All posts in Faith

The Journey

There is a new commercial out by the transportation company Lyft.  It says that “It’s not where you’re going that matters; it’s how you get there!”  I wonder about that…  It seems to me that both the journey and the destination are important, but for very different reasons.

The Journey

Man Standing At Beginning Of Winding Road — Image by © Images.com/Corbis

One of my dearest friends in the world is suffering right now and has been for an extended period of time.  He is stressed financially and at 65 years old has little hope of recovering, save a miracle.  His family is in conflict and can’t get along; The hurricanes of recent have messed with his house. His insurance it threatening to cancel and he just found out that his wife has breast cancer and she only gets 2 weeks of paid absence from work; not to mention that they have a $6k deductible on their health insurance.  He has asked me, “Can it get any worse?”  Yes, it can get worse, but it sure doesn’t feel like that is possible from his perspective right now.  Plenty of people have it worse off, but this is a very heavy load and it makes a person wonder about the efficacy of prayer and whether God really cares.

The Destination

On the other hand, if all we ever worried about was what goes on in this fallen world, then we would be very short-sighted, wouldn’t we?  Paul said it best when he said,

“If in this life only we have hope, we are of all creatures, most miserable!”

~ 1 Corinthians 15:19 ~

For many, the hope of eternity with God is all they have to justify the suffering in this life.  However most Americans, even in the worst situation, live like kings compared to the rest of the world. And if you are a Christian, you believe that God is preparing a place for us where we will be eternally happy, safe and secure.  Consider these great promises from the very lips of Jesus:

“In my Father’s house are many mansions … I go to prepare a place for you that where I am, there you may be also.”

~ John 14:2 ~

And the Apostle Paul assured us …

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard the things which God has prepared for those who love Him!”

~ 1 Corinthians 2:9 ~

This brings up a foundational question:  Do you love God?  We don’t need to waste our time asking whether He loves us, because He already told (and showed) us that was the case.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but has everlasting life.”

~ 1 John 3:16 ~

So why do we suffer?  Volumes have been written on this subject, but let’s consider a few answers and see if they satisfy our need to understand God’s ways:

  1. This world is fallen …
  2. We may need correction …
  3. We are being prepared for our future assignment …
  4. Suffering builds our faith …
  5. Others are watching how we react …
  6. Suffering may be the first necessary step to getting to success …
  7. The answer from God is either No or Not now …

Now look back on some of your sufferings and ask yourself if those thoughts help in any way?  If they don’t, then I would offer an additional thought to consider that we can only take in by faith:  If we knew what God knows, everything would make sense; therefore trust God!

Do you consider God trustworthy?  That is what it all boils down to … Is He as good as His Word?  Your answer to that particular question is the most important decision you will ever make.  God loves you and demonstrated that on the cross of Calvary.  That is a hard fact you can take to the bank.  Trust in God and in the end you will be glad for every step He has taken you on in your journey; no matter how rocky the road.  I can personally attest to God’s faithfulness in my life and hope you can too.

Scripture tells us that King David was a man after God’s own heart.  Here is what he was thinking as he went through some very troubling times in his life.  I pray it will help you as it has helped me when I had to look up to see bottom.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

~ Psalm 23 (NIV) ~

 

 

What’s In A Name?

Today I met a young man who had a very unusual name. It caused me to ask him about where he was from and to engage him in a conversation. Dale Carnegie said that a person’s name was the most beautiful thing they could ever hope to hear. I have found that asking a person about their name is an excellent place to start a conversation.

GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS

As we spoke (he was driving me someplace and we were drawing closer and closer to our destination) I popped a couple of questions:  “Have you ever thought about your spiritual life?” Then a second question –  I asked my new friend if he was a Christian or Muslim or had any faith at all?  He told me that his parents were Christians but that he was not very religious. So I asked him to consider something hypothetical. “If you found a watch laying on the sidewalk wouldn’t that tell you that there was someone someplace who had placed it there? And what about this car we’re driving in; Someone had to make it. It didn’t just happen all by itself. Consider how complex the human body is or the world we live in; Doesn’t it suggest that there must be a creative mind behind it?  And if there is a supreme being out there who created all of this, wouldn’t he get in touch with us? Wouldn’t it be his desire to connect with us and tell us about himself? That’s why God sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world – to enable us to know Him and to experience a relationship with Him.”

I WAS NAMED AFTER THE PROPHET, NOT THE TRIBE

My new friend stopped for a second to consider what I had shared with him. He told me that he agreed with what I said and asked me what my name was? I told him my name was Daniel and that I was named after the prophet and not the Jewish tribe in the Bible…We both laughed!

I look forward to talking with him again and It all started because I asked him about his name.

Scripture says that someday God will give us a new name in heaven. I believe He will name us according to our assignment and faithfulness to it here on earth – that’s just my guess and remains to be seen, but I know there’s a lot to the name that we carry. God re-named the Apostle Peter and when He gave Peter his new name he said,  “On this rock (his new name meant ROCK) I will build my church.” God renamed many people throughout Scripture according to their task or their mission. What kind of name do you expect to have in eternity? I hope mine won’t be Ichabod.

What’s in a name?  Everything! It might be the very means God has given you to crack a cold heart so He can break through!

“Therefore God exalted Him (Jesus) to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” ~ Philippians 2:9-11

Attitude Determines Altitude

The Way Up Is Down …

You have heard that attitude is everything … right?  Well it’s true!   Let me tell you why that is so.  Psychologists tell us that it is not actual reality but how we perceive reality that is the most important factor.

In our model Jesus, we can see this perfect example.

Philippians 2:5-11 (KJV)

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What words come to mind as you meditate on this passage?  Humility…  surrender… exaltation… those are some which come to mind for me.  Let me answer my question with another question:  How was it possible for Christ (the God-man) to be so yielded to God that he could be perfectly aligned with his Father’s will?  Set aside, if you can, the fact that he himself was God and concentrate on the fact that he was also fully man.  What can you and I learn from His example?  Can we get to a place in our personal life where we are fully directed by the will of God?  And if we can arrive at this place, how can we achieve this depth of Christian life? Do we even want to follow Christ that closely?

Paul said that he wanted this kind of walk with Jehovah God.

Philippians 3:10-12 (KJV)

1That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

Let us join Paul in making this our goal and pursuit.  God is willing if we are. Do you believe that?  What stands in our way?  If we begin with the attitude of Christ and believe that no price is too high, we are well on our way to the heights which only heaven can offer.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” ~ Philippians 4:13

Where would you like to start in your own life? Let’s begin by listing the top 3 or 4 areas of our life where we tend to be least spiritually submissive to God. What kind of strategy can we put into place to move us in the right direction? Do you have an accountability structure? Can you memorize Scripture that references your battles? What other ideas can we build into our life to assist in this pursuit? Give this discussion serious consideration because your attitude will determine your altitude.

Heart-Broken

A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE ON THOSE WHO HAVE TAKEN THEIR OWN LIFE FOR THOSE OF US WHO LOVED THEM AND ARE LEFT BEHIND.

We want to AND MUST remember our beloved friend who has taken his (or her) own life, because we cared for him and we want to honor his memory. We especially want to express our love to remaining family and all those left behind who are suffering from this tragic loss. This is in fact where we can have the greatest impact.

It is impossible to adequately describe the emotions we feel at the loss of someone we love – especially when the circumstances are so unexpected, tragic and needless.

As a Christ-follower first, and a clergyman second, I PRAY that I can accomplish three important things in my brief remarks here –
1. First and foremost we want to remember our beloved friend … now gone.
2. Second, although we will never forget him, I hope to give us more closure on our loss … so we can
continue to move forward with our lives in a positive way.
3. Lastly, I want to give you comfort and hope for the future … by sharing some of what God says in His Word about death, and this particular kind of untimely death, so you will be better prepared when and if it comes to you again.

