Friday, January 31, 2014

Change: The Only Constant

Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" Matthew 8:24-27
Maybe this has never happened to you but for some the story is all too familiar.  They were working at their job and seeing great results.  It seemed that all was heading towards a successful career and they were making long-term plans to enlarge their lives with a new house and other amenities to make their family more comfortable.  And then, out of nowhere the company sold to new owners and closed down the area where they worked.  Pink slips were handed out and they found themselves seeking a new start in another company.  What did they do wrong? Nothing.  But our lives are intertwined with other forces and people we can’t control.

Sometimes in life things seem to be going pretty well.  Everything is just humming along and then, out of nowhere, a big surprise comes. Perhaps a close friend or a family member is suddenly killed.  Perhaps, after years of service your job is downsized and you lose your job.  Perhaps your wife or girlfriend just decides that she's ‘ready for a change' and leaves you suddenly.  No matter what your situation may be, sooner or later major life changes come.  These sorts of things happen to good people every single day.  What's worse, many time those changes come suddenly and without warning… causing us to do some real soul searching.  The question becomes, how are we to react when terrible change hits us?

Many people instinctively blame God for their troubles.  After all, if God is truly in control then why would He let such a difficult thing happen to us?  Some become bitter, cynical, or depressed.  I urge you not to let this happen to you when tough times come, but pray that God will teach you through these difficult times.  God sometimes allows tough situations to happen to us not because He is trying to make our lives difficult, but simply because He knows that this world is only a temporary assignment for us.  He does not want us to love the world too much, because our ultimate destination is a place far better.

Further, God desires for us to have character, rather than comfort in our lives.  Sometimes difficult things happen in order to develop us into the person He wants us to be and prepare us for a greater challenge or opportunity in the future. God could have kept Daniel out of the Lions' Den.  He could have left David as a simple Shepherd, but instead he called him to fight a giant.  God has a plan and a purpose for your life, and sometimes discomfort comes so that He can accomplish His plans through us.  Sometimes tough times come just so He can demonstrate His power in our lives.

So don't be surprised that God sometimes calls us into uncharted waters. Change is scary. Change is inevitable. But quite often God fulfills his plans for us as we place our trusting in the Lord even through difficult times. Remember today that His plans are good He will always be with you even through the most difficult of circumstances.

Scripture to Claim
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Thursday, January 30, 2014

God Loves a Faithful Fan

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Two weeks ago the Denver Broncos beat the New England Patriots 26 to 16 in the AFC Championship game. Likewise, the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers’ in the NFC Championship game 23-17 earning the Seahawks their trip to the Super Bowl next Sunday.
You know what is coming next: The Super Bowl hype, the expensive commercials and the endless sports shows breaking down every aspect of the game.  And like every year at this time, you will also see the bandwagon fans come out.  All of a sudden people who haven't followed these teams all season become their greatest fans.  We will see the favored jerseys worn and the bragging start.  If you ask them, they have been fans for years (except for last year when they were fans of some other winner).  Everybody loves a winner.  And when a team is winning you see closet fans come out from the woodwork.

My question for you today is, “What kind of fan are you when it comes to your faith in God? Are you a true fan of God or are you a bandwagon fan?”  God loves a faithful fan.

A true fan of God has a faith that is real.  It does not mean you have to act super-religious or be able to talk “Bible talk”.  It means that you have asked God to come into your heart to be with you, to guide your steps in life and to help teach you what you should do.  It means you follow His playbook.  God loves a faithful fan.

Many who claim church membership would have a hard time finding someone who could verify that by their attendance or service.  They remember they were baptized so they know they joined the team, but they don’t attend a lot of the games.  God loves a faithful fan.  

Some speak of how God has done so much for them and talk of how they call on Him for help.  But God does not want you to be a fair-weather fan and only calling on Him in times of disaster.  He wants you to personally take a stand, make a decision, call His name and put your trust in Him for now and the rest of your life. God loves a faithful fan.

A real faith comes from your heart or the center of your life.  A real faith comes from making the decision to stand up and say, “I'm a friend of God. I will love Him even when times are tough. I will follow Him through the seasons of life and through thick and thin.”  One who is faithful is one who God can depend on to act on His behalf and make a difference in the life of another or testify of His great salvation.  God loves a faithful fan.

If you have never personally prayed that prayer of faith, maybe today is the day you ask God to take over your life and call the plays? Ask him to come into your life and in so doing, become a true friend and fan of God.  God loves a faithful fan.

Scripture to Claim:
"Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."   Joshua 24:14-15

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How to Handle an Adjustment

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Paul is dealing with an affliction in his body that causes him to make an adjustment in his life and ministry.  As we seek to understand the mystery of human suffering we must know that it will not be solved completely in this life.  Sometimes we suffer simply because we are human. Our bodies change as we grow older, and we are susceptible to the normal problems of life.  The same body that can bring us pleasure can also bring us pain.  The same family members and friends that delight us can also break our hearts.  All of this is part of the human comedy called life and the only way to escape it is to be less than human. 

Sometimes we suffer because we are foolish and disobedient to the Lord.  Our own rebellion may afflict us, or the Lord may see fit to chasten us in his love.  Suffering also can be used as a tool God uses to build Godly character.  Certainly Paul was a man of rich Christian character because he permitted God to mold him in the painful experiences of his life.  If the truth be told for many of us it is our painful experiences that have shaped us into what we are today.  Some things we need to let go of and some we need to hold onto, to propel us to the next level in our lives.  One writer said it like this; "As you walk along the shore of the ocean you will notice the rocks are sharp in the quiet coves, but polished in those places where the waves have beat against them."  What we must understand is that God uses the waves and the billows of life to polish us if we let him. 

