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.

 

My Reason for Living

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There’s an old country song with this line… “There goes my reason for living, there goes my everything.” The song is about a man who has lost his one reason for living _ he had lost his one true love. Without her, the song goes on to say, life isn’t worth the trouble.

Our culture tells us certain things are so important that they can be considered a “reason for living.” The problem is that getting those things doesn’t bring about the satisfaction that we thought it would.

Have you ever thought about your reason for living? If someone were to ask you that question, what would your answer be? Sometimes people have trouble answering that question truthfully because we say what we think the answer should be instead of what our lifestyle reveals.

Here are three questions that might reveal the real you so take a moment to think about the answer.

  1. When you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you think about? 2. During the day, what do you spend most of your time thinking about? 3. As you fall asleep at night, what tends to dominate your thoughts?

Now if the answer to all three questions is the same, THAT is your reason for living. If not, then you need to decide which is more important to you than the others.

In Matthew 4 there is a story about Jesus and 2 men that had their reason for living challenged.  They accepted the challenge. As a result, their lives and the lives of countless others have never been the same.

Here’s the story: “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-20)

These three verses reveal a great reason for living. It also reveals three commitments. Making these commitments will give your life great meaning and purpose. Let’s take a closer look.

Commitment #1: Commit to following Jesus.

Commitment #2: Commit to leading other people to Jesus.

Commitment #3: Commit to doing it now.

Some of you might be thinking, “I need to do more with my life, but my plate is so full I don’t have room for anything else.” Believe me, I know the feeling but Jesus doesn’t want to be added to a plate of projects. Following Jesus isn’t a matter of fitting him in beside all the other activities you pursue; it’s a matter of putting him first and allowing other things to fit in as allowed by Jesus.

Get Over It!

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It was among King David’s lowest moments: His son Absalom was leading a revolution against him. Absalom was a charmer and had convinced many that David was too old _ was ineffective to lead. When Absalom stormed the city with his troops, David decided he would rather be humiliated in retreat than to be involved in a bloody civil war against his own son.

What a horrendous moment that must have been for Israel’s most celebrated king. On the way out of Jerusalem, David must have thought: It can’t get any worse than this. But it did. A man by the name of Shimei taunted David as he fled the city. Shimei stood on a hillside throwing clods of dirt and stones at the king and cursing him, saying: God is finally getting even with you for what you did to King Saul, you bloody traitor! One of David’s men snarled: Let me go up and run that mouthy coward through with a sword. David’s response was incredible. He said: No. Don’t kill him. Let him go. Maybe I’m just getting what I deserve.

Now if that were the end of the story, we could hail David as a merciful man _ how noble to forgive such an offense. Well, David was a great man, but that’s not the end of the story. The memory of that offense festered in David’s mind for years. And on his deathbed about a decade later, David speaks his final words to his son Solomon. “Remember, you have with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, who called down bitter curses on me the day I went to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.” (1 Kings 2:8)

That story is a classic example of a huge problem that all too many Christians get trapped in _ resentment. There is a much better course to take called love. In 1st Corinthians 13:5 we read, “Love does not keep a record of wrongs.” After reading that I realized that it’s not a matter of if we will be wronged but a matter of what we will do when whatever the wrong is happens.

Well, per Jesus, the greatest commands are to love God and love people. Now there is something that is critical to loving people and not allowing resentment to take residence on our lives when “wrongs” occur _ it’s called forgiveness.  Forgiveness is not a matter of whether you feel like it or not. It’s a matter of obedience. Mark 11:25 records these words from Jesus: “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

So as Paul put it in Colossians 3, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved __ clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

 

Is It the Real Thing?

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It was a busy morning at the doctor’s office when a gentleman in his 80’s, arrived to have stitches removed. He told them that he was in a hurry because he had an appointment in half an hour. They said they would do the best they could.

His vital signs were taken and he was told to take a seat. A nurse noticed that he kept nervously looking at his watch and so she decided to help him. While she removed the sutures the two began to talk. The gentleman told her that was going to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. The nurse politely asked about his wife’s health. He told her that his wife had Alzheimer’s.

He told the nurse that his wife hadn’t recognized him in almost 2 years. The nurse said, “And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?”  He smiled and said.  “She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is and I love her more than ever.”

The nurse had tears in her eyes as the gentleman left. That night she told her husband about the gentleman and said, “That’s the kind of love I want us to have for each other _ honest to goodness love.”

After reading that in an email I had some Bible verses come to mind… One was 1 Corinthians 12:31 _ “Eagerly desire the greatest gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.” The next one was 1 Corinthians 13:13 _ “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The third verse is John 15:13 _ “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” The fourth is Romans 5:8 and it is indeed the real deal_ “God demonstrates his love for us this way: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

So, there you have it, an older gentleman that loves a wife _ a God that loves us. The question is how are you doing when it comes to love? I have a feeling that like the nurse what you are looking for is genuine love. So, let it begin with the person that you saw in the mirror this morning when you were preparing to face the day.