Thursday, December 30, 2010
Sometimes the plans you had for your life are interrupted, shall I say blind-sided, by “dream-crushers”. Maybe the plans for your job, children, marriage have failed. Who would have thought they would be jobless at age 46? Maybe your perfect marriage of 20 years has been suddenly interrupted by adultery and divorce. Perhaps you find out that your kid has been on drugs or is even in jail? Sometimes bad news hits us between the eyes like a ton of bricks. Cancer. The death of a child. Three months, maybe weeks, to live. Everybody has dreams but it can feel like they have all been swept away in a moment when things don’t go as you had planned.
Maybe none of these things have happened to you. Maybe tragedy has passed you by. But maybe you still feel like your dreams will never come. Something always seems to sideline what you feel like is best for your life. The things we assume are going to happen to us in life don’t always happen.
A lot of times when we are faced with any kind of trial we are blown away. We assume that our plans and aspirations are what God intended for our lives. Why aren’t they happening? Why isn’t my “storybook ending” working out? When things don’t go as planned, we are left empty and spinning our wheels.
John 16:33 is an amazing verse. Jesus and the disciples had been doing great things all around them. The disciples are seeing their lives fulfilled. No longer are they fishermen and tax-collectors. No longer are they reject rabbis. They have purpose. But Jesus just rocked their world and told them He was going away. What! You can’t Jesus. Life is good. We are finding our purpose. This is not how things are supposed to go. Then, like only Jesus can, He comforts their grief. He says to them, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
What was Jesus saying to them? The same thing He is saying to you and me today. Our purpose is found in Him but we have to remember to look to Christ as our only source of fulfillment. We will have trouble in this world - expect it. But Jesus offers peace. He has overcome the world. When Jesus said, “But take heart,” He was offering healing to a broken heart. He was giving peace to a disappointed soul. He was supplying hope in the midst of a storm.
Christ is our anchor when the world is tossing our lives back and forth. When our lives start to be rocked by this hurtful world, we need to remember to look to Christ’s cross as a reminder of what God has done to redeem our circumstances. God loves you. The plans for your life are trivial compared to the ones He has for you. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It goes on to say that when you call on God, He will listen. When you seek Him with your whole heart, you will find Him.
Maybe you don’t understand what is going on in your life right now. But remember to trust God. Trust is what you need when you don’t possess understanding. If you are desperate for answers and relief, trust in Jesus. He knows the plan for your life. He desires to walk you through each step, including the painful ones. Remember the last part of Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” The suffering all of us endure in this fallen world can seem unbearable without the joy and peace that only Christ can bring. While we may be utterly desperate and unprepared when suffering comes, Christ is a solid rock (1 Corinthians 10:4). “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Sometimes (we think) it is easier to stay stuck than to move forward. Change can be hard. Whether it is positive or negative change, it can be difficult to move forward through change. We get comfortable with familiar and detest the unknown. We tolerate instead of create. Don't be complacent this next year. Move forward.
It is like Spiritual ADD. We hop from one thing to the next and never develop a discipline or full understanding in any area spiritually. What are the major things Christ wants to do in your life? Don't know? What has he called you to? What are you passionate about? What does His word say you should be doing? We avoid making major adjustments in life because we are too busy with insignificant ones. Stop avoiding and diverting your attention from God's main callings. What are you doing that really doesn’t matter at all? Don't let distractions keep you from God's best in 2011.
I think this one only applies to 1 out of 1 people. Everyone has regrets, but they can leave you immobile and cause you to abandon your calling. Regrets can often overpower ambition and desire. Regret can leave you paralyzed and fearful of advancing. Don't let past failure keep you from future success.
If you don't want to stay stuck, then put your life in gear, get out of neutral and PUSH! Don't abandon the vehicle God has put you in because of complacency, distractions, or regrets. What shift are you supposed to make to get your life in gear? Pray this to get started:
"God, I desire to move ahead at your speed, in your direction. I desire to transition spiritually and do not want to become stuck."
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." - 1 Peter 1:3
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
2. Found people find people. Who are you going to share the gospel with this year?
3. Free people free people. Who do you know in bondage? How can they be free in 2011?
4. Hurt people hurt people. Have you dealt with all the offense, bitterness, and hurt in your life?
5. Forgiven people forgive people. Who do you need to forgive?
6. Growing people help grow people. Are you growing in Christ? Who are you discipling?
7. Gifted people give to people. Who are you blessing? Who needs a blessing?
8. Thankful people thank people. Who has impacted your life for Christ? Have you thanked them?
9. Sticky people stick with people. If you stay close to Jesus, you won't give up on people.
10. On Fire People Fire Up People. Live out loud for the Lord in 2011 and watch others join you!
Monday, December 27, 2010
Luke 8:12—Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
John 1:12—But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.
