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The Heart Behind the Name

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Barnabas is a name that is very often found on the lips of believers, and with good reason.

From what we read of him in the New Testament, he was a pretty amazing man. He was one of Paul’s travelling companions and is listed often as one of the faithful brethren. Perhaps, what sets him apart most of all though, is that in the book of Acts he is called the “son of encouragement.” What a wonderful description for this man!

The Bible uses the word “son” to refer to a source or sphere, but when used with the word “of,” it is used to refer to that which identifies a man. This man Barnabas, was known as an encourager, he lived in encouragement to others.

Here is the amazing thing though, the name by which we know him, Barnabas, is not really his name. In Acts 4:36 we are told that his given name was Joseph. The apostles are the ones that called him “Bar–Nabas” – a compound Hebrew word that means “son of encouragement.” In other words, this man Joseph, lived such a life of encouragement to others, that his encouraging life actually became his name. He was such a son of encouragement, that his name became son of encouragement – Barnabas.

Oh if only all of us in the church would seek to live such an encouraging life to other! What would it look like if we all sought to be such encouragers? What if we so lived that the world changed all of our names to Barnabas? Wow! We would really turn the world upside down, wouldn’t we?

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How to Praise God in the Wilderness

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David says his hope is to see the glory and power of God in the wilderness, just as surely as he sees it in the temple in Jerusalem. He's saying that he doesn't need a building to find God, he doesn't need priests to find God, he doesn’t need sacrifices to find God, and here it comes - he doesn’t need a pastor to find God! You see friends, God wants to have a relationship with you, with no mediator other than God Himself named Jesus. Isn't that cool?!

Look what David says in verse 4, “Your lovingkindness is better than life.” You might want to circle the word lovingkindness; it's the Hebrew word “hesed.” It is the word for unconditional love in the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant word for “agape.”

We need to stop right there friends and really think about what he’s saying here, “Your lovingkindness is better than life.” Let’s talk about life; aren’t our lives our most precious possessions, the thing we hang on to at all costs? If a robber came up and pointed a gun at you, what would you do? You'd give him your wallet! Why? Because your life is more important than your money. If you get the dreaded word, “cancer,” what are you going to do? You're going to go through drastic surgery, you’ll take hideous chemicals into your body, why? To save your life! We fight for life with all we have. The Old Testament book of Job says exactly that in chapter 2, verse 4, “All that a man has, he will give for his life.” And it’s true.

What David says is radical, “Your love is even better than the choicest thing in my life called life itself. How can he say that? Well, let's think about it, what good is life without the love of God?

One of the things that brought me to Christ almost forty years ago now, was a little gospel tract that I received from a church I visited. It was called, “Is this all there is to life?” I opened it up after I had visited, I wasn't a Christian yet, but this is what it said on the first page, “A man is born, goes to school, gets married, gets a job, has kids, retires, and then dies; is that all there is to life?” That got me thinking, what is man really? Is he really just a bunch of protoplasm waiting to become manure? Or is there more to this thing? And that sent me on my search to find God.

What David finds, and his son Solomon wrote these words, “All of life is a vanity unless God is a part of it.” And so David, who knows the love of God, says, “My Lips are going to praise you.” And don't forget where he is when he says this, he's in the wilderness! His circumstances have not changed, all that has changed is his mindset - he's gone vertical.


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A Life or Death Choice

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It is so very easy to be a critic; all you have to do is open your mouth and speak negatively about someone. But have you ever pondered what the Bible has to say about it?

The Bible says that when we slander or gossip about someone that we are actually “Satanizing.” That’s right, we are in partnership with the enemy and joining him in his work to steal, kill, and destroy!

In 1 Timothy 3 the actual translation of a gossip is a “she-devil." Why would we want to do that? Why would we choose to live so contrary to who we are - a vessel of life, and instead choose to live as someone that we are not – a vessel of death? It is not only evil but foolish to do so.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that every time we open our mouth, we are either going to be extending words of life or words of death. So, what do you want to be my friend? Do you want to be a minister of life or a minister of death? The choice is yours.

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The Secret to Being Truly Satisfied

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Do you remember the story of John Chapter 4? The disciples were hungry so they go to the village of Sychar and Jesus stays behind. Why did Jesus stay behind? So he could meet with a lady called the Samaritan woman, who's had five husbands and is living with a man, and she comes to the well to draw water.

