Monday, December 29, 2014

STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE

Though we should make plans for the future the best we can (Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, Prov. 21:5 NLT, ) according to what we know of God’s will and His purpose for our lives (People can make all kinds of plans, but only the Lord’s plan will happen, Prov. 19:21 NCV), the day-to-day “following” of the path He lays out for us is a step by step progress (Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path, Psa. 119:105).

We would really like to have a blinding searchlight which illumines our path for miles ahead.  In the ancient world, the best you could get was an oil lamp or possibly a torch with burning pitch.  Think of how it would be to climb along a treacherous mountain path with just an oil lamp or a torch.  To step to one side or the other would mean possible death.  But you had the light you needed to put one foot in front of the other. 

On life’s rocky journey, what do you really need to see?  The whole path for miles ahead or where next to put your foot?

Be thankful and delighted that God has provided illumination for the next step in your path.  Embrace the year ahead, a journey with an unknown outcome, but with the secure promise that the Lord God will walk alongside you as you walk alongside Him in obedience to His revealed will.

It’s better to bind yourself to a trustworthy Guide than to bind yourself to some ideal outcome that may or may not happen for you.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.  Don’t assume that you know it all (Prov. 3:5-6 Mes).

Monday, December 22, 2014

THE GRACE OF CHRISTMAS TO YOU


Comfort, comfort my people, says your God (Isa. 40:1).

May the comforting grace of God be yours this Christmas, and may the truth of His salvation through His Son Jesus bring renewed hope, life, and love to you. - David and Charlyn

Monday, December 8, 2014

TV ROMANCE

Dr. Jeremy Osborn from Albion College in Michigan tracked 390 married couples in a study he titled, “When TV and Marriage Meet.”  Couples answered questions about their satisfaction with their spouse, relationship expectations, level of commitment to the marriage, TV viewing frequency, and how much they believed that TV relationships were actually realistic.  Overall, the study found a simple pattern:  When belief in TV romances goes up, satisfaction with your actual romantic relationship goes down.  In other words, the “on-again, off-again relationships on TV shows – built up by sweeps weeks and season finales – impact what you think a wife or husband should be.” (Science Daily, “When TV and Marriage Meet: TV’s Negative Impact on Romantic Relationships”)

Simply put TV romances can rob your marriage of romance.   Consider the time you may put into watching TV romances and the time you put into keeping the romance alive in your marriage.  Which gets more of your time?  Decide to give more time to real romance and less to TV romances.

You are all sons of light, sons of the day, and none of us belongs to darkness or the night. Let us then never fall into the sleep that stupefies the rest of the world: let us keep awake, with our wits about us. Night is the time for sleep and the time when men get drunk, but we of the daylight should be alert, with faith and love as our breastplate and the hope of our salvation as our helmet. 1 Thes. 5:4-8 (Ph)

Monday, December 1, 2014

I WILL THANK YOU - PSALM 9


Christmas is coming and always thankful

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

EACH MORNING, NEW OPPORTUNITIES

Each morning you wake up you have the opportunity to chart a course.  As each week begins you get to consider how you will direct it. You have the opportunity to point your life in the right direction that will bring goodness to you and glory to God.

What is the “right direction”?  For most of us the right direction would be the way that gives us security.  It would be something we can count on.  It would be a foundation on which we could build our lives which would not change or disappear.  It would be a way of life that is dependable and rewarding.  Really, who wants to build a life on that which is unreliable and subject to penalties?

If we can know the things which are reliable and secure, then we not only have a strong foundation on which to stand; we have a motivation, an energy, something that will propel us forward through life.  Most of us want something that will equip us and fuel us in our everyday living.  We want something that will enliven us in an ongoing way.

The good news is that there are at least six things you can build your life on.  These six things are trustworthy, dependable, and secure.  They will last when all else may fail.  They will remain when everything else may change.

Psalm 19 points us in the direction of that which is trustworthy:  The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes. God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree Psalm 19:7-9 (Mes). 

This is why you want to build your life around the six things that will last:

1. God’s purpose for your life will last.
2. God’s Word will last.
3. God’s love will last.
4. God’s church will last.
5. God’s salvation of you will last.
6. God’s presence with you will last.

If you’ll build your life around these six things, your life will be transformed, and you’ll do good things for yourself and bring glory to God.  Build each day, each week, each month around them.  Your life is far too important to invest in anything less.

Monday, November 3, 2014

STAYING BALANCED

Sunday night Nik Wallenda, high wire artist and daredevil, wowed the crowds in Chicago with two sky-scraper crossings on the high wire without a safety net or a harness.  The second crossing he did blindfolded.  Wallenda is a Christ-follower who uses opportunities to share his faith with the world.  He is also the most watched high wire artist and daredevil in the world.  In the last couple of years he’s walked a tightrope across Niagara Falls and across the Grand Canyon.  Just those two feats alone were seen by a billion people across the world.

Wallenda admits that he will be tempted by pride, so after the huge crowds and the media fade away, he commits to a simple spiritual discipline:  he walks where the crowds have just stood and quietly picks up trash.  He recently wrote, “My purpose is simply to help clean up after myself.  The huge crowd left a great deal of trash behind, and I feel compelled to pitch in.  Besides, after the inordinate amount of attention I sought and received, I need to keep myself grounded… I do it because it’s a way to keep from tripping.  As a follower of Jesus, I see him washing the feet of others.  I do it because if I don’t serve others I’ll be serving nothing but my ego.”

Regardless of what we do, we must keep a balanced perspective if we call ourselves followers of Jesus.  He said, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matt. 23:11).

Monday, October 27, 2014

RISE OF THE “NONES” Part 3 of 3

Many people in the United States are Christians in name only (“nominal” Christians).  The causes are complex but understanding them is important.   Statistics reveal that the majority of “nominals” will become “nones” (unaffiliated with any religious organization).

