Sunday, September 29, 2013

Scrambled Eggs With A Side of Regret

Have you ever heard the saying, “You can’t unscramble eggs”?  It’s a very true statement when cooking breakfast and even more true when referring to mistakes you’ve made.  We’ve all messed up and most likely have regrets.  What do you wish you could go back and re-do?  Your past mistakes can either liberate or incarcerate you.  How do you deal with mistakes of the past?  I’ve got really good news!  A verse I quote often is Romans 8:28.  It says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  That means in Christ, even the worst of mistakes or situations can be redeemed.  No matter what your failure, weakness, sin, or circumstance, God can work right in the middle of it.  He can bring you peace in the middle of chaos and free you from guilt and shame.  There is no guilt or shame for those in Christ because the law of the Spirit of life in Jesus has set us (Romans 8:1-2).  Some wish they could go back and spend neglected time with loved ones.  Maybe you worked too much or said things you shouldn’t have.  Perhaps, you caused heartache or have been hurt in a relationship.  The desire to re-do a bad decision doesn’t always make the bad memories of it go away.  Whatever your regret may be, Jesus can help.  Maybe you can’t “unscramble eggs” but Jesus can make all things new (Revelation 21:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Peter was one of those guys in Scripture who, I’m sure, wished he could have some “do-over’s”.  Scripture says he broke down and wept after he realized he had betrayed Jesus (Mark 14:72).  Oh how Peter longed to take that back!  After this, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him.  Peter replied “yes” three times (interesting since Peter denied Jesus three times).  Jesus forgave Peter and restored him to ministry, asking him to shepherd His people (John 21:7-17).  Peter went on to preach less than two months later and three thousand people were saved (Acts 2:41)!  It seems God used Peter despite his shameful past and mistakes. 

So how do you recover from past mistakes, be useful to God’s Kingdom and fulfill His purposes for you? If you have made the mistakes or sinned, you first have to receive His forgiveness by repenting.  2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”  You must be sincerely sorry for your sins and ask God to forgive you.  Forgiveness from God is the only way to truly move past your haunting past.  God “forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:3).   Even if you didn’t cause the problem of the past God can still heal you from it.  He pardons sin and forgives transgressions with delight and mercy (Micah 7:18).

Some people say, “I have no problem accepting God’s forgiveness.  I just can’t forgive myself.”  You know, they are right.  They can’t forgive themselves and neither can you and I.  Only God can truly forgive you.  But you have to receive that forgiveness and walk in it.  Stop saying “what if”.  We all have “what if’s”.  Scripture tells us to take our thoughts captive and make them obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).   The Message paraphrase of that verse tells us to “use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.”  Paul even said to focus on, “forgetting the past and look forward to the future” (Philippians 3:13). Regret and condemnation must be replaced with forgiveness and truth.  Maybe you have some regrets, but doesn’t everyone?  Paul said we not only share in sufferings but also in the comfort that God brings (2 Corinthians 1:7).   His compassion never fails and mercies are new every morning because He is faithful.  (Lamentation 3:22-23).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Be Generous

Are you a generous person?  A great example of generosity in Scripture is Rebekah.  Genesis 24 tells us Isaac was looking for a wife.  Abraham also wanted his son to have a wife and sent Eliezer his servant to look for Isaac a wife.  Eliezer prayed and asked God to bring the right girl to him.  He stopped one day in the city of Nahor and saw a beautiful woman named Rebekah.  She stood out among the rest of the girls who had come out to draw water not only because of her beauty but because of her generosity.  She gave Eliezer a drink but also watered his ten camels.  That might not sound like much but consider this:  each camel could drink about 25-30 gallons, about 250-300 gallons total.  Water wells were set down low in the ground and you would need to walk about fifty steps to draw about three gallons of water at a time.  That means Rebekah made about 8-10 trips per camel - approximately 100 trips with nearly 5,000 steps!  With water weighing a little over 8lbs per gallon, she toted 2,000-2,500 lbs. of water!  Now that’s a generous, hard-working, humble, hospitable woman!  That’s more than bringing him a nice glass of tea! 

