June 28, 2011

Thoughts from Twitter

As I was reading Tweets this morning, I came across one by Rick Warren that said “Never follow a leader who always preaches against the sins of others but never publically confesses his own Luke 6:41-42.”  I sat back in my chair and took a deep breath.  What?  I was floored. 

I am often careful not to dwell on the sins of others.  I tend to beat myself up over my own as well as allow others to remind me of my sin.  I would often times turn to my leaders for direction and trusted their opinion, their wisdom.  I spent so much wasted time struggling with my own walk because of the judgments made by those in leadership or those I felt were godlier than I was and allowed them to assess my walk. This Tweet led me down a very different path.  How many of those people have ever confessed before me their own struggle with sin? I spent the morning in the book of James and gained some clarity about things that I have struggled with for such a long time.
Here was my journey through James this morning.

*James 1:2-3
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.

     I memorized this verse over the years.  It serves as my reminder that even when tested I should not be discouraged because it is a time when my faith will grow if I follow Him.

*1:5
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

     This morning this verse was perfect.  God should be my source of wisdom.  He IS MY perfect counselor and teacher.

*1:19-21
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  Human anger  does not produce the righteousness God desires.  So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

     A passage I chose to memorize years ago but struggle with on a daily basis.  What I recognized this morning was that this verse too could be turned around.  It is not just talking about my own anger but the anger of others as well.  When we lash out at someone in anger, we are not being righteous.

*1:26
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

Another epiphany this morning, those who can’t control their tongue are foolish and their religion is worthless.  How many times do we find ourselves crumbling under the harsh words of another?  Scripture says that those people are foolish and their religion is worthless.  Knowing this sure does make it a lot easier to stand strong under the weight of their words.

*2:8-9
Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself”  But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

I love this passage.  God’s word says we are to “love your neighbor as yourself” but if we love some and not others, we are sinning.  We are breaking the law.  Scripture says that someone who keeps all the laws except one is just as guilty of sin before God as those who have broken them all.  It means that if we choose not to show mercy to those who have wronged us or sinned, mercy will not be shown to us.

*3:5-9
In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.  People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.

I struggle with holding my tongue when I feel someone is being unfairly accused of something.  I don’t want to hurt others with my words but I struggle with the desire to defend.  I think we are to defend one another but not at the expense of cursing another or damaging their character.  An area where God is definitely working in my life.

*3:17-18
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.  And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

God is holy.  God is holy.  God is holy.  I need this reminder a lot lately.  If someone claims to be a Christian yet attacks my character in malice, it is not from God.  Wisdom and rebuke from God is pure.  It is peace loving and gentle. It is full of mercy.  If someone claims to have a word from God yet does so in an un-Christ-like way, it is not God.

*4:1-3
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?  You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.  And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

What causes fights?  The evil desires that live within in.  It stems from jealousy.  We want what we do not have.  We will scheme and fight in order to accomplish our agenda.  When our motives are not pure, we will not get what we desire.  Those who live in peace are those who are content in the Lord.

*4:8-10
Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.  Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

I mess up daily.  As hard as I try, I fall.  What I am learning is that God knows my heart.  He knows my intentions.  As I draw closer to Him and allow His word to permeate my life, I will find it easier to flee from sin.  I will recognize it faster and run further from the world and instead toward God.

*4:11
Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you.

This is a tough one for everybody.  We all find ourselves judging. It’s hard not to because as sinners we don’t want to think about our own sins.  It is so much easier to see it in someone else.  For me I keep this passage in mind when thin king of other people.  My job and desire is to obey God.  If I am picking apart other people then I am not being obedient and I am not pleasing God.

*4:17
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

Simple to understand.  If we know truth and do what we want anyway, we sin.

*5:1-5
Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags.  Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment.  For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

This passage brought comfort to me this morning as I pondered on the injustice my kids are experiencing.  God sees those that live their nice lifestyle, eat all they want and hold back from giving to others.  Each of those things will stand as evidence against those that chose to cheat others.

*5:13
Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 

Pray.  Just pray and give praise.  No matter what the mood or circumstance, we should pray always.

Through our struggles, we can lose sight of our goal.  In the end, all that matters is that we live a life that honors and glorifies God.  We need to focus on our own walk, our own struggles and the truth of God’s word.  When life seems out of control, take time to sit as His feet and find comfort in the truth of His word.


June 26, 2011

Blessings from obedience

This week's promise: Blessings come from obeying God

What does God promise to those who obey?

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers. But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants; day and night they think about his law. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season withoutfail.Their leaves never wither, and in all theydo, they prosper.

Psalm 1:1-3 NLT

Do What He Says

Believers who build their lives on a solid foundation are like the man whom a reporter found in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. Amid the devastation and debris, one house still stood firm on its foundation. The owner was cleaning up when the reporter a pproached him. "Sir, why is your house the only one still standing?" the reporter asked.

