February 14 – Devotional: Destiny Unknown

My 10th grade physics teacher was Mrs. Randall and she was really a hoot.  She was a short, feisty, brilliant woman, married to my 9th grade basketball coach. I can still picture her at the black board teaching away with energy and excitement, all designed to get us to understand the importance of physics.  She would no doubt be disappointed with her results with me.

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I always will remember her statement to me when I was trying to solve a physics problem.  Although, I got the right answer, she said, “Neil, solving a problem the way you are doing it is like going through Texarkana to get to Little Rock.” Ok, so you may not get her meaning but I sure did.

I grew up in Malvern Arkansas, a great place to be from.  To the southwest about 90 miles away is the city of Texarkana near where Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana all come together, and hence the name.  To the northeast, about 45 minutes away is the state capital, Little Rock.  So if I were in Malvern, going to Texarkana to get to Little Rock, would be heading the opposite direction.  It was the wrong or at least the most inconvenient and longest way to get to the desired outcome.

Unless, of course, you had to pick up something in Texarkana that had to be delivered to Little Rock, which of course, would be the only possible way of doing it.  I think often times we believe the Lord has sent us the long way around in our adventure of life.  Sometimes my understanding of what he is doing seems like the long road, the inconvenient, or troubled way.  Why cant we just head straight to Little Rock?

Well because there may be something we are to learn, or receive, or give in Texarkana.  So no, it may not seem to be the most efficient way, but it may just be the only way for us to do or become what God would have for us.

So today, maybe you are feeling like God has you headed toward Texarkana and you are trying to get to Little Rock. Instead of being frustrated, enjoy his leadership and see and experience all you can on the way, it might be the only way for you to get where he wants you to go.

Hebrews 11:8

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway,
a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved.
ESV Text Edition: 2007

2-Minute Pastor Copyright © 2014

February 13 – Devotional: Care About People

I was totally embarrassed.  I was meeting with some church planting leaders.  I like hanging out with those guys.  Even though I am a lead pastor of a decent-sized church, I feel like I better connect with staff guys and church planters; so, any chance I get to dialogue with them -I jump at it.

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As they were giving their reports about what was going on in their perspective work, the leader decided to go around the room and ask each one of us when was the last time we personally shared the gospel with someone.  Now, I was on the other side of the circle and I got to hear, one by one, the stories of somebody sharing while at Starbucks, another guy sharing when he was at the bank, another guy was visiting with a family member . . .

When it came to me, I had to admit that I could not remember outside my preaching and teaching ministry, the last time that I specifically, personally shared the gospel with someone.  I was so embarrassed and ashamed.  They smiled and said, “that’s okay” but I knew it wasn’t.  I thought about it all day as I traveled home.

There are no excuses for a pastor to not have shared recently. As I began to list the reasons why I had not, none of them made any sense until I read Paul’s writing where he tells his friends in Thessalonica that he was “so affectionately desirous of you” that he was ready to share with them not only the gospel of God, “but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”

I realized that I simply had not been caring about others, but only my needs, my desires, my time, and myself.  Have you fallen into that same trap? We share, because we care.  I have decided to work on seeing people and begin to care more. I hope you will do the same.

1 Thessalonians 2:8-12

so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway,
a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved.
ESV Text Edition: 2007

2-Minute Pastor Copyright © 2014

 

February 12 – Devotional: God’s Design

The cactus is a pretty unique plant and a member of the plant family Cactaceae, within the order Caryophyllales.  Cactus come in all shapes and sizes and as you might know they are able to conserve water very efficiently. Because of their little need for water, they are found in locations where drought is likely to occur.  Cactus thrive in environments that are desert like.

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On the opposite end of the spectrum we find the possum wood tree or Hura crepitans.  They are native to the rainforests of South America they grow up to 200 feet tall. They need lots and lots of water. They prefer wet soil and produce a toxic sap that is used on the tips of arrows.

Both examples are plants and both need sun to grow, but both are very different from each other.  If you take the cactus and put in the rain forest or the possum wood tree in the desert, neither will survive.  But keep each in their own environment and nothing but growth and health will occur.

I was challenged a meeting recently by pastors that were gathered around discussing how to reach more people with the gospel message.  The discussion revolved around the difference between the online church and church online.  People were pretty passionate on both sides.

But one astute pastor, not me, wondered if the real issue was one of strategy or calling.  By that he meant if you were “called” of God to journey into an area of ministry you would probably do well, but if you were adopting it as a strategy, it may not go as well.  Then another equally astute pastor, again not me, said, you are always more healthy when you follow your calling.

I think the same is true for us.  I believe that God has called everyone one of us to himself.  That calling should be expressed to him and the world based upon how he has designed us.  But sometimes we get sidetracked, or never fully embark on the journey to find that calling and the best way to express it to the world.  We become like cactus plants trying to live in the rain forest.

So why not today you do a little dreaming and ask, “Lord what have you put in my heart?”  or maybe say, “How have you designed me to express your calling?” And then why not take some baby steps toward learning how to express it right where you are?  It may just be your were created for it.

Philippians 2:13

13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway,
a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved.
ESV Text Edition: 2007

2-Minute Pastor Copyright © 2014

February 11 – Devotional: Wrong Destination

Sandy and her husband Trent have a story they will be able to tell the rest of their lives.  Recently they boarded a plane expecting to land in Dakar Senegal in Western Africa. The only  problem is when they got off the plane, they were in Dhaka, Bangladesh, almost 7,000 miles away.

