Monthly Archives: January 2016

Choose Forgiveness 

  
When you’ve been hurt by someone, you can either forgive them or you can hold a grudge. Holding a grudge makes you look at the chain reaction of what they did to you, and then blame them for how you ended up where you are. It creates “if then” statements in your mind: “If they hadn’t done that to me, then I wouldn’t have been in this miserable place in life.” Anything bad that happens in your life gets blamed on them. Your mind becomes consumed with how bad things are, and you create a perpetual cycle of a downward spiral.

When you forgive someone for hurting you, you set your mind free. You no longer give that person power over you and the direction of your life. You are no longer consumed by the bitterness that creeps into every area of your life. You no longer dread waking up each day, and your perspective changes. You can look back at that moment and see how God used it to get you where you to be. You quit despising the life you have, and begin to see it as a blessing.

If anyone ever had a reason to hold a grudge, it was Joseph. His brothers beat him, threw him in a cistern, and sold him as a slave. That event took him away from all he had known. His freedom and all he had were taken from him in an instant. Hew as Farley accused and spent years in prison because of their betrayal. Bitterness could have linked it all together and made him hate his brothers. Instead, he chose forgiveness and God blessed him for it.

Forgiveness is about remembering we aren’t perfect ourselves. We make mistakes and hurt others too. God wants us to give people room to make mistakes and then to forgive them. Colossians 3:13 says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT). If you’ve held onto a grudge towards someone because they’ve hurt you, let it go snd forgive them. Quit giving them control of your life and your mind. Bitterness is unbecoming.

When you let go of it, instead of always thinking about how bad your life has gotten, you will be able to see how God has used that situation for your good. You will see that the path you were on wasn’t going to get you where God wanted you. It’s easier to move on when you see that God can use what’s been done to you to help someone else. You can now shine a light into someone else’s darkness and show them the way out if you choose forgiveness. 

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Patient Endurance 

  
Patience. It’s not a word we like very much. We like to have results quickly without having to put in the time and effort. We want answers given to us without us having to dig for them. We want growth without risk, and we want fruit without tending the garden. We’ve heard the saying, “Good things come to those who wait,” but who really wants to wait? We live in a now society where everything is given to us quickly. The temptation is to let our societal speed carry over into our spiritual growth.

Endurance. It’s not something you get in good times. It requires pushing yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of. It takes mental toughness to get it. You have to withstand pressure repeatedly in order to attain it. Giving up can’t be an option if you’re going to increase your endurance. You have to keep your mind on the prize to keep your mind off the struggle of you’re going to build your endurance. It isn’t given to you, it’s earned.

Both of these things are required of us as Christians. The more of God you want to know, the more patience and endurance you’re going to have to have. If we are willing to give up in the struggle, we will miss the blessings God is preparing us for. Hebrews 10:36 says, “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised” (NLT). When things appear to be going wrong in our life, God is preparing us to receive all He has for us.

We can’t be like Jacob and fight it. In Genesis 42, there was a famine in the land. Jacob sent 10 of his sons to get food in Egypt. Joseph wanted them all there so he pretended to not know them, sent them home with their food, and held one brother captive until they returned with their other brother. Jacob felt like he was being punished when God was just trying to get him to the land of plants. In verse 36, he cried out, “You are robbing me of my children! Joseph is gone! Simeon is gone! And now you want to take Benjamin, too. Everything is going against me!”

If everything is going against you, it’s quite possible that God is actually trying to bless you. Jacob waited a long time before he sent his sons back to get more food and their brother. He could have been living without fear of starvation. He could have had the relationship with his son restored. God was trying to use what appeared to be negative circumstances to move him into a place of blessing. Imagine what God could be trying to do for you in your situation. Work on having patient endurance instead of complaining, and see what God does.

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Fruitful In Affliction 

  
When going through difficult seasons in life, it often feels like they will never end. The hits seem to keep coming. After a while, it’s easy to quit looking for the lesson and to start wondering what we’ve done to deserve it. Our prayers that ask God to restore us seem to fall on deaf ears and we question whether God remembers who we are. As time goes on. It becomes the new normal for life and we wonder if we will ever be restored to that place of joy.

