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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Looking Forward to Better Days

When a player begins to score, the opposing team assigns their best players to block him. So the attack you're experiencing right now could be an indication of your value to God.


2 Corinthians 11:26-28New International Version (NIV)

26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

How did Paul handle these experiences?

Philippians 3:12-14New Living Translation (NLT)

Pressing toward the Goal

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[a] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.


Now, Paul didn't forget any of it; he could remember names, places, faces, and even record it. But here's the difference: he refused to let what was done to him affect his outlook. That's the attitude you need! When your desire to go forward becomes greater than the memories of your past, you'll begin to live again.

Proverbs 29:18King James Version (KJV)

18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.


The very fact that God is putting desire back into your spirit means that better days are coming! So rise up and say with the Psalmist,

Psalm 27:13-14New International Version (NIV)

13 I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.


Friday, July 24, 2015

God looks for faithfulness in little things

- Zac Poonen


1 Kings 19:19-21New International Version (NIV)

The Call of Elisha

19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”
“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”
21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

In 1 Kings 19:19-21 we read of Elijah calling Elisha.
Elisha was working hard in the fields with his oxen, when Elijah called him.

Notice first of all, that God always calls those who are working hard and faithful in their secular occupations.Moses was faithfully looking after his father-in-law’s sheep when God called him.



David was looking after sheep and fighting with lions and bears. Amos was a hardworking herdsman. Peter, James, John and Andrew were hardworking fishermen. Matthew was sitting at the table working on his accounts.


We never see, anywhere in the Old Testament or the New Testament, that God called a lazy man for his service. We don’t find Elijah going to Elisha’s house when he was fast asleep and calling him there - because we would have thought he was a lazy man. Jesus also never went to Peter’s house in the evening to call him. He called him when he was fishing. All these examples show us that God wants us to be faithful and hardworking in our secular jobs, before He can call us to serve Him.


If you are not faithful in earthly matters, how can you be faithful in heavenly matters? If you are young and still living at home, then be a faithful son or daughter at home.

Notice secondly, that all these men dropped everything and went, as soon as God called them. We see that in Peter, John and Matthew and also here with Elisha.

God calls those who will respond to His call immediately and wholeheartedly.
They may seek to confirm God’s call on their lives with godly people in order to be certain that they are not acting on their own emotional feelings.

But once they are sure, they act quickly. God can use only such people to serve Him, because His service requires instant obedience, total commitment and hard work.
So God tests us in our secular occupations, to see whether we are faithful.

If you are asked to clean a room and you are careless about the way you do it, or you are slipshod about it, I doubt if God will ever call you to serve Him. Because, if that’s the way you clean up a room that will probably be the way you clean up your heart as well.

How then can God use you to clean up His church?
It is faithfulness in the little things that God looks for.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Hold steady and let God work

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 New International Version (NIV)

17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

There are times in your life when everything you attempt to do will seem to go wrong. Your faith may be strong and your commitment deep, yet adversity will come knocking on your door. In such times, the power of prayer will strengthen and stabilise you. But you can't pray away life's seasons! God has a purpose for not allowing you to be fruitful all the time.

Real growth requires seasons of struggle as well as seasons of success. Your seasons of struggle destroy pride in your own ability, increase your dependence on God, and cause you to say, like Paul did, 

2 Corinthians 3:5 New International Version (NIV)

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

These are humbling experiences, but you need them. Your life is like a tree: in winter it silently refurbishes its strength, preparing for the next season of fruitfulness. As you look back on your life's accomplishments you'll notice that they are seasonal. There are seasons of rain as well as sunshine, and each season serves an important purpose. That's why it's a mistake to make a permanent decision based on a temporary circumstance or changing emotion.

The word temporal means 'subject to change'. Hold steady, it's not always going to be this waySometimes the situation doesn't call for action, it calls for patience and trust in God. In ways you cannot understand, God is making the circumstances you're in today work for your good.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Picture of Patience

- By Max Lucado


Come with me to Paris, France, 1954.

Elie Wiesel is a correspondent for a Jewish newspaper. A decade earlier he was a prisoner in a Jewish concentration camp. A decade later he would be known as the author of Night, the Pulitzer Prize winning account of the Holocaust. Eventually he’ll be awarded the congressional Medal of Achievement and the Nobel Peace Prize.

But tonight Elie Wiesel is a 26-old unknown newspaper correspondent. He is about to interview the French author Francois Mauriac, who is a devout Christian. Mauriac is France’s most recent Nobel laureate for literature and an expert on French political life.


