Monday, January 17, 2011

Joy in the Struggle!

READ:  Numbers 13:25-13:33

So many people in this life want everything without any effort.

Many believers have the attitude that just because they are saved and in the family of God, that now God is supposed to give them everything they ever dreamed of without any effort, or work or discipline on their part.

The fact is it costs what it costs and anything good rarely goes on sale.

Yes God wants to prosper you and bless you, but sometimes you’re going to have to go through something to get there.

Sometimes you have to struggle, sometimes you have to fight.

There is something in the struggle that is necessary to becoming what God has ordained us to be.

God left giants in the promised land on purpose!

Faith is forged in the furnace of adversity!

Yes, you and I may be going through a struggle but we're  growing through the struggle!  We're developing some spiritual muscles, we're developing some compassion, some patience, some endurance and some long suffering.

God did not deliver Daniel from the lion’s den, He delivered him through it.

God did not deliver the three Hebrew children from the fiery furnace He delivered them through it.

David needed Goliath!

The children of Israel needed the giants!

The 3 Hebrew children needed the fiery furnace!

Sampson needed the philistines!

And we need the struggle!

Remember!  There is no testimony without a test and no victory without a battle.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Always be cheerful!

2 Corinthians 5: 6-8

. . . always be cheerful!
As long as we are in these bodies, we are away from the Lord. But we live by faith, not by what we see. We should be cheerful, because we would rather leave these bodies and be at home with the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:55
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?

James 4:14

whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

We have been faced this week with the passing of one of our very precious young people. Mallory Conway was just 19 years old when she went to be with the Lord this past Monday, January 3rd. She had just been at our youth New Years lock-in on Friday; having fun, bowling, playing, laughing and hanging out with her friends. Within 48 hours, she was gone. Words like shock and surprise are understatements. The hurt and sadness is great for her family and all of us who knew her and loved her. She was a vivacious young woman who enjoyed life and loved her Lord. She will be sorely missed.

It is only human, and natural, that during times like this we question. Why? Why so young? I believe that it is good, even healthy to ask God these questions. He is not offended or put off by our questions. Just remember, God, may or may not choose to answer our questions. That is where faith must take over. For faith is simply believing and trusting God even when we do not have the answers or understand. There are some things that we may never understand this side of heaven. But it is vitally important that we remember that God does understand and know all. Nothing catches Him off guard or by surprise. His ways are higher than our ways. He knows what He is doing and we can be confident in our trust of Him.

I have been doing a lot of thinking, meditating, praying and contemplating about the events of this past week. I want to share with you some things I believe God wants me and you to focus on:

The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write in 1 Corinthians 5: 6-8, to always be cheerful! Because we would rather leave these bodies and be with the Lord. BE CHEERFUL? Are you kidding? At a time like this? Yes, be cheerful. Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Any Christian with a true and healthy revelation of eternity, would naturally rather be with the Lord in heaven than in this rotten, sin cursed world. And any Christian with a true and healthy revelation of eternity, would never wish a Christian that has passed into eternity, to come back. That is the height of selfishness.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to ask the question in 1 Corinthians 15: 55 “death! Where is your sting?” You see, for the Christian, there is no sting/pain in death. Death is the easiest part of living. It’s living that is the hard and painful part! I watched my Dad in his last day’s just over a year ago. As he lived those last few days, I have no doubt those were the most difficult, hard and painful days of his life. However, dying was a piece of cake! Dying was a breeze! Dying was a relief! Death! Where is your sting?

I can honestly say that as a