Wednesday, November 27, 2013

God's Benefit Package

Psalm 103:1-2 tells us, “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”  That’s a good reminder for me since I sometimes have problems remembering things.  We should praise the Lord with our soul (our thoughts, actions, plans, dreams, etc.) and don’t forget all His benefits.  The problem is worry, doubt, and unbelief all have a short memory. When we allow these sins in our life it causes us to forget God’s character and Word.  All jobs have benefits.  When looking for a new one, questions you may ask about benefits are, “How many vacation days are there?  Are there sick days?  Does it provide insurance?”  Benefits vary from job to job but God’s benefits do not vary.  He is constant.  We tend to forget His benefits when something attempts to tell us He’s holding out on us.  We ask, “Will God live up to the benefit package He promised.”  None of us would forget the benefits a job offers and demand them when we needed them.  But, we too often forget the benefits of God.

Verses 3-5 go on to tell us it is God, “Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s”.  What if your job offered you that kind of benefit package?  Think about the offer of forgiveness from sin, healing from sickness, rescue from the pits of life, love and compassion, satisfaction with good things, and renewal of youth.  That would be the job of a lifetime.  What’s better than reimbursement for mileage?  Try forgiveness of sin.  What sounds more promising than 3 weeks paid vacation?  God offers healing.  A gym membership is tempting but I’ll take renewed youth any day.  Redemption from the pits of life sounds like the kind of insurance plan that doesn’t have loopholes, especially when God is the benefactor.   AFLAC has nothing on God.  You’re in good hands with Allstate but you’re in God’s hands with the Almighty.  GEICO?  What about GODCO? 

But pastor, I don’t feel forgiven.  Forgiveness of sin isn’t based on feeling but the facts of Scripture.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.”  But what about healing?  It’s obvious not everyone is healed.  True.  Lazarus was healed but eventually died.  Elisha healed others but died from a sickness he suffered from (2 Kings 13:14).  Some say, “I bet healing comes if you have more faith.”  Tell that to Paul who suffered with a “thorn in the flesh” and prayed three times for it to be removed (2 Corinthians 12:5-10).  Timothy suffered (1 Timothy 5:23).  I think they had tremendous faith.  “I know!” They say, “Those who pray hard don’t get sick, right?”  What about Jesus?  Didn’t he pray hard for the cup to pass from Him?  David prayed hard for his baby not to die but it did (2 Samuel 12).  I know many godly people who have died from sickness they prayed in great faith to be healed from.  The promise isn’t instant healing but eventual healing.  Sometimes God heals on this earth and sometimes He doesn’t.  Sometimes we don’t feel forgiven or rescued from the pit on this earth.  But, in eternity forgiveness, healing and rescue come full circle.  It doesn’t mean we stop praying for healing on earth.  I believe God alone forgives and heals.  We don’t give up hope but trust in Him.  Praise has a way of putting life into eternal perspective.

God cares for your spirit, soul and body.  Remember to praise God today.  He cares for you! No matter what you are facing today, don’t forget your benefit package.  Forgiveness is a benefit.  Healing is a benefit.  If you feel tired and overwhelmed then His strength is your benefit.  Turn your thoughts toward Him today and He will encourage you. 


Friday, November 22, 2013

Help Is On The Way

As much as preachers speak they should listen just as much.  After all, we all should be, “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19).  I do a lot of listening.  Usually the way a “counseling session” works is I listen for the first half, advise for the next part, and dialogue back and forth for the last half.  I always end in prayer.  I hear a lot of heartbreaking situations – some tragic!  Sometimes wounds are self-inflicted and other times things hit you right out of the blue.  For the most part people find themselves struggling in one of two ways in any given situation.  Either they feel helpless or hopeless.  I, like them, have felt those emotions and feelings as well.  Sometimes your situation feels hopeless and you feel helpless towards it.  Let me say to you what I say to everyone – don’t give up because help and hope are on the way.
Scripture tells me not to become weary in doing good for at the proper time I will reap a harvest if I do not give up (Galatians 6:9).  Whatever your situation and however much you feel like giving up – DON’T!  God and His help are on the way.  There is hope because God is our help.  Psalm 121:1 tells me to, “Lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  My biggest advice to people experiencing hopelessness and helplessness comes out of Scripture.  Why?  I sometimes sit there as people tell me stories of abuse, neglect, heartache, and tragedy and think, “I have no idea what to tell them.”  Then, I remember a Scripture.  Then, the Holy Spirit brings to memory a story.  God is faithful in times of need.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Did you know God works on our behalf even when we can’t see Him working?  I’ve heard this phrase countless times, “I just don’t feel God at work – I just don’t know if He cares.”  God is always at work behind the scenes.  Jeremiah says he knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5).  He knit us together and created us (Psalm 139:13).  Galatians 1:15 says he sets us apart in our mother’s womb by His grace.  Psalm 22:9 says he brought us out of the womb and made us secure.  Here’s the point – before you had any problems or knew what a problem was – God knew you.  Before you were even able to comprehend need – God was your supplier and provider.  God knows what you need before you know you have a need.  He is not surprised when we pray for help.  As one person said, “God works the nightshift too!”
Job is a great example of God working in the background.  He said in Job 23:8-10, “Look, I go forward, but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him.  But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”  When we are sleeping, people everywhere are at work.  The nightshift goes on in the dark.  When you are in the dark, God is light and always working.  He does not sleep.  Psalm 121:3-4 reminds us, “He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”  God never takes a break, is never tired, is never without an answer, and is always watching over us.  Fireman work at night – so does God.  The baker at Krispy Kreme is up – so is God.  In the dark time of your life God is awake and moving.  Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”  Did you catch that?  God LIVES to make intercession for us!  He goes to the Father for us (John 14:5-14).   Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord and be of good courage.  He shall strengthen your heart.  Wait on the Lord.”  I think the Psalmist said wait on the Lord at the end and the beginning because we are so impatient.  Don’t give up!  Help and hope are on the way and found in Christ alone.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Are You Generous?