Wiesel shows up at Mauriac’s apartment, nervous and chain-smoking — his emotions still frayed from the German horror, his comfort as a writer still raw. The older Mauriac tries to put him at ease. He invites Wiesel in, and the two sit in the small room. Before Wiesel can ask a question, however, Mauriac, a staunch Roman Catholic, begins to speak about his favorite subject: Jesus.

Wiesel grows uneasy. The name of Jesus is a pressed thumb on his infected wounds.Wiesel tries to reroute the conversation but can’t. It is as though everything in creation leads back to Jesus. Jerusalem? Jerusalem is where Jesus ministered. The Old Testament? Because of Jesus, the Old is now enriched by the New. Mauriac turns every topic toward the Messiah.

The anger in Wiesel begins to heat.

The Christian anti-Semitism he’d grown up with, the layers of grief from Sighet, Auschwitz, and Buchenwald — it all boils over. He puts away his pen, shuts his notebook, and stands up angrily.


“Sir,” he said to the still-seated Mauriac, “you speak of Christ. Christians love to speak of him. The passion of Christ, the agony of Christ, the death of Christ. In your religion, that is all you speak of. Well, I want you to know that tens years ago, not very far from here, I knew Jewish children every one of whom suffered a thousand times more, six million times more, than Christ on the cross. And we don’t speak about them. Can you understand that, sir? We don’t speak about them.”
(David Aikman, Great Souls: Six Who Changed the Century, Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998, p. 341-342.)

Mauriac is stunned.

Wiesel turns and marches out the door. Mauriac sits in shock, his woollen blanket still around him. The young reporter is pressing the elevator button when Mauriac appears in the hall. He gently reaches for Wiesel’s arm.

“Come back,” he implores.

Wiesel agrees, and the two sit on the sofa. At this point Mauriac begins to weep. He looks at Wiesel but says nothing. Just tears.

Wiesel starts to apologize. Mauriac will have nothing of it. Instead he urges his young friend to talk. He wants to hear about it — the camps, the trains, the deaths. He asks Wiesel why he hasn’t put this to paper. Wiesel tells him the pain is too severe. He’s made a vow of silence. The older man tells him to break it and speak out.

The evening changed them both.

The drama became the soil of a life-long friendship. They corresponded until Mauriac’s death in 1970. “I owe Francois Mauriac my career,” Wiesel has said . . .and it was to Mauriac that Wiesel sent the first manuscript of Night.

What if Mauriac had kept the door shut? Would anyone have blamed him?

Cut by the sharp words of Wiesel, he could have become impatient with the angry young man and have been glad to be rid of him. But he didn’t and he wasn’t. He reacted decisively, quickly, and lovingly.

He was “slow to boil.” And, because he was, a heart began to heal.

May I urge you to do the same?

2 Peter 3:9New International Version (NIV)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

And if God is being patient with you, can’t you pass on some patience to others? Of course you can.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The True Satisfaction - D.L. Moody

The famous preacher D.L. Moody told about a Christian woman who was always bright, cheerful, and optimistic, even though she was confined to her room because of illness. She lived in an attic apartment on the fifth floor of an old, rundown building. A friend decided to visit her one day and brought along another woman - a person of great wealth.

Since there was no elevator, the two ladies began the long climb upward. When they reached the second floor, the well-to-do woman commented, "What a dark and filthy place!"

Her friend replied, "It's better higher up." When they arrived at the third landing, the remark was made, "Things look even worse here."

Again the reply, "It's better higher up."

The two women finally reached the attic level, where they found the bedridden saint of God. A smile on her face radiated the joy that filled her heart.

Although the room was clean and flowers were on the window sill, the wealthy visitor could not get over the stark surroundings in which this woman lived. She blurted out,
"It must be very difficult for you to be here like this!"

Without a moment's hesitation the shut-in responded, "It's better higher up."

She was not looking at temporal things. With the eye of faith fixed on the eternal, she had found the secret of true satisfaction and contentment.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jacob Wrestles With God

Genesis 32:22-32New International Version (NIV)

Jacob Wrestles With God

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone,and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[b] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[c] and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 32:28 Israel probably means he struggles with God.
  2. Genesis 32:30 Peniel means face of God.
  3. Genesis 32:31 Hebrew Penuel, a variant of Peniel


Question: "What is the meaning of Jacob wrestling with God?"