I pray God will preside over and guide both my words and your thoughts as you consider these remarks with me.

In times of death, any death, many emotions flood our mind – loss, fear, sadness, questioning, hopelessness, despair, anger, resolve and even courage – I want these remarks to be uplifting and hopeful for you. There is hope – God cares for you! – I Peter 5:7

ABOUT OUR DEPARTED FRIEND…
– Whatever their age, we never expected their life to end so suddenly with so much left to be lived and experienced with them. Perhaps they were giving, caring, talented, kind, loving and a wonderful friend to many… and much more … They will be sorely missed.
– If we believe they knew the Lord and accepted Him as their personal Savior – that makes a tremendous difference. If we are not assured of this fact, we can only pray that this was the case and focus on those left behind.
– But we do know that he was surely OVERWHELMED by life and SCARRED from circumstances and DEPRESSED and the pressures became just too much for him – leading to this final and terrible act of desperation.

Let me address something very directly that we all wonder about but MAY not be sure if it is appropriate to discuss …
– A person who takes their own life is wrong to do so, that is in within the purview of God’s authority alone, but it does not make them a bad or evil person. Suicide is an act of desperation brought about by irrational thinking, but it is an act that God can and does forgive if we are His …
– If our friend has trusted Christ for his salvation, we can rest assured that we will see him again and ALL those who have gone before us into the valley of the shadow of Death (remember it is only the shadow of death because Christ has taken the sting out of death by giving us eternal life when we placed our faith in Him to do so.) This means when our beloved appeared before God in heaven they were warmly embraced by God as He welcomed them into eternity. There is no doubt about that.
– We ourselves have hope of a better day. I want you to personally have that hope of eternal life because it is available to all who want it.
– If you don’t understand what I am talking about but want to know more about what the Bible teaches about eternal life in Christ, I hope you will correspond with me so we can discuss this in more detail.

One of my favorite Bible passages is PSALM 15

1 Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
3 Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.
4 Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the LORD, and keep their promises even when it hurts.
5 Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever.

However the problem with this passage is that it is in the Old Testament and emphasizes the Law and the Commandment and does not take into consideration the New Covenant we have in Christ whereby Jesus has fulfilled the law and now serves as our lawyer and commander.

It is not by works of righteousness which we have done but because of His mercy (Jesus) we are saved … by Grace as a gift of God … Titus 3:5-7/Ephesians 2:8-9

Some New Testament Scripture verses that clearly teach assurance of salvation for the believer:

We are saved by the grace of God, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9) and nothing can separate a Christian from the love of God (Romans 8:37-39).

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” — John 5:24

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”—John 10:27-29

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”—1 John 5:11-13

I am guessing you may be asking yourself questions like: Why did this happen? Could I have prevented it? What would I have said or done if I had known it was coming? Where does this leave me? How can I go on? Some of these questions are unanswerable and others are not …

We could not have known that our friend would have been gone from our lives so soon
Maybe you have something you wish you could have said to him before he left us or perhaps you wish there was something you could do or undo that you feel sorry about …

We best honor our beloved’s memory if we learn from these missed opportunities and apply them to our life today so we do not have these kinds of regrets again with another person we love.

Something to think about …

At Day’s End
Is anybody happier
because you passed his way?
Does anyone remember
that you spoke to him today?

The day is almost over,
and its toiling time is through,
Is there anyone to utter now
a kindly word of you?

Can you say tonight in parting,
with the day that’s slipping fast,
that you helped a single brother
of the many that you passed?

Is a single heart rejoicing
over what you did or said?
Does the one whose hopes are fading
now with courage look ahead?

Did you waste the day or lose it?
Was it well or sorely spent?
Did you leave a trail of kindness,
or a scar of discontent?

