Spirit Filled Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday is only a few days away, so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about it in today’s blog.

Let’s start by looking at Ephesians 5:18-20.

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The major truth in this passage is underlined. It is being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the key to living the Christian life.

Being “filled with the Holy Spirit” – is a command and it’s talking about now – today. It’s talking about doing it in the present. God is interested in how we are living our lives today. You know, we like to think about the past – nostalgia – the good old days. And we also love to think about the future – we tend to fantasize about how we want things to be. But the truth is – we only live in the present. And God says we have to live it under the Spirit’s control.

In the passage Paul says there are two results that happen when we are filled with the Spirit. The first one — is we sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and we make music to the Lord in our hearts. This is a picture of a Spirit filled person with a heart full of joy. A Spirit filled person literally overflows with songs of love and praise and happiness and contentment and joy of the Lord. A Spirit filled person has no room in his heart for sorrow and grief and pain and regrets. I think you would agree that’s a wonderful way to live.

The second result is giving thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. A Spirit filled Christian is thankful to God — for everything. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his courts with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.”  That’s the way God wants us to enter His presence. Why?

Because thanksgiving is the ultimate form of worship. It gets our focus off of ourselves and on to God.

You see the essence of worship is focusing on God. A thankful heart allows that, because it recognizes God as the source of everything. It says — “God be praised” — in the midst of the good and the bad as well as the extremely difficult. A thankful heart sees beyond pain – it sees the sovereignty of God. A thankful heart believes Romans 8:28 — which says, “God works everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

A thankful heart says, “God I thank You for hard times.” “I thank You for a difficult marriage” “I thank You for a job that’s unfulfilling.”  “I thank You, because You are using all these things to make me like Jesus.”

After Job lost everything – what did he do? He worshipped God. Let’s look at Job 1:20-21.

“Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, ‘I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!’”

That’s maturity – that’s a Spirit filled person.

Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So, we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

So, our ultimate response to God must be thanksgiving. However, this brings up several questions. First of all – what are we to be thankful for? The answer is EVERYTHING. Second – when are we to be thankful? The answer is ALWAYS. Everything and always.

But you say, “You don’t know what I am going through. It doesn’t matter – always be thankful. “You don’t know what’s going on with my teenagers and how they are treating me.” It doesn’t matter — always be thankful. “You don’t know how terrible my job is. You don’t know how unfairly I am being treated.” God says — ALWAYS give thanks.

But through a burdened heart you may ask, why? Why must I do that? Because it recognizes God is in control, and He uses everything that happens to us to make us like Jesus. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

But let me ask – how often when trials come into our lives do we gripe and complain instead? We start to second guess God. We forget what James told us in James 1:2-4.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

Once again, God is working through our circumstances. He is using them to mature us. Admittedly the trial is still painful, but knowing how God is using it for our good helps us to endure.

Well, that’s it for now. Think about what we have said as you celebrate Thanksgiving this year…

The Promises of God: Becoming An Overcomer

Becoming an Overcomer- The Promises of GodToday’s we are going to start a new blog series about the promises of God. The Bible contains many promises of God which help us deal with life. That’s because each promise is an expression of God’s wisdom.

I think everybody will agree that we live in a difficult time in world history. Our world today is an extremely dangerous and troubled place. Just before Jesus went to the cross He told His disciples that this would happen.  Let’s look at John 16:33.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

The setting for this passage was the upper room where Jesus celebrated His last Passover with the disciples. The disciples knew He was the Messiah, and they thought He was about to establish the Kingdom of God. But, instead, He told them that that He is going to be killed. This was not the first time Jesus told them that, but for some reason they never fully understood it. That is — until then. And, as you might imagine, they were very upset. So, Jesus attempted to comfort them, and His efforts are recorded in the Gospel of John in chapters 14-16. Finally, in John 16:33 – the passage we just read — Jesus said, “Take heart, because I have overcome the world”.