Why does the woman go to Jacobs well to draw water when Sychar had it’s own natural springs? She chose to travel a mile outside of town to the well because of the way she had lived. You see, she knew that if she went to those springs the other women would talk about her saying, “Oh there she is, the adulterer.” So she chooses instead to go a mile each way, twice a day, carrying heavy water pots just so she can avoid people.

And Jesus sees her and says, “Give me a little water to drink.”

Wait a minute, what is He doing? A Jewish man, talking to a Samaritan woman?! Oh, but if she only knew who was talking to her! If she did she’d be asking HIM for water because He’d give her a water that would satisfy her thirst forever!

So they have a little conversation about who He is, and who she is, and who He can be to her, and she leaves her water pot and runs to the village. Wait a minute... put the car in park! What does she do? She leaves her water pot, the water pot she was using to collect water in, the one she’d carried a mile out of town just so she could avoid people, and now she’s going back to the very people she was trying to avoid! Why would she do that? She did it so she could tell them about the Messiah she'd just found because you see, getting water didn't matter any longer because her soul was so satisfied that she didn't even recognize her thirst anymore.

The story continues and the disciples return with the food, saying “Master, we're here with the food.” Jesus replies telling them that He has food that they don't even know about, and they wonder who fed the Master! What does Jesus tell them? He tells them, “No, you don't understand, my food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and I've just done it. I've led a woman into Life and now I'm just not hungry anymore.” Isn’t that amazing? You've experienced it, haven't you, when you're in a deep turmoil perhaps, and you do have a physical need, but the Holy Spirit of God so provides the presence of God to you, that you lose sight of the need around you. It's exactly like what happened to David; Father infused his soul with His presence and it satisfied not only his soul but his fleshly need as well.

Thank you, Father, that you can satisfy our deepest thirsts.


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God Commends the Weak

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Did you know that in the book of Revelation, the church in Philadelphia was commended because it had “little strength"?

In our modern world that is a very strange basis for being commended. Modern society values strength. Our media driven culture beckons us to be men of steel and women of iron. The city in which I live heralds, for example, that we are “Baton Rouge Strong” and “Baton Rouge Proud.” God, however, says that it is the weak, those that have recognized their minimal strength who are to be commended. Why is that?

Let’s ponder Moses for example; he was a man of great strength. Raised in the court of Pharaoh to be a leader in the nation, he was trained to be a warrior. When he thought the time had come for him to deliver his people, he mustered all the strength he could and killed an Egyptian, but failed to rally the people around him and ran like a scared rabbit into the desert.

There, he spent the next 40 years tending sheep and growing weak. How do we know that? Because when God appeared to Him, to call Him to lead Israel into freedom, he bemoaned that he was not the kind of man God was looking for. Early in his life, Moses thought he was that man because he was strong, but now that he was weak he could not dream of being a leader. He thought himself a nothing and informed God that he could not speak very well. Ironically, the book of Acts tells us that Moses was the most eloquent man in all the earth!

So how are we to explain that? Some say that after spending 40 years with a bunch of sheep, any of us would speak b-a-a-a-a-d too! I don’t buy that. I believe that after his failure, Moses no longer trusted in his natural resources, he recognized that he was not up to the demand, which forced him to depend on God in a way he would never have without his failure. His failure opened his eyes to his true state of weakness so that he could then see the greatness of God that would be exercised by God on his behalf; transforming him into a man who received the strength of God!

Though this is a hard lesson for most of us to learn, it is one that we desperately need to understand. The Holy Spirit told Paul that when he was weak, then he would truly be strong because he would no longer be trusting in himself, but in God. This is why God would offer that “not so strange” commendation for those who have little strength. I want to hear that commendation, and I hope you do too, for it is the true path to the strength we desperately need to secure to live victoriously in this fallen world.

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What Every Hurting Person Needs to Know

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There was a great onslaught against David, and he could have easily remained living horizontal and kept his eyes fixed on all the obstacles and pain around him. He could have stayed living horizontal, and looked at the wilderness he was living in instead of the throne room, but David says, “Oh no, I'm going vertical! You are my God!”

You see beloved when we encounter the adversities of life, one of the facts that we must remember is that God always holds on to us; whether we hold on to God or not though, that’s the choice we must make. And if we choose to stay horizontal, we will lose sight of God.