John 2:23—Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.
John 3:14-18—And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:36—He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
John 6:35—And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes [by faith] to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
John 6:40—And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 6:47—Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.
John 11:25-27—Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
John 20:31—But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Acts 8:37—Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
Acts 10:43—To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.
Acts 16:31, 34—So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” . . . Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God [confirmation of Christ’s deity) with all his household.
Romans 10:8-11—But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth [an expression confirming genuineness of action] the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart [reinforcing the fact that faith must be genuine] that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation [the natural outgrowth of an inward imputation of righteousness, which is solely by faith]. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
1 Corinthians 1:21—For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
Galatians 3:22—But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Ephesians 1:13—In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
Ephesians 2:8, 9— For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
1 Timothy 1:16—However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
1 Timothy 4:10—For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
1 John 5:1, 5—Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. . . . Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
1 John 5:13—These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Jesus brings the hope that He desires relationship with us when all our other relationships may fall apart. Jesus' cross brings hope that our sins are forgiven and there is no condemnation in Him! Jesus' tomb brings hope that Jesus conquered sin, death, and the grave. In Him, we too can conquer whatever we face. Jesus' birth brings hope for the long awaited Messiah. People had waited for hundreds of years for the greatest gift of all (and my kids can hardly wait 2 days for Christmas presents).
Biblical hope is not wishing or guessing. It is not maybe or might. The English language, and probably our lack of faith, has done the Biblical meaning of hope much damage. Biblical hope is synonymous with the word "trust". It contains no uncertainty whatsoever! In the New Testament, the word elpis, the Greek word for hope (used 10 times), is also the word used many times (18) for "trust". One definition for hope is: To look forward to with confidence or expectation. Scripture brings hope when it says, "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (Psalms 27:13)
What is interesting is that the use of the word hope for "confident expectation" does not appear in the Gospels. Probably because of Jesus' constant, reassuring presence throughout them!
5 Things about Hope
1. Hope comes from God's Word
"For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4)
"Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth." (Colossians 1:5-6)
2. Hope comes from God's Grace Towards Us
2 Thessalonians 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace,
3. Hope comes from a Spirit-filled life.
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13) (what a prayer!)
"Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:13)
4. Hope gives us confidence "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
"Be strong, and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the LORD." (Psalm 31:24)
5. Hope in Christ's Saving Power
"For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." (Romans 8:24-25)
Christ is our blessed hope! - Titus 2:13, 3:7
Here is a short study on hope. Enjoy!
1. In God. Psalm 39:7 ; 1Peter 1:21
2. In Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:19 ; 1Timothy 1:1
3. In God's promises. Acts 26:6-7; Titus 1:2
4. In the mercy of God. Psalm 33:18
5. Is the work of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13; Galatians 5:5
6. Obtained through:
a. Grace. 2 Thessalonians 2:16
b. The word. Psalm 119:81
c. Patience and
comfort of the Scriptures. Romans 15:4
d. The gospel. Colossians 1:5, 23
e. Faith. Romans 5:1-2; Galatians 5:5
7. The result of experience. Romans 5:4
8. A better hope brought in by Christ. Hebrews 7:19
9. Described as
a. Good. 2 Thessalonians 2:16
b. Lively. 1 Peter 1:3
c. Sure and steadfast. Hebrews 6:19
d. Gladdening. Proverbs 10:28
e. Blessed. Titus 2:13
10. Makes not ashamed. Romans 5:5
11. Triumphs over difficulties. Romans 4:18
12. Is an encouragement to boldness in preaching. 2 Corinthians 3:12
a. Are called to. Ephesians 4:4
b. Rejoice in. Romans 5:2; 12:12
c. All have the same. Ephesians 4:4
d. Have it in death. Proverbs 14:32
e. Should abound in. Romans 15:13
f. Should look for the object of. Titus 2:13
g. Should not be ashamed of. Psalm 119:16
Thursday, December 23, 2010
1. We will experience peace in our personal lives when we stop trying to do so many things ourselves and simply rely on God alone to save, heal, strengthen, protect, provide, and deliver.
2. Ephesians 2:14 - "He Himself is our peace." Let Him break down the walls of hostility in your life.
3. Peace is NOT the absence of crisis but the presence of Christ!
4. When you do not have peace you do anything to get it - including faking it and chasing false peace.
5. You cannot bring peace on the inside by merely addressing what is on the outside - clothing, makeup, surgery, etc.
6. We do not lack peace because we don’t have enough stuff. We lack peace because our relationship with God and those around us lack (or you could say stinks).
