In the Gospel of Luke, chapter four, Jesus said, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.” (Luke 4:24, NLT) This challenge is common to all of us. Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. At times, we may find we are not respected by those around us because God is actually calling us to reach people we don’t yet know. There were plenty of needy Hebrew women during the time of Elijah, but God led him to feed a foreign woman who would have starved. There were many lepers surrounding Elisha, but God led him to heal a Syrian general of leprosy. Don’t be surprised if God uses you to reach people outside of your social or cultural circle. That’s what Jesus did in reaching flawed humanity, and at times how He will lead us as well. Jesus is a repairer of breaches, and a restorer of broken lives.


When I started pastoring many years ago, I would have thought that most people were deeply committed to want to live. Over the years, I found out this is not the case. Most people are most attached to living the way they want to live, than doing whatever it takes to live a healthy life. Whether it involves our physical or spiritual health, self-will typically wins out over self-preservation. It reminds me of the words of Jesus, “…the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41, NIV) And also Paul’s frustrating admission, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15NLT) Thankfully, in Galatians 5:16, Paul provides the solution, “…let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”


Which is more important to God, loving Him, or loving my neighbor? Frankly, I was surprised when I read what Jesus said in Matthew 22, that they are equally important. Loving my neighbor is as important as loving God. Wow! Perhaps even more striking is considering the opposite. Not loving my neighbor, who is created in the image and likeness of God, would be comparable to me not loving God. There are times when I have found an underlying attitude in me that loving my neighbor is optional, but loving God is not. Obviously, I could not be more wrong, and am convicted of this discounting attitude toward my neighbor. It is so contrary to God’s heart. “Jesus, soften my heart. Help me to see You in those around me, and to love them as You have loved me.”  


One of the maxims I coined as a young Christ follower was, “If it’s boring it’s not of God.” Though perhaps a little overstated, I believe it’s true. The most boring thing I can ever do is immerse myself in entertainment. It’s guaranteed to result in a bottomless pit of unfulfillment. One definition of entertainment is “something that diverts,” meaning it “turns me aside and distracts me.” Endless diversions and distractions are the breeding ground for boredom. We were made with purpose, for a purpose. Therefore, spending our lives chasing what is meaningless will inevitably lead to the depths of boredom. If I am to become the person God intended me to be, then I must train my soul to pursue that which has purpose and eternal value. 


What ever happened to the multitudes of people who received healings from Jesus or were delivered from demons? How many actually followed Him? As a young Christ-follower, I was greatly discouraged by the number of people genuinely touched by Jesus but didn’t follow Him. So, I wrote a song with these lyrics: “In my years with You, Lord, I have seen many come and receive you with joy in their hearts. While Your presence was near, Oh they cried so sincere, that they’d follow You anywhere that You’d go. But how many were there at the cross and its pain? How many did linger when no one remained? How many stood there in the hour of shame? How many did wander and never returned?” So, what is my responsibility? If Jesus was willing to lay His life down for me, I need to lay my life down for Him.


Here’s one way to eliminate disappointment. Don’t presume your expectations are the road to experiencing God’s promises. Jesus addressed this issue when He spoke to the crowds about John the Baptist. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? …a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? …were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces.” (Matthew 11:7-8, NLT) Our assumptions are more likely presumptions. The time I begin to think, “I know how things are going to turn out,” is the moment I begin to veer off track. When God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts…” (Isaiah 55:8) it means exactly what it says. When it comes to God, “expecting the unexpected” has a greater likelihood of happening than seeing my expectations fulfilled.


There’s a sentence I say to myself every day that makes me laugh. “What do you think?” HA! What good could possibly come from me ruminating every thought that goes through my brain? My only hope is to renew my mind throughout the day. Me listening to my brain whining, or anxious, or fearful is the biggest waste of time I can think of. God already gives me a hint, “My thoughts aren’t your thoughts.” That’s clear. What I really want to know throughout my day is, “God, what are You thinking?” Now that’s a thought to marinate on, and why I wash my mind many times throughout the day with His Word. So when someone asks you, “What do you think about a challenging topic?“ Share what God’s Word would say, and not the first thought that comes into your mind.

WHAT SCARES ME MOST – Do you want to know what scares me most? This Bible story will show you. On the day of Christ’s resurrection, some of His female followers visited His tomb. But the body was gone. He had told them it would happen, but all they did was walk away and wonder. Unbelief had blinded them. When they told the other disciples, their words seemed like pure nonsense. Unbelief had hardened their hearts as well. Even when Peter ran to the tomb and saw Christ’s clothes lying in the tomb with no body, he still couldn’t figure it out. Jesus had told all of them, on many occasions, that He would rise from the dead on the third day, but they still couldn’t believe. “Jesus, rip every drop of unbelief from my heart. It’s sad and pathetic. You’ve been so faithful to me.”


The older I get the more I am aware of the extraordinary mercy I have received. In John 8, Jesus demonstrated this with the woman caught in adultery. He said to those who wanted to stone her, “He who is without sin, let for him cast the first stone.” (John 8:7) The Bible says the first people to walk away were the oldest. Obviously, they were most aware of the sins they had committed and the mercy they had received. It’s true. The older godly men and women I know are the ones who seem most grateful for the mercy of God. As I become one of them, I embrace God’s new mercies every morning. “…his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)


We all know that, at times, it’s easier to talk than to listen. Likewise, it’s easier to fight with someone than to humbly die to our own will and admit we’ve been wrong. In Luke 22, when Christ’s disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane and Judas came to betray Jesus, they were all ready to fight for Him, but though they claimed they would be, none of them were ready to die for Jesus. Sounds, at times, like each of us. We’re ready to fight with someone else but aren’t ready to listen and perhaps die to our own perspective. That’s why Jesus said in that Garden moment, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) “Jesus, help me to die to myself, for only then will I represent You well.”


I spent seven years as an atheist, believing that God had done nothing in my life that either established that He existed, or that He loved me. In retrospect, in countless ways, I’ve seen I was so wrong. In John nine, a man born blind was healed by Jesus. When the Pharisees questioned him, they claimed they couldn’t believe in Jesus because they knew nothing about Him. The beggar then said, “This is amazing! You claim to know nothing about him, but the fact is, he opened my eyes.” (John 9:30, MSG) I believe on the Day of Judgment, when our eyes are fully opened, no one will be able to say that throughout their whole life they never saw God do anything that revealed, not just that He existed, but that He loved them very much. 


all wondered, “If God is really loving, why would He allow certain things to happen in our lives?” Would you believe me if I said that everything we have experienced in life was allowed to eventually bring healing to us and glory to God? In John nine, the question was asked, “Why was this man born blind?” Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:2-3, NLT) Have you and I connected the dots that everything that has ever happened to us is designed so that the heart and works of God can be seen in our lives? Once seen, that revelation will help you believe the truth: “Everything that has taken place in your life has been allowed for your good and to reveal the power of God.”