Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57   Entries 181-185 of 285
May 19, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where are you winning an argument about the issues but losing a relationship?

Just the other day I was having a talk with one of the youth in my church. He was telling me about a great theological argument he was having with a friend.  Really he was probing me for information to help him win the next argument he was planning to have later that evening.  I remind him that you never really win an argument, because you can win an argument while losing the relationship at the same time. That is what happens when the issues on the table matter more to us than the people around the table. Pride can cloud our judgment. Our insecurities can fuel our response to those that disagree. The need for control and our desire to simply be right can drastically influence our approach to how we address the critical issues this world faces.


Far too often, we’ve taken things that are true and made them about us. This has only created more chaos, discord, and distrust to take root in our mad world. There’s no point in having strong views if we only have them so we can put people in their place.  As long as we continue to focus on the issues and ignore what’s at the center, nothing will ever change. The madness of this world isn’t going to be solved because we simply won an argument. Our emotions cannot serve as a driving force in how we respond to the world around us. Scripture speaks of envy and selfish ambition serving as the source for the conflict we experience. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. James 3:16


Falling for the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes keeps us in a loop of continual dissatisfaction and discontentment. Our hearts will remain restless until we find something to support our trust. This restlessness influences our perception. Our eyes go searching for something that will provide us security. What we see awakens something in us. The more we see, the more we want. The more we want something the more prone our eyes are to see it. Unfortunately, we’ve been looking for security in all the wrong places. We’re living in a way we were never intended to live. God created us for Himself and He’s not going to give that up. “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” Ephesians 2:14

Clarity doesn’t come in the midst of the chaos. Processing what we believe requires us to be quiet and still. We’ve got to carve out a time and space where we can silence the noise and reflect on God’s truth and the impact it should have on our life and relationships. Grace comes by submission to the Truth. We must surrender what we know to be true to Him who is the Truth. How do you have strong views about something without putting yourself in the center or putting someone else in their place?


This my Prayer: Father God, winning an argument means very little if I lose relationships over it. Lord give me the eyes to see the people on the other side of the table. Teach me that issues are important, but they matter less than true connection with others. Jesus help me to serve others, even those I might disagree with and not see eye-to-eye as you did. In Your name,  Amen.

May 18, 2017, 5:00 AM

How is God’s power completed in your weakness?

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10


Today we want to turn our attention to the words of Paul found in 2 Corinthians 12. Take a moment and reread the passage. God’s grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in our weakness. In the midst of life’s obstacles and issues, the sufficiency of God’s grace should serve as a great source of comfort.  We could spend weeks on the sufficiency of God’s grace in the midst of our weakness.  This principle provides us with a foundation for our faith and serves as the hope of our transformation.  It reminds us to lean on His grace in our weakness, for this is exactly where His strength is found.


Think about why God said this to Paul.  This was an answer to Paul’s prayer.  What question did Paul ask that prompted this response?  Did Paul ask about grace?  No.  Paul pleaded with God three times to take away his thorn. Remove the obstacle. Correct the interruption. Lessen the pressure.  God answers Paul’s request by saying, “My grace is sufficient.  My power is perfected in your weakness.” Not exactly what Paul was hoping for in the midst of the circumstances he faced.  He wanted relief, but God gave Him strength. Don’t miss this.


The fact that God’s grace is enough becomes a treasure because it brings strength.  We fall short when we look for relief instead of strength.  God graciously answers in a way that changes us instead of creating a way that makes life easier. When we think of grace, our minds tend to gravitate towards a picture of a mountaintop experience where we are filled with the love of Jesus. We are saved so we can now relax, put everything on autopilot and wait for our comfy place in heaven. We’ve got God’s grace so we are good to go.


However, God isn’t done with us at salvation. No, at salvation, God is just beginning to mold and shape us so we reflect His heart. We are unfinished products. We are works in progress. If God wants us to be conformed into the image of His Son then His grace can become a bit uncomfortable. But, look at Paul’s response.  He embraces this truth; I will speak of and rejoice in my weaknesses that God’s power might be seen. Where are you looking for relief rather than relying on God’s strength?  How is God’s power completed in your weakness?


This my Prayer: Father God, I will trust You when You don’t answer me according to my request.  Jesus I will rejoice in the fact that You offer me Your strength instead of simple relief.  Lord give me confidence in the fact that You use everything to bring about Your life in mine.  God thank You for Your patience with me and teaching me to hear Your voice.  I do not want to miss a single opportunity for You to be seen in me.  In Jesus name, Amen.

