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Hooked

The devil will hand us anything he can to weigh us down. he hands us the package, the weight, the burlap sack. Maybe that burlap sack carries the weight of guilt, or maybe the burden of worry. Or maybe its passenger is regret, or a longstanding offense. Maybe fear. You name it, it comes in the form of a sin, a lust, a familiar failure, bundled with burlap and twine.

But why? Why would the hater of our soul, the despiser of God's beautiful image, give us burdens to carry? Envision this. You are standing at the gate of God's presence, ready to rise to your rightful place in His courts; ready to take your position and receive your strength and blessing.

But you can't. Something is holding you down, pulling you back. And it's not just the weight of your packaged up and twined failure, sin or worry. No, satan has handed you this burlap bundle so he will have something to slide his steely hooks into. It's part of his plan, his trickery. But that's a beautiful thi…
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 Met God meets us in the impossible, in that place where we can not ... That place where the road seems to fall off into the un-doable. That place where our deepest fears are faced, our greatest apprehensions are realized. Like breathing under water. Call it the place of miracle and grace.

Where does God meet us? Where we can't survive without Him. Think about it - that is the place of faith. Where our strength is no longer our supply. Where our solutions are no longer viable options. Where our wisdom meets its end and His wisdom becomes our answer.

How do we handle the trials, the dark roads, the scary outlooks? By jumping into them. That's right, by falling into the arms of our Savior with complete abandon and trust. Hard to do? No. Scary? Yes. Can we do it? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely yes!

If we want change in our lives, we will be required to go down the road of un-surety. It's a road of no return. A road that requires dying to self; that cynical, doubting, untrusting,…
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Head Hung Low Do you remember being a kid and getting into trouble? I mean big trouble; smoking, breaking that expensive tool of your dad's, or blackening your sister's eye? Those kind of fear of judgement, expectation of wrath getting into troubles. I don't know if you've experienced that before, but here's how it went for me.
The deed is done. It is bad and somewhere in the back of your mind you know the hammer is going to come down hard. And then the deed comes to light, followed by the retribution, the fear, the guilt. Regret springs up. Wishing you hadn't done the evil deed and that you could go back and undo it. 
But even worse are the after-effects.
The distance, the awkwardness. You feel the canyon between you and your judge. You tread lightly for the next few days, speaking softly and complying. Hey, you're even willing to listen attentively to the lecture about why you shouldn't have done what you did. Maybe the payment was metered in anger, maybe…
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Honest
Gideon, the honest mighty man of valor.

Have you ever been afraid to be honest with God, to tell Him how you really feel about something? To be honest about your lack of faith or questioning of His promises, to admit you feel let down?

The Angel of the LORD called Gideon a mighty man of valor, a hero, a warrior. Gideon's response? Well, he kind of responded with a big, "Why me?" With all respect to the LORD, Gideon points out several things that are bothering him:

- If God is for me, how can all of this bad stuff be happening?
- Where is God's power and sovereignty in my circumstance?
- I feel forsaken, I look forsaken. Where is God?

Wow. Dare we be so honest? Even to the LORD's face? That is a scary thought, at best.

Gideon knew God was real. He understood God's promises; but he was missing something. He didn't understand who he was and what God had planned for him. He was like us - or us like him.

Yet the LORD encourages us just as He encouraged Gideon. G…
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Unanswered

God sees from a different plane than we do. And that implies a dependency on Him on our part. We need Him to see; we need Him to trust.

As this messenger of satan continues to buffet my soul, I ask, when God? Why don't you answer? Why am I trapped? And the Lord's response comes not in the form of deliverance, but in the form of an answer, There is a purpose behind your suffering. God may delay the answer we are asking for to give us what we really need.

And what about His plan? What if I seemingly fail? God speaks a promise, through another person, through a dream. And we miss an opportunity to fulfill that promise. Lack of faith, fear, or simply for no good reason, but we miss the opportunity. More accurately, we miss an opportunity. 

Take this truth as an chance to exercise your faith. God knew you would miss the opportunity to make His promise come true, yet He still spoke the promise into your life. What am I saying? Are you willing to consider that this may be a pa…
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A Lifetime of Memories
Your struggles aren't for nothing. They are actually building in you a lifetime of memories. How can I say that? How can you believe that the bondage or trial or weight you carry is actually the fodder for a good memory? I'll look back on a struggle, a time of heaviness in my life that may help to start the explanation.