Joseph, the guy with the coat of many colors, went through an extended period of hardship too. His season of sorrow lasted 13 years. He was betrayed by his family, lied about having his good name smeared, wrongfully thrown in prison, and forgotten. This season lasted 13 years of his life. We think God has forgotten us after 13 weeks. This man endured 13 years of sorrow, yet he remained faithful to God throughout it. We know this because God blessed him during that time.

Just like all seasons, there will be a turning point in your life. It will not last forever. When we are faithful to God even when we can’t see Him, hear Him, or feel His presence; He will reward us and restore us. He takes what seems like an end and turns it into a beginning. He takes a period of sorrow and turns it into a lifetime of joy. He takes the hardest times in our lives and shows us the greatest grace we’ll ever see.

When Joseph’s life was restored and things were going well, he had two sons. Their names are very telling of what God will do for us when we’ve been faithful. Genesis 41:51-52 says, “And Joseph called the firstborn Manasseh [making to forget], For God, said he, has made me forget all my toil and hardship and all my father’s house. And the second he called Ephraim [to be fruitful], For [he said] God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (AMP). God will help you to forget how hard the struggle was and make you fruitful in that time.

Jeremiah 18:7-8 echoes this for us. It says, “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit” (NLT). Even in your time of sorrow or your drought, God will cause you to be fruitful if you trust in Him. Even when everything in you tells you that God doesn’t see you and that He doesn’t care, stay faithful to Him. Your restoration is on the way. 

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Panic Prayer

Sometimes when I get into a situation that doesn’t look like anything like what God promised, I panic. I then pray and remind God what He told me. “God, you said that if I did this, then you would do that. So why am I in this situation? Where are you? Why aren’t you being true to your promise?” Have you ever prayed a panic prayer like that? You heard God, did what He said, and the results weren’t what you expected.

When that happens, we trend to freak out a bit. We hear God and then our imagination creates what the outcome should look like. When it doesn’t turn out that way, we ask God why He isn’t holding up His end of the bargain. We think our obedience should be rewarded. We even think our act of faith should be broadcast to all of creation, but we end up in a situation that requires more faith.

Jacob was in this same boat in Genesis 32. God told him to return to the land of his father Isaac. On the way, he sent servants to his brother, whom he had double crossed, to tell him that he was coming. The servants came back with the news that his brother was coming and that he had 400 men with him. Jacob’s mind went to work. He thought of the worst possible scenario. In verses 11 and 12 he prayed, “Save me, please, from the violence of my brother, my angry brother! I’m afraid he’ll come and attack us all, me, the mothers and the children. You yourself said, ‘I will treat you well; I’ll make your descendants like the sands of the sea, far too many to count’” (MSG).

He didn’t know if his brother was still angry 20 years later. He didn’t know if his brother was coming to kill all of them. He saw a small piece of the puzzle, made assumptions, panicked, and prayed. He’s not that different than we are. He saw a situation snd thought of the worst outcome. He didn’t trust God, so he reminded God of what He had said. I wonder how that makes God feel. I wonder if He does a face palm with some of our panic prayers and says, “Will you just trust me?”

It’s one thing to pray a promise of God so you can build your faith and another to use it to remind God in case He forgot. Jacobs situation wasn’t anything like what he had imagined. In fact, his brother was coming to bless him. The same is true of our situations. If God has promised you something, and you’ve acted in faith, don’t look at the circumstances. Trust God to do what He said He will do. There’s no need to panic pray. God keeps His promises and is true to His word.

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Our Mission

We live in a dog eat dog world. Most people are only out for themselves. When I was younger, you didn’t pass someone on the shoulder who had a flat tire. You pulled over and offered help. Now, we say, “They have a cell phone. I’m sure they’ll call someone for help if they need it.” We don’t give them a second thought because we are going somewhere and we don’t have time to be inconvenienced by someone else’s problem. That’s a spiritual problem that has bled over into our physical world.

  
The Church was founded and built upon helping those in need. It was a beacon on a hill because it was different. It was a group of people whose mission was to serve and help those who were broken down on the Road of Life. The Church fed the hungry. They clothed the poor. The people brought their extra money and possessions to the church with the intent of helping the whole community. When the Church did that, it grew by the thousands daily.

