Cornerstone






“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” 1 Peter 2:8

Imagine exploring the ruins of an ancient city. The tour guide leads you over piles of rubble and beneath cracked archways. When you pause to snap some photos, the group moves on without you. You race to catch up and trip over something. Rubbing your bruised knees, you look for what made you stumble. A huge bolder juts from beneath the rubble. You dust it off and read the ancient inscription that tells you this was the first stone laid in this once-massive cathedral. The entire structure had rested upon the strength and accuracy of this cornerstone. The rest of the stones had crumbled and fallen.  You could kick them out of the way, but not the cornerstone. It was settled deep into the earth and immovable. If you wanted to examine it, you must do so right where it was. It would not move for you. You must move for it.

Jesus is like that Cornerstone. He is the Truth, and Truth does not move out of the way for our sensitivities or preferences. To those who love Him, He is our strength. An immovable fortress. But because Jesus will not change to accommodate us, those who refuse to conform to His will find Him offensive. A stumbling block. People who want to define truth for themselves stumble over His absolutes and His right to be Lord. Like an ancient cornerstone, truth will not change to fit our parameters. Jesus is who He is—either a great comfort or a great offense. We either stumble over Him or embrace Him.
  
 Each of us must decide whether Jesus is our cornerstone 
or a stumbling block. 
Who is He to you?

Power Source



…stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:49

The directions on the box said to press the red button and the blender would come on. You’ve been pressing it for 20 minutes and nothing. Frustration takes over and you stuff it back into the box, grab your receipt, and head to the store. “This thing doesn’t work!” you inform the puzzled clerk. “I did exactly what the instructions said to do and nothing. I want my money back.” The clerk opens the box, takes out the blender, and plugs it in. The motor hums to life while embarrassment washes over you. “Did you plug it in?” the clerk asks. Red-faced, you back out of the store with your perfectly fine blender, hoping you never see the clerk again. There was nothing wrong with the blender or the instructions. You just forgot where the power came from.

Sometimes we forget where our spiritual power comes from. Imagine how bewildered the disciples felt when Jesus told them to stay in the city. What? Hadn’t He just told them to go into the world and preach the gospel? They were ready to go! But Jesus knew something they did not know: only the power of God can transform a life. He does not rely upon coercion, persuasive words, or beautiful music to convict, heal, and save. It would be the Holy Spirit who built the church, working through lives surrendered to Him. If Jesus’ followers had not waited upon that power, their efforts would have been in vain.

Are you plugged in? Wait on the Holy Spirit to do His work through you. The results will astound you.

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Disciple Maker






Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:19

When a mom teaches her daughter how to cook, she is making a disciple. When a teenage boy practices the moves of his favorite football player, or a preteen girl dresses and acts like a pop star, they are becoming disciples. A disciple is a disciplined follower. We become disciples of whatever holds our focus—whether good or bad. We start to resemble our heroes, and we can also resemble our enemies unless forgiveness has taken away their power to mold us. When Jesus told His disciples to go and make other disciples, He was implying a lot more than we often realize.

 Notice what Jesus did NOT tell them to do. He was not interested in a “show of hands” responding to the leading question: “Who wants to go to heaven when you die?” He never mentioned praying a prayer or “asking Jesus into your heart.” Those are catchy little phrases that we sometimes mistakenly substitute for Jesus’ real command to make disciples. He had often said that following Him would not be the easy path (Matt. 7:13-14). He warned His listeners to “count the cost” before deciding what He was worth to them (Luke 14:25-33). Only those who were willing to recognize what Peter recognized could become disciples. The eleven followers on the hillside that day would eventually be martyred for their faith. They had counted the cost of following and considered Jesus worth it. Before we can make disciples, we must BE disciples. Only then does the church grow and flourish.


What is Jesus worth to you? What has He asked you to forsake in order to make disciples of others?
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Who Do You Say?




 
“…I tell you, you are Peter, 
and on this rock I will build my church.” Mathew 16:18

He started out as Simon the fisherman. Then he became Simon, disciple of Jesus. But when Jesus asked him the question: “Who do you say that I am?” Simon’s answer—“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”—changed him into Peter the Rock. With that declaration, Peter’s heart changed. He recognized Jesus as more than a cool Rabbi who did miracles and fed people. He was more than a great guy, an awesome teacher, or even a prophet. Peter’s statement became the foundation for the church. Every person who desires to become a part of that church must have the same change of heart.

