Friday, August 19, 2016

What Would Jesus Do?

What Would Jesus Do? Commonly referred to as W.W.J.D., it’s a quick reminder for us to consider how God would handle whatever situation we’re in. Sometimes we may feel we have to just guess on how He would react; other times we’re shown in Scripture exactly how He handled identical situations.

One of the interesting things about the Scriptures is that it’s a unique set of commands meant to keep us away from things that harm us and filled with stories that serve as examples for us. Simply put, it’s unique because as Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “The word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.”

Jesus often spoke in parables not to confuse people, but to allow His holy words to penetrate our thinking without us really knowing it, kind of sneaking in below our radar. He told His disciples in Matthew 13:11-15, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables, for they look, but they don't really see. They hear, but they don't really listen or understand. This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’"

Many stories serve as symbolic examples of a deeper Spiritual meaning; they help us see things the way God sees them (as much as we can grasp). I encourage you to find your favorite story in the Scriptures and see if you can identify which people might represent God, which people might represent Satan, which people might represent the humble, or which people might represent the proud. When we see the final outcome in the story and we can identify those characteristics, we might be better equipped to handle the Word of Truth more accurately.

Friday, August 12, 2016

P.O.L.I.C.E. in Action

Tragedy can break us, or make us. It may sound like a cliché but there is a lot of truth to that statement. Many people have faced devastating events with an attitude that not only helps them get through, but even inspires others to persevere as well.

For the apostle Paul, he regarded his prison experience as a greater benefit for the church, since “my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God's message without fear.” (Philippians 1:14)

He also said in Romans 8:28, “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” While we would probably all agree attitude makes the difference, we still hurt when devastations enter our lives.

Counselors work diligently trying to help people cope with losses. They may give advice like:

1. Don’t deny yourself the chance to grieve.
2. Be patient with the process.
3. Acknowledge your feelings, even the ones you don't like.
4. Get support.
5. Try to maintain your normal lifestyle.
6. Take care of yourself.

As we study through the lives of people in scripture who had to deal with tragedies, it’s encouraging to be able to see their method of coping, or their dialog, and especially how God helps them. In the book of Ruth, we get to read about how God helped her in her grief.

Due to a famine and probably civil war, Naomi left with her family to the pagan country of Moab. However, while she was there, more tragedy struck leaving her, and her two daughters-in-law, widowed. Broken and hurting she decides her homeland is where she should be.

When she reflected on her life, she told the people of Bethlehem, “Don't call me Naomi. Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?"

Although most of the story is about her daughter-in-law and how she was invited into the lineage of David and ultimately of the Messiah, we get to see how God was blessing Naomi through Ruth, also.

Ruth helps us see how to help those dealing with depression and grief. First, she could sympathize with Naomi. After all, she lost her husband too, a man both Ruth and Naomi loved. Second, she was patient with Naomi. She stayed with her throughout all the trouble in Moab and even back to Bethlehem. Third, she did what was needed to take care of Naomi’s daily needs by finding a job, which allowed Naomi to maintain a normal lifestyle.

Basically, we see how compassionate Ruth was. However, Naomi must have lived in such a way that prompted both Orpah and Ruth to fall in love with her. Perhaps Naomi modeled tenderness, selflessness, and kindness in the early years to such a degree that she inspired Ruth to do the same.

This is what P.O.L.I.C.E. in action looks like. Every day we are given some kind of opportunity to model P.O.L.I.C.E., that stands for Perseverance, Obedience, Loyalty, Inspiration, Courage, and Encouragement. Let’s follow the wonderful examples from scriptures and be a light to the hurting. We can encourage and inspire the next generation to let their light shine even brighter.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Need for P.O.L.I.C.E.

There is much unrest in the world: wars, rumors of wars, shootings, riots.... All of it points to one problem–the reality of sin. Sin is rebellion against God, and all of
us have done it from time to time.

Ruth, Esther, and Job are people from the past who, directly or indirectly, demonstrated such devotion to God. I want to encourage you to study their stories in the Bibles and learn from their amazing examples.

However, this Sunday we’re going to look at another man who is a great example–Noah. During his life, he lived in the most sinful time this planet has probably ever seen, and yet he modeled something for us in how he dealt with sin. Noah reveals the need for P.O.L.I.C.E.

When bad, evil, scary situations happen in our lives, we need to remember to use the P.O.L.I.C.E. to help us get through it. Not necessarily the “boys in blue,” but the characteristics of:

Perseverance
Obedience
Loyalty
Inspiring others
Courage
Encouragement.

These were part of Noah’s task; they were part of Ruth’s, Esther’s, and Job’s tasks as well; and it’s our task too.

Sin is an ever growing problem in our world, but when we use P.O.L.I.C.E., we will find that they really do help in many ways during times of trouble.

May you be blessed with an understanding of the need for these qualities throughout your life.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Responsibility

I saw a quote that read, “It is not only for what we do that we are held responsible, but also for what we do not do.” The Bible echoes that statement in various ways and is filled with positive and negative examples of people and the responsibilities God gave them to do something great.

After Jesus' resurrection, He met with His apostles and told them, “...you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49), which is exactly what they did. They waited to “receive power whenever the Holy Spirit came” (Acts 1:8). What the Spirit would bring would be power, wisdom, and every tool necessary to spread the good news of salvation to all people. However, when you think about the responsibility God was placing on their shoulders, it could make some people squirm.

In fact, historically when God called people to take on big responsibilities they often squirmed. Moses was called in Exodus 3 to go deliver a message of salvation to God’s people enslaved in Egypt, but he used every excuse he could think of to get out of it. Later, some spies were given the responsibility of reporting on the Promised Land, but 10 out of 12 of them caved in to fear and rebelled. Then, several times, kings were given the responsibility of leading their nation to war against evil and they negotiated with them instead, or flat out refused to fight, or even became just like them.

Prophet after prophet was given an awful responsibility of proclaiming judgment against God’s people, but they were faithful. They did what needed to be done regardless of how difficult it was to carry it out, trusting on God’s power to help them.

Some argue that the great commission was given to the apostles only, however, the more you study the more it appears that each of us are given the responsibility of sharing the hope of eternal life with people all around us.

We’ve been invited to a great wedding feast where we (the church) are the special bride. The invitations have been passed out ready to mail, we are given the responsibility for getting them to the mailboxes of people everywhere.

John D. Rockefeller once said, “Every RIGHT implies a responsibility; every OPPORTUNITY, an obligation; every POSSESSION, a duty.”

Let’s be sure to be part of the legacy of positive examples of faithful promoters of God’s invitation to the lost of this world.

God bless you!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Good News & Bad News

There is a lot of bad news out there, as mirrored on TV and the internet.

The stock market is in trouble, thousands of American jobs are on the line, and threats of terrorism are shadows in the background. And then there are our own personal pain and problems to contend with. Financial, physical, medical, and relationship problems touch all of us from time to time. The bad news will always be here as long as this earth exist.

But the good news is, God’s good news lasts FOREVER! We are told to rejoice in the Lord always! (Philippians. 4:4).

The good news takes care of life’s biggest problem: sin and its terrible results.

The good news gives us hope, the promise of eternal joy, a pure purpose, and a rewarding relationship with God our Savior.

