Friday, December 22, 2006
To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
I spend most of my time around religious people, and happen to be one. We (religious people) must be some of the most sacrificing groups of people in existence. We sacrifice for our various ministries constantly. Granted, much of the work we do is good stuff, but at what cost?
I am going take a break from my sacrificing work for the next week and do what is right. I plan to invest this time in my family, who, by the way, tends to sacrifice a lot for my work. My hope and expectation is that this will be acceptable to the LORD.
I intend to start posting the Daily Build Up on January 1st (subscribers will receive this by email on January 2nd).
Merry Christmas! May God bless you richly in the coming year.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
After [Jesus] had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.
What is it about our culture that causes us to feel guilty when we even think about taking a moment to rest? It boggles my mind how I can feel bad when I sit down for a short nap even at the conclusion of days of endless working. Nonetheless, when my seat hits the chair the guilt alarms go off!
I understand the role of guilt and shame as they help me understand my sin. But taking a well needed rest is not, in and of itself, a sin. Perhaps it's our deep set concern about being seen by others as slothful. Or, perhaps it's our desire to impress others by our tireless work ethic. Or, perhaps, more simply, our guilt comes from our concern about other people.
Jesus, the perfect Son of God, took time to rest and pray. Jesus, who had unlimited power at His disposal, stepped out of the limelight for respite. Can you think of a better role model?
Get some rest. Again, it's OK!
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
Most of us can relate to the busyness experienced by the disciples. People were coming and going so much they couldn't even find time to eat. Sound familiar?
Jesus tells the disciples to go somewhere quiet and get some rest. It seems to me that it is OK to take a respite from the busyness now and then. Please consider taking Jesus' command in a personal way. Find a quiet place where you can go sit with Jesus and get some rest. It's OK!
Peace be with you!
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Proverbs 18: 16
A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.
So often we hear comments being made about materialism during the holiday season. As I have been in the final throws of buying and making gifts for my loved ones, I have been intentionally mindful of the precious gift that God gave each of us. I have remembered that God spared no expense in His gift of Jesus Christ to us and of the fact that He gave us this gift because He wants to, NOT because He is obligated or has to give us anything. So, as I am making my last minute purchases, I am following the example of the Great Gift Giver and choosing gifts that are meaningful and an expression of my love for those I am remembering this Christmas.
May you too be mindful of that precious Gift that was given by God Himself to all of us. Merry Christmas and may you experience God’s blessings throughout this holiday season.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up...
Have you noticed the stress of the people around you? I have. People are overwhelmed by tasks associated with the end of the year, which are further complicated by the holidays. I hear people say, "I have something every night this week!" I've gotten caught up in it, too!
But what if we thought differently...
What an awesome mission field! What if we considered these stressed out neighbors as opportunities to do some very cool ministry. You've heard of the random acts of kindness. Wouldn't this be a particularly effective time to brighten someone's day? Wouldn't it speak volumes about the God we serve if we built up the people around us?
By the way, the more we encourage others, the more we will be encouraged ourselves. It is like spreading a virus; encouragement is contagious!
I hope you catch it!
Sunday, December 17, 2006
I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish; so I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel: It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
I'm borrowing heavily from a book by John Piper titled, Desiring God. Piper writes:
Apart from the special, saving grace of God, people are dead in sin, darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God and hardened in heart (Ephesians 2:1, 4:18). And the means God has ordained to administer that special saving grace is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Saving grace is available to everyone through hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we have an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with someone, let us boldly share it.
Friday, December 15, 2006
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
For me this is a sweeping passage of scripture. Sweeping because it seems to sum up the entire Bible. God gave the law so that us humans would learn of our sin. The law of Moses reveals our sinful nature. Our sin disrupts our relationship with God. Therefore, we need reconciliation with God. The law does not offer us a way to return to relationship with God.
God gave us grace and truth so that we might be reconciled with God. Without grace we cannot be reconciled to God. That is, we can't work hard enough, or live cleanly enough, or buy our way back to God. Through Jesus we find the grace needed to be reconciled to God. Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
God is good!
Thursday, December 14, 2006
James 1:2-4 (NRSV)
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
These are busy days around our house! On top of the normal chores of life we add the many year end and holiday tasks. There seems to be an endless stream of concerts to attend, parties to plan, shopping to do, and services to lead. It can be overwhelming to the point of feeling like trials.
Isn't it ironic? In our zeal to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Prince of Peace, we wear ourselves to a frazzle. Instead of fighting it, this year I'm trying to embrace it and consider it nothing but joy.
