Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Be Great!

By: Adam McClendon

I remember being a kid and wanting so bad to be great.  It wasn’t that I wanted to be great at one specific thing, I just wanted to be great at anything.  I was a tall, skinny kid with little athletic ability.  Don’t get me wrong, I was okay at a lot of things, but great at nothing.

One day after watching Superman, I remember thinking that maybe greatness was just buried down deep within me and I just needed to believe in myself more.  Maybe, after all, I was just like Superman who didn’t realize his true identity when he was young.

So, in my front yard, I took three quick steps and jumped in the air landing on my feet.  Nothing happened.  Okay, maybe I didn’t believe enough.  I knew I had to really believe and jump into this thing, so I did it again.  This time, I barely landed on my feet.  Rats!  I still wasn’t flying.  Okay, this was it.  I had to sell out.  I took three steps, laid out into the air.  Immediately, I came crashing to the earth!     

At that moment, with the air still knocked out of me on the ground, I realized something.  I was never going to be great.  Greatness was beyond me…or so I thought.

Part of the problem throughout my life has been evaluating myself based upon the world’s criteria.  All too often, I strive for greatness in the eyes and standards of the world and not in the eyes of God.

Jesus shares how anyone can be great in God’s eyes in Matthew 5:18-19: “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

But…whoever!  God’s measure of greatness is not based on our gender, worldly accomplishments, recording breaking ability, height, weight, race, wealth, intelligence, etc. but on the extent to which we walk in obedience to his word and teach others to do the same.

Let me say that again.  God’s measure of obedience is based on the extent to which we walk in obedience to his word and teach others to do the same.

Quit trying to be great in your parent’s, spouse’s, pastor’s, neighbor’s, or child’s eyes.  Stop competing with false standards.  You don’t have to go on a vacation every year, buy the best clothes and toys, or fly like Superman, but you have to walk in holiness before others and challenge them to do the same.  Be present, living out God’s word in every aspect of your life, investing Christ in the lives of others.

Christ loves you and gave himself for you, so that you can be great (Rom 5:8; Eph 2:10)!  If you are a Christian, the potential for greatness is in you through the enabling work of the Spirit of the living God!  You can walk in holiness!  You can live in obedience to the King!  Don’t believe the lie of the enemy.  Don’t listen to the world.  Today, choose whom you will serve.  Today, choose to be great in God’s eyes!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Gift of Worship

By: Joanna K. Harris
Joanna Harris is an author and blogger with a tremendous passion for God.  You can contact Joanna here.  For more on Joanna and her ministry, check out her website here.  There you can also find links to her other blogs.


It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night. 
-Psalm 92:1-2

It is good to praise the Lord! After nine years of chronic illness, I've learned that one of the most healing and beneficial things I can do is simply to worship God. 

We are commanded numerous times in Scripture to worship God, because clearly He is worthy of our worship – and He is the only One who is. But in recent years, the Lord has shown me that worship is also His gift to us. 

Worship redirects our thought patterns away from the challenges of here and now to the eternal reality of who God is. We were created for much more than what we can see today. Worship reminds us that God is working out His eternal plan for us. It renews our sense of awe and restores proper perspective to our lives.

I think worship also helps connect our mind, emotions, spirit, soul and body. Chronic illness often made me feel disconnected in many ways. But as I sang praises to God, I was able to focus my whole being in the same direction. I believe focused worship helps to restore whole and complete function of who we are and who God created us to be.

Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf explains that when we worship God our brains actually grow, increasing in intelligence and wisdom, and flooding our minds with peace. Worship not only blesses us spiritually, it’s good for us physically.

Worship also enables us to express our love for God and to embrace His love in return. This is a profound mystery – how a finite, imperfect human being can somehow commune with an infinite, holy God. Through worship we become more aware of God’s presence, we get a tiny glimpse of heaven’s glory, and we find a healing balm for our souls.