The good news of God’s grace enables us to overcome all the bad news that the world and the devil can throw at us.

So be encouraged. God’s good news is victorious over bad news!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Being like Dad

As I ponder over the years I’ve lived,
I know you’re by my side.
Guiding me in every step I take
From that I will not hide.

Your love for me is forever strong,
Your words were always right.
Every day since I was born,
Your love has been my light.

You’ll always be my father,
I’ll always be your son.
Until I see your face again,
I won’t stop until I’m done

The work you set my hands to do
Is to help the world to see,
That you truly are a loving God,
which they’ll know by watching me.

Can we be bold enough to echo the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ”? Jesus understood that the best and only way for people to truly see the heart of the Father was to do what the Father did. Therefore, it was vitally important that He listened to His Father, understood His Father, and loved His Father. Otherwise, He wouldn’t have done all that He did for us.

The same is true for each of us. If we want others to see and understand the Father’s heart, we have to be “imitators of Him.” Thankfully, God designed the family to serve as a miniature earthly model of God’s relationship with mankind. The father = God, family = multitudes of people, wife = church (bride of Christ). When each part understands how they fit into God’s grand design, people will see God. When it’s butchered by Satan, people can’t see how a father relates to God or the wife relates to the church.

Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Daniel Diet Challenge

Everyone should take some time periodically to focus on a particular book of the bible, a study of some topic, or something to let your mind meditate on God’s holy scriptures. Paul said in 2 Tim 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

For those of my church going on the Mountain Trek to Colorado to hike up Mt. Antero, our focus will be the book of Daniel. Daniel and his friends faced constant adversity, and time after time we read of their faithfulness to God. It takes their kind of commitment to “finish the race” to overcome the biggest obstacles that we face in life.

 Although not everyone will be going on the hike, everyone can participate in a 10-day challenge to do as Daniel and his friends did to prepare for the service of the king. They would be required to serve King Nebuchadnezzar, whereas we are privileged to serve our King, Yahweh, the Creator of heaven and earth.

Starting this Sunday, June 12th until June 22nd, anyone who would like to but their faith to the test as Daniel did can join us in a "Daniel Diet” of vegetables and water. Throughout these 10 days, we’ll be reading a chapter of Daniel per day and some related Psalms to encourage us.

In about 605 B.C. Daniel was taken captive to Babylon along with many other dignitaries and elite from Jerusalem. So Nebuchadnezzar began training them to act like a Babylonian. Everything from language, culture, and even the diet. But in Daniel 1:8-16 we can read of Daniel’s dialogue with Ashpenaz (the chief of staff) and how he stood out from the others:
“Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded." 
Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
"Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water," Daniel said. "At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king's food. Then make your decision in light of what you see." 
The attendant agreed to Daniel's suggestion and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.

Hope you’ll join us!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Jesus: Our Rescuer

This week is our Vacation Bible School, and we will be focusing our attention on superheros of our faith. Throughout the Scriptures, we read of superhero-like people who served God in scary situations, who served each other selflessly, and through their examples, we know how we ought to live while on earth.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we don’t have what they had, or that we just don’t have the ability like other people do; but whatever you think you are, or are not, is not an obstacle for God – He can use us all in a very special way.

In comic books, there is often a villain who tries to destroy peace and harmony among people. That’s when a superhero arrives just in the nick of time to rescue the people from the bad guy. In reality, we know that we do have an adversary. Peter says in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” He’s out there among us and as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”

Jesus came to us as a very real super-hero; saving us and teaching us how to fight against the efforts of our enemy – the devil. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 that we must “rely on God” because He’s the one who “rescues us from mortal danger.” As we acknowledge what He’s done, we also realize what He’s called us to be. We end up becoming His agents, ambassadors for His purpose of pulling people from the grips of the deceiver and bringing them to the light. In other words, we become His instruments.

There is a song that we sing called "Make Me an Instrument" that expresses the fact that we are tools to be used. Romans 6:12-13, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”

Let’s answer the great call of God to follow His son into battle against the forces of evil and fight bravely by His side. Romans 12:21, “Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Join the team of faithful believers engaged in serving others to fulfill God’s mission to rescue people.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Beatitudes Are Necessary for Freedom to Flourish

Over the past several weeks, we've been looking at the blessings in the Beatitudes. These were intended to define the attitudes necessary for followers of Christ to employ in order to remain effective and faithful to God. Throughout His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus introduces practices that seem foreign to most folks, and yet surprisingly logical. They are logical as long as you can see the overall goal and objective of living according to those divine directives.

In many ways, the founders of this nation realized in order to maintain a free society, these Christ
sanctioned ordinances must be in place, otherwise freedom as we know it can’t exist. Listen to a few of our founders’ statements on the necessity of these attitudes amongst our citizens for freedom to thrive, or even last.

Patrick Henry: “… virtue, morality, and religion [are the] armor, my friend, and [it is] this alone, that renders us invincible. These are the tactics we should study. If we lose these, we are conquered, fallen indeed (1891).”

John Adams: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.... Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other (1854).”

Noah Webster: “[T]hose who destroy the influence and authority of the Christian religion, sap the
foundations of public order, of liberty, and of republican government (1832).

Jedidiah Morse: “To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism. All efforts to destroy the foundations of our holy religion, ultimately tend to the subversion also of our political freedom and happiness. Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them (1799).”

George Washington: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness [which are] the duties of men and citizens… Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. (1796).”

Proverbs 29:2-4, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan. The king establishes the land by justice, but he who receives bribes overthrows it.”

Our job as Christians is to promote what Christ introduced as the “pillars” of following him. These
Beatitudes are essential for the church to remain a divine institution rather than a man-made mockery of God, and these same principles are what are required for any nation to enjoy freedom. This Memorial Day, take time to remember those who modeled Christianity well according to the pattern Jesus laid out for us in the Beatitudes.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Be A Blessing

For nearly a decade I’ve served in some capacity with a homeless service. Throughout those years I’ve gained a different perspective on what helping someone is really about. It’s easy to think if someone gives someone something they need that they have “helped” them. While that may be true in some sense, what it lacks is awareness. Not awareness of the service you’re providing, but awareness to those being helped how to avoid going back to the same spot again.

In the midst of some of Solomon’s counsel, he gives a proverb that illustrates what needs to be present to be of lasting value when it comes to helping people. He says in Proverbs 19:16-21, “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of conduct will die. One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed. Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death. A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again. Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand.”

So the awareness comes in opening the eyes of those that are lost. Those that are afraid. Those who are plagued with difficulties in life. Once their eyes are opened they both see their struggles for what they really are, and they can see more easily how to avoid the paths that continually lead to more pain and frustrations.

How would you value the awareness you bring to other people’s lives? Do they understand their purpose better since you’ve been in their life? Have you aided people in gaining an understanding of how, and the benefit of, self-control? The list could go on.

As a minister this goes through my mind often. The word minister ultimately means to attend to the needs of someone. It’s not really about a position of power, but of service.

Much like what Jesus said to the apostles after He washed their feet. In John 13:12-16, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” Jesus was ministering to the apostles, but for a purpose. His purpose was to enlighten them, and to bring awareness to the opportunities for Kingdom work that is opened up through the acts of service. If I have one wish for those I have the privilege of ministering to, it’s that they would see how fulfilling and productive our lives can be when we serve for the purpose of bringing awareness to God’s plans.

