Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.

Peter makes this statement in Acts 3:6 when he heals a crippled beggar. He had no money to give the beggar, but he did have the healing touch of Holy Spirit. It has been a real comfort to me during this Christmas season. After nine months of unemployment, I found myself in a similar situation. I had no extra money to buy family or friends gifts, but I could give the gift of encouragement.

In many ways, not having money, has been freeing. While I came across many who were hurrying around trying to find that perfect gift for the hard to buy relative, I had no impulse to engage in the same activity. It was challenging to have an answer to the standard question, “are you ready for Christmas?” How do you answer that without going into the history of the past nine months?

What I found is by ignoring the presents, I was able to focus on the gift that God gave me…Jesus. Not only on Christmas day, but what He gave me throughout the year. Only God can orchestrate the year I had. It has been different then I ever imagined, but I would not want to change anything. What I could not do on my own with a full time job, God did when I was unemployed.

* I had the honor of meeting over 70 new people across Dallas

* God opened the door to publish two books (due early 2017)

* He moved us to a new house where 17 other offers were competing with us. We were not even the highest bidder!

* He put me in a men’s group that was a huge support for me during this time.

* He has 15+ folks following this blog, which I am very thankful for!!

These are the tip of the iceberg of God’s goodness to me and my family this year. I am so excited to see what His plans are for me in 2017. I plan to share them through this blog.

As I finish this year out, I want to share an encouraging word because that is what I can give to each of you reading this blog.

Through the easy and tough times, through he times of abundance and times of lack, through the times of joy and the times of sorry, our Lord and Savior is always with you. He longs to have you spend time with Him. Talk to Him. Sing to Him. Dance with Him. Shout for joy or scream in pain with Him. Jesus is there, ALWAYS! He loves you…really loves you. Feel it, believe it, hear it. He wants your heart, He wants your life. When you give it fully over to Him you will see the world and life differently. When He is made Lord over everything you will see miracles in your life. Believe and you will see Heaven invade earth. May Jesus pour out His love and blessing on your life now and into 2017. May the sick be healed, may the captives be set free and may each of you experience His presence and love in a new way.

I pray a blessing to everyone reading this. May Jesus capture your heart every day of 2017 and may He bless everything you do!

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Rich young ruler

In Matthew 19:16-26 we are told the story of the rich young ruler. Here was a man who believed in God, followed His commandments and wanted to know what else he needed to ensure his salvation. Let’s take a look at the conversation this young man had with Jesus.

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[a] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The young man needed to be willing to give up everything for follow Jesus. In one more week, I will have been unemployed for nine months. The story of the rich young ruler cuts a bit closer to my heart than I care to admit. You see, While I have followed Jesus since I was a teenager, I also followed success and climbed the career ladder. While I had attributed my success to God, there was always a part of me that would just work harder and longer to get the results. Even when Jesus gave me a book to write, I would quickly shelve it to focus on my job. Finally, God had enough of my procrastinating and took me out of my job and upended my career. It was only then where I realized I had not given Him everything.

It is a humbling admission that I am out of work and am having to rely on God everyday for my provision. Jesus helped me see I was serving two masters. Clearly, He is a jealous God and doesn’t want to share us with anything. As an American, who has bought into the American dream, this concept is particularly difficult. We are born to work hard and get everything we desire. We should have it our way and whenever we want. We should be able to shop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and have it shipped to our door the same day. Isn’t it about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

God has different plans. When He needs to get our attention, He will do radical things like moving you to a new city and taking away your job. So here I was ten months into a new job, having moved my family, finding myself waking up without a job. In my arrogance, I figured it would only take a couple of months. Besides, I would get 2-3 calls a week from headhunters asking me if I would be interested in a role. Even if it took a couple of months, I should be set to save my severance payment and start a new job immediately. Well, God had other ideas. He wanted to break the pride from my life. He wanted to get me to the point of only serving Him. That meant, no job and having to rely on Him everyday.

Why it has been difficult, I have a better relationship with Jesus than ever before. I am also finding He is putting me in situations where I can encourage others who are in the same boat as I am. Unemployment is no fun and can wreak havoc on a man’s psyche. But God! If it were not for Jesus, I have no idea how I would have made it this long. So here I am coming up on nine months with nothing solid in sight. What I do have is my eyes fully on Jesus and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He will provide for my family. I have to give it ALL over to Him and by doing that, I have become free.

