Don’t Just Sit There _ Do Something!

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There’s an old saying that goes like this, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” Looking back, whether it’s 20 years ago or 20 minutes ago, makes it easy to think about all the trees that should have been planted. We think about how we should have spent less and invested more _ how we should have studied more, prayed more, taken the kids on more picnics, appreciated others more, watched TV less, worried less, laughed more, enjoyed life more, shared Jesus more, and on and on it goes.

It may be tempting to dwell on those things left undone and worry about them but, there is a better way _ do something about today. The fact is that yesterday will never be any different than it was. On the other hand, the pages of now are still blank. Now is a great time to start “planting trees”.

For that to happen there needs to be change, but sometimes, it seems that the only person wanting change is a baby with a nasty diaper. Some of you have been Christians for a while and have thought about more actively serving God or attending worship and Bible study more regularly or getting involved in church activities, or sharing Christ with a friend but you have never followed through. James had this to say about that… “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) So what are you going to do? Well, here’s my advice, “Don’t just sit there _ do something!”

What’s on Your Mind?

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When things aren’t going as well as you would like, you want something to change, but usually it is someone else you want to change _ the neighbors, the boss, the spouse, the kids, the government, the church leaders on and on it goes. If you think about it even though you may be able to have some influence on people the truth is there isn’t a whole lot you can do to make others change.

On the other hand, there is a whole lot you can do to change yourself. Everyone I know wants something to change. Maybe it’s a financial situation _ a bad habit you want to give up _ maybe your marriage needs to improve _ maybe it’s losing weight and getting in shape. For some it’s a desire to be closer to God than ever before _ for others it’s overcoming some sin that has a stranglehold on them _ for still others it’s getting involved in a ministry to make an eternal difference in people’s lives. These are typically things that people want to change about themselves.

Here’s the problem: Change isn’t easy. Let me qualify that a little more: Lasting change doesn’t come easily. Oh, it’s easy to implement a change; you can do that on a whim – like the guy who said, “It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve quit a thousand times.” The trick is to make the change work long-term.

When it comes to change, every thought you think produces one of three responses:

1) It can lead to a negative action. If you think about something long enough, all too often it will result in you saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing or shifting the blame.

2) It can lead to inaction. Thinking about certain things in certain ways causes you to procrastinate, to put off doing something in a timely manner.

3) It can lead to a positive action. There are those times when you go through the “thinking” process and then you take productive and beneficial action.

Now remember change starts with a thought. George Bernard Shaw said, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” James Allen said, “You are today where your thoughts have brought you. You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” In Ephesians 4:23 Paul said you can “be made new in the attitude of your minds.” And in Romans 12:2 he said you can “…be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

When you first start to process about what you’re thinking about, you need to learn to identify each thought and put it in its proper place. So, as the Apostle Paul put it “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8) And then kick the thought into positive _ God-glorifying action.

 

Where Is God When We Need Him?

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Paul asks, “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35) Here’s Paul’s answer: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) And the “him” being talked about is none other than Jesus Christ the Son of the living God.

One mistake that we often make is that we let some crisis play with our head. We get depressed _ we get fearful __ we start thinking, “This is it. Things will never get better. There’s no one to help. Where is God in this mess” On and on and on it goes.

Well let me share this before I offer another word. God is very aware of the condition of our lives, our families, our marriages, our world, our church. He still loves us and is full of mercy and grace. The problem is not that God isn’t listening or that He doesn’t care. The problem is that all too often people have chosen to live without God. People are determined to do whatever they want with little or no regard for God _ with little or no regard for what God offers in the Bible, a book that is chocked full of solutions for a troubled world.

When we face times of trouble, we need to make sure that we keep our heads on straight _ that we don’t panic _ that we don’t give into despair _ that we don’t over react _ that we pray__ that we look to God.

I remind you of the words of a man named Mordecai that were spoken to Queen Esther when it looked like certain doom for the Jewish nation: Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this. (Esther 4:14)

So church, hang on to your hopes and dreams _ your commitments and priorities _ and especially to God.

Paul put it like this the end of the great resurrection chapter 1 Corinthians 15: Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

In Times Like These

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Sometimes we all feel like things are spinning out of control and there’s nothing we can do about it. It seems like every day brings a new challenge, more unbeatable than the last. However, is it really unbeatable? I don’t believe that, and here’s why _ the presence and power of God. In Romans 8 Paul has a long list of tough circumstances. Does he say when those things show up that things are hopeless? “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

So, when things get tough what will we do? Here are four things we can do that shows confidence in God instead of some circumstance…

  1. Choose what you think about.

Paul wrote… And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)

  1. Choose your attitude.

There is a huge difference between your feelings and your attitude about how you feel. As you change your attitude – you ultimately influence how you feel. So, no matter what is going on, choose to have the right attitude _ the kind of attitude Paul displayed when things weren’t going so well. Even though he didn’t deserve to be in prison Paul would write… Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

  1. Choose to Replace Worry with Prayer.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need… (Philippians 4:6) Worry versus prayer. How much time you spend doing one of those two things is usually conversely proportional to how much time you spend doing the other. People who worry a lot tend to pray a little _ people who pray a lot tend to worry a little.