“Give a man a fish, you help him for a day. Teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” In essence this is at the heart of the kind of helping that brings awareness. That’s what I hear in these words of Solomon: help with needs, with behaviors, with emotions, and direction, but with the purpose of enlightenment. This was what Jesus was eluding to when he invited the apostles to follow Him at the beginning of His ministry in Mark 1:17. He would make them fishers of men. He would open their eyes to see how service to others helps others to come to the awareness of God and His plan for mankind.

Jesus was only going to be with them for a short period of time, then they would have to carry on the work. A minister basically does the same thing. Encourage others: to live more boldly for Christ, to respect God’s direction, and to be more aware of God in our lives. Praise God for opportunities, and may these words of praise, encouragement, instruction, and challenge be a blessing to you.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Spiritual Goodness

Good versus evil. Millions of dollars are made in illustrating the struggle between the two. The good has always been intrigued by the evil.

One of the first attributes of God ever displayed for us is His goodness. “In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth….” After each phase of creation, He gave His stamp of approval by declaring “It is good.”

God also declared us “good.” James 1:17-18, “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession.”

Although we were good, God found a flaw in what He’d made. It was “not good for man to be alone.” He needed companionship. What is so good about companionship? Solomon concludes in Ecclesiastics 4:9-12, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.…”

Whether that success we hunger for could be interpreted as pride might be debatable, but we do know that it was ultimately pride that ruined the good relationship that mankind had with God in the garden. The intrigue of evil won out. And once Pandora’s Box was opened, simply having knowledge of evil was enough to make good deeds less common.

From the beginning, God has also given us guidelines and instructions (commands) that lead us away from evil and lead us closer to being more like God in desiring good. James 4:7-8, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you.”

What Adam and Eve failed to do was to surrender their will to God's. Had they done that, they most likely would not have taken the fruit. But what’s different today? Hasn’t God still left His word to guide us away from evil and towards good?

3 John 11, “Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God's children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.”

The Spirit is God’s gift to us to be that voice inside. The cognizant reminder of what is the good thing versus the evil thing. We have to make the choice to listen. Cain learned the hard way in Genesis 4:6-7 that listening to God will thwart Satan’s plans for evil. God told him, “But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” Cain ignored God.

This is the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. Hebrews 5:14 says that those who are mature (eating spiritual solid food) have their senses trained to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Jesus reminded us in Luke 6:40, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”

Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

As goodness may sound vague, it is in essence the understanding of the choice before us. We can follow what God has established as good, or we can listen to alternative instructions outside of God that will ultimately result in becoming, or doing evil.

As we reflect on the goodness of God, we should accept that God has done something that changes how we view the options before us by giving us His Spirit. Paul says in Titus 2:11-14, “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.”

Good deeds--done with good motives--please God.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Spiritual Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness, also known as R.A.K.’s have been popular among churches, schools, even individuals just helping someone out unexpectedly. However, just because the recipient wasn’t anticipating the kindness, and just because it was “random” doesn’t mean it wasn’t premeditated.

When looking deeper into the fruit of the Spirit, it’s important to see that the Spirit wants to produce these qualities in us consistently. What separate someone’s kind actions who is in Christ from someone who hasn’t trusted in Christ yet, is their motives. God’s Spirit reveals God’s kindness, and that’s done for a purpose. Kindness is an action as well as an attitude. The attitude behind our kindness is what softens people’s hearts.

God’s gift of the Spirit sees through whatever circumstance we are in the middle of and helps us understand the purpose in demonstrating what’s mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – regardless. This list sums up what people are looking for in life, and those IN Christ have been given the tool to help others understand how to achieve these.

Ephesians 1 describes God’s mysterious plan of kindness towards us. The New Living Translation Bible says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” Although we receive the spiritual blessings because we’re in Christ, the act of receiving the blessing wasn’t done without a cause, and it wasn’t random.

The New American Standard Bible uses the phrase, “His kind intentions”, here’s where we see God’s premeditated act of kindness. Ephesians 1:4, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”

In spite of some beliefs, which use this passage to describe God’s partiality without reason, this verse instead illustrates the kindness of God with a reason. In His kindness, He extended grace to everyone who will trust in His son; and He decided to do this “act of kindness” before the world began. Jesus Christ came to rectify the problem of sin for every human being.

Not one person has to go to hell, all because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins by offering Himself as a living sacrifice. Paul continues by further explaining God’s “kindness” in Ephesians 1:6, “So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”

We are chosen through Jesus. Not that Jesus picked one over the other, but everyone who is added to the Lord’s body, the church (Ephesians 1:22-23), have been “sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance…” (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world was God’s ultimate act of kindness.

Spiritual kindness is what Jesus talks about in Matthew 5:43-48 when He said, “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…” Being randomly kind isn’t a bad idea, but being intentionally kind is even better. Jesus reminds us that His kindness is part of His perfect nature, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Consider some Random Acts of Kindness that you can participate in this week, month, or year; and premeditate on what you need to do to make it happen.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Spiritual patience

Patience.

Just saying the word makes you want to grimace or roll your eyes.

Patience.

But it seems as though we're always waiting for something. Waiting for a certain thing to happen, for one thing to begin and another to end. Waiting for more time or more money. Waiting for our marriage to get better or for our spouse to change. Waiting for the kids to grow up. Waiting for our prayers to be answered. But God says that waiting is good. That's because it produces patience in us.

Paul tells us that patience is a byproduct of having God’s Spirit living in us (Galatians 5:22). However, just because we’re waiting doesn’t mean that we’re being patient. And yet, we can't have patience without the waiting.

What does waiting on God do for us?

David says in Psalms 26:2-3, “Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart. For Your loving-kindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth.” Sometimes waiting can reveal our true motives.

One pre-marriage counseling suggestion is to watch how your future spouse handles waiting for something to download on a slow computer, or how they react to being put on hold for 45 minutes waiting to ask a simple question about car insurance or something. Those periods of waiting really do test our character.

Another benefit of waiting is the anticipation that builds for whatever we’re waiting for. Consider the wonderful benefits of waiting to have sex until we’re married. Consider the benefits waiting to graduate before trying to find a career. These are just a few benefits that help us appreciate the rewards that are associated with something better, later.

Part of the problem is failing to see how God will use that wait time. Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:11-12, “But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you…” In context, he’s warning against the dangers of money. The temporary allurement of wealth can cause us to quit on the things that last forever. Money can end up being the antithesis of patience.

Hebrews 11:24-26, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt…”

So how do we get that Moses-like patience? Or the heart that truly pursues godliness even if I have to wait a long time for it?

We may need to pray for patience. It’s taboo in our culture to say that, but it’s true. What if Satan helped to promote that notion that praying for patience was a mistake? It would serve his purpose better than it would God’s purposes for your life.

Another step might be to re-evaluate what I’m doing while I’m waiting. We live in a multi-task culture that is always “finding something to do with our time.” So why not try that spiritually?

Psalms 130:5, “I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.”

Micah 7:7, “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation.”

Waiting on the Lord gives me the sense that something is going on, but I just can't see it at the moment. But I wait with eager anticipation to see what God is going to do.