Have faith my friends! Endure the challenges that this season presents. As endurance has its full effect we will grow and mature into the people God has designed us to be.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
...A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'
In ancient times the king of the land occasionally toured parts of his dominion. A courier would be sent along the king's intended route with the message to repair the road because the king is coming.
Like the couriers of old, John the Baptist announced the coming of Jesus the Christ. However, John's message to "make straight" had nothing to do with roadways. Instead, John called for people to make their lives fit for the coming King.
William Barclay wrote, There is laid on everyone of us the duty to make life fit for the King to see.
As we approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus, let us reconsider John's call. Let us make our lives fit for the King of God's world to see.
Monday, December 11, 2006
...My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
My day got away from me before writing today's encouragement. Frankly, the night got away from me, too! So I'll keep this simple.
I am nothing without God's grace. In my weakness God's power is made perfect.
The Avowal, by Denise Levertov, 1923-1997
As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit's deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Seeing a fig tree by the road, [Jesus] went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered. When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked. Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea.' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
Baby elephants at the circus are held in place by tying them to stakes pounded into the ground. The stakes are strong and placed deep enough to hold the babies. As the elephant grows into adulthood they are held in place by the same stake. Even though an adult elephant could easily rip the stake out of the ground, they never do because they are convinced that they can't. All through their childhood they were unsuccessful, so they give up trying.
Us humans could learn a lesson from the elephants. We also get convinced that we can't do certain things. When faced with challenges we remember our past failures. Remembering our failures diminishes our confidence and DOUBT enters in. Doubt is the faith killer!
Jesus said that if we have faith and do not doubt, then we can move mountains. Where are the stakes of doubt in your life? With faith in Christ you can overcome doubt and rip those stakes right out of the ground!
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Please pray that my travels will be safe and that my work will be fruitful.
Yours in Christ,
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.
As we near the end of the year, we may be starting to gather ideas about New Years resolutions that will help us get the new year started out on the right foot. We vow to slow down and rest and maybe even start exercise programs, diets, not work so hard, and the list goes on and on. We promise ourselves that “starting on January 1st, I will begin . . . “ and you fill your own blank.
My question has been, “why wait until January 1st?” If this resolution is important enough to start at the beginning of the year, is it not important enough to start right now? Why wait? When I put something off until that perfect time, that perfect time never seems to arrive or there is some “good” reason why I can’t start on the appointed day.
As Christmas approaches, we face one of the busiest times of the year. Many of us are already feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done in preparation for our holiday celebrations. My challenge to myself, and to everyone is to start our New Years resolutions today. We will experience those anticipated benefits immediately. My guess is that we could all use those benefits right now, and we may even find out that we will be able to enjoy this holiday season much more because of it.
God Bless, and Merry Christmas!
Monday, December 04, 2006
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
For those of you who have the responsibility of leading people, Paul has something to say to you, too! As a worker is called to serve as if he is working for God, managers are called to “treat your slaves in the same way”. That is, bosses are called to manage people as if they are doing that work for the Lord.
Our management title does not give us license to mistreat our subordinates. On the contrary, management carries with it the responsibility to lead people in a way that is pleasing to God. After all, manager and subordinate serve the same real Master. Our heavenly Master will judge managers and subordinate without favoritism; both will be assessed on how well they served the Lord!
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Ephesians 6:5-8 (Message)
Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don't just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ's servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you're really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave of free.
I ran across this passage in a study called The Truth Project, which I attend weekly at the home of my good friend, Jamie Fitzsimmons. As a new work week dawns it seems timely to remember for Whom it is that we are working.
No matter what work we find ourselves in, we are called to do that work as if we are doing it for Christ. Believe me, I know this is a difficult challenge when our job stinks and our boss is similarly scented, but that's not the point. The point is that we serve a higher Master. We serve God!
Friday, December 01, 2006
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
If I could gather up all of the lumber that has resided in my eye, I could build a 4-bedroom home! I seem to have 20/20 vision for other people's specks, but I'm almost blind to my planks.
For me the trouble starts when I am uncomfortable with the other person, you know, the one with the huge speck in his eye! The more uncomfortable I get, the more I start speck hunting. I'll admit it, I get downright judgmental. I'm learning that the concentration it takes to do microscopic surgery on his eye temporarily distracts me from my own 4-bedroom eye discomfort.
Discomfort is a great warning light that we are spiritually off center. As the urge to speckhunt emerges that's the time to check out a mirror. Ask God the question, "What is it that's really bothering me about this?" Then ask Him to help extract the plank. As the plank is removed, it is amazing how much clearer we will see the other person!
