Fresh Starts

One of the beautiful things about our walk with God is that every day is a fresh start.  Every day we get to start again.  Every day we get to put the past behind us, and walk anew in God’s grace.

Every day.  Today, it’s a brand stinking new day.  Today you can leave behind the baggage and mistakes of yesterday and the past.  Today, you can be forgiven.

You know how I know?  Listen to what it says today in 1 John 1: 8-9:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Sunrise landscape render retouchesJohn tells us a couple of huge things here.  First, he reminds us if we say that we have no sin, we are wrong.  We all have sin.  Every one of us.  We all make mistakes, we all fall down, we all blow it in some way.

You do, I do, we all do.  It’s just part of the human condition.  No one is perfect.

So, we all bring something to the table that we need to be forgiven of by God.  And then we hear the Good News.  If we confess those sins, we are forgiven.  If we share with God those mistakes, those falls, those things from the past, if we give them to Him, He in exchange, gives us the grace and the forgiveness that souls desire.

And that our souls need.

Today, through Jesus, you can be forgiven.  You can come to know His grace, His mercy, His power, His forgiveness.  It can be a new day today.  It can be a fresh start today.

Seriously.  It can be.  Today can be that day for each of us.

Today, may we know that forgiveness and grace.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

Why?

First, it’s good to be back doing these reflections.  I took a couple of weeks off from them; I was in Nicaragua for a week with our youth on a mission trip, and then last week I was at St. Simons Island in Georgia for the Order of the FLAME Conference.  Took good, busy, and kingdom minded weeks. But it’s good to get back into my routines!

One of the questions that we ask, or are tempted to ask, in life a lot is why?  Why did this happen?  Why did this happen to me?  Why did this happen to them?  Why is this happening?  Why is one of the questions in our lives that pops up all the time.

And that’s ok. We want to know. We want to understand.  It’s a question and a concept that every one of us, everyone, deals with and works with.  Especially when something bad or tragic happens.  We want to be able to make sense of the chaos and confusion and brokenness.  We want it to make sense.

We want to know why?

And we aren’t the only ones. Look today at want happens in John 9: 1-3:

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Start_With_WhyThe disciples saw a man with tragedy in his life.  He was born blind.  And they wanted to make sense of it.  They wanted to understand.  So, the only way (in their mind) this made sense was for him to have do something to cause this, or his parents to have done something to have caused this.  Someone did something to make this happen (in their mind).  That’s the only way that this made sense.

So, they ask, whose fault is it?  Why did this happen?

And notice what Jesus said.  He said this man didn’t do anything neither did his parents.  God is fixing to do something.

I love how Jesus reframed this question.  He said – this thing, it will be for God’s glory.  God is going to use it.  God is going to bring something good out of it.  God is going to make a difference through this. Something will happen that is amazing and beautiful because of this.

Because that’s what God does.  He makes beauty out of the mess.  He brings grace out of the pain.  He brings resurrection out of death.  He brings life.

So today, there may no be an answer to the why.  But there is a point to the problem.  God will bring something good out of the why.  Because that’s what He does.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

52 Weeks (Week 9)

This week as we continue memorizing the last verses of Romans 8, we take a look at Romans 8: 31-32.  As we have mentioned, these last verses of chapter 8 in Romans are so encouraging, some hopeful, just so good.  Listen to what we see here in 31-32:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

66982We see here this reminder.  If God is for us, then who can be against us?  If God is on our side, pulling for us, calling us, leading us, pushing up, then what in the world do we have to fear?

Nothing.

If God is for us, then who can be against us?

No one.

This is how much God loves us.  He loves us so much that He didn’t even spare His son so that we can know life and know life eternal.  So how much more will He be with us and for us in all things?  All things.

Today, no matter who you face, no matter what trials come your way.  No matter what is happening, hear this.

No really.  Listen.  Listen to this.  Know this to be true.  Because it is.  It is really and truly true.

God is for you.  God is on your side.  He is.  He really is.  No matter what happens today, God is for you.  No matter what happens today, God is on your side.

Trust that today.

God is for you.  Don’t lose hope!

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

Be Careful

We all make mistakes.  That’s part of the human experience.  We all mess up.  We all blow it.  We all fail.  That’s what happens.  And because we all fail, we really do all need to hear that word of grace.  Jesus came, suffered, died, and was raised to life again because of God’s great love for us.