OK, so what does He mean?  Well, before we answer that, let’s talk about what it means to “overcome the world”. As we have just said the world is an evil place. Since the fall of Adam and Eve – God has allowed Satan to have limited influence in the world. The Apostle, Paul, understood that, and in 2 Corinthians 4:4 he called Satan — “the god of this world”. Paul recognized that Satan had some influence over the world’s values. And — people who live in the world – who are part of the world – accept these values.

For example, the world says there is no absolute system of morality. It says that moral standards are whatever you think they are.  So, if it’s right for you — then it’s right – as long as you don’t hurt anybody. The world says we have to be politically correct, so it accepts things like: same sex marriage, gender change, euthanasia, abortion, global warming, and so on.

The world also embraces false belief systems — like materialism, atheism, communism, socialism and many other isms. The world says that position and power and money and personal beauty are the most important things. So, the world promotes pursuit of empty and meaningless idols of all kinds. The result of all this is sin.

People sin with impunity – and they don’t care. Everyone falls short of God’s righteous standards. Paul summarized this in Romans 3:10-18. Let’s look at what he said.

“As the Scriptures say, ‘No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies. Snake venom drips from their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. They rush to commit murder. Destruction and misery always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace. They have no fear of God at all.”

As a result, death has entered the world, and people who are in the world are hopelessly stuck. That’s a accurate description of what is called the human condition.

Well, Jesus solved the problem of the human condition by “overcoming the world”. He did that by dying on the cross for the sins of mankind – by paying the entire sin debt of the world. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose from the dead. He defeated death, and He broke Satan’s control over the world. So, He said take heart.  We now have a choice.  We can follow Him instead of Satan

This whole process of overcoming the world is called salvation. Salvation assures our eternal destinies. That means after we leave this world, we will live in heaven forever.  We will be perfect — there’ll be no more tears or pain or sorrow or grief. We will do incredible stuff with God – way beyond our wildest imaginations — for all eternity. We will never be tired or bored. We will be in a state of constant exhilaration.

Well, that all sounds great – and we all look forward to it — but what about the remaining time we have here on earth?  We’re still in this sinful world – filled with flawed people. We still have a sin nature. Satan is still here – and he’s still committed to make us fail. We’re still confronted with all the natural disasters, and wars, and famines and pain of this world. And we still sin. So how are we supposed to deal with all that? Well, God has given us some resources.

These resources are His promises in the Bible, and – as we have said — there are many of them.

There are different opinions about how many there actually are. Some people think there are just a few and others think there are many. Dr. Herbert Lockyer has written a book entitled, “All the promises of the Bible.”

He says there are over 8000 of them, which he had documented in his book.

OK, so, what exactly are the promises of God? Well, very simply they are God’s offer to help us deal with the problems in our everyday lives. There are promises that relate to fear, peace, pain, suffering, grief, happiness, prosperity and so on. The list is pretty endless.

Well, that sets up our discussion for next week. Next week we will start looking at some of God’s promises and talk about how to use them.

See you then ….

Daring Faith: The Key To Miracles- What Happens When We Have Faith Part 6

What Happens When We Have FaithIn today’s blog we will look at the last three benefits of looking at life through eyes of faith. Let’s look at the first one.

When I look at life with eyes of faith God fulfills His promises.

There are over 7,000 promises of God in the Bible. They’re like blank checks waiting for us to claim them.  If we want to be people of faith, we must become promise people.  We must know the promises of God, and claim them when appropriate. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 1:20.

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And THRU Christ, our “Amen” (meaning our “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.”

Let me use an illustration to explain what this means. Let’s say we are going through the attic in our grandma’s house. We discover a letter in an old trunk promising a million dollars to anybody who finds the letter.  But we don’t know who wrote it, so we don’t know how to collect the money. Essentially the letter is worthless. However, this is not true with the promises of the Bible. We know the author of the promises, and we know how to collect. And here’s the best part — they are all guaranteed by Jesus. When we pray through a promise — it goes straight to God — to be fulfilled for His glory.

