God’s Plan for You

plansEver feel like your life doesn’t have a plan?  Like you are drifting with no purpose or even reason for being around?  I know that we can all feel that way sometimes.  We can be in a place, at a point, where just aren’t sure what it is that we are to do, we can be unsure of even God’s plans for us.

And that feeling can gnaw at us.  It can make us question ourselves, our worth, our ideas, our dreams, everything.  It can make everything seem wrong, it can make everything seem pointless.

It can make us seem like there is no reason for any of this.

When we feel like that, let’s not live just where we feel.  Let’s take those feelings and compare them to what God’s Word says.  Listen to what we are told today in Isaiah 49: 1-3:

Listen to me, O coastlands,
and give attention, you peoples from afar.
The Lord called me from the womb,
from the body of my mother he named my name.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow;
in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

God tells Isaiah – before you were born, I knew you.  Before you were born, while you were still in the womb, I call you.  You have a purpose.  You have a cause.  You have a reason.

You do.  Now, the specifics of your life, I don’t know.  I’m not sure of that.  But I know God’s plan for you.  I really do.  I am 100% certain of God’s plan for you.

Want to know?  It’s right there in verse 3.  You are God’s servant.  And He will receive glory through you.  That’s God’s plan for you.  That’s your purpose.  That’s your reason for existing.

To bring glory to God.  Now how does this happen?  By living the way that God would want.

And what does that look like?  Jesus tells us – to love God and love our neighbor with all that we.  That’s the entire point of it all. That’s what you are here for.  That’s what I am here for.  All of us.  To love God and love our neighbor.  That’s your purpose.  That’s God’s plan.

Now the specifics, I don’t know. But you know how you’ll find out?  Live out your purpose.  Love God.  Love your neighbor. And God will show you the specifics.

God has amazing things in store for you today and through your life.  Amazing.  He has a plan for you.  May we be faithful to the plan that He has shown us.  And in doing that, may He shows us the specifics of our life!

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 4)

66982Here at Asbury, we are in the midst of our 52 Weeks, 52 Verses.  In 2015 we are going to be learning a different verse of the Bible each week, and over the course of the year, together we will come to a deeper and fuller understand of God’s word.

As we take time to memorize it, God’s Word becomes a deeper part of our heart and we are able to call upon it in times of need.  It just becomes part of faith; part of us.

This week we are learning the next portion of Psalm 121.  This week we learn Psalm 121:3-4:

3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

In the Bible times, the night was a scary time.  It was a time of fear, a time when bad things happen, when robbers were out when dangerous animals were on the prowl.  There were many Christian prayers that we have from these times which have the sole purpose of thanking God for surviving the night.

So with the night being so scary, how comforting is it to hear the words of this Psalm.  The Lord neither slumbers nor sleeps.  He is awake.  He is aware.

He is protecting you.

He is with you.

So, sleep easy.  Because God is with you.  Don’t be afraid.  The Lord neither slumbers nor sleeps.  He is present and He is watching.

Have no fear.

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!

Heading Towards Burnout

I love preaching.  I really do.  I remember where I was when God first starting stirring up my soul to preach (Camp Wesley Pines) and I remember where I was when I accepted that call (Gulfshore Baptist Assembly).  There were times in ministry thus far when I wished God have released me, but He wouldn’t.  God has confirmed over and again to me His calling.

That said, 2014 was a tough year for me in many ways.  Now God did some great things in our church last year, we have had a several good years of stable, consistent growth, and we are seeing Asbury really begin to blossom and grow within our community and world.  Ministries are being established; individuals are growing, children, youth, and adults are being baptized, the Word is going forth.  God has been good.

But, last year was a tough year for me personally.  I had some issues from my past creep up.  Many of you may be familiar with my story of my biological mother being murdered when I was two years old and being raised by my grandparents.  My biological father (the man who murdered my mother) contacted me this past year.  This was the first time I’ve heard from him in my adult life.  I have spent so much of my ministry teaching and trying to model forgiveness and grace. I thought I had forgiven him.  But when he contacted me, that challenged so many things in my life, in my heart, in my soul.

I had to battle with a real hatred in my soul, that I wasn’t sure I could contain.  I’m better now than I was last year. But I’m still working on it.

So, that put me in a tough frame of mind going into the year.

And I always knew that the growth of Asbury would eventually outpace our resources and infrastructure.  Last year it happened.  I also, being a perfectionist, like to have my fingers in everything.  And as much as we’ve grown, as much as we do, I became totally overwhelmed by that.

