Thursday, June 28, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Leadings


Luke 9:59-60
[Jesus] said to another man, "Follow me."
But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

I've always thought Jesus' response to the man was unreasonably harsh. It seems to lack the compassion that I associate with the Lord. William Barclay provides a different perspective:

In all probability the man's father was not dead, and not even near dead. His saying most likely meant, "I will follow you after my father has died."

The point Jesus was making is that in everything there is a crucial moment; if that moment is missed the thing most likely will never be done at all. The man in the story had stirrings in his heart to get out of his spiritually dead surroundings; if he missed the moment he would never get out.

If we put off until to-morrow, it will in all likelihood never be [done]. Jesus urges us to act at once when our hearts are stirred.

The Spirit is constantly at work guiding and encouraging us to follow God's will. The moment we become aware of God's leading is the very moment to do something about it. The more we respond, the more sensitive we become to subsequent leadings. The more we respond, the more truly useful we become for the Lord's purposes.

Listen and act.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Freedom


Galatians 5:1
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.

When we accept Christ our bonds of slavery to sin are broken. We are free! We are given the freedom to turn to Christ when temptation rises. There in the arms of our Savior we are free.

The challenge comes when we stop looking toward Christ. We reason that a little taste of the forbidden can't hurt. We rationalize that we've been good so a little reward is due. In essence we take our eyes off of the Lord and turn our attention to ourselves.

Without much fanfare we simply pick up the yoke of sin and submit ourselves to its reign. Slavery.

Stand firm.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Peace When Troubled

Peace When Troubled

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you...

When times are tough, it is important to regain our focus on Jesus. For some reason, God has allowed this difficulty into the path of our life. Discovering the reason isn't nearly as important as determining how we react to the challenge. Every difficulty that blows through our life is an opportunity to look to Jesus and to reflect His peace.

In his book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote:

Are you severely troubled right now? Are you afraid and confused...Then look up and receive the quiet contentment of the Lord Jesus. Reflecting His peace is proof that you are right with God, because you are exhibiting the freedom to turn your mind to Him. If you are not right with God, you can never turn your mind anywhere but on yourself.

I have often found the peace of Christ during troubled times by singing this old hymn,

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
look full in his wonderful face,
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim
in the light of his glory and grace.

Peace be with you.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Acceptable


Psalm 19:14 ESV
Let the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

This past weekend I attended a worship service led by a local singing group called Acceptable. One of the singers explained that the name for their group came from his mother's use of Psalms 19:14 as her theme verse for life.

Isn't that what we most deeply desire, to please God? We want God to find pleasure in every aspect of, and moment in, our life. This goes way beyond our intentionally spiritual moments, like worship services, Bible study, and prayer time. This includes the times when we're over-tired, under-fed, and all around worn thin.

This even extends to the words we choose and the thoughts we entertain. To please God with our words and thoughts requires us to become increasingly aware of God's presence in our lives. Just because we don't think about Him, doesn't mean God stepped out for a smoke. No, God is always with us. It's our attentiveness to Him that has taken a powder.

Be acceptable.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Trust


John 14:1
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in [Jesus].

This whole obedience thing is nigh on impossible when we don't trust the Lord. Think how hard it is to obey someone you don't trust. When trust is lacking our efforts are halting and without confidence. We limp along waiting for the other shoe to drop; expecting the worse.

On the other hand, how wonderfully freeing it is to follow, that is obey, someone we trust. When trust is in place our steps are bold. We take action. We attempt things we wouldn't even consider were we left to our own initiative; expecting success.

Trusting in the Lord, like people, begins small and builds. The more we turn over to God, the more we find Him trustworthy. As our trust in the Lord grows, He calls us into deeper obedience. Trust leads to obedience.

Trust and Obey.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Sacrifice


Romans 12:2
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.

It is becoming common to hear myself and others lament about the sacrifices we are making for our work. When people ask, "How are you doing?" My response often sounds like, "I'm very, very busy! I haven't even seen my family in days!"

The more one sacrifices for the job, family, church, even God, the more respect we seem to give them. This communicates a strange and scary message: The more you sacrifice, the better.

So we sacrifice. We sacrifice our health, our relationship with our spouse, our friends, our relationship with our children, and our relationship with God.

In his book "My Utmost for His Highest" Oswald Chambers takes a very counter-cultural perspective:

It is much better to fulfill the purpose of God in your life by discerning His will than it is to perform great acts of self-sacrifice.

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice... (1 Samuel 15:22)

Obedience over sacrifice.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Audience


Galatians 1:10
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

I've just finished a very busy season of musical theatre. I played trumpet in the pit band for "West Side Story" in our local community theatre. Because of this experience the concept of "audience" is fresh in my head. Every ounce of effort that went into this production was for the purpose of pleasing the audience.

In this passage, Paul calls our attention to our chosen audience in life. To whom are we performing? Singer and songwriter Sara Groves put it wonderfully in her song "This Journey is My Own". Here are some selected lyrics:

When I stand before the Lord,
I’ll be standing alone.
This journey is my own.
Still I want man’s advice,
and I need man’s approval,
but this journey is my own.