When I look at life with eyes of faith God turns dreams into reality.

This is very important for us to understand. Very little happens until someone has a dream — a vision — a goal — a plan — which gets things moving. So, we must get into the habit of dreaming — of having goals and visions. Take a look at Ephesians 3:20.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us….” 

I call this a blank check verse. It says God is able to do far more than we would ask or imagine. So, let me ask you — What are you afraid to ask God for?  God is able to do far more than we could even dream. I can almost hear God saying: “Think of the greatest thing you could ever dream of — the most fantastic thing that would blow your mind — and I will top that.”

Alright let’s look at the last benefit.

When I look at life with eyes of faith God gives me power to hold on in tough times.

Sometimes life is difficult and we have to hang in there. Eyes of faith help us do that. Take a look at Psalm 30:5.

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning”.

Our eyes of faith may often be filled with tears, but eyes of faith also see joy forthcoming. In past sermons I’ve talked about Corrie ten Boom who was a young woman sent to the Nazi death camps. She was in Buchenwald and Auschwitz.  She said that the people who lasted the longest in those camps were those who had the deepest faith. Why? Because faith gives us the power to hold on in tough times. It produces persistence. It gives us the ability to bounce back.

I have not admitted this to many people, but there have been times when I wanted to resign as pastor of River Church. This desire is often strongest on Monday morning for some reason. I frequently get into conversations with God.

  • “God, I don’t know what to do”.
  • “I’m not smart enough.”
  • “Are You sure You got the right guy?”

The answer I keep getting back is “Look with eyes of faith — not eyes of fear”.

Let me close by recapping what we said. When we look at life through eyes of faith, it:

  • Shrinks our problems
  • Opens the door for miracles
  • Allows God to act on our behalf,
  • Unlocks the promises of God
  • Turns dreams into reality
  • And gives us the power to hold on in tough times.

Unfortunately, you won’t experience any of these benefits until you have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I remember when the space race first got started, and we were racing the Russians to the moon.  For a while, Russia was actually ahead. They were sending up cosmonauts before we did. The first Russian cosmonaut was Yuri Gagarin, and he was an atheist. He was the first man to circle the earth. When he returned he said, “I searched the heavens, and I found no God.”

A few months later, John Glenn, who was a Christian, went up and circled the earth three times.  When he came down, his first words were, “I saw God everywhere.”  He said, “I felt his glory in the heavens. I saw his presence in the stars. I felt his power in the sun. I saw God everywhere.”

So which astronaut was telling the truth?  The answer is, they both were.  However, one could see and one could not. Jesus said, “Unless you’re born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” So, let me ask you — are you born again?  If you are not — you can become born again right now. You can do it through praying the following prayer.

Lord Jesus, yes, as much as I know how, I open my life and my heart to you right now. Please come in and forgive all the bad things that I have ever done or will ever do. Please change me and make me like You. I want to learn to love you and trust you and follow you. I want to put my faith in you.  In your name I pray, Amen.

Daring Faith: The Key To Miracles- What Happens When We Have Faith Part 5

Part 5- What Happens When We Have Faith What Happens When We Have Faith

In today’s blog we will continue our discussion of looking at life with eyes of faith. Today we are going to talk about the benefits of doing that. Let’s start with the first one.

When I look at life with eyes of faith my problems shrink.

Why? Because I begin to see what God is doing. I begin to see things from God’s viewpoint. I say to God: “Lord, You’re a big God.”  “You are in total control.”  “I know You can handle this problem, so I give it all to You”.

That takes the pressure off, because now it God’s problem. It’s no longer my problem. Genesis 18:14 asks the question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  The answer is, no. In Luke 1:37 Jesus said, For nothing is impossible with God!”

The other day I was reading about a famous preacher. He said if you come to his office and try to look up the word “impossible” in his dictionary, you wouldn’t find it. He said 35 years ago, he cut it out of his dictionary.