For Paul, this was a physical affliction of some kind that brought pain and distress.  It is certain that God will allow thorns in our lives to test our faith.  However we must make the adjustments and keep trusting God.  The affliction sometimes is sent for God to get the glory.  We as people of God must make the necessary adjustments. 

When God is Taking Us to the Next Level
Ask any coach who has had a team dealt a blow in the first half that they were not ready for and he will tell you that at halftime he has to make adjustments to stay in the game or have a chance to win.  Many a coach has spoken of a time when a team “found itself” in overcoming a bad first half and turning the game around in the second half to reach new levels of success in the future. 

Paul says his confidence came when he heard God say; "My Grace is sufficient for thee for my strength is made perfect in weakness."  Paul doesn't know if his pain is temporary or permanent, but what he has to do is develop confidence in God's promise that His grace will help him deal with his adjustment in his life.  I want you to know that whatever you are having to deal with right now, God's grace is sufficient!  Make the adjustment and give him the praise!  Tell yourself, I will praise you God and make the necessary adjustment even though I'm dealing with this thorn in my flesh!

Scripture to Claim:
And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:4

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Being an Exception and Not the Norm?

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Matthew 5:43-47

Jesus has been giving his disciples instructions as to how to carry themselves in a manner that reflected him.  He reminds them of a familiar teaching.  Everyone is aware, he says, of love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  He may have noticed that his disciples were influenced by those around them and had a tendency to gravitate to the word on the street.  He challenges them to consider a higher response to those around us who are our enemies. 

Many Christians tend to listen to the world about matters related to relationships.  These may form a world-based opinion on things that need a spiritual perspective to properly handle.  Jesus lets the disciples know that He knows what they have heard doesn't work like the world thinks it will work and He doesn't want his followers to act that way.  He notices that what they hear and what they hang around can cause them to be on the same level as others.  Loving your neighbors and hating your enemies is the worldly norm, but we are to be an exception.  Peter wrote that we are to be a “peculiar people”, not clones of the world system.  We have been called to be world changers, not world followers.  We are chosen to be above average and not the norm.

Too many of us are living the average kind of life.  Average means wedged somewhere in the middle of the pack; not as well as some, but maybe a little better than others.  Not the best, but not the worst either; nothing really great, but nothing all that bad. 

A writer named John Schiller said; "The average estimate themselves by what they do, the above average estimate themselves by what they are."  

Andrew Carnegie said, “The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work.  The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.” 

One thing about being average is it doesn't take much of anything to be positioned in the middle of the pack.  After all a minimal effort will do the trick, but average doesn't take you places.
Jesus says to his disciples, I know what you have heard but I don't want you to be average or the norm.  I want you to love your enemies, bless them that curse you and do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.  He is letting us know that we should not do to others what they did to us.  Our job is to p-r-a-y for them and not p-r-e-y upon them.  Remember Jesus said you shall know they are my disciples if they have love one to another!  Wow!  Now that's living life in the above average category and not the norm!   Let's stand out! We can do it with the help of God!!!

Scripture to Claim:
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Ephesians 5:6-10

Monday, January 27, 2014

Life's Greatest Mistake

Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand. When Belshazzar tasted the wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. … They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. Suddenly the fingers of a man's hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing. Then the king's face grew pale and his thoughts alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together. Daniel 5:1-2,4-6

One of the most well-known phrases from the bible comes from this text.  A lot of times in business, sports and just in life, everyone seems to know or have heard the phrase the handwriting is on the wall.  This phrase is normally spoken when it is clear that without intervention something is inevitable.  It is a warning to do something now to stop a later consequence.

Here we have a man named Belshazzar who was the King of Babylon at this time.  Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. This young man was around to witness what happened to his grandfather when he failed to take heed to the voice of God.  He was around when his grandfather was told by Daniel to stop worshipping idols, to stop sinning, to do what was right and be merciful to the poor.  Belshazzar knew that his grandfather's biggest mistake was thinking that he had obtained all his success on his own.  His grandfather had failed to listen to Daniel the prophet and ended up losing his mind so badly that he finds himself eating grass with the cows every day. Wow! The Bible says he was wet with dew and his hair grew as long as eagle feathers.  His nails grew and became like bird claws and he was in a terrible state for seven years.  Yet when his mind finally returned to him he praised and worshipped the most High God.  This man had lost his mind because he had forgotten who allowed him to become great.  This is a good time for me to tell you that God’s Word says in him we live and we move and we have our being.

Many times we may gain success in life but we must remember who the praise goes to.  Without Him we could do nothing, without Him we would fail.  God allowed his grandfather to go through a terrible situation to bring him to the understanding that he needed God always.

Now Belshazzar is on the throne and he finds himself falling into the same trap that his grandfather fell into and he is terrified of what his happening.  I submit to you that the greatest mistake in life we can make is not making mistakes but failing to learn from our mistakes or the mistakes of others. 

If we would learn from our mistakes we would not fall for the same trap that the enemy presents to us each time.  Many times we make the same mistakes because we are not paying attention to the consequences of others or even our own pain.  We live for the moment like these men and we tend to think things won't happen to us like it happened to our predecessors.  Yet if we look at the Bible it's amazing how history repeats itself.  The biggest mistake is not learning from our mistakes and the second half of that is our failure to keep God in the forefront of our lives.  There comes a time when “the handwriting is in the wall” and we must deal with consequences. 

Scripture to Claim:
Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 1 Corinthians 10:5-6

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