Compassion and faith

It never seems to amaze how people change in December. Even those who don’t celebrate Christmas have a lilt in their step. People are nicer, more patient and happier. I know it is a generalization, however, it is part of what makes this time of year special. The simple fact that most are in a better mood, are smiling more, are singing Christmas carols makes for a fun environment. Imagine if we lived this way the other 11 months of the year.

My wife and I are taking December to read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts three times over the month. Oh, and we will read them on our knees. We got the idea from Oral Roberts who was told by God to this very thing to capture His heart. We want to know Jesus better and understand Him better.

While this is the first week and I am not finished with all five books, I am halfway through John. I can say, sitting down and reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and part of John over just a few days gives a much better perspective of the gospels. One of the most startling items is how Jesus interacted with people.

Jesus had compassion on most of the people He came across. In most instance, it says Jesus had compassion and healed the sick, cast out the demon, cured the leper or raised the dead. He didn’t do it out of obligation, but of compassion and love. What if we showed that level of compassion over the year, not just in December? Why is it only in December where we give to food shelters and toys for kids? Why shouldn’t we decide to have that kind of compassion and influence the rest of the year? I think we can, it just means we need to be intentional.

The other item that jumps out when you read all four books in a couple of days is how important faith is to everything Jesus did. After Jesus had compassion, he usually did a miracle, but only if the person had enough faith. The more faith they had, the bigger the miracle. We can have compassion, but it takes faith to see the miracle come to fruition.

John 14:12-14 (NIV)

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

If we want to see miracles, we have to believe in Jesus and make Him our Lord. How cool would it be if all those who believe in Jesus also believed they could do the miracles that He did? I think it is amazing even with all of the miracles Jesus did, we are meant to do more and greater miracles. We just have to have compassion and faith that miracles will happen.

This December, think about living a life of miracles. Not just helping those in need in December, but living like Jesus the rest of the year.

Redemption after our failures

When Abraham and Lot were deciding to split up because there herds had gotten too big, Lot chose to go to the plains of Jordan. This is where Sodom and Gamorrah were. Even at that time Sodom was known as a place where the men were wicked and sinning against God. I would not be surprised if God nudged Lot a little to be a righteous man in such a wicked place. This was a great opportunity to have a positive influence on a city and turn it around. Turn it to good.

So Lot goes and settles around Sodom. He is accepted and continues to grow his herd and stature. When judgement was pronounced on Sodom and the cities of the plain, Lot was given the chance to flee with anyone else who would go. His family was slow to hear the warning, so the angels forced him, his wife and daughters to leave the city. In fact, Lot was told to get out of the valley where all of the cities of the plain were.

Remember, God was willing to hold his judgement if there were just ten righteous people in the city. Lot, his wife and two daughters ended up being the only righteous in the city. Lot knew he had made a mistake in not influencing the city to turn from its ways. In a desperate act to save something, he asked to go to the city of Zoar. This was one of the cities of the plain and was arguably just as wicked as Sodom. His request to allow him and his family to go there saved the city of Zoar from the judgement of God for a short time. The rest of the cities of the plains, including Sodom and Gomorrah were not so lucky.

Lot, his wife and daughters ran for their lives and were instructed not to turn around. Unfortunately, his wife stopped to look at the destruction and was turned to a pillar of salt. Most experts would say that she was longing for the life she had just left and as a judgement on her, was also destroyed. However, I believe when Lots wife turned around to see Sodom it was not because she wanted to go back to the life there. Rather, it was because she knew she was to be the salt and light in that wicked place. Since she had not taken the necessary steps to turn the tide of the wickedness, she, like Lot, sat idly by while the city descended further into the depth of human depravity. So when she turned around with a deep sense of sorrow, she physically became the thing she was meant to be to the city as a follower of Yahweh. SoLot lost his home, his wealth, his friends, his status and his wife because he had not engaged to be a positive influence on the environment.

Lot didn’t settle in Zoar and try to influence them to be a city on a hill, shining the light of Yahweh. Again, Lot failed and historians believe God destroyed Zoar as soon as Lot left. This time, it was due to fear, not because of apathy or selfishness. Instead he runs away to a cave and lives the rest of his life in seclusion. The story thankfully does not end here.

