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March 2015

Proverbs 3


The Recipe For Straight Paths


Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.


When a path isn’t straight, it obviously takes longer to get to our destination. So when God makes our paths straight we waste less time and energy getting to the place he is leading us. I don’t know about you, but I want God to direct me on his paths. I don’t want to be all over the place like the Israelites in the wilderness but rather to travel straight, in the right direction, so I can arrive where God wants me without delay.

In this proverb, Solomon gives us 3 instructions to follow if we want God to make our paths straight:

  • Trust in the LORD with all your heart. We must believe that God’s ways are better, that he is wise and will do what is best, and that we can rely fully on him for all we need.
  • Lean not on your own understanding. Don’t assume that you’re wise enough to get by on your own. Even in what appears to be a small decision, fight the urge to go with your intuition and what you understand to be best. Pray and seek God's guidance instead!
  • In all your ways submit to him. This is the phrase that seemed to jump off the page at me this morning. One of the biggest things God has been speaking to me about through the Crazy Ones sermon series this past month is this: Knowledge about how to follow Christ, or claiming to follow Christ, without actually following him doesn’t do any good! Even Satan knows how to be a Christ follower. Being a Christ follower demands we actually submit to him and follow his lead.

I believe it was because Israel failed to do a combination of these 3 things that caused them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. I don't know about you, but I don't want it to take 40 years to take a 2 month journey! Taking the above 3 things seriously will significantly alter your journey through this life.

Life Application      

God, I want to grow and mature at an accelerated rate! I want to arrive at the destinations you are leading me to without delay! Please help me to trust in you instead of myself and to actually submit to you and obey you. Show me the specific areas I’m not submitting in, that are keeping my path crooked and keeping me from what you have in store for me. Amen.

Proverbs 2


Only One Place To Look


Proverbs 2:6

For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.


I don’t usually watch or read the news. But encouraged by Pastor Gary a few weeks ago, I downloaded a news app (News Digest by Yahoo) that gives really brief summations of the top stories around the world twice a day. My wife Katie and I started reading the top story each night before bed. Then, however the Holy Spirit leads us, we pray in response to the story. If there’s one thing my eyes have been opened to after doing this for only a couple weeks it’s this: The world is desperate for God.  

The Middle East is filled with so much conflict and violence. There are countless military groups, terrorist organizations, and people groups striving for power and control. Peace is way beyond a handful of leaders coming to agreement on a couple key issues. There are hundreds of thousands of people living in constant fear, without feeling of security, mourning the deaths of loved ones, living in extreme poverty, etc.  People are struggling around the clock to determine solutions and proposed plans to bring about peace are a dime a dozen. And here’s the truth: The world’s problems are much too vast and complicated for man’s wisdom to fix. 

As Solomon points out, it’s the Lord who gives wisdom. It’s the Lord who gives knowledge and understanding. The best thing we can do for the hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who are suffering in the Middle East is to pray. Regardless of your opinion of the different people groups, God loves them all. And the majority are not only suffering right now, but will suffer for eternity if they don’t come to saving faith in Christ. They are desperate for wisdom. They are desperate to know God and God’s ways.

Life Application

Pray for the Middle East and any other region of the world the Holy Spirit would lead me to pray for. Pray for wisdom, knowledge, understanding and God encounters for those in leadership. Pray for peace. Pray for justice. And most importantly, pray for the salvation of the nations.

God, there is only one place to look, only one to look to for help. You. Our world is desperate for you, just as I am desperate for you. We don’t need new plans, treaties, wars, peace organizations or meetings. You alone are the solution to the world’s problems. If you don’t move in power the world is doomed. Please pour out your Spirit upon your church and all the people groups around the world. We need your touch, your wisdom, your love. Out of your great love and mercy, come. Amen.

Proverbs 1


The Need For Wisdom


Proverbs 1:5

 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
    and let the discerning get guidance—

Observation – What does it say?

The author of this portion of Proverbs, Solomon, is letting his audience know from the outset his purpose in sharing these proverbs. The purpose of the sayings in this book is to help us to gain wisdom. A couple good definitions I've heard for wisdom are applied knowledge and skill in living.