For that, it leads me to be thankful. We’re constantly reminded in scripture to be thankful. Whether it’s in what Christ did on the cross, or for God’s design for the church, or even for our trials we face, God works amazing things through those who love Him.

And instead of complaining about our obstacles, we could keep quiet and do as Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” Complain less, pray more with thankfulness knit within every situation. Even if we don’t understand the situation.

But perhaps waiting on God, and demonstrating patience, is a powerful method for not giving up. He’s promised a reward to those that persevere through whatever happens to us (Revelations 2:10), and time after time epistles were written to churches urging them to stay in the game. Run as if you want to win, not like a quitter who stops when it gets too hard.

We might be surprised how much exercising patience grows our faith to unheard of levels. So pray, wait, thank God, be still, and press on towards what God is willing to do in you… if you’ll wait on His timing.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Spiritual peace

“What caused you to become homeless?” This is a common question we ask people that find themselves on the doorstep of a homeless organization I’ve helped with for years. The question is less for our benefit as it is for the person in trouble. The problem is that many don’t see the connection between their current situation and the decisions they made at an earlier date.

When I asked this question to a middle-aged man covered with scars and half blind he said, “I had to get away from where I was at; it was too dangerous for me.” Whether he made the connection between his druggy roommates and his now homeless situation I’m not sure, but I know that most of us find ourselves using the same kind of logic at times. We run from one problem only to be faced with another problem.

As we explore the Fruit of the Spirit, we come to peace in Paul’s list from Galatians 5:22. Peace is ultimately the absence of conflict or trouble. Peace is what most people want in their life. The man in the homeless office sought peace in the form of a place to stay; but based on that way of thinking, peace is always contingent upon our circumstances. What would he find at his new place to stay? Had his previous dwelling place been an answer to prayers for him at one point?

Conflict and struggles are part of life. In fact, every day will present a new series of struggles and difficulties to face. Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Therefore finding peace in life takes a different way of looking at what I have to face. I ouldn’t know I had peace unless I knew what the opposite of peace looked like. For the Israelites, they had known struggle and conflict most of their existence as God’s chosen people. Yet perhaps like the homeless man seeking help, many of their struggles were brought on because they ran from one problem to find another one around the corner. From seeking gods to finish what Moses started at Mt. Sinai to Judah turning to Egypt for deliverance from the countries God sent to chastise the rebellious Jews, Israel seemed to remain in a state of struggle and conflict.

However, perhaps as we think about the words of the angels to the shepherds outside of  Bethlehem, we can appreciate what they were announcing. They shouted out in Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Immanuel, God with us, would not only pay the penalty of our sins which bring us struggles in life, he also modeled a way to stay focused through the struggles we face.

Paul said in Romans 2:7-10, “To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath, and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

God’s way of living gives us a new perspective of the events we face in life. We may not always understand them, but the more we learn to trust God to work something good from our situation, the more likely we’ll understand God’s kind of peace. This opens another dilemma, which is, “Will I find peace if I continue down the same road I’m heading down that caused me so much trouble?” Just because we look for God to make something good of our mess doesn’t mean we’ll truly grasp Godly peace. Godly peace is a product of “walking according to the Spirit.” Paul concludes the list of Spiritual qualities produced in those who love him and obey him this way in Galatians 5:24-26, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.”

Godly peace is a product of listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which is directed by God and His eternal words given to us.

Ultimately, the struggles that many of us face are because we are engaged in a battle of the wills -- my will verses God’s will. When I follow my will, I am more likely to find myself in a situation tied to the consequences of living selfishly. However, when I follow God’s will, even if I go through a horrific experience, I’ll find myself walking hand in hand with God as He leads me towards the eternal rewards prepared for those who love him. A place that truly is a picture of real and lasting peace.

The angels had a good reason to be excited for the peace that Jesus would bring to earth, but it wasn’t about the absence of struggles but a new way to look at them until we reach the home God has promised us.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Spiritual Joy

Salvation has often been equated to a gift that can only be enjoyed if we take it. God won’t force us to accept his tremendous mercy and kindness, but why wouldn’t you want it? It’s a valid question that has boggled the minds of passionate evangelists throughout the ages, “Why wouldn’t someone want to go to heaven?” Yet as Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

The Bible is filled with passages that help us see just how wonderful heaven will be, and how loving God is to make the way there possible for us. One of the most quoted passages in scripture speak to this; in John 3:16-21, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” However, it goes on to explain who can have this promise and why someone wouldn’t want it. He says, “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God's one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God's light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”

How awful it will be for those who reject the wonderful offer of salvation made possible through what Christ did on the cross. However, how about the person that refuses to receive the gifts given to the believer?

We’re told that at the point when we recognize our need for a savior and turn to him we receive a powerful gift. Acts 2:38-39, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

At our conversion, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and a large portion of the New Testament is helping Christians understand how to live by the guidance of the Spirit rather than the guidance of the flesh, or worldly things. Paul says in Galatians 5:22 that among the “Fruits of the Spirit” is joy.

Once the church began on the Day of Pentecost a new and exciting attitude swept over the believers. People eagerly sold property to help others, they met together every day studying scripture, praying together. Acts 2:46-47 says, “They were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” They really enjoyed the fellowship of other Christians.

Joy is a byproduct of living according to the Spirit, but is it something that many Christians experience? It seems so common to meet Christians that look and act like they’re miserable. Is this what the Spirit produces within us?

Many scholars have debated over the centuries about what it means to “quench the Spirit,” which is referenced in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, but also mentioned a little differently in Ephesians 4:30-32, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

It saddens God to see us live contrary to what the Spirit guides us towards. Perhaps this is where Christians should seriously consider what it means when I live a life of constant negativity, or complaining, or any other attribute that diminishes the Spirit of God. At the risk of undermining the grace of God, when does a person unwilling to submit to the guidance of the Spirit fall from God’s grace? When does a person close their heart to such a degree that joy can’t be seen in their life? And, how might that impact the very message Christ gave us to spread to the lost and dying people of the world?

My hope is that we completely accept the gift of God, and in trusting faith, give our worries over to God, and by that process, experience the wonderful joy that comes from doing just that. Let’s encourage one another as long as we can… and do it with joy.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Spiritual Love

On Aug 23, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in hopes that he could inspire people to put an end to racism. But, on April 4, 1968 he was assassinated by James Earl Ray, who was a racist. The battle has not ended, and as anyone with eyes, ears, and a brain knows our nation is just as racist today as it was during the '60s.

The problem wasn’t in the speech; it wasn’t in the approach taken to eradicate racism; the problem was in people. People from all walks of life, every ethnic group, every social group, and every gender group all struggle with the darkness Satan pulls down around us. He so effectively blinds us that he ends up binding us to the pain of living according to the principles of this world. The result–pain and more pain. Pain within ourselves, and pain caused towards others.