As you close your eyes in slumber,
do you think that God will say,
“You have earned one more tomorrow
by the work you did today?”
~ John Hall

A. Part of getting closure on our loss is to commit to learning from it and living our future life with fewer regrets and performing more positive acts of love.

– Learn to verbally express your care for others often and out loud in words
– Perform kind and sensitive acts of love for those around you
– Help to point others to that kind of life too
– Prepare yourself to be with loved ones again in eternity
* Our loved one had placed his trust in Christ
* You can see him again if you are willing to give your life to Christ

“If in this life only we have hope, we are of all creatures most miserable.” – I Cor. 15:9

B. That takes me to our future and how we live our life today and tomorrow.
– Life goes on … how will you live it? For yourself or for God and others?
– A life devoted to personal pleasure and self-gratification is an empty life. Maybe you don’t buy into the ideas of a Creator who rules over the universe or organized religion (I’m talking about a personal relationship, not religion) – but that’s your call and you will live with the consequences of your decision right or wrong.  In any case, I hope you see the benefit of doing good to others and putting them ahead of yourself.
– We can transform our disappointment and negative emotions into something positive if we will allow them to mold us and motivate us to be better persons today and in the future.

A FINAL QUESTION – Scripture and experience tell us that … “it is appointed unto man once to die … and after that the judgment.” – Hebrews 9:27
When Death comes into our life again (and it will come again) how will you respond?

IN SUMMARY

1. We thank God for our departed loved one
2. If we need help we will ask for it
3. We will care for one another
4. We will use this experience to make us better people
5. With God’s help we can prepare for the future and rest in the knowledge that He cares for us!

“Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your power, grace and mercy. Please confirm these truths in our heart by your Word and apply them to our life … We pray this in the strong name of Jesus. Amen!”

My Funeral

I am told that Billy Graham had at one time expressed a desire to make a video addressing those who might attend his funeral some day; because he wanted to be sure the gospel would be clearly presented on that occasion. They were even talking about conducting the service at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. and had the service all worked out in great detail.  In keeping with this type of planning and organization, I actually have a file of ideas that I have been collecting for my eventual funeral.  Today I added a few more great notes that I hope my family will honor when I am looking down from eternity.

I have repeatedly gone on record saying that I wanted my funeral to be a very sad occasion with worldwide media coverage.  They will probably need to have an advance press conference, a press table, and wait several days to hold the service to enable media representatives to travel to Dallas from various parts of the globe.

To set the proper mood, my funeral should be scheduled on a cold rainy day at about 4pm on a Thursday. I say that because I want it to be the last thing my friends do before they go home so they can continue to reflect on my passing the rest of the evening. I would prefer that they do not watch any TV that night and perhaps fast for the remainder of the day.

At the funeral, I want the dress code strictly enforced to show the proper respect.  Everyone attending will be required to wear black or they will not be admitted to the inner sanctum but relegated to the overflow seating in the parking lot.  No bright colors will be allowed.  The service would probably be held at Cowboy’s Stadium to accommodate the crowd. Otherwise if a smaller venue is all that is available (say 15,000 seating capacity like a large Baptist Church) multiple services might be needed and this would be unfair to all those who want to attend the big event .  Of course the major networks would bid for rights to provide a live feed to ‘pay-for-view’ TV.  The money raised would be given to find the cure for whatever had killed me.  And we would provide huge screens situated around the facility to give the live audience maximum viewing enjoyment of this powerfully moving event.

There would be no charge for those who came so “see me off in person” as a final gesture of my magnanimity.  To offset the costs of this extravaganza and allow more to go toward charity, souvenirs and 8×10 color shots of the service highlights and me would be sold on the way out.  A magnificent eight-color program would be sold to attendees with sponsorships by major corporations.  The contents of the program would highlight all of my life’s greatest accomplishments and feature testimonials by world leaders and celebrities who had known me.