Thank you Marty for the inspiration for this Build Up and for your years of encouragement!
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Wait. Now there's a tough command to follow! We live in a lightning fast world ready to satisfy most of our interests on demand, yet we serve a God that asks us to wait.
When life hands us a difficult patch, the world advises us to work harder, try something different, or go to battle. In other words, do something about it! God commands us to wait.
Moses said, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today."
I have done a lot of challenging things in my life (U.S. Marines, wilderness backpacking, climbing/rappelling, college, raising children, etc.), but waiting for the LORD takes far more courage.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...
Take courage and wait for the LORD!
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
Do you ever feel spread too thin? Most of the people I know, myself included, are so busy with so many projects that we develop a thin quality to our life. We rush around from task to task and celebrate the quantity of our work. We wear our thinness like a badge. "You think you're busy, you should see my schedule to see what REAL busy is." The truth is that thinness rarely bears much fruit.
Prune ~ to rid or clear of anything superfluous or undesirable
As Christmas approaches our calendars get even fuller; our To Do Lists get even longer. Are there some traditions, meetings, tasks, or expectations that could stand to be pruned? Could we prune our calendars enough to truly appreciate and richly celebrate the birth of Jesus?
Joyous celebration will bear more fruit than thin busyness in every season of the year.
P.S. Please write me to share you pruning success stories! Thanks!
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Whose strength will you operate with today? Unfortunately, my default source of strength is me! If we strive to accomplish our work under our own strength, we will fail! Even if that work is ministry. Eventually our strength reaches its limits. Jesus said, "...apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:4)
In order to tap into the limitless power of the Almighty God, we have to intentionally plug into it. Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you..." (Matthew 7:7)
Lord, please give us your strength to face the challenges of this day.
Monday, November 27, 2006
…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
This is a very challenging passage of scripture for me. As far back as I can remember I learned to plan and prepare for tomorrow. And with my planning came anxiety regarding the possibility that my plans might not succeed. It’s practically a cultural norm to fret about tomorrow.
But that’s not what Jesus teaches! Jesus teaches us to seek the LORD, first. Jesus didn’t say, “Work it out the best you can, and if it doesn’t work out, then seek me.” No, Jesus calls us to look to God first.
God knows what we need! (see Matthew 6:32) However, we need to recognize that our true needs may have little or nothing to do with our wants. When we trust God, we can count on our eternal needs being satisfied. And if our eternal, real needs are known to God, then there is no reason to worry about tomorrow.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
I have been experimenting with a gratitude technique suggested by Reverend Phillip Icenogle from the First United Methodist Church in Pontiac. For the last five days I have substituted prayers of gratitude for negative thoughts. As a negative thought takes shape in my mind, I quickly praise God for something for which I am thankful.
The results of this experiment have been remarkable! First, I quickly lose track of the negative thought as my heart turns to God. Second, I've found that my thankfulness has kept me from habitually traveling down negative thought paths. Truly, I have felt MUCH better during these days of gratitude.
Give it a try!
I'd love to hear about your experience with this technique. Please consider emailing me with your testimony at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
I would like to build you up today by reminding you of the amazing God that we serve. Our God is Lord of lords and King of kings. Our God redeems us and provides for us. Our God leads us and teaches us. Our God is our comfort. Our God is, truly, an awesome God!
Praise be to God!
I apologize for not posting a "Build Up" on November 21st! I experienced some significant computer trouble on my home computer, which I haven't resolved, yet!
I am taking a break with my family for the next few days, so I will not be posting to this blog. I will resume the Daily Build Up on Sunday (11/26).
Monday, November 20, 2006
...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Pastor Seth Kempf from Salem Church (Gridley, IL) led a Children's Message at the Thanksgiving service on Sunday evening in Graymont (IL). He taught the kids that we can be thankful in all circumstances because God is with us. No matter how difficult our life gets we can always count on God's presence. That really is worthy of our thanksgiving!
As Thanksgiving Day approaches please consider thanking God for His presence in the difficulties that you are facing. It's good to count your blessings, but we are encouraged to "give thanks in all circumstances". This includes the tough stuff.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
...until we reach unity in the faith...
I've just returned from speaking at a Thanksgiving Service led by the Graymont-Flanagan Ministerial Alliance. The "Alliance" is made up of pastors from the churches in these two small towns. The pastors represent many different denominations. I was moved by the spirit of cooperation and genuine caring exhibited by the pastors.
During his testimonial, Pastor Doug King shared his dream of the day when all the congregations worked together as one body; the body of Christ. Now that's a great vision!