In this verse he invites the wise to listen along with the simple. These wise statements are not only for the fool but for those who are already wise and discerning. Wisdom cries out, “Come to me and I will teach you!” And to anyone who would respond to the invitation - wise or foolish, discerning or simple, old or young - wisdom is available.

Understanding – What does it mean?

First of all, I’m reminded that I’ve got a lot to learn! I wouldn’t be quick to identify myself with the wise. I still make mistakes, I still make dumb decisions, I still have struggles in my life that are a result of my actions. And, it’s not because I’m trying to sabotage my own life. It’s because I’m desperate for wisdom!

Solomon, who wrote these proverbs, was extended the most incredible invitation from God in Scripture: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:4) Imagine God said that to you. What would you ask for? Solomon asked for wisdom. He recognized his desperation for wisdom. 

We would be wise for us to recognize the same. It will do us no good to read through the rest of the book of Proverbs unless we first recognize our need for wisdom.

Second, I’m reminded of the source of wisdom, God.

Job 32:8-9

But it is the spirit in a person,
    the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.
It is not only the old who are wise,
    not only the aged who understand what is right.

Wisdom does not come with age. There are plenty of old people living like fools. Neither does wisdom come with experience. It’s possible for us to have experiences and rather than learning from them we just continue making the same mistakes. Wisdom comes from God. And since it comes from God alone, there is only one place to turn when we need it.

James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

If our desire is the same as Solomon’s, then we have a promise from God that he will fulfill that desire. If any of you lacks wisdom ask God and he’ll give it to you!

Life Application

Follow Solomon’s example, respond to God’s invitation in James, and ASK FOR WISDOM!

As we continue through Proverbs, be teachable and open, reading with an awareness of need and an expectation to gain wisdom.

God, humble me before you. Uproot any pride in my life and notion that I have it together. Please fill me with wisdom. As I continue to read your word, speak to me. And may it not just be head knowledge, but give me the strength to apply it to my life. Amen.

Colossians 4


Completing Your Ministry


Colossians 4:17

Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”

Observation – What does it say?

There isn’t really any context to this command from Paul. We don’t know of his relationship with Archippus. As a matter of fact, all we know is that at some point Archippus had received a ministry from the Lord and Paul knew about it. And, Paul’s command to him is short and simple: complete it.

Understanding – What does it mean?

We don’t know why Archippus needed this extra encouragement. The only thing that’s safe to say is that Archippus completing his ministry wasn’t an automatic thing. The Lord gave him the ministry, but the responsibility to complete it was on Archippus’ shoulders. The truth and exhortation to Archippus that applies to us is this:

If you’ve received a ministry from God, it’s up to you to see that you complete it.

What are the things that keep us from sticking with the ministry God gives us?

Whether it's exercising, eating right, or serving in ministry, it’s easy to start with passion and excitement, to give ourselves fully to it and to work hard. But if you continue with it for any amount of time there will be challenges. Consider some of the challenges you may be facing in ministry: Wanting to see God move in ways that he hasn’t yet, working with people who are uncommitted or who hurt us, working hard and not seeing the results we desire, having a lack of support and encouragement that leaves us feeling overwhelmed, etc.

When these kinds of challenges arise it’s easy to lose passion, for doubt to creep in ("Is this really what God want's me to do?"), to start merely going through the motions, to stop working so hard, and to forget the vision and excitement we had at first. Burnout.

I recognize in my life that I continually need God to refill my tank so I don’t burnout. I don’t ever want to throw in the towel because of the challenges I face, but I want to complete the ministry God has given me. I want to stand before him and hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Not, “Why did you give up?”

Life Application

Where is the needle pointing on your burnout meter?

What do you need to do to see that you complete the ministry God has given you?

God, please keep me from stopping short of completion. Guard my heart and passion from being put out by my challenges. In a world filled with good starters, make me and those I serve with at Desert Streams church good finishers! Amen.

