Thursday, April 30, 2009

The humble and God-fearing heart of our President ... Lincoln

Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day 
the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What is imprinted on your heart?

Ths is the 2nd small group study from the "Tattooed" series.

Big Idea:
All of us have something imprinted deep upon our hearts and minds; something that forms our perspective on life, shapes our attitudes, and drives our behavior. What image is imprinted on your heart?

Summary:
The great and wise King Solomon tells us that, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he…” In other words, whatever you have imprinted upon your heart will eventually reveal itself in your character and how you live life. Your “heart” is the place of your deep-seated beliefs. It is the core of your identity and the hidden vault of your values. Your heart is where you develop an image of worth and value or of hopelessness and despair. Ultimately, your inner world always determines the success of your outer world. In order to live a life that glorifies God, benefits the world, and brings fulfillment to your soul, you will have to invest more time and effort into building your inner world than you do in building your outer world. So, what image is imprinted on your heart? Do you walk around with an inner image of despair that says, “Yesterday was bad, today is worse, and tomorrow will take me to new lows?” Or do you embrace the image that says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me?”

There are three things that can greatly affect our inner image. (1) Our beliefs form our inner image. If you want to change anything about your life, you have to change what you believe deep within your heart. You can change your inner image by choosing what you believe. (2) Our expectations form our inner image. What do you expect out of life? What do you expect God to do in you, and through you? If you expect to live a defeated life, then, regardless of the potential that lies within you, your expectations will produce defeat in your life. You can change your inner image by changing what you expect. (3) Our experiences form our inner image; and our attitudes become hardened when we fail to properly process the pain of past experiences. Past experiences often form present attitudes and present perceptions. You can change your inner image by releasing the past; however, changing your inner-image is only useful if you choose to exchange the old image with the image of Christ Jesus. This is accomplished by walking in submission to God, living secure in His love, acting selflessly toward others, and focusing on your God-given purpose in life.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Luke 6:43-45
How does the condition of your heart affect how you live life and treat others? What faulty things have you programmed into your inner image? How has this affected your relationships, your character, and your overall success in life?

Romans 12:1-2
Discuss different ways we can be conformed to this world. How have worldly influences affected your life? What are some ways that we can renew our minds? How does God’s Word renew our minds? Give examples.

Philippians 2:1-11
Discuss how we can have the same attitude of Christ and (1) be submissive, (2) be secure in our identity, (3) be selfless, and (4) be single-minded.

Taking Action: Purposefully write down what is really forming your inner image. Is it external forces and other people, or is it God? Purpose to spend significant time in God’s Word each day this week and allow God to transform your thinking into His reality. Take notice of the change in you.

Ministry Time

Monday, April 27, 2009

Everyone's lookin' for it

This is the 1st small group study in our "Tattooed" series.

Big Idea:
Every one of us desperately wants to be loved and we will often do desperate things in order to find that love. We must come to the realization that we can only find this love in the One God who has always loved us.

Summary:
We all have a deep desire to be loved and accepted. In each of our lives there is a fundamental need to be accepted, understood, and unconditionally loved. Your greatest need is not money. Your greatest need is not success. Your greatest need is not fame. Your greatest need is not a better job. Your greatest need is to be loved. Not with sentimental love, not with sexual love, and not with brotherly love, but with a love that is transcendent, a love that is unconditional, and a love that only God can give.

However, many of us, in search of perfect love and acceptance, have inscribed some ugly images upon our lives: the image of performance, the image of a person, the image of position, the image of physical affection, the image of pleasure, the image of possessions, or the image of pity. The problem with these images (tattoos) on our lives is that they never really produce what they promise. They may produce momentary gratification and meaning, but they always leave you wanting more and, ultimately, wishing you could remove the marks that they leave on your life. That’s where God’s love is so different. It’s a love based on giving. A love based on serving. A love based on an eternal commitment. Here are four beautiful truths that you can safely tattoo on your life without the fear of having to remove them later. (1) God’s love is unmerited. God loves you simply because He wants to. (2) God’s love is unconditional. He loves us at all times. Even in our weakness and failures. (3) God’s love is unchangeable. His love is eternal. (4) God’s love is unforgettable. He will not forget you for “see, He has inscribed you on the palms of His hands.” – Isaiah 49:16. If you have been looking for love in all the wrong places, God is calling you to Him. He desires to be the image that is tattooed on your heart. He is waiting for you to turn to Him, leave the unfulfilling traps of this world, and find meaning, purpose, and acceptance in His amazing love.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

1 John 4:9-19
How does embracing God’s love for us change everything? How can we be confident that God’s love is in us? How has your understanding of Gods unmerited and unconditional love changed your life?