Many people assume they are right with God because they consider the Bible “an amazing Book” and revere Jesus as a “wonderful teacher.” But going to a building once a week does not make someone part of God’s church. The church is made up of people who have seen Jesus for who He really is and handed ownership of their lives to Him. C. S. Lewis echoed the declaration that turned Simon into Peter: “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” Peter’s declaration transformed a group of fishermen and tax collectors into world-changers. When we surrender our lives to that declaration, it transforms us too.

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Who Did It?


Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon… because my Father… has revealed this to you." Matt.16:17


The clubhouse was perfect—or so it seemed to a couple of eight-year-old boys. But a wild spring storm turned their plywood masterpiece into a tangled heap of broken lumber and rusty nails. The next day, Dad saw the problem and offered his skill and a garage full of power tools. Before nightfall, the boys had the clubhouse of their dreams with real windows, solid doors, and shiny hinges. They called all their friends to show off what their Dad had done. They didn’t even try to take the credit for it, because they had seen what happened to their best efforts. They understood that the only reason they possessed such a fabulous treasure was because Dad did it.


That’s exactly what Jesus said to Simon. Simon had just aced the pop quiz about salvation, and was feeling pretty good about it. But before he could get puffed up over his superior knowledge, Jesus reminded him that the only way he could have understood those things was because Dad did it. Simon’s own ability to understand would be revealed a few verses later when he tried to stop what Jesus came to do (v. 21-23). It was the Father who enabled Simon to understand who Jesus really is, and it is that same Father who enables us to respond to the knowledge He gives us.


We can humbly gain knowledge when we recognize that comprehension is ours only because Dad did it.

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Trustworthy





A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. Proverbs 11:13

After 18 years of marriage, Doug walked away. “I just couldn’t trust her,” he said. “She was always mad that I wouldn’t talk to her, and I don’t, because she would tell things I’d told her in confidence. I can’t stay married to someone I can’t trust.” Barry had the opposite problem. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Gossip was to him the juiciest morsel, a way of gaining attention. When he knew something about someone, all eyes were on him and for just a brief moment, he felt important. What he didn’t know was that no one wanted to get very close to him. Everyone feared betrayal. In the end, the very thing both Doug’s wife and Barry most desired—intimate relationships—they could never find.

We don’t like to think of ourselves as gossips, so we camouflage our delight with spiritual terminology. We share the secrets of others disguised as “prayer requests” or asking for advice. What we don’t realize is that when we do that regularly, we develop a reputation for being untrustworthy. People may enjoy hearing our juicy news, but they will refrain from sharing their lives with us for fear we will gossip about them. Even in families, there are private issues that deserve respect. Each member needs to know that his or her private lives, mistakes, and challenges will be kept private by the rest of the family. A family should be a safe place where each member can fall, get back up, and start over without the whole world knowing about it.

How trustworthy are you? Is your home a safe place where everyone’s private lives are protected?

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On or Off




 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding... Proverbs 3:5

Jim sat in the open doorway of a plane, one foot inside and one planted firmly on the ground. He grabbed a magazine and smiled at the flight attendant headed toward him. She was not smiling. "Sir, you really must come inside or the pilot cannot take off. We won't get anywhere with you like that." Jim lifted a brow. "It’s OK. I’ll just ride like this. I don't understand aerodynamics very well. This hunk of steel staying in the air seems impossible to me. Plus, I'm not sure the pilot knows how to get where we're going, so I’d rather keep one foot on the ground just in case." The flight attendant wouldn’t budge. "Sir, we won't be flying low enough for you to jump out. Either get all the way on the plane or get off. You can't have it both ways." 
 

Trusting God is like that. Trust means we let go of our right to control a situation. If we want to trust in the Lord, we cannot also lean on our own understanding. Even when we can’t trust a person, we can trust God with the relationship. We don’t always understand God’s ways, and we’re afraid he doesn't know how to get where we want to go. So we keep one foot on our own understanding while pretending to trust Him. We want an escape route in case we don't like where this is going. It won’t work. God is nobody's co-pilot. We are trusting either in Him or in ourselves. We can’t have it both ways.   