While we desire to live lives of worship (as living sacrifices, Rom. 12:1-2), clearly praising God with music and song is a vital part of worship. If we limit times of worship to a weekly church service, we miss out on the joy of personal worship time with the Lord. The Psalmist said he proclaimed God’s love and faithfulness morning and night. Corporate worship with other believers is a tremendous blessing. (Believe me, after six years of missing church due to illness, I’m thrilled to be able to worship with my brothers and sisters again!) But we also have the opportunity to enjoy daily time in worship, just us and God.

Two years ago, I began spending several minutes a day in focused worship to the Lord. No other noise, no distractions, no agenda. Using hymns, praise choruses, and worship songs, I spent precious time telling Jesus how wonderful He is and how much I love Him. This time with the Lord quickly became the best part of my day. I love every minute I spend in worship to God! At the same time, it's probably the hardest spiritual discipline for me to do consistently. I think that shows how important it is for my spiritual and physical health. 

More than anything I want to live in love with Jesus each day! Any love relationship needs intentional cultivating. I’ve found this habit of personal worship is an amazing way to cultivate my love relationship with Jesus. It is God’s precious gift to me.

If you haven’t considered this before, I pray you’ll begin a personal worship time with the Lord. If it’s already a habit in your life, I pray you'll be blessed as you continue to worship and adore your worthy Savior. And you can pray for me also to not neglect this awesome gift.

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD. (NIV)

Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD. (NLT)

How blessed are the people who worship you! O LORD, they experience your favor. (NET)
-Psalm 89:15


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Walking in the Light

By: Adam McClendon

John 3:20–21: “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

I hate roaches.  No really!  As I type, my skin feels like it is crawling and I’m having that nasty tingling feeling on my neck because I’m grossed out.  Why is it so gross?  Because when I was 12, I went to spend the night with a poor family friend whose home was infested with roaches.  “Infested” is putting it mildly.  Literally, they could have been on the reality show. 

Everything was fine until we went to bed and the lights went out.  About 2am, I woke up feeling something crawling on my face.  Yes!  Roaches were on my face!  I freaked out!  Needless to say, I “slept” the rest of the night with the lights on.

I know this is a gross illustration, but it drives home the point that gross “stuff” comes out in the darkness.  Roaches don’t like the light, because they get exposed.  They like to move under the cover of darkness. 

It is this same light – darkness tension that John uses to illustrate the difference between those who are children of God (John 1:2) and those who are not. 

The text says that those whose life is characterized by wickedness, they hate the light.  They hate Jesus Christ.  Wow, that’s pretty strong.  You may say, “No, they don’t hate Jesus, they hate the light,” but Jesus is the light (John 1:7-9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). 

When someone’s life is bent in rebellion against Jesus, that person “hates,” “rejects,” and “shows disdain for” Jesus regardless of how many prayers they have prayed, church services attended, communion wafers eaten, or converts made.

The opposite is also true.   Those whose life is bowed in submission and obedience to Jesus love him.  Isn’t that what he himself declared: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15)?

This doesn’t mean that salvation is worked for, but it does mean that it is worked out and manifested through our good works (Eph 2:10; Phil 2:12).

John 3:36 vividly reiterates this truth: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

So, are you of the light or are you a spiritual cockroach that loves to hide their true identity through a secret life of darkness?  Jesus died and rose again so that through his Spirit believers could walk in the abundant life he provides (John 10:10-11; 20:22).

When Jesus is embraced as the Son of God through faith, your life is changed.  Are you changed?  Are you different?  Are you embracing the Light? 

The message of John echoes through time urging you to do so.

Father of Light, please help me to walk in the Light of Christ by faith.  Forgive me of my dark tendencies and cut away the cancer of sin from my life.  Give me a greater understanding of your will and a deep desire to walk in accordance with that will.  May your light not only change me for your glory, but then shine through me to be a light to the nations so that others can experience the abundant life that Christ brings.