[If you are struggling in the area you are serving in, please talk with your ministry leader or someone on pastoral staff about it and be honest about your struggles. Our desire is that you are thriving in ministry and feeling effective in the role(s) you are serving in.]

Colossians 3


A Biblical Work Ethic


Colossians 3:23-24

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Observation – What does it say?

Whatever you do.” Whether it was slaves working for their master or an employee working for their boss, Paul exhorts them to work with all their heart. The word since means he is following that exhortation with some rationale to back it up. Why work with all their hearts? Because they’re really serving Jesus and he has an eternal reward for their labor.

Understanding - What does it mean?

Who are you working for?

Are you just trying to please your boss so you can have good job security, a steady paycheck and no drama at work? Or are you trying to please God when you're working? When you work with all your heart as though its for God, the reward is much greater than any paycheck!

One of the phrases that stood out to me the most was the phrase, Whatever you do. It doesn’t matter if you are a financial planner, a teacher, a plumber, a stay at home mom (or dad), or you answer phones. It doesn’t matter if your boss is awesome or a jerk. It doesn’t even matter if you like your job! Whatever you do, do it with all your heart!

With all your heart. It’s the call to go beyond just the outward acts and going through the motions and choosing to work with all your heart, love and passion.

Consider your job. Are you working with all your heart? And doing it for God?

Consider you area(s) of ministry. Are you serving with all your heart? Are you doing it for God or has it become about something else?

Consider your family. Are you serving them with all your heart? Are you doing it just because you love them or for your kindness to be noticed by them or because you know it pleases God?

Whatever you do, do it for God and with all your heart! Even when no one else is around, God sees and will reward us for what we’ve done.

Life Application Untitled-1-01

What have I been doing halfheartedly?
What have I been doing for the wrong audience?

In everything I do today tell God with a happy heart (now I really sound like a parent), "I'm doing this for you. I love you."

Lord, forgive me for not working with all my heart. Forgive me for having a motive other than pleasing you. Forgive me for serving and doing the right things to be noticed or praised by others instead of you. Help me to be aware of your eye on me today, and to work with all my heart for you and you alone. Amen.

Colossians 2

Treasure map

The Treasure Map


Colossians 2:2-3

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Observation – What does it say?

The Apostle Paul is declaring his desire and goal for all the people living in the city of Laodicea and those who he hasn’t even met. His goal is that they would be encouraged, unified in their love for God and each other, and have complete understanding. All of those things are the path to Paul’s ultimate goal for them: to know Christ. And this culminates in one of the most powerful statements about Jesus: in [Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

One of the most dominant themes of the letter is the supremacy of Christ. He has no equal and there is none to compare him to.

Understanding – What does it mean?

Have you ever heard people express desire for a more ‘meaty’ teaching? In other words, they want to hear something deeper and more profound. Paul let’s us in on where the meat is located: Christ.

Want to dig deeper? Want profound revelation? Look no further than Jesus Christ! ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge will be found nowhere else.  The simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ is where its at! In Jesus we see the exact representation of God in a human being. In Jesus we see the depths of God’s love on full display. In Jesus we see the radical thinking and life God desires us to imitate. He created the world, sustains every living thing, and is where every human being finds their purpose and fulfillment. Don’t make the mistake of trying to look past Jesus to find something deep. Study scripture, but remember what Jesus said:

John 5:39

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me!

Jesus is the 'X' on the treasure map of scripture. Our study of scripture is empty if it doesn’t lead to encounter with Jesus. It all points to him.

I didn’t get married so I could study about my wife. I married her so I could enjoy relationship with her. I can't ever let my Christianity be reduced to learning about and talking about Jesus. You and I were saved to enjoy relationship with him. It’s in the context of relationship with Jesus, abiding in the Vine, that we will discover the all the ‘meat’ we can eat and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Life Application

Look to Jesus. Worship Jesus. Make it all about him.

God, I love your word! I love to study your word and learn more about you. But I ask that it would lead me to encounter with you. Take me deeper in understanding and experiencing the basics of who you are, your incredible love, unlimited power, wisdom and goodness. Amen.

Colossians 1


What’s Your Assignment?