As you start your work week, please consider ways you can work toward unity of the body. Here are some suggestions:
* Avoid those issues that divide the body.
* Concentrate on those parts of our faith that we hold in common.
* Seek partnerships with other parts of the body.
* Praise God for the victories won by other parts of the body. Celebrate with them!
* Pray for other parts of the body that are suffering. Come alongside and help them!
Please send me your suggestions for attaining unity in the body.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
As this week winds down, I'm craving some rest! It is hard for me these days to cut out time for myself to recuperate from my labors. Frankly, I feel a twinge of guilt when I cool my heels, even for a little bit. There seems to be an unwritten cultural value placed on over-working, and, recently, I've bought into it!
Jesus was gaining popularity in the region. People were coming and going all the time. It seems to me that this was an odd time to take a break. Our culture would say "strike while the metal is hot", "ride the wave", or some other cliche' that drives people to over-work. But that's not how Jesus led His ministry. Jesus encouraged His disciples to step away from the hustle and bustle to get some rest.
As this weeks comes to an end, consider stepping away from all the busyness to a quiet place with Jesus and get some rest.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself...
Paul encourages us to look to our neighbors and to "please" them. Not that we would receive credit for our kindness, but for the good of the neighbor. We are to please our neighbors so they get built up. This is a strange notion in our culture where we assess every initiative to determine our personal gain.
If you are blessed by these Daily Build Ups, please consider passing them on to your neighbors so they might be built up. It's pretty easy to do:
1. highlight and "copy" the following phrase: Daily Build Up
2. "paste" the phrase into an email and encourage them to check it out!
3. then "send" the message to anyone you think might be built up by these devotions.
Acorn Ministries uses God's gifts to build up the body of Christ; the Church. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.
Our Monday night Bible study group struggled through the doctrine of "providence" this week. It is certainly a mind bending concept. Our study guide defined "providence" as:
"God has specific purposes in our world and that God works in the events of our world to bring those purposes to pass."
I ran across the following quote on my good friend Jason Woolever's blog written by Bishop William Willimon from his book Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry:
God has called us. It all rests upon his summons. It is not our job to make the world turn out right or to see the church triumphant or even to make this congregation into an unmistakable outpost of the kingdom of God. Only God can do that. It is not my task to work in such a skillful, informed, and competent way that my ministry will ultimately count for something. Only God can do that. And while God is doing that, it is good for me to keep in mind that this God wins victories through suffering, through love that, from a cross, moves the sun and moon and stars. The suffering that faithful ministry sometimes entails is not a sign of failure, but of fidelity.
The LORD's purpose prevails.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do you feel like you are under attack? You are NOT alone in facing your challenges. Remember the promise of the Almighty God:
"He will never leave you nor forsake you."
Knowing and trusting that God IS with us, gives us the strength and the courage to face today's challenges. The Lord of lords and the King of kings is, in fact, in your "corner".
"Be strong...for the LORD your God goes with you..."
Monday, November 13, 2006
I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.
When I struggle I feel all alone. However, I feel very different when I know that others are praying for me. Bill Allison of Cadre Ministries taught me to formalize a team of people committed to praying for me. I've gathered a "Knee-Mail Team" that lifts my requests in prayer. It's awesome having these people join me in my struggles.
In turn, I am a part of several prayer teams for others. When I pray for others I feel like, at some level, I have literally joined in their struggle. I have ached with people as I've sought the Lord for His provision. I have also felt the joy of seeing God's intervention in the circumstances for which I was praying.
I'd love to join you in your struggle by praying to God on your behalf. If you're interested, just email me your prayer request at: email@example.com
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharoah's officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.
Joseph is sold into slavery by his own brothers. In slavery he becomes successful. Later, Joseph is thrown in jail for a crime he did not commit. He prospers there, too! At any point in this story Joseph had the right to feel REAL sorry for himself. He could have just resigned himself and given in to the awful circumstances in his life. But that's not what he did.
"The LORD was with Joseph" is a recurring phrase in the Joseph story. God is available to everyone and anywhere, so what distinguishes Joseph? Perhaps Joseph didn't look at his circumstances like we would. Perhaps Joseph's faith in God conquered betrayal, slavery and jail. Or, perhaps he trusted God no matter how tough things got, and he simply grew where he was planted.
Consider trusting God as you face the difficulties of this day. My guess is that soon people will recognize that the LORD is with you, too!
May the LORD be with you,
Friday, November 10, 2006
It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
I was first introduced to the simple children's song "Jesus Loves Me" when I was very young. In all the complexity of life I recommend that we return to these three little words often.
