Surprise Me!

Yesterday (Saturday), I read a few posts on Facebook alluding to the fact that although “Good” Friday was dark and gloomy, Sunday was coming. The posts said that the joy of Resurrection Sunday is on the way. It’s only right around the corner and we can celebrate the eternal life found in Christ’s resurrection.

It’s easy for us to look ahead to Easter Sunday. We know the story. We know how it all turns out. We know the happy ending. But the first disciples didn’t know that.

Were they surprised? An understatement, to be sure. Shocked? That’s more like it, but certainly stunned as well. That partly described the disciples. I wonder about the gloom they must’ve experienced and the despair they must’ve felt. Scattered in Gethsemane and most watching the trial and execution from a distance, the disciples would wander the streets and hide away, together and separately, for Friday and Saturday. They would not only wander, but they would wonder… at what might have been.

What happened?!? Jesus was being proclaimed King of the Jews. The winds of change were blowing. The people were fully supportive. A revolution was brewing and they were front-and-center. It was all going so well. What happened?!?

First surprised by Jesus’ clear announcement that he would have to die, and then surprised by the Roman detachment in the garden, the disciples were overwhelmed by the announcement that Jesus was to be executed. How could this be!?!

Now reality had hit home and they were finally together. Hiding out partly from fear of reprisals from the ruling council and partly from despair, the disciples lamented their fate. What would they do now? Matthew wondered if he could be a tax collector ever again. No way, he thought. His life had been changed. Peter could always fish. But things would never be the same.

Imagine their surprise Sunday morning when they heard that the stone had been moved! Imagine their shock when Jesus body was said to be gone. What a surprise awaited them when Jesus would join them in that room!

As I sat there reading the resurrection accounts yesterday, I wondered if there is still room in my faith for Jesus to surprise me.

Could He do the unthinkable?
Could He really move that mountain?
Could He touch those who are seemingly untouchable?
Could He clean those who we would deem “unclean”?
Could He save those we fear are too far gone?
Could He open the eyes of the blind and make the lame leap like a deer?
Could He resurrect those who have been given a death sentence?
Could He bring life from death? Victory from defeat?

Sunday is here! Surprise me, Jesus!

The weight of the world…

Do Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:30 really have any effect on you?

He says:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Do those words do anything to you? Do you ever feel that you’re carrying more than you should? Do you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders? Do find yourself trying (and trying) but things aren’t improving?

I’ve been there. I’ve felt that it all depended on me. If things fall apart, it’s my fault. It’s my responsibility. I’ve felt the need to work harder, try harder, re-double my efforts, and pull myself up by my bootstraps. I’ve felt like I needed to be the strong one… the rock… the one who doesn’t waver. I’ve felt like I needed to keep it together.

It’s exhausting. It makes you weary.

Until… the Good News:

“Because Jesus paid it all, we are free from the need to do it all. Our identity, worth, and value are not anchored in what we can accomplish but in what Jesus accomplished for us.”*

You may think that’s over-simplified. You may think, “You don’t know the pressure I’m under. You don’t know about my debts. You don’t have a clue.”

You’re right. I don’t. But Jesus does. And He came to release you from carrying ALL the burdens you carry: financial, relational, religious and spiritual, marital… you name it, He came to free you.

Allow Him to carry these burdens for you. Allow Him to set you free from having to do it all yourself. You don’t have to earn His favor. You don’t have to curry His blessing. Doing more for God won’t make Him love you more. Walk in freedom and allow Him to have free rein in your life.

Allow Him to work in your life for your own good and for His glory, whatever that looks like. It may not be all fun and games. It may be painful, but He is molding and shaping you into Christlikeness, so He can show you off to a world that needs to see what He looks like.

As pastor and author Mark Batterson would say:

“Work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God.”

And I’ll add: “Because it does.”

* from One Way Love, by Tullian Tchividjian. David C Cook Publishing. 2013.

Shameless Audacity

I’m reading Draw The Circle, a devotional written by Mark Batterson, who wrote the companion book, The Circle Maker. I’m on Day 6, which is entitled, “Shameless Audacity.” It’s a thought-provoking chapter, to be sure, referencing the man who answers the persistent knocking at his door in the middle of the night in Luke 11:8 simply because of the person’s “shameless audacity.” Throughout the chapter, Mark talks about prevailing prayer, the type of prayer that is persistent and bold. He offers a number of sound-bytes to help you get the picture:

“God won’t answer 100% of the prayers we don’t pray.”
“When we are acting in faith, we aren’t risking our reputation; we are risking God’s reputation because He’s the one who made the promise in the first place.”
“Why do we mistakenly think that God is offended by our prayers for the impossible? The truth is that God is offended by anything less!”
“But God honored that bold prayer because that bold prayer honored Him.”