Eddie Gibbs, professor emeritus at Fuller Seminary, has found at least three major contributing factors: 

1) Churches have become more preoccupied with individualism and consumerism than lifelong discipleship.  Churches become primarily about what pleases people and meets their needs, and attendance, even membership, do not lead to authentic discipleship – understood to mean a deep total commitment to following Jesus as a way of living.

2) Church members most likely to become nominal are those who avoid close personal relationships where they would receive encouragement for their spiritual maturity, have accountability, and be involved in ministry opportunities.  They will eventually go missing without being missed.

3) Biblical illiteracy is alarmingly high in churches today.   Attenders, even members, do not know what the Bible teaches.   Consequently they become vulnerable to the influence of our secular society.

The answer is that we must make lifelong discipleship of Jesus a major emphasis of the church.  A decision to welcome Christ into your life as your Savior and God is just the first step to being a disciple of Jesus.  The issue then is to follow Him and grow in that personal relationship with Him, growing in our faith.  After all, Jesus never said, “Become a Christian.”  He said, “Follow Me.”  Authentic discipleship takes place in small groups.  And that’s why at Clay Community we consider our small group Bible studies to be of utmost importance. 

To turn the tide of the “nones” is a daunting challenge.  However, if we will take Jesus’ words seriously to believe in Him and believe what He says and make more lifelong followers of Him, we will begin to make a difference in our communities.

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

Monday, October 20, 2014

RISE OF THE “NONES” Part 2 of 3

The “rise of the nones” is not new.  It’s not a new wave of religious rejection.  They’ve been in and out of churches for a long time.  The difference now is that it’s culturally safer than it used to be. 

Possibly the first recorded “none” was a young man named Eutychus who was in the church at Troas and then dropped out of it… literally.  Here’s how Luke recorded it in Acts 20:7-9:  On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.  There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.  Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.  Paul went downstairs and found the young man.  He took him in his arms and reassured the people, “Don’t be alarmed, for his life is in him” (Acts 20:10 HCSB). 

Kenda Dean, professor of youth, church, and culture at Princeton Theological Seminary has found that most young adults in the United States say they are at least nominally Christian.  They’re Christians by name, but their way of living suggests otherwise.  They say they identify with Christ, but they’re not committed to following Him.  At the same time a third of them say they are religiously unaffiliated (nones).  Like Eutychus many were once in church.  Author Elizabeth Drescher says 70 percent of nones grew up in Christian homes.  They started out in church, but then they vanished.

Drew Dyson, a pastor and a student at Princeton Seminary, found in his dissertation research that churches which emphasize meaning, belonging, and radical hospitality help young adults who have experienced “faith drift” to think again about being participants in the mission of God.

Churches which work at deepening the faith of nominal Christians tend to pull “Eutychus” into the center of the room by surrounding him with faithful mentors to encourage his spiritual growth, connecting him with God and other Christ-followers, leading him to understand God’s purpose for his life, and involving him in reaching out to others and serving them.

There is hope for the nominals and the nones.  But we must be diligent to draw them away from the window and deepen their faith.  They’re not dead.  They’re still alive.  There is still hope.  “… for his life is in him.”  Be watchful, be loving, be involved.  Their eternities matter.

Monday, October 13, 2014

RISE OF THE “NONES" - Part 1 of 3

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace.  One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.  They are referred to as the “nones.”

The prequel to the “nones” is the “nominals.”  The number of “nominal Christians” is growing.  Who are they?  They’re Christians by name, but their way of living suggests otherwise.  They say they identify with Christ, but they’re not committed to following Him.  To borrow from Drew Dyck, managing editor of Leadership Journal: Nominal Christians have a positive view of the faith such that they identify with Christianity.  They don’t put Christianity down or deny the existence of God, but you can’t distinguish them from those who are not Christians.

We may think that what they need is a nudge to become fully committed to following Jesus.  But maybe you’ve tried that as I have and found that many times it just doesn’t work.  In our culture today I’m coming to believe that what nominal Christians need is not a nudge, but a jolt.  This doesn’t exclude loving and being sensitive to needs, but that’s not enough anymore.

Nominalism is really a spiritual delusion.  And it’s a dangerous one.  Why?  Because it can inoculate against God’s truth, the real gospel.  Atheists may be hostile to Christianity, but they certainly understand their relationship to it.  On the other hand, nominal Christians claim a Christian identity for many unbiblical reasons:  “I’m a good person.”  “I do good things for people.”  “My grandmother was a church-goer.”  These are misconceptions according to the Bible, and they should be addressed according to God’s truth, though in a sensitive manner.

One day Jesus confronted a crowd of would-be followers with some sobering words:   A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.  And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27 NLT).  Jesus uses a hyperbole of speech to make His point, and it comes across strong, as He intended.  Our tendency is to make people comfortable and downplay the hard realities of following Jesus.  But many times Jesus made prospective followers uncomfortable and pointed out just how difficult it was to follow Him.

There comes a time as you lovingly relate to nominal Christians, that you must present them with the hard truth of what it means to follow Jesus.  Seeing where they are spiritually in relation to God is a necessary step toward faith for them, as it is for all of us.  We don’t needlessly offend.  We must be wise and sensitive in how we communicate the message of Christ.  But at some point, like Jesus, you’ve got to spell it out.  Spell out what following Him involves… and then let the chips fall where they may.

John Stott said in his book, Basic Christianity, “thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow Him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so.  The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so-called ‘nominal Christianity’”.

When faced with the all-or-nothing demands of following Jesus, many nominal Christians will respond with genuine faith.  Others will walk away.  But at least they’re freed from their delusion that blinds them to their real need for Christ.

Monday, October 6, 2014

WHY A DECISION ABOUT MARIJUANA IS AN ETHICAL DECISION

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything (1 Cor. 6:12 NLT).
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block… (1 Cor. 8:9).  Because of these two statements and others in the Scripture, we must hit the pause button and examine our choices when it comes to doing what we are free to do because we’re forgiven through Christ and what we should not do because we’re to be responsible with our influence for Christ to those in our world around us.