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Truth in Love






speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way… Ephesians 4:15

“Oh, grow up!” What does that mean? Even the Bible is telling us to grow up, and it says the way to do that is to learn to speak the truth in love. Imagine that you are walking down the sidewalk and see your neighbor’s house on fire. You know this neighbor doesn’t like you, so you hesitate in front of the house and watch the flames lick the roof. You have two options: You can call 911, run to the front door, and shout for them to come outside. Or you can feel bad about their situation, thank God that it’s not your house, and then walk on past because you fear the wrath of the cranky neighbor.

In that extreme situation, we understand what it means to speak the truth in love. But what about in our daily lives? If we have accepted God’s pardon for our sin, we understand the hell that we have been spared. But with that understanding comes the knowledge that those who don’t know Christ are headed for the same judgment. What this does NOT mean is that we are to become loudmouth, opinionated, Bible-thumpers who enjoy drawing attention to our outlandish presentations. What it DOES mean is that God places people in our lives whose houses are on fire. The immature fear their wrath, so they walk on by. But those who “grow up in every way” recognize that truth is vital to the well-being of another person, and they speak it in love.

Who in your life has a house on fire? What is God asking you to say to them?

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Unreliable





Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot. Proverbs 25:19

We’ve all been there. You were counting on someone to do what they committed to do, and they let you down. Didn’t show up. Found something better to do. Or used the old “I forgot” excuse which didn’t make the disappointment any easier. God takes that kind of irresponsibility pretty seriously and compares the experience to physical pain. When you have a bad tooth, you try to avoid chewing with it. When you have a broken foot, you steer clear of putting weight on it. You can’t trust those wounded body parts. It hurts too much. And we can’t trust friends or family members who continually let us down.

Family trees usually have a root or two that is deadwood. Everyone knows who they are. You “accidentally” don’t invite them to the birthday party. You can’t count on them to bring the assigned item for family dinners, so you plan dinner without their contributions. The relatives nod knowingly and whisper behind their backs. “Don’t tell her. You know how she is.” Maybe you’re that unreliable person and never realized it. When people cannot trust your word, the relationship stays surface deep. People won’t put weight on a broken foot, and they won’t put faith in someone who may or may not follow through on a promise.

Are you the unreliable person in your family or friend group? 

A new reputation begins with admitting our flaws and holding ourselves accountable for changing them.

The Wrong Motivators





for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. James 1:20

“You’re a jerk!” 
“Well, you’re an idiot!” 
“I don’t know why I ever married you!” 
“You stupid kid. You’ll never amount to anything!”

Have you had words like that shot at you? Have you used some of them to wound someone else? Think about the results. Do words hurled in anger motivate the recipients to move closer to what God desires them to be? Are we doing “God’s work” when we try to change someone though anger? He says No.

We often lose our tempers because we feel helpless. We have bought into the idea that other people hold our happiness in their hands. So we try to force them to do what we want so that we can feel better. But we cannot make someone do right, just as no one can make us do right. Many times we use the excuse: “They won’t pay attention to me unless I get really mad!” That only means that you lost their respect a long time ago by having no boundaries. We cannot achieve godly results through ungodly means. Healthy boundaries with consequences keep us from having to become angry. The Bible is a book of boundaries and consequences. God explains His boundary, then sets us free to choose our actions. There are consequences for those actions, both good and bad. Consequences are better teachers than anger—and they bring much better results.

Are you trying to achieve godly results through ungodly means?

The Unlocked Door


Do not give the devil an opportunity. Ephesians 4:27

It’s 10:00 at night. You check your doors and windows, locking your family safely inside your home. Then you go to the front door, open it a crack, and put a rock in the gap. With the door 6 inches ajar, you turn off the lights and go to bed. Is that smart?