As I read through that chapter, I became convicted that I don’t pray bold prayers anymore.

It’s not because I lack the faith. I believe that God is the same God that I’ve seen save marriages. I’ve seen Him lovingly draw a lesbian from her lifestyle into His plan for marriage and motherhood. I’ve seen him heal a hole in a newborn’s heart. I’ve seen Him answer prayer time and time again. I’ve witnessed His glory. I haven’t forgotten. I still have the faith.

What I think has prevented me from praying “audacious” prayers is the fact that I don’t think he will answer them when they come from ME. I somehow have been convinced that, because of my daily sin and failings, God won’t turn His ear toward me, but instead would turn away because, frankly, I’m not worth listening to.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t really have any besetting sin and I’m not involved in any criminal or lascivious activity. I’m just like you. I get impatient in traffic. I get angry at my wife every now and then. I get frustrated when things don’t go exactly like I want them to. And because of all that, I feel like I’m not the example of a Jesus-follower that I should be. In turn, I wonder why God would even listen to my prayers.

If I have thoughts like these, I wonder how many of you have similar thoughts.

These are the kind of lies that keep the Body of Christ from being truly effective. Because Satan has twisted the truth into a lie from the pit of Hell, we are kept at bay, shrinking back into mediocrity. The truth is that we are unworthy. The truth is that we are sinful. Not one of us escapes that spotlight. But then he skillfully twists the truth, getting us to believe that God won’t listen or respond.

The truth is we are weak, unworthy, sinful and desperate, AND THAT IS WHY GOD ANSWERED AND STILL ANSWERS OUR CRIES! Can you hear me yelling?!?

There is no one worthy. No one righteous. (Ephesians 2:3,9; Romans 3:10)
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
We are now seated with Christ in the heavenlies. That is where our identity is found. (Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 2:6)
When we are weak, then we are strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
When we humbly come before God, He responds. (Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 57:15, Isaiah 66:2)

That’s the truth.

It’s time to pray.

With shameless audacity.


Day 3…

As I read through today’s Draw The Circle devotional, Mark Batterson talked about consecration. Consecration, as he put it, is death of self. It is a lifelong journey of surrender in total dedication to God. It is the process of not holding anything back from God.

As Batterson puts it:

“I know there is a fear that if we give more of ourselves to God, there will be less of us less, but it’s the exact opposite. It’s not until we die to ourself that we truly come alive. The more we give to God, the more we have and the more we become. It’s only in losing our lives that we truly find them.”

He tells of great men God like Dwight L. Moody and Jonathan Edwards who, when fully dedicated to the Lord, did amazing things for God during their lives. He tells the story found in Joshua where the Lord tells the Israelites to “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” (Joshua 3:5) They did; and the Lord did: He parted the Jordan River and crossed on dry ground.

But I found myself bristling against some of what he said. For instance, the very last sentence of today’s devotional reads:

“If we give more of ourselves to God, God will give more of Himself to us.”

God gave all of Himself when He gave His one and only son, that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) How much more can He give!?! It also sounds like a formula for performance. The more we give = the more we get. There’s something about that which is true. But there’s something that’s not quite right, too.

What about those that struggle? You and I have issues. Face it. We do. We all are sinners. Each day. Every day. I am desperately in need of God and His grace. With the formula above, I could easily believe that if I fail at giving God my all today, or if I give something to him one day in complete surrender and then take it back the next day, I’m a complete loser and a total failure. There are thousands of folks walking around believing that today. Thousands.

Because Jesus succeeded, we can fail.
Because Jesus surrendered, I can fall short in my surrender and not feel like a loser.
Because Jesus won, I’m free to lose.

When I fully grasp the freedom found in Jesus and what was accomplished on the Cross, I am humbly compelled to live my live wholly and completely for God. It’s isn’t a matter of me willingly surrendering. It’s not a matter of the will. It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus… and surrender just happens.