Jesus loves me.
...God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We have an awesome God!
Jesus loves you!
Thursday, November 09, 2006
“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.”
When my kids were young, they used to love doing the “Where’s Waldo” activities. For those of you who may not be familiar with “Where’s Waldo”, they are pictures of town scenes that are very busy with details. Somewhere in the midst of the busy picture, the little guy Waldo is placed. Waldo isn’t really “hidden”, but is easily overlooked because of the busyness of the picture. The challenge is to look only for Waldo and when my kids did, they always found him.
Sometimes our lives become very busy, even chaotic and we lose sight of God in all the busyness of our lives. We wonder if He is even there at all because we just don’t see Him. God’s word assures us that God is always present; we just have to be intentional about looking for Him. When we look for God, we will find Him. Start looking; you may be surprised at all the places you find Him.
Sandy Egle, Executive Director
Heart to Heart Support Services, N.F.P.
101 West South Street
PO Box 237
Flanagan, IL 61740
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.
Walking by faith requires complete trust in God. It also calls for ignoring our own assessments of our circumstances. When we trust in God we follow a path that just doesn't make sense in the world. Our direction seems odd and often illogical.
If we recognize God in all we do, then He will lead us in the direction He desires. I can't think of a better logistical coordinator than the Creator of heaven and earth. After all, with God leading us we won't have to stop at a gas station for directions.
Trust ~ Acknowledge ~ Follow
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Luke 10:1, 3-4, 17
...the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go...Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals...The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."
Jesus sent His disciples without the normal supplies and equipment needed for such a journey. They returned to Jesus and proclaimed the great things that God had done. What an awesome outcome; a celebration!
I wonder how the outcome would change had they possessed the normal supplies for such a journey? Would the disciples have sensed the peril and sensed God's provision if they carried the "proper" equipment?
What are we carrying on our journey? How would our journey change if we left some stuff home? I believe that by simplifying our "supplies" we may be able to more clearly sense God's movement around and through us.
By traveling light, I believe God's provision is more clearly perceived.
Monday, November 06, 2006
"...we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
My three-year-old daughter wants to do EVERYTHING herself. She needs adult help in many of the activities or she will likely get hurt or break something. Often I have to discipline her because she's just not ready to perform the tasks safely. Over time she will be able to do it herself, but in the meantime she must submit to my teaching; my discipline.
In my relationship with God, I'm (far too) often just like my daughter. I want to do it myself! The hardest life lesson for me is to submit to God. I don't know if it is my Marine Corps background, fear of what might happen, or just plain old everyday pride. Regardless of the cause, submitting is difficult for me. However, if I don't submit to His training, I'll never learn what I need to learn. If I don't accept the training, then I'll never receive the "harvest of righteousness and peace".
God's discipline shapes and molds us into the people God intends us to be. Let us submit to His training!
Sunday, November 05, 2006
1John 3:1 (The Message)
What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it - we're called children of God! That's who we really are. But that's also why the world doesn't recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he's up to.
At the start of this new week, I'd like to encourage you to remember who you are. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior then we become part of God's family. We are truly children of God! What an awesome and loving God we have!
The world doesn't get it! The world is ignorant regarding our God, so it cannot understand who we really are. Further, the world will try to tell you who it thinks we are. Don't listen!
Remember who you are!
Your brother in Christ,
Friday, November 03, 2006
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let's begin by examining the last phrase of this passage. There is a specific "race" planned for us by God. The plan, created by our all-knowing God, considers everything! God considers our skills, experiences, flaws, relationships, passions, when/where we were born, and much, much more. The race is perfectly designed for each of us. In today's marketing language we would refer to it as "My Race".
We should not expect a wide, smooth-surfaced, slightly downhill, running lane as we embark on our race. First, the word "perseverance" should give us a clue that this race involves difficulty. Second, there are obstacles to navigate as each of us runs "My Race". We are encouraged to get rid of everything that hinders or entangles us. This may include leaping some "fences"!
"My Race" is marked out for each of us. Let's get running!
Thursday, November 02, 2006
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
"Come." [Jesus] said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Last night, I attended a Revival at my home church led by the Australian-born evangelist Mike Rayson . He inspired this Acorn Build Up. Thanks for encouraging me, Mike!
Mike shared a really cool thought about Impalas. An Impala can jump 9 feet vertically while covering up to 30 feet horizontally. However, if you visit an Impala at the zoo you will find that the fence around them is only 3 feet high; a height easily cleared by these great leapers.
