Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

“…but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14 NIV)

Picture a large meadow of yellow flowers bowing to a gentle breeze. This golden pond of beauty is densely populated on the outer edges by trees that stand stoic throughout the course of time. The summer sun hangs lazily alone in the afternoon sky against a canvass of aqua blue. The air is punctuated periodically by God’s curious creatures that fly about on cue — assuring the casual observer that life is more than worrying about the next event.

But that’s not all.

The sound of a rushing river nearby captures the essence of energy as it follows its familiar path toward the open sea. All marvel at its ability to remain constant. Nothing stops its flow. Its strength is undeniable. Its will, undeterred. The river beckons those who are thirsty to partake of its power to quench. For the filthy, it calls them to bathe in its capacity to cleanse. For everyone who seeks healing, it invites them to take a leap of faith and jump in.

Similarly, Father thank you for being the ever-present river of life in our lives. May the richness of your presence flow from us to others so that they may see your mercy and grace. May those who feel discouraged or depressed find supernatural strength in your heavenly reservoir of love.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12 ESV)

When we read the Christmas story, we think it obvious that God sent an angel to invite shepherds, because every manger scene we’ve ever seen has a cute little angel and gentle shepherds. They’re just part of the package. But the person reading this account 2,000 years ago would have viewed this a little differently. They would find it incredulous that God would invite shepherds to witness the Messiah as a newborn, expecting instead political leaders like Caesar or Herod or religious leaders such as the Pharisees.

So who were the shepherds?

They were Social Outcasts. They were poor, uneducated, uncultured, and uncouth. If you were with your family walking through town you would go to the other side of the street to avoid them. They were the rough characters in the small town on the fringe of society, so much so that their testimony was not even admissible in court.

They were Religious Outsiders. Because their work was considered ceremonially unclean, they were not allowed into the temple courts or to be an active part of temple worship. Religious leaders often considered them on the same level as prostitutes, so when it came to the religion of the day they were always on the outside looking in.

Here then, God is inviting a group of guys who have been on the outside looking in the entirety of their lives and putting them at the top of the invite list for the most important birthday of all time. This is a theme we will see continue throughout the story of Jesus’ life. Not only does he consistently seek out those on the outside or fringe, He invites them to be at the center of His mission. As an adult, Jesus chose an inner circle comprised of uneducated fishermen, a former tax collector who has robbed and cheated his countrymen, women (who had few or no rights at the time), and even a former prostitute. Those who have been relegated to the outside are not only a focus of His rescue mission—they become the leaders of God’s rescue mission for humanity.

Who are the people you would normally consider most valuable to God and His mission? What does this tell you about God and who He values?

farMost of the people that know me are aware that I am going through a lot of trials right now. I say this not as a statement of pride, but because I know there are a ton of other people out there going through their own issues and are afraid to share it with anyone., or worse yet, they don’t know how to handle what they’re going through.  I don’t consider myself special for being able to hold up under pressure, but I do know that I am blessed. This is the hope that I hold on to every day I face another trial. We all have that same hope, and that is Jesus Christ.

I wish I was as brave and strong as people think I am. The truth is that I experience fear and anxiety every day. I also believe that most Christians do (even though most of them will deny it). Having said that, I would like to share with you the verses and some thoughts that I use when these concerns and anxieties rear their ugly heads and test my faith. Remember that fear and anxiety are normal emotions, it’s how far we allow them to consume our lives that is the real test of our faith. So please read and memorize the verses below, I assure you that they are stronger than what Satan can throw at us. Enjoy, and go in peace today. Email me if you need me.

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (Proverbs 12:25, NIV).

“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7) (Also see Psalm 55:22-23)

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” (Luke 12:22-26, NIV). (Also see Matthew 6:25-34)

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8).

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28).

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

The apostle Paul found his strength in God, He reminds us that, “I …have …been in prison …frequently, been flogged …severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. …I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. …Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. …I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. …[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 11:23-12:10).