We must make the choice of the will to see past what is coming against us, to the God who is sitting on His throne. That is what David does, he says, “I am alone in this desert. Yet I am not alone!”

You see, in those trauma times of life, we can feel so alone, can’t we? We can feel like there's no one out there who gets us; even the one we're married to sometimes. When we're going through a traumatic time, we get the feeling that they really don't get us, and then we start to cry out, “Is there anyone out there who gets us?!” The answer is yes! Psalm 73 says, “Who do I have in heaven but you?” And then what did he say? “Who Do I have on earth but you?” Oh God, you get me.

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Exchanging Our Strength

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I have found over the years, that so many people have been comforted by the words of Isaiah 40. There we are told that, "young men stumble and fall" and that even "the vigorous young men grow weary and stumble." BUT – "those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, mounting up with wings like eagles, to run and not grow weary!" That is glorious, but it is even more glorious than it sounds. Let’s dig deep into some of the individual words and watch this glory be magnified.

"Young men stumble and fall," that is true for all of us. I take this to be a reference to the average guy. We live in a tough world and for most of us, our strength is very often, not up to the demands of life. There are, however, living among us, the elite ones; the strong and the mighty who seemingly have the fortitude of personal resources that enables them to conquer this world we live in. Uh-oh, this text tells us that they too grow weary and stumble.

This world can stand ominously against us with the demands that it places on our lives, and when even the strong and mighty are not up to the task, we could easily find ourselves overwhelmed and frustrated. Fortunately, we find one of the great words of the Bible intervening in our desperate situation… "BUT!"

"But those who wait upon the Lord." Now, if we take an honest look at that phrase, it is really not all that encouraging. We are stumbling and falling, so we need to “WAIT”… WHAT?! For how long must we wait? When will the Lord show up? Will He show up? It is an encouraging phrase, but not encouraging enough! Wonderfully, that word does not mean “wait” at all. It really means “to braid.” Think of a girl braiding her hair, intertwining, placing individual hairs into “one” – DO YOU SEE THE GLORY? It is not calling us to "wait" for God to show up, but in the moment to recognize our “oneness” with Him. It is really the Old Testament word for abiding. So as we are growing weary, and as we are stumbling, as we are in great need, in that very moment we can recognize our “oneness” with God, and “renew” our strength.

That is so awesome, but it gets even better!

The Hebrew word for “renew,” can actually be translated “exchange”. So, as we recognize our “oneness” with God, we can go way beyond having our strength "renewed," we can "exchange" our strength, for the strength of God. That is the reason we will be able to mount up with wings like eagles and run and not go weary because through faith we can experience the very life of God being lived out and expressed through our lives.

My prayer is that if these verses comforted you before, they will now comfort you more than ever as you realize how much God wants to offer Himself to you, and for you, as you walk in faith with Him in this dark and desperate world.

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Glorious News for Mankind

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In the final analysis, there are really only two “religions” in the world. First, there is the religion of Human Achievement; this is the religion that all mankind was placed into the moment Adam ate from the wrong tree, the tree of good and evil, or the tree of right and wrong. This tree says "Tell me what to do and I will do it. Tell me what not to do and I will not do it." Of course, the huge assumption is that we will be able to pull it off, and of course, there isn't, and never has been, a man who can do that.

Romans 3:23 tells us that, "ALL of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." So the religion of Human Achievement, no matter what emblem it falls under or what name it is known by, emphasizes what man does in order to merit life and acceptance from God. 

There is, however, another “religion” – the religion of Divine Accomplishment. Here the emphasis is not on what man must do for God, but what God “has done” for man – hence the name Divine Accomplishment. God has done it! It is finished! This is the most glorious news available to man! God offers what He has done for man, to man as a gift; the only “requirement” for man is simply to humble himself and open up his arms and receive the gift by faith. A gift given is not necessarily a gift that has been received. That is where faith comes in, and that is in Hebrews it says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God!”

What is your religion? Is your religion the religion of Human Achievement, a religion that is all about you, and all that you have done and are doing in order to try and achieve merit before God? Or have you entered into the religion of Divine Accomplishment, where God loves you so much that He has done it all for you! The choice is yours!

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Receivers Instead of Achievers

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A paradox is defined as something that sounds contradictory but is actually true. We find such a paradox in the first letter Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. There he told them to make it their ambition, to be zealous and to strive eagerly - but let’s not complete that sentence just yet...