Romans 8:35-39
Have you ever believed that something has separated you from God’s love? How did that affect your relationship with God? Why do you think Satan uses this lie? How can you experience victory in this battle?

Hosea 1:2-3 & Hosea 3:1-3
How does this story of Hosea’s love for his unfaithful wife parallel God’s love for us? In what ways have you experienced God’s unconditional love?

Taking Action: Examine yourself and list what images you have tattooed on your life in an attempt to find love and acceptance. Now, make the decision to lay those down at the feet of the cross and embrace the unconditional and unending love of your Creator – God Almighty.

Ministry Time

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Command, don't suggest

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul instructs him to, "Command and teach these things." Notice that he doesn't tell Timothy to suggest the things of God. Rather, he tells Timothy to command these things. The truths of God are not simply recommendations, they are non-negotiable commands. 

As a follower of Christ, are you prepared to receive commands. As a maturing Christian, are you prepared to present the commands of God to others? This is what we are called to do; submit to God's commands and teach them to others. 

Jesus put it this way in the Great Commission, "teach them to obey all I have commanded." 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Adios Diablo

The Apostles James makes an amazing statement, “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” What an incredible truth. We actually have all we need in Christ to say no to the Devil; to resist his will on our lives. It is also incredible that when we exercise this God-given grace, that the Devil flees. The devil actually runs from us. We don’t have to live with the Devil. The Devil doesn’t have to be a companion of ours. When we live in the spirit and not by our flesh, when we take hold of the victory that we have in Christ Jesus, when we humble ourselves and receive the amazing grace of God, the Devil will run from us. Hallelujah!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Taking care of ministers

If you have been following Transformed Daily, you know that I have recently been spending a little time in the book of Joshua. Much of this book is dedicated to the distribution of the Promised Land to God’s chosen people. It is always interesting to note that as all of the land is being distributed among the tribes, it is very obvious that the Levites are left out. In fact, it is clear that they are intentionally left out of the land distribution bonanza. Why weren’t the priestly people given any land? Doesn’t this seem like a severe oversight or a grievous error? It seems backwards. Wouldn’t God take extra-special care of His priests by blessing them with the lion’s share of the land? Why didn’t the men of God get the largest allotments of land? Why did they just get some cities that they were allowed to live in, rather than thousands of acres of land to call their own?

Maybe it is because God set apart the Levites to be priests, not farmers. They were called to devote themselves to the work of God Almighty and pastor the people, not concern themselves with clearing land, growing crops, digging wells, and raising livestock. God’s plan was to keep His priests focused on serving the spiritual needs of His people. But, that doesn’t mean that the priests were left to lives of poverty or reduced to begging in the streets in order to survive. On the contrary, God makes sure that His servants, who work in His house, are well taken care of by providing places for them to live and plenty of provisions. God does this by commanding the other tribes to make sure the Levites have all they need.   

We also see that God takes care of His priests by setting aside a large portion of the sacrificial offerings for their food, as well as the best of the oil, and the wine, and the first-fruits, with the tithes of the children of Israel (Num. 18:9-19, 24). God also made provision by commanding the other tribes to give unto the Levites, out of their own inheritance, cities to dwell in (Num. 35:2-5). God makes it clear that those who receive from the spiritual service of His servants, should, in turn, minister to their temporal subsistence. By the way, this is a common thread that is continued into the New Testament as the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians,
“But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14) 
Before I conclude, it is also interesting to note that the Levites didn’t all live in just one city. Rather, they were appointed to live all throughout the land of Israel. God never intended there to be one centralized community of Levites, but every tribe was to have the priestly influence and presence among them. This is also true of the Christian church today. Christ has called us to be among all nations, all tribes, and all people groups. The church is intended to be throughout the entire world and all of society, instead of heading off to make a “Christian country” somewhere. We are called to go. We are called to plant churches in every community. The ministers of the gospel are called to live among the people of this world as they minister the love, compassion, righteousness, and justice of Christ Jesus.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Who do we associate with?

Do we associate with the world or do we associate with Christ? Do we display worldly things or do we display Christ? Let’s make a bold statement and be "tattooed" with the name of Christ and not with the vanities of this world. May our association with Christ be evident to the world. May we be people of light, like a shining city on a hill. May we be in Christ and in Christ alone. As He has written His name on our hearts, let us boldly display Him to the world. May we get up and follow Christ in all that we do and in all that we are.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

AWAKEN

Here is my small group curriculum from this past Easter's teaching. 