In Paul’s recognition of the struggle, he said in Romans 7:21-25, “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”

We are slaves to hate, to selfishness, to pain and depression. However, God did something through Christ that offered freedom. Paul continues by saying, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God's law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”

But how will Christ change the hatred I feel towards people because of my own prejudices? How will Christ alter my thinking so that I think first before I react in some harmful way? There is a gift God has given everyone who submits to Christ’s authority to rule over everything. God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:37-39, “Now when the crowd who had gathered for the Feast of Pentecost heard the apostle’s speech, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

The good news is that God loves us enough to give us a heavenly tool, a part of Himself that will see past the temptations to be selfish, to be unkind, to ultimately be heartless. The challenge then is to identify how this gift works. How do I know when the Spirit is driving my reactions verses my own clouded heart?

Just as Jesus said that “you will know them by their fruits.” Just check out the context in Matthew 7:17-20, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

So what is the fruit of having the Spirit control my thinking? Paul said in Galatians 5:22-24, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

The Spirit helps us understand God’s heart. The law that was given to Moses identified the actions God loves, but was never able to penetrate to the soul. It’s when God’s holy desires penetrate our hearts and we submit to His will, that’s when we see the strength to say NO to me and YES to Him.

The more I know what pleases God, the more I’ll recognize when the Spirit will nudge me in the right direction. This was exactly the result Jesus talked about in His parable of the soils. He says of the final soil, the productive Godly soil in Matthew 13:23, “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

God’s word reveals God’s heart. The gift God gives believers is what gives us the ability to live the way God lives. He has loved us so much, therefore we must love others that way. A feat only possible by having God’s Spirit directing our actions. Let’s truly “think of others as more important than ourselves” and change the world with God’s love.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Result of the Spirit

What determines life? Throughout the countries on this planet, this is an ever-increasing debate on what is life. Whether it’s the quality of life or when that life begins officially, we hear about these a lot.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian gained a lot of attention as the “death doctor” after his arrest in 1999 for voluntary euthanasia, or assisted suicide. It was believed that he assisted over 130 people end their life. One major reason for doing it was both the patients, and the doctors’, perception that their quality of life wasn’t good, therefore, they didn’t need to go on living.

Interestingly, Kevorkian’s mother, Satenig, was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 during the World War I. In an effort to rid the world of the weak and the Christians, the Ottoman government, modern day Turkey, made up primarily of Muslims, drove out the people that they deemed unworthy to live. From Constantinople towards the Syrian Desert, their trail of cruelty gained attention from those sympathizers of the infirm and Christians, but not before 800,000 plus people died.

Dr. Kevorkian ended up following in the same footsteps as those who nearly annihilated his own mother and her people. The Nazi’s also modeled their efforts after the Ottoman’s philosophy to some degree. In each of these cases deception was a key ingredient in letting people to give up their homes, their citizenship, or their lives to someone set out to destroy them.

Peter reminded his followers that there was a similar foe that is essentially doing the same thing in 1 Peter 5:8-11, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” However, he gives hope to those enduring his efforts to “steal, kill, and destroy” by saying, “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

But how do you resist someone, or something that is so deeply deceptive as Satan or people like Hitler or Kevorkian? Perhaps it’s in the spiritual understanding of what is the real meaning and value of life.

That understanding helps us determine the real gift of life that God offers but it only comes through what Jesus made possible on the cross. John begins his gospel similar to how Moses began the book of Genesis, “In the beginning…” but John says in “In the beginning was the Word…” John 1:4-5, “In Him (the Word) was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

And he continues in his epistle in 1 John 5:19-20, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” The real value of life is found in Christ, not in what a person has the ability to physically do, not in the intelligence a person demonstrates, not in any one ethnic group.

As Jesus said in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

So as Paul, John, and Jesus remind us, that an understanding of what true life is results in a conviction to live according to the magnificent life that Jesus came and died to bring us. So how does a person know that they are living according to the Spirit of God? According to God’s evaluation of a quality life?

Just like a peach tree produces peaches and an apple tree produces apples; a Spirit filled person, which is the result of God’s gift towards eternal life, will bear fruit that shows they understand the real meaning of life.

Paul highlights the fruit that should be seen in someone who not only has the Spirit, but understands God’s desire for us to have real life. He says in Galatians 5:22-24, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

When we make these qualities the criteria to evaluate real life, it will be impossible to carry out things like genocide on whatever level that may come on. Dr. Kevorkian failed to understand what true life is because he still lived in the darkness, a darkness that many people still live in. My challenge to each of us is to better understand what life is through God’s lens. Or as Proximo said in the movie The Gladiator, “Everyone dies, but not everyone truly lives.”

Wouldn’t you like to have real, true, lasting life that is only found in Jesus Christ?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

True Thanksgiving

The other night my wife showed our kids a video of some Syrian refugees landing in Greece in over-crowded rafts. They’d left their country because of war and violence. Ironically, I was reading William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation at that very moment. In William’s journal, he describes the conditions leading up to the famous Mayflower voyage to America. The Puritans also felt the pressure of persecution and realized there was no relief except to leave.

So this was a teachable moment to explain what a refugee is and what that really means in terms of lifestyle changes and choices. To decide to leave what you know out of fear of loss of your property or your life forces you to venture off into unknowns and vulnerabilities. Trying to avoid the political muddle tied to the story of Syrian refugees, I took the opportunity to further explain how the Syrians both compare and contrast to the Pilgrims. But even beyond either of these groups, I wanted my children to understand how as believers we are called to be like refugees, sojourners, aliens, or pilgrims.

1 Peter 2:11-12, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

Peter urged early Christians to live with that same “refugee” mentality. Live like you don’t belong here. Then use that understandably awkward and even scary position in life to demonstrate where your confidence really lies.

The real war going on isn’t within the borders of nations, but within ourselves. Wars are fought (to some degree) for freedom. Freedom to own a particular piece of land, freedom to use your money or your talents as you wish, etc. Sin steals our potential and our freedoms, which is one reason it’s so important to flee from those things that steal our potential in God.

Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” That’s our potential, to be a tool for God; which in turn reaps a harvest beyond understanding.

Paul told the Romans in Romans 6:17-18, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

Where will the refugees end up? Is there a place that will bring them peace? The reality is that the victory they’re seeking doesn’t come in the form of a title deed for property, or in a flag, or in anything you can put in the bank. The real victory is something bigger—it’s in God, the creator of all things.

1 Corinthians 15:57-58, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

That was a lesson the Pilgrims would soon learn as well. The freedom they
sought wasn’t in America, but in the freedom to fully surrender to Christ and His guidance. We were created for a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify God. Peter explains that through our “good deeds, as they observe them” that is when others see what real freedom is and that’s when God is glorified.

Nelson Mandela said just months before his release from prison, “The only prison that takes away a man’s freedom is the one that does not allow that man to dream.” God has given us something more than a dream; it’s a promise. To have that ability to live for that promise makes us freer than anyone on the planet.

This Thanksgiving, pay special attention to the opportunities around you to share what makes you free.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

God's Promises

We are all accustomed to promises. We are also accustomed to seeing them made and broken. Anyone who has lived for a number of years would certainly never lay claim to having kept every promise made. There are many reasons why this is true. Sometimes we forget, sometimes we are negligent, and sometimes it may be due to circumstances beyond our control.

A brokenhearted girl might say to a boy, “But you promised to marry me.” And the answer comes back: “Yes, but I changed my mind.” People do change their mind, and they do break their promises.