He said, “If it’s not in God’s vocabulary, it’s not in his either”.  So that’s the first benefit — our problems shrink.

Let’s look at a second benefit.

When I look at life with eyes of faith doors open for miracles to happen.

Faith can move mountains. Let’s look at Mark 11:22-23.

“Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.” 

OK, so what is Jesus talking about?  Well, we know God created the universe, and He established physical laws to govern it. In this passage Jesus is saying the law of faith can supersede physical laws of the universe.  Jesus is talking about miracles, and that’s why He tells us to put our faith in God. God controls the universe, and He’s the only One Who can suspend its laws.

Let me ask you — what’s the mountain in your life? What do you think will never change? Let me ask you — are you sure?  Maybe God will suspend the laws of nature and do a miracle for you. It’s not like he has never done that before. I remember one time we had a Celebrate Recovery meeting at our church. When we finished our meeting one of the people discovered they had locked their keys in their car. So, we tried all kinds of things to get the car open. Finally, someone said, “Let’s pray”. So, we did. No more than 5 minutes later a guy drives up and asks if we need some help. It turns out he was a car repo guy, and he happened to have the exact key that opened the car door!

I think that was a miracle. The guy said he was going home and he always took a different route, but for some reason he decided to alter his course and drive down our street!!!!

OK, let’s look a third benefit.

When we look at life with eyes of faith God moves on our behalf.

Now, I do not subscribe to what is called health and wealth theology. That’s a belief system which says God will give me any thing I want if I believe it hard enough. That’s a false system of belief.  But having said that, let’s look at Matthew 9:29-30.

“After Jesus left the girl’s home, two blind men followed along behind him, shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” They went right into the house where he was staying, and Jesus asked them, “Do you believe I can make you see?”  “Yes, Lord,” they told him, “we do.” Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.”  Then their eyes were opened, and they could see! Jesus sternly warned them, “Don’t tell anyone about this.”  But instead, they went out and spread his fame all over the region.”

Jesus said, “because of your faith it will happen”. OK — so what does that mean — and how can we apply it?

Well, we can ask ourselves the same question Jesus asked the blind men. Jesus asked, “Do you believe I can make you see?”

Let’s translate that to a question to one that applies to us. “Do I believe God can do what I ask?”

That’s the same question. If my faith says “yes” God can work a miracle — there’s a strong chance He will do it. Now having said that — we have to understand that God sees the big picture. It may be that what I am asking for is not beneficial — even though I might think so. However, God will still give an answer — but He will do what is beneficial. So, faith says — God, I know You can do what I am asking”. But if You don’t — I know what You will do is better.”  That’s still putting faith in God.

That covers three benefits of looking at life through eyes of faith. Next week we will finish up and look at three more. See you then…

Daring Faith: The Key To Miracles- What Happens When We Have Faith Part 4

What Happens When We Have FaithPart 4- What Happens When We Have Faith 

 In our previous blogs we have been looking at faith. We defined faith, and we looked at two examples of people in the Bible who exhibited such faith. We also talked about the opposite situation — when people do not live in faith – but, instead, live in fear. Today we will continue our discussion.

 When we look at life with eyes of fear we underestimate our own abilities.

Let’s go back and look at the story when Moses sent the scouts into the promised land to assess the feasibility of conquering it. Twelve were sent in. Two of them felt confident about taking the land from the current occupants. Ten of them were afraid. In Numbers 13:33 the ten reported, “Next to them (current occupants) we felt like grasshoppers…….”

Talk about low self-esteem. These guys are saying — we’re insects — we’re a bunch of bugs compared to these guys. They were still thinking like slaves. That’s understandable because they had been subjugated by the Egyptians for 400 years.

Let’s stop here a moment and apply this to us. A lot of us let negative events from our past influence us today.

That’s particularly true when people make negative statements about us. “Oh, you’re so uncoordinated.”  “You’re stupid.” “You will never amount to much.” And so on. We hang on to these negative messages — even though the people who said them may not be around anymore. But we let them influence us today.  That’s what our mind does. It puts us into bondage and keeps us there.