7. Focusing on fear brings failure. Focusing on the Father brings faith.
8. Peace is not something we work for – it is a gift given to us.
9. John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
10. The world attempts to have peace through war. Jesus offered with a word.
11. The world offers peace at a huge cost to you. Jesus gives it freely.
12. Jesus' peace is for the sons of peace only (believers). The world's peace (oxymoron) for everyone.
13. John 16:33 paraphrased - "My words bring you peace. This world brings you trouble. My peace trumps this world's trouble."
14. Speak this over your household - let it be your household theme in 2011: "Peace be to this house!" (Luke 10:5)
15. We have peace from Christ but we are to share His peace with others. "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." (John 20:21)
What relationships in your life need peace? What part of your world is divided and in turmoil? What have you been doing to achieve peace that has only led you to frustration and unfulfillment? Let Christ's peace, which transcends all understanding and comprehension, fill you. I pray Philippians 4:6-7 happens to you. Here it is in the Message Bible:"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
John Wesley’s Small Group Questions:
1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3. Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?
4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work , or habits?
5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
6. Did the Bible live in me today?
7. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
8. Am I enjoying prayer?
9. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
12. Do I disobey God in anything?
13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
16. How do I spend my spare time?
17. Am I proud?
18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?
20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?
21. Is Christ real to me?
Thursday, December 9, 2010
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!"
Paul was telling the people that there is no other Gospel than that which already exists. We tend to water down the Gospel. We even tend to make it something that was only good for conversion but not applicable for the rest of our Christian lives.
Everything is connected to the Gospel. From the Old Testament events pointing forward to the writings of the New Testament. The topics we teach about in church today also must be connected to the Gospel. Sometimes we disconnect the two. We preach on morality or topical issues and do not relate it to the Gospel. The Gospel isn't just for the salvation, but for the entire life! The Gospel doesn't just get you into the Kingdom - it should be revisited in everything we teach and to. The Gospel isn't just about justification but also sanctification.
If we teach moral topics without the Gospel as their foundation, we simply teach people to just practice good discipline to be good people. In essence, we teach them to do good works in order to be holy. If we disconnect the Gospel from morality we make Christianity works based like all other religions. The Gospel isn't just what gets you in - it is the basis of EVERYTHING in the Christian life. The Gospel should be why you do what you do. It is the foundation. It is the base.
You cannot take the atoning work of Christ on the cross out of anything when it comes to your life or your world view. You cannot take the blood out of discipleship, morality, ministry, family, you name it. Maybe your church does great things with kids - fine. Maybe they are very creative and have good worship - good. But, do they center everything on the Gospel? It must be central. The Gospel is why we do anything (ministry, church, preschool, food pantry, etc). It is why we have anything (family, house, car, money, etc.). It is why we get up in the morning. It is why we shower and shave. It is why we plan to eat where we eat. It is why we live where we live. It is why we move where we move. It is central. It is the fuel that keeps Christians going and growing every day. It is not just what gets us in the door of Christianity only to leave it in the threshold to move on to deeper theological issues. It is not just the ignition or spark of the Christian life - it is the fuel that propels it!
We must make sure we are not, as Paul said, turning to a different Gospel - which is not really a Gospel at all. No matter who says "this is the Gospel, this is what Christianity is all about." He even said don't listen to me or to even an angel from heaven itself if they are are teaching you a wrong Gospel. The Gospel of Scripture must be the Gospel of today - active, launching us forward for His purposes. The finished work of Christ on the cross was simply that - finished. He said it was finished. We do not need to add anything to the Gospel or take anything away from it. We must rediscover what it truly is. What Jesus did to save us is that which sustains, supplies, and motivates us.
Church is not defined by us. The Gospel is not open to interpretation. The Christian life IS coming to Christ through the Gospel but letting the Gospel work through you EVERYDAY to make Him know to the world around you. The Gospel must be explicitly displayed in our lives, not assumed to be present by those around us.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
We must depart from the usual and customary model of most Americanized churches. Instead of walking out faith like Jesus taught, we sometimes twist His words into a more comfortable version. Christianity-light is a warped faith that brings us comfort and pleasure, while pursuing the American dream. The American dream for a lot of believers is to make much of ourselves. Biblical Christianity says we are to make much of God. Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” If Christ has called us to Himself, we must do as Paul taught - "die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31). This dying daily is to us and our view of Christianity. We die to us and live for Him!
There are some out there who are truly and radically being changed and changing the world for Christ. But as a whole, American Christianity is characterized by half-hearted, lukewarm, indifferent, uncommitted, mediocre believers. Jesus taught that we are to abandon our lives for the sake of following Him. Yet, our culture redefines Christianity. Americanized Christianity at its worst says the believer can accommodate whatever form of faith they want.