Eliezer reported about this beautiful and generous woman and she became Isaac’s wife.  Because she desired to be a blessing, she would be blessed.  Genesis 24:60 says she would become “thousands of ten thousands“ and possess much.  She gave much and received much in return.  Her humble and generous nature changed her life and destiny and she became the mother of a great nation.  This moment could have seemed insignificant.  I’m sure she had watered many camels of many strangers in the past.  Her willingness to be a blessing in this situation led to her being blessed beyond measure.  This one act of humility, generosity, and hospitality determined her destiny. 

How generous are you?  When you are asked to help or give, are you like Rebekah – willing to help till the last camel is watered and taken in its fill?  Or, do you do as little as possible?  I want challenge you to implement the “Rebekah Principle” in your life.  Here is how you do it.  First, you must be generous and not legalistic.  You can’t complain about the sacrifice or that the person asking you for help hasn’t equally helped you.  You help even if they are capable of doing it themselves and if they cannot give anything in return.  When we give to the Lord, 2 Corinthians 9:7 says to give what you have decided in your heart and not be reluctant or guilt-driven.  God loves a cheerful giver.  Second, to go the extra mile you must first walk the first mile with them.  Rebekah served greatly but she had to draw the first pitcher of water and take the first steps.  That started in her attitude and heart.  Some people are never generous and hospitable because they never attempt anything or give even a little and therefore are never blessed greatly.  Luke 16:10 says if we can be trusted with little then we can be trusted with much.  If you are dishonest with little then you will be dishonest with much.  Most people who are greatly blessed are a great blessing.

The third principle in being like Rebekah is giving with a Kingdom mindset.  I love the statement, “you can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead.”  Matthew 6:19-20 tell us to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth because earthly treasures don’t last.  Kingdom generosity may not be rewarded on this earth but will always be rewarded in eternity.  Don’t give to get on this earth.  Just know that giving on this earth will return to you in heaven.   Another principle is give even if you don’t feel like it.  Give like Jesus – generously, lovingly, and humbly.  Give like you are giving to Jesus.  Giving to others is giving to Jesus (Matthew 25:40) just like not giving to others is not giving to Jesus (Matthew 25:45).  Be like Rebekah and give generously!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Be Careful What You Pray For

Have you ever prayed selfishly for something?  Have you ever prayed for something and after it happened you wish you hadn’t prayed for that?  What about praying for something that didn’t happen and you are glad that it didn’t?  It is true we should be careful what we pray for.  A story is told of a man who asked his pastor to pray for him to become a solid giver to the church.  The pastor and the man prayed that God would help him be a consistent giver and increase his business so he could give more.  God answered his prayer and blessed his business so much he went from tithing $40 a month to $500 a month!  The man called his pastor back and said he didn’t know if he could keep up with tithing that much money now and his pastor said, “Ok.  Let’s get together and pray and ask God to decrease your income back to when you only tithed $40 a month.”  The man got the point and continued to honor God in his tithe.

What is your motivation for asking God anything?  Sometimes, we don’t receive answers to our prayers because we pray with wrong motives.  James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  We must make sure our motives are pure when asking God for anything.  Other times we ask for things we are not fully prepared to receive.  For instance, Paul prayed, ““I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3:10).  Paul received exactly what he prayed and was prepared for it.  He died for Christ and shared in His sufferings.  Are you willing to pray that?  I’m not saying you will die if you pray that.  What I mean is are you willing to receive fully what you ask for?  Are you willing to walk through the answer of your prayer?  If you pray to do the right thing you must also pray for the strength to carry it out.