We are loved.  No matter what has ever happened, no matter what the sin, no matter what has gone wrong.

We are loved.

You have to drill that truth down into your skull.  You have to let the truth of God’s amazing love for you penetrate your very being.  You are loved.  More than you’ll ever know.

Don’t hold onto your sin and failings, hold onto His love.

Now, that said, there’s something else we need to know.  We need to know the dangers of our sin.  While our sin, through Jesus is forgiven and done away with, we also do not need to treat sin as though it isn’t something that is terrible destructive.

Listen to what it says in Hebrews 3: 12-13:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

be-carefulBe careful that we are not hardened by our sin.  Make sure that our sin continues to convict us.  It is a dangerous, dangerous thing then when we sin and it doesn’t bother us.  Especially if our sin is something that we chose to do.  If it’s something that we KNOW, we have no doubt about, it’s clear as day, is wrong. And it doesn’t bother us.

When we have a hardened heart, we aren’t living the fullness of God’s power and glory. We aren’t seeking His life, His grace, His mercy, His power.  His very life that He desires for us to live.

Today, you are forgiven.  You are.  Live in that grace.

But be careful with sin.  Be careful.  It’s not good.  It is destructive.  It will harm you, your relationships, your life, your everything.  The devil seeks to rob, kill, and destroy.

And one of the things he longs to do is harden our heart.  Don’t let that happen.  Keep your heart soft.  Pray.  Read.  Serve.  Live.  Let God’s grace soften your heart.  Live in grace.  Be careful of sin.

And allow God to continue to change you.  And in that, we truly live.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

Facing a Challenge

Sometimes in life, something happens that we ask ourselves, can I do this?  Am I big enough for this task?  Can I handle this challenge?

We’ve all been there at some point.  We’ve all had something dropped in our laps, something go on that we think to ourselves, I can’t do this.  I just can’t.

So, what do we do when that happens?  How do we handle that challenge?  What are our options?  What do we do?  One of my favorite examples of something like this happening in the Bible is Matthias.  Listen to his story as found in Acts 1: 23-26:

And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

1210_TechTips_ArticleWe don’t know much about him in scripture other than what we just read.  We know he was part of the group that was with Jesus, we know he was faithful, and we know that he was then called to step up into a group that was so very important.

And we know that he did.

So, what do you do when you face that challenge?  I think that verse in the passage is so key – “Lord you know the hearts of al, show us which one of these two you have chosen.”  When that challenge comes, we trust in the one that has called us to that place.

When God has placed your or led you to a place where you think, I just can’t do this, remember that.  God has placed you there.  God has led you there.  It is God that is at work in getting you to that point.  It is God that had called you.

Through Him, by Him, with Him, you can do it.  You can.  If He has led you to that moment.  You can do it.

That challenge me be a new opportunity.  Or it may be a moment of pain.  Or it may be a something that even hurts.  The challenge could be a million different things.  But if God is the one guiding you and holding your hand, He will lead you in that moment.

Trust.  When the challenge looks to great.  When your strength looks too small.  When you are unsure, unsteady, and maybe even unready.  Trust.

God has you there.  And He will not leave you.  He knows your heart.  And He knows what you can do.

Trust.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

52 Weeks (Week 8)

66982Just like we did a few weeks back with Psalm 121, we are going to learn another set of passages.  We are going to, over the next few weeks, learn the concluding verses in Romans 8.  Last week we learned Romans 8:28, this week we will learn Romans 8:29-30.

If you look at Romans, you see Paul spending so much time in Romans 1- 7 explaining our need for Jesus, how everyone that has ever lived needs Jesus.  And when you read it,  you can almost feel a little down because Paul really hammers everyone and their sin and their need for salvation.

And then you get to Romans 8.  Romans 8 may be one of the most graceful, optimistic chapters in the entire Bible.  It starts off the call that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, we are forgiven. And then it just keeps getting better and better and better.

Today we and memorize Romans 8: 29-30:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

In this passage, we see this truth about salvation.  It’s not just about us.  Now of course we have to respond to God’s offer.  We have to respond to God’s gift of live and joy and peace.  We have to move.

But, it doesn’t start with us.  It starts with God.  He is the first actor.  He reaches out to us.  He calls us.  He comes to us.  He moves first.  He acts first.  He says you are mine.