When I see a phrase that calls me to STRIVE or to be AMBITIOUS, I instantly think of the culture of the world we live in, and conclude that I need to "strive" to be a “mover-and-a-shaker,” or have "ambitions" to become an influencer or motivator; a heart charger who yearns for impact in this world. That is what I would expect would follow a call to "strive" or "be ambitious."

Paul, however, had no such conclusion to that phrase. Instead, he said that we should strive to be quiet; that we should be ambitious to mind our own business and take care of our own work. Pretty strange command, isn’t it? Not really though, when you think about it. We are made by God as human beings, called on the first full day of our existence in Genesis 2 to REST! Oh, we went out to work on the 8th day, but we worked from a position of rest. We labored, but not to achieve, because we had already been given everything by God. WONDERFUL!

Man sinned, however, and we bought the lie that we should eat from the tree of right and wrong, and in that instant we went from a human being who received all that they needed from the hand of God, to become human doings, achieving for themselves. This became our new normal, our default mode – to perform. To do.

The glory of the New Covenant placed us back into relationship with God and provided the potential for us to once again become receivers instead of achievers. To rest instead of LABOR. To simply be significant in Christ instead of trying to achieve significance. This is not easy for anyone, because we have been conditioned to achieve instead of receive. That is why the author of Hebrews said, “Labor to enter into the rest.” In other words, it is hard work to rest. And that is why Paul here in Thessalonians said that we should make it our ambition to lead quiet lives.

We have been made some kind of special in God’s eyes. It is time for us to really believe that and let it dramatically influence the way we live.

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Is the Truth on Your Lips Lived Out in Your Life?

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Sometimes I hear people say that they don’t care what others think. Though I agree that it is the Word of God that is to be the main source by which we order our lives, we should lend some consideration to what others think about us – especially the unbelieving world.

The Apostle Paul told the Thessalonian believers that they should be quiet, work hard, and mind their own business; that they should strive to do so. It is pretty clear from what Jesus said that there is more than enough on our plate every day to concern us. In fact, there is so much on our plate, that we should not even worry about tomorrow. This also means that there is so much on our plate each day that we should not have occasion to worry about what is on the plates of others. As it has been well said, “If you are not busy, you are in danger of being a busybody.” A point well taken, and it is this diligent pursuit of our own responsibilities in daily living, that will have such a great influence on what the outside world thinks of us.

Paul told the Thessalonians that when they follow his counsel to work hard, be quiet, and mind their own business, they will not be lacking. What he meant by this, is that we will be working, and barring some calamity, will be able to provide for the needs of our own lives. In other words, we will not have to go on the rolls of some charity in order to meet our needs.

It is at that point that Paul added that this hard-working lifestyle will have a dramatic effect on the unbelieving world, and we will win their respect because of it. The truth is that we are performing on the stage of life, and the unbelieving world is the audience. They are watching to see if the truth that is on our lips is also in our lives.

One anonymous saint put it this way, “Before we tell others about Jesus with our lips, we need to make sure they can see Jesus in our lives!” Perhaps Francis of Assisi said it best, “Preach Christ always, and sometimes use words!” I love that! Don’t you? Let’s preach Jesus with our lives!

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The One-Two Punch

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In boxing, there is what is called a combination; a left and then a right. It's a one-two punch that hopefully delivers a knockout blow and ends the fight. I find such a one-two punch in the book of 1 Thessalonians 2, where it tells us that God has called us into His kingdom and glory.

First of all, let’s take note of the word “called,” which is better translated, “calls” since it is in the present tense. This means God calls you, and calls you, and calls you, and never stops calling you even when you have already answered the call and have come to Him and received Him and the abundant Life He offers. Why is that?

I believe that God is so infinitely good and wonderful that we will never exhaust the glory of His being – hence we are ALWAYS going to be coming to Him to draw from Him. A second thought I had is that we are continually being drawn to things other than God in this world and therefore are ALWAYS in need of being called back to Him as our only true source of Life.

The rest of the passage tells us what He is calling us to, and this is wonderful!

First, He is calling us to His kingdom. He, of course, is the King of this kingdom, but we are not called to be His subjects. Oh no! We are called to be His children (John 1:11-12.) We are called to be the sons and daughters of the King, which of course makes us princes and princesses.