What about the promises of God? How certain are they? Paul said this concerning God’s promises, “For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith . . . For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants” (Romans 4:13, 16). God's promise to Abraham was first spelled out in Genesis 12. It was repeated in Genesis 22:18, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

A promise is only as good as the ability of the one who makes it to carry it through. It also
includes willingness to do so. God did carry through with Abraham. Paul points out in Galatians 3:16, that it was through Christ God intended to fulfill the promise to Abraham. Also in Acts 13:32-33, Paul says: “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus.”

Jesus’ life was shaped, while living on earth, by His trust in the power of the promises of God.
When Jesus said: “I am that bread of life," (John 6:48), “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), and “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25), He did so fully realizing that He had been empowered with this right by the Father who had promised to raise Him from the grave. There were more than 500 people at one time who bore witness to the fulfillment of this promise, according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-6.

What can be said about God's promises to us?

1. He’s promised to supply us with what we need for everything we face. The Bible says: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). We have to realize that God knows what’s best, which means it may not include earthly things that often times distract us from the heavenly things.

2. God has promised that His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9). In fact, He has
made provision for our salvation by His grace through faith. Read Ephesians 2:8. It is
through an obedient faith that we have access into the grace of God according to
Romans 5:2.

3. God has promised us in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such
as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted
beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape
also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Jude wrote: “Now unto Him that is able to
keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory
with exceeding joy” (Jude v 24). Darius, King of the Medes, said to Daniel, “Your
God whom you have served continually, he will deliver you” (Daniel 6:16). He did
deliver Daniel from the den of lions.

4. God has promised us victory over death. He first resurrected Jesus by way of assuring our resurrection. Peter said: “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Later on he adds: “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

5. God has promised that all things work together for good to those who love and serve Him faithfully (Romans 8:28). It may be difficult for us to see and understand how this is accomplished at times, but God has promised it, and He will deliver.

6. God has promised that those who believe in Jesus and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins will be saved. (Acts 2:38). It was a promise for those listening on the Day of Pentecost, but also as he says “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

7. God has promised His people eternal life (John 10:27, 28).

These are just a few of the many promises God will fulfill in our lives if we honor Him and allow Him to work through our lives.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Control

During the late 1970’s the Chinese government began implementing some social controls in response to the economic strain the growing population was projected to put on the Chinese government. So the "one child" policy was put into place and remained in place until it began to be phased out this year. From an economic perspective it may have seemed very logical, however what about freedom?

China isn’t a free nation, but what about the church? As Christians we’ve been offered freedom through what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Paul said in Galatians 5:1-16, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery...”

Throughout history mankind has sought this hope-filled freedom offered to us in Christ, but not without reservations. There’s just something within most of us that gets a little scared of complete freedom. To allow other people to control themselves. In the first century, the Jews were really concerned that the Gentiles might not observe or honor the feasts, and other practices, that had been established during the Mosaic age, so laws were imposed upon them to make sure they would take time out to reflect on what God had done for “his people” in times past. However, it was what Jesus had done during their lifetime that deserved the most respect, the most honor.

A more pertinent concern would be that all Christians observe and honor what Jesus did in the NOW age. This remains a legitimate concern for Christians especially as it fits within the parameters of a congregation. Will my church show the proper respect for acts of worship like: prayer, The Lord’s Supper, Bible reading, or singing?

Can we trust each person to demonstrate the appropriate honor without imposing a law on them? What if they don’t do it like I do it? How is it regulated? Paul continued in Galatians 5 concerning those imposing circumcision on all Christians, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Paul also said in Ephesians 5:17-21, “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

Ultimately, we have the responsibility to grow in our knowledge and understanding of Christ, not just as a person, but as our pattern to follow. Jesus modeled a revolutionary expression of honoring God, all while practicing self-control.

Just like the Israelites longing for a king to oppress them, people today still long for some kind of leadership to rule over them even if it limits the freedom they’ve been given. During the Restoration movement, many church leaders realized how quickly mankind resorts to oppressive leadership and they sought to break those bonds (once again). It didn’t take long for the fear of freedom to make some nervous. In the early-1900’s several groups (which included the churches of Christ) disbanded communion with each other because some groups felt you couldn’t preserve the integrity of pure worship without some kind of denominational government controlling how things are done in corporate worship.

So why write this? Perhaps the appeal to each of you reading this to KNOW why you believe what you believe and to learn to live within the freedoms allotted to us in Christ. It takes a lot of faith to follow what you believe the Scriptures to say. It takes faith to recognize action that you need to do because God wants you to do it, and simply do it. It takes faith to stand up to traditions that actually may harm the work of the Spirit in our lives. It takes faith to trust that God will do what He says the word of God has the power to do.

Hebrews 4:12-13, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.”

To follow God requires to let go of our fears. We must trust that he really has come to give life, and give it to the fullest measure as he says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Our goal is not to regulate someone else’s spiritual walk, but to selflessly encourage them to love God with ALL their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then we don’t have to control them, but model the Christ-like example of leading people to a fuller understanding of God.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Contentment vs. complacency

In 2000, Bruce Wilkinson wrote a short devotional book called The Prayer of Jabez. Within the pages of that little book, Mr. Wilkinson used 1 Chronicles 4:10 as a pattern to effective prayers. Tens of millions of people bought the book hoping that perhaps this little verse and the story of this obscure person tucked away in the genealogy of Ashur could indeed reveal how to be blessed.

1 Chronicles 4:10, “Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!’ And God granted him what he requested.”

The powerhouse in this verse isn’t that he asked, but that God granted his request. This verse became instantly famous with the publication of this book, but has it been taken out of context?

Unfortunately, there can be a fine line between trying to excel to higher levels to better one's position and being a covetous person that constantly focuses on being covetable. On the other end of the spectrum, there can also be a fine line between being content with where you are and being complacent. The drive to be better is inspired by God; the understanding of how far to go, how much to ask for, and when to stop before it takes control is also given to us by God.

James reveals one of the reasons that our requests to God may not be answered the way WE want them answered. He says in James 4:2-3, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Finding that safe haven of contentment between the thresholds of complacency and covetousness might require a new way of thinking. The Bible urges us to think about heavenly things, and that serves as our motivation to endure less than perfect scenarios here because we’re anticipating a much better place later. However, that doesn’t come naturally or easily.

Hebrews 5:13-14, “For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn't know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”

In his prayer, Jabez asked to have his boundaries expanded, but we can recognize the other part of his request as the heart of what he was asking for, “…that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm…”

Paul says something similar in Philippians 4:4-7, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

As we consider where our real citizenship is found (Philippians 3:20), it helps us to be more content with our worldly situation and it drives us to demonstrate our gratitude towards God in how we live in spiritual situations.

Contentment could be explained by being satisfied with less than you think you deserve. It’s what Jesus modeled for us by coming to this earth to save us from the consequences of our sins. Godliness, therefore, becomes the asset we should desire to have more of. The nice thing is that He’s made the steps clear and that goal obtainable every time we seek it.

2 Peter 1:3-8, “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jesus’ Plea for Unity

Imagine the moonlit olive tree orchard on the hillside of Jerusalem the night Jesus was betrayed. His closest friends had experienced an emotional Passover feast, which included having their feet washed by the one they believed to be the Messiah. Now, as He pulls them in closer so they can hear, what they’d later understand to be His final instructions to them, the Master revealed His plans to leave them.