“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).

“…put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1)

Also read: Psalm 139:1-23

The possible causes of anxiety and fear are many: conflict, health problems, dangerous situations, death, unmet needs, spiritual problems, false beliefs, etc.

“According to the Bible, there is nothing wrong with realistically acknowledging and trying to deal with the identifiable problems of life. To ignore danger is fooling and wrong. But it is also wrong, as well as unhealthy, to be immobilized by excessive worry. Such worry must be committed to prayer to God, who can release us from paralyzing fear or anxiety, and free us to deal realistically with the needs and welfare both of others and of ourselves.” (Dr. Gary R. Collins, Christian Counseling, p. 66.)

Some general, common sense suggestions for those weighed down with fear, anxiety or worry…

  • SIN IN YOUR LIFE – Sometimes fear and anxiety are the result of one’s own sin and guilt. If you have committed a sin or done anything evil, your fear and anxiety is probably God and your own conscience trying to get your attention. You need to repent, confess your sin, seek God’s forgiveness, and set it right.
  • SLEEP – Humans generally need 8 or 9 hours of sleep per day. Sleep deprivation can increase anxiety. Get enough rest. If you cannot sleep, you may need to seek God’s help and perhaps that of a physician.
  • BE MORE REALISTIC – Many people are worried and anxious about events that will never actually will happen to them. Relax. Focus on today. Take life one day at a time.
  • LISTEN to relaxing, soothing music. There is some great Christian music available that can help you focus on God and leave your fears and worries behind. It may also help to listen to good Christian speakers and teachers.
  • FUN – If at all possible, do something that you enjoy. It is good to get some recreation on a regular basis. Take a break. Get your mind off your fears and worries, and have some fun.
  • TALK to someone. Don’t hold all the anxiety inside. It can be a big relief to share your fears and worries with someone else—a friend, relative, pastor or counselor. If fear and anxiety is an ongoing problem in your life, schedule a regular time each week to talk with someone.
  • TAKE ACTION – If there is something practical and wise that you can do to alleviate the problem or avoid needless danger, take action. Don’t put it off. Procrastination will generally raise your anxiety level.
  • EXERCISE – Medical studies show that exercise can help lower anxiety. If you are healthy enough to exercise, try it. Regular brisk walks, running, swimming or other exercises can be a real stress reducer.
  • PROFESSIONAL HELP – There are various organizations which provide help for people with anxiety attacks, including the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety (stresscenter.com) which provides self-help. You can search for information and assistance on the Web using keywords such as: anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia. You should be able to find local help by consulting you pastor or physician.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (2 Thes. 2:16-17).

The story of the Exodus is a story of miracles – but in the beginning when Moses first showed up in front of Pharaoh to deliver the people of Israel from 400 years of slavery, the Israelites were really tempted and became a little ticked off because of the initial hardships that they had to go through.

Exodus 5:18-23 Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.” The Israelite foremen realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.” When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O LORD, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”

The very people that Moses had tried to help were now leveling their anger at Moses because all of a sudden they were told that they would have to gather their own straw for making bricks. They were concerned about offending their slave-masters, fearing that they would kill them.

The Israelites were so used to their slavery that they didn’t want their lives disrupted even though theirt freedom was at hand. Resigned to this miserable life, they absolutely failed to apprehend or appreciate the freedom that was soon approaching. Yes, there was a temporary price: increased hardship and great pressure would set the stage for their final deliverance.

The same can happen to us. It has often been said “The darkest night is just before the dawn”…

Maybe the enemy senses his impending defeat and pulls out all the stops to keep it from happening. Maybe the Lord loves a good story with a really dramatic and climactic ending and great glory for His Name…in any case –

Don’t let yourself remain accustomed to any form of bondage – look for and believe for the freedom that God has given us through His Son. Expect a life of great victory over sin and demonic oppression – Why? Because that is His promise to us!

indexIn a documentary mini series called “Against All Odds” am incredible story is told about an Israeli platoon who found themselves in the middle of a minefield along the Syrian border during the Yom Kippur War. When the platoon realized they were in a minefield they pulled out their bayonets and started to dig out mines and to disarm them. All of a sudden, a huge wind started to blow, removing the sand from the minefield. Each and every mine was exposed and the soldiers went through the minefield without a scratch.