"I built this house myself," the man replied. "I built it according to the Florida state building code. I was told that a house built according to code could withstand a hurricane. I did, and it did! I suppose no one else around here followed the code."

If you have built your life on Jesus Christ and His teaching, you will stand when the storms of life hit. If you are not merely a hearer but a doer of the His Word, you will endure. The true Christian—the one who has built his or her life on the right foundation—will stand the test.

Based on Breakfast with Jesus by Greg Laurie (Tyndale House) p 113


June 22, 2011

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven,
      but dwelling on it separates close friends.
Proverbs 17:9

There is in fact a twelve step program for those dealing with the issue of offering forgiveness to another.  I believe it works but is a process and takes time to complete. Please be aware that I am currently under-going this process and quite often fall “off the wagon”. I then only find myself having to start all over again.





Twelve steps to Forgiveness

Step 1: Start by asking God to bring those to mind that you need to forgive.  This list should include everyone (past and present) you have had issues with or have caused you pain. 
Step 2:  You must acknowledge the hurt AND the hate.  For each name on the list, write down specifically what it is that needs to be forgiven.  (Example: rejection, abuse, lack of love, betrayal, injustice) Remember as you are recalling these past hurts, that it is not a sin to acknowledge the reality of your emotions.  God knows your heart, your thoughts and your feelings toward that person.  True forgiveness starts in the heart when all issues are dealt with and not buried.
Step 3: Understand the true magnitude of the Cross.  Because of the cross, forgiveness is morally and legally right.   When Jesus died upon the cross, He took the sins of not only those that have hurt you but your own sin as well.  Justice is found in the cross.
Step 4: Accept that you will have to live out the consequence of the sin of someone else.  This means that you cannot retaliate.  You cannot throw their sin back in their face at a later time. 
Step 5:  Forgiveness is a crisis of the will that means that you have to decide that you will forgive.  You may not feel like forgiving but God requires it.  He will enable you to do it if you truly seek forgiveness with all of your heart. 
Step 6: Take you names before God and pray.  Pray specifically for each person until each and every hurt is covered and brought before the Lord.  Don’t just pray, “I forgive so and so”.  Address each hurt.
Step 7:  Destroy the list.  Light it on fire and let it go.  You are now free.  There is no need to tell anyone what you have done.  This is between you and God.  Your freedom comes from Him alone!
Step 8: Accept that though you have chosen to forgive this person/persons that there may not be significant changes in their life.  Instead, choose to pray for them that they may find the same forgiveness you have found.
Step 9: Take the time to understand those you have chosen to forgive.  Don’t rationalize their behavior but try understanding that they may be dealing with pain too.
Step 10: Expect only the positive.  In time, those people will no longer trigger an emotion of pain.  It does not mean that you will like those who have abused you but you are totally free of them.  It also does not mean that those feelings may not try to resurface but if they do, thank God for His provision.  You have dealt with the issue now let it go!
Step 11: Thank God for every lesson you have learned throughout your journey.  Thank Him for the maturity you have acquired through your choice to forgive.
Step 12: Be sure to accept your share of the blame for the offense that you dealt with and confess your failure to God and those you have offended.

Remember that you are the only one on this planet who can keep you from being the person that God created you to be.  Everything and everyone else can only be used as obstacles to throw us off course. 

There are three kinds of people: “Some are blind and need to be led to Jesus.  Others see people like trees.  They scratch one another or compare their leaves with one another.  But we are not trees.  We are children of God who are created in His image. “  Neil Anderson

June 21, 2011

Entrapment

“I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.
When I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me. But I had no peace of mind because my dear brother Titus hadn’t yet arrived with a report from you. So I said good-bye and went on to Macedonia to find him.”
 I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes."

2 Corinthians 2:5-12



Have you ever had to deal with the issue of forgiveness?  How about living with the consequences of sin caused by someone else?  These can be hard things to work through when you have experienced any kind of pain. As followers of Christ, we have to learn how to resolve the conflict that has occurred in our past by forgiving those who may have hurt or offended us.  If you’re anything like me, you hear the words forgive and immediately think, “Why should I?  You have no clue how bad they hurt me.”   Problem is that forgiveness is not an option.  God requires it and our relationships with others have to be established by the same criteria for which God bases His relationship with us.  

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a] who sins against me? Seven times?”
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven![b]”
 Matthew 18:21-22

God calls us to love and He calls us to forgive. A lack of forgiveness towards another leaves the door open for Satan to gain entrance into OUR life.  That’s right.  We may not be the one who caused the pain but if we do not forgive, we become a prime target for Satan to use us. It is a form of entrapment and forgiveness is necessary in order to avoid it. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.  Ephesians 4:31-32 This is tough stuff to hear.  Especially if the hurt you have experienced runs deeps. 