I believe, with all my heart, that this is why He added that the second thing He is calling us to is His glory! We, as His sons and daughters, share in the inheritance of His glory. This is an amazing thought because throughout the Old and New Testaments God is revealed as a jealous God, who has a rightful zeal for that which is His own. He will not allow anyone or anything to rob Him of His glory; but He will, however, freely share His glory with His kids!

What an amazing Father we have been called to. We are very privileged kids!

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“Preach Christ always, and sometimes use words.”

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I read of a man once who was pondering what Paul’s greatest sermon might have been.

Paul gave multiple discourses in the book of Acts; perhaps it was his first sermon in Damascus after his conversion? Or maybe the sermon Paul gave in Athens on Mars Hill, or the one he gave in Antioch in Pisidia? Two of his most powerful messages were when he gave defense before the Jerusalem authorities when he was falsely accused and arrested; were these his greatest?

It's an interesting question to ponder, and I love that in the end, the writer settled on Paul’s greatest sermon being not the message he gave with his lips, but the message he gave with his life.

Though he was always being persecuted, slandered, and ridiculed, Paul continued to pursue the spreading of the Gospel, and personally loving those who would hear his message and even those who sought to thwart his message.

The New Testament declares that Paul continued to be bold in his God.

He could have grown weary, he could have doubted his call from God, or he could have surmised that he had somehow disqualified himself.  He could have watered down his message and made it more palatable to men, or he could have simply ceased his efforts all together and decided to live a quiet life. But instead, Paul continued to love people and to serve his God. He continued to pursue his missionary endeavors, courageously pushing forward and continuing to herald the good news of Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of man because God loves man so very much.

St. Francis of Assisi said, so many years ago, “Preach Christ always, and sometimes use words.” Paul certainly fulfilled those words with the powerful message of the life he lived. May we likewise so live, that men are caused to stop and take notice of the lives we live.

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The Labor of Rest

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One of the charges frequently brought against me and others who teach the message of grace is that we teach "easy believe-ism” or “cheap grace.” I would like to address those thoughts.

First, let's talk about the thought of "easy believe-ism." When we teach the grace of God, we are heralding to humanity that there is a new economy of living made available through the finished work of Jesus. Yes, it is an "easy" economy to enter. I do not shy away from proclaiming that. If God wants people saved, and He does, why would He make it difficult?

I love that in the third chapter of John when Jesus heralds that eternal life is available through Him, He refers to the little brass serpent that was recorded in the book of Numbers. Remember the story? God sent serpents to deal with the rebellious children of Israel, but He also instructed Moses to make a little brass serpent and put it up on a pole as a remedy for anyone who got bit by the serpents. All they had to do if they got bit, was take a glance of faith to the serpent and they would be healed. Isn’t that glorious?! All it took was a glance of faith, and that is indeed all that God requires for someone to enter life. Glorious!

Living that life, however, is a different story; it requires saying a loud and resounding “No!” to our resources, so that we can instead trust the resources of God and that is no EASY thing to do! It requires hard work, as the writer of Hebrews says, to enter into rest. It is hard work to trust God’s resources instead of our own, especially since all of us were birthed into the lie that we shall be as God and therefore inherently think that we can do just fine apart from Him. So yes, it is easy to believe and find life with God, but it is hard work to experience life with God. We must labor to enter into the rest that Jesus has secured for us.

Oh, and by the way, how did He secure that rest for us? He laid down His life on our behalf. He died so that we could be set free from the law and restored to God instead, and there is nothing cheap about the grace that He secured for us. In fact, if you really understand the economy of grace, how dare anyone call it cheap! It cost Jesus His life, and it requires on our part the laying down of our lives in order for us to find His life.

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A Heart's That Good

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I want to tell you one of my favorite stories.

A young couple moved into a new neighborhood. The next morning, while eating breakfast, the young woman noted that their neighbor’s laundry, which was hung out to dry, was not very clean and added that the poor woman must not know how to wash clothes properly. Her husband looked on but remained silent.

Every time her neighbor would hang out her clothes to dry, the young woman would make the same comment that her neighbor’s laundry was not very clean and that the poor woman must not know how to wash clothes properly.

One morning, however, the young woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, “Look at those clean clothes next door! Someone must have taught her how to wash clothes. I wonder who got to her?” The husband responded, “Actually, I got up early this morning and washed our windows.”