Answer:
To best answer this question, it helps to know, among other things, that deep-seated family hostilities characterized Jacob’s life. He was a determined man; some would consider him to be ruthless. He was a con artist, a liar, and a manipulator. In fact, the nameJacobnot only means “deceiver,” but more literally it means “grabber.”

To know Jacob’s story is to know his life was one of never-ending struggles. Though God promised Jacob that through him would come not only a great nation, but a whole company of nations, he was a man full of fears and anxieties. We now come to a pivotal point in his life when he is about to meet his brother, Esau, who has vowed to kill him. All Jacob’s struggles and fears are about to be realized. Sick of his father-in-law's treatment, Jacob has fled Laban, only to encounter his embittered brother, Esau. Anxious for his very life, Jacob concocted a bribe and sent a caravan of gifts along with his women and children across the River Jabbok in hopes of pacifying his brother. Now physically exhausted, alone in the desert wilderness, facing sure death, he’s divested of all his worldly possessions. In fact, he’s powerless to control his fate. He collapses into a deep sleep on the banks of the Jabbok River. With his father-in-law behind him and Esau before him, he was too spent to struggle any longer.

But only then did his real struggle begin. Fleeing his family history had been bad enough; wrestling with God Himself was a different matter altogether. That night an angelic stranger visited Jacob. They wrestled throughout the night until daybreak, at which point the stranger crippled Jacob with a blow to his hip that disabled him with a limp for the rest of his life. It was by then Jacob knew what had happened: “I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared” (Genesis 32:30). In the process, Jacob the deceiver received a new name,Israel, which likely means “He struggles with God.” However, what is most important occurs at the conclusion of that struggle. We read that God “blessed him there” (Genesis 32:29).

In Western culture and even in our churches, we celebrate wealth and power, strength, confidence, prestige, and victory. We despise and fear weakness, failure, and doubt. Though we know that a measure of vulnerability, fear, discouragement and depression come with normal lives, we tend to view these as signs of failure or even a lack of faith. However, we also know that in real life, naïve optimism and the glowing accolades of glamour and success are a recipe for discontent and despair. Sooner or later, the cold, hard realism of life catches up with most of us. The story of Jacob pulls us back to reality.

Frederick Buechner, one the most read authors by Christian audiences, characterizes Jacob’s divine encounter at the Jabbok River as the “magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God.” It’s in Jacob’s story we can easily recognize our own elements of struggle: fears, darkness, loneliness, vulnerabilities, empty feelings of powerlessness, exhaustion and relentless pain.

Even the apostle Paul experienced similar discouragements and fears: “We were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within” (2 Corinthians 7:5). But, in truth, God does not want to leave us with our trials, our fears, our battles in life. What we come to learn in our conflicts of life is that God proffers us a corresponding divine gift. It is through Him that we can receive the power of conversion and transformation, the gift of not only surrender, but freedom, and the gifts of endurance, faith and courage.

In the end, Jacob does what we all must do. He confronts his failures, his weaknesses, his sins, all the things that are hurting him . . . and faces God. Jacob wrestled with God all night. It was an exhausting struggle that left him crippled. It was only after he came to grips with God and ceased his struggling, realizing that he could not go on without Him, that he received God’s blessing (Genesis 32:29).

What we learn from this remarkable incident in the life of Jacob is that our lives are never meant to be easy. This is especially true when we take it upon ourselves to wrestle with God and His will for our lives. We also learn that as Christians, despite our trials and tribulations, our strivings in this life are never devoid of God’s presence, and His blessing inevitably follows the struggle, which can sometimes be messy and chaotic. Real growth experiences always involve struggle and pain.

Jacob’s wrestling with God at the Jabbok that dark night reminds us of this truth: though we may fight God and His will for us, in truth, God is so very good. As believers in Christ, we may well struggle with Him through the loneliness of night, but by daybreak His blessing will come.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

By GOD's Grace, you will make it!

Hebrews 11:32-34 New International Version (NIV)

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak,Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames,and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength;and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

Who were these people? Notice, they didn't start out strong, they became strong. And if they can make it, you can too!  God chooses to work through people like us. He places us in difficult situations then unlocks our faith, compassion and creativity.

When we don't know which way to go, He connects us with those who can open the right door at the right moment.

Does that mean we won't experience fear?

No, progress has always been made by people who faced their fears and rose above them. They knew that opportunity and security were opposites. The truth is, if the challenge you're facing doesn't place a demand on your faith, it neither pleases God nor involves Him.

Phillips Brooks said,

 'Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger people.
Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.
Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.
Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.'