I request that flowers be piled high around the exterior of the stadium but left outside to facilitate the maximum seating capacity inside.

All the men whom I have impacted over the years would assemble to participate in the service. They would be dressed in identical black tuxedos (no tails) with grey cravats, black square-toe zip boots and white gloves, but no hats.  They must be clean shaven with fresh haircuts or we cannot include them.  It would be their job to line the aisles all across the stadium and seat guests as they arrive.  During the musical portion of the service I would like the Temptations and the O’Jays to sing and these many men to dance in the aisles in unison as back-up to the music.  The audience would be required to remain seated and no onlookers would be allowed to come up to my casket at this time because the crowd could become unruly.  Opportunity to pay homage will be given later at the conclusion of the service.

Seating and staging will be in the round.  The very first thing the audience would hear as the service commences would be a tremendous pipe organ playing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The sound will fill the place with sacred vibrations and focus the audience on what is about to take place. Then everyone in the audience will stand and the platform guests and participants will take their place and THE HOUSE WILL BECOME SILENT. The lights will dim and A LONE BAGPIPER WILL LEAD THE PROCESSION as it wails “Amazing Grace.”  My casket will be carried to center stage by 10 pallbearers selected by an anonymous committee to avoid any resentment or retaliation by those not chosen.  A single white spotlight will follow the procession as many swoon and weep.  Ushers will be careful to assist onlookers who are overwhelmed with emotion.  Nearby hospitals and ambulances will be on the ready as needed.

I will repose in my elaborately decorated and bejeweled golden casket.  It will be opened so I can be kissed on the check.  I will have on a brown houndstooth sportcoat with a top pocket full of gospel tracts I have written and a placard over the pocket saying “Free. Take One!”

Ha!  Ridiculous!  None of this will ever happen!

In all seriousness, today I attended the real funeral of a godly woman who went to be with Jesus after a long but hard-fought battle with cancer.  The church was full of those she had impacted.  It was tremendously moving and I was so glad to be there.  As I sat contemplating life, I started thinking about my own death some day.  My thoughts naturally lead to me ruminating on my life and what I was doing with my time and relationships here and now. It was a good worthwhile time of meditation and as a result I came to three important conclusions:

  1. Serve God with a view toward eternity
  2. Love others and invest in them
  3. Live each day to the fullest

My funeral is coming and so is yours.  Will we be ready?  Will it be a celebration of our life or just a period at the end of a long meaningless sentence?  We get to decide now while there is still time…

“I Will Rise”

BY CHRIS TOMLIN

“There’s a peace I’ve come to know.  Though my heart and flesh may fail.  There’s an anchor for my soul.  I can say “It is well.” Jesus has overcome.  And the grave is overwhelmed.  The victory is won.  He is risen from the dead.  [Chorus:]  And I will rise when He calls my name.  No more sorrow, no more pain.  I will rise on eagles’ wings.  Before my God fall on my knees.  And rise.  I will rise.  There’s a day that’s drawing near.  When this darkness breaks to light.  And the shadows disappear.  And my faith shall be my eyes.  Jesus has overcome.  And the grave is overwhelmed.  The victory is won.  He is risen from the dead.  [Chorus:]  And I will rise when He calls my name.  No more sorrow, no more pain.  I will rise on eagles’ wings.  Before my God fall on my knees.  And rise.  I will rise.  And I hear the voice of many angels sing,  “Worthy is the Lamb.”  And I hear the cry of every longing heart,  “Worthy is the Lamb.”  [x2] [Chorus:]  And I will rise when He calls my name.  No more sorrow, no more pain.  I will rise on eagles’ wings.  Before my God fall on my knees.  And rise  I will rise.”

“I consider my life worth nothing to me, my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

Acts 20:24

EASIER SAID THAN DONE . . .

