The Greatest Gift Part 3

In today’s blog we will finish our discussion of God’s Christmas gifts to us. In our first blog we said God’s greatest gift is eternal life. When we receive that gift, God gives us four additional gifts. Last week we talked about the first two – a new identity and power. Today we will finish our discussion and talk about the last two gifts.

The third gift God gives us when we receive eternal life is a new community.

God calls this community His family. Let’s look at Ephesians 1:5.

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure (meaning He was super excited to do it).”

So, what happens after we are adopted? Well, God unites us and makes us like Jesus. Let’s look at Galatians 3:27-28.

“And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

God’s family is not based on heredity or ethnicity or affinity or nationality. It’s not based on religious background. People can be Jewish or Muslim or Mormon or Buddhist or Baptist or whatever. They can even be atheist or agnostic. It doesn’t matter. Everybody is adopted into God’s family and becomes one when they receive the gift of eternal life. Everybody becomes a child of God.

The fourth gift that God gives us is a new destiny.

Earthly gifts don’t last, but God says, “My gift to you will last forever”. God says “I’m giving you a new destiny, and it’s permanent”. Let’s look at 1 Peter 1:3-4.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”

Notice God calls our new destiny “an inheritance that is kept in Heaven”. That means it’s impervious to change and decay. Now, I know for the past several weeks many parents have been searching for the perfect gifts for their kids. Let’s look at Matthew 7:9-11 where Jesus used this as an illustration.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

Jesus says in spite of being “sinful people” — we know how to give good gifts to our kids. And then He says how much more will our Father in Heaven — who is perfect — give us good gifts? But notice there is a condition for receiving God’s gifts – we have to ask Him. Well, you might ask, “Why doesn’t God just give them to us?” The answer is God never forces anything on us. He makes His gifts available, but He wants willing recipients.

OK, let’s summarize what we have said.

God says, “I sent my Son to die for you so that you could go to heaven. That’s my big Christmas gift to you.” And then God says, “When you accept that gift, I’m going to give you more gifts. I’m going to give you a new identity – in other words I am going to change who you are. I’m going to give you power to live the Christian life. I’m going to give you a new community to support you as you live your new life. And I’m going to change your destiny.”

Let me ask you. Where else can we get these things? Nowhere. They are not available anywhere else. But remember we have to accept God’s big gift first – eternal life through Jesus Christ.

So, if you have never prayed the prayer of acceptance that we talked about in our last blog, you can do it now. I have copied it here for your convenience.

Dear Lord — I realize that you love me. I know my sins form a barrier between us, but I know You want to have a relationship with me anyway. I know Lord Jesus that You removed that barrier by taking my punishment for my sins on the cross. I know You are offering to forgive me right now and remove the barrier. I accept your offer. I ask you to forgive all my sins. I ask you to come into my life and make me a new person. Please help me to follow You in all that I do. In your wonderful name I pray. Amen.

By praying that prayer, you have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Can you imagine if somebody offered you a million dollars, and said “I don’t want it? I’m happy with the way things are”. You might say, “Nobody would do that”. But — a lot of people have done just that — by refusing God’s priceless gift of eternal life….

See you next week.

The Greatest Gift Part 2

Last week we said God’s greatest gift to us is eternal life — made possible by Jesus. We said everybody needs to receive this gift. It can be received by praying a prayer of acceptance. Following is an example of this prayer.

Dear Lord — I realize that you love me. I know my sins form a barrier between us, but I know You want to have a relationship with me anyway. I know Lord Jesus that You removed that barrier by taking my punishment for my sins on the cross. I know You are offering to forgive me right now and remove the barrier. I accept your offer. I ask you to forgive all my sins. I ask you to come into my life and make me a new person. Please help me to follow You in all that I do. In your wonderful name I pray. Amen.

When we sincerely pray this prayer, God forgives all of our sins. This allows us to go to heaven where we will spend eternity with God. In addition, it opens the door for God to give us other gifts. Let’s look at Romans 8:32.

“Since he did not spare even His own Son but gave Him for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?”