Unfortunately, this is all too often a very common experience. We as human beings spend so much time thinking negatively about our neighbor, that we fail to see the negative in our own lives. This is something we should especially avoid when thinking of our Christian brethren.

In the first letter to the Thessalonians Paul, who had to leave Thessalonica because of persecution, wrote to them that he wanted to get back to them but was unable to do so. It would have been very easy for the Thessalonians to listen to the negative voice of the enemy and think that Paul did not value them, or did not have the time for them, or perhaps that he was too busy for them.

Timothy, who had been sent to Thessalonica when Paul could not go there, returned with the news that the Thessalonians ALWAYS had good remembrances of them. They knew that Paul had a new heart and a good heart, (Ezekiel 36:25-26) and so they chose to believe that Paul had the best in mind for them always.

If only we would choose to believe the best about other people. How much needless conflict might we be able to avoid if we chose to believe that the heart of a believer is always good, instead of giving in to negative imaginations? Remember, Paul said in 1 Corinthians that love believes and hopes all things!

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The Balance of Love

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The great American entrepreneur John D. Rockefeller stated, “I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun.” The most powerful leadership tool available is the ability to get along with other people; to be able to relate to people and not only to understand people but encourage them. The apostle Paul certainly fit this bill.

In the second chapter of the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul states that he cared for them like a nursing mother gently cares for her own children. There is nothing so dear as the love of a nursing mother. Paul also went on though, to declare that he was like a father to the Thessalonians. In that context, he affirmed that in the role of a father he exhorted the Thessalonians; simply put, he spoke the hard words, the strong words that we all need to hear sometimes.

I love that he chose the word "parakaleo," which literally means to "come alongside." What a great lesson for us to learn! When we have to speak those hard words to the ones we love, those words are best spoken not with a finger in another’s face, but instead with an arm around them, communicating our love and acceptance of them, even if we do not necessarily accept their behavior.

Further, Paul instantly added that he encouraged them. It is not enough to just exhort others. If all we do is exhort people, we will soon have very few friends because they will run when they see us coming. Paul, however, balanced his hard words with loving words; words of encouragement. It is the same word used when Jesus comforted the family of Lazarus. It is the word "hekostan," and it means the "tender, compassionate, restorative empathy given to one who is struggling, burdened, or heartbroken."

Paul knew that in a very harsh world it's easy for someone when they hear a negative word, to become discouraged. He was quick to add words of encouragement, quick to play the role of a cheerleader and stress that he believed in them and anticipated that the best would be expressed by and through them.

Paul is a great example for us in terms of dealing with people. May we love others enough to say the strong words, but care enough for them to speak the encouraging words as well.

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Never Alone

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The worst test I ever went through was when Avery was born, and she fought for life for three and a half months. When we finally got her home, she went right back into ICU and fought for another couple of months until they finally found out what was wrong. They were able to treat it but it depleted things in her body, and some of the meds they were giving her had to be replaced. They gave me her medicine at 6:00 PM on Tuesday night. We were bringing her home the next day. Finally, she was coming home! I gave her the medicine, and instantly she was nauseousness and crying; something was wrong. I complained three times to the nurse saying, "Something’s wrong, something's wrong, something wrong!” They said, “Oh no, everything's fine just the way it's written.” But we knew something was wrong. They said they would give her the next dose and if anything was wrong, they would call us.

We drove home, and I'll never forget my bride; her head hit the pillow, and she said, “I've got a really bad feeling.” It had been a gruesome couple of months it was just raw emotion. We fell asleep.

We woke up an hour later with a call from the hospital. “Mr. Friedmann, get here as fast as you can.” There was no time to talk as they quickly informed us that we might not make it in time. As we're driving, I'll never forget, Janet reached her hand over to mine, and she said, “Is this all the time we get?”

We walk in, and Avery's out, her heart has stopped, and they’re working on her. The doctor came in, and he said, “What's wrong?” I said, “The medicine you gave her, that’s what's wrong!” 

He came back twenty minutes later and let me tell you again, to his credit, this was a man. He walked up to me and said, “It's my fault. I was in a hurry, and I miscalculated the dose, and I gave her five times what she was supposed to have.”

You’ve got to understand that at that moment, everything in me wanted to take this guy and put his head through the wall. But... “No test has overtaken you. Every test is common to man. It is showing that you're not up to the demand, but there's Someone who is. Lay hold of that Someone, and you will overcome.” 