John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

If you found yourself in the middle of a minefield, but had someone with you that knew where every mine was and could guide you through, then you’d be sure to stay as close to him as possible! My friend, life is a minefield; and the enemy has planted mines all across your path — the mines of temptation, of fear, of anger! You have Someone with you who knows where they are and how to guide you around them. But how closely are you walking with Him?

God‘s word and His Spirit equip us thoroughly for life and godliness. Obedience to His word and abiding in His Spirit we can avoid every deadly trap of the enemy and even if He calls us to martyrdom, we can go joyfully in His power.

But in the meantime, let’s not ignore the presence and counsel of our Heavenly Guide. It’s too easy to become distracted by fears, entertainments, and even real responsibilities. But all these can pull us away from Him….so that we suddenly find our foot on a mine about to explode under us. The discipline of practicing His presence was never more important than it is now in these last of the last days. The Bible warns that “because iniquity abounds, the love of many shall wax cold!” Let us stay awake, fully conscious of our Helper’s presence. Led of His Spirit we will dodge every one of our enemy’s mines, and navigate both ourselves and others to safety, bearing fruit all along the way!

The other day I heard someone say that when they passed a mirror, all they could think of is, “That can’t be right.” It’s funny in a way, but unfortunately, in today’s world, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on what we look like on the outside rather than what we look like in our hearts.

Psalms 90:17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

Charles William Eliot, former president of Harvard University, had a birthmark on his face that bothered him greatly. As a young man, he was told that surgeons could do nothing to remove it. Someone described that moment as “the dark hour of his soul.” Eliot’s mother gave him this helpful advice: “My son, it is not possible for you to get rid of that hardship…But it is possible for you, with God’s help, to grow a mind and soul so big that people will forget to look at your face.”

Yes, it’s true. All of us have things we’d love to change about our bodies. And many of us tend to spend an awful lot of time and money trying to change, fix and cover those things up. But I think there is much truth in Mrs. Eliot’s words. When we are shining boldly for the Lord, I don’t believe anyone sees them!

Do you REALLY want to make a drastic difference in your appearance today? Let’s stop focusing on our outward issues today and start focusing on what really counts — walking uprightly and wholeheartedly with the Lord — a spiritual extreme makeover! We will glow like never before, at a low low price and 100% guaranteed!

Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

When a Michigan man entered the hospital for tests one day, he never would have guessed what the doctors would find. A routine chest x-ray revealed that the man’s heart was on the wrong side of his chest! Because of a rare reversed-organ condition, his heart was in the wrong place. This is a strange story indeed, although I think some of us suffer from this condition in a spiritual way.

Do you ever find yourself thinking you’re in a good place with the Lord? I haven’t done this sin or that sin in a long time. I’m doing much better in this area of my life than so and so is. I am in leadership in my church or ministry and and I think I’m a better Christian than the people I lead. You know what I’m talking about? We get to thinking we’re in a good place — a safe place — home free.

This safe place is a dangerous place! The reality is that Satan wants us to be content in where we are. He wants us to compare ourselves to others and feel we’ve arrived! But we haven’t! God wants us to continually strive to be more like Him! It is only when we come to a place of humility and dependence upon the Lord that we can have a heart that’s truly in the right place.

We need to daily examine ourselves to see if our hearts are where they need to be. Are we depending on God in every way? Are we constantly acknowledging that all we have and are is by His hand of mercy and grace? Let’s stop comparing ourselves to others and our pasts and strive for God’s perfection today!