Abraham loved Lot, and I am convinced he called upon the promise God gave him in Genesis 18:19. God is walking with Abraham and says, “for I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of Yahweh by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” I imagine Abraham interceding and praying for Lot, who was part of his household. Lots father had died, so Abraham took him under his wing and treated him like a son. He was family after all. I am sure Abraham prayed for the redemption of his nephew whose inaction destroyed a city. God is just and merciful. He also had a plan to make sure the lineage of Abraham was secure, since he was to be the father of nations. God chose to redeem Lot’s and graph it back into the line of Abraham. It took seven generations, but when the lineage of Abraham and the lineage of Lot come back together they produce the line of David and a direct lineage to Jesus.

Lots daughters slept with Lot in the cave to get pregnant. The older daughter gave birth to Moab, who became the country of Moab and wher known as the Moabites. Seven generations later, a woman name Ruth was born from the line of Moab. Ruth married into a family from Bethlehem. The father in law was Elimelech and the mother in law Naomi. We are not told which of their two sons Ruth married, but we know that one married Ruth and the other Orpha. Elimelech and Naomi had left Bethlehem due to a famine and had settled in with the Moabites. When Elimelech and both sons died, Naomi decides to go back to Bethlehem.

In Hebrew tradition, when a husband died, the brother was suppose to take care of the widow. Unfortunately, both of Naomi’s son die so there is no one to remarry Orpha and Ruth. Since Naomi was already older and did not expect to marry again or have more children, she wanted to spare her daughter in laws the pain of living the rest of their lives without a husband. Naomi tells both girls to go back to their fathers and get a new husband. Orpha thought that was a good idea and left. Ruth had other ideas. In an instant she made a decision that began the redemption of the lineage of Lot. She decided to take action, something her great grandfather (seven generations before) didnt do. She chose to stay with Naomi and live with her in Bethlehem.

Her action enable God to repair the family line when Ruth met Boaz. Boaz came from the line of Abraham. God gave them a child named Obed, who had Jesse and Jesse had David who was a man after Gods heart and the direct lineage of Jesus. Where Lot failed to take action to save a city, God took action that saved the world through His son Jesus. I would guess that Ruth had no idea the legacy she would create by her actions. One thing is clear, we too can leave a legacy for future generations. We just need to listen to God, follow His leading and join Him in the works He is doing.

Gift of Knowledge

In John 3:11 Jesus was talking to a Pharisee named Nicodemus and says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen but you do not receive our testimony.” Nicodemus was having a hard time understanding everything Jesus was talking about. He was curious, but was having difficulty understanding what Jesus was saying because of his deep rooted teaching. Nicodemus had heard something so unbelievable that he was not able to reconcile this new teaching with his past teaching.

This is very similar to the first time Nick witnessed a Cirque du Soleil show. Cirque du Soleil is a circus that travels around the world and performs some of the most amazing feats of acrobatics that you can imagine. You almost need to see it first hand to truly understand the magnitude of giftedness of the performers. Nicodemus had his own “Cirque du Soleil” moment, when he hears what Jesus told him. He heard the words, but could not grasp the depth of their meaning.

Jesus was sharing the knowledge of Himself, via His testimony. Nicodemus heard Jesus’s testimony first hand. The Bible is the best way to read about Jesus. However, there are many good books that also reveal God in new ways. Mike loves to read. He’s always on the lookout for new revelation and great stories about his Lord and King. Whenever Mike finds a book that moves him, he wants to share it with those around him. When “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young was first published, Mike met the author at a conference and picked up his book. After reading it, he proceeded to buy cases of the book to give out to everyone he met. It had such an impact on Mike, and millions of others, that he just could not keep it to himself. He freely gave the new revelation to others so they could share in his amazement. He spread the knowledge of Jesus beyond his closest friends and had a positive impact on dozens of people through sharing the book.

Action for the day

Think about a book or music CD that had a profound impact on your life. Pick up a few extra copies and pray about who you should give one to. Let them know why it had such an impact on you and why you thought of them. Let them know how special they are and how you pray the book or CD will have the same impact in their life.

Prayer for the day

Jesus, I am glad you revealed Yourself through many different ways. You do it through the bible, through books, through music and directly to us. I ask that You put a name on my heart to share what I have learned through a book or through music that has moved my soul. I long to share it with others so they too can have the knowledge of You. Thank you for the work You will do in that person’s heart through the gift I am to share. It’s in your name I pray. Amen.