Mike taught us that they will only make these impressive leaps when they are intimately knowledgeable of the place upon which they will land. Therefore, a tiny fence can hold a critter that could easily leap it, because it's unsure of the landing.
Jesus called Peter out of the boat. Talk about uncertain landing places! Regardless, Peter gets out of the boat and walks on water! We have a powerful God!
Jesus is calling each of us! How often do we hesitate or refuse to follow because of our fear of the consequences. Even though we have the Creator of heaven and earth on our side, we ignore the call because we're not sure what might happen.
Mike asked us last night to identify our "3 foot fences". In other words, what's holding us back from responding to God's call. Jesus is calling!
Identify your fence ~ Trust God ~ Start leaping
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
"...encourage one another and build each other up..."
Today I'm celebrating the first 200 "hits" on this blog! A "hit" is registered every time a person accesses this site. Specifically, I'm celebrating that people have clicked on the Daily Build Up over 200 times since October 13th! This is an awesome encouragement to me! Thank you!
There's more! Approximately 25-30 people subscribe to this post and receive it daily as an email. The cool thing is that subscribers don't count in the 200 hits! I'm thrilled that God is using this blog to encourage so many people.
Who could you encourage today? Please consider sharing this daily encouragement with people that you know. There are two easy methods:
1. Email this blog to a friend by clicking on the envelope icon (at the bottom of this post) and fill in the blanks.
2. Copy the following words and paste them in an email to your friends: Daily Build Up
Thank you for encouraging one another and building each other up!
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Today's "Guest Encourager" is a long-time friend and colleague, Sandy Egle. Sandy is the Executive Director of Heart to Heart Support Services, which is the "parent" organization for Acorn Ministries. Beyond managing the responsibilities of the Heart to Heart organization, Sandy serves as a Christian Counselor to the central-Illinois region. Please look to the bottom of the page for Sandy's contact information.
I hope you will enjoy Sandy's encouragement!
ONE DAY AT A TIME
Matthew 4:18 – 20
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
In today’s culture we are repeatedly challenged to plan, plan, and plan some more! We plan our careers, our finances, and our day-to-day schedules. We cram into our schedules as much as possible to meet our long-range goals. Is it any wonder that today’s people, young and old alike, feel overwhelmed by busy schedules? We suffer from emotional and physical exhaustion from packing too much in our days, weeks, months and years! Just looking at our calendars can cause fatigue.
Jesus shows us an alternative way to live. Jesus said, “Come, follow me…”
Jesus did NOT say, “come and follow me and we will go to this place and stay there for “x” number of days and while we are there, we will do this and that, then we will move on to this next community and stay there for…” Jesus simply invited the disciples to walk with Him, one day at a time. Jesus provided all the information and resources they needed for each subsequent day.
1. Be still and know that He is God
2. Listen to Him - His still, small, quiet voice
3. Follow Him
4. Trust Him
5. Walk with Him - one day at a time
When we walk at this level of faith, we will discover that Jesus is enough and that we can trust Him for EVERYTHING, one day at a time.
Sandy Egle, Executive Director
Heart to Heart Support Services, N.F.P.
101 West South Street
PO Box 237
Flanagan, IL 61740
Monday, October 30, 2006
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
I wonder how often Jesus says those very words about me, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" The storm gets so strong that it occupies my whole attention. My fear overwhelms me and I shout at the Lord, "Don't you care!"
The truth is that the Lord does care. And, God is trustworthy. It is my faith that is missing!
As the storms in your life brew, keep your faith strong. In Christ you can find calm and peace.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
“Be still and know that I am God…”
When trouble comes we tend to flee or fight. The “flee” instinct tells us to get out of the situation as fast as possible. The “fight” instinct tells us to dig in our heels and combat the problem. Either option calls us to action.
God suggests a third, and I might add unnatural, option. The third option is to respond to difficulties by becoming calm and acknowledging God’s presence in the situation. God is available in every situation. God is in charge.
When trouble comes our way God reminds us to remember who He is and trust in His action. As we respond to challenges with our own action decisions, we miss the opportunity to watch God work. We miss His leadings. We miss His convictions. We miss His still small voice. Instead, we fill our ears with the sound of our own actions.
When trouble comes today, remember God's words, "be still and know that I am God..."
Friday, October 27, 2006
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
At moments I completely understand and appreciate the freedom that Christ provides. I look at the circumstances of my life with a half-grin knowing that they really don't matter. About that time the phone rings, someone cuts me off in traffic, or I realize that I need to head to the next meeting, and the perspective is lost. My posture returns to the stooped position under the weight of responsibility, submission to the world, and, dare I say it, worry!