Now, the Church spends its money on many things and has lost its mission. Look at a giving envelope. Very few churches still have a line item for alms and even fewer people give towards it. I believe it’s the number one cause for the lack of explosive growth in the Church today. We have ceased to be a communal organization and have become more like an exclusive club you can belong to. We accept people who look right, act right, and live right. We’ve forgotten our mission to help the broken and hurting.

The military’s phrase, “Leave no man behind,” should be the Church’s mission statement. If we want to reach thousands, we have to get back to that communal place where our purpose and mission is helping others wherever and however they are broken down. It’s not our pastor’s responsibility to make that happen either, it’s ours individually. You can’t read the New Testament as if it was written to pastors, leaders, or even an individual. It was written to each of us as a community of believers.

In Ephesians 6:18, right after Paul tells us to put on God’s Armor, he tells us, “Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out” (MSG). That is written to you and me as individuals in the body. The burden is on us to heal the broken by loving them, to give to those less fortunate to help them along, to support those who are struggling in life, and to encourage those who are down. If each of us will do our part, we will revive not only the Church, but our nation and world.

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Reopen And Restore

  
How do you respond to road blocks and set backs? Do you believe the non-scriptural platitudes that say, “God doesn’t close a door without opening a window”? Do you give up and just sit there? Maybe you look for another route and roll with the punches. Each of us respond in different ways when we’ve done the ground work for things in our lives only to have it stopped suddenly. I believe how we respond matters.

In Genesis 26, Abraham had already died and his son Isaac was a full grown man. Isaac planted crops and God blessed them. Whatever he did, God put His hand on it and made him successful. With that success came jealousy from others who were not as blessed. The Philistines went around and filled his wells with dirt, and their king made him uproot his family and move because of their jealousy. 

When Isaac moved away to other places he had taken his flocks before, he realized what they had done. Isaac and his father had dug many wells throughout the land to give water to their family and flocks. Now, all those years of work had been undone. He could looked for other wells that didn’t belong to him, but that wasn’t right. Genesis 26:18 says, “He reopened the wells his father had dug, which the Philistines had filled in after Abraham’s death. Isaac also restored the names Abraham had given them” (NLT).

When what you’ve worked for gets destroyed by someone else, don’t just walk away or give up, put the work back into it and re-dig your wells. It’s going to take work. It’s going to take determination. It’s going to take your desire to be successful and blessed to be stronger than your desire to give up. Isaac didn’t quit or look for God to open a new well. He grabbed a shovel, started digging, and restored what the enemy had closed. That’s the response we should give to set backs and roadblocks in our lives.

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The Tamarisk Tree

  
In Genesis 21, Abraham had been living in the Promised Land as a foreigner for a while. After he made a treaty with Abimelech, verse 33 says, “Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he worshiped the LORD, the Eternal God” (NLT). I don’t know if Abimelech was there for the planting or if it was just a sign to God, but it was no coincidence that he planted a tamarisk tree given the promise God had made to him about that land.

According to forestry.about.com, the tamarisk tree is an invasive tree that spreads rapidly. It has the ability to survive in harsh conditions. It is very adaptable to whatever conditions it faces. I can’t think of a better tree that depicts the Israelites and God’s plan for them. God had given them that land, and Abraham had been given the promise that he would have as many descendants as there were stars. His family would flourish and spread throughout that region one day.

The tree is also representative of how we as Christians are to be. God did not plant us where we are in order to be quiet about our faith. He expects us to advance the Gospel rapidly, even in the harsh conditions we live in today. In Mark 16:15, Jesus told us, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” He wanted us to be invasive with His message. It has never been about waiting for someone to come to you with questions about your faith. It has always been about us being proactive.

The tamarisk tree is also a survivor. It adapts to be able to thrive in the harshest conditions. Throughout history, it’s been in the harshest conditions that the Gospel has spread the most. With the social pressures and unfriendly conditions towards Christianity that we face today, you can expect that the Gospel is about to spread rapidly once again. We must be adaptable in the face of such pressure instead of allowing it to shut us down. As history begins to repeat itself, we need to be prepared for another Great Awakening. Our faith must become stronger than ever.

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