I have been a full-time vocational minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ all of my adult life.  But there has been a deficit in my effectiveness that is just now coming into view for me.  I have always had an easy life and many of my philosophical beliefs have never really been tested personally.  My ‘pat answers’ looked good on paper but they had not been truly tested in the Lion’s Den of experience as they were for my namesake.

In my 60’s now, I am excited about the last phase of my life.  I’m not quite a senior but getting there fast.  I am not playing it safe and I do not plan to ‘retire.’  Instead I am pouring it on as I round the corner heading into the straight-away for the finish line.  I hope to do it in style and finish as well or better than I started this race.  I am running with reckless abandon and taking risks I have never known before.

As a consequence, I am experiencing a lot of the bumps along the road for which I have been giving easy answers for many years.  It’s a pity that it has taken me so long to become tenderized to the genuine suffering of others.  It’s not that they don’t believe or have faith.  It’s just that life can be very hard and unyielding at times; for some – all the time.  I’ve still got a lot to learn in my ‘old age,’ but thank God I am learning it now.

Here is my hard-earned philosophy:

1.      Be slow to speak, but quick to listen.

3.     Learn to hurt with others.

4.     Don’t make excuses or just offer to pray for others, but help with your hands.

5.     Practice what you preach.

One thing is for sure; living the life of a Christ-follower is easier said than done, but it’s the only life truly worth living!

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ~ Matthew 7:22-23

COMMON SENSE

What is the difference between a lack of faith and good old common sense?  That’s a question I have been struggling with for some months now as the Lord stretches me and grows me in this area of my life.

First, a little background which might help you relate to my battle…

For months I have been waiting for some business ventures I have been working on to fall into place.  My reason for these ventures is to fund Kingdom work, but I have been frustrated at every turn.  Is that blockage because God is testing my resolve to do His work or because Satan wants me to quit?  I don’t know…

Deadlines have been missed time and time again and always with the promise that, “everything is ok” and “it will happen real soon.” So little by little I have run out of time and resources as I have waited for things to materialize.

Friends and family have shown concern and interest but not in as sincere a way as I would have hoped.  I’ve felt like the Psalmist who said “no one cares for my soul!” This has taught me a lot about showing compassion to others in a meaningful way.  Even those who have helped me have seemed to be reluctant and controlling.  To be perfectly honest, I just don’t get it and it hurts!

One other important point to bring into the mix:  All along I have stayed engaged in ministry and never set that aside just to focus on business.  I believe my success will never come if money becomes the controlling force and therefore I will minister to others with all my heart even when I am up to my eyeballs in business opportunities.  Ministry always comes first for me.

Now to the theological question…

When do we cross the line from being a person of faith over into being a fool?  This is my conclusion.  I am a sinful man and know I will certainly get it wrong some times.  But just like Peter who stepped out of the boat by faith, if I start to falter and go down into the water, Jesus will be there and reach out to save me (Matthew 14:28-31).  I have no doubt of that whatsoever! I have chosen to be a fool for Christ (I Corinthians 4:10) and ‘if I perish, I perish!’ (Ester 4:16).  Job said it best; “Though he slays me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).  I believe that I am seeking God in this endeavor.  I have put it all on the line with no reserve.  And even if I am wrong and this is just my idea of how to serve God but not His too, I believe He will step in and keep me from harm because He loves me and knows my heart (Daniel 3:17-18).

So then what’s the difference between having faith and abandoning our common sense?  The answer for me is that my trust in His character and provision, no matter what the outcome, require me to abandon common sense and be a man of faith. I will follow my heart to attempt great things for God and will go down swinging if need be.  But I will never give in to the notion that God is not sufficient for my every need. And if I fail, I know that He will help me get back up and together we will keep going hard at it until He takes me home.

HABITS and PRAYER

“IF YOU MAKE PRAYER YOUR HABIT IN THE BEGINNING, YOUR HABITS WON’T PREY ON YOU IN THE END”

I want to ask you 5 Questions:

  1. H – Heart.  What’s inside?
  2. A – Arriving.  Are you on the way?
  3. B – Battle.  Are you fighting alone?
  4. I – Intimacy.  Do you know GOD intimately?
  5. T – Transformation.  Are you a new creation?

