Friday, November 24, 2017

The Promise of Strength

Have you ever felt like you just can't go on?  I don't mean it's been a tough day and you are tired and looking forward to going to bed.  I mean it feels as though life has plotted against you for your destruction and has heaped upon you more than you can emotionally bear.  It can seem there are days or weeks where all you can think is, "God!  I can't take anymore!"  Depression has set in and is wreaking havoc with your emotions making it difficult at best to wake up each morning.  Well, lift up your head!  The God that raised Jesus from the dead brings salvation to our every situation.  Not only does He care about each situation, but He cares about our ability to make it through them. The Psalmist knew this.  He even prayed to encourage himself and spoke to his own heart. 

Psalms 118:14  The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.

Ah...see?  No matter the situation, you can talk to yourself and remind yourself He is your strength!  He is your salvation, not just for your eternal life, but in every situation He can provide deliverance.

Isaiah 41:10  Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'

The Lord told the Children of Israel a few things in the scripture above.
  1. He is with them.  Remember, He never leaves us nor forsakes us. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
  2. Do not be dismayed.  
  3. He is your God. He made this a personal statement. 
  4. He will strengthen them.
  5. He will help them.
  6. He will uphold with His righteous right hand.
Don't we forget sometimes that He is truly a Great God and a Mighty King?  We get so wrapped up in our own thoughts and problems that forget He is with us always.  He told the children of Israel that He would strengthen them and help them.  How often do we ask the Lord to give us strength for something that we feel like is just unbearable?  How often do we ask the Lord for His help? 

We get so wrapped up in what society tells us.  We can do anything we put our minds to. We don't need help.  We should be able to handle it by ourselves.  We are independent.  In the case of women, we want to so focus on our equality and our independence from all things that say we are the weaker sex.  We think we have something to prove to the world.  Well, guess what?  in John 15:5 Jesus said that we cannot do anything apart from Him.  He is the vine, we are the branches.  He is the source of life.  He gives strength to the branches that grow from Him.  And a branch cannot continue to grow once it has been removed from the vine.  It shrivels up and dies.  We have to stay in the vine for the nourishment necessary to continue in growth.  

Not only did God say He would strengthen and help, but that He would uphold the Children of Israel with His righteous right hand.  Have you ever stopped to consider what He means by His right hand?  The "right hand" means several things.  First, it is a symbol of authority and power.  Jesus is at the right hand of the Father.  It is a position of honor. It is a position of authority.  The right hand of God is also a symbol of strength and the strength of God never fails.  

So, when things become too much, when you feel hopeless, desperate, unable to continue...just remember this:

Psalms 73:26  My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

While your heart may hurt.  You may feel a failure. God is the strength of your heart.  He wants you to cry out to Him and allow Him to extend that strength to you.  

Isaiah 40:28-31  Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.  (29)  He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.  (30)  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,  (31)  But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

God does not faint. He does not grow weary.  Even the young, the epitome of strength, will faint and grow weary, but those who wait on the Lord, shall have their strength renewed.  The strength given to us from the Creator of the Earth, the everlasting God, doesn't fail.  It allows us to mount up with wings like eagles. We can run our race and not grow weary and tired.  We can walk and never faint.  Our strength will fail.  But the strength of God is sustaining forever.  

No matter the situation you are facing today, don't face it alone.  God has promised strength.  He also said He would uphold us with His righteous right hand.  The holidays are a very difficult time for so many people for a number of reasons.  If that is you today, please just reach out to the Lord and allow Him to cover you, to strengthen you, to love you.  You will find that what He provides is more than you could expect, want or need.  He is the God of plenty.  

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If you are facing the holidays alone and without someone, or if you feel hopeless and worthless like life is not worth going on anymore, please reach out.  Go to the facebook page through the link above.  There is a phone number in the profile.  Call that number and someone will answer.  Or email me.   Please don't feel alone.  


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mountain Moving Faith....

We are back to the promises of God beginning last week and today I want to talk a little about faith.  Have you ever been praying about something and you share your prayers with a friend and they say, "You just need to have a little faith."  Or something similar?  But that's the thing, isn't it?  We all have "a little faith."  God has given us each a measure of faith for salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  

In Matthew chapter 17, a man brought his son to the disciples for some deliverance.  The disciples were unable to cast the demon out.  So the man then brought his son to Jesus. 

