or effectively in the past. That is what I'll call "Lifestyle Evangelism." What I mean by that [which is different than some people's definition] is that we don't just share Christ on our weekly "witnessing outreach," where maybe every Friday night we flood the streets and pass out tracts, or every Saturday we go door to door witnessing, etc. [don't even see this much anymore in 2014]. In NO way are we not to do those things if God has put us in such an outreach, but don't think that's your only time to witness. There are still all the other days of the week to witness for God. We are truly ALL on a mission from God to be available 24 hours a day to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I don't consider myself an evangelist - I really don't. But I do believe I am on a mission from God to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. About 10 years ago I took a job that was not easy for me. ALL I would hear in my heart was "You are a missionary to your fellow employees." As long as I kept my focus on that I was fine, but when I started to just think of my job as a job, that is when I ran into problems (just being honest)!  Also, the LORD was moving me on to a new mission field [billiard industry, see my site at: www.christianpoolplayers.com], which involved what I consider a mission trip to work with a billiards/pool ministry (www.gospeltrickshot.com). It was a glorious time of taking an INTEREST in the lost and hurting people around me, and it was a great time of ministry. But that was only for a week! So, did I come home and just stop sharing about the lost and hurting? Absolutely not! I was called on a mission from God BEFORE I went to Las Vegas, while I was there, and now back in my homeland (Atlanta, Georgia)! THE MISSION STAYS THE SAME!!!

Acts 1:8 says, "...YE SHALL BE WITNESSES unto ME both in JERUSALEM, and in all JUDAEA, and in SAMARIA, and unto the UTTERMOST PART OF THE EARTH."

We are to be God's WITNESS of the Good News of Jesus Christ in our Jerusalem, then in whatever may be our Judaea, and our Samaria, and then to end all debates, God says, "...UNTO THE UTTERMOST PART OF THE EARTH." I guess that leaves NO place for us to not be His witnesses!!! Does that mean we have to run up to everyone we meet and ask them do they know Jesus?  Personally, I don't think so. But let me tell you when you look at EVERY place you go as your MISSION FIELD, i.e., your job, going to the grocery store, coaching kids in sports, filling up the car at the gas station, and where ever else your day brings you - I'll tell you it's exciting. Do I share Christ everywhere I go? No! But I try to stay alert to God opening a door to minister with Christ to someone. I believe the more alert we are in Christ and available. the more opportunities the LORD will put us in. I'm sure I have missed many opportunities to share Christ, but Praise God I'm learning to be alert and available as His minister (servant) on a 24/7 basis.

This devotion is NOT to get you into a guilt trip or bondage. I've known some who would try to put you in that state. Just be available to God 24/7 and believe for opportunities. I'm telling you they'll happen!!!

I also want to close with what I'll call "Friendship Evangelism," which is what God has used me most often in for the last year or so. Without EVER compromising, I have built relationships with family, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers to give me opportunity to sow seeds (big or small) into people's lives over a period of time. In Las Vegas it was over a few days or a week. Here in Atlanta, GA, and on the Internet (in some cases) it is brief, and in other cases it has been over a year or more. But they are being built, and in God's timetable He will open opportunities to share Christ with them more and more. In some cases they will be even coming to YOU to have you tell them more about Jesus. This is NOT loving the WORLD (I John 2:15-17). But loving THOSE IN THE WORLD, until we see them come from this dark world to being a citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20).

Take this devotion as an encouragement, and allow God to open the opportunities, just be alert and available :-)

God's Pruning Process!

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1, 2


As we look into the pruning process I must share my wife's pruning ability. When I first saw the pruning work of my wife, Joyce, I thought she killed the plant or at least stunted its growth forever.  Boy, was I wrong! It grew back and looked great!  Now, if my wife does a heavy duty pruning I trust her, as I have seen that her pruning is helping the plant.  Also, after my wife first prunes a plant it is rather ugly, but given time it turns beautiful. 

Most of you know that trees need pruning in order to grow properly and bear fruit. Pruning involves cutting off the dead branches and cutting back the living branches, both to shape the tree or vine and to stimulate growth.  So much more with our heavenly Father, as He is the perfect pruner, when He prunes us we know that He knows what He's doing and the end result is you will be more beautiful in God's vineyard. According to this verse, pruning sounds to me like a painful process! However, as painful as it can be to go through this “process,” it is necessary and worthwhile. Think about it, the branch that bears NO FRUIT is history, but it is the fruit bearing branch that he PRUNES so that it will bear MORE FRUIT.  As Christians you are pruned NOT because you have no fruit, but so you'll have even more.


Here’s why:
1. God's pruning is to get rid of stuff in our life that is not healthy.
Often we allow sin (always wrong and bad) or even weights (not necessarily bad/sin, but not beneficial, something that holds us back) into our lives, and it hinders us from bearing fruit or much fruit. 
Heb. 12:11 states: " For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
Heb. 12:1 states: "...let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..."