We are creatures of habit and our habits reflect what is going on inside us; what we value and what we choose to make a part of our life.  We may have certain genetic propensities that make our choices more difficult but God is able to give us victory in this life and the life to come – if we will ask in prayer!

REMEMBER:  Prayer means to ask.

Hebrews 4:15-16

“For we do not have a high priest who is not able to sympathize with us but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

God commands us to develop good habits

2 Thessalonians 1:11

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.”

But our nature is fallen and we also develop bad habits

Romans 5:8
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. “

So my first question is “do you know God?”

– not, do you know about God but “do you know him personally?”

If the answer is “no,” I am going to help you solve that problem

PRESENT GOSPEL VERY SIMPLY and INVITE TO RESPOND AT END

If the answer is, “I’m not sure,” we can find the answer by looking at the fruit of our life…

If the answer is “yes, but I’m not following him as I should,” I’m going to ask you to decide to make a change (right now) as you listen to my words

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

[Let me just take a moment here to distinguish theologically between your STATE and you STANDING before God –

-Your STATE is your current condition before you are fully sanctified

-Your STANDING is how God sees you now based on His promises and how you will be in heaven when you are fully glorified]

My second question is a little tougher to answer

– do you know God intimately?

  • Are your thoughts about him continually?
  • Do you pray?

Psalm 50:15
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me.”

  • Do you desire to serve him?
  • Are you willing to make sacrifices to be his follower?
  • When you fail do you immediately come to him for forgiveness and restoration?
  • Do you find yourself seeking out others who want to be obedient to Christ?

James 5:16

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Our prayer subject is “habits”

But you see we can never behave as we should unless we are changed from the inside out. Our hearts must be changed

Jeremiah 17:9

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure…

Who can understand it?”

And even after we have surrendered our heart to God, we must moment by moment surrender ourself to obedience

1 Corinthians 9:27

“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

I’m not talking about the intolerance toward certain behaviors, but SIN; breaking God’s commands.  Are you deliberately and intentionally living outside of God’s favor?  Are you telling yourself that you can get away with “that” because times are a changing or God doesn’t care?

There is no easy path to discipleship –

Jesus calls us to follow Him … and die

Luke 9:23
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Your habits are a reflection of your heart and your heart is a reflection of your relationship with Christ … and yielding to the control the Holy Spirit over your life

MY TESTIMONY

I am 60 years old and have been a Christ-follower most of my life but It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I began to grasp the concept of surrendering my life to the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • How about you?
  • Have you given yourself to Jesus?
  • Have you fully surrendered to His Spirit?
  • Will you do so now?
  • Will you recommit yourself to be his devoted follower?

Earlier I said that the fruit of our life reflects what is going on inside

It’s very important to understand this in the right way.  We do not change our habits by strength of discipline or hard work but God changes our habits by first changing us from the inside out

STEVE McQueen STORY – “Can I still drink beer?”

Mark Twain said it this way, “habit is habit and not to be flung out the window by any man, but to be coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

Take the first step now as we pray and surrender yourself to God’s Spirit in your life.  Tell a friend about your struggle and work hard to overcome those things which so easily entangle you.

Hebrews 12:1

“… So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.”

Let’s Pray

Summarize in closing prayer

  • Heart.  It all begins with what’s inside. What is the source of your power?
  • Arriving.  Heaven is for arriving but are you on the way?
  • Battle.  The fight is not yours.
  • Intimacy.  How well do you know God?
  • Transformation.  If we are in Christ, we are a NEW creation – because God says so.