OK, so what else does God want to give us? God has many gifts that He would like to give those who have received eternal life. I would like to talk about a few.

The first gift that God wants to give us is a new identity.

I recently read a letter that someone wrote to their pastor, and I have included a portion of it.

Dear Pastor,

I feel like for my entire life I have been defined by other people. First my mom constantly berated me to be something or someone she wanted me to be, but I had no interest in being. Sometimes my dad would join in. And the pressure to perform and to please and to gain their approval was overwhelming. I never felt validated growing up for who I really was. Then in school I always felt pressured by my friends to fit in and to be cool and to do things I didn’t want to do or didn’t like to do. I wore a mask and pretended a lot, most of my time through school. Then when I started dating and later when I married my spouse, I felt constant pressure to please and to stuff my own feelings and my needs and to be who they wanted me to be. I’ve worried so much my entire life about gaining the approval of others, I don’t know who I am or what I’m supposed to be.”

And the letter continues on from there. This person is confused about their identity. But the truth is most of us have the same problem – perhaps in different degrees.

Typically, when people are asked who they are — they answer in one of three ways. The first way is by identifying their work. They will say, “I’m an accountant… I’m a plumber… I’m a truck driver… I’m a homemaker…” whatever. But that’s not our identity. That’s what we do.

Another way people identify themselves is by their relationships. In this case people will say: “I’m a mom…a dad… a husband… a boss.” But once again that’s not our identity. That’s the people we interact with.

A third way people commonly identify themselves is by what they own. They will say I am a business owner – I’m a landlord — I have lots of money. But once again that’s not our identity. That’s what we have accumulated.

Our identity doesn’t come from any of these things, because when we lose them, we lose our identity. True identity can only be based on things that are true and immutable — things that are absolute and don’t change. And God is the only One Who can provide them. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 5:17.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ (someone who has accepted God’s big gift) has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

Notice the two expressions — “a new person” and “a new life has begun”. These expressions are talking about our new identity in Christ. Our old identity is gone. I’ve heard people say, “I wish I could start over”. Well, let me tell you — you can. When we accept God’s big gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ we are transformed. We are no longer who we were – we are now children of God. And God begins the work of changing us.

That leads to God’s second gift which is power.

God wants to give us power when we receive eternal life through Jesus Christ.

This is power that we didn’t have before. Actually, we get a new power source — which gives new energy, new strength, new capacity, new insight, new knowledge. We don’t have to depend on our own power any longer.
This a big change.

For years we have attempted to manage our own lives — using on own power. We set goals. We made plans. We implemented them. But most of the time we fell short. Why? Because when we rely on our own power, it’s never enough. We ultimately get tired and overwhelmed and fall short and give up.

What we need is extra power – beyond what we have. And God says “I will give it to you”. God says, “When you accept my gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ — I will give you the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God – just like the Father and the Son are God. Each One is a separate Person — but They are equal – and They are all God. And it’s God — the Holy Spirit — Who comes to live within us. Imagine that! The God of the universe – almighty and powerful and eternal God – living in us!

Well, that covers two gifts that God wants to give us after we have received eternal life. Next week we will talk about two more. See you then …

The Greatest Christmas Gift

The Greatest Gift Of All

The Christmas season is here! Wow, that was fast! Every year it happens in the blink of an eye. It comes and goes so fast that we barely have time to think about its true meaning or its purpose. There’s so much “hub-bub” – so much to do – so much distraction. In the next two blogs I want to take a little time out and focus on the purpose of Christmas. So, let’s begin.

I believe the whole purpose of Christmas can be summed up in one of the most famous verses in the Bible — John 3:16.

“God SO LOVED the world that HE GAVE his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life!”

I believe this verse summarizes the whole purpose of Christmas. From this passage we can see that love is a starting point. It says “God so loved the world” that He gave His Son.

You know we can give without loving, but we can’t love without giving. So, God first loved us, and that inspired Him to give us the first Christmas gift. And that gift is eternal life made possible only by the Lord Jesus Christ. God was the first Giver, and He started the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time. And not only that — God’s first gift is the greatest and most expensive gift ever given. Nothing since can ever match it.