Many years ago my wife and I were in an abusive situation. A place of oppression. But because of our strong commitment, we struggled with moving on - taking ourselves out of this situation. It was a time of frustration. If you had asked us how we felt about our circumstance at the time, the answer would not have been hopeful or positive.

Yet God had a plan.

During that time I had a love for plants. They were all over our house, much to my wife's dismay! There was one plant in particular that held deep meaning to me because this plant was a gift to my mother when I was born. And it so happened that when my daughter Kaitlyn was born, this p…
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Subject To ...

There are many things we find ourselves subject to. Some of them are accepted as normal. Subject to a boss, subject to putting in a full day at work, taxes, accountability, doctor's visits, the challenge of raising godly children. Some of the things we are subject to are not so acceptable; emotional whims and storms, abuse of many kinds, the fears of life. The list goes on.


But God has a promise for today, an offer for a different viewpoint; hope for change:

The Lord will make you the head and not the tail
And you will always be on top and never at the bottom

What causes you to cower, to bow? Is it fear? Is it taunting or evil thoughts? A secret lust, a hidden root of bitterness? Tomorrow? Maybe your child's welfare, or your relationship with your spouse? Friend, God has good news for you - a promise in Jesus: you shall no longer be under those things. No longer subject to them. 

No, God has something better. He has us subject to something far better, not burdensome. …
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The Non-Performance Relationship


Let me ask a question: is a good relationship based upon performance? Does a healthy relationship consist of you-do-this and I-do-that? Well, there's the right answer and there's the honest answer, the reality. How do we relate? (Please take note if you thought to yourself, "That's two questions ...")

When Jesus saw the little children, He sought relationship: let the little children come to me. To the contrary, his disciples were performance oriented: we have a job to do, a task to accomplish. The children will hinder that. 

Ask yourself how often the answer coming from your Dad's mouth was, "No." That answer, given often, produces a work-based, task-oriented view of relating. "What can I do to get a yes?"

But God defines relationship differently.Instead of "do", He says "come." When He knocks on the door to "dine" with us, He doesn't say, "clean up and get ready." H…
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Joyful in Hope 
What I'm about to say makes absolutely no sense. It is completely contrary to the way we've been taught to think. In fact, it is downright crazy. 

In this world, this society, we told to find our joy and happiness in what we posses. You've attained, now you have the right to smile and feel fulfilled. You've arrived, joy is yours! You got what you wanted, now you're happy. But why that empty feeling that soon follows? Why only a temporary sense of fulfillment as our next goal is queued up?

Because God has a better way. His kingdom (His philosophy of life-living) operates differently than ours. Here's the crazy idea: while the world's joy comes from what it possesses, our joy comes from what we don't have. Joy from what we don't have! To reword: the children of this age, of this world's philosophy, are taught that joy is attained with what one has. We, as children of God's kingdom, those who think with the mind of Jesus, find our …
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His Love is Violent He saw us in our condition. Trapped, broken, rope-bound, chain-laden, distressed, drowning; barely able to call out for help - if at all. He saw us in our despair. He heard our garbled cry. Our muffled, mangled cry reached the heavens and entered His holy place. 
Like the cry of a child stuck in a distant pit.

He did not saunter, He did not tread lightly to find us. No, He broke forth. He crashed through the clouds with violence, His all-powerful right hand reaching down to our all-powerlessness. Wrath smoke from His nostrils, flames of declaration from His mouth. Dark clouds, storms, angels, hail, burning coals.
All for us. Because of us. He came for us.
He cries out as a warrior coming to rescue. He is focused with one thing in His eye: us. He does this for me and He does this for you. He pulls out His weapons: arrows, lightening. He speaks, He breathes, and the watery grave that holds us captive dissipates. It disappears under His violent fury.
He comes for us violent…
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It is not Good
When God saw Adam alone in the garden, He said, "It is not good for the man to be alone." God saw everything He created as being good. The earth, the sun, the moon, the waters, the fauna and flower; all good. But when God saw loneliness, He didn't just observe it as not being good, but He spoke it as not being good. And so it stands today. We were all meant for relationship.

It's simply part of God's plan.