Trusting Jesus, I reached out, and I grabbed that man, and I said, “I love you. I forgive you. Forget about us and go do whatever you need to do to make her better.”

She was out for twenty-two minutes in a coma. Five days later she woke up. And this summer, this child, is going to go work in the burn ward in South Africa at the Red Cross hospital and add more gray hair to my head and for that too, He is sufficient. 

I don't know what you're going through, but I know the world we live in, and that means you're either going through it, coming out of going through it, or you're going into it. But you don't have to go into it alone, and that is such good news because you're not up to the demand, but there's Someone who is, and all it takes is faith to say, "Lord, I'm not up to the demand, I need you." And He's there. Isn’t that wonderful friends?!

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The Way of Escape: His Life Inside Us

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But God is faithful! Did you see the words, “But God”? “We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but God who is rich in His mercy and grace.” It's all over the New Testament. Whenever you have this horrible negative reality, there’s a “But God,” and this great opportunity on the other side of that available at the moment of faith, praise God!

"He will not permit you to be tested or tempted beyond that which you are able, but with the test or temptation will make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it." And the way of escape my friends is His own life inside you! God will provide, God will provide.

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How Far Will You Go With Your God?

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Nick was just your average ordinary guy in Communist Romania, and then he found the Gospel, and this is what he said to the guy who led him to Christ, “I will serve God, but I can't go into the ministry. God don't push me that far.”

It took only a couple of years, and Nick answered the call to go into the ministry. Nick thought, “Well God, I'll do the ministry, but don't lead me away from my kids. Don't push me that far.” Pretty soon he's travelling around the country. How many of you know that it was dangerous to be a Christian in a communist country? Nick thought, “Oh God, don't let me get arrested. Don't push me that far.” Can you guess what happened? He got arrested, and they said to him, “Stop preaching in Christ or you don't know what we can do to you!” 

“Oh God, don't push me that far,” Nick thought. He continued to travel all over the country and teach Christ. So they arrest him again, and this time they tell him, “Don't you know where you are? Don't you know who we are? We have the power to kill you!” And out of Nick's mouth came these words, “Even if you kill me, my messages are on tapes all over this country. My blood will be sprinkled over those messages, and the power of Christ to transforms lives will magnify!” The Communist officer said, “We are not so stupid as to give you your wish.” Later, one of Nick's friends spoke to him and said, “What happened to “God don't push me that far?” Nick replied with these words, “We need to go all the way with our God.”

My friends, how far will you go with your God? May we all go all the way!

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God is Good and Does Only Good

  What do you do when the path that God has you on doesn't line up with what you know of God?

What do you do when the path that God has you on doesn't line up with what you know of God?

“And Abraham rose up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, took two of his young men and Isaac, his son, cut the wood for the burnt offering and rose up and went to the place which God had told him.” These are the most puzzling verses in the Word of God. Why are they so puzzling? Because there's absolute silence in these verses in terms of what was going on inside of Abraham. Notice there's no argument from him?

I've gone through near-death experiences with two of my children already. The first words out of my mouth were, “God. No!” Would they be the first words out of your mouth?

But that’s not what the Bible says; “God, you told Noah not to kill. We can't do this. God, you promised posterity for this boy. You can't kill the son of the Prophet.” We don't see any of that. Oh, he must have wrestled. How could a father's heart not wrestle with that kind of command; “Take your boy up on an altar and kill him.” Was Abraham thinking, “This is the one I waited for so long to have, the one I loved through so much. You said through this one would be prosperity. He has to live! He has to live!”?

What do you do, my friends, when the path that God has you on doesn't line up with what you know of God? What do you do? There's only one thing to do. You go back into your history, and you connect the dots of how God has proven faithful to you over the years, right? And then what kind of conclusion do you end up with, that God is wavering and erratic; He promised a son, and now he wants him back. No!  The conclusion you end up with is that God has provided in the past and He will provide in three days. Abraham doesn't know how, but he knows that God is good and big and wise and powerful and holy and he makes a decision based on what he knows about God.

As he connects the dots of the past, reason gives way to faith. Why do I say that? Because everything in a human mind would say, “No,” to what God was asking. Reason gives way to faith, and he makes the decision of a child. It took God one-hundred and twenty years to get that man to childlike faith. I look at my own life, and I think I'm going to have to live to five-hundred to get there! 