Let’s look at Romans 8:32.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Notice the logic here:

• God loves us so much that He sent Jesus Christ to earth to die on the cross for us.
• And here’s the amazing part — Jesus willingly agreed to do that!!!
• He agreed to step out of Heaven to come to earth and die a horrible death to pay for our sins.
• Now, if God loves that much, surly He will take care of all our other needs too.

That’s what the passage says. And that includes everything — bills, health, relationships, family, work — every aspect of life. God wouldn’t save us at such a huge cost just to leave us alone to fend for ourselves. That wouldn’t make any sense.

In this passage I want you to notice the phrase “along with him.” It’s already underlined. That’s the assurance that God is giving us everything else – ALONG WITH JESUS. God is not holding anything back. That’s a powerful truth that we need to let sink in.

Let me ask you — have you ever received a gift inside of a gift? I’m sure some of you have. You get a box — you open it up — and there’s another box inside. You open that one and there’s another box inside of that one. And you keep going until you finally reach the gift. Romans 8:32 is like that.

God’s gift to us is Jesus. Jesus represents the “big box”. But inside this box are many smaller boxes, and they represent other gifts. But they are all WRAPPED IN JESUS. So, when we get Jesus, we get all the other gifts that God wants to give us as well.

The New Testament talks about these gifts. If fact the words “gift” and “gifts” are used 66 times in the New Testament. It’s one of the major themes.

In next week’s blog I am going to open some of those gifts and take a look. We are not going to look at all 66 gifts that are mentioned in the New Testament — but we are going to look at several, which I call the major gifts.

OK, I can’t wait. Until then – happy Christmas!

The Promises of God: Becoming An Overcomer Part 2

Becoming an Overcomer- The Promises of GodA few weeks ago we started a series on the promises of God. However, the series was interrupted by our Thanks giving blog. We are now ready to return to the promises of God.

Let’s start by talking about why God gave us His promises. We can find the reason in Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

God wants us to trust Him with all our heart, so, what does that mean? Well, the Bible says the heart consist of three components – which are — our reason – our emotions – and our wills. Let’s talk about each component.
First, our reason. Our reason is our ability to think. God thinks, so He’s given us same ability. Obviously not at the same level He does, but nonetheless we do have the ability to think.

Second, our emotions This is our ability to feel things like love, anger, grief, happiness and so on. God feels emotions, and He gave us this ability as well.

And finally — our wills. This is our ability to make decisions. God makes decisions, and He has given us this ability too. Proverbs 3:5-6 says that God wants us to trust Him using these three components of our humanity.

However, God doesn’t want us to depend on them exclusively. Why would God say that? Because we are not infinite — we have limitations, so, God says seek His will in ALL THAT WE DO. That’s an all-inclusive command which covers everything. God says when we do that, He will show us the right way to go.

Now people often say, “I don’t know what God’s will is, so, how can I seek it?” Well, God’s will is knowable through His promises. All of God’s promises all use the same expression. God says, “I WILL” do something. That’s a clear expression of His will. It couldn’t be any clearer than that, and since there’s over 8000 promises, we have over 8000 expressions of His will.

Let’s look at one of His promises – the promise of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16-19.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.”

This is one of God’s greatest promises. Why? Because first of all – The Holy Spirit is God. When Jesus said He was sending another advocate to take His place, the word, “another” means “another One just like me.” So, the Holy Spirit is an exact replacement of Jesus, and since Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is also God.

Secondly, Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would reside within each one of them. That was a significant change, because Jesus was outside of them, but His replacement would be in them. And by the way — that promise was not only for the disciples, but for everybody who is a Christian. Paul confirmed that in Romans 8:11.

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit provides power. That’s what Jesus promised just before He ascended into heaven. Let’s look at Luke 24:49.

“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

OK, so that raises a question. What kind of power does the Holy Spirit provide?

We answer that question next week. See you then …

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!