Tuesday, April 28, 2009
If you are familiar with the story of Job, then you can understand why he would ask,
"Where then is my hope?". Job lost his possessions, his family, and his health. The only thing left to lose other than his life was all hope.
Many of you reading this can empathize with Job. Maybe it has been so long since you have seen a mountain top, you think all that's left is the valley. Maybe you have been through a viscous and downward spiraling cycle that has taken you from bad to worse in the blink of an eye. Sometimes when I preach, I can see that kind of weariness in the eyes of the heavy laden. The look that says, "I give up". Sometimes that look can be seen in my own eyes.
I believe if you look within yourself, you will see what Job saw, and what I have seen. If you dig down and pull back the rubble that has piled up in your life, the sickness, the broken promises, the financial ruin, the failed marriage, whatever it is, just pull it back and you will see that under all of that debris, is still a seed of faith. Now you may be saying, "no all my faith is gone, there's too much bad for me to believe in anything good". Trust me, that seed of faith is still there. How do I know? Look in the mirror. Get close enough for your breath to fog it up, and you will see...You're still here! If it wasn't for that seed of faith, what you have been through would have killed you or caused you to lose your mind.
See, its that faith that gives you hope. Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for..." Though Job wavered, complained and doubted, he still had faith enough to say, 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." (Job 13:15) That seed of faith gave him hope.
The Hebrew word for hope is tigvah (tik-vah) and its literal meaning is a chord, rope or string. So when you feel like everything is going wrong, and you are hanging on by a string, hope is that string. So I say to you, if you think all hope is lost, tie a knot in that string and hang on! As long as you have faith in God, you just know...There Is Hope For You!
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Matthew 5: 14-16 "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
The bible often shows the contrast between light and darkness, obviously using something we understand in the physical to help us understand a concept in the spiritual. Light represents purity, holiness, and a relationship with God. Darkness represents sin and distance from God.
Jesus here in Matthew says that we, i.e believers, are the light of the world. Wow, that is an awesome statement. This is a dark and scary world we live in. Just look around you, or listen to the news. You will see that this world is full of darkness, and yet our Lord says you and I are the light for this world.
See it works like this. God is light (1 John 1:5), and once we are saved He lives within us. Therefore His light is in us. Those people around us that are not Christians are wondering around in spiritual darkness trying to find their way. They are walking down a dark road. You and I are the only one with a flashlight. They are stumbling, unable to tell where they are going. Some have wondered into the ditch, others pointed in the wrong direction, or worse headed for destruction. They need our light. So it is critical that we let our light shine among men, so that we can lead people out of that darkness.
Sometimes we feel uncomfortable being different, and sometimes those in the darkness don't want the light, and therefore don't want to see us coming. So we are tempted to hide our light, so we can blend in. That will only mean destruction for everyone.
The darker this world gets, the more it needs your light. So, Let Your Light Shine!
Are you walking in darkness, trying to find your way? You going through life, but it has no meaning? I was like that too. You should Try Jesus!
Monday, April 20, 2009
Jonah 1:1-2 "Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me."
You may be familiar with the story of Jonah and the Whale, as it's traditionally known. If you know the story from beginning to end, you know that its a story of the success of a ministry in spite of the failure of the minister. God gave Jonah very direct and explicit instructions. He was to go to Nineveh and warn them to change their wicked ways or God was going to bring destruction to them. Having his mission and his direction, Jonah immediately prepared himself, gathered his things, and got on a ship....going in the opposite direction. Not because he misread his boarding pass or because he didn't know where Nineveh was, but he intentionally avoided doing what God called him to do. What God wanted him to do did not match what Jonah wanted to do.
You ever experienced that? You ever felt God leading you to do something you didn't want to do? Ever come across something you knew was the right thing, but just didn't want to do it? I have. We have various reasons why we don't want to. Jonah's was because he didn't like the people of Nineveh, and didn't feel like they deserved the warning. Sometimes its for selfish reasons like that, or laziness, or fear, or whatever it is. Nonetheless we often go in the opposite direction of our purpose.
There's not enough time in this blog to cover all of Jonah's adventure, but you should read the Story of Jonah. You'll see that every time Jonah tried to step off the path of his purpose, God brought him right back. God used the wind, a whale, and a worm to get him back on course. I think you will see that this story teaches us three basic truths:
- Running from your purpose does not change your purpose, it just delays the fulfillment of it. From the foundation of the world, God already decided His reasons for creating you and saving you, and (now here is the real big pill that's hard to swallow) ultimately that reason is not about you, its about Him.
- God has a path mapped out for you. He has a plan for getting you from point A to point Z. Sometimes we can only see as far as point D, and from our perspective and without understanding of what point Z is, point D makes no sense and is either scary or unappealing. So we try to take a detour, shortcut, or like Jonah, turn and go the other way. (Another big pill alert) The fact is, you are going to point Z, its God's will. So either you can go the easy way, or the hard, whaley, windy, wormy way.