The Christian’s freedom is a gift which leads to serving others.  It’s a freedom which sacrifices easy pleasures in order to encourage others in their spiritual maturity and worship of the Lord. 

The legalizing of the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington and most likely other states in the future gives us the opportunity to reflect on the nature of Christian freedom. 

Society’s ethical decisions are made within the culture and history of the society.  Take alcohol for example.  Alcoholic beverages do not serve the same purpose in every culture.  If you are Jewish, you are part of a community with a low propensity to alcoholism.  And you are blessed with a rich history into which is woven the use of wine.  However if you are Russian you are part of a community with a devastating tragic history of addiction to vodka.  The personal freedom the Christian has in both cases is the same, but what is good and helpful for others is radically different.

In our culture in America, what purpose does marijuana serve?  It’s associated with a superficial pleasant disengagement from the world.  It usually brings about a sense of slothfulness and tuning out.  These things are not an option for those who want to impact their world for Christ, be agents of change, love their neighbor, and go out of their way to express God’s compassion and grace to those who are distant to Him.  Are there other uses for pot?  Certainly, but the predominant cultural realities of it must be taken into consideration by the Christ-follower.

Andy Crouch, editor of Christianity Today, makes a revealing statement:  “A great inequality of the day and time in which we live exists between those whose affluence provides plentiful buffer zones for indulging in minor vices without major consequences, and those who are most vulnerable to consumer culture at its worst, tempted to depend on substances to numb the pain of lives robbed of dignity and meaningful work.”  The Christ-follower must take this into consideration when choosing whether or not to exercise his freedom in Christ in our culture.

The marijuana plant is a part of a world that was declared good by the Lord.  But enjoying the delights of the earth, including its array of aromas, flavors, sights, and sounds must always remain subordinate to living for Christ or it becomes idolatry and sinful.

Following Jesus engages us in relationship, so our use and enjoyment of creation should foster relationship, not disengagement.  Living for Jesus increases our sense of attention and responsibility.  It increases our skills and sharpens our abilities.  Following Jesus gives us the opportunity to influence the world.  Marijuana use will not do these things.  It’s a superficial substitute for truly living and living life to the fullest. 

If you’re looking for a complete and meaningful life in the middle of a dysfunctional world, if you’re looking for healing of unresolved issues and pain, then turn toward Jesus as your Source of life and love.  He said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt. 11:28-30 Mes).  “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of” (John 10:10 Mes).

Monday, September 22, 2014

MICKEY MOUSE AND A LESSON LEARNED

Perfection is not the same thing as excellence.  To strive for perfection is to try to control everything and to feel that your world cannot survive without you, whether it’s your circumstances, marriage, family, workplace, team, or friendships.  Perfection is what the world wants from you.  If we’re not striving for perfection, our culture makes us feel like a worthless nonproductive bystander.  Perfection generates arrogance. 

To strive for excellence is to excel in who God made you to be.  You recognize your abilities and opportunities and strengths, and you accept your limits.  God reminds us by saying, Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all (Rom. 12:3 Ph).  Excellence is what God wants from you because it requires faith in Him, belief in His truth, and trust in how He has created you.  To strive for excellence is to give your all for God’s purpose in your life.  It’s to trust His infinite wisdom, His purpose in all things, and His comprehensive administration.

To try to be someone else other than who God made you is to abuse who God made.  And that is arrogance.  If we follow the script the world gives us, this is where it leads.  In Disney’s Fantasia, in the animation of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mickey Mouse plays the apprentice and uses sorcery to bring to life a broom to do the chore his master wants done – fetching water in a bucket.  This is not just laziness.  Mickey is too arrogant to do something so lowly, working slowly within the limits of his own body.  But Mickey has started something he can’t stop.  When the water is flooding the room and the broom still will not stop, Mickey chops it up, and soon hundreds of headless brooms are carrying water and drowning Mickey in the fulfillment of his ideas, which are beyond his abilities and limits.

That’s the revenge we can expect when we strive for perfection according to what our culture wants from us, when we try to be what we’re not, when we disrespect the abilities and opportunities God has entrusted to us, and when we don’t accept our limits.  The oppression it brings is a life of inhuman competition.

Striving for excellence doesn’t mean we are less energetic or less enthused about life and what God has called us to do.  On the contrary it’s about going forward full throttle according to God’s design and purpose for us.  As you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God, that you excel still more (1 Thess. 4:1 NAS).  Some of you need to press on the accelerator to follow God’s direction and let Him do the steering.  Strive for excellence, not perfection.  Love God, love others, and love yourself.

Monday, September 8, 2014

WORSHIP WITHOUT “ME”

To borrow from Skye Jethani, in our culture we interpret everything through a lens of “what works for me”.  We tend to look at everything in this world as a transaction, a business contract, a negotiation.  We may come to church each Sunday with the expectation to solely receive something. We want God to give us something.  We want God to do for us.  We want God to quickly fix what we’ve broken.  Certainly God loves and provides, but He doesn’t exist to be useful.  God exists to be adored, simply because of Who He is.  True worship is never transactional.  True worship expects nothing in return.  True worship is, at its core, an act of senseless, wasteful, indulgent beauty.

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.  When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.  “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”  Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman?  She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.  When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matt. 26:6-13)

Monday, August 25, 2014

THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF THE TOP BUTTON

A ripple effect happens when something or someone takes the place of God in our lives.  Our lives get out of line.  It’s like getting the top button on a shirt wrong.  You get that one wrong and then all the others are off.  But if you get the top button right all the others line up.  Call it alignment.  When God is not in His rightful place in our lives, then the rest of the buttons in our lives are not aligned.  Jesus put it this way, “Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well” (Matt. 6:33 NCV). 