So God provided, as He always does. He provided a woman for the man; a helpmate, someone called along side to be with the man. A companion. And that was good. The woman was part of God's provision, so to speak. Not a resource the man could draw from, for that is not relationship. No, a companion that Adam could also pour into - someone who's needs Adam could meet as well as having his own needs met.

Call it a "realationship".

Now, an interesting question comes to mind (my mind, at least). Did God create Eve because He was unable to m…
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Waiting

While we wait, He works. When we're still, He moves.

There are times in our lives when, like David, we find ourselves in the cave of waiting and testing. The cold, unresponsive, seemingly purposeless cave. But God has us there. And, He wants to encourage us there. Being in the cave is not a sign of His promises reneged. In fact, it's just the opposite. He is not snuffing out our heart's dreams. No, just like the diamond, process happens before promise comes.

We must all wait; and that is where growth happens - because growth requires trust. And when we trust, He goes to work.

But when am I going to accomplish this, God? When can I start doing what You've called me to do? God, I'm ready! I'm ready to move from this cave of boredom, directionless, and insanity.


Arghhhh!!!


But God says, "While you wait, I work. When you are still, I move. Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted. My plans for you will come to pass. It's just a matter of time. …
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We all have bad days ...

You may not feel great when you first wake up. Maybe you've had a rough night. Maybe the memory and feeling of yesterday's problems, struggles, and dilemmas are still fresh in your mind. Or maybe you can't think of any good reason why you're feeling so "blah".

But this is the time for faith to kick in. 

There are many others, just like you, who have been through what can be described as a "bad day." They know what it means to be having a "rough one". They are the cloud of witnesses who have held on to the promises of God in the midst of worse things than bad feelings. These are the ones who chose to take God's outlook; His perspective on the situation.

Remember ... God is there with you. He loves you, cares for you and wants you to win. His desire is that you stand above the storm of your emotions. He wants you to have the stability that you long for, the peace of mind you desire. And if God is for you (which He is…
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Hungry

The drug addict isn't crying out for another hit or another fix. The over-eater isn't really hungry for more food. The lonely man really isn't finding satisfaction in his neighbor's greener grass. They're all really just looking for love in all the wrong places.

Maybe your "poison" is different than the ones above. Maybe you just need ... well, you name it. Family. A few glasses of wine to take the edge off. Ministry. More time at church. Another night out at another restaurant. Ahhh, a few hours in front of the TV. Or maybe a pseudo-connection with others; hours on facebook, twitter, or texting. Whatever your go-to is, it's really not what you're looking for.

"How do you know what I'm looking for?" Well, I'm glad you asked. We all have needs, deep needs, a void if you will, put in us by our Creator. Needs only He can fill and satisfy. Look at what David said,

How lovely is your dwelling place,     Lord Almighty! My soul yearns,…
The Discipline of Rest

Doesn't really make sense does it? I mean the title. But sometimes resting can be more work that doing and going and going and doing. I mean it can take more effort to put down the list, close the door, and shut out the demands and responsibilities. It takes discipline.

We have a demand on us, an order (or orders) placed on us; as if we were a catalog of available time and demand was outbidding our supply. Our time is taxed. A continual draw from a world that boasts of great leisure and pleasure while exacting a high price for that illusion of joy. It totes a once-a-year super vacation that can't even be enjoyed because it takes us two weeks to unwind from a year of craziness and being worked to the bone.

Vacations are great, but they are not God's method of rest. No, He has a different plan. (Which is really not that surprising, given that He tends to do things differently than the world around us) God's method of rest dictates the treasuring of a …
My wife loves the Ocean.

She could sit by the sea all day; soaking in the warmth, reading, tanning. It's her destination; her first choice for any trip I would suggest. Yes, by the sea. But we are told that at the end of this age, when eternity begins for us, there will be a new heaven and a new earth and ... no more sea.

OK. So, is this bad news for my wife or for anyone who loves the ocean? Will the pleasures of heaven lack the soothing sound of the ocean waves, or the comfort of the warm sand on our feet? Would God really take away the vastness and majesty of the deep blue? Would he minus the salty smell and feelings of rest from our heavenly habitation?

Well, before I could even ask any of these questions, God put it simply to me, "I am your Ocean." God as our ocean? Think about it. See the faithful waves that roll and churn without end, and see His waves of love break over our souls, satisfying us with a fulfillment the best of ocean vacations could never provide.

And …