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How did that happen?  Well apparently the airport codes are pretty similar, and having booked the flight on a Turkish airline, the accent of the flight attendant made the words Dakar and Dhaka sound close enough not to alarm the couple.  During the flight they fell asleep and upon waking up on the last leg of the journey they realized they were surrounded by a plane full of Asian faces not the African ones they were expecting.

The airline graciously and immediately flew them to their intended destination though it took 2 more days for their luggage to arrive.  Can you imagine the shock they must have felt? They were intending to go one place and arrive 7,000 miles off.

I imagine most of us have had that kind of fear, getting on the wrong plane, taking the wrong bus or subway ride.  Our intentions are rarely able to defeat the cold hard facts of reality.  We don’t get where we want to go, we get where whatever direction we are heading leads.

So what direction are you heading right now?  Are you on a path that takes you to Jesus or away from him?  I don’t really know what happened in Judas life, but I am pretty sure he did not set out to betray Jesus.  Now Jesus recognized that we would, John 6:71 tells us this, “but yet he loves Judas and includes as one of the twelve.”

But I don’t think Judas knew it when he started —- Don’t end up in a place you never intended, make sure you are loving Jesus today.

John 6:70-71

70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway,
a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved.
ESV Text Edition: 2007

2-Minute Pastor Copyright © 2014

 

February 10 – Devotional: Heat Of Anger

How is your temper?  Do you ever fly off at the handle?  That phrase was first put into print by Thomas C. Haliburton’s The Attaché; in England, around 1843.  It refers to that rare occurrence when an ax head would accidentally fly off the handle from which it was attached while someone was swinging it.

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Can you imagine the danger of that?  A sharp heavy ax head sailing through the air.  Whoever was caught in its way would suffer some potentially serious injury.  There they are just minding their own business and whack.

That really is a pretty good illustration of what anger really does.  It often does not immediately effect the one who is angry, but woe to the unsuspecting person who receives that anger.  I think that is at least part of why the writer of Proverbs is warning us that a quick-tempered man (one who flies off at the handle) can cause a lot of damage because under the influence of anger, he or she can do some pretty foolish things.

Not that long ago, after a playoff loss, NBA player Amare Stoudemier, in anger, punched the glass enclosure of a fire extinguisher. The resulting injury on his hand caused him to miss game three of the playoffs and made him the center of every joke around.  He later tweeted, “We all have done thing out of anger that we regret. That makes us human. Bad timing on my part. Sorry guys. This to shall pass.”

Well maybe you have never punched a pane of glass, but all of us have done or said some pretty foolish things in the heat of anger.  Let me encourage you to take the advice of James when he says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

I know you can do it, so go out there and do it.

Proverbs 14:17

A quick tempered man does foolish things…

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway,
a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved.
ESV Text Edition: 2007

2-Minute Pastor Copyright © 2014

 

February 9 – Devotional: Share The Gospel

You are probably familiar with what is called the Great Commission.  It was Jesus’ marching orders to make disciples of all nations.  Mark says we are “to go into all the world and proclaim the gospel.” After 2000 years, while we have made great progress, we have not quite made it.  I wonder if we should have taken a lesson from McDonald’s . . .

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You see, it wasn’t until 1948 that the McDonald brothers opened their original store. You are probably familiar with their story by now. They streamlined a menu, and produced a consistent product. In 1953 they began to franchise, then in 1954 Ray Kroc, a milkshake machine salesman, convinced the brothers to sell to him and he began to expand the company.

Their first outside of the United States location was not opened until 1967. Now McDonald’s operates 34,480 restaurants in 119 different countries, all of that expanded in less than 50 years.

Yes, there are still 105 countries that do not have McDonald’s, and even 6 countries that had a McDonald’s at one time, and no longer do, but their success has been impressive. (The Ray Kroc Story)

The gospel has penetrated into the entire world, all from 12 guys who were left with the message. The most important question is not just how many have heard, but what are the ones who have heard, doing with the message?

Count yourself privileged that you have heard the message and believed.  And the next time you see the golden arches, ask yourself when is the last time I shared the message of Jesus with someone who has not heard?

Mark 16:15

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

“The Ray Kroc Story.”  McDonalds.com. McDonald’s, n.d. Web. 03 Aug. 2013.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway,
a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved.
ESV Text Edition: 2007

2-Minute Pastor Copyright © 2014

 

 

 

 

February 8 – Devotional: Fear Not!

Do you remember your first day of school? Well, maybe not your very, very first one, but the proverbial first day of school each year? It seems like most of us can remember a first day here or there. And if we are honest, those first days can be kind of scary. They create anxiety within us.

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I was thinking about the other day when I dropped my son off for his first day of high school. He was going not only to a new school but a totally different approach to school.  He was accepted into a Laboratory School connected with a local college, and they have a reputation of being pretty tough academically. We both were pretty anxious about it all.

Later that same day, I was reading a verse that sounded like it was just for Nathan and I, and for all of us who just aren’t quite sure how things are going to turn out. Isaiah 35:4 says, “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’ ”

I am not sure there is anyone at the school we are going to that needs the Lord’s vengeance upon, though I have heard the Christian Worldview teacher is pretty tough.  But, it was the encouragement that we should not fear, because God will be there for us, He will save us.

Now, that “salvation” which is promised is not to be read as a guarantee of earning “A’s”, or never having to struggle. It is not that we will never have to suffer consequences, but it is a promise of His constant presence and ultimate victory over sin, death that would otherwise separate us from God.

So, the next time you feel an anxious heart coming on, remember, “Be strong; fear not” for your God will come and save you!

Isaiah 35:4

“Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’ ”

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway,
a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved.
ESV Text Edition: 2007

2-Minute Pastor Copyright © 2014