He saddles the donkey and cuts the wood. It will be a burnt offering, a worship sacrifice. God is saying, “Offer your boy in worship to me.”

Notice that Abraham didn't tell Sarah? That would not have gone over well! By the way friends, there's a very important lesson in that. Sometimes even though we're married and we are one, God still works with you individually, and there are some things that God is doing in your life that are just for you and not your spouse. It's a hard thing for a spouse to watch the other one go through something like that because we want to fix them, but you can't fix them. Only God is the fixer.

So, Abraham makes a three-day journey. Man, that must have felt like an eternity, and you’ve got to believe he's pondering the whole way. Now, I don't believe he was wrestling with what to do; he's already made the decision to do it. What I think he's wrestling with is how. He’s thinking, “I know God's going to do something, but what is He going to do? How's He going to do it?” I believe with all my heart that he concluded that although his son must die because God had spoken it, his son must live. Therefore, I believe he concluded that God was going to resurrect Isaac from the dead. I think we can confirm that if we look at Hebrews 11:19; “By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac as a sacrifice. He that had received the promise, offered up his only begotten son of whom it was said, 'In Isaac shall thy seed be called,' accounting that God was able to raise him from the dead."

Accounting is a keyword in the verse. It’s a math term; mathematics is the science that deals with the measurement properties and relationships of quantities. Mathematics is all about proven theory. Mathematics is all about figuring something out. Mathematics is about always getting an answer, and this is the term Abraham chose to use when it comes to God. When he looked at how God had proven himself in his life over the years, he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt, it was proven, God would do something, and Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead. What does Psalm 119 say? “God is good and does only good.” In Abraham's mind, he'd concluded; the only possible solution that was in harmony with the God he had come to know was God could not and would not let this boy die without fulfilling his promise concerning this boy. So in verse five, What does he do? He tells his servants, “Stay here.” This blows my mind, Look at the words, “Stay here, the boy and I will go worship (meaning a burnt offering,) and then we will return again to you. Oh my goodness!

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The Pearl of Great Price

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What is it my friends, that God's calling you to surrender in your life? Because it's whatever you are holding on to that is replacing the hand of God. 

You know, as I meditated on this, I was reminded of the words of my good friend Juan Carlos Ortiz. He talked about this in his book, Living With Jesus Today. He said, “Jesus is the pearl of great price.” Do you remember the gospels, the pearl of great price where the merchant, when he finds the pearl and knowing it's value, will sell everything he has in order to get that pearl?

Juan Carlos explains the pearl of great price with this parable:

“Look at this pearl, Juan Carlos,” says God.

“Oh, I must have that pearl. How much does it cost?” 

God answers, “Well, the costs is one thing. It’s very expensive. I don’t know if you want to buy it.” 

“Well, if it's that expensive, who can buy it?”

“Everybody can buy it,” God replies. 

“Well, Father, how can everybody buy it when it's so expensive?” 

And God replies, “It's simple. It simply cost everyone the same price. It costs them everything they have.”

“Oh man, that's a great price!” 

“And that's why it's called the pearl of great price, Juan Carlos.”

“But I must have that pearl!”

“Okay," God says, “what do you have?”

“Well, I've got $100,000 in the bank.”

“Okay, give that to me.” God instructs.

"So the pearl is mine?”

“What else do you have as well?”

“I have a few dollars in my pocket.”

“I said everything,” God reminds.

“Well, I've got to have that pearl, so here’s the money.” God gives the pearl. “Oh, I can't wait to take it home.”

“You didn't say that you had a home. It will cost you your home.” God responds.

“I've got to have the pearl! Okay, you can have my home. I can't wait to show this to my wife!”

“Wife? You have a wife? You didn't mention a wife. It'll cost you her too.” God says.

“Well, what would I say to my kids?”

“Well, you didn't mention that you had kids. It’s going to cost you your kids too. I said everything.” God reiterates.

“But you’ve left me alone on the street!”

“It will cost you your own life too. Here's the thing though. I will give all those things back to you for you to enjoy but when I come calling for one of those things, don't forget to give them to me. Don't become so enamoured with them that you miss Me because the only reason I would call for them is because I want you to have all of Me and something has gotten in the way.”

Is there something you're holding on to instead of the hand of Jesus?

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