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Conviction: Gnat or Fire Ant?

By Joanna K. Harris
Joanna Harris is an author and blogger with a tremendous passion for God.  You can contact Joanna here.  For more on Joanna and her ministry, check out her website here.  There you can also find links to her other blogs.


Have you ever been bitten by a gnat?  It's an annoying inconvenience for your body, but it quickly fades away. But have you ever experienced the bite of a fire ant? It’s not something to take lightly. 

In the spiritual realm, sometimes we treat God's conviction of sin in our lives like it's a gnat, ignoring it or swatting it away. Perhaps we need to think of conviction as a fire ant instead and pay attention.

Webster defines conviction as "the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth." Spiritual conviction comes from God. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit "will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8). When we sin, the Holy Spirit is faithful to convict our hearts. He shows us we’ve done something wrong and prompts us to repent of that sin. 

Often, conviction comes as a quiet inner voice telling us we've messed up. Sometimes it's a direct rebuke from a friend. Other times, it's a specific verse that reminds us of truth we have forgotten or ignored. Spiritual conviction is a lot like Jimminy Cricket, Pinochio's little "conscience."

As sinful human beings, without conviction we would persist in our sin and wander further and further away from God. We need to be confronted with the error of our own actions in light of God's truth. 

The purpose of conviction is not to make us feel guilty, however. Guilt makes us want to hide or run from God. Guilt comes from our enemy, the accuser of the brethren—not from God. Conviction is the necessary wake-up call about our sin, but always with the intent of bringing us back to sweet fellowship with our Savior.

Contrary to our natural thinking, conviction is a blessing, not a burden. Romans 2:4 tells us it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance. His conviction is a sweet mercy to keep us from pursuing our own stubborn, willful and self-deceived ways. The reason God convicts us is so we can repent and resume walking in step with Him. God desires to commune with us every moment.

Through His death on the cross, Jesus provided forgiveness for our sins, not only in the past, but also in the present and the future (Col. 2:13). Hallelujah! When we experience the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we can acknowledge our sin to God, thank Him for His forgiveness and rely once again on His Spirit to empower us to choose obedience. We are not slaves to sin anymore—Christ has set us free! 

God is faithful to convict us of our sin, but we aren't always ready to repent. Sometimes conviction is a lot like the gnat bite, annoying but not necessarily painful. Often we respond with a quick "ouch" and then promptly forget about it. After a while we can desensitize ourselves and not even notice when the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts. Sometimes God has to use a "fire ant" form of conviction to get our attention. I can testify that this method is at times painful, but it’s definitely for our good.

As we learn to pay attention to the little pricks of conviction, the Holy Spirit can lead us to quiet places to listen and study God's Word. This is where the deep conviction takes place, where God often reveals our hidden or willful sins. Through this process of conviction, repentance and desiring to obey, God accomplishes His ongoing work of inner transformation.

God’s desire is to keep us walking with Him in truth –not fooling ourselves that we're walking with Him while we allow certain areas of our lives to remain in darkness. Paying attention to the little "bites" of conviction trains us to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to make abiding in Christ our deepest desire and daily habit.

Learning to listen to the gentle pricks of the Holy Spirit and avoid the pain of a fire ant’s bite is an ongoing process. Obviously, we can't change ourselves. But we can ask God to change us little by little, moment by moment. After all, it is "God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose" (Phil. 2:13). I’m so glad He does!

Lord, give us ears to hear your conviction and hearts that long to obey you in everything, especially the "little" things. Keep us from rationalizing that something isn't sin because others do it. Teach us to welcome your conviction about any areas of darkness that attempt to invade our lives and gain a foothold. Make us joyfully submissive to your Son, so that through us you can demonstrate your goodness and bless many. May our hearts be open to your conviction today, and may we continually rejoice in your eternal forgiveness, transforming grace and empowering love! Amen.