Big Idea:
There are moments in life when we face the choice to either remain in the pain of our own disappointment or to awaken and enter the hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
 
Summary:
The disciples of Jesus spent three amazing years walking with Christ, witnessing miracles, receiving His teaching, and experiencing His love. However, after the crucifixion, we see them retreating to three different places: (1) sitting in a room enveloped with hopelessness and despair, (2) stumbling down a road going nowhere important, and (3) fishing from a boat as they try to forget the pain of the past.  These three locations reveal three spiritual conditions many people find themselves in. First, there are those who are entombed in hopelessness. Like the disciples, they have come to believe that their condition or situation is beyond hope: “this marriage is beyond repair, this career is going nowhere, this family cannot be healed, or there is no answer for my medical condition.” But what the events of Easter show us is that if God can raise His Son from the dead, He can raise your dead marriage, your dead career, and your damaged relationships; He can deliver you from your addictions, heal your body, and resurrect your dreams. Awaken to the Hope of Christ in you.
 
The second condition we can sometimes experience is a loss of direction. Like the disciples who were found stumbling down the road to Emmaus, we can find ourselves sleepwalking down a road to nowhere without purpose or direction. But, aimlessly living life without knowing God’s plan is petty and pointless. When we discover Whose we are, we will finally understand who we are. We were made by God and for God. Awaken to the truth of Whose you are. Finally, some disciples lost their focus and retreated to their pasts in hopes of numbing their pain and forgetting what had just happened. They were distracted by what their old life was calling them back to. We are too often enslaved by our distractions, which have become our addictions and have lulled us to sleep from the greater purpose of our lives. Awaken to your God-designed purpose in life. “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Ephesians 5:14 (NLT)
 
Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

1 Peter 1:18-21
Discuss the empty and temporal ways the world encourages us to cope with life? Which have you tried and how has it turned out? Share how Christ is your redeemer and how He has restored an area of your life.
 
Psalm 42
When you feel hopeless, what thoughts go through your mind and how do you respond? What did King David do when he began to lose hope? Give examples of things we can speak when we feel hopeless.

Jeremiah 29:11-14
How does this passage depict God’s heart toward you? How can you discover and realize God’s plans for your life? Share what prevents you from running to God in times of trouble.

Taking Action: Spend this next week daily reminding yourself of the hope you have in Christ, who you are in Christ, and the kingdom purpose you have in Christ. Speak these truths over yourself and your family members so that as Christ is fully alive, you too become fully alive in Him.

Ministry Time

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Resurrection Sunday

I thank God for His Son. I thank my Savior Jesus for His obedience and love. His act of amazing love on the cross has justified me and it is sanctifying me. Because of the cross, I am forgiven and because of His glorious resurrection, I have been set free. 

The tomb is empty! He's alive! Christ has risen! 
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" - 1 Corinthians 15:55
"My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood His mercy reigns. Unending love, Amazing grace"

Friday, April 10, 2009

We can!

I have been spending time studying and contemplating the lives of Joshua and Caleb. One characteristic that sets them apart from others is their unrelenting faith that responds to the things of life with a passionate “WE CAN”. From their initial reports about the prospects of taking the Promised Land, up until their last days, they were men who said, “we can.” Let’s fight the natural human responses of fear and complacency with a shout of faith and trust in who we are in Christ by adopting the cry of Joshua and Caleb – WE CAN!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Thoughts on faith

It doesn’t take faith to complain and criticize. It takes faith to go and do the things God has placed on your heart and called you to do. We are called to go, not to grumble. We are called to believe, not to belittle. We are called to shine the light, not to curse the darkness.  

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wholehearted Faith

I love the passages in Joshua chapter 14 where it commends Caleb for following God wholeheartedly. It depicts a man who would not fear the things of this world because of his faith in the Lord. Because Caleb completely trusted God, he was able to enter the promised land, live a long life of purpose, receive the blessings of the Lord, and still have the energy at age 85 to go to battle.

Caleb followed God with every fiber of his being. He trusted God with everything. He didn’t give God most of his life, rather he gave God his whole life. He didn’t hold anything back; he surrendered it all. His entire being was wholly the Lords.

Are you wholeheartedly following God? Is everything in your life submitted to Him or are you holding something back? If we want to take ground for God’s kingdom and win spiritual battles, then we must have wholehearted faith and confidence in God. God is still looking for Caleb’s. He still desires our whole heart - our everything. Let’s be the Caleb’s of this generation who lay it all down for the sake of our God, our King, our Savior, our Lord.

Check it out in Joshua 14:6-15

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The counter-cultural King

This week's small group curriculum focuses on our Savior King.

Big Idea:
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He didn’t enter with pomp and circumstance. He didn’t enter with military power and worldly might; rather, He entered humbly on the back of an ordinary donkey. Who is this Savior King?