Their hearts sank as they considered all that they had left to follow Him. They had hoped He really was the Messiah. Who else could do what He had done? Who else spoke with such authority? Yet He spoke of His death as if it were about to happen.

Jesus said in John 16:20, “I’m telling you, you’re going to weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will be sad for a time, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy…”

The crickets and frogs serenaded their savior as He spoke confusing words of tragedy and hope at the same time. Before He asked them to pray, He said, “In a little while you’ll be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33)

Then He turned and walked away from them. He was in their sights as they watched Him kneel down, His face to the ground. Then a little while later His hands lifted to heaven, then back to kneeling. They sat down slowly thinking about what He’d asked them to do--pray. How could they pray at time like this? What could be said? As they leaned against a few large stones near the orchard, they followed His actions, heads low, faces to the ground. But their plea for understanding gave way to their fatigue and they fell asleep while their savior continued on.

Meanwhile Jesus said in a whisper as sweat and blood dripped from His forehead, “…Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me. My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you…”

A while later, Jesus got up from the ground and returned to find them sleeping. “You men couldn’t keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41) Ashamed the weary friends glanced at each other and bowed in prayer once again, only to find that His words were true, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

Once again Jesus spoke to His father, “…Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I'm not asking you to take them out of the world, but keep them safe from the evil one…”

As He continued the sounds of broken branches, clanking armor, and muffled chatter could be heard in the distance. Judas. His time of trouble was here, and He knew that He would have only the father to comfort Him…for a while. Soon enough, as He would suffer on the cross, He would even lose that comfort: “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”

He stood by His sleepy companions as they got to their feet, these men He loved so much, knowing their hearts, and knowing what they would eventually do to fulfill His final plea that He’d asked of God: “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”

Unity has the power to sustain us through even the darkest hours of life. At the heart of Jesus’ prayer, the goal of unity was boldly proclaimed. Now, many years later the gift of unity is still made possible to those who powerfully embrace Jesus's plea for the father to be glorified by the love of His followers. Unity is a powerful ingredient to experiencing the joy and peace that Jesus would be available because of His painful death on the cross.

Paul continues Jesus’ plea for unity in the letter to the Philippians that they would watch out for the things that cause division among them. And that they’d make the effort to seek Him and live in the joy of the Lord. What efforts can you make today to better fulfill the prayer of Jesus that we be unified?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Community of Christ

Someone shared with me their excitement about being part of a “come as you are” church recently, and describing their church that way caught my attention. Of all the things that could have been said, “We read the Bible,” “We honor God,” or “We love one another,” it was the idea that you can come as you are which they were most drawn to.

What is it about the idea that you can “come as you are” that causes us to put our defenses down and go on in? It seems that at the heart of that statement is the absence of judgment. When people feel welcomed in spite of their faults, bonds can be built not on the basis of performance but of commonality – Jesus.

Since the beginning of the church this has been an appealing and dividing concept. One of the apostle’s biggest conflicts to resolve was the issue of circumcision before you could truly be a child of God. This required the Gentiles to become like the Jews before they would be accepted. However, the apostles were adamant that this wasn’t part of God’s plan for His family.

God invited the Israelites through Isaiah in Isaiah 1:18, “though your sins are as scarlet, and He will make them white as snow.” And the same kind of message is heard at the end of the Bible in Rev 22:17 where he gives an invitation to “Come! Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” The Bible is filled with verses revealing God’s mercy and grace that is extended to sinful people. But how far reaching is that statement? Since the Bible is also filled with instructions about dying to your old self and following the pattern He laid out for us to follow.

When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, it was because He had mercy on them, not because they did anything to obligate Him to action. However, once they were safely apart from their old way of life, God gave them directions to follow on Mt. Sinai. From that point on the people understood there were things that were not “come as you are” but rather “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God…” Things like not working on the Sabbath, or not to eat certain meats; and there could be serious consequences for not conforming.

Even after the establishment of the new covenant with God’s chosen people, there was a call to abandon the old life and begin living according to a new set of standards. One place in scriptures that spells this out so clearly is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

We USED to do those things, but something changed us. God performed a spiritual circumcision by removing the old person and giving His Spirit to us. God’s laws and commands, then, help to change our thinking to be in alignment with His, which keeps Satan from sneaking in the back door. Therefore, all of us can come to Christ exactly how we are, but we don’t want to stay in that state for long. Paul said in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” There is a reason Christ’s call is appealing to the people willing to listen and believe – He has Good News about who we can be.

The invitation to be part of a community that focuses on who God is shaping all of us into, absent from a cookie cutter human standard is comforting. We are naturally drawn to a community of people that will let us be ourselves; but who we are is being replaced with a God-centered common goal, vision, and purpose. This is the power of what community offers us, a place we can call home and discover together what God wants to do in us. It’s a place that we aren’t constantly being evaluated and compared to one another, and this is seems to be the essence of that statement “come as you are.” We want to be welcomed, loved, encouraged, forgiven, and appreciated.

As we look back over the landscape of the scriptures and God’s history with His people, we can quickly see how much God wants us to long for Him, to seek Him. He is holy, He wants us to seek Him and be like Him. We seek Him because He is our father and loves us unconditionally. The Sabbath, and all the other commands from God, were to help us see the benefit of holiness. Once we realize how wonderful it is to be in the presence of a holy God, we shouldn’t want to “stay as we are.” God’s very presence inspires us to be more than what we came as. Jesus is the author of life, the living water, the great I Am, the beginning and the end, the vine that gives life. People want that, God wants them, we should want God and all that He is – holy. Therefore, the community of Christ is a place that should inspire us to rejoice in the peace that only God offers.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Joyful

The Ark of the Covenant was also known as the Mercy Seat of God. A covenant is an agreement with a binding contract, or a promissory note. Therefore the Ark, or the holy box, of the promise was the reminder to the Israelites that God would demonstrate His mercy based on the promise in the box. When the Ark showed up, people got excited, and often in scripture, the word used to describe the Israelites' attitude when the Ark was brought in was “joyful.”

As the age of the judges was drawing to a close and before Samuel anointed Saul to be king, the Ark of the Covenant was taken by the Philistines. But once the Philistines sent it back to stop the plagues in their towns, the Israelites “rejoiced” to see it again. Later, when David wanted to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem the city danced with “joy” to see it back home. When Solomon built a special house, or a temple, just for the Ark, the people “sang songs of praise” because the Ark would finally be honored the way it should be. Then many generations later, after the release from captivity and the return to Jerusalem, the people rejoiced when the temple where the Ark once stood was rebuilt.

David wrote many songs and psalms about the joy that having God’s promises brought to his life. Today, under the authority of Jesus Christ, we still have the promise. Although the holy box isn’t necessary in order to be joyful of God’s promises. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Remember the words of Peter to the anxious crowd on the Day of Pentecost. He told them the solution to their quandary was to “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:38-39) We are the temple where God’s promises are stored today.

For that reason, Paul can write to Christians everywhere giving them hope and just as much reason for “joyful celebration” about their relationship with God as the Israelites had when the Ark showed up. The Ark was a treasure worth having, and those same promises are also worth having today, regardless if they’re kept in a golden box. Peter describes that the cost may be big at times but always worth it.

