Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Word and Connection

I was reading in the Open Door daily devotions yesterday morning and fell on the story of Peter in the city of Joppa. This experience opened Peter up to the possibility that there were more people that Jesus wanted to reach than just those he had envisioned in his small but visionary mind. You can read the whole story in Acts 11:1-18.

Remember, this is Peter, one of the inside guys Jesus entrusted the future of the whole church to. Peter had many other encounters in the journey that continued to shape who He thought God was and how He thought God works.

We have the same thing happen to us. We meet someone in the grocery store and end up being fast friends just because we shared something about bread or cheese. We have a dream and the next day live out what we saw the night before. We avoid a certain route out of a hunch, only to read that a terrible accident happened and we were spared. Those things really do happen,

God uses all kinds of avenues to get our attention if we will recognize Him in the middle of the experience. Look at Peter again in verses 11-15 where three men came to visit him. It says that “The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them.” Peter was already tuned into the Spirit’s frequency; he recognized the voice of God amidst what seemed to be an interruption of his day. In reality, it was the very pathway that God used to make an interruption an opportunity for Peter and this group from Joppa.

We often get stuck in our routines. We allow the everyday stuff to crowd out what God wants to show us in the midst of that “same old, same old.” Peter reasoned in verse 17 that “God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” That gift is not an “it,” it’s a “who.”

He is the Holy Spirit who we often see as the backseat driver in the relationship we have with the triune God. He is in reality, the closest we will ever get to God this side of heaven. The Holy Spirit enables us to be empowered to trust when we hear or sense something we are supposed to do. He confirms in our spirit the right way to relate to others and when we need to forgive or be forgiven. He gives us new insights as we read the Bible and brings those verses to mind at just the right time, kind of like Peter in verse 16. Even Peter needed to recall what was said (and is now recorded for us) to move forward in his journey with the living Christ.

Make no mistake, God has a word for you…it starts by reading His Word, the Bible, so that you can recognize it is God speaking to you, not a grand idea of your own concoction. Pick a translation; use a couple different ones to get the full breadth of a passage. I enjoy TNIV, The Message and New Living Translations. Dive in to devotions today. Get connected, and take the next step on your Holy Spirit led journey!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Called to amazing love

I can't get them out of my mind...Ivo, Mariales, Jeni, Irvin, Evelyne, Ruby, Jose, Eddy, Claudia...and so many others. They are in my thoughts all of the time. I just looked at the hundreds of photos that were taken of these sweet friends and the things that we did together in El Salvador.

It seems surreal, and yet it seems as real as the computer I type on now. They live across the ocean, but they are as close as Facebook and my memory. They live such simple lives, unhampered by the gadgets and stuff that often weighs me (and some of you) down. They are on fire for God, some in countries that are not their native land, yet they serve and give out of love for the same God I serve, that you serve.

We are called to love people, to extend our boundaries to encompass another culture, another neighborhood, another family, another person. To love them with the love that is so far beyond ourselves that we would be fools to think it wasn't anything less that Christ that makes it all possible.

That kind of love gives us wild ideas like leaving family for a week to go to a country so different from the one where we live. That kind of love asks us to stop for a man with a flat tire to help him fix it and then bless him with money to feed his humgry child. That kind of love puts muscle and grit behind a sledge hammer to renovate rooms so that expansion can take place for more kids to come to know Jesus.

That kind of love is the kind of love I want to demonstrate...not to get noticed, or to make a new friend, or to feed my need for approval. Oh no, I want my love to be an offering to the only God who deserves praise from this fault-filled sinner saved by His amazing grace. That grace is what feeds my love for others, it sustains me when I need to keep loving. Maybe that's why it's called amazing love, amazing grace.