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
The freedom Christ offers is available to anyone! Everyone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can receive this freedom. I love this quote from Mehalia Jackson.
Mehalia Jackson (1911-1977):
"It is easy to be independent when you've got money. But to be independent when you haven't got a thing - that's the Lord's test." ("Quotable Women", Running Press, Philadelphia/London, 1994)
Are you free?
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Thursday, October 26, 2006
I Hate "Volunteers"
by Bill Allison
The words we use are full of connotations. Would you rather buy a “pre-owned” car—or a “used” car? See what I mean? It’s the same car, but, depending on which words are used, the connotation is different.
While I love the concept of someone freely giving their time and talents to serve in a church without pay, the term “volunteer” when used in the church often seems to carry a connotation of “second best” or “not really that important.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a wonderful, committed, effective non-paid servant in a church refer to him or herself as “ just a volunteer.” Non-paid workers in the church have subconsciously picked up on the very unbiblical connotation that they are “ just volunteers.”
I believe the Bible clearly teaches that EVERY Christian is a full-time minister. (Do your own Bible study on the priesthood of the believer and start with Ephesians 4:11-12.) Therefore, I don’t like the term “volunteer” when used in a church context! We need a new term for volunteers in the church—one that doesn’t contain the second-class baggage.
The “Ministry Partner” Revolution
When speaking of someone who generously gives time to serve Jesus in a church but doesn't get paid for it, I propose we start using the term “ministry partner.” If enough of us get on board with this terminology, we might be able to exchange the word “volunteer” along with its less desirable connotations for the much more biblically accurate and dignifying term of “ministry partner.” Who knows, people who graciously serve in the church without compensation might quit acting like "just volunteers" and might start acting like… "ministry partners." The potential ramifications for mobilizing the latent volunteer power sitting (literally) in our churches could be revolutionary.
Once we’ve conquered the term “volunteer” and replaced it with “ministry partner,” we can move on to changing the term “committees” to “teams” or perhaps to my personal favorite, “cadres.” This, too, would be revolutionary. However, for now, let’s take one revolution at a time. And by the way, I don’t like volunteers—I mean “ministry partners”—I LOVE them!
What do YOU think? I welcome your response: firstname.lastname@example.org
Equipping Churches to Make Volunteers Wildly Successful
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
"[God] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy."
We are saved by mercy. I find that VERY encouraging! It's encouraging because it is God's mercy that determines the way I spend eternity, not my own efforts.
If my salvation depended upon my actions, then I would quickly lose hope. I don't know about you, but my actions are, at best, fallible. I could never attain salvation if it depended upon my behavior.
Thankfully, that's not how God did it. Instead of basing our salvation on our actions, God "saved us...because of His mercy".
Praise God for His mercy!
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Luke 1:78-79 ("The Message")
"Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God's Sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace."
One can conclude that there exists a "path of peace" for us as Christians. So why are we so restless? Why do we fret and worry so much? Why are we never satisfied?
Could it be that "...small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it"? (Matthew 7:14)
We want to find the path and the gate. We want to find them, now! We want to know where we're going and how long it will take us to get there. We constantly ask, "Are we there, yet?" Unfortunately, that's not how it works.
Every Christian must take the journey of life "one foot at at time" and be satisfied with that. When we trust God, then we can leave the plotting of the path to His divine wisdom. When we leave the navigation to God, then we can travel peacefully knowing that the outcome is in VERY capable hands.
When our feet leave the path, our peace slips away.
Monday, October 23, 2006
"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
One of these days soon, my daughter will start creating her Christmas list. She will include everything she sees on TV, plus all the items the kids at school are talking about. The hardest part about getting her list is that I won't be able to get every item that she wants.
What is on your list? Is it full of needs or wants? A challenge in the Christian life is identifying what is a "need" and what is a "want".
One summer I prayed day and night that God would give me patience to be able to handle a difficult circumstance in my ministry. After weeks of prayer the issues seemed to be getting more difficult, and my patience was not growing. I shared this with a pastor and got this response, "I'd recommend you stop praying for patience, because God is giving you the perfect circumstances you need to learn it (patience)!"
It would be a neat exercise to make a new list of the things that I need. My guess is that that list would be short, and would include few luxury items.
"...do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need [my emphasis] them. but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:31-33)
God will meet our needs!
Saturday, October 21, 2006
"We sent Timothy...to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact...we kept telling you that we would be persecuted..."
There is no doubt that times can be tough, and some seasons of life are almost unbearable. I am not questioning the difficulties of life in this world; however, our response to the tough times is worth scrutinizing.
