Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Good Stuff! (Bonus song by Chris Tomlin)

I like Ice Cream.

Usually, I'm most happy with a bowl of my favorite (Moose Tracks or Cookie Dough), but occasionally I like the pre-fab cones...the kind with the chocolate on the top, covered with crushed nuts. When I was a kid, we'd get those as a treat once in a while, but recently I noticed an improvement: Nowadays, at the bottom of the cone--when everything but the last bite is gone, I find that there's a chunk of chocolate on the inside of the cone--The Good Stuff! The Payoff! The Treasure at the end of the treat! I love it!

So...on a Spiritual plane, we've considered how we are to prepare, we consider our own "spiritual produce", we repent when we need to (see the last few blogs)...for what?


Jesus, having been baptized, having been tested by the devil and having overcome him by the Word of God, now goes into his home synagogue.

He gets up to speak, and the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah is handed to Him. He opens it and reads this:

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come..." (Isaiah 61:1-2)

These words, prophesied centuries before Jesus' life on earth, were a promise...part of God's promise to His people of Israel that He would send a Messiah--a Savior and Rescuer. He would send them One who would make everything new, and would release them. This was a promise they had all been looking forward to for centuries!

That's what made Jesus' next words that much more important:

He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” Luke 4:20-21

Do you get what Jesus was saying to them? He was saying that, right then and there--in thier very presence--Isaiah's prophecy was coming true. In other words, He was saying that they didn't have to 'hope' any more--BECAUSE HE WAS THE MESSIAH AND THE SAVIOR they'd hoped for!

HE is the One who came to came to "bring good news to the poor"!
HE is the One who came to "Comfort the broken hearted"!
HE is the One who came to "Release the captives and free the prisoners"!
HE is the One who came to tell the mourners that "The time of the Lord's favor has come"!

Do you get this?!


This means that Jesus was, is, and will always be, the Chosen One to bring us to God, and bring God down to us! He will comfort us, free us, and bring us GOOD news!

All of the talk we do about "considering the kind of Produce we produce"...the talk of "preparing a way for the Lord" in our hearts...all of that is pointing to this fact:

JESUS is the One who came to bring us the good stuff!

So...as you're going through your day today, as you're dealing with your own setbacks, discouragements, temptations, and struggles, remember: There is GOOD STUFF at the end! Jesus is the One who came to bring it, and He WILL bring it to YOU--if you turn to Him in true faith and follow Him with your life.

The Good Stuff...for this life, and for Eternity!

You gotta love it!

Seeking Him more,


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Produce Department

I remember when we lived in Pennsylvania. There were lots of neat things to see there (the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, etc.), and they had their unique food items, (cheese steak), etc.

One thing we regularly noticed, though, was that the Produce Dept. in thier grocery stores wasn't nearly as good as it was here. Meijer's had a lock on a good produce department--at least in comparison to southeast PA!

Have you ever thought that you and I have our own "spiritual produce"?

It's true! We 'produce fruit' every day, (whether we want to or not!).

The question isn't whether we produce fruit...the question is the quality of fruit we produce....do WE have a good 'spiritual produce department', or not?

Jesus said "by thier fruit you will know them; a good tree will not produce bad fruit and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. You will know them by thier fruit." (Matthew 7:16-20)

John (the Baptist), who took center stage in the "Preparation" of the people for the ministry of Jesus (see my blog on "Preparation" from last week) said that the people should "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Luke 3:8), or--put another way--'Show by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.'

What does "fruit in keeping with repentance" look like?

Depends--on the sin(s) you've been called to repent from:

Were you a thief in some way? Be honest and generous.
Were you lustful? Set your mind on pure things.
Were you angry and vengeful? Cultivate grace, mercy and forgiveness.
Were you greedy? Be generous.

Did you eat too much? Show self control!
Were you unfaithful to your spouse? Confess, repent, and love the faithfully, the way God calls you to!
Did you compromise your standards in order to 'fit in'? Repent! Turn back! Stand up for what is right in God's sight--no matter the cost!

There are no shortage of specific examples of the 'fruit of repentance' that may need to show up in your life (and mine).

Yet, I've had many people tell me at various times 'I AM repentant, and I DO want God to change me...but just not in THIS area' (they don't say it that bluntly, but that's what they mean, in practice).

The quality of their 'produce department' is lacking!

How do we do this? Through self-effort? Through Religion?


Through the power of the Holy Spirit!

Prayer...worship...obedience...and learning to 'walk in step with' the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5) will produce that fruit.

Today, ask God to show you the areas of your life that you need to repent of. Willingly give those over to God, and ask Him to work in you to "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance". Be willing to let Him do His work within...

...and your "produce department" will be very well stocked!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Preparation...one of the most important things we can do, but one of the ways we consistently try to take short cuts.

Think about it: "I want to run a marathon"...but I don't want to run every morning leading up to it; "I want to bake a cake", but I don't want to check beforehand to see if we have the ingredients; "I want to be closer to God", but I don't want to prepare my heart, or to discipline myself to spend time in His Word and in prayer.

So, what is the logical outcome of a failure to prepare?

Some things just do not have shortcuts to them!

As I've moved into reading the Gospel of Luke (the part after the Christmas narrative), I come to Luke 3, which introduces the ministry of John the baptist.

John brought a message of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. He quoted from the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’” (Luke 3:2-6, quoting Isaiah 40:3-5)

In Isaiah's mind, this writing was about the restoration of Israel through the coming of the Messiah--the One who 'holds the nations in his hands', and for whom 'the nations are like a drop in the bucket'.

...so in Isaiah's mind, 'every mountain shall be made low', etc. is all about the Messiah's power.

...but John used it as a way of preparation.

John was the one 'crying in the desert' that we should prepare for the coming of out Lord. That WE should 'fill in every valley' and 'level every mountain' so that 'the crooked ways become straight and the rough places smooth'...and THEN "all will see God's salvation" or (as another version says it) "the glory of the Lord will be revealed".

Here's the important point: In John's mind, it's not something that happens 'out there', but rather something that happens 'in here'--in our hearts. This "preparing the way for the Lord" happens through repentance, confession, prayer and an oppenness to a move of God in our lives.

THAT is how the glory of the Lord is revealed within us.

It is part of the work of Preparation. We simply MUST pray, confess, and repent for our sins if we are to really experience God's glory and the power that comes with it in our lives.

IF we prepare our hearts, we WILL reap the benefits.

Later in that very chapter, Isaiah says these famous, inspiring words:

"The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:28-31)

The Lord has more than enough strength to support you, renew you, and make you 'soar like eagles'!

But it won't happen, if you don't prepare.