When anything takes the place of God in our lives – a venture, a career, ambition, a relationship, our plans – a ripple effect occurs.  When our venture and plans are up we’re up, but when they’re down we’re down.  And in that roller coaster ride a clue can be found about one’s identity.  A person’s entire identity may be founded on that venture or career or relationship.  That’s one of the problems with idolizing.  It leaves a person emotionally spent and insecure. 

The challenge is to die to self.  Here’s an idea to help us keep God first in our lives:  Periodically pause and close our eyes and reflect on the moment of our salvation.  Think about where you were, the prayer you prayed, and how God has changed you.  Then walk through some Bible verses in your mind reminding yourself of who you are in Christ.  You are not who others think you are; you’re who God says you are.  You are His child.  You are loved, secure, and accepted through Christ.  You have God’s Spirit living within you.  You’re a conqueror through whatever you go through because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross which has provided for your forgiveness and new life which lasts forever.  You are called, set apart, and chosen.  You really can do everything He calls you to do. 

Make this little routine a habit and it will have a huge effect on how you see everything and how you live.  A consistent life of prayer helps us keep our eyes on Christ and off of the approval of people.  And that helps us get the top button right.

Monday, August 18, 2014

LIVING IN INTEGRITY AND IN LOVE

To be true to God means to be sincere with our motives and actions.  Integrity means you’re the same person in your private life and you are in your public life.  You’re the same person when you’re alone as you are when you’re at church.  What you have committed to the Lord in your heart you commit to with your actions and words.

Why would you or I not be a person of integrity?  Because of fear in our hearts, and we let it influence our motives and actions.  And so you say one thing and then do another.  And you’re not true to those around you, or to yourself, or to God until you deal with the fear in your heart.

Fear is the root cause of many things:  anger, depression, control issues, worry.  We’re afraid of rejection, abandonment, not being loved, what others think about us, tomorrow, financial loss, not having enough for retirement, of not being accepted, and the list goes on.

And then what do we do?  First we hide.  We wear masks.  We put on a front.  We don’t let others know who we really are.  And who you are when you’re alone doesn’t match who you are when you’re around other people.

Second we look for ways to get love.  We have trouble loving ourselves and loving others and loving God.  Without knowing it you’re trying to heal a “father/child” wound deep down in the center of your being. 

What you really need is the Heavenly Father’s love to heal your heart.  God tells us in His Word that His love “expels all fear” from our hearts.  What happens is that the fear in our hearts can manipulate us and control our motives and actions.

God’s Word gives us the truth:
For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God's children, and by the Spirit's power we cry out to God, “Father! my Father!” Romans 8:15 (GNT)

There is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God, Romans 8:39 (GNT)

Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. 1 John 3:1 (HCSB)

Here’s what we can do based on God’s truth:
·         Cry out to God as your Father Who loves you perfectly, more so than your earthly father.
·         Choose to thank God that nothing will ever be able to separate you from His love.
·         Think long and deep about God’s great love for you.
·         Practice “resting” in God’s love.  Begin the day, spend the day, and end the day resting in God’s love for you.  Just say, “Father I choose to rest in your great love for me.”

Let God love you and transform your life such that you’re the same person inside and out.

We’ve got to give up trying to fix ourselves, control our own lives, and medicate our pain, so we can give up the ownership of our lives to God.  And when we do, we will live lives of integrity in His love.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A STRONG HEART

You know the difference between whole-hearted commitment and half-hearted commitment.  You see the difference on the football field, in the classroom, at your workplace, in your family, and we know the difference in our personal lives.  We can even be whole-hearted or half-hearted in our commitment to God and His instructions.  Some have a tendency to try to slide by in life, and with God.  But when we are only half-hearted in our commitment to God we lose lasting motivation, focus, purpose, a sense of God’s presence, and we can lose our way.  That’s why it’s so important to be all in for God.

In 2 Chronicles 16:9 we’re told The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him (NLT).  God will strengthen your heart when you’re totally committed to Him.

The word “strengthen” in this verse has several meanings.  It means “to prevail.”  Is there something in your life – maybe a bad habit or pattern or attitude or a worry that you want to prevail over, to conquer?  God will make it happen as you commit to be all in for Him.

The word “strengthen” means “to be courageous.”  Do you need courage – to obey what God says, or to say what you need to say in a particular relationship, or press forward even though it’s tough?  God will give you the courage if you decide to be fully committed to Him.

The word “strengthen” means “to be resolute.”  Do you need greater resolve to stick with that diet or exercise regimen or reading discipline?  God will increase your resoluteness as you step up your commitment to Him and His Word.

The word “strengthen” means “to be secure.”  Do you feel insecure about your future, your job, that relationship?  Are you living with worries and fears?  God will replace your insecurity and fear with His internal fortitude and reassurance when you choose to be whole-heartedly committed to Him.

God will give you these things.  He will work them into your heart and mind – if you’ll give your heart fully to Him.

Monday, August 4, 2014

GETTING PAST STATUS QUO

God wants to take ordinary lives and make them extraordinary.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”  Yet, many people live dull, mundane and stressful lives.  They have no sense of lasting motivation or joy or enthusiasm.

God never intended for us to live depressed, worried, fearful, powerless, and mundane lives.  God wants to take your ordinary way of living life and transform it into a life that is extraordinary.  You were made for more than you think.  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think (Eph. 3:20 NLT).

When does life become exciting and worth facing each day, even when we go through the day-to-day routine and troubles? 

When we:

·         Make what matters in Heaven matter most.
Peter and John were teaching about the resurrection of those who placed their belief in Jesus, because Jesus Himself had risen from the dead and so would all His followers one day.  They really believed what they were telling others.

When we surrender the control of our lives to the Christ, He then is able to work in us and through us, such that we do extraordinary things for the sake of Christ.