2. God’s pruning redirects our spiritual growth.
Each branch that is cut stops the plant's growth in one direction and redirects it in another. Sometimes God shuts a door in one area because He wants to refocus our efforts, energy and gifting in another – often one where He knows we’ll be more effective. If we exist to bring God glory and build His kingdom, it’s not so much about where I want to go and what I want to do, but where He can use me the most.

3. God’s pruning improves the quantity and quality of fruit in our lives.
Pruning at the right time and in the right place can actually increase the number of shoots produced by a plant, thus, increasing its yield. A temporary decrease in an area of your life will actually bring the increase! Don’t give up on the vision God has given you, but press on. Your breakthrough could be right around the next corner.

Jesus desires for us to bear fruit for him, we start with fruit, then MORE fruit and then MUCH fruit.  
I like what I have heard stated that we find ourselves in one of three states right now.

Either we are:
1. Being pruned
2. Healing/recovering after being pruned or
3. We are in full bloom.
(But don’t get too excited if you are in full bloom, because you are about to be pruned again.)

If you are a Christian, you are going to be pruned. Count on it. None of us are immune to it. You may not be in the pruning process right now…you may be in full bloom, enjoying a relatively easy life. Praise God! Enjoy it! But don’t get too comfortable…the scissors are going to come your way again!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review of "Future Grace, The Purifying Power of the Promises of God"


The whole book has many great, encouraging words. A quote from Piper about the purpose of this book is found on page 115, "I am writing this book – if by any means I might come into the deeper experience of living by faith in future grace, and take as many people with me as I can."

Another thing I like in this book, as well as others by Piper, is his transparency when he shares about his life and often his struggles (and then his victories) with getting a hold of wonderful truths and promises in God's Word (Bible).

While I love John Pipers teaching, I have many of his books and have listened to multiple sermons by him, my only problem is I find his large books (like this one with 400 pages) have a lot of repetition in them, which to a certain extent is good.  Repetition does help a point to sink in, but still a little too repetitious in my opinion.  The most incredible book I ever read by John Piper was "Finally Alive" with only 208 pages, but it was incredible. 

At over 400 pages, "Future Grace" is one of his larger volumes, and while there is a lot of repetition, he really hits on a lot of aspects of grace. In the process, he also covers a lot about faith and taking hold of the promises of God.  He even deals with the sin of doubt in a very effective way. 

This book should encourage you in many aspects of your Christian walk and taking God at His word. If He made a promise to you in scripture, it is a DONE deal in future grace.  God's yes promises are yes, and we need to believe and take hold of them with all of our hearts.  As you read this book, it may show you that you have not been taking hold of all the promises God has for you by Future Grace. 

This is a good book whether you read it quickly or take your time.  I believe by the time you read the last page (if not way before the last page), you will be able to say this booked enriched my life and it was worth the read.  

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Review of "Humble Orthodoxy" a very good short book.



Review of "Humble Orthodoxy"


Before I get into my review let me encourage you get this book!  It is so needed by Christians today.

My first thought in readying the title almost scared me away from this book, just because seeing the word "orthodoxy" personally brings negative, overly traditional connotations to my mind.   But then seeing "humble" in front of it got my curiosity, plus I respect Joshua Harris as a Christian author and pastor.   I'm happy to have read this small book (61 short pages plus an added beneficial study guide). If you're a Pharisee in heart you really need this book, but likely won't want to read it.  As stated in his forward to the book, "Pharisaism is a poisonous weed that grows in every garden of orthodox religion."

In this book the author, Joshua Harris, does not down play the importance of Biblical truth, but stresses the importance of having the right spirit about these Bible truths.  The way in which Joshua uses "orthodoxy" is "...right thinking about God.  It's about teaching and belief based on the established, proven, cherished truths of the faith."  I like that definition of "orthodoxy."  As he expresses "humble orthodoxy" he says, "We must care about truth, and we must also defend and share this truth with compassion and humility."  He says, "We don't get to choose between humility and orthodoxy. We need both."

He brings balance to the whole subject of "biblical truth" and "humility." We so often get in the ditch of all Bible teaching (doctrine) and not an ounce of love and humility, or we get in the opposite ditch of all love, love, love and no concern or priority put on Biblical truth (orthodoxy). As I stated earlier (and worth repeating), I so love how Joshua says we need Biblical truth (orthodoxy) and humility, it's not either or, but both!  

As you prayerfully read this book, hopefully, you will see the need for both and that they don't have to be viewed as oxymoron's, but can flow together.

In one to two short readings you will have read this short book. Even if you do this book as a group, it is basically only going to be 4 sessions (utilizing the study guide in the back of the book).  When you are finished you will have a lot to think about and pray about.

None of us has a right to be proud of the truth we do understand, even that knowledge is all by God's grace!  And none of us has the right to dismiss/compromise the truth in the name of love or humility. 

