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Inspiring Generations

Beyond Near

April 28, 2015

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”(Psalms 139:7-9)

On my wall in my office, is a one hundred-year-old clock. It does not tell time for it must be hand-wound with a key and the chime every fifteen minutes would drive me nuts. It is treasured because it belonged to my grandparents. In one sense it keeps them close though they have gone to heaven years ago. The clock has two pictures–one of a lighthouse and one of a clipper ship sails full on the open sea. They are a reminder to me of my journey with Christ. Psalms 139 affirms that there is no place I can escape the Lord’s presence. Whether I am in a safe secure harbor led there by his light or freed to the open unpredictable sea with his wind in my sails, I can be assured of His presence with me. Like the sea our lives ebb and flow  to a rhythm unseen. God’s presence remains the constant in the ever-changing landscape of our lives.

In our lives there is great comfort  in knowing that the incredible creative designer of the universe desires to dwell by His Spirit in us. He is so far beyond us in knowledge, wisdom, power, and so many other ways yet he chooses to be intimately known by us. He is beyond us yet so near. The lighthouse reminds me that when life’s storms rage He is there to guide me to a place of safety. When life envelops me in a fog of uncertainty His light pierces my darkness. When I or those I love lose their way He will show us the way home to Him. The clipper ship reminds me that when I allow Him to fill my sails with His Spirit no distance or task he calls me to is beyond my reach. No call to faith is beyond His enablement. No launch into the unknown is beyond His capacity to carry me to His desired destination. In other words God is all I need for this life and the next.

Personal Application: In what ways has the knowledge of God’s presence altered decisions you have made? List them and then thank Him for the impact of His presence.

Home Application: Share ways God’s presence has comforted you or inspired you to acts of faith.

How does God’s presence with you change how you view your life right now?

Devotional written by Chuck Davis

Servant/Leader?

April 27, 2015

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.”(2 Corinthians 4:1)

What does a servant/leader look like? As a servant/leader there arise three temptations as described in 2 Corinthians 4:1-7.  The first temptation is to be self-sufficient. This attitude short-circuits dependence on the Lord. God’s mercy is the source from which our ministry flows. Instead of being self-assured we need to be open and vulnerable. The second temptation is to be spectacular…a celebrity mentality. Paul declares that this attitude needs to be renounced like Jesus. Henri Nouwen notes, “Jesus refused to be a stunt man…He did not come to walk on hot coals, swallow fire or put his hand in the lion’s mouth to demonstrate he had something worthwhile to say.” The third temptation is to be powerful..in charge. Paul’s comment is awesome: “we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” As Chuck Swindoll has stated, “To lead is appropriate, necessary, and good. But to push, to manipulate, to be in full control…never! Servant’s do not compete, grandstand, polish their image, or grab the limelight. They know their job, they admit their limitations, they do what they do quietly and consistently.”

When I think of servant/leaders who have blessed me in ministry and set the pattern for the ministry the Lord has given me, my thoughts do not go to the leaders of the church who bear the title of pastor. Instead I go to the faithful teachers of God’s word, those who visit the homebound, those who are the administrative assistants, and those who diligently pray for those who struggle. A long list of faithful servants of God content to use their gifts for the sake of God’s people. May their tribe increase. Be the servant/leader God has called you to be in whatever way he has gifted you. Thank you for serving well. Thank you for “ not losing heart.”

Personal Application: As a servant/leader what temptations do you face? What can you learn from observing those faithful servants of Christ in your sphere of influence?

Home Application: Discuss the ways you serve each other. How does the way you serve encourage others to honor Christ in their service?

What ways are you influencing others through you servant/leadership?

Devotional written by Chuck Davis

God’s Psychiatrist

April 24, 2015

“Who has known the mind of the Lord ? Or who has been His counselor?” (Romans 11:33)

Have you ever sought to give God advice as to what His next steps should be? Perhaps you’ve thought– I know you may have a plan but Lord I think I have some inside scoop on what is going on that perhaps you could benefit from. As silly as such thoughts may be there are a myriad ways we seek to give advice. We may simply ignore His advice, challenge his advice, or offer what we think He should do in a given situation. One of the marvels of  the character of the Lord is that His ways are past are our understanding. Isaiah 55:8-9 declares, “..my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” James 1:5 invites us by saying, “If any of you lacks wisdom  he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault , and it will be given to him.” The idea that I have some advice that God needs is ludicrous.