Let’s say you ask God to heal your marriage.  Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen?   If that means commit to counseling for a year, give up hobbies, change jobs so you are home more, and help out with the housework and kids are you willing to pay the price and work when those are the answers to a healed marriage?  What if you pray for patience and God sends you through very trying circumstances to grow you in your patience?  In fact, God always sends you through the opposite of what you pray for to grow a fruit of the Spirit in your life.  If you pray to be more loving, God will help you grow in that by sending unlovable people your way.  If it is joy He’ll challenge you by helping you discover joy in the middle of trials.  You only find peace in the middle of chaos.  You only become kind and good when faced with circumstances that demand kindness and goodness. 

Samuel warned his nation that a king was a bad idea.  God didn’t want them to have a king either.  But they thought they knew better.  In 1 Samuel 1, the nation refused to listen to Samuel and demanded a king to be like other nations.   Israel wanted a change even though God had blessed them and brought them peace.  They didn’t want an old prophet on a donkey anymore.  They wanted a noble king on a horse leading them into battle.  God granted their request.  God told them they had not rejected Samuel but God Himself as their King.  Saul became their first king and they failed miserably.  Sometimes God answers your prayer but you will live to regret it.   Be careful what you pray for because you just might get it.   If you seek God first instead of instant gratification and seek His righteousness instead of your selfishness, He will give you the desires of your heart – which will be the desires of His heart as well (Matthew 6:33).

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Value of Personal Bible Study

Have you ever jumped out of an airplane?  What about bungee jumping?  Have you ever caught a 100 pound fish while deep sea fishing or hit a hole in one while playing golf?  Maybe you’ve ran a marathon or won a top award for your hard work.  Perhaps you’ve not done these but have heard someone describe a  great adventure.  It is never quite as exciting to hear about it as it is to experience it.  Second hand experiences lose something you can only gain through personal experience.  So it is with discovering truth from personal Bible study.  Once you’ve had great personal gain you’ll never settle for second hand study alone.  Hearing someone preach and teach is great and necessary, but seeing it for yourself is something altogether more wonderful.

2 Timothy 2:15 says to, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  Studying God’s Word is necessary but also a great joy!  The Scriptures contain the words of life!  Proverbs 4:20-22 explains this:  “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words.  Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”  Did you catch that? The Scriptures bring health and life to your whole body!

Most Christians want to study their Bibles, they just don’t know how.  We have Bibles today in hospitals, hotels, doctors’ offices, libraries and many in most homes. You probably own a few yourself.  If you have a smart phone you have access to every translation in every language.  So why don’t we study more?  Why do we need to study?  Is it just to know more stuff?  It isn’t just for information, but transformation.  Two very important reasons to study Scripture are found in 2 Timothy 3:14-17:  knowing Jesus for personal Salvation and spiritual growth.  If you desire these, you must study the Scriptures.  I want to give you some basic “how-to’s” to get you started toward health and life in personal Bible study.  That way, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32). 

Schedule your time to allow for personal Bible study.  It’s best for me in the early morning before anyone gets up and my day gets busy.  Cut out distractions like television and Internet.  Get in a routine of studying the Bible at a certain time and in a certain comfortable place.   Study when you are not tired and are most alert and awake.  You need a good translation you can understand.  I recommend the NASB, ESV, or NIV.  Other good ones are NLT and the Amplified.  A good paraphrase is the Message.  A good study Bible has a concordance, an introduction and outline to each book of the Bible, and cross-references.  One with commentary on the page is also extremely helpful.  I encourage people to get a large enough print they can read without straining their eyes.  Get a Bible with thick paper you can write on without ink bleeding through and wide margins so you can write notes.  The Thompson Chain Reference,  Naves Topical Bible, and NIV Life Application Study Bible are excellent. 

Keep a notebook and journal what you learn.  One thing about Scripture is you can read it over and over and gain new insights each time.  Find out the context of what you are reading.  Ask the “5 W’s and 1 H” – Who, what, when, where, why, and how.  Being a good investigator is imperative to good Bible study.  Go slow, get some good Bible study tools like a concordance and Bible dictionary.  Lastly, pray.  Ask God to cleanse you of sin and prepare you for study.  Let God search your heart before you search His Word.  Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth.  The best tip – start.  I pray you gain the riches Scripture contains for your daily life.