David Olsen, the Director of the American Church Research Project (www.theamericnachurch.org), did a very extensive 15-year survey of over 200,000 American congregations. His research found that only 17% of Americans are in church twice a month. Did you get that? There are not even 1 out of 5 Americans Christians attending church regularly (assuming that more than 2 times a month is regular). America has produced Christians who are comfortable with God, but not committed to God.
We have to live out the Gospel of Christ in a radical way. We cannot compartmentalize our Christianity any longer. Christianity is not something we do on the weekend for a couple of hours or when we are faced with uncertainty or tragedy. For those who claim the name of Christ - It is in our DNA! It is who we are 24/7! Jesus clearly said that to follow Him, we’re to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him. He said that if anyone is to save his life, he will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Him will save it. In essence, our lives conform to the Gospel's message - we become (in what we say and do) the vehicle for the Gospel. Every conversation is soaked with Christ. Every thought is preceded and prolonged by Him. We are consumed with Christ and His values, mission, vision, and purpose. This drives us to BE the Gospel to the world around us.
Charles Spurgeon once described the good news of Jesus as "a lion--you don't have to defend it, you just have to let it out." If that is the case, we must let the Gospel out (through our lives) of the cage of American Christianity. Why not let the Gospel capture and cage us instead of us placing it in our Americanized cage for a change?
I'm not trying to guilt you into doing more for Christ. Christianity should thrive on the gospel, not guilt. A radical Christian life should result from God's grace. We should do more for the Lord BUT we need not to just get busy with Christian "feel-goods" that produce nothing but a pat on the back but change no one. Trusting in what God has already done for us is our motivation for doing more for Him. We must find relevant ways to be change-agents for Christ. I once had someone say to me, "If God is real, why does he allow suffering? There are three little kids on my block who go to bed hungry every night." I replied to them, "The real question is if you claim the name of Christ, why did you let those kids go to bed hungry every night. God didn't allow that, you did."
I wrote this to make you think about the current condition of your Christian life. Don't be comfortable and satisfied with the norm of Christianity. Desire Him more. Let Him change you through and through. BE and DO as His Spirit prompts. Modeling the Christianity of the Bible at first glance is radical. But it really isn't radical at all. It is reality. There is only one kind of Christian Christ taught and modeled. Radical is the reality. It is the call of every believer.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
2. Hey guys...if you don’t lead your family then satan will do it. Step up men!
3. Stop pursuing image over integrity. Be OK with less stuff and more character.
4. A man's greatest hobby is not hunting, golfing, or fishing. If you desire to do these things more with your free time than spending time with your wife and kids then all you get at the end of your life is a dead dear head and a bunch of sorry score cards.
5. Too many men are walking away from the challenge of leading their family spiritually. Don't check out. Don't give up.
6. Check this out - if a woman takes her kids to church there is a 1 in 50 chance they will regularly attend church as an adult. If the father does it, there is a 1 in 3 chance! Let your kids see you worship Jesus.
7. God is looking for men to take a stand (Ezekiel 22:30). Does He see you standing tall or wimping out?
8. Come on guys - quality time with your kids is not popping in a DVD in the car so they will be quiet while you run a 10 minute errand and talk on your cell phone to your buddy about the deer that you almost shot during the only off day you and your family had last week. Spend time with your kids - TALK TO THEM!
9. Why does it seem that men like spending time at work more than they do at home? Ladies - encourage and build up your husband at home. Men - GO HOME and find fulfillment in your family! Do your best at work but give your best to your family. Work through lunch, reschedule appointments, deny overtime, be happy where you are - not with that next promotion. Say no to work - not your family.
10. The words you say (or don't say) to your wife and kids will either build them up or tear them down. You choose.
11. Stop intimidating your wife and kids to get them to do what you want. Yelling doesn't make them respect you more. This doesn't lead them anywhere but away from you. Choose intimacy, not intimidation.
12. Wives want to submit themselves to husbands that look like Jesus. Give her something worth submitting to! You only look like Jesus when you know what He looks like. You have to spend time in the Word EVERY DAY!!!
13. Tell them you love them and are proud of them...everyday!
14. Stop putting off talking to your kids about the tough issues of life. I guarantee the world is already speaking loudly and often to them. You have to step in, stand up, and stop the trash the world is preaching at your kids. It is you job to show them the truth that will shape and bring life.
15. Your kids see how you treat your wife. Is how you treat your wife how you want them to treat their spouses?
16. Today is the best day to start being a better husband and father. Repent, forgive, try again, give grace, speak truth, learn from mistakes, love unconditionally, fall asleep, wake up and do it all over again but even better tomorrow.
17. The hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done is be a husband and a father. Good think I have God to show me how to do it right every step of the way.