God alone is the “Wonderful Counselor”.  When I seek to give or receive counsel, it is wise to first get the advice of the one who knows me best. God alone knows my weaknesses, habits, and shortsightedness. He alone sees the end from the beginning and the path my life will take. Psalm 139 reminds of how intimately my God knows me. I can trust my way to the one who knows me best. Job received a lot of unwanted counsel and sought to enlighten the Lord. The Lord’s response is classic beginning in Job 38 God declares His greatness, power, wisdom, and trustworthiness. This passage of scripture has become my place for perspective whenever I am tempted to be God’s psychiatrist.

Personal Application: In what areas of your life do you question God’s counsel or seek to give God counsel? Read Job 38-41. Seek His counsel.

Home Application: There is a difference in asking God’s advice and giving God advice. In what ways have you done both in your life? What was the outcome?

Where do you need advice from God today?

Devotional written by ChuckDavis

You’ve Been Served

April 23, 2015

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does…” (Ephesians 6:7).

Last Sunday evening before a large group of our church nine men were ordained to serve as Deacons and two men were ordained to serve as Pastors within our multi-site campus ministry. What a wonderful celebration of people responding to God’s call for service to the body of Christ. The writer of Ephesians challenges all who serve to do so with a whole heart. He reminds us that we serve in this way because our service is first unto the Lord and secondly that the Lord blesses those willing to serve.

A little more than a week ago I went bay fishing with some of the single’s leadership from our church. It was an adventure fishing in between storms, taking shelter wherever we could find it whenever we needed it.  Our trip had one last stop off the Intercoastal in a place called Alligator Lake. When we finished and decided to head out of the swamp we realized we had a problem. The bilge in our boat had taken on a significant amount of water due to a broken water pump. We were stuck.  It was then I noticed the true character of our crew. Holes were plugged, bailing water began, and though no panic was voiced it certainly was felt. Faith that we would make it back to our dock was expressed in the ways each one served. The life of the party guy suddenly grew silent and was calmed by another’s hand on his shoulder. Others served by bailing or communicating progress toward the objective of getting the boat on it’s way again. Reassurances were provided by the captain as to next steps. One thing I am sure that was taking place was the praying of all on board. There was wholehearted service going on because we trusted our guide and desired to make it home. The Journey we are undertaking to find our new Pastor demands in us the willingness to take up the mantle of servant leadership. We must wholeheartedly serve the body of Christ knowing that the best way to make the Journey to its designated end is for all to serve wholeheartedly in whatever way the Lord our Guide may lead us.

Personal Application: In what ways are you serving others in this time of transition? Are you the calming hand of reassurance–the busy hands of removing the hindrances to progress—-or the voice of direction and trust?

Home Application: Talk about a situation in the life of your family when the service of each member was needed to accomplish the goal. Discuss the roles each one played.

How are you serving the church with a whole heart today?

Devotional written by Chuck Davis

Host vs Guest Part 2

April 22, 2015

Practice hospitality to one another (those of the household of faith). Be hospitable, be a lover of strangers, with brotherly affection for the unknown guests, the foreigners, the poor, and all others who come your way who are of Christ’s body. And in each instance do it ungrudgingly cordially and graciously, without complaining but as representing Him.  1 Peter 4:9

Would you say you are a really great host or hostess?  If asked a year ago, my answer would have likely been, “no and I have absolutely no desire to be one!”

But God……

God has been transforming my thoughts and view of what it means to be a host.

He has been exposing and speaking and I am learning a lot about what it looks like to host others in relationships, in life, in my home, and in other spaces and places I can be found.

He has also been building an understanding of why it might be important for me to do so.

Hosting is not about entertaining.  Hosting is not dependent on the perfect space or the great talent or the beautiful things.  Hosting is about the people. It is about the connection and the care and the community.  It is, ultimately, about the Kingdom.

If I forget who I am and operate as a guest within the Kingdom, I will likely miss every opportunity to invite another in… into conversation, into relationship, into my places and into my life.  I will miss opportunities to see God move into the lives of those around me.  I will miss seeing Him move them from doubt to faith… from isolation and shame to life-giving testimonies… to live out their calling and purpose… to seeing restoration and salvation. I will miss seeing Jesus step in and bring comfort, joy, peace, faith, and LIFE.  Who wants to miss out on all that?!