See the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TuGPj9oLIQ#t=32

—————————————

Daniel Southern

This material is copyrighted and may not be sold or redistributed without the express written permission of the author

NOT THE SAME

I have recently had the delightful experience of making friends with two medical doctors, both with a Muslim cultural and religious background. I consider both of them to be men of real quality and intellect and have developed a genuine affection for them. As we have come to know one another better, I have inquired about their spiritual beliefs and perspective on God. Neither one is devout in their Muslim faith but they do believe in God and the Golden rule’s importance… so far, so good! But the fundamental issue is not about how to be a Good person. What we need to ask ourselves is, AM I RIGHTLY CONNECTED TO GOD? This question is so important that we must not get it wrong.

 From non-Christians, I commonly hear that all religions are the same and that they all lead us to the same God. The reasoning goes: ‘It’s just that we are all from different parts of the world or family backgrounds which have a different way of expressing belief in God. If you are sincerely seeking God through your religion and treat others with love and compassion, you will be fine in the end.’ Let me give you just four good reasons why this logic doesn’t ring true:

1. All prophets are not the same. Compare what we know about the personal lives of Buddha, Mohammed and Confucius (or any of the other ‘prophets’) to Christ – all except Christ claimed to be mere men and all espoused radically different paths to God. Christ alone claimed to be, not only a prophet sent from God, but he claimed to be God in human form. He further said that he was the only way to God. An honest mind must conclude that Christ is either a liar, crazy or God, but he cannot be thought of in the same way as the others. Christ alone, and no other religious leader, ever had his birth foretold; let alone to the precise year – predicted hundreds of years in advance by Daniel the Biblical writer.  And there are over 300 other specific prophecies giving details of Christ’s life that could not be fabricated by his followers. Further, there are eight times as many prophecies speaking of Christ coming a second time in the future. To illustrate how amazing these fact are, consider that if you wanted to find any person on the planet you would only need maybe 4 pieces of reliable information (name country, street and address) to find them.  If you had over 300 pieces of specific accurate information, it would be impossible to miss them!  

2. All sacred writings are not the same. It is through these writings that we come to understand the basic teachings of any religion. The Christian Scriptures stand alone as the more well-attested ancient documents in all of human history. Even the writings of Plato and Homer have a far less certain pedigree. Careful study of the ancient Biblical documents reveals amazing uniformity despite having dozens of contributing authors, the prophetic elements of Scripture are accurate in every respect …and archeological, scientific and historical records are undeniably true. Having read and studied other sacred writings from most of the world religions, I can speak with some authority when I say they are not in the same category of literature.  They are simply not the same.

3. All gods are not the same. There is but one true God who is the creator and sustainer of life. However there are many pretenders to the throne. Look at the fruit of the tree to determine what kind of tree it is. We know that God is a mixture of many characteristics but He must always be consistent and righteous. When you see something that doesn’t fit that profile, you know that what you are looking at is not God, but a counterfeit and not to be confused with the genuine article. Only the God of Christianity gave himself in payment for the sins of his own creation. There is no greater love than that!

4. All religious teachings are not the same. Let’s lay aside the way adherents of every religion have gone astray. More importantly we need to examine the truth of the religion not the fidelity of its adherents. If you study the religions of the world, you will soon discover the differences are so enormous, even the most fundamental understanding of their teachings cannot be considered ‘the same.’ One example to consider is the method proposed for salvation. With the single exception of Christianity, all other religions require that we must work our way to God. If that is the only path to God, everyone is in desperate trouble because we are all seriously flawed. A Christian knows he cannot earn a place in heaven. For him, salvation is by faith in Christ’s perfection alone. We can never be good enough for God without Christ.  Only Christ was flawless and able to substitute Himself for me.

In summary, Christianity is unique. You may not embrace its teachings, sacred writings, its prophet or its God, but I beg you to understand that all religions are not the same. Try to put aside your preconceptions and hearsay. Examine Christianity with an open mind and I believe you will discover it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Please do not deceive yourself. All religions are not the same.

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” – 2 Peter 1:16-21 (KJV)