And then it’s up to us to respond.

Today, through Jesus Christ, God has called you.  He had reached out to you.  He desires to know you.

And He calls us to reach back.  He calls us to respond.

Today, as grace is offered to us by God, may we receive that precious gift.  May we respond to God’s action.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

Who We Are

title-who-we-areAs we walk together through this season of Lent, it’s very important for us to remember who we are, and whose we are.  We are the people of God.  That’s our identity, that’s our purpose, that’s our calling.

We have to remember that.  We belong to God.  We are His.

Seriously.  We are His.  And that means this.  We are not our own.  We don’t live our lives the way that we want to live (or at least we shouldn’t), we don’t chase after our purposes, our plans, our goals, our stuff.

We are called to chase after God’s.  That’s where life is found.  In Him, and through Him.

But, why are we God’s people?  Is it because of our perfection, our goodness, our righteousness, our stuff?  Is God lucky to have us on His team?  No, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Listen to what we are told today in Deuteronomy 7: 6-8:

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Today we are told yes – we belong to God.  But we aren’t God’s because of our worth or our might, but we are God’s so that He can show His power through us.  We are God’s because He wants to use us to show His strength.  In the Old Testament, He didn’t choose Israel because they were the greatest.  He chose them because they were the weakest.  And in their weakness, when they were faithful and did great things, that just shows the power of God.

It’s the same for us today.  You aren’t perfect.  You don’t have it all figured out.  You don’t have it all figured out.

And you know what?

That’s ok.

God still wants you.  He still desires you.  He still desires to be in relationship with you.

Not because of you. Because of Him.

Today, you belong to God.  Live for Him.  Live by His strength.  Live in His power.  Live for His purpose.

And if it goes wrong, remember this.  You aren’t His because you are perfect.  You are His because He is perfect.

Rest in that.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

A Holy Lent

imagesToday is Ash Wednesday, the start of the Christian season of Lent. The season of Lent is a time of reflection. This season started this past Wednesday, at Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday starts this time where as a church and as individuals where we reflect our sin, our need for Jesus, and the power that He brings to our lives.

This season began thousands of years ago as new converts to the Christian faith were baptized and became fully part of the church. However, before they were baptized, they had a time of reflection, of prayer, of fasting, of preparation. They were getting themselves ready to make this decision, to take this plunge. But before they did, they made sure that they were ready.

We do the same thing today in this season of Lent. We know that God has called us to great things. And for preparation for that, we need to get ready for that, ready to be faithful. We prepare.

So, with that, a couple of things. First, I would encourage you to fast from something this Lenten season. Fast from a meal, from a food, from an activity, from something.

And second, when you fast, pray. Let this fasting draw your heart and your mind to God. Let it make you pray!

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what Jesus said in Matthew 6: 16-18, and I’m making it my key verse to focus on during Lent this year.  Listen to what Jesus said:

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The thing that is sticking with me is this.  Jesus didn’t say “if you fast.”  He said, “when you fast.”  Jesus, tells us that as Christians, fasting is not options.  It’s like loving.  And serving.  And showing grace.  And forgiving.  It’s what we are supposed to do.

It’s what we are called to do.

Why?  Fasting helps us pray better.  It helps us focus on God.  It helps us to see the desires that control us.  It draws us closer to God.  It causes us to pray.  It gives us wisdom and dependence.  It strengthens us.  It makes us cling to God.

In short, it truly, truly, truly strengthens our faith.

This Lent, I encourage you to fast in some way from something. And see what God does in your life.

Starting today and leading to Easter, I pray you have a Holy Lent.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

#realtalk – Faithful Steps

1013621_10152487549297030_5476837018816387443_nI finished out #realtalk our short series on marriage this past Sunday and I had some folks ask if I would share a brief overview of some of the things that I talked about in that message.  Quickly, I want you to know that I have a great marriage, but it’s by no means perfect.  And the reason it is so strong is because of the grace and strength of my wife, Holly.

Those aren’t just words that I’m “supposed” to say.  I mean it.  She really is the rock of our marriage, and none of this would be possible without here.

Second this is not “7 easy steps to a perfect marriage.”  There are no easy steps.  Marriage is tough and awesome.  There aren’t easy steps.  There are only faithful steps.  If we take some faithful steps, God will do great things.