I also struggled with how to communicate effectively with staff.  I so don’t want to be a dictator pastor, I welcome differences of opinions and conversation.  But, sometimes I would leave people on an island by not communicating well.  Then I would not be happy when things weren’t done as I would do them or when balls would get dropped.  But the bed of frustration I was sleeping in was a bed that I had made.

And in my arrogance and pride, I often feel like folks aren’t as dedicated to the church as I am.  I felt a sense or resentment beginning to build up in me with my staff and my church.

I also took on too many teaching and preaching tasks.  Towards the end of last year, I was teaching two 3-hour Disciple Bible studies on Sunday and Monday, a Tuesday morning small group, a Wednesday night Bible study, as well as preaching twice on Sunday’s.  As well as other community involvement, and being active in the district and state church.

Oh and I was the tech guy for the church as well. As well as doing the pastoral care and tending to the infrastructure of the church.

An unlit and burnt matches in a rowIn short, by the end of 2014, I was completely and totally exhausted.  My health was a mess.  I was withdrawing from my wife and children, I was coming home from church and just going to bed.  I found myself withdrawing from other friends as well.

I was also a terrible leader towards my church and my staff.  The best way I can describe it is the more exhausted I became, the more I focused on the small things I felt as though I had control over.  So, I became consumed with the small things.  And I became so focused on moving the chairs around the deck that I was unable to steer the ship

In short, I was heading towards burnout.  Heading fast.

And I didn’t want to see that happen.  So, I made a promise to myself to change in 2015.  I have no control over others.  But I do over myself.  So, I made the decision to change this year.

My wife reminds me all the time that I’m not the Holy Spirit.  It’s not my job to change or fix others.  That’s God’s. And see, here’s the thing.  Each of these issues, the issue is with me.  Not others.  Not my church.  Not my staff.  Not anyone.  Me.  The issues are mine and mine alone.  And I’ve got to work on fixing me.

What am I doing different this year?

The first thing I’m doing is I have come to realize, after many years of trying, that I just can’t do it all. I just can’t.  My first move is to start letting go of some things.  How?  Two ways  – first, I am empowering our staff and committees to do their jobs.  By not doing that, I overwhelmed me and didn’t allow them to serve in the way that God wants. Second, I am working more clarity of communication of expectations.  I’ve got to better let folks know what needs to be done.

Second, I realized I don’t need know all the small details.  I don’t have to know every last detail of every last thing going on in the church.  I don’t.  That bogged me down.   Someone should know, but not me

ThirdI am working seeing the big picture.  I like to talk about how one of the best ways to understand scripture is to not get bogged down in all the details.  We need to look at the big picture. That’s what happened to me. I’m not going to let that happen again.  I’m doing my best to keep my eye on the big picture.

Fourth – I am exercising and trying to eat better.  I know everyone says it.  I know.  But you know what I’ve found out this year?  It actually works.  I have more energy now than I did when I was drinking Death Ader energy drinks.

And lastI am working on staying positive.  When I get tired and stressed, I get very negative.  I never see the good.  Only what’s wrong.  That’s not helpful to me, to my family, to my church.  I’ve got to take care of myself and stay positive. That’s the only way I can lead.  How am I doing that?

This is most important.  I am not forgetting to tend to my soul.  I can’t shepherd others if I am letting my heart be tended to by the Good Shepherd.

Thus far, 22 days in 2015, I feel the best I’ve felt in years.  My desire to keep this going so I can be as faithful to God, and love my family, as much as I can be!

Focus on What Counts

Be careful what you wish far.  What you wish for may look good.  May look great.  But, it can be dangerous.   We need to always examine ourselves for what it is that we desire, and just what we are willing to do to get that.

Listen to what Jesus says today in Luke 9:23-25

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

relationshipJesus tells us this – what is it worth to have the entire world, to have everything you could want, everything you could dream of, if you lose your soul.  If you lose yourself.  What is that worth?

Is there anything on the earth that you can think of that would be worth having, if it would cost soul?  It may be tempting to say, sure yes, this thing.  Sure that’d be great.

And then you gain it.  You can gain it all.  Wealth, power, status, fame, everything.  But if you lose yourself.  If lose your faith, your family, your relationships, your friends, your life, what is that thing worth?

Nothing.

Life is not made up of the stuff that we think we desire.  Life is made up of those relationships.  With God.  With others.  And yes, even with ourselves.  These relationships, they define us. They give us life. They give us purpose.  They really define for us what it means to live.