Colossians 1:1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

Observation – What does it say?

Paul starts this letter to the Colossians the same way he starts many of his letters.

From: Paul   To: The Christians in Colosse

Paul states not only his name but that he is an apostle of Jesus. And not a self-appointed apostle but  one by God’s will. So what’s the significance?

Understanding – What does it mean?

I’ll be honest. This is usually a portion of Scripture that I usually skim over. But this time it stood out to me. The Message version translates it this way:

I, Paul, have been sent on special assignment by Christ as part of God’s master plan. Together with my friend Timothy,

Paul recognized God’s master plan, God’s will. God had not only revealed to Paul his will, but Paul’s specific role in accomplishing that plan. It was understanding God’s will and his own personal assignment that enabled the Apostle Paul to live with purpose. It’s an obvious statement but you can’t do God’s will unless you know God’s will. You can’t fulfill God’s plan for you if you don’t know God’s plan for you. Paul sought God to discover his will and then gave himself fully to it.

Romans 12:4-5 (NLT)

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body.

In Romans 12, Paul uses the analogy of a physical body being like God's church. Jesus is the head and every Christian is a part of his body. As parts of his body we work together, receiving orders from him to accomplish his will. A special function and assignment from God isn’t just for Paul or the super-spiritual. It’s for each part, each one of us!  

As Christ-followers, there is nothing more important we can do than discover God’s will for our lives and then give ourselves fully to accomplishing it.

Life Application

Do you know your special assignment from Christ?

If you were to start a letter following Paul’s format, how would it read?

“­­­­­­ ___(Your name)_______, a _(your assignment)__ of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”

God, I pray for myself and every person who reads this today. Make your will for our lives clear to us. Speak to us even now about how you desire to use us. Even for those of us who have heard from you about our assignment, bring clarity to what it looks like. Amen.

Philippians 4


Anxiety's Cure


Philippians 4:5b-6

5bThe Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Observation – What does it say?

As the Apostle Paul wraps up his letter to the Philippians, he gives them some final words of encouragement. Within these final words, we find Paul addressing one of the most common struggles of mankind, anxiety. He urges the Christ-followers in the city of Philippi to not be anxious about anything, but rather to present their requests to God. But is that all there is to dealing with anxiety? Does this passage tell us anything else?

Understanding – What does it mean?

A 2013 issue of The American Prospect mentioned in a short piece that the Bible is the Kindle’s most highlighted book and the most highlighted verse of all is Philippians 4:6. Wow. The most highlighted verse in the entire Bible is one that provides something for us to do with our worries. Based on this info, I’m going to take a crazy guess and say I’m not the only one out there that deals with anxiety. It's common to all of us and something we all face at different times and seasons of life. So what do we do when it creeps in? What is the key to peace?

When you consider the context, there’s two sides to the solution. Side A: Pray. Lay your anxious thoughts at the foot of God’s throne through prayer and thanksgiving and choose to trust him. Sometimes Side A is enough by itself, but what about when we keep praying and still feel anxious? That’s where Side B is important to consider.

“The Lord is near.” Paul not only commands us to not be anxious and pray, but he tells us why we don’t need to be anxious. When Paul wrote this letter, he didn’t include chapter and verse numbers. Those were added later. Ancient commentators like John Chrysostom and Theodoret of Cyrus read verses 5 and 6 as one verse instead of two. Chrysostom quotes it as, “The Lord is at hand, in nothing be anxious.” Theodoret’s translation is the same: “The Lord is near. Have no worries.”

Say it out loud and let it sink in: “The Lord is near. Have no worries.”

We have no reason to worry because the God of the universe is near to us, filled with love and wisdom, working everything for our good! He is faithful to provide, protect, guide and take care of anything we could possibly worry about. And he's not doing it from a distance. God. Is. Near.

Psalm 145:18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Life Application

Examine your heart. What am I anxious about?

Side A: Pray about it!

Side B: Acknowledge that God is near!