May 17, 2017, 5:00 AM

In what ways do you idolize comfort and convenience?

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  Matthew 16:24-26


As I type these words, I’m setting in my living room.  The air conditioning is set at a comfortable 73 degrees – not too hot, not too cold.  Even though I reside in little west Texas town, the world is literally at my fingertips thanks to my iPhone that sits on the side table. It’s filled with numerous apps whose sole purpose is to make my life run efficiently and almost effortlessly. Currently, I’m sitting with my feet propped up, on my rocking recliner love seat. Thanks to my noise cancelling headphones, there are no distractions or interruptions. The only sounds I hear are the tunes coming from my personally crafted Pandora music station. Somehow this radio station knows the exact song I want to hear every single time. 


With my world set just perfectly, I’m now ready to tackle my writing assignment: How do you deny yourself in a culture that says it’s all about you? Ouch, just typing those words causes me to squirm in my seat. Chances are good, it aroused the same reaction in you. We can feel the tension that comes with pondering this weighty question, especially while I’m enjoying Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and a recliner all from my the comfort of my living room.


Let’s be honest, no one likes feeling uncomfortable. Very few of us seek out ways to be inconvenienced. In fact, comfort and convenience are viewed as the highest values in today’s culture. We are living in a convenient world and we are comfort seeking boys and girls. The media bombards us with constant messages attempting to convince us that the entire world revolves around our comfort and convenience. These two qualities are the standard we judge everything else against.


They determine whether we label a day as good or we throw those 24-hours in the bad pile. We base the majority of our decisions, both big and small, around a single question – will this make our life run smoothly with little to no discomfort or disruption? Comfort and convenience influence and impact our daily plans, our checkbook, our families, our friendships, and even our relationship with God. With comfort and convenience serving as the dominant idols in our culture, many of us have unknowingly bowed down to them.


Like many other things God created, comfort and convenience aren’t in themselves bad or evil. The problem arises when our personal comfort trumps everything else and it becomes the thing we worship. As a church community, we want to pause and reflect on the places where we’ve grown comfortable in our faith, our relationships and our thinking. Just like the cozy love seat I’m reclining in, convenience and comfort don’t encourage us to put our faith into action.


Rather than answering the “HOW,” we’ve got to first spend some time exploring the “WHY.” Why should we deny ourselves in a culture that says it’s all about us? Until we can answer this question, the execution of the HOW is irrelevant. This is a scary venture for sure. Our natural reaction will be to hesitate. In our “me” focused world, it makes sense why Christ’s radical call to abandon ourselves would be met with resistance. But, you can’t carry a cross without the willingness to let go of your comfort. In what ways do you idolize comfort and convenience?


This is my Prayer: Father God, in my pursuit of comfort and convenience, I’ve lost sight of the fact that my agenda isn’t the most important. As a believer, You call me to deny myself and pick up my cross. Open my eyes today to the ways I can be used to bring You glory, even if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient. Amen.

May 16, 2017, 5:00 AM

Sin is not a broken rule, but a broken relationship and broken trust.

Sin, we can all point it out; even see it in our own lives. It confronts us anytime we turn on the television or open up the newspaper. Feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment accompany it. Murder, adultery, losing your temper, lying, and cheating on your taxes, the list could go on and on. The truth is that very few of us have a problem coming up with examples or symptoms of sin. Yet, trouble arises when we try to create a definition of it.


Even more danger occurs in the way we handle our sin. Whether we realize it or not, each one of us has created a complicated system in an effort to deal with our sin. Typically, we make our list of what sin is and it is equated with consequences. Each type of sin receives a ranking and is placed on a spectrum. A little sin like telling a white lie isn’t so bad when compared to taking someone’s life. Our perception is that all sins are not equal and some carry more weight than others.  In our mind, the greater the sin, the greater the punishment and distance it creates between God and us.


We all react differently to this perceived distance. The burden of shame is so great for some; they can’t deal with the distance and reason there can’t possibly be a God. Others indulge in all the world has to offer to numb the pain.  Some try to make up for all their mistakes by trying to change their behavior. Others feel the pressure to get in line and follow the rules all the while feeling that no matter how “good” they are, it won’t be enough.  The reactions are all different, but each person finds himself or herself in the same predicament, trapped in their system of dealing with sin.