·         Live saved.
“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NLT).  Find your salvation in Christ.  This is not just eternal salvation but daily salvation from the destructive patterns and habits of sin.  Do not let the grace that you received from God be for nothing. 2 Cor. 6:1

·         Live with Jesus.
So how do we “live with Jesus?”  We live with Him spiritually.  We don’t live with Him physically yet.  One day we will. But for now we live with Him spiritually.  The point is that we must give a lot of attention to the spiritual dimension of our lives.  That’s where we talk and walk with Jesus. 

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).  God wants to take your ordinary way of living life and transform it into a life that is extraordinary.

Monday, July 28, 2014

REFRESHING

I remember many times hiking a trail in the mountains in the summer time, and constantly climbing and working my way up the trail, perspiring and gradually getting fatigued.  And then to happen upon a small cascade of clear cold water where I’d take my shoes and socks off and put my feet in the water.  You’ve probably done the same thing.  And maybe even splashed some water on your face or put your head under the cascade and let that cold water run over your head.  And then you sit down on a rock and drink from your water bottle and just relax for a while.  And then after a time, you get up and press on, having been refreshed by the cool mountain stream.

As you make your way through life, you find yourself getting fatigued, stressed, and worn.  You find yourself going uphill and the going gets tough.  And then something painful happens. 

You’re trying to follow Christ and obey what He teaches, and life seems to get harder.  Bad things happen.  People treat you different now that you talk about Jesus and do what He says is the right thing to do.  Not only is life unfair, but if you’re a believer in Jesus, you have an enemy now that you didn’t have before, and his name is Satan.  And he will do what he can to tempt you and discourage you and depress you and keep you from being all in for Christ. 

And you start to wonder, “Is there any relief in sight?”  The “good news” is “yes.  Relief and refreshment and renewal are very real and available.  So how do we get relief and refreshment?  He answer is found in Acts 3:19:  Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.  God will refresh you so that you can move forward in life with your life purpose.

To be refreshed means to be cooled.  It’s like a cool breeze on a hot day.  It’s a freedom from the heat.  It lifts your spirits.  The Bible talks about the importance of being refreshed:  Reliable friends who do what they say are like cool drinks in sweltering heat—refreshing (Proverbs 25:13 Mes).  Peter reminds us of the fires we walk through in life.  I beg you not to be unduly alarmed at the fiery ordeals which come to test your faith, as though this were some abnormal experience (1 Peter 4:12 Ph).

The Lord sends seasons of refreshing to cool our spirits.  Maybe you’re in the heat of spiritual battle, or in the heat of being mistreated and rejected, or in the fire of being ostracized and made fun of because you’re a Christ-follower, or you’re in the fire of loss and grief and pain.  And the Lord sends a cool breeze into your life.  He takes you away from the heat for a little while.  He   refreshes you.  And then you’re strengthened again to press forward with living.

When does God refresh us?  It’s when we make a turn toward God.  The Bible calls it “repentance.”  It means turning from our self-absorbed ways in order to follow Jesus in every area of our lives.  It’s turning from depending on myself to figure out life and turning to depend on God to direct my life in order to live out the life purpose He has given me, which is what will truly fulfill me.

We may search in many ways and places for refreshing, but the only lasting soul-satisfying refreshing is found in the reality of God’s presence.

Monday, July 21, 2014

GOD CALLS

God made each of us for a reason.  He gives each of our lives meaning.  He gives us each a purpose for living.  He gives you a calling.  A “Calling” is not something that is reserved for special people like a Mother Teresa or a Billy Graham. You have a Calling.  You have a “life purpose.”

Here are three ways God calls us:

1. GOD CALLS US TO BECOME.
We are called to become somebody.  God’s calling doesn’t start with a task to accomplish; it starts with a person that God wants you and me to be—a “Jesus kind of person”.  He wants us to become what we’re called to be.

2. GOD CALLS US TO BELONG.
Jesus’ whole mission began when He called people to belong to a little circle … a little redemptive community.  He said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough.” Mark 2:17 (NLT)

Jesus is still calling people today.  To belong to Him and to belong to His community . . . that’s the Call.  We don’t do anything to earn it, merit it, or deserve it.  It’s just a Call.

3. GOD CALLS US TO SERVE.
We are called to use whatever gifts, talents, brains, resources, time, energies — what we have received from Him in the first place — to partner with Him in a grand and glorious adventure that is far bigger than our own lives and our own jobs and our own lifestyles and our own portfolios.  We are called to be a partner with Him in the adventure of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to others and making more devoted followers of Him.

Throughout the Bible we see people who choose to be unselfish, who chose to be generous, and who choose to sacrifice as needed to follow God.  Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me”. Luke 9:23 (NLT)

The word "faith" or its variations is used 246 times in the Bible. The word "hope" is used 185 times.  The word "love" is used 733 times.  The word "give" or "giving" is used 2,285 times in the Bible.  The Bible talks more about giving than any of those other values.  Why?  Because giving is the expression of faith, hope, and love.

God calls you and He calls me.  We have a purpose to live for.  I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Ephesians 4:1

Monday, July 14, 2014

A HEALTHY HEART

10% of what we can see is the exterior behavior, and it all looks good.   90% is underneath.   It’s what we can’t see.  The things deep beneath the surface, those things that we can’t see and that come out when we’re under great stress are what God wants to transform most.

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna… to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deut. 8:2-3).

An awareness of yourself and your relationship with God are very closely related.  If you don’t KNOW yourself, how can you GIVE yourself to God?  A limited awareness of myself limits my relationship with God.

Emotional health and spiritual health have a significant connection.  Spiritual maturity and emotional maturity are always connected.  You cannot be mature spiritually and be immature emotionally.  You can’t be healthy spiritually and unhealthy emotionally at the same time.  Jesus calls us to have a spirituality that is connected not disconnected.