Is it easier to be generous when you have money or when you are broke?  I’ve been on both ends of this spectrum.  There have been times I’ve wanted to give towards something but wasn’t able due to lack of funds and there have been other times I didn’t give toward something because I wanted to use the money towards something else.  I’ve also given when funds were extremely tight and when there was surplus.  Is giving more holy when money is tight or abundant?  Does generosity flow out of somewhere between poor and rich?  Generosity is one of the marks of a Christian and really flows out of the heart.

2 Corinthians 9:11 says, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”  Riches do mean money but should mean other resources as well.  Any riches we have are there so we can be generous at all times.  And being generous actually causes others to thank God.   Giving to a real need feels good.  But generosity isn’t about us feeling good that we gave.  It is about God being glorified and the recipients of the gift being encouraged and uplifted.  Scripture says we are to cloth ourselves with compassion because we are God’s chosen people who are holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12).  Generosity comes from compassion.  We are compassionate towards others causing us to give because God has so greatly loved and given to us. 

Another mark of generosity is the desire to give our time to others.  Sometimes giving money is not enough.  They need your time.  I’ve been in situations where giving money was the easy thing to do.  While the person needed money, time was most beneficial to their life.  It truly communicated your concern and compassion.  If I only give money when time is needed as well then I’m just throwing money at the situation.  1 Peter 4:10 tells me I should give my abilities and resources to serve others.  “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  Christians must remember that the gifts they have are to be used to serve others.  If there is a legitimate need and I have the gift, money, or time to meet it I must use that resource to fill it.
Romans 12:13 reminds us to, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.”  

But what if someone takes advantage of your generosity?  Don’t worry about that - people will take advantage of you.  This shouldn’t stop you from practicing hospitality and generosity.  Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.”  This is openhanded generosity – giving freely, wisely, and generously to the needs of others.  “Casting your bread on the waters” seems like a waste.  Bread, after all, was meant to be eaten not thrown into the water.  This verse isn’t encouraging wasteful spending or foolishly helping the obvious crook or lazy bum.  We are to be wise with our money, not thoughtless or careless, so we can really help those truly in need.  The meaning here is to be willing to take a chance in order to be generous instead of withholding, which profits no one.  After you’ve investigated a matter needing your generosity, go ahead and give even if you aren’t 100% certain.  You won’t lose your reward but will find it again.  You’re storing up treasures in heaven any way which can never be stolen from you (Matthew 6:19-21).  

In the words of Jesus, “Freely you have received, freely give.”  God will reward you and protect you so just be generous and trust Him.  He will meet all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).  Give and it will be given to you.  With the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).  A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Sometimes you are in a hurry but God isn’t.  That requires patience.  Galatians 5:22 says patience is a fruit of the Spirit meaning all believers should possess it.  Patience is more than waiting.  It is waiting with Christlike character.  If you are moody, negative, and inconsiderate you are not waiting patiently.  Here’s the deal:  you are going to have to wait anyway – why not do it in a way that honors the Lord and the people around you?  If you find yourself being frustrated or irritated by the smallest of waits, God wants to develop more patience in you.  If two people ahead of you at the ATM causes you to act unholy, patience is what you lack.  If you become negative and foul because you are delayed 15 minutes due to traffic, you really need some patience.  If you can’t display Christlikeness in the smallest of situations how do you expect to display it when healing doesn’t come instantly?  What are you going to do when you still haven’t found a job after a year of looking intently?  How are you going to respond when your spouse or child still aren’t acting right after years of prayer? 