Sometimes when we are dealing with hurt, people tell us that we need just to forget about what happened or what was said in order to forgive.  Forgiving is not forgetting.  In time, God may remove that hurt where it is no longer at the forefront of our mind but forgiveness does not mean we forget what was done. Forgiveness does not mean that we must tolerate sin of others and allow someone to use us as their doormat.  We should lovingly confront those who hurt us, making them aware but still forgive the past sin.  At the same time, we should also take a stand against their future sin as well. 

Now it must be understood that taking a stand does not mean seeking out revenge.  As much as this hurts to say, it does mean that we are to “let them off the hook”.  I shudder at the thought but am then reminded of a just God who promises to make everything right in the end.  “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,  “I will take revenge; I will pay them back," says the Lord.” Romans 12:19

Here is what forgiveness means as a Christian.  It means that we have to live with the consequences of another person’s sin.  Whether we choose to forgive that person or not, the consequences caused by their sin will always be our reality.  Example:  Someone in your church gossips about you all over town.  They then come to you, confess and ask for your forgiveness.  You cannot retract the gossip.  It is out there and cannot be taken back.  No matter how you respond to this persons request for forgiveness, you will ultimately have to live out the consequences of their sin and bad choices.

That can be a very hard truth to swallow.  We all want to believe that God’s justice, His revenge will avenge us and make things right.  That is not always the case.  We all have and are having to live with the consequences of someone else’s sin.  We all are living with the consequences of Adam’s sin.  We have a choice.  We can choose to live in the bondage of bitterness or we can choose the freedom that comes from forgiveness.

As the victim, we find ourselves saying, “I just can’t do it.  I cannot forgive these people.”  The problem with this thinking is that as long as we remain stuck in that frame of mind, they will still be able to hurt us.  There is only one way to stop the pain.  Forgiveness is the only key that will unlock the door and free us from our past.  In order to find healing, you have to forgive.  We do not choose to forgive for the sake of others but instead for our good.  Those who have caused harm may never know the damage they have caused and may never be aware of the fact that you chose to “let them off the hook” but God will.  From that choice, He will bless you and begin to heal the hurt within.  From there you will experience a new beginning, a new joy and a heart that will find healing.


June 20, 2011

Keep your mouth shut!

18 Hiding hatred makes you a liar;



slandering others makes you a fool.


19 Too much talk leads to sin.


Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.


20 The words of the godly are like sterling silver;


the heart of a fool is worthless.


21 The words of the godly encourage many,


but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.


22 The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich,


and he adds no sorrow with it.


23 Doing wrong is fun for a fool,


but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible.


24 The fears of the wicked will be fulfilled;


the hopes of the godly will be granted.


25 When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away,


but the godly have a lasting foundation.

Proverbs 10:18-25


God is faithful beyond words.  I woke up this morning and as I did my quiet time, God brought me to Proverbs 10.  Little did I know as I was reading it that later in the day it would be just what I needed.  God is so good that way.

It is hard when we are under attack to oftentimes stay confident.  We may know who we are in Christ when times are good, but we can quickly lose our confidence when Satan whispers lies into our lives.  That happened to me today. 

As I began to feel the hurt come on, God put those words from this morning in my head. 

Hiding hatred makes you a liar;

slandering others makes you a fool.
Too much talk leads to sin.
Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.

Proverbs 10:19

Those two verses say it all.  A person shows their true colors and the condition of their heart by simply uttering too many words.  They are just unable to keep their mouths shut.  God calls it sin.  I call it hurtful and un-Christlike. 

God promises me hope when I choose Him as my foundation.  My choice then becomes to stand firm on Him.  He is my solid rock and because of Him, I will not sink.

June 18, 2011

The Christian and depression

Bill Bright, Charles Stanley and Max Lucado have played a significant role in my life over the past two years. I had no one to share biblical counsel during that time that I trusted. However, God used these men and their writing to encourage me, convict me and grow my faith.

God can use anyone to speak to us. I lived in a place where I had been shunned by those I once trusted and would have gone to for help. I was alone and scared but I prayed. God heard my prayers and each time I visited a used book store there would be yet another book by one of these writers that spoke truth into my life. Instead of turning away and losing my way, I was able to hear God's voice over the drama and found my way back.

As I dealt with depression throughout my situation, I often questioned who I was and God's place in my life. There is not a lot of help out there for Christians dealing with depression but thankfully there are resources. There are many who have suffered or are suffering from depression and you need to know there is hope. Sometimes those closest to us are too close to help us cope and heal. If you are alone pray and ask God to place someone or the right resource in front of you that will help find your way again.