God of the universe, I recognize that you are here with me. You have laid your hand upon me and there is nowhere I can flee from your presence. As the Psalmist said, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too loft for me to attain!” (Psalm 139). I can’t hardly comprehend how incredible it is that you are near me always! You are intimately involved in my life as my good Father. Therefore, I have no reason to be anxious or worried. I lay it all at your feet today and exchange my worries for your joy and peace! Amen.

Philippians 3


Intense Pursuit


Philippians 3:15

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.

Observation - What does it say?

What is the “view of things” Paul is talking about? It is the perspective he talks about in the preceding verses:

Philippians 3:12-14

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Understanding - What does it mean?

The Apostle Paul is saying that if you’re a mature Christ-follower then you should adopt the same outlook that he had. One that says, "I'm not content with where I am, I'm not content with just the experiences with God I've had in the past and I know I haven't arrived yet! I have a goal and destination in mind. And I'm not just going to talk about it, I'm actually pursuing it with all my might!"

The mature aren’t those who have arrived, but those who are always pressing on!

Notice the intensity of the language he uses. “I press on!” “straining toward what is ahead.”

Does that intensity describe your pursuit of God and fulfilling his call on your life? Often the picture of maturity I have had is a gray haired person who is straight-faced and pretty serious, even keeled and not easily excitable. They are more realistic and 'wise' because of all their experiences. Not Paul's picture. When you look at Paul's life and attitude just in this letter, you see a picture of excitement, rejoicing, great passion, and someone who isn't slowing down but going hard after God. He didn't think he had it all together but he saw himself in the middle of the journey with much more to pursue.

The mature are passionately pursuing God and his will with intensity!

Life Application

Press on and strain toward what is ahead!

God, remind us of what you have called us to. Show us the ways we’ve slowed in our pursuit of you and the plans you have for us. Forgive us for complacency. We want our maturity to be evidenced by our intense pursuit of you and your will. Change our perspective so that we see things the way the Apostle Paul encouraged the Philippians to. Amen.

Philippians 2


Working Out Your Salvation


Philippians 2

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Observation – What does it say?

Paul is encouraging the believers at the church he planted about 10 years earlier to keep allowing God to change them. He's reminding them that they haven’t arrived and God isn’t done with them yet. So he challenges them to not stop working out their salvation. That means they needed to allow God to change their desires and actions so they could fulfill his purposes.

One way that God wanted to work in them was in the area of negativity. The next verse Paul tells them to “do everything without complaining or arguing” then they will be blameless and pure so that they stand out in the world. The illustration Paul used was shining like bright stars against the backdrop of the dark night sky.

Understanding – What does it mean?

“Work out your salvation”

The churchy word for the process of working out your salvation is “sanctification.” It is allowing God to form us into the image of Jesus; changing us so we think and act like Jesus. The more we open ourselves up to God and allow him to transform us, the brighter we will shine and the more he will use us.

What does it look like?

As we draw near to God through personal prayer and Bible study or in a corporate setting like a Sunday service or GROW group, God will highlight areas of our life that don’t line up with the image of Jesus; areas he wants to work on. For the Philippians, it was this area of grumbling and complaining. When God highlights an area, we can confess our sin and repent, choosing to let God change that part of us, or we can refuse, justify our sin, or ignore God's voice and halt the process.

To work out our salvation means we acknowledge our sin, repent and let God change our thinking and behaviors.

Life Application

Take a moment to pray aloud:

“God, I invite you to show me the areas in my life that you want to change. If there are sins in my life that are keeping me from looking like Jesus show me what they are.”

 Take a moment to listen. Whatever area (s) that comes to mind is most likely the Holy Spirit speaking to you. Ask God for forgiveness for those things and invite him to change you.

For those of us who struggle in the same area as the Philippians:

God, please uproot the grumbling, the bad attitude, the complaining, and the negativity in my life that comes from making it all about me! Make me humble and selfless. I want to live a life of rejoicing where I radiate your love in every situation. Help me to imitate Jesus who was always for others and never for himself. Amen.

God, change us! Whatever you want to do in us, we give you permission to do. May we be set apart in Santa Clarita! May we look so different from the culture around us that we shine like blazing stars contrasting the darkness of space around them. Amen.