He said in 1 Peter 1:3-9, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great MERCY has caused us to be born again to A LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, TO OBTAIN AN INHERITANCE which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, RESERVED IN HEAVEN FOR YOU, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. IN THIS YOU GREATLY REJOICE, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that THE PROOF OF YOUR FAITH, BEING MORE PRECIOUS THAN GOLD which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, YOU GREATLY REJOICE WITH JOY INEXPRESSIBLE AND FULL OF GLORY, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

There is a connection between the promises God gives us today and the joy it should bring our life, and the joy the Israelites experienced when God’s promises contained in a golden box showed up to their home. There’s a cost that comes by neglecting to honor those promises, and there’s a cost associated with preparing a place in our hearts for those promises. But as Peter reminds us, the temporary distress is nothing compared to the everlasting joy that comes through trusting in Jesus Christ and his promises.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Looking For Love

“Looking for love in all the wrong places…” This song made popular in 1980 by Waylon Jennings is iconic to the plight of our culture. People in desperate search of meaning through relationships, and if that can’t happen, then through some other type of fulfillment. The song describes a man that was going to singles’ bars and any place that most people would go to find quick, meaningless relationships. However, it seems that he didn’t really want that, instead he wanted a friend and someone who would really love him.

I won’t pretend the song had much of a spiritual undertone to it, but perhaps it’s representative of how people are constantly looking for something, or someone, to bring meaning to their life. What they search for in those places will always be elusive. Regardless of how close they get to what appears to be the “real deal” it slips out of their fingers or leaves them at a dead end.

Sadly, the search isn’t only made by lonely bar-hoppers but people in the church as well. People are constantly on the search for something spiritual, only to find that where they ended up wasn’t what they were looking for.

Some religious analysts have suggested that the age of contemporary worship is coming to a close. That may be up for debate, however the dropout rate in those arenas aren’t much less than the dropout rate among more conservative churches. Where are they going? What are they looking for? Why can’t they find it?

When I’m building a piece of furniture, it helps to have a detailed picture of the armoire. Just like an engineer, an architect, or even a surgeon, knowing what everything should look like in the end is extremely helpful. That’s just as important for a person who is searching for meaning, it helps to have an idea of the end result.

So without a pattern to follow anything, or everything can be a possibility. The result is a person looks for meaning in all the wrong places. The human mind and heart is typically only going to take so much before it gives up in the search. Satan has offered plenty of detours that lead us to nowhere we want to be.

However, we and Waylon Jennings know the appropriate places to find someone that genuinely loves us and cares about us. The bigger question is are we willing to be there? Then are we willing to accept the fact that we all have faltered? Our goal can’t be in a job, a sport, a school, a hobby, or even a spouse. Those things are fine in their proper place, but the only way to experience true and genuine love is in Christ. That’s where all the hope is found, and he’s also our pattern to follow.

Paul wrote an encouraging letter to a church in Philippi who had set out on a mission to help spread the gospel. Like a lot of us, they started out strong and problems cropped up occasionally. Comparatively, their problems were far less than many other churches, but they were problems that may have caused some to consider going somewhere else. But Paul reminds them in Philippians 1:6, “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” – Stay faithful to the plan.

He also appealed to them not to forget what they had seen and, more likely, heard in the example Jesus left for us. Philippians 2:3-5, “Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” – Understand the designer.

There are a lot of qualities Paul outlines for a church that really was on the right track. A church that demonstrated something that shone brightly to the world. They just needed some encouragement to continue to be that beacon of light to those people still searching for purpose and meaning. One of the key themes to the letter to the Philippians and also happens to be one of the most impressionable qualities a Christian can possess (perhaps outside of faith) is joy.

Joyful people draw others to themselves. That consistent joy becomes one of the greatest ways the gospel is introduced to someone. Without joy, we don’t look to have discovered a true and meaningful purpose, like the purpose we have in Christ. Are you a joyful person? How do you think that impacts how spiritually attractive you are to those desperately searching for meaning in this world? Do you know how to become joyful?

Stay tuned next week to hear what the Bible says about joy.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Obstacles or Opportunities

Few people living today experienced the events of June 6, 1944. D-Day on Omaha beach was a risky attack that we should never forget. The Battle of Normandy was deadly, but it also revealed the determination of the military leaders to overcome the many obstacles between them and success.

History tells us that over 200,000 Allied troops were killed, wounded, or went missing during the battle. In many cases, more than 50% of any one particular infantry unit didn’t make it through the battle. Although some unforeseen obstacles like high tides, overcast, and major logistical problems appeared, there were plenty of risks the commanders had anticipated. The Germans had been preparing for this potential battle for a while, loading the beaches with steel ramrods, logs, and other debris, with landmines and barbed wire. The Allied generals knew the German’s use of the “blitzkrieg” strategy, which would expose their enemy’s weakness when they flinched, but they pressed on anyways.

General Eisenhower was instrumental in convincing the other Allied commanders to take the risk and take the beach. If they could overcome this obstacle the direction of the war would change as well. Eisenhower boldly said at a briefing after the attack was underway, “The present situation is to be regarded as opportunity for us and not disaster.”

A lot could be said about the bravery of those soldiers facing death. But more than just their bravery was their ability to see past the obstacles before them and have a plan that looked beyond the battle and looked to the end of the war.

Sometimes in our own lives we have to realize our obstacles are just strategies of Satan to keep us from reaching our goals. Paul faced many obstacles in his mission, which seemed to be “convert Rome, change the world.” He made it his ambition to be able to present the gospel to those who many Jews viewed as the enemy. Because of his efforts, the Jews falsely accused him and arrested him before he even got out of Jerusalem. “The people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. At once he took along some soldiers and centurions and ran down to them; and when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul” (Acts 21:30-32).

Soon afterwards Paul would have to be smuggled out of Jerusalem because of a death threat made by the Jews in which they had made a pledge to “neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul” (Acts 23:12).

While en route, he constantly defended his position. He says in Acts 28:17-19, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death. But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar…” Paul spent the better part of the remainder of his life in prison; why? He took the mission spoken about him in Acts 9:15-16 seriously. “Paul is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake.”

Did he reach his goal? I think we can confidently say, “Yes.” We read in Philippians 1:12-14, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.”

What if we were as determined as Paul to let our light shine to the world? Paul didn’t look at his obstacles as problems, but opportunities. To have that kind of focus requires an understanding of WHY. It’s critical to understand the WHY in our battle for godliness. The world needs to see the “light of Christ” shining brightly. Perhaps the best place for us to start is in the words of God. He tells us why in the bible. Do you “have an answer for the hope that is in you?”

Throughout scriptures we can see many other people that eventually gained a confident oldness from truly understanding how God was using their circumstances. People like Joseph who told his brothers as they begged for their lives. “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? What you meant for evil, God meant for good in order to save many people’s lives” (Genesis 50:19-21). Also people like David, Daniel, Hosea, Jeremiah, Elisha, and many more. God’s word reveals God’s purpose for our lives, and we are the ones blessed for it. Let’s become diligent students so we can know why we must “GO.”