The Solution To Depression


We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish (Hebrews 12:2, NLT).

Dear Friends,

Jim grew up in Kenya, the only son of a missionary family.He came to America for the first time when he entered college at18 years of age. Although he was fascinated by life in the United States, he was terribly homesick, and longed to return to East Africa's simpler way of life.

A few months before graduation, however, Jim met Carol, a lovely Christian girl who wanted to serve the Lord. The two fell in love and married. Before long they were expecting their first child, and their move to Kenya was postponed. Then little by little, Jim realized that Carol did not really share his dream to return to Africa and carry on his parents' ministry.

She loved him, and dearly loved the Lord Jesus, but living in Africa frightened her.

As years went by, Jim's hopes of returning to Kenya faded. He gradually became distant and depressed. He began to gain weight, and the migraine headaches that had always troubled him grew increasingly severe. For a brief period of time, he became dependent upon a prescription drug.

Fortunately, Jim received good counsel from his pastor, and through prayer and love, was eventually restored to joy and peace in our Lord.

Although Jim's circumstances were unique, his symptoms were not. Christians are not immune to depression. It is not something to feel guilty about. But unless the depression is caused by some chemical imbalance, there is something we can do about it.

Jim's problem came from unfilled personal desires. Depression can be triggered by disappointments in life, or tragic events, such as the loss of a loved one. All these things are understandable.

But if anyone ever had a reason to be depressed, it was our Lord Jesus Christ. "He was despised and rejected -- a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief" (Isaiah 53:3, NLT). He knew that as only a young man at age 33, He was going to be tortured and publicly executed by the most painful method of execution ever devised by man -- the dreaded crucifixion.

If depression ever tries to come upon you, think about our Lord, what He did, and the victory He has given us to overcome the world. Negative attitudes leading to depression can severely handicap us in our witness to others, and God has given us the way to deal with it.

"Every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God." (1 John 5:4-5, NLT).

Yours for helping to fulfill the Great Commission each year until our Lord returns,

Bill Bright

June 16, 2011

Counter Attack

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
   “I will take revenge;
      I will pay them back,”[a]
      says the Lord.
 20 Instead,
   “If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
      If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
   In doing this, you will heap
      burning coals of shame on their heads.”[b]
 21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Romans 12:14-21

We have an enemy in this world.  We have an enemy whose mission is to steal, kill and destroy.  (John 10:10) This enemy will use whatever means necessary to win.  This enemy will take whatever action needed in order to make you stumble and fall or doubt yourself.  He is the master of what he does and often succeeds in accomplishing his task because he moves in such subtle ways. 

His attacks are cunning and sly.  He sneaks in while you’re not looking and oftentimes you are totally unaware of his presence.  He starts in a simple way.  He can use the words of another that lead us to question who we are in Christ.  We begin to doubt our worth to God. 

Our mission is to share God with the world.  We are to make His name known and He has blessed us each with unique gifts that we are to use in order to be His hands and feet.  For some it is hospitality.  We love to entertain and have people into our homes.  We enjoy loving on people and showing them the love of God through our service.  For some it is music.  For some it is writing. For some it is speaking.  The list goes on.

The enemy knows our gifts and knows that we are equipped to use them to share God’s love.  This is where he will begin to attack.  If he can destroy what gift God has given to us then he has a victory under his belt.  We must think of these attacks as if we are fighting a physical war.  Though this battle is spiritual and we cannot often see what is taking place, spiritually we are able to feel the effects.

We must go into battle with our counter attack planned.  Satan has been defeated.  He will not ultimately win in the end and he knows this but his plan is to take as many down with him as he possibly can. Will you fall victim to his schemes?

God has equipped us with all we need in order to defeat the enemy. One of the key verses above as a counter attack is “Bless those who persecute you.  Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.”  It is so hard when someone has hurt us to hold our tongue. Our tongue is wicked. Human nature (the world) says to defend and even lash out but God’s word tells us something completely different. (James 3:6) Instead of lashing out, we pray.  Have you ever prayed for someone who has hurt you?  It is hard not to find a place of love for that person when you are lifting them up in prayer.  It is even harder to hold back forgiveness.

Our counter attacks against Satan are not difficult.  “So humble ourselves before God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come close to God and God will come close to you.” James 4:7-8 They only require that we love God with all of our heart, mind and soul.  By doing those things, we are able to focus on truth.  We are able to think on things that are “…true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me-everything you heard from me and saw me doing.  Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

When we focus on God and His truth, we can easily defeat the attacks of Satan.  The word of God is the most powerful weapon we have and the enemy cannot stand up against the truth of God’s word.  We are able to go into battle without fear  and the assurance of victory because no weapon fashioned against us can stand against God!

 “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4 [a]We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5