Matthew 17:17  Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me."

The disciples asked Jesus later and in private why they could not cast the demon out.  

Matthew 17:20  So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

Jesus was pretty clear about what we could do with our faith, if we believed and did not doubt in our hearts. 

Mark 11:22-25  So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God.  (23)  For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.  (24)  Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.  (25)  "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.

Mark 16:17-18  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;  (18)  they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

We have already seen Jesus tell the disciples that they could not cast out the demon from the child because of their unbelief.  We see in Mark above where Jesus said that there would be signs that follow those who believe.  Where is our level of faith as the Body of Christ?  Are we seeing these signs within our churches or home groups?  Are mountains moving?  Are we speaking with new tongues? 

There is a gift of the Holy Spirit found in 1 Corinthians;

1 Corinthians 12:7-10  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:  (8)  for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,  (9)  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,  (10)  to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

This gift of faith doesn't have a lot of explanation of what it could be, but it is evident that it is not a personal faith given only for us individually and is different from our salvation faith.  Verse 7 says the gifts are given for the profit of all, which means these gifts are given to edify, or build up, the body of Christ.  The faith talked about here, I believe, is a faith that has so much confidence in God, His promises, and His word that the one who has it just knows that they know that they know something.  For example, we know that 2+2 =4.  We have so much faith that 2+2 equals 4 that we do not argue about what the answer to the simple math problem is.  It is one of the first things we learn when we begin to attend primary school. We know there can be no other answer to the problem, other than 4.  

We also see in the scriptures in 1 Corinthians 12 that not everyone receives the gift of faith.  The gift of faith that edifies the body is given to some, but not all.  Jesus said that if we have faith without doubt in our hearts, that we can move mountains.  He didn't qualify that statement and say only a few of us could.  While there is faith for the collective whole to encourage, exhort, and build up the body, there is also a personal faith that can be just as strong in each of us.  We know that the one (the gift) is to encourage the faith of others.  BUT...The same faith that saved us (individually) can move mountains for us if we have the same level of confidence in Him as we had the day of our salvation.  We know there is no other answer to Salvation than Jesus Christ.  He is The Way, The Truth, The Life.  But why do we forget it?  Why do we attempt to look for a different answer to 2+2 when the storm around us is raging?  Why do we go from knowing that Jesus is the source of our salvation and everlasting life to, "well if God wills it..."  Yes, He has His plan and His will.  But what did Jesus say?

Mark 11:24 (24)  Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 

There can be no doubt in our hearts.  We either know that our God is capable, just as we know the answer to 2+2, or we don't and walk in doubt, instead of faith.  We also have to remember that James said we are not receiving because we ask amiss.  

James 4:3  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

How are we praying and what are we believing for?  Are we asking with the intent of furthering the kingdom and being used by God?  or are we asking so that we can fulfill our fleshly lusts and pleasures that are a part of our old nature?  

My faith has always been strong, but I am not certain I have always prayed without doubt in my heart.  Are we walking in faith and praying according to that faith? Are we moving mountains? Are we saying in our hearts we know our God is capable and faithful to us?  OR in our hearts are we quietly wondering if He is hearing us?  I think most of us probably fall into the latter category.  We know God is good.  We know what the word says, but do we believe He fulfills and accomplishes what His word says He will?   

As we go through this week, check your thoughts.  Combat negativity with the Word.  Let the enemy know your mind is no longer in his grip.  Exercise your faith.  Let it get stronger and stronger.  

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Running the race...Receiving the Crown

The last couple of weeks we have focused on building and being the city on a hill.  It has been interesting for me and it has been exciting for me.  I know God is doing something new and I want to make sure I don't miss it.  But as I was praying yesterday, I asked the Lord what comes next.  He told me it was time to get back to His promises.  We had to walk through a small detour for what was coming, but now it is time to remember His promises again.  We started the year focusing on the promises of God and, as long as He is willing, we will finish the year focusing on the promises of God.  

Hebrews 10:36-38  For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:  (37)  "FOR YET A LITTLE WHILE, AND HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME AND WILL NOT TARRY.  (38)  NOW THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; BUT IF ANYONE DRAWS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM."

