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When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:3 (NLT)

Imagine the setting. You’re sitting on your deck enjoying the last remnants of light from a warm summer evening. As you look to the west, lost in your thoughts, you see clouds on the horizon. It’s the makings of a beautiful sunset as the sun sinks prematurely below the billowing thunderheads.

Then you see it…you think. “Was that lightning?” You ask yourself as you continue to watch the horizon. A few moments later your suspicions are confirmed. A second flash of light brightens the darkening horizon. As you watch the approaching storm the signs of its inevitable arrival multiply. The once calm wind begins to blow, occasional rumbles of thunder are heard, the lightning flashes grow more frequent. A storm is coming.

The word picture can conjure up all sorts of emotions. If you are relatively assured of your safety and the safety of your loved ones you may look forward to the oncoming storm. There is nothing as awesome as a good ole’ fashioned summer thunderstorm.

On the other hand, you may feel some concern. Thunderstorms can bring hail to destroy crops. Heavy rain can wash out roads. Wind can cause massive destruction and even death. Your emotions about the coming storm depend on your feeling of personal safety and/or trust in the outcome of the storm.

When Jesus left the disciples he prepared them for his departure by promising his return. He didn’t tell them when he’d return, but he told them how and what to look for. He told them about the gathering storm clouds on the horizon; about the deterioration of the family as God ordained it; about economic upheaval; of political unrest.

He warned us of false prophets and teachings that would claim a new way, a better way than the way of the Good News of Jesus Christ. ‘Just as you know the signs of the seasons,” he would say to his disciples, “watch the signs of the times.”

We don’t know when Jesus will come back for us. Forget those who have all the numbers and the codes figured out. Forget the stories about asteroids and alien spaceships. Put away the white toga and take the ladder away from the roof. You don’t need to wait for a specific time or place. In fact, at a time we least expect his arrival he will come for those who have accepted his grace and forgiveness. How? Like the lightning. Just a flash and I’ll be gone. 

If I’m talking to you at a coffee shop and suddenly disappear, it’s nothing personal. I’ve been called. If you see my car idling by the side of the freeway with no sign of me? I’m in a better place with NO traffic jams.

I see the storm clouds on the horizon. I know the signs. A storm will be here soon. I’m just waiting for the lightning!

PRAYER: Jesus, in spite of how many struggles we have here, I’m feeling truly blessed with my life in you. Still, I can’t wait until I get to see you face to face. Thank you for the promise that someday, maybe today, you will come back for me. Amen.

(thanks to pictureapromise for the great photo!!/pages/Pictureapromise/264103118342 )

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 1 John 4:16 (NLT)

I like how Max Lucado describes God’s love in his book “The Eye of the Storm”.

“Water must be wet. A fire must be hot. You can’t take the wet out of water and still have water. You can’t take the heat out of fires and still have fire. In the same way, you can’t take the love out of [‘God’]…and still have him exist. For he was…and is…Love.”

God is our ultimate example of what love is. How we view love is how we view God. How we define God is ultimately how we define love.

If God is truly love, how does he respond to those who struggle with addiction? If God is love how does he respond to someone in an adulterous relationship? If God is love how does he respond to you during those times you are feeling lonely, depressed, overwhelmed or frustrated?

We need only look at Jesus to know that answers to that question. Jesus said, if you what to see what the father looks like, look at me. See how I treat people who reject me. See how I treat people caught in the trap of sin, of abandonment, of disease. See me. See God. See love.

There are some who prefer to see God’s love in the light of his wrath. They live their lives in fear of what God will do. They pattern their lives according to the world’s standard of love, a standard that says, “My love for you is based on your performance. If you do as I say, I’ll love you. If you don’t meet my expectations, my love for you will die”.

That’s not Gods love. God’s love for you says that even though you aren’t the richest, or the most beautiful, or the strongest. I love you. Even though you struggle with life, can’t be trusted, put things off far too long and too often. I love you. Even though you may be going through the consequences of poor decisions, even that doesn’t take away the fact that God loves you more than ever.