Don’t loose that today. Focus on what counts.  Focus on what matters. Focus on what is truly life.  Not “the world” not the things that you think you could desire to make you happen.

Not thing things of this world.

Relationships.  With God.  With others. That’s what counts.  That’s living. That’s purpose.  That’s what it’s all about.

Today, and each day, focus on what counts.  Don’t gain the world but lose your soul.  Because if you were to do that, you really aren’t even living.

Today, let’s live.  Let’s focus on what counts.

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!

Detours

detour-signEver had life all planned out?  Knew what you were going to do?  Had a schedule, had an agenda, had it all figured out?

And something happened that blew all of that out the water?

Ever had to take a major detour?  Yeah, most of all of us have at some point in our life.  That’s part of life.  Something that happens all the time.  It’s part of our human experience, something that we each go through.

It’s even something that Joseph and Mary went through.  There were some very unexpected detours that they had to take in Jesus’ early life.  Listen to what happens today in Matthew 2: 13-15:

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

We see that they were in Bethlehem, but they they had to flee to Egypt to escape Herrod.  We don’t really think about this, the chaos this would have caused to Joseph and Mary.  Joseph had a job waiting for him back home. They had a life planned out.  They were going to be faithful, they were going to follow God, but they knew what life would be about.

And now this.  Now they have to run away to Egypt. They were being faithful. They were doing it right. And life still made a detour.

Why?  Because God had a plan.  He was going to call Jesus back out of Ebphy, just as He called the Israelites out of Egypt.  God had an amazing plan for Jesus in this.

What may have looked like a detour to Joseph and Mary was part of God’s divine plan for Jesus.

Today, the detour you face may not be that.  It very well may be part of God’s divine plan for you.

You just have to trust.  God has a plan.  He knows what He is doing.  Even if we don’t know what He is doing.

These detours, they aren’t that.  They are something greater, something bigger.

Today, trust.  God will use your detours in amazing ways.  Ways you can’t even imagine.

Today, may we trust in the detours of our life.

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 Three)

66982At Asbury this year, we are taking part our in 52 Weeks, 52 Verses challenge. Each week of the year, we are memorizing a different Bible verse. As we learn the Bible together as a church this year, I know, we know that God will bring us closer to Himself and show us more and more of who He is.

I heard a preacher say recently, if we don’t know God’s known will (the Bible) then we will never know His unknown will. If we want to know what God wants for us, calls us to, we need to listen and learn His word!

The passage for this week is the first of three weeks that we will spend memorizing Psalm 121. This week is verses 1-2:

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

This is a Psalm that the people would sing as they went up to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is on the top of a mountain, so no matter where you came from, north or south, you when “up” to Jerusalem.

So, we lift up our eyes to the hills, from where our help comes. Up the hills reminds of God, because God was associated with the temple and Jerusalem.

And our help comes from God, who made heaven and earth.

We look up. And looking up, we are reminded that God is our help. God is our savior. God is our strength. God is our hope.

Today, look up. Look up. Your help comes from God. The maker of Heaven and Earth.

Look up. And you will find your help in God, no matter where you are!

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!

The Greatest Gift

Today I was reading a passage that we have heard many times, a passage that we’ve probably all heard a lot of sermons about.

It’s the story of the man that’s paralyzed and his friends bring him to Jesus. It’s a great story. I read it as found in Mark 2: 1-12. There are so many things that I like about the story. The way that the friends are willing to do anything to get their friend to Jesus.

How Jesus heals the friend and impressed with their faith.

His response to the Paraphrases and religions leaders.

But today, something jumped out at me that I didn’t notice before. Look at what happens in the end of this story in verses 8-12:

And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic — “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

16ordinarioB7What is the greatest gift this man gets? His healing? Well if you look at the text, the healing isn’t there for its own sake, but it’s there to show and prove that the greater gift was given.

The greatest gift Jesus gave this man wasn’t His healing. It was that Jesus forgave His sin. That’s the greatest gift that Jesus gave to this man, He forgave him for all that he had ever done.

That was Jesus greatest gift to this man.

And that’s Jesus’ greatest gift to us. Forgiveness. He has forgiven you. In spite of everything that you’ve done, you are doing, you will do, if you repent and confess, you are forgiven.

That’s the greatest thing ever. That’s where true healing begins. True healing in our lives, in our families, in our relationships, in our families, in even ourselves, that’s where it begins. With forgiveness.

With God forgiving us. And our realization that God has forgiven us.