Leaving the door ajar is an invitation to snakes, raccoons, bugs, and burglars. When a door is left open all night, you have no control over what may enter. That’s the picture this verse paints for us. When we leave anger unattended in our hearts, we are going to bed with the door open. Our enemy, Satan, has been waiting outside in the dark for such an opportunity. He whistles for the demons and in they come. Because we have ignored God’s counsel to resolve our anger before nightfall, we are an easy target for fear, bitterness, rage, jealousy, hatred, and any number of pests that Satan brings with him. You may never realize where the chaos came from, but you watch in frustration as your relationships turn sour and your peace vanishes. God warns us that unresolved anger is a rock in the door that gives the devil an opportunity to destroy us.

Has your anger provided an opportunity for the devil? Forgiveness and surrender to God can take the rock out of the door and make your heart secure once more.

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What to Do When You Are Angry




Be angry and do not sin; 
do not let the sun go down on your anger. Ephesians 4:26



Is this verse a contradiction? First it says, “Be angry.” Then it says, “Do not sin.” Aren’t those opposites? Is it possible to be angry without sinning? Picture the last time you got really angry. How did you act? What were you angry about? It is hard to imagine being angry without sinning, because our anger is usually self-centered. We like to think of ourselves as having “righteous anger,” but in truth it is usually “self-righteous anger.” We get angriest when people mistreat us, disrespect us, or cheat us. We hang on to this anger because we believe something is owed to us. But hanging on to anger only turns it into bitterness. So is it possible to be angry without sinning?  

Anger is merely an emotion, like sadness. When someone or something wrongs us, our emotions are stirred. God gave us those emotions, but we are not victims of them. We have choices. 

When anger hits us, we can:
1) Use it to resolve a situation. Mothers Against Drunk Driving was formed when a mother used her anger to bring change.
2) Drop it because it’s not that big a deal. Some things just aren’t worth the passion we give them.
3) Choose to forgive and move on. Forgiveness relinquishes to God our rights for revenge. We trust Him with the outcome.

When we insist upon a fourth option (Letting it grow instead of letting it go), that involuntary emotion becomes voluntary sin.

The next time you are angry, which option will you choose? Purpose to resolve your anger before nightfall. 

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Great and Small






The story is told of a man who was shown both heaven and hell. In hell, the people were seated at a banquet table filled with delicious food. However, their arms were in splints and the only eating utensils were forks with three-foot long handles. Try as they might, they could not get the food into their mouths and were starving, while seated only inches from a feast. In heaven, the scenario was identical, except this time, each person was feeding someone else, seated across the table.

While this story is far from an accurate depiction of heaven and hell, the idea is correct. God’s instructions for His people always include selflessness—a trait that does not come easily for us. Jesus modeled selfless serving while He was on the earth and He wants us to follow that pattern. When we take our eyes off our own desires and ambitions, we are in position to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. In God’s kingdom, those who want to be greatest must go to the back of the line, while those who seek the lowest position of service are exalted. God offers us many opportunities to choose humility, but if we stubbornly refuse, God will have to do it for us. It is far preferable to humble ourselves willingly.

Humble yourself in the sight of God, and He will lift you up. James 4:10

Give Honor



Give honor to whom honor is due (Rom. 13:7)

The flashing lights in your rearview mirror make you groan. Oh yeah, that was a stop sign back there, wasn’t it? The one you flew through while glancing down at the text that lit up your screen. The uniformed officer strides to your window. You roll it down while your brain scans frantically through your excuse file in case one of them fits this occasion. He whips off his sunglasses and you recognize him. The kid from fifth grade! The bully who used to taunt you all the way to the schoolyard. You heard he got kicked of college and he hits his wife. He’s a cop now? Heat surges to your face and your fists clench.



Regardless of what you feel like doing, would it be wisest to: a) jump out of the car and pound his face?  b) stare straight ahead and refuse to answer anything he asks?  c) show him honor and comply with his request for your license and registration? We wrestle with the idea of honoring officials who don’t deserve the title. A policeman, a judge, or an elected official may each be a dishonorable human being in many ways, but we are to show them honor because of their position. Honor is not necessarily based upon the character of an individual. We can show honor to a person because of the office he or she holds. It is the office that earns our respect, even if the individual holding that office does not.



God instituted authority for our good. It works when we “give honor to whom honor is due.”  

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