Don’t allow the worlds view of God’s love to take away from the facts about God’s love. God’s love doesn’t spew hatred for anyone. God’s love doesn’t dwell on fear. God’s love doesn’t seek revenge. God’s love seeks what is best for you. Our human form of love can die, but God’s love will never die. You can trust him to always be there for you regardless of how bad life gets.

PRAYER: Father God, I’m so undeserving of so great a love. It’s so hard to fathom what your love is like because we humans have diluted it so much with performance, fear and demands. Empower me to live in the light of your love without distraction from the world. Amen.

I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NCV)

Imagine what it must have been like for those who read the Prophet Jeremiah’s letter. They had been ripped out ofJerusalemand lost everything they had. The lost their homes, their jobs, their identity. Some had lost family members. They were strangers in a foreign land, forced to live among enemies.

While they were told their captivity would end and God would restore them, some died never seeing their belovedJerusalemagain. Others were born in captivity and died knowing nothing but a life of slavery. The onlyJerusalemthey knew was from stories from the elders. They lived and died as captives in a foreign land. Some were born late in the captivity and ‘return toJerusalem’, butJerusalemwasn’t really their home. As Hebrews the only life they knew was the life lived inBabylon. They ‘returned’ to a home that was based on their heritage, not necessarily their heart.

You may be going through a time in your life right now when you feel like one of the captives. Everything that was familiar and ‘safe’ has been ripped from your hands. You feel like a foreigner in a place that doesn’t understand your morals, your way of thinking or your heritage.

Once you knew “Jerusalem” in your heart. You walked close to God, felt his presence, enjoyed the company of his people but then the road of life took and unexpected turn. Now you long for the presence of God in your life like it once was, but things have changed and many of those changes are out of your control.

Perhaps you feel as one born into captivity. The things the rest of society consider ‘normal’ don’t match the standards God has told you to follow. You long for the ‘Jerusalem’ others have talked about; but still, there is nervousness about the future. You know God will be there, but the unknown concerns you.

God’s tells us he has a plan for our lives and it’s a good plan. He KNOWS his plans for you but he doesn’t always tell us what those plans are. He only promises that his plans for you are good, offer hope, and will come to pass in his time. There will be times when we feel like a captive, like an alien in a land where no one understands us, but during those times we can rely on the promise that God’s plans for us are good.

So, what do we do in the meantime? What action does God expect from us while we are in captivity? Jeremiah 29:7 says “Also do good things for the city where I sent you as captives. Pray to the Lord for the city where you are living, because if good things happen in the city, good things will happen to you also.”

There it is! The answer to how we should live as captives. Not worried; not angry; not demanding the right to live according to our heritage; not moaning and lamenting our plight. Nope. Just the opposite. While we are here in this foreign land we are to make our corner of the world the best we can make it because when good things happen to those around us, life will be easier for all of us.

PRAYER: Lord, I ask that while I am ‘captive’ in this foreign land, you would keep my attitude positive and my eyes on the promise of your deliverance. May the things I do today make my world a better place because I know your ultimate plans for me are good. Amen.

From this time on we do not think of anyone as the world does. In the past we thought of Christ as the world thinks, but we no longer think of him in that way. 2 Corinthians 5:16 (NCV)

When Jesus walked on earth he didn’t see men or women, he saw his very own creations. He showed everyone his unconditional love. He invited all to be healed, to be filled, to have their wounds anointed with the healing oil of his touch.

When Jesus walked among us he was, no doubt, uncomfortable with our sin. He, and only he, had the unique ability to look at our sin as God does, yet fully understand the frustration of living as God wanted us to live.