Here’s the deal:  Whether you’ve ever given this a thought or not, you are one or the other.

Personal/Home Application: Set aside some time to consider: Key relationships; Ordinary, regular life; Your neighborhood; Your church; The world ; The Kingdom.  Are you a host or a guest? What can I do this week or this month to host others?

Are you a host or a guest?

Devotional written by Terre King

Host vs Guest Part 1

April 21, 2015

“…Always be eager to practice hospitality” Romans 12:13

What comes to mind when you hear the word host or hospitality?

Do you think in terms of entertaining and immediately feel exhausted?

Do you think in terms of gifting and immediately feel relieved that isn’t yours?

Do you think in terms of preference and immediately dismiss the thought?

If given an option, would you rather be a host or a guest?

I think, if we are honest, there are lots of things about being a guest that we all love.  As a guest, we are cared for and attended to and served.  It’s easier.  It makes us feel special.  It doesn’t require much.  It’s simply more enjoyable to be a guest, right?

God recently provided some new thoughts on the subject of hosts and guests.  It started with a look at Jesus.

Jesus was an inviter.

He invited people in.  He invited Thomas in, close enough to touch Him, and giving Thomas an opportunity to move from doubt to faith.  He invites a Samaritan woman into conversation and brings an opportunity to move isolation and shame to engaging others with her testimony.  He invites all in with words like “Come, follow me” and gives opportunity to believe and risk and live out our purpose and calling.

He also invited Himself in.  Jesus looks at Zacchaeus and invites Himself into to this ‘wee little man’s’ home giving an opportunity for restoration and salvation.  Jesus steps into suffering and mourning in a little town called Nain and one goes from death to life, bringing glory to the father and faith to the people. Jesus steps into lives bringing comfort and joy and peace and faith and LIFE.

Jesus was an inviter.  So it seems to make sense that you and I should consider what it might look like to invite others in or what it might look like to invite ourselves into life with others.

Personal/Home Application: Tim Elmore lists four obstacles to hosting in his book titled Habitudes #2:  1. Fear 2. Pride 3. Laziness 4. Personality.  Consider these obstacles to being a host.  Can you relate? If the opportunity to host came up would your immediate response lean toward yes or no? Would your ‘no’ be attached to what people might think? [fear/pride] or the effort involved? [laziness] or your own-perceived shortcomings and lack of gifting? [fear/personality] or something else. Determine your own obstacles to becoming a host or inviter.

What prevents you from saying yes to an opportunity to host?

Devotional written by Terre King

Will You Believe?

April 20, 2015

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” John 20:27

Y’all, this passage is stirring in deep places.  The words here hold a tenderness that I have missed before.  The things that have often stood out to me in this section of John 20 would be: Thomas was a doubter and blessed are those who have not seen and believe. And maybe also these thoughts: Because we are frail and finite and flesh, we will doubt. And,  we will want to see to believe but we are supposed to believe without seeing.

But this week, I’m not thinking about me, or you, or Thomas.  I’m thinking about Jesus.  After stepping into this space with His people and speaking words of peace, Jesus looks right at Thomas.  Thomas, who days ago had said:

“Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” John 20:25

… now hears:

“Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” John 20:27

Jesus is an inviter.  He invites Thomas, in the middle of his doubt, to draw near.  He invites Thomas to step fully into his previous confession and, then, Jesus invites Thomas to believe.  This moment is tender and lovingly kind and compassionate and merciful and generous.  This moment was for Thomas and for his future confession.  Not his previous one.

This is a moment that looks a lot like the gospel to me.  It is about a grace that abounds more and it’s about faith-filled confessions.  Thomas didn’t draw a line with the words of verse 25 that Jesus wouldn’t or couldn’t cross.  Jesus stepped right over that line  and the precious prize for Thomas was faith.

Personal/Home Application: Read John 20:24-29 and consider Jesus.  Write down the words that come to mind as you consider Him.  Place your name in verse 27.  As if Jesus is saying to you, “_________, Do not disbelieve, but believe.’  Then tell one person you trust, ‘I am fighting to believe God for _________”.  Don’t forget, Jesus is for you and for your increased faith!

What is the one thing you just can’t seem to believe?

Devotional written by Terre King

Take Heart

April 17, 2015

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.  Psalm 27:13-14

I have come to love the words “Take Heart”.  I have come to love them in spite of the realization that if we need to ‘take heart’, we are likely in the middle of a day or a week or a season where losing heart might be our natural leaning.

These words sound like the reassuring voice of Jesus to me.

They are a treat and a gift.

The gift of an option.

An option to take heart over lose heart.

When we are in the middle of the messy, hard, broken things of this life and we are hurting or doubting or weary or losing heart, how do we find our way to this take heart place?

As simple as it sounds, we believe.

In Psalm 27, we see that there would have been a depth of despair, had there been no belief… a belief that the goodness of the Lord would be seen.  This is one of those beautiful moments where faith becomes sight.  We believe and believe that we will see and then, we wait:

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.  Psalm 27:14

Take heart, friend.  Jesus is on the way.

Personal/Home Application: Read Matthew 14:22-33.  If anyone was in need of a little Take Heart moment, it was likely the guys in the boat.  Think about or talk about, what they were likely thinking and feeling as they are fighting to get to the other side and the wind is against them.  So far, hours into the journey, nothing they know to do is working.  And then they hear, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid”.  What is Jesus asking of the disciples when He says take heart? What is He asking them to believe?

Will you choose to Take Heart and simply believe?

Devotional written by Terre King

Be Brave

April 16, 2015

 

 But the boat by this time was a long wayfrom the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.  Matthew 14:24

Do you remember the story about Robert Konrad? He had gone deep-sea fishing and fell out of the boat?  The boat was on auto-pilot and drifted away and…

There he was.

Without a boat.

In the middle of the sea.

I am not a football fan [I know some of you just gasped] and I had never heard of Robert Konrad…until he fell out of the boat and landed in the middle of the sea.

And my first thought: “at least the disciples had a boat”.

Think about the disciples in Matthew 14.  They are likely in need of a little rest.  They obediently get into the boat ~ a known, comfortable, familiar thing ~ and head out across the sea ~ a known, comfortable, familiar place.  A storm blows in and they are beaten by waves and the wind is against them.  By the time Jesus shows up it is almost dawn.

They have been in that boat in the middle of the sea for hours and hours.  They have been doing the things they know to do and nothing they know is getting them to the other side.  Their own skill and knowledge and experience and power is less than the greatness of the things that are against them.

And, then Jesus shows up walking on the water and those weary and terrified disciples hear the words, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid”.  And when he steps into the boat, the wind ceases.

Have you ever set out in obedience or simply doing the things you know to do and it feels like nothing is working and there are greater things against you?  Are you weary or discouraged or feeling like your footing is unsteady?  Can you see the place where you will land in the distance, but you just can’t seem to get there?

Take heart, brave one.  Jesus may just show up in the most unexpected way.  And, when He does, Invite Him in to the boat.  Let Him, Who has the power to calm the wind and the sea, get you to the other side.

Personal/Home Application: Have you ever set out in obedience or simply doing the things you know to do and it feels like nothing is working and there are greater things against you? If so, now what will you choose to do?

Will you Be Brave and Invite Jesus into your boat?

Devotional written by Terre King

Give Me Jesus

April 15, 2015

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

“In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus.” I do not know of any sweeter words to sing, or just think, as I start my day. Reflecting on those words reveals a choice: among all of the options available to me this day, I pick Jesus. Peter came to the same conclusion after lots of time with Christ. He heard him teach. He saw his miracles. He later heard some real hard truth from Jesus; so hard, in fact, that it caused many of his disciples to wander away. Would Peter? Would I? Would you?

Amazingly, Jesus does not force himself on us. Were I the creator of the universe, I surely would make all my creation follow me. But I’m not God. He is. And he does not coerce us into following him. Instead, he speaks the truth, in love, and then lets us decide for ourselves whether we will follow. He even allows his creation to reject him and walk away. What kind of God is that? A good one. A holy one. The kind who has the words of eternal life. So as I rise, as I grind through another day, as I draw closer to dying, give me Jesus. You can have all this world. But give me Jesus.

Personal and Home Application: Today, decide where you will find your peace, patience, love and humility. From the world, from friends, from material things, or from Jesus?

What teaching of Jesus is the most difficult for you?

Devotional written by Clay Barton

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