So, just a few of the quick points I made Sunday.

1.  Submit yourself to Jesus.  It all starts with you and your walk with Jesus.  Everything in life eventually walks itself back to that.  It all goes back to our walk with Jesus.  We will never be the husband or wife you want to be with our Jesus.  We will never be the friend, co-worker, anything without Jesus.  It all starts there.  None of this is possible without Him.

2.  Communicate.  James 1:19 says this:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

We have got to communicate, and that starts with learning to listen.  It’s an old saying, but it’s true.  We’ve been given two ears and one mouth for a reason.  We have to listen.  And by that, I mean really listen.  Part of the problem with communication is that just don’t really hear what the person is saying. So, if you are having problems with communication with your marriage, two suggestions.

A.  Speak concisely.  Say what you mean.  Be honest.  Say exactly what you mean with nothing else there.  Make it simple to understand.

B.  Don’t assume.  When the other person is speaking, don’t assume their meaning.  Don’t assume you know what they mean.  Take them at their word, don’t assume a hidden meaning.  If you aren’t sure what they are saying ask for clarity.  It’s ok.  That’s how you recapture communication.  3.  Schedule yourself

3.  Schedule yourself.  Just like we budget out our money, we must budget out our time.  Work each other into your schedule.  It says in Psalm 90:12:

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

We must make time.  Dave Ramsey talks about knee to knee conversations where you turn off the TV, put the kids to bed, and talk.  You have to build that into your lives and into your schedule. And this is one of the things that I struggle with the most.  I’m a workaholic and would work all day long.  I’ve had to learn to work my family into my schedule.  They matter more than anything.

4.  Remember what you love about each other.  That’s one of the worst things about being in a bad spot in a marriage or a relationship.  We can forget what we loved about each other to begin with.  The Bible talks about remembering our first love.  Sometimes we have to stop and remember what it is that made us fall in love them to begin with.

5.  Serve each other.  That’s the entire point of Ephesians 5: 22-33.  Marriage is not about what you can get out of it, but what you can give to it.  If you are in a bad place with your spouse, do two things.

A.  Pray for them.  You may do it through clenched teeth, but pray.  See if God doesn’t change you heart.

B.  Serve them.  Do something nice for them, desiring nothing in return.  Serve them.  Give to them.  And see if in that action God doesn’t do something.

6.  Serve together.  It says in 1 Peter 4:10

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Each of us is called to serve.  Serve together as a family, as a couple.  Do something for someone, do something for your church, do something for the kingdom. And that will bring you together.  It will.  If you as a husband and wife will serve together in some way, it will strengthen your relationship in amazing ways.

7.  Don’t sacrifice each other for your children.  Your kids are part of your family, but they are not the totality of your family.  I put it like this; the most important lesson I can teach my kids is to love their mother.  The way that I love my wife will determine the type of man that my daughter desires to marry and will determine the type of man that my son will become. The example I set loving my wife will shape my children more than I can ever understand.

If you’d like to hear this most recent message you can click here, or if you’d like to hear the previous week’s message, click here.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

52 Weeks (Week 7)

66982This week in our 52 Weeks, 52 Verses, we get one of my absolute favorite verses in all of Scripture, this is one of those verses that I’ve built my life around.  This is one of those verses that gives you hope, gives you confidence no matter what you are facing.

If this year of memorizing the Bible does anything, it’s for weeks like this and verses like this.  This is one of those that you need to hide close to your heart, and pull out when you need that hope.

Listen to and learn Romans 8:28:

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

All things work together for good for those called according to His purpose.  All things.  Here is the hope that this vese gives me.  All things in life, the bad, as much (maybe even more so) and the good work together for our good, if we are called to God’s purpose.

What does that mean?  First, it means this.  God has a purpose. God has a plan. And while we have free will within that, God is at work, guiding, calling, challenging, pushing, prodding.  God is at work in all things, to bring something good out of it. God has a plan that is bigger than our human choices.

Now, I don’t understand that and am not going to claim to.  But I know it’s true.  God has a plan and a purpose.

And for those of us that love Him, all thing will work according to that plan.

All things.  They will.

So, today, trust.  God is at work in all things, for His purpose.  And for our good.  In all things. He really is.

Memorize this one today. Write it on your heart.  Write it on your soul.  Cling to it.  For all things will work for our good.  And for His purpose.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!