And then we forgive others.

Today, in Christ and through Christ, you are forgiven.

That’s the gift He wants to give you today.

Will you accept it?

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!

It All Comes Down to Grace

Ok, today’s reading is one of those passages that you need to get. Really, this is one of those readings that is just key. Understanding this is so important to your faith, to your life, to your view of God, your view of yourself, everything, everything, everything.

Listen to what it says in Ephesians 2: 8-10:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

grace-2Dr. Barry Bryant was one of my main professors in seminary. And Dr. Bryant used to always tell us this – “You tell me what you think about grace, and I can tell you what you think about everything else.”

Grace is so key to faith. It is so key to understanding God, us, our calling, our salvation, our Christian walk. Everything.

Look at what it says today. We are saved by grace. Not by works. So no man can boast. We are not saved by anything that we can do.

Seriously. You need to understand that. You aren’t saved by your actions. You don’t have to “do” anything. “Doing” something isn’t the key, isn’t the point.

If there was something that you can “do” to save yourself, Jesus came for nothing. It’s all on Him. All on Him. All on Him.

Not your actions. Your faithfulness. None of this. It’s all grace.

We are saved by grace through faith. You have to understand that.

But then, look what it says. We are created for good works. Wait, what? We aren’t saved by works, yet, we are created for them?

Yep. You were created; you were made for a relationship with God. That relationship starts with grace. You are saved by grace.

And then, once we come to saving (or justifying) grace, grace doesn’t end there. Grace isn’t just God’s mercy of salvation towards us. Grace is the empowerment of salvation.

So, we are saved by grace (not by works) but when we come to faith that same grace that saves us then compels us to be faithful. To chase after God. To know Him. Serve Him. Follow Him. We must. We have to.

Grace demands it! We need to understand that, as well!

We are not saved by works, but we are created for works.

We are saved by His grace and saved for His work. All by His grace.

His grace saves us.

His grace calls us.

His grace empowers us to work.

Grace.

You tell me what you think about grace, and I can tell you what you think about everything else. Grace. It all comes down to 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!

Open Our Eyes

open_your_eyes_34636f84-d665-4e78-bbe2-cdcb6310e2f3Sometimes we need to have God open our eyes. We can miss so many amazing things. We can miss the beauty of creation. We can miss the simple joys of life. We can miss the things that God wants to show us, the things that God wants us to see.

We can miss His truth. We can miss the things that in life that are true. Things that are good. Things that are pure. Things that are noble.

We can miss the things, the real things, which we need to see.

Now, I don’t think we miss these things because we want to miss them. We miss them because we are busy. Or we aren’t looking for them. Or our attention is elsewhere.

We just don’t see.

Today we need to pray for our God to open our eyes. Open our eyes to see what is really real. Open our eyes to what we see in Ephesians 1: 16-20:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

We need to have our eyes opened (or I like how it says here, the eyes of our hearts enlightened) to know the hope that we’ve been called to. The riches of our inheritance. The greatness of His power to us.

We have so much power at our disposal. We have so much strength on our hands. We have so much that we can do. We have the very God of all of heaven on our side, working with us; working for us, calling us.

We have hope in every situation. We can believe, no matter how dark it is. We can have peace, no matter how bad it may seem. We can live, even when we don’t know how.

We have all these things. All of them.

Not through our power or might. But through Jesus. Through His power. His might. His strength. His grace.

Through Him.

It’s there. We just have to open our eyes to see it.

Today, may He open our eyes. May we see what we can do; what we can be, all through Him.

Today, may we see things, as they really are. May we see.

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 Two)

66982In Week Two of our 52 Weeks, 52 Verses, our verse for this week is Matthew 9:13. This is on of those verses that can really change the way that we look at God, ourselves, and other people. Take time this week to think about it, pray about it, and listen to what God wants to say to you through this verse.

Listen to what it says:

Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Two things pop out to me when I read this passage.

First God says that He desires mercy, not sacrifice. That’s what God wants from us in our dealings with others. Mercy. This week, as we memorize this verse, will we make an effort to show mercy?

Mercy is something that is not deserved. We are merciful to folks that don’t deserve it, that may not even want to be merciful to. God shows us mercy, undeserved.

Let’s show that same mercy to someone this week.

Second, Jesus said I came for sinners. Jesus came to help the weak, the sick, the sore. When you feel like God can’t love you because of what you’ve done, remember this.

It was you He came to save.

This week, as we memorize this verse, let’s think about these things.

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!