It’s been said true patience is waiting without worrying.  On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, where to you score when it comes to worrying during a wait? Patience isn’t a characteristic you gain by simply reading about it.  You must be tested in it. You acquire patience by persistently enduring and practicing Christlike character.  Webster’s dictionary says patience is endurance without murmuring.  When you are faced with the smallest of waits that challenges your level of patience remember that is the prime opportunity to exercise Godliness and resist the temptation to complain and worry. 

1 Corinthians 13:4 says love is patient.  God desires to give you more than patience.  He is training you toward godliness.  2 Peter 1:3-7 tells us gaining patience is really about growing in faith.  It says God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.  We can escape the corruption of this world caused by human desires because of His promises.  Adding patience, good character, discipline, perseverance, love and other attributes to our faith increase our godliness.  Verse 8 tells us, “If we possess these qualities in increasing measure they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in Christ.”  Did you see that? We should possess them in increasing measure.  That means we should grow in them.  If we don’t have them, verse 9 says we are nearsighted and blind and have forgotten that we have been cleansed from our past sins.  Refusing to grow in patience says we refuse to grow in Christ and recall all He has done for us.

I, too, struggle in patience from time to time.  The condition of my waiting is sometimes dishonoring to God and those around me.  I often think what if I displayed my level of patience as one of the Bible characters?  Instead of waiting on the seventh day like Joshua I would have tried to get into Jericho the first day through the front door.  If I were Moses I may have swam across the Red Sea.  If I were David I may have gone into battle with the wrong weapons and bypassed some rocks and a slingshot.  I may have messed up their lives and legacy by being impatient. But I am me and God desires me to be patient to accomplish what He has in store in my life.  Hebrews 6:15 says, “And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.”  I desire to be a patient person whose waiting honors the Lord.  I desire to trust God in His timing.  The only way to be patient in problems is to trust God through them.  James 1:2-4 reminds us the testing of our faith produces endurance that leads to a perfect man, lacking nothing.  I pray you won’t allow your problems to frustrate you and bring you down but produce patience in you which will calm and mold you into God’s image.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I Married the Wrong Person

So many marriages today are ending in divorce.  But yours doesn’t have to! As a marriage counselor, I’ve heard every reason in the world while couples are separating.  The most common reason is there is usually someone else in the picture.  Maybe it’s just thoughts or flirting (which are both still wrong), but that person is thinking the grass is greener on the other side.  Let me say this:  appearances can be deceiving.  What looks better somewhere else usually isn’t.  Sometimes it’s greener because it’s built over a septic tank.  Proverbs 14:4 says, "Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox."  If you’re going to have oxen, you’re going to have oxen poop (can a pastor say poop?).  You will have some mess in your marriage.  You just have to clean up the mess along the way and not let it pile up. 

Most of the time couples blame each other for their failing marriage and true enough the person being blamed usually has problems – but who doesn’t?  Rarely is a failed marriage the result of only one person.  An excuse I hear all the time is, “I think I married the wrong person”.  That’s one reason I’m a huge fan of long courtships.  You must get to know the person well before committing the rest of your life to them.  Still, excuse is usually a front for deeper issues.  Sometimes, the one saying this is thinking of someone else who appears to be better than the one they married.  Other times, the one saying this is thinking of Mr./Mrs. Perfect (which do not exist).  And other times this is said out of frustration because the other person is doing a lot of wrong things.  Remember this though:  a successful marriage is not the result of marrying the right person, feeling right emotions, or thinking right thoughts.  A successful marriage happens because couples do the right things.  If you are doing the wrong things you’ll eventually end up thinking you married the wrong person.

God wants you to change your ways.  Instead of jumping ship or onto another ship, perhaps it’s time to clean up your ship – together.  That’s right.  Marriage takes two.  I know one person in the marriage can cause the majority of the problem.  If that’s you, the way to a better marriage is to repent and do right things.  If not, you’ll carry all the wrong you’re doing now into another relationship.  If you’ll cheat on your current mate you’ll cheat on the next one without a heart change.  If you’ll treat your current mate wrong you’ll eventually do that to your next one.   Getting a new mate won’t fix a mean, harsh, selfish, unforgiving, or bitter attitude.  Only God can do that.  You should not bail on your marriage.  You need to repent to the Lord and each other, forgive, and implement the change the Lord tells you to make.

Remember the words you said to each other when you got married?  You probably said, “For better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, till death do us part.”  What you didn’t say was, “for better and better, in health and health, for richer and richer, till I find someone better and divorce do us part.”  Marriage is not the union of two people filing separately now filing together.  You don’t take them to be your starter wife/husband.  You enter into marriage for a lifetime with the intent to work through whatever comes your way.  No one has divorce lawyers in their wedding party.  You have friends and family who are in full support of you being married for a lifetime.   Separating won’t fix your marriage and neither will another partner, only God can as you work together doing right things.  Every marriage has its challenges, but God is bigger than them all.  He can give you a fresh start.  Maybe it’s time to renew your vows – your covenant.  What God has joined together, let no man separate (Mark 10:9).