So much of what I do is to make a good impression.
This journey is my own.
So much of what I say is to make myself look better.
This journey is my own.

I have never felt relief like I feel it right now.
This journey is my own.
‘Cause trying to please the world
it was breaking me down...
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one...
‘Cause I know this journey is my own

You can live for someone else
And it will only bring your pain
I can’t even judge myself
Only the Lord can say, “Well done.”

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Acorn Build Up: God's Workmanship

God's Workmanship

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I once saw an awesome Christian singer/songwriter perform a song called "Masterpiece in Progress". The singer, Jeff Steinberg, is a man that has overcome tremendous obstacles in his life. You see Jeff has no arms and his legs are badly deformed. Now he sings of God's workmanship: "Jesus is working on me and I'm becoming what He wants me to be".

I'll likely never forget that night seeing Jeff belt out this amazing song. I sat across from Jeff at supper that night. Somehow my friends and I ended up in one of the very front tables and Jeff was seated with us. I had no idea he was performing that evening. Frankly, I thought he was seated there as a courtesy because of his disability. That's what I saw; his disability. When dinner was over, much to my surprise, Jeff was helped onto the stage to entertain and encourage us.

We truly are masterpieces in progress designed to do the good works God has placed before us. Thanks, Jeff!

If you have a moment, please check out Jeff's ministry by clicking on this link: Jeff Steinberg

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Dedication


Romans 12:1
Therefore, I urge view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.

This passage was used in the daily devotion book I use by Oswald Chambers titled, "My Utmost for His Highest". Chambers wrote:

We have the idea that we can dedicate our gifts to God. However, you cannot dedicate what is not yours. There is actually only one thing you can dedicate to God, and that is your right to yourself.

I love Eugene Peterson's take on this passage:

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life -- your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life -- and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. (The Message)

Worship God by dedicating our everyday lives to Him.

Be dedicated.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Equipped


Hebrews 13:20-21
May the God of peace...equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever...

I spoke with a friend today that reminded me of this awesome passage. God will provide the good stuff for us so that we may do His will. We are given the resources, gifts, opportunities, education, experience, and everything else we need to perform what is pleasing to the Lord.

William Barclay has this to say about this passage:

God is the God who both shows us his will and equips us to do it. He never gives us a task without also giving us the power to accomplish it. When God sends us out, he sends us equipped with everything we need.

When facing difficulties, please remember that God has prepared you with everything you need.

God is good!

Please let me know if there is a Build Up topic that would interest you. You can email me your suggestions at:

Monday, June 11, 2007

Acorn Build Up: The Lord Knows

The Lord Knows

Psalms 139:1-5
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

The psalmist goes on to say that "such knowledge it too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." (vs. 6) It is truly difficult to imagine that God can be this intimately aware of who we are and what we do. And, since it is so difficult to get our heads around it, we tend to ignore the fact that God does know EVERYTHING!

For most of my life this understanding is a shameful one. I know what I've done and who I was. However, as my faith matures, the fact that God is aware of every detail in my life is actually becoming a comfort.

He knows when my enemies assail me. He knows when my words are misunderstood, twisted, or taken out of context. He knows when I restrain my urges. He knows when I avoid temptation. He knows that though I fail on a daily basis, that my heart is in the right place. He knows how much I want to serve Him. He knows how hard I try. He knows the difficulty of the road I'm traveling.

The Lord knows.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Obedience


Hebrews 13:17
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

The authorities of the denomination I serve require that I attend an annual conference of pastors and lay people. The annual four-day event begins today (Wednesday) and runs through Saturday. I will submit to their authority and attend the meetings. My challenge will be to find ways to make my leaders' work a joy.

Build Ups should start flowing at the beginning of next week. Until then...

Obey your leaders.

Please send me suggestions for Daily Build Up topics, by emailing them to me at:

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Needing Rest

Needing Rest

Mark 6:31
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."

I can relate to the pace of activity described in this passage. Tonight, I'm going to take Jesus' command and get some rest.

Are you overbooked? Are you having difficulty squeezing meals into your schedule? It may be time for you to listen to Jesus, too.

Get some rest.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Content


Matthew 5:5 The Message
You're blessed when you're content with just who you are - no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.

In yesterday's Build Up on Comfort, I shared a passage from The Message, which is a Bible in contemporary language written by Eugene Peterson. I was curious about his interpretation of other passages in the section called the beatitudes. This verse caught my eye.

Contentment has been an illusive state of mind for me. I've always thought that I would find contentment around the next corner. I've suffered from what I call "If I only..." disease. If I only had a little more money, then I'd be content. If I only lost some weight, then I'd be content. If I only had a different job, then I'd be content.

Jesus calls us to accept who we are right now and we will be blessed.

Be content.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Acorn Build Up: Comfort


Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

In the coming week I am facing three funerals. A dear friend lost her father. A person that attends one of the churches I serve also lost her father. And a very old family friend died. This passage from Matthew has come to mind. This same passage is presented in a very interesting way in "The Message" as:

You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

Our Lord is steadfast, trustworthy, and ever-present. He is the true shelter in the storm. For my friends and family that are mourning, I pray that you will find comfort in the arms of our everlasting Lord Jesus.

Be comforted,