What God wants to have happen in your life and in mine is that we come to realize what’s going on inside of us and acknowledge it.  Come out of illusion.  Accept our brokenness.   Accept our limits.  Acknowledge the wounds yet to be healed.  God will do His work of healing and transforming within us when we confront ourselves and we’re honest with ourselves and look straight into the center of our hearts to reveal what’s there.  Then with these realizations we can say with Paul, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Cor. 12:9 NLT).

Here are three actions to grow healthier spiritually and emotionally:

1. Ask yourself questions: 
“Why am I doing what I’m doing?  What are the feelings I have about what’s going on?  What are my thoughts on the inside?”  Pray and wrestle with those questions.

2. Slow down, stop, and be with God.
It’s a daily decision we have to make.  You’ve got to develop the interior space of your being.  And let the love of God get beyond your head, into your heart, and into your life.

3. Need God.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).  You cannot have God without poverty of spirit. You can have yourself, you can have religion, but you cannot have Heaven without “poverty of spirit”.  We must come to depend on God.

Monday, July 7, 2014

TROLLS

Whether in person or online, you eventually run into a troll.  With our technology today most of us run into trolls online.  What’s a troll?  It’s someone who’s looking for a fight.  They criticize and pick fights.  But we don’t have to respond to them.  You don’t have to show up for every argument you’re invited to, and in the world of social media you can see plenty of them.  For the most part it’s best to avoid them.  That should certainly be the case when you discover a troll.  It’s a waste of your time and energy.  Like the old saying goes:  “Never wrestle with a pig.  You both get dirty, but the pig likes it”.  Don’t befriend angry people (Prov. 22:24 NLT).

Monday, June 30, 2014

“IF YOU REALLY BELIEVED IT”

Fixed Point Foundation recently surveyed active members of atheist student groups in order to discover what led them to their unbelief.  The survey revealed, “… these students were, above all else, idealists who longed for authenticity, and having failed to find it in their churches, they settled for a nonbelief that, while less grand in its promises, felt more genuine and attainable.” 

Michael, one of the participants in the study summed it up well:  “Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change the lives of others.  I haven’t seen too much of that.”

The Apostle Paul gives us instructions:  Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Rom. 12:1-2 NLT).

As far as our responsibility goes, the gateway to change is through our minds.   For as he thinks within himself, so he is (Prov. 23:7 NAS).  Certainly the Holy Spirit in His power transforms us from the inside out, but our part is to feed our minds God’s truth, and God’s Spirit utilizes His Word within us to transform our lives.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16).

If you really believe it, how’s your transformation going?  Can others tell?

Monday, June 23, 2014

COMMUNICATING YOU CARE

We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. 1 Thess. 2:8 (HCSB)

How far are you willing to go to communicate God’s grace and truth to others?
Gordon McDonald writes that people communicate along a range of five levels:

1. Clich├ęs:  “Hi, how are ya?”
2. Facts/reports:  “We had 125 show up.”
3. Opinions/judgments:  “We just didn’t get the message across.”
4. Emotions/feelings:  “I’m heart-broken over this.”
5. Loving/truthful conversation:  “I can really tell you’re learning and growing.”

Each level calls for increasing courage, trust, and commitment.  A casual relationship will accommodate the first two levels.  But only a carefully developed relationship over time can cultivate the fourth and fifth levels.  Few people reach (or care to reach) the fifth level – not enough time, not enough curiosity, not enough courage.  Yet if you’re going to make more devoted followers of Jesus, if you're going to make an impact on others' lives for eternity, levels four and five are necessary.  We must care that much.  People’s eternities are on the line.

Monday, June 16, 2014

DISTRACTION

Screwtape, a senior devil trains his apprentice, Wormwood, in the art of demonic manipulation.  In C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape recounts the time when his patient – the man he is assigned to tempt – was moments away from a colossal spiritual breakthrough.  Seeing twenty years of demonic work beginning to totter, the senior demon suggested to the man that it was time for lunch.  Within moments, the patient was halfway across the street in search of the nearest pub, and the threat of a real spiritual breakthrough had passed.

One of the Devil’s greatest tools is “distraction.”  The Devil gets just as much satisfaction from luring us into meaningless distraction as he does from our disobedience to God.  Those minor distractions – constant tweeting, nonstop text messages, ongoing calendar reminders, unending anxiety-laced news – take us away from the stillness needed to seek God.

God’s Word is clear about living a balanced life:  let your life flow from a heart centered in God’s peaceLet the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, (Col. 3:15).   Does the peace of Christ rule in your heart?  Jesus said in John 14:1, 27, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me … I leave you peace; my peace I give you.  I do not give it to you as the world does.  So don’t let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

There is nothing more countercultural than living a deliberate life infused with margin.  Choose to be deliberate, not distracted, and let your life flow from a heart centered in the peace of Christ.

Monday, June 9, 2014

GETTING THE WIN

After defeating Jericho City in a spectacular way, Joshua’s army moved on to take Ai, a small crossroads town.  They thought it would be an easy win.  But when the battle was over it was Joshua and his people who ran for their lives.  Why the unexpected defeat?  It was because of Achan and his secret.  He had baggage.  He had stolen items hidden under the floor of his tent.  Consequently his relationships, an entire community in this case, were held hostage to the secret in his life. 

The dark side, unresolved wounds, internal pain, hidden guilt and anger and fear, secret sins – all have a mysterious power to neutralize a strong army, a team, a community, a family, a relationship.  What’s hidden under the floor of your tent, unless confessed and revealed and surrendered will undermine the good, the wholesome, the faith, and the health of your relationships. 

The answer is found in confronting our inner selves, owning our faults and sin, admitting our need for God’s intervention, and revealing our wounds and weaknesses to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  James says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).  The confessed and cleansed heart is the pathway to healthy, powerful, and effective relationships which win for our good and God’s glory.