Celebrate Recovery is a great program that can help solve this problem. When I go to an AA meeting and introduce myself, I typically say, “Hi, my name is Bob, and I’m an alcoholic or whatever.”  I may have been sober for 35 or 40 years, but I still say, “Hi, I’m Bob and I’m an alcoholic.”  I am identifying myself with my struggle.

However, in Celebrate Recovery, I say, “Hi, my name is Bob — I’m a follower of Jesus — and I struggle with alcohol.”  There’s a substantial difference between the two introductions. My identity is not my addiction, and it’s not my weakness. My identity is in Christ. That frees me from bondage.

You see when we identify ourselves by our weaknesses — we are underestimating ourselves. Now I’m not saying that we don’t have weaknesses, because we do. But we also have power in Jesus. And that’s where we need to focus. OK, let’s look at a third problem.

A third thing that happens when we look at life with eyes of fear is we get discouraged.

Let’s look at Numbers 14:1.

“Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night.” 

They had a giant pity party.  Waa. Waa. Waa. Poor us — boohoo — we don’t get to go into the Promised Land.

They were discouraged, and when people get discouraged they often gripe and complain.

Let’s look at Numbers 14:2-3.

“Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?”

After they finish their pity party they complain against Moses and Aaron. And they also blame God. They mourn — they murmur — they cry — they complain — and then it got worse.

Let’s look at Numbers 14:3.

“Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

These people blamed their leaders for bringing them to Promised Land! Can you imagine that! The Promised Land was a blessing from God! However, their fear kept them from seeing that, and they start second guessing.

They think about the “good old days” in Egypt.  Good old days? Four hundred years of slavery and oppression? They have to be kidding!

But you know once again we can’t completely fault the Jews, because we often do the same thing. When we are faced with the unknown, we always want to return to the familiar — even if it’s horrible.

OK, we talked about three major consequences of looking at life through eyes of fear.

  • We exaggerate our problems.
  • We underestimate our abilities.
  • We get discouraged.

Next week we will talk about the benefits of looking at life with eyes of faith. There are several we will discuss. See you then…

Daring Faith: The Key To Miracles- What Happens When We Have Faith Part 3

Part 3- What Happens When We Have Faith

What Happens When We Have Faith

In our previous blogs we have been looking at faith. We defined faith, and we looked at two examples of people in the Bible who exhibited such faith. Today we are going to continue our discussion and talk about how to apply what we have learned to our lives.

There are two ways we can look at what happens to us.  We can look at what happens through eyes of fear — or we can look at what happens through eyes of faith.  That’s really it — there are no other options that I can think of.

A good example of this is the story of the Jews entering the Promised Land. Moses led the nation of Israel out of Egypt. However, Pharaoh changed his mind and decided to get the Jews back. As he and the Egyptian army crossed the Red Sea after the Jews — God destroyed them. From there the Jews traveled in the desert for 2 years, until they came to a place called Kadesh. Here they’re made plans to cross the Jordan River and go into the Promised Land.

This was the land that God promised to give them to be their permanent country, but before they went in, Moses said, “I am going to send in a team of 12 scouts to scope out the land”. So, he does, and when they return from their scouting trip, they give a mixed report. Two of them (Joshua and Caleb) say, “It’s an incredible place — God gave it to us — so let’s go take it.”  But the other 10 said, “Yeah, it’s a great place, but…… they came up with a lot of reasons why they couldn’t go in.  Joshua and Caleb were seeing with eyes of faith, but the others were seeing with eyes of fear. So, the Jews decided not enter the promised land, and they wandered in the desert for next 38 years.

We can learn some lessons from this story about looking at life with fear. I want to discuss three scenarios. Let’s look at the first one.

When we look at life with fear, we exaggerate our problems.