Simply put, sin is forsaking God’s goodness and trying to find it somewhere else. Sin is not a broken rule, but a broken relationship and broken trust. We completely miss the point of the story about the Garden of Eden if we come to the conclusion that Eve’s sin was only eating a fruit off a tree.  This action served as a byproduct to her lack of trust in the character of God. It didn’t matter that she could roam in the garden or enjoy fruit from any other tree her heart desired.  Eve convinced herself that God was holding out on her so she went on a search to have life on her own terms.


“The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.” Genesis 3:6-7


She forgot about her relationship with God.  She forgot about all that God had given her and focused on the one thing in the entire garden she couldn’t have. In that fruit Eve traded in God’s goodness for the possibility of getting what she thought she wanted and deserved. We are all like Eve in that we place our trust in broken cisterns (money, power, jobs, relationships, and family) hoping we will find fulfillment in life. We go back to them time and time again as if we have amnesia, forgetting that they always leave us empty and thirsty for more. All of these longings point to our longing for God.


We must learn to see this lack of trust as an offense to the very character of God. In essence, we are telling the creator of the universe we have a better grasp than He does on what we truly need. The root of sin is distrusting God and trusting ourselves. This gets to the heart of what pride and control really is all about. The ultimate offense against God is that we do not trust Him.  It becomes crystal clear that the cross stands as the ultimate sign of love and sacrifice. Jesus didn’t come to create a religion; He came to restore a relationship and to show He can be trusted. His death becomes our death and His life becomes our life.


This is my Prayer: Father God, I desire to trust You in everything, but there are times when I doubt Your goodness. Lord help me to not look for other things for fulfillment, but to only look to You. Jesus You are my sustainer, provider, and savior. Thank you for restoring our relationship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

May 15, 2017, 5:00 AM

If you don’t define your anger, your anger will define you!

 “If you don’t define your anger, your anger will define you”, you may have heard this saying many times.   But ask yourself, have you allowed your anger to shape your identity?  What is taking place within our hearts when we get angry? Why are we so quick to seek vengeance and vindication?


There are numerous reasons our emotions get all amped up: feeling our “rights” have been violated, frustrated over our current circumstances, not having control over a situation, our pride getting hurt, feeling misunderstood, being disrespected or someone blocking what we desire. At the core of all these reasons is the fact that we wanted something and didn’t get it. We spend more effort trying to justify our response than dealing with our anger.


“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?  You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” James 4:1-2


Wow, “Kill” seems like a pretty harsh word.  You don’t really want to kill want to kill someone do you?  But, in Matthew 5:22, Jesus placed the anger you hold towards someone on the same playing field as the sin of murder. The Bible says we shouldn’t take our anger lightly.  It is no wonder then that Scripture also urges to not let the sun go down on our anger in Ephesians 4:26 and to put all anger away in Colossians 3:8 and Ephesians 4:31.


Selfishness, ungratefulness and impatience often define our anger. Yet, living in this fallen and mad world, sometimes our anger is justified. But, we must be careful not to work to justify our anger and unforgiveness because it places us on shaky ground. We either become a vigilante who takes matters into our own hands in hopes of seeking vengeance or we play the victim card for the rest of our days. Either way, if we don’t master our anger and deal with our unforgiveness, we will walk around with a chip on our shoulder feeling we are owed.


The longer we let this anger fester the more it clouds our judgment. In anger we can spin out of control. Our angry responses get us nowhere. It leaves our heart extremely vulnerable and causes us think unclearly. Proverbs 27:4 compares anger to a flood in its power to destroy and harm. Other parts of Scripture go as far as saying anger kills the foolish man. How?  By consuming our thoughts and dictating our actions which tend to bring with it all kinds of sin.  Your anger will bait you into doing things you regret and destroy the things that are most important to you.


We’ve got to go farther than anger management.  Anger is not to be managed, it’s to be mastered.  In order to learn what is required for mastery, you must start with a question, what did you not get that you wanted?  Then I must figure out if is it as important as I am making it out to be.  Is it worth destroying a relationship over?


This is my Prayer: Father God, instead of trying to justify my anger, help me to spend my energy on mastering it. Lord I know that all too often I take my anger too lightly and I lose sight of the distance it creates in my relationships.  Jesus show me how to not be a display of selfish anger, but to reflect Your heart and Your character.  Lord teach me to become a person who is patient, loving and forgiving. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57   Entries 181-185 of 285
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