Monday, May 12, 2014

WHY NOT OWNING ANYTHING IS GOOD FOR YOU

Jesus said, “You cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own” (Luke 14:33 NLT).  Jesus wants you to surrender to His ownership everything.  Why is the decision to surrender to Jesus so incredibly important?   Here’s why:  The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him (2 Chronicles 16:9 NLT).  God will “strengthen your heart.”

Giving up ownership leads us to live lives of integrity.  Integrity means you’re the same person in your private life as you are in your public life.  You’re the same person when you’re alone as you are when you’re at church.  What you have committed to the Lord in your heart you commit to with your actions and words.

Why would you or I not be a person of integrity?  Because of fear.  When fear is in your heart it influences your motives and actions.  You say one thing and then do another.  And you’re not true to those around you, or to yourself, or to God until you deal with the fear in your heart.  Fear is the root cause of many things:  anger, depression, control issues, worry.  We’re afraid of rejection, abandonment, not being loved, what others think about us, tomorrow, financial loss, not having enough for retirement, of not being accepted, and the list goes on.

When we don’t deal with the fear in our hearts we will do two things:  1) First we hide.  We wear masks.  We put on a front.  We don’t let others know who we really are.  And who you are when you’re alone doesn’t match who you are when you’re around other people.  2) Second we look for ways to get love.  We have trouble loving ourselves and loving others and loving God. 

Without knowing it you’re trying to compensate for an emotional wound deep down in the core of your being.  The answer  is to not only place your trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation, but to grow to believe more and more in God’s love for you and in who you really are in Christ and all that is yours in that relationship with Him.  It takes the Heavenly Father’s love to heal your heart.  God tells us in His Word that His love “expels all fear” from our hearts, and There is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God, (Romans 8:39 GNT).  Therefore, Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children (1 John 3:1 HCSB).

He is present with us so that we don’t have to be fearful.  For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God's children, and by the Spirit's power we cry out to God, “Father! my Father!” (Romans 8:15 GNT). 

Specifically what can you do in light of God’s truth?

1.      Cry out to God as your Father Who loves you perfectly, more so than your earthly father.
2.      Choose to continually thank God that nothing will ever be able to separate you from His love.
3.      Think long and deep about God’s great love for you.
4.      Practice “resting” in God’s love for you.  Just say, “Father I choose to rest in your great love for me.”
5.      Accept His forgiveness of you and choose to forgive those who’ve wronged you.

Let God love you and transform your life such that you’re the same person inside and out.

We’ve got to give up trying to fix ourselves, control our own lives, and medicate our pain.  We must give up the ownership of our lives to God.  He wants your honest total surrender, and then He’ll produce the right things in your life.  That’s when your heart will grow in His love for you, in His strength, with courage, and with inner security.

Monday, May 5, 2014

YOU WERE MADE FOR MORE

God wants to take ordinary lives and make them extraordinary.  We weren’t made to live boring lives where it’s the “same old same old.”  There’s more to life than living and dying.  We were made to live an exciting adventure.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”  Many people live dull and mundane stressful lives, and they have no sense of lasting motivation or joy or enthusiasm.  God never intended for us to live depressed, worried, fearful, powerless, and mundane lives.  That’s not the kind of life God wants us to live.  But for many that’s their “normal” way of life.  God wants to take your ordinary way of living life and transform it into a life that is extraordinary.  You were made for more than you think.  The Bible says in Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

How is your life changed from ordinary living to extraordinary living?

1. Value your future resurrection to be better than your life now.
They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Hebrews 11:35 (NLT)

2. Submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Make it a daily practice.  Make it an on-going practice throughout each day.  Take action based on what you learn from God’s Word.  It’s called obedience.

3. Live loved and forgiven.
Do not let the grace that you received from God be for nothing.  2 Corinthians 6:1 (NCV)

4. Keep company with Jesus.
They realized then that they had been companions of Jesus. Acts 4:13 (GNT)
  • Read and study God’s Word, the Bible
  • Pray persistently
  • Fellowship regularly with other believers
  • Tell others about Jesus, because they notice something extraordinary about you
  • Serve people for the sake of Christ
  • Worship God privately alone and publically with the church
As we learn to follow Jesus, our lives begin to change because He changes us.  God wants to take your ordinary way of living life and transform it into a life that is extraordinary.

Monday, April 28, 2014

GOD DOESN’T GIVE UP ON YOU

When you go through difficult times in life you may question God.  You may question His whereabouts.  You may question His promises and faithfulness.  The good news is that He hasn’t left you alone in your trouble.  Notice what God said to Jeremiah when he told the people that God would discipline them for their selfish choices and rebellious attitudes:  “When you tell the people all these things, they will ask, ‘… What have we done to deserve such treatment? What is our sin against the Lord our God?’  “Then you will give them the Lord’s reply: ‘It is because … you stubbornly follow your own evil desires and refuse to listen to me.   So I will throw you out of this land and send you into a foreign land where you and your ancestors have never been … “But the time is coming,” says the Lord, “when people who are taking an oath will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who rescued the people of Israel from the land of Egypt.’ Instead, they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the people of Israel back to their own land from the land of the north and from all the countries to which he had exiled them.’ For I will bring them back to this land that I gave their ancestors” (Jer.16:10-15 NLT).

This prophecy has now become history.  The people of Israel have returned to the land promised them by the Lord and have become a nation again.  What stands out to me is that God didn’t abandon His people; He disciplined them.  He never disowns His people.  Though He judges them they’re still His.  He keeps His promises and brings His people back in line with His sovereign will.  He restores them.

The Lord disciplines His children because He loves them, but He will never abandon them.  Hebrews 12:11-13 (NLT) reminds us of the results of His discipline:  No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful!  But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.  So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.  Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

When times get hard, whether the Lord is disciplining you or testing your faith, know that He hasn’t left you.  You’re still His, and He will restore you and your strength. 

In the middle of the trouble instead of stubbornly following your own desires and refusing to listen to God, tenaciously follow Jesus and refuse anything that keeps you from listening to Him.  In His timing He will restore you.