- Though you may not be able to see it or understand it, God's way is the best way. Praying for God's will, accepting God's will, and living God's will for your life is the best way for you. Don't go on how things look around you, or how you think things will turn out. Trust in God, and know that He loves you and has your best in mind. Going God's way will bring blessings to others and to you.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
At the end of Jesus' journey here on earth, He turned His attention and teaching to His disciples to prepare them for His departure. Between the time He returned to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday as we observe) and the time of His crucifixion (Good Friday), He spent a lot of quality time with the 12. At the Passover feast, which would be His last, our Savior humbled Himself and washed the disciples feet; even Judas though He knew he would betray Him. As He looked ahead to coming events, Jesus foretold of the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter. He also spoke to them of both His departure and His ultimate return.
In verse 19 of the Gospel of John, chapter 14, Jesus said something very profound that should resonate with us at this Easter season. He said "...because I live, ye shall live also." Just think of what that means, because He lives! What if He were dead? What if He didn't rise on the third day? What if they had found more than an empty tomb? Everything would be drastically and eternally different.
Meditate on this. Because He Lives....
...we know that His word is true. He told us He would rise on the third day and He did. And since He kept His word on that, we can have faith in His promise to return for His people (that includes me; does it include you?). Jesus said "Let not your heart be troubled...I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again..."
...we can live. Because He lives, we now have the holy spirit to comfort and guide us. This is a tough world to live in, and without that help, how would we make it?
....we will live. Most importantly, because He lives, we can believe in His return and our place in Heaven is secured, if we only believe.
Billions of people all around the world pray to dead gods who can not hear them, much less save them. But Jesus is alive! And to echo the words of that great hymn, I know that life is worth living just because He lives.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth, a place close to Greece, and a people very familiar with the Olympic games that first started there. He spoke in terms they could understand, a race. Paul implied that a Christian life is less like a sprint, short and fast, and more like a long distance marathon. Life is a long stretch that spans over hills and valleys. In order to endure this long distance race of life, we must do three things according to this scripture passage.
- We must go into "strict training". An Olympic marathon runner, even months before the race, will train everyday and be very particular about what they put into their bodies. Likewise, we need to train daily, ie. read the word and pray every day, and be careful of what we put into our bodies, not only what we eat, but what we watch, read, and hear.
- We are not to "run aimlessly". We are to run with a goal in mind; the end. Too many of us are living for today, and tomorrow, but not for eternity. Do you want to go to heaven? Do you want the ones you care about to go to heaven? Are you living like you do? We are to run discplined lives, ignoring distractions that will get us off course.
- We must "beat [our] body and make it [our] slave". To run a race, you must have discipline. Discipline is the process of training your body to do what it does not have a natural tendency to do. A body does not have the natural ability to run a 26 mile marathon. Even the greatest long distance runners could not run that far on their first try; likely not even close to it. In fact when you try, your body will do whatever it can to stop you. Your lungs will tighten, you'll have a pain in your side, and your feet will burn. Your body will scream out to you to STOOOOPPP! But, a determined athlete will keep going, beating its body into submission. So too, we do not have the natural ability to live up to the commandments of God. Our flesh has a tendency to pull us away from Him. Don't believe me? Just think about how sleepy you always get when you decide to read the bible; how hard it is to turn the other cheek; or how easy it is to covet material things others have. Nevertheless, a disciplined Christian learns to tell its flesh, No!
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Fear is one of the greatest hindrances that will plaque your life. It is the wet blanket that stifles the flames of your hopes and dreams. Many a plans, ambitions and good intentions have died untimely deaths because of fear.
What do you fear? Speaking before a group of people? Dogs? Water? Losing your job? Have you ever thought to yourself, What could I do if I were not afraid? Just think about how awesome your life could be, that happiness you could experience, what you could accomplish, or the people you could reach.
Peter had the amazing experience of walking on water with Jesus, but it was cut very short because of his fear. At first he saw Jesus walking on water and that so motivated him that he forgot about the contrary wind and how the ship was tossed to and fro, and he stepped out on faith, believing in himself, and more importantly believing in Jesus. But once he was on the water, the reality of what was supernaturally occurring set in, and his mind rationalized that he could not do...what he was actually doing. His mind told him, "you can't walk on water" even though he was already doing it. Fear is a strange and powerful force, and the fearful threats we concoct in our mind are often much greater than what actually exists.
Jesus' response to Peter was intriguing. The Savior said, "Oh thou of little faith." What the Lord was trying to teach Peter that day, and what He is trying to teach us now is that fear and faith cannot exist in the same heart and mind at the same time. If you are of great fear, then you must be of little faith. Conversely, if you are of great faith, then it stands to reason that you are of...(say it with me now) LITTLE FEAR! Riiiiighttt...! You got it.
- Fear is natural, so don't be too hard on yourself for being afraid. We're all afraid of something, and God loves you, fears and all.
- A spirit of fear, or an overpowering fear that prevents you from being all that you are purposed to be and doing all that you are purposed to do, is not from God (2 Timothy 1:7).
