Forgetting What Is Behind
Are you feeling defeated? At times, we all do! But, since we can’t change our past, can we really believe God will change our future? The sun sets every day with one primary message: “no matter how bad you felt you did today, the day is over. It’s not going to beat you up anymore. Tomorrow, you will have a fresh start.” Paul the Apostle wrote, “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14, ESV) God gets far more glory out of us succeeding, than failing. Even now He is making sure every thing that happens to us will work for our good if we love Him and are committed to His will being done, and not our own.
It’s been said, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” The Bible says it this way, “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” (1Corinthians 15:53, ESV) One of the first things I ask a person who is struggling being a Christ follower is, “Are your friends helping you get closer to Jesus, or are they making it harder for you to follow Him?” If their answer is, “No, they are not!” my immediate recommendation is, “You need new friends.” A drowning person can’t rescue another drowning person, or as Jesus said, “…if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.” (Matthew 15:14, NLT) Every one of us have to decide, who are we following, and where are they taking us?
Steadfast In Trials
My wife Suzie & I pastored a live-in community for four and a half years with dozens of individuals struggling with addictions to drugs and alcohol. Though we saw many set free, some could not cut loose their attachment to their drug of choice. In “The Great Divorce,” C. S. Lewis chronicles the battle many go through with addictions. He describes a busload of people from Hell who tour the outskirts of Heaven. Each person is urged to leave his sins behind. Sadly, they express denial and self-delusion about their addictions. Though miserable, they blame others and pity themselves, refusing to take responsibility for their behavior or see the root of their problems. The Bible encourages us, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life…” (James 1:12a, ESV)
Being Sincere Is Not Enough
Have you met people who’ve said, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere? You can be a Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist and pray to the same God.” Though this statement sounds open minded, even a casual examination of what these religions teach will reveal they have little in common. Many years ago, I knelt on a beach in a remote part of a Hawaiian Island and prayed, “Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, I have studied your teaching and know that you are not the same person. Would you reveal yourself to me?” I was desperately sincere, and within a few months, I surrendered my life to Jesus and would never be the same. Being open minded is good, but opening your heart to Jesus will transform your life. The Bible says, “Whoever has the Son has life…” (1John 5:12, ESV)
Connected To The Body
I have found in my 42 years of being a Christ-follower that there’s only one way for a person to live a healthy, fruitful life: and that is to be connected in a vital and tangible way to the Body of Christ. Can any of us imagine a part of our body living long when it is disconnected? It would likewise be silly to think that a believer can become whole or fulfill his or her destiny if they are unwilling to connect with Christ’s Body, His Church. The Bible says, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.” (1Corinthians 12:12, NLT) There is no perfect church, but I have found the local church is the perfect place for imperfect people.
Going To Samaria
During the time of Jesus, Samaritans were considered half-breeds, and universally despised by both Jews and Romans. Being Jewish and from Galilee, Jesus had experienced racial prejudice firsthand. He understood the cruelty of discrimination. Consequently, when He was traveling from Judea back home to Galilee, Jesus made a conscious decision not to skirt the prejudice around Him, and face it head on. He deliberately went through Samaria. A direct route from Judea to Galilee was about 70 miles, or a two and a half day walk. But, due to prejudice, many Jews were willing to journey about twice the distance on a hotter and more uncomfortable road, rather than go through Samaria. Jesus cut through this narrow-minded bigotry and many Samaritans from a village named Sychar believed in Him. (John 4:39) What Samaria is God asking you to go to?
Prayers Healing Effects
Is there something we can do to increase our self-control and ability to resist temptation? According to a new study, prayer really helps people stay in control of their emotions and behavior. Researchers say that people who turn to prayer ‘as a coping response to the high demands in life’ are rewarded with increased strength and ability to resist temptation. The study found that praying helps people maintain self-control. Faith in a higher being has even been found to significantly improve treatment for people suffering with a psychiatric illness. Researchers found that patients with ‘no’ or only ‘slight’ belief in God were twice as likely NOT to respond to treatment than patients with higher levels of belief. The Bible says, “…pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV)
We Will Serve Whatever We Worship
We are made to worship and everyone is worshipping someone or some thing. So be careful what you worship. In the Old Testament, when people worshipped foreign god’s they eventually were in bondage to them and were taken away captive into the nations that promoted these demonic spirits. In the end, we will serve whatever we worship, whether it is the God of the Universe, the Lord Jesus Christ, or a god created by our imagination. God warns the people He rescued about following other gods, He says, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2-3, ESV) I have worshipped many things, but only One deserves my complete adoration.
Our Misery Becomes Our Ministry
Can God use our greatest pain to help others? It’s one of the great paradoxes in life, but the answer is “Yes, absolutely!” Our pain can become our greatest gain, if we see our lives from God’s perspective and respond as He hopes we will. In the Book of Acts, Paul the Apostle, after being stoned and left for dead in the city of Lystra was miraculously resurrected. (Acts 14) You would think that Lystra would be the last city he would ever return to. But, as God would have it, a short time later, after visiting other cities, he went back to Lystra, the very place he experienced so much misery, and strengthened the believers there. In life, we are called to make our misery our ministry. God’s strength always shows up best in our weakness.
Going Across San Francisco Bay
Two weeks after giving my life to Jesus, I found myself in a life and death situation. On a cold spring day, I was paddling out to a houseboat in Sausalito, California in a six-foot long dinghy, when I lost one of my paddles. Unable to stop or control the boat, I drifted ten miles, for over an hour, all the way across San Francisco Bay to Berkeley. No other boat came any where near me, and so if the boat had capsized, I would have certainly drowned. Having just read about Peter doubting Jesus and sinking in the water, I resolved to trust God to keep me safe. He did, and now forty years later, I’ve seen His miraculous, protective hand hundreds of times since. Have you trusted Jesus with your life? You’ll find, as I did, He will never fail you.
No Bargaining With God
If, as the Bible says, “experience gives hope,” (Romans 5:4) have you lived long enough to learn from your experiences, and accept the fact that being obedient is infinitely better than being impulsive, safe is far more desirable than reckless, and careful always trumps careless. All of us are hoping to have a blessed life. But we can never get around the principle of reaping what we sow. There is no bargaining with God. The Bible declares this unbreakable law, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6: 7-8, ESV) Holy Spirit, help me to obey You that I may live!
Living the Impossible
If a person rescued you from certain death and even gave His life in the process, would you ever forget him? And if what you were rescued from was so utterly impossible, would it not make you want to do the impossible as well? That’s what happens when you truly see Jesus…you can’t forget Him and you want to be like Him. But that can never happen unless, like Jesus, you’re willing to live an impossible life. If you are, then let me ask and answer this important question: why would you ever attempt to do the impossible? For only one reason: you are absolutely certain that nothing less than the impossible would meet the need! It’s what provoked Jesus to live an impossible life, and it’s what provokes me. Jesus said, “…with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26, ESV) What impossible life is Jesus asking you to live?