Did you know that even good things can become idols…things that we begin to look to and trust more than God? In the Old Testament, a plague of snakes was stopped when Moses built a bronze serpent. But, over 800 years, the nation of Israel began to worship this bronze serpent. Finally, to stop this idolatry, one of their kings, Hezekiah, broke the idol in pieces. (Numbers 21:1-9) A good thing had become the enemy of the best; worshipping and trusting God alone. Are there good things in your own life that God once did that you are now depending on more than Him: a friendship, some medication, entertainment, even exercise. An idol has been defined as, “trusting in a person or thing to do for me what only God can.” (Bill Gothard)
Created to Worship
Everyone is created to worship. We can’t help it. We’re all worshiping something. Either we worship the useless, temporary idols of this world, things like philosophies, celebrities, entertainment and sports, or we worship the only One worth worshiping: the one true God, the Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of all things. He alone deserves our complete worship and adoration. Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” (Luke 4:8) When the creation worships the creation, our true identity as sons and daughters of the living God gets distorted. Only the Creator of all things deserves our complete love and adoration, our abandoned worship. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1, ESV)
Of Wins and Losses
Which is potentially more dangerous to your life and future: a great win, or a great loss? I’ve found that often after a great win, I’m attacked by a great seduction. In the Old Testament, King David went after someone else’s wife, Bathsheba, at a time when he should have gone to war. A great king, after great victories, fell prey to a great deception. On the other hand, after experiencing a great loss, I’ve found great opportunities. God’s turned short-term losses into long-term victories, and my personal losses into divine appointments. God spoke to Paul the Apostle, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Paul then responded, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses…for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10, NLT)
Follow Victors . . . Not Victims
What kind of leader do you want to follow? Frankly, I only want to follow leaders who offer more hope than pain. Not, man-made, wishful thinking hope, but God initiated, fulfilling His will, hope. Leaders who see themselves as victors, and not victims. As genuine hope is eternal, and comes from God alone, only those who know Him can guide us into a blessed future. Only those who have overcome the adversities of life, by trusting in Jesus alone, can lead us to the God who holds the future in His victorious hands. The Bible says when it comes to facing life’s greatest struggles, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37, ESV) If we trust in Jesus, we will live victorious lives, overcoming every battle we face by depending upon Him alone.
“I Don’t Want to Be Led!”
Once, when I was praying in the presence of the Lord, at a very tender moment, I asked God what He would say to me. What He spoke to my spirit changed my life. He gently challenged me, “I don’t want to be led.” I knew immediately He would not be speaking this to me if I wasn’t, in some way, trying to lead Him. I was extremely convicted by this sentence, and filled with emotion, I asked His forgiveness. It has made all the difference. Since that time I have focused on getting out of God’s way, to allow Jesus to lead my life. So, the next time you think grabbing the wheel from God is a good idea, remember this: “If you try and orchestrate it, all you’ll do is contaminate it.” (Mike Breen)
How We Should Live
Would you believe it if I told you that why Jesus came is how we should live? Well, believe it, it’s true. Why Jesus came is how we should live! The Bible says, “…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28, NLT) Jesus added, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:28, NLT) Jesus, came to serve and give, and He said He was sending us to live the exact same way: living to serve and give to God and others. Now the ball is in our court. We can fulfill God’s will for our lives as well. Be like Jesus: spend your life serving and giving to God and others. Only then can you live the abundant life Jesus promised.
Have you ever thought, “I’d believe if I could see a miracle?” Maybe so. Maybe not. Even those who saw the resurrected Jesus still doubted. When He had His final conversation with eleven of His closest disciples, some still doubted. They had seen Him perform numerous miracles, die on a Cross, and rise from the dead. And yet, the Bible says, “When they saw Him, they worshipped Him, but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17, NKJV) WOW! What else could He have done to prove Himself to them? Nothing! This was not a question of Jesus doing more. It was a matter of them exercising their faith more. As James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “…ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6, ESV)
Vision Begins with Faithfulness
God is a God of vision, who wants to give each of us vision for our lives. But there’s a reason some people never walk in a God-given vision. It’s because, if we can’t be faithful to follow someone else’s vision, God can’t trust us with our own. Jesus said, “And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:12, ESV) The answer to this rhetorical question is this: no one. We have to follow well, before we can lead well. We must be teachable before we can teach. So, don’t despise the day of small things. Elisha had to faithfully follow Elijah before the mantle fell upon him. The Bible says, “…those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2, NIV)
Training Your Soul
We all need to let God train our soul: our mind, will and emotions. Many of the instant gratification dimensions of this age, work contrary to training our souls. I remember as a young Christian, in my early 20’s, an older brother in the Lord challenged me, “Francis, the things you like to do, you do very well. But, the things you don’t like to do, you hardly do at all.” WOW! Bullseye! I had to begin to do what I didn’t want to do, what God was asking me to do, for my good. Even Jesus needed to train His soul. The Bible says, “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience (compliance or submission) from the things he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8, NLT) And so will we! No one starts out with a trained soul.
The Most Controversial Thing Jesus Did
This may surprise you, but the most controversial thing Jesus ever did was love people, and if we follow Him, it may be the most controversial thing we ever do as well. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) The most contentious thing Jesus ever did was love the seemingly unlovable: sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, gentiles, even His enemies. This turned the religious world of His day upside down, and it will turn your life upside down as well. And Jesus commanded us to do the same thing, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44)
The Christmas Secret
Two of the greatest parents who ever lived were Mary and Joseph. Both knew they were raising the Son of God, as the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her who Jesus was. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33, ESV) Likewise, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream revealing Christ’s identity as the Son of God. What an extraordinary stewardship! Yet, it appears Christ’s parents kept this secret from His younger siblings, who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection. What secret stewardship has God given you?
End of Year Resolutions
We are all familiar with beginning of the year resolutions, but end of the year resolutions may be even more important. Closing chapters of our lives can impact us just as much as opening new ones. Each of us struggle with our past more than our future, and yet how we reconcile the past has perhaps the greatest impact on our future. So, as this year ends, what relationships do we need to reconcile? What forgiveness can we offer? Who can we contact to make their day, even their year? What regret must we bury? What hope must we resurrect? Paul the Apostle, a man who made many mistakes, wrote, “…I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:13-14, NLT)