Monday, April 21, 2014

YOU HAVE AN ASSIGNMENT FROM HEAVEN

“Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus.  The work of telling others the good news about God’s mighty kindness and love” (Acts 20:24 TLB).

Connecting people with God is a part of every believer’s life purpose.  We each can do three things to carry out this part of our life purpose:

1. ACCEPT YOUR MISSION.
The moment you become a believer your job is to tell other people about Christ.  The moment you become a believer that mission kicks in.  And in today’s world opportunities abound to express the Good News of Christ through many avenues.  That’s our mission.

2. GO WITH GOOD NEWS.
Reasons we give for not talking about our faith are that we feel shy or insecure or afraid of what others will think of us or rejection.  But these aren’t the real reasons we don’t tell others the good news.  The real reason is we forget how good the good news really is.  We become comfortable and complacent with it and we forget what a deal we really have.  If we’ll think about it and realize how good it is, we can’t help but tell people about it.  It’s such good news. 

The Good News can be summarized in three words:
Fulfillment, Freedom, and Forgiveness.  This is what everyone wants.  As a follower of Jesus you have these.  You have what everybody in the world is looking for.  It just needs to be explained in terms so people can see how much they benefit from knowing God. 

3. LOVE PEOPLE.
The right motive for telling others the Good News is love.  We do it out of love.  For Christ's love compels us, (2 Corinthians 5:14).  God has never made a person that didn’t matter to Him. 
God loves them.  Jesus died for them. 

When as a believer you realize that your mission is to tell others of Christ, and one day, since God told us to do this, He’s going to say to you, “Did you bring anybody else to heaven with you?” you realize this is a major part of your life. 

When you say “God, I’m available to share the Good News with anybody, anywhere, anytime in a natural way,” life becomes a great adventure.

Monday, March 17, 2014

THE HUMBLED, THE HONORED

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.  You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God … The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain” (Deut. 28:1-2, 8 NLT).

When Moses told the people of Israel to honor and obey the Lord God, he told them that the Lord would bless them.  The principle of honoring and obeying the Lord and being blessed by Him is expressed in James 4:10 (NLT), Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.   If we’ll dig out the “how to” principles from Deuteronomy 28, we find some practical application for how humbleness brings honor.

What does it take to obey and be honored?  It takes:

Heart and soul
If you listen obediently to the voice of God, your God, and heartily obey … Deut. 28:1a (NLT)
Put your energy into it.

Care
carefully follow … Deut. 28:1b
Get clear on God’s instructions so that you can follow them.

Attention
pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God … Deut. 28:13
Sometimes we listen but don’t pay attention and therefore it doesn’t make a difference in our lives.  We must pay attention to what God says in His Word with the objective of understanding what to do with what He says.

Alignment
Don’t swerve an inch to the right or left from the words that I command you today by going off following and worshiping other gods. Deut. 28:14 (Mes)
Avoid detours and ditches.

Enthusiasm
… serve the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, Deut. 28:47 (NLT)
Count your blessings to prompt your enthusiasm to serve the Lord.

Monday, March 10, 2014

THE ADVANTAGE OF LIMITATIONS

Paul said in 2 Cor. 12:7-10, “In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

Impediments and limits to our abilities and opportunities come in a thousand different forms.  Sometimes we complain about what limits us and impedes us from doing more for the Lord in serving people and serving Him.  Some of those hurdles and hindrances we cause ourselves from our sin and dumb choices.  Others are allowed by the Lord.  The goal is not to try to overcome them all.  The goal is to learn to trust God’s strength in the middle of them. 

Three things we can do:

1) Change what you can change.  For example Timothy had a stomach condition, and Paul told him to take some medicine (wine) for it in order to do what he could to make it better (1 Tim. 5:23). 

2) Pray that God would change the situation.
He may but then He may not, as in Paul’s case.

The point is that after doing your part to try to change the situation and having prayed about it and it doesn’t change, then realize God has entrusted to you whatever doesn’t change to cause you to trust in His strength and wisdom.  When we realize this, we can learn to accept it.  But there is more to be done with that limitation, that imperfection, whatever it is that causes you periodic frustration. 

3) Choose to be glad you’ve been entrusted with it.  Why?  Because it’s then that you surrender to the power of Christ.  It’s then that you truly place yourself under His provision and infinite wisdom and power.  It’s then that His power works through you and accomplishes His purpose in you and through you for His glory and your good (Rom. 8:28).  And there’s one other benefit:  Those limits and impediments let you know God is with you and is at work in you.  He’s not distant.  He is involved with you.  Let it be reassuring to you of His love and power and wisdom and presence. 

Every one of us has a tendency to exalt ourselves.  You can be the least known Christian in the world, and God will still entrust to you limits and impediments to keep you from exalting yourself so that you will learn to rely on God’s grace and exalt Him.  But it’s there that we learn how to live life to the fullest with God’s strength flowing through us.

Monday, March 3, 2014

YOUR ONE AND ONLY GOD

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Moses told the people what God wants.  He wants them to love Him completely.  Jesus reiterated this commandment for all of His followers.  God is one, not many, and He is to be the only God in our lives. 

How do we express that God is our only God?  We love Him with all our heart, soul, and strength.  We keep what He says on our hearts.  We teach His truths to our families.  Make God’s words visible around your home.  Place verses of Scripture on the refrigerator, on your desk, on the nightstand, on the mirror, wherever.  By doing this, God’s words stay on our minds and hearts so that we’ll be influenced by them to obey Him.  Our disposition will have a better chance at being guided towards the Lord’s ways. 

Do not let kindness and truth leave you … Write them on the tablet of your heart (Proverbs 3:3 NAS).   Make God’s Words noticeable to yourself and your family.  That’s how we can keep God’s Words in our hearts and in our everyday living, and love Him as our God.