Le’s go back to the story of the Jews. God had dramatically delivered them from bondage in Egypt, so you think they would be filled with courage and confidence. However, when they arrive at the Promised Land, they were filled with fear and worry. How quickly they forgot. But before we fault the Jews — we have to realize that we do the same thing. We often look at our problems with eyes of fear — and when we do that — we make them bigger than they really are — and we often want to give up.

Let’s look at Numbers 13:27-28.

“This was their report to Moses: ‘We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey……….  But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!’” 

This was the report of the 10 fearful scouts. They accurately reported the land was bountiful. But they said the people living there were powerful — their cities are fortified and large — and they saw giants!

However, Caleb had a different perspective. Let’s look at Numbers 13:30-33.

“But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!” But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. ‘We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!’  So, they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: ‘The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge.’ We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers ….”

The majority report was negative, but that’s not unusual. The majority report is almost always negative.  The majority are almost always looking with eyes of fear and not eyes of faith.  Only two of the scouts had faith — Joshua and Caleb.

Here’s something else that’s always true — people naturally listen to worriers and naysayers. Negative attitudes are contagious.  Initially all the Jews were excited about going into the Promised Land, but when the 10 scouts came back and said, “We can’t do it” — everybody changed their mind and became infected with negative attitudes.

What’s ironic is 38 years later — when the Jews finally did take the promised land — the people living there said.

“We have lived in panic for 40 years because we heard about the 10 plagues of Egypt”. We heard what your God did against Pharaoh. And we were scared to death!”

The Jews needlessly wandered in the wilderness for 38 years because of their exaggerated fears. And that’s the problem we often encounter.  When we look at life with eyes of fear — we exaggerate our problems.

That’s the first issue with being fearful. Next week we will look at a second issue. See you then!

Daring Faith: The Key To Miracles- What Happens When We Have Faith Part 2

What Happens When We Have FaithPart 2 of What Happens When We Have Faith

Last week we started a new blog series about faith. We started by defining faith. We used the definition in Hebrews 11:1, which says,

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

Today we are going to continue our discussion and look at some examples of people in the Bible who exhibited this kind of faith. Let’s start with Noah in Hebrews 11:7.

“It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.”

To help us understand this passage we need to look at several related passages in Genesis. Genesis 6:9 says Noah was a righteous man, and he walked in fellowship with God. Genesis 6:13 says God told Noah that He was going to flood the earth and destroy every living thing. He also told Noah to build a large boat, and He gave Noah the blueprints to build it.

OK, so imagine what Noah must have thought. He’s in the middle of the desert, and God wants him to build a big boat. This thing is 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet tall. That’s 1 1/2 times longer than a football field and it’s three stories high. That’s going to take a lot of wood — not to mention all the work. Noah didn’t have access to a union hall to get carpenters, so he had to rely on his family for labor.

Genesis 6:22 says Noah believed God, and he did what God told him to do. That’s fits the definition of faith that we just talked about. I’m sure Noah didn’t understand everything God told him. He probably had never seen a flood, so that was beyond his level of understanding. He was the middle of the desert where ships were not normally in use. And while He was building the ark, he probably got a lot of ridicule from his neighbors. Plus, it was hard work.

He had to find the trees — he had to cut them into lumber — and then put it all together. And he didn’t have any power tools. But Noah believed God, so he built the ark. And then God told Noah to collect pairs of animals and put them in the ark — with all the food they needed. That was a monumental undertaking too. Noah was not a ship builder or zoo keeper, but he did what God told him to do. That’s faith.

OK, let’s look at one more story. Let’s look at Abraham in Hebrews 11:17-18.

“It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” 

The Bible tells us in Genesis 22 that God spoke to Abraham and told him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah. Sometime earlier God told Abraham that Isaac was the child though whom he would have many descendants. So, imagine what Abraham must have thought.

“God — I’m confused”.  You promised to give me a son, and you did — even though Sarah and I were well past child bearing age. You told me I was going to have many descendants through him — as numerous as the stars in the sky. And now you are telling me to kill him!” But then Abraham said, “OK — I’ll do what you say”.