  1. Choose to be thankful.

Paul says, “Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything and,” …thank him for all he has done. (Philippians 4:6)

So, when things are looking down choose to look up instead.

So, when things are looking down choose to look up instead. As the Psalmist put it, We wait in hope for in him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” (Psalm 33:20-22)

You’re Not a “One-Man” show

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I think there are times we are all tempted to think life is a one man show. If that describes how you do “church” then you better think twice.

“A story is told (I first heard it from Chuck Swindoll) about the great violinist Niccolo Paganini, who was performing one evening before a packed concert hall, surrounded by a full orchestra. As he began the final piece, one of the strings on his violin snapped. In his genius, Paganini was able to continue playing the piece on the remaining three strings. A moment later, a second string snapped. Paganini continued, playing the concerto on the remaining two strings. And then a third string snapped, but still Paganini continued. He finished the piece, note for note, with one string on his violin. When the performance was over, the crowd rose in thunderous applause. Paganini, ever the humble musician, raised his violin and boldly proclaimed, “Paganini and one string!” He cued the conductor, the orchestra began to play, and he performed his encore, note for note, with one string on his violin.

“The time may come when you feel like you’re down to one-string — when your marriage is down to one string, or your financial future is down to one string, or your hope is down to one string … and you know you’re no Paganini.

“Here’s the good news. One string is enough. God’s grace is that amazing. His power is that invincible. His love, that unstoppable. If you feel like one string is all you have left — and maybe it’s about to snap, too — it’s time to stop trying to be a one-man show. Let God do in your life what only He can do.

“As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. (Psalm 55:16)”

I received this from Steve May via email and decided to share it with you.

Let’s Pray Together

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The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28)

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)

“Most people’s prayers seek the best fix for a situation. We typically pray whatever we are told to pray for a situation, with no real thought of “What does God want to do here.”  Something happens to that dynamic, however, when people pray together. They start to let go of their desires to see their purposes fulfilled and start to open themselves up to what God wants.

“The value of this to any church is huge when it comes to ministry and decision-making. If people pray together over an issue, even if people come to prayer thinking they know what the church should do, praying together opens them up to God’s desire.

“Years ago, I was a part of a church plant in Colorado Springs that was meeting in a school. We felt the Lord leading us to purchase land. We found two pieces of property—one was very close to the school and 42 of our families, the other was five miles away. That distance was not a big deal, but it was not in the neighborhood we had been ministering in for the past five years. The property close to us cost 1.5 million, the other $450,000. Many of us felt the issue was not the difference in price, but where God wanted us. Pray, figure that out, and He will provide. There were plenty of leaders on both sides of which piece to purchase. We started praying together. We even called a corporate prayer meeting on one of the pieces of property. As we did that God began to put a vision of the ministry we could have on the $450,000 piece of property into those of us who wanted the other piece. That is what God will do when we pray together—agreement comes so we can pray His will with confidence.

People who are disgruntled with decisions a church has made usually have not prayed with the body over that issue.  So, pray together and watch unity grow.

“Righteous Father, how You must grieve when Your people fuss and want their own way instead of coming together to pray so that You can guide hearts toward unity. Show me how to be one who always suggests prayer over getting what I want. Give me a heart that is yielded to what You desire rather than what seems best to me. Fill me with joy in Your house of prayer as You bring our faith family together on our knees.”

 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13)

Adapted from the article The Benefits of Praying Together by Jonathan Graf

Good, Better, Best

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I recently came across this quote from Craig Groeschel, “We are not made to be spiritual consumers. God has called us to be spiritual contributors. The church does not exist for us. We are the church, and we exist for the world.” That is an interesting take on the great commission.

The Living Bible’s paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 11:4 offers a reminder that we need to pay attention for opportunities to be a “spiritual contributor” all day every day and then follow through. “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.” That means that the time for action when it comes to being a “spiritual contributor” is when it presents itself. The longer we take to act upon God’s direction, the more unclear it becomes and the less likely it is that things will get done that need to be done.

So, like the old saying goes: good, better, best _ never let it rest until the good is better and the better is best.