Yes, it is still a process. But, for me, it is not a process of surrender, it is a process of fully realizing the love God has for me in Christ Jesus. As I fully comprehend this complete, satisfying, all-encompassing love that heals all wounds and fills all voids, I find myself more and more completely consumed by His love… and more and more completely in love with Him.

I become more and more completely His. If that’s being consecrated, then so be it.

The Maestro’s Concerto

Sometimes I wish I was a scholar of Greek and Hebrew. Although, the classes, on the surface, sound like they could be as dry as the Mojave Desert, they would yield a deep well of refreshment, if only we dig a little. Here’s what I mean…

In Day 2 of Draw The Circle, The 40-Day Prayer Challenge, the author, Mark Batterson, relates how God sets divine appointments for us each day. He sets the appointments. It’s up to us to keep them. He creates the opportunities; it’s up to us to seize them.

He tells the story of a gentleman on a cross-country trip to Las Vegas. During his trip, he read the opening chapter of one of Batterson’s other books talking about this very thing: seizing the opportunities God creates for us. He was convicted that he should be more attentive to his surroundings, and after he switches planes in Phoenix, he sits next to a girl who, when he makes brief contact, shuts him down and gives him a look which meant, “Don’t talk to me again the rest of the flight.” Unable to shake the feeling that he needed to talk to her, he said, “I’m sure it’s none of my business, but you seem so burdened. If talking to a total stranger would help, I’m all ears.”

This seventeen year old girl opened up and revealed that she was pregnant and running away from home. Her boyfriend told her to get out and go “fix it.” She was headed to Las Vegas to get an abortion. After talking to her, he convinced her to call her parents when she landed in Vegas. She did and her parents convinced her to come back home. By seizing the opportunity and keeping the divine appointment, this man saved one life and maybe two.

Now, back to the Hebrew. Proverbs 16:9 says:

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

The Hebrew word for “establishes” is “kuwn.” It is a rich word, dripping with meaning. If you have a Greek-Hebrew Bible Dictionary, you’ll see what I mean. Mark Batterson expounds on it further:

“The Hebrew word ‘kuwn’, translated in Proverbs 16:9 as ‘establishes’ can also be translated as ‘determines’, ‘prepares’, ‘provides’, ‘sets in place’, ‘directs’, ‘firmly decides’, ‘makes secure.’ It is a meticulous word that involves careful planning right down to the smallest detail. It’s a redemptive word that celebrates God’s ability to redeem past experiences and recycle them for future opportunities. It’s a calming word that imparts confidence in the fact that God has everything under control. It’s a creative word that hints at God’s artistry.”

God’s Word says:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

It is a rich word indeed, telling of the Maestro’s creative masterpiece concerto which is your life today.

And it sounds beautiful.

Structured Persistence

I’m a regimented person. I know it. I like structure. A lot. To a fault. Sometimes this quality serves me well; sometimes it doesn’t.

One of the ways it doesn’t is when I’m in a season of life or in a situation in life where things are chaotic. My new job at Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC) is like that right now. They’ve never really had someone doing the things I’m doing (and going to do), so there’s no blueprint on how to do the job. There’s no job manual and no job description, per se. That really doesn’t mesh well with my structured personality, but with God’s help, I’m adapting.

But one of the ways this trait works well for me is when I participate in structured programs, like memorizing Scripture while reading a 30-day devotional book which coincides the memorization. I’ve succeeded at others that were similar, like 40 Days of Purpose by Rick Warren, 90-day exercise programs, and now, The 40-Day Prayer Challenge – Draw The Circle by Mark Batterson.

Tomorrow will be Day 1 on this 40-day journey, done with all the folks at Love INC, all of whom also have the book Draw The Circle. We are doing it together, believing that God will do great things in us and through us. We expect to be different on Day 40 than we are on Day 1.

Mark Batterson, the author of Draw The Circle says:

“The goal of the 40-day Prayer Challenge isn’t to get what you want by Day 40. In fact, the goal isn’t to get what you want at all. The goal is to figure out what God wants’ what God wills. Then start circling it in prayer and don’t stop until God answers.”

That’s what I’m going to do and that’s what we’re going to do at Love INC.

(Love In the Name of Christ [Love INC] is a national network of non-profit organizations which are committed to meeting needs and transforming lives by the love of Christ through the Body of Christ, His church. To find out more, visit our local ministry Facebook page HERE, or hear the story behind the ministry HERE)

Click HERE to find the book, Draw The Circle by Mark Batterson on