That also fits our definition of faith. Hebrews 11:19 says,

“Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again……” 

Abraham never doubted God — even though circumstances demanded otherwise.

These are just two stories of many stories about people in the Bible who had the faith to believe God. There are many other stories we could look at, but I think you get the idea. Next week we are going to talk about how to apply this definition of faith to our lives.

See you then …

Daring Faith: The Key To Miracles- What Happens When We Have Faith

Today we are starting a new blog series called “Daring Faith — The Key to Miracles”. In this series, we are going to take a good look at faith.

To start with let’s look at Romans 1:16-17.

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith.  As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

Let’s also look at Hebrews 11:6.

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” 

Ok, so what is faith? A good definition of faith is in Hebrews 11:1.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

Notice the expressions, “Confidence that what we hope for will actually happen”. And “Assurance about things we cannot see”. So, what is it that we are hoping for — and what is it that we can’t see? The answer is WHAT GOD SAYS IS TRUE. In the Bible God gives us over 7000 promises about various things He says He will do. Each promise requires that we believe He will do them. We don’t know when or how, but we believe He will. That’s faith – expecting God to do what He says He will do.

For example, In Romans 8:28 God says He will make everything work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Our lives may be completely messed up right now, and everything might be on fire — but we believe God’s promise. We believe HE WILL work out circumstances for our good, and we are confident. Why? Because we believe God’s in control — and HE WILL DO WHAT HE SAYS HE WILL DO. That’s putting faith in God.

Hebrews 11:1 says faith is the assurance of things we cannot see. So, if we are going to put our assurance in something we can’t see – it had better be reliable. If we put our faith in other things (like ourselves, other people, politicians, money, etc.) we will soon find out that they are not reliable. However, there is nothing more reliable than God, and what He says is true.

Next week we will dig into this and see how we can use it. See you then …

When We Are At The Breaking Point Part 2

Stress (Part 2)

Last week we began a discussion about how to deal with stress that is affecting our lives in a negative way. The first method we discussed was releasing our frustrations. Today we are going to talk about another approach for dealing with stress when it is building up in our daily lives.

A second approach is RESIST becoming bitter.

Bitterness often happens when we are under stress and think we are stuck. We start feeling resentful. We think, “This is unfair — I’m a good person — This shouldn’t be happening to me.”

But the truth is problems happen to everybody — that’s life – we can’t avoid them – so, we need to deal with them. Unfortunately, many people choose unproductive methods for doing that. They will say ” I’m never going to let anyone hurt me again — I’m going to build a wall — I’m going to retreat into myself.”

Let me tell you, that approach never works. The truth is we can’t prevent problems from happening, but we can control how we respond to them. We can decide if we are going to live a life of bitterness or live a life of happiness. Contrary to what a lot of people think, it’s a choice that we can make.

After many years in ministry I have observed that there is no correlation between circumstances and happiness. Many people think, “If I could just get my circumstances lined up the way I want, I would be happy.” “Or if I could get all my problems solved, I would be happy.” “If I could just get married, or have kids, or have a certain career, or whatever, I would be happy.” But that isn’t true. We all know people who have everything in life and are still unhappy. On the other hand, I’ve known people who have gone through terrible circumstances and still maintain a happy and cheerful heart.

Hebrews 12:15 says that bitterness is a devastating force in our lives.

“Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you. It causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.”

Bitterness doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change the past. It doesn’t affect the future. All it does is mess up today.

So, what’s the answer? How do we avoid bitterness? The answer is gratitude — it’s being thankful. Studies have shown that gratitude is the healthiest emotion we can possibly have. So, when you are in the crucible, I exhort you to find something to be thankful for. Count your blessings. You can’t be grateful and bitter at the same time. It’s one or the other. When you invite gratitude into the front door, bitterness automatically goes out the back door.

Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

“No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you.”