Summary:
Throughout the life of Jesus, He confounded conventional wisdom. He never fit into the world’s mold. Jesus came, the first time, as a humble servant born in a stable. Throughout His entire life and ministry, He didn’t live like the royalty of this world, but lived simply and modestly. His entry into Jerusalem was no different, as He triumphantly entered on a donkey. God’s kingdom is vast and without end, set apart from the kingdoms of this world. It started with a few unimportant people who passionately pursued the Man on the donkey. It has not grown by a large takeover or great force, but by one person at a time accepting the Savior King and His ways.

The message of Christ has always been a counter-cultural message. His kingdom has never been in-step with the kingdom of this world. His kingdom is opposite world: a kingdom where the last shall be first and the first shall be last; a kingdom where the greatest of all shall be the servant of all; a kingdom where those who give their lives away shall find in return a greater life, and those who seek to preserve their own lives shall lose them. It’s a kingdom where the best seats at the banquet table are reserved for the least, the last, and the lost. A kingdom where the broken are healed and the seemingly whole are broken. A kingdom where the outcasts are the inner circle and the “know it all’s” are left outside.

The power of God is concealed in what the world considers weak and despised. The glory of God is revealed in what many of us overlook as insignificant. How many times have we missed the presence of God because our eyes where searching for what the world considers greatness? How many times have we missed the supernatural because we were searching for the spectacular? If we are looking for the presence of God, we had better get our eyes off of the things of this world and humbly tune into the heart of God and His kingdom by surrendering our lives to Him and focusing on the things of God – the pure, holy, righteous, and lovely. Remember, God’s ways are not necessarily our ways.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

1 Corinthians 1:27-29
Jesus riding into town on a donkey seemed foolish to the world. Has God used something “foolish” to get your attention or draw you to Him? Share an example where you personally or someone in God’s Word has missed a move of God because it wasn’t recognized.

Isaiah 55:6-11
How are God’s thoughts and plans learned? Share personal experiences or insights from the Word that demonstrate that His ways are different from our own.

Matthew 5:1-12
How does Jesus describe a citizen of opposite world? Discuss how these character qualities should be demonstrated in our lives. How does this differ from the qualities promoted by this world?

Taking Action: Make a concerted effort this week to tune out the noise of the world and tune into God by spending time in His Word and in prayer. Make your ways, His ways.

Ministry Time

Thursday, April 02, 2009

God’s Merciful Heart

Big Idea:
As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we must embrace the heart of our merciful King by demonstrating a sincere concern for the needy and being moved by the desire to reach the lost, the oppressed, the haggard, the hungry, the homeless, and the dispossessed.

Summary:
God is deeply moved by compassion and mercy for the poor and the needy in this world. Mercy is treating others better than they deserve to be treated and sparing them from harm. Our guest speaker, Jim Cantelon, provides this insight: “I talk a lot about righteousness and justice, but the forgotten part of this equation is often mercy. Simply put - God requires us to love mercy. It’s easier said than done. Being merciful takes a lot of maturity; especially in a culture that jumps on weaknesses. Just watch the evening news today and try and find even a thread of mercy. Most of us have a judgment reflex when somebody around us falls. 

But the Kingdom of God requires something completely different - we are to love mercy… Can you imagine if the Church stood up and decided to exercise mercy as Christ called us to? Think of the orphans and widows in your community, the poor and destitute, the single moms - and in addition to that, the millions of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. What could the body of Christ accomplish if it was truly mobilized with mercy? I’ll tell you - transformation would occur. The Body of Christ would rise up like we’ve never seen before.”

The prophet Isaiah helps us understand the merciful heart of God for the marginalized when he contrasts the type of fast the Lord desires with the kind of religious fasting that was popular at the time. What God wants, says the prophet, is true fasting, demonstrated in these behaviors: standing against injustice, freeing the oppressed, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, and clothing the poor. If we are going to be followers of Christ that are actively living-out the heart of God, then we must roll up our sleeves and truly help those in need by giving more generously, sharing more readily, living more simply, and loving mercy. This truly is the “road less traveled” - the call of God on our lives.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Isaiah 58:5-11
According to the prophet Isaiah, what pleases the heart of God? What would the world look like if all of God’s children helped the oppressed in these ways? Discuss ideas and strategies of how we can live-out these things that please God.

Micah 6:8
What character qualities does God want to see in His people? Are these qualities optional?  Explain and apply each characteristic from this passage. Discuss different ways you can show mercy to others: your family, your friends, and strangers.

James 2:14-26
What does a life of “faith without works” look like in today’s world? Can we be Christians without actively helping those in need? Why or why not?

Taking Action: As you are read, watch, or listen to the news this week, allow yourself to become aware of the lack of mercy in today’s society. By God’s grace, retrain your personal “judgment reflex” by purposefully exercising mercy in real ways to others – family, friends, and strangers. Bless, feed, and/or clothe someone in need this week. 

Ministry Time