As Joshua says, "We can demonstrate a humble orthodoxy, holding on to our identity in the gospel.  We are not those who are right; we are those who are redeemed".   

To that I simply say, "AMEN!"



I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: "Simply Jesus"



 
Simply Jesus by Joe Stowell

"Simply Jesus" is a book on really experiencing Jesus in your life. That is not hard to do, as I believe this book shows.

This is a short book and easy read with only 62 pages, but definitely worth the read.  Many authors would have made this a 200+ page book with lots of drawn out repetition.  I like that this book said what was needed to be said on this subject and did it in 62 pages.  He enhances the book by telling some stories which is a good thing.  He also makes it clear that this is a 24/7 lifestyle, and you won't experience Jesus in the way he talks about unless you give your heart to the Lord 24/7.  He also shares how it is God working in us (grace) and not about our doing good works.  Fruit will always be the result of a life in communion with Jesus (see The Gospel of John chapter 15 and Matthew 7:17 & 18).

In this short 9-chapter book you will find a wealth of good information on knowing Jesus intimately mostly based on the truth found in Phil. 3:7-11.

This book is NOT to short and does NOT need to be longer, it is just the right length to get those wonderful truths into our hearts.

The only negative would be the use of too many versions of the Bible and some weak paraphrases. 

I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Divine Appointments



 
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD
and he delighteth in his way. - Psalm 37:23
(This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible)

"Our Steps are Ordered by the LORD" or "Divine Appointments" wherein God places us in situations for our benefit and/or the benefit of others.

As Oswald Chambers (Author of "My Utmost for His Highest) put it, "God is the Great Engineer, creating circumstances to bring about moments in our lives of divine importance, leading us to divine appointments."


Remember, Jesus at the well ministering to a woman who had been married many times
(See John 4:5-42). This is a good example of a "Divine Appointments ."

Another good example of this is found with Philip joining the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch who just happened to be reading
Isaiah 53:7, 8 and didn't understand it. Think about it, at EXACTLY that moment Philip shows up by the LORD's leading and explains the passage in Isaiah to him and thus about Christ (see Acts 8:26-39).

I know a minister who always seems to be running into opportunities to minister to others – because he is expectant and available. Personally, I know that when I'm expecting and available, God uses me and it seems like I have many more of these divine appointments.

What I want to deal with in this short devotion is that there are many opportunities that are orchestrated by God for us to minister in some way to others, but some-times we are not willing, or we are not paying attention, or we are not looking and expecting these opportunities - these "Divine Appointments." 


An example of this happened to a friend of mine and myself on a trip we took together a few years ago.  He is a pro pool (billiards) player, and I run a pool/billiards ministry nationwide (www.christianpoolplayers.com). He picked me up in Atlanta, GA (my home at the time), and we drove to the event in Valley Forge, PA (approx. 800 miles).  This event was a pro event and also a pool expo with lots of people.  I ministered to individuals at the event (primarily amateur players), and my friend played in the pro event and ministered to people, too.  When the event ends we head back for Atlanta, GA. About a few hours into our trip (approximately 2:30 in the morning) we both find we need a bathroom break (God ordained as you'll see).  So we stop and go to the men's room. On the way out we both briefly share how the young girl running the store has been put on both of our hearts and that we are to share Jesus with her.  Long story short, we both end up telling her God sent us there to tell her "Jesus love you".  She opened her heart and shared how her family are born again and that her brother is a minister.  We didn't really get any more details than that, but I'm sure her family was praying for her, and unknown to us, God was going to use us to let her know that God knows her and cares about her.  All I can say is it was an awesome experience.

Now, I want to encourage you in your everyday life to ask God to help you to not miss His hand moving in so many of your life situations. Tell God you are AVAILABLE to be used by Him in this way.  I PROMISE you that as you seek His face with a pure heart, and as you ask Him to use you, He will give you many opportunities. What a blessing it is when you see God line you up with people! There will be other occasions God will move, and you didn't see it, but eternity will reveal it – Hallelujah!  

As I said previously, I know a minister who constantly has stories to tell about God using him. He is not bragging on himself, he is just sharing. It is because he is available, and he is expecting God to use him.


No matter what I'm doing or where I go, I ask God to use me with the people I meet everyday, to make "My Steps to be Ordered by the LORD."

May this devotion encourage you that God's many divine appointments out there for all of us if we would just believe Him and be willing, ready vessels.

The Bible says in
2 Timothy 4:2 "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season." Also, in I Peter 3:15 "...be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you." This is what we should be doing. We should always be ready; we should always be looking for opportunities, and if you are a vessel like that, God will use you.

I believe this is a great lesson for all of us. If we all start looking for those "Divine Appointments."

If we all start being AVAILABLE to be used of the LORD, we will see things happen that we would have never expected to see happen previously.


If we were to multiply that by the MANY in the Body of Christ, what
a change that would make in the world we live in! Thank you, Jesus.
Jim