I hear people say, “I wish I knew God’s will”. Well, here’s one expression of it. By the way there are thousands of expressions of God’s will throughout the Scriptures. They are found in what is called the promises of God. In this case God says, “No matter what happens, always be thankful.”

There is an interesting story about Corrie Ten Boom that demonstrates this. She was a Dutch national who was interned in the Ravensbruck concentration camp in World War II. One day she and some of the other prisoners in her barracks decided to thank God for the lice. There was a horrible infestation of lice in the camp.
Lice were into everything — their clothes, their hair, etc. So, you might be wondering why in the world would they be thankful for that? Well, as it turned out the German guards would never go into their barracks because of the lice. That meant they could have as many Bible studies and prayer meetings in their barracks as they wanted, because the would never be discovered. The point of this story is you can always find something to be thankful for – no matter what the circumstances. You just need to have the proper mindset.

OK, that ends our discussion for today. Think about this and determine how you can apply it to your situation.

Next week we will talk about another method for dealing with everyday stress.


When we are at the breaking pointWhen We Are At The Breaking Point

If we don’t have any stress in our lives, chances are, we are pretty close to being dead. We all need a certain amount of stress in our lives to accomplish what we have to do. Stress can stimulate energy and effort to get things done. However, it’s also true that too much stress can be bad. In fact, unrequited stress can bring us to the breaking point.

So, what do we do when we find ourselves in that situation? In this blog we are going to look at five suggestions that the Bible offers for dealing with stress.

The first thing the Bible suggests we do is RELEASE our frustrations.

Release — that’s a wonderful word. In Mathew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come to me and I will give you rest.” He was talking about release. Whenever there is stress in our lives, there is always related emotions. Things like anxiety, worry, fear, depression and so on. And many times, when we are under stress, we ignore these emotions. We do that is by pushing them down. That’s swallowing everything up and pretending it’s not there. It’s wearing masks and ignoring pain. There’s a name for that. It’s called stuffing.

Let me ask you a question. Do you think that’s what God would really like you to do? In other words, does God want you to be phony? Does He want you to be a hypocrite? Feeling one way and acting another? I don’t think so.

No, God wants us to be real. He understands we have these emotions. He created us and gave us the ability to feel them. But He wants us to acknowledge them — He wants us to identify them. And THEN He wants us to express them to Him. He wants us to release them, because He knows if we don’t, they will hurt us.

Let’s look at Psalm 62:8.

“O my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.”

A refuge is a safe place. God says “Pour out your heart to Me, because I’m safe”. God says, “You don’t have to worry about Me.”

So we can go to God and say, “Lord, here it is! “Here’s how I feel, the good, the bad and the ugly.” “I’m stressed. I’m frustrated. I’m irritated. I’m angry. I’m depressed.” “I’m mad at you.” God says tell me all about it.

Let me tell you something about our feelings. If we don’t deal with them now, we’ll have to deal with them later, because feelings will pile up. If you let them pile them up, they’re will explode. It’s like taking a bottle of coke and shaking it. That’s what stuffing does. God says don’t repress your feelings. Don’t pretend they don’t exist. And don’t rehearse them. That’s hanging on to them until they gets bigger and bigger in our minds. God says, “Talk to me”.

Let me ask you, have you ever been so stressed out that you couldn’t pray? Have you’ve thought, “God’s nowhere to be found”. “He’s not even within fifty miles.” “And I don’t think He cares anyway.” Well, let me tell you, that’s not true. That’s a lie straight out of the pit of hell. God never leaves us. There may be times when you might think so, but He never does. God sees and knows everything that’s going on.

Let’s look at Psalm 31:22.

“In panic I cried out, ‘I am cut off from the Lord’. But you heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help.”

God is always available. He always hears, and He says release your frustrations to Me anytime, anywhere, anyplace.

OK, that’s the first thing we must do when we feel stressed out to the max. Next week we will talk about a second thing we must do.

Have a good week!