- Ignoring your fear doesn't fix it, it feeds it. You can't overcome your fear of Bart the Bully by going the long way home from school, because your fear is not in him, its in you.
- When you feel consumed by your fears, remember that Jesus is always there with you; just call on Him and He will reach out His hand to help you.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Isaiah 59:19 "So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him."
Isaiah prophesied to Israel in a time when they had turned away from God, and were experiencing the trouble that comes from doing so. I want to point out that God's relationship with Isreal in the Bible, is a picture of His relationship with the collective Body of Christ today, not the world at large, but His chosen people, the Church. So when we read here in Isaiah His warnings to Israel, they are warnings that should be heeded by the Church today. You may be thinking, well my local church is not like that, we have not turned from God. Well maybe yours hasn't, but it should concern you just as much that others have, because we are all "one body". I put it like this, if the foot is infected with cancer, then worry should be on the head, cause sooner or later, and before you know it, the cancer is surely to spread."
Isaiah tells us that Israel's sins "have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (verse 2), and during that time their enemies in surrounding lands were able to come in against them during their weakened spiritual state. So the enemy was coming in like a flood. You ever feel like that? Feel like the enemy, temptation, worries, troubles, or sickness, is not just trickling into your life, its coming in like a flood. I remember noticing the Morton salt box when I was a kid and it had a picture of a girl on it with an umbrella with the tag line "When it rains, it pours". That's how it seems in my life sometimes. You ever feel like that?
Think about what a flood is. Each drop of rain by itself is small and harmless, but when the drops keep falling and falling and falling, then the ditches start to swell (or street gutters for you city folk), and then the creek, and then the river, until its more than what it can handle. However, water is good. We need it to live, and over 70% of our body is made of it. So really a flood is too much...of a good thing. Many of us have been flooded by too much of a good thing, like maybe money, influence, freedom, etc., and now the enemy is coming in like a flood and we feel like we are going to drown. Its too much to handle.
But hold on. Look at verse 19. Isaiah says that when the enemy comes in like a flood, and he will, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. Do you know what a standard is? In military terms, its a flag that is raised to claim a conquered territory. Remember in those old war movies there was one on the front of the charging force, one who carried a flag, and if he fell, another would pick up that flag and march on with it. It would often be staked at the top of a hill to proclaim victory, that this is now our territory, and we are letting you know that we will fight to keep it.
Think about it. God is saying that no matter what enemies are coming at you all at once, satan, money, temptation, sex, power, sickness, death, no matter what...God is lifting up His flag, staking His claim in your life, and proclaiming this one is mine, I have fought for him or her, I have already defeated the enemy on the cross, and now I claim this territory as mine!
Oh my goodness, this gives me chills. I get so down sometimes when so many things are going wrong and coming against me. I have matured as a christian I think, and there are a lot of things I can handle through faith, prayer and obedience that I couldn't before. But when so many things come in at me at one time, when the enemy comes in like a flood, I feel overwhelmed and that I can't make it, and honestly I want to give up sometimes. I really believe that the Lord has me typing this on this early Saturday morning because there will be at least one who will read it who is going through a flood right now. I know how you feel. Be encouraged and have hope in knowing that God knows what you and I are going through, and even when we feel like giving up on the fight, He never ever will!
So, don't give up, keep on fighting, and RAISE UP YOUR FLAG!!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Hosea 1:2,3 "When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, "Go, take to yourself a prostitute and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD." So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son."
The story of Hosea in the scope of biblical history and prophesy is about the Kingdom of Israel's waywardness from God, His initial judgment upon them, yet His ultimate forgiveness of them. But as you look deeper into the story of Hosea, we can all place ourselves into it and see our own failings, and God's mercy towards us in spite of them.
God told Hosea to find a prostitute and marry her. What a strange command. He was to find this woman, labeled in another translation as adulterous and yet another as a woman of whoredom; this woman who had been promiscuous, indiscriminate about those with whom she had and would share her most intimate self, and he was to ask her "will you marry me".
Nor more outlandish that was than the fact that a holy God, would offer Himself to us, an unholy people. For we too like Gomer are "guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD". Maybe not adultery in the literal since of the word, but yes we all at times have "run out" on God. We have given more time and attention to the things of this world than the one who created it. We have pursued the lusts of our flesh, courted the wealth of this world, and abandoned the lover of our souls.
But know this. The beauty of God's loves is that it is unconditional. He does not offer His love based on what you do, nor will He withdraw it because of what you do. He simply loves you. He knows exactly who you are and what you have done, and yet and still He reaches out to you and asks, "Will you marry me?".
Revelation 19: 7 says "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready." Jesus is the groom and we are His bride. He has paid our bride price with His own life, He has fashioned a ring from the nails that pierced His hands and feet, He has gone to prepare a home, and there He waits until the time is right to return for His bride.
He knows you and yet He loves you. He's down on His bended and wounded knee and proposes to you "Will you marry me?" And I have one question...Will you say..."I Do"!?