When Jesus walked the dusty roads ofPalestinehe was tempted. Tempted just like you and I. Tempted to worry. Tempted to be full of lust. Tempted to be angry or offended. Tempted to have the respect and status he deserved. We may not like the thought of it, but Jesus may even have looked at a young couple in love and wished he could have that. Remember. He was human as well as God.

The Apostle Paul tells us that we are to see others as Jesus saw them. One of the hard truths of Scripture! To see others as Jesus did? To look past how they have hurt you? To look beyond how they have desecrated the faith you hold so dear? To turn the other cheek when they offend you. To work towards restoration when you would prefer revenge.

In essence, Jesus calls us to look at people as he did. Jesus sees Jesus sees people who are one breath away from eternity with him or one breath away from eternity separated from him. One breath away from eternal bliss and contentment or one breath away from eternal torment and anguish. One breath from being perfected in Christ or one breath away from being rejected by Christ.

There are really only two kinds of people in the world. Those we need to pray for so they will find Christ, and those we need to pray for that they will continue to grow in their faith.

The world judges according to gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, status, race, beauty, wealth and a whole list of other requirements. Jesus uses two, those that know him and those that don’t. Both groups are one breath away from eternity.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus forgive me for judging others as the world does. Give me your eyes to see others as you do. Give me the urgency to pray for those who need you as lord and savior. Empower me to show them the way.

And with all his abundant wealth through Christ Jesus, my God will supply all your needs. Philippians 4:19

When I was growing up in the church I was always amazed at the stories of great missionaries that gave up all they had to go to foreign lands to preach Jesus to the unsaved. I would watch Billy Graham speak to thousands and then watch (sometimes with tears in my eyes) as hundreds would come forward to ‘accept Jesus’.

To this day I read books by some of my favorite authors, watch my well-known pastors and teachers on TV and video sharing the gospel story and am, to be honest, just a little jealous. I’d love to be able to speak to 1,000’s about what Jesus has done in my life. What a rush it would be to have hundreds come forward and kneel at the altar because God has used my words to touch their hearts and bring them to him.

Before you think me too full of pride, does not Jesus himself tell us to ‘Go to all the world and preach the gospel?’ Doesn’t Luke tell us in his letter referred to as the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ that we would receive power from the Holy Spirit to preach the good news to the ‘uttermost parts of the earth’?

Many of us who have grown up in the church may have felt like I have. We were emotionally charged to win the earth to Christ as the result of some missionary speaker or a bible story or testimony that motivated us to consider full-time service for the Master.

So, what is the missing ingredient in fulfilling the Great Commission in your world, or is its fulfillment reserved for those called into full-time Christian service (i.e., missionary, pastor,BibleCollegepresident, evangelist, etc.)

When Jesus was on earth he spent his time with the common folk. His challenge (which we call the Great Commission) was given to a group of uneducated, blue collar workers with no formal education at all, much less training in cross-cultural ministry. Most of them were fishermen!

Want to be an effective Christ-follower? First of all, consider this. Jesus does not tell us to go win converts to the good news. In fact, in the 3 years we read of Jesus ministry his main focus was on physical, emotional and spiritual healing, not on winning friends. The relationships Jesus built were the result of his meeting the needs of people, not demanding their allegiance.

So what does he ask of us? To make disciples. Disciples are made over time through open, honest relationship, not through seminary training or programs. Jesus didn’t give lessons ON life; he showed the lessons IN life.

Each of us is called to make disciples as we go on our way. That’s what being fruitful as a Christ-follower means. The key to this is growing closer to Christ, not adding activity to our days. Our ability to be fruitful Christians comes from the depth of our relationship with Jesus not the level of our Spiritual activity.

Want to be a great missionary? Follow this simple rule. Grow closer to Jesus. He’ll do the rest. Our power as Christ-followers comes from his riches, not ours.

PRAYER: Lord keep me from thinking that the only way I can be used effectively by you is by having titles and numbers in my bag of tricks. Help me draw close to you so I can reach others. Amen.

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October 2011
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