Paul said we are running a race and if any of you are runners, then you know it takes endurance for distance running.  It takes conditioning and training to be able to participate in marathons, triathlons, or any form of race.  There are many types of races in track and field.  Some of them include hurdle jumping.  Runners have to jump over obstacles in their lanes without slowing down to stay in the hunt for winning the race.  Our walk in the Lord is very similar to running a race.  There is always a prize at the end of a race for the winner, second and third places.  If you watch the olympics when they come around then you know those three positions receive medals.  All of the competitors run like they want to win.  Sometimes tenths of a second separate first and second place. 

1 Corinthians 9:24  Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.

Paul said we are to run our race in such a way that we are trying to obtain the prize at the end.  What is the prize?

1 Corinthians 9:25  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.

For those in a race, it is a medal of perishing metals that will erode over time. For us, in our walks with the Lord, it is an imperishable crown.  A crown upon our heads that will not tarnish, erode, or fade over time.  How do we run to obtain it, as Paul said?

An athlete trains to run in a race by running.  If they are a distance runner, then they are running further each day than they did the day before to build the endurance they will need for the race.  But, how do we train and run our race since our race is of faith?

1 Peter 1:13-19
  • gird up the loins of our minds
  • be sober
  • rest hope fully on grace
  • be obedient children
  • do not conform to [former] lusts
  • be holy in conduct
2 Peter 1:5-7 
  • put on the characteristics of a citizen of the Kingdom of God
  • faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.

Colossians 3:23-24  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,  (24)  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

We are to do everything we do as unto the Lord.  If Jesus Christ was physically standing beside us would we still speak to and treat others the way we do?  We are to behave in this manner:

Romans 12:9-17  Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.  (10)  Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;  (11)  not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  (12)  rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;  (13)  distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.  (14)  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  (15)  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  (16)  Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.  (17)  Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.

I think the most difficult aspect of the scriptures in Romans 12 is to put others before ourselves.  This is not to say that we are to become doormats and always put the needs of others before ourselves.  But if we are to walk in Jesus' example, then we give and serve and love others...then we go to our quiet place to recharge and renew our minds and our spirits as we spend quiet time in prayer and in the Word of God, just as Jesus did after a day of ministry.  

Hebrews 12:1-2  Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  (2)  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

As we are running this race and walking out our faith, Paul cautions us above not to be discouraged or grow weary.  He says after all, we should remember and look to Jesus who endured the hostility of those that sent Him to the cross.  

Hebrews 12:3  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

He was mocked, ridiculed, beaten, scourged, and then nailed to a cross.  We have not had to endure or experience such treatment in our lives.  We have no reason to grow weary and tired during our walk.  We only need to remember the sacrifice made.  What helps us to remember and consider Jesus?

Hebrews 13:15-17  Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.  (16)  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.  (17)  Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Offer Him praise every day, which should be the fruit of our lips.  Remember, we eat the fruit of our lips.  

Proverbs 13:2  A man shall eat well by the fruit of his mouth, But the soul of the unfaithful feeds on violence.

Proverbs 18:20-21  A man's stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled.  (21)  Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.

We are to remember to share (Luke 3:11).  We shouldn't forget to do good. I wonder how often we actually forget to do good. By that, I mean how often do we overlook those in need or show brotherly kindness because "that really isn't our business?"    

2 Corinthians 9:12-14  For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God,  (13)  while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men,  (14)  and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.

At the end of the race, we want to receive our crown because we endured with perseverance.  We didn't quit when it got tough.  We remembered the sacrifice Jesus made. 

James 1:12  Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

The italics above are mine for emphasis on what I believe is overlooked quite often.  We endure, so we can be approved and receive our crown of life.  God's promise is an imperishable crown; a crown of life for those who love Him.  We show His love through the many things we see and read throughout the scriptures, not only of those scriptures above, but all throughout the teachings of Jesus Christ.  

While our race is not a physical race, there are still no participation trophies.  We still need to endure and not fall into the temptation of quitting and returning to old ways.  So, today, let's run our race through faith with the grace and mercy of God each and every day as we are seeking to do good, to share, to continually praise God for His goodness, and as we remember the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us....especially as we enter this season of Thanksgiving. 

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