"And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"
Esther had an awful decision to make. Keeping her mouth shut would cause her people to be killed. On the other hand, speaking up for her people would expose her as a Jew, and possibly end her life. That is a tough time! God used Esther in this difficult circumstance to accomplish His purposes. Esther did what God needed from her.
We should expect difficulty along the path of Christ. We need to keep our faith strong so we won't be unsettled by the trials. Take courage, God is with us!
Friday, October 20, 2006
"I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning..."
Remember waiting outside the Principals office? You probably don't, but I sure do. There was nothing worse than waiting for the "ax to fall"! Waiting is awful when we don't know what to expect, especially when we see bad stuff in our future.
When we trust the Lord our waiting has a significantly different look and feel. We can look beyond the circumstances of the day, because we trust that God will deliver us. Hope grows no matter what the future looks like. Like "watchmen wait for the morning", we wait with anticipation of seeing how God will deliver us.
Waiting on the Lord!
Thursday, October 19, 2006
"To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame..."
Where do you place your trust? If we trust in our skills, wisdom, network, experience, friends, family, or luck, then we run a great risk of ending up in shame. Think about it, haven't we experienced the disappointment and shame that comes when we place our trust in the things of this world? Even the church can let us down!
However, when we place our trust in the Lord, then we will never be put to shame. God will never break trust with us. God is trustworthy! By trusting in the Lord we can look to the future with hope in our hearts.
May your hope be in God!
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Hebrews 3:12-13 (NIV)
"See to it...that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily...so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."
It is sooooo easy to turn away from the living God! The world distracts us. Lies take root. Sin begins to grow. Our hearts harden.
Encouragement is a great heart softener! Daily encouragement exposes sin and uproots lies. Daily encouragement returns our attention to God.
Who are your encouragers? This would be a great time to give God praise for placing these people in your life. If your "encourager list" is a little sparse, I recommend you seek God's guidance in developing an encouragement circle.
Who do you encourage? Encouraging others is a perfect way for Christians to stand out in a crowded world. It rarely costs anything, and most of the time it feels REALLY good!
P.S. Do you know any good stories about encouragers? I'd love to hear them! You can share a story by clicking on the "comment" button.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."
As Christians we should expect suffering in our life. By choosing to stand with Jesus, we also choose to suffer alongside Him. But take heart, comfort is available in our suffering.
Take comfort in the Lord!
That sounds easy enough, but I must admit it's not my first response to discomfort. All too often I look to other people to ease my suffering. When I take my hurts to another person, then I get a human response. Rarely do I find satisfaction from human comforters.
Eventually, after I've exhausted the opportunities to share my dis-ease with people, I come around to sharing my hurt with God. It is at this point when the real comfort begins to flow. "And the peace of God, which tanscends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)
As we, in turn, are called upon to give comfort to others, we can pass on the comfort that we have received from God. In this way their comfort will also be found in the Lord.
Monday, October 16, 2006
"...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
Paul tells us that the "secret" to contentment is finding strength in Jesus. Talk about counter-cultural! We live in a world that calls us to pull ourselves up by our boot straps and make something of ourselves.
Paul tells us to rely on Jesus. When we focus on Jesus we place our expectations in God's provision, not on what the world teaches us is success. Richard Swenson, author of Margin, states it this way, "Want what you have." What we have is the Son of God's perfect provision. Can it get any better than that?
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Matthew 14:29-30 NIV
"Come," [Jesus] said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Peter "walked on water", then he started to sink. Why did he sink? Peter takes his focus off of Jesus and begins looking at the world around him. He gets distracted.
There are forces in the world bent on distracting us. When we lose our focus on Christ, then we sink, too! We sink into the ways of the world. We conform.
Romans 12:2 NIV
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Jesus stills calls us to "come". God can do amazing things when we respond to His call, get out of the boat, and remain focused on Jesus.
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Friday, October 13, 2006
It is my hope that this blog will bless and encourage you in your daily walk with God. I will make a sincere effort to post a message each day (Monday through Saturday) that will build you up!
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Here's today's "build up"...
For most of my life I have looked for joy around the next corner. I'd think, "If I could just get through high school, then I'd be happy."
Later in life I continued that same kind of thinking, "If I only had a bigger house, a better job, or a newer car, then I'd be happy."
Then I read what Jesus said:
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:9-11 NIV)
Christ's joy is available to me here and now, not around the next corner! If I obey Christ's commands, I will remain in Christ's love. If I remain in Christ's love, then complete joy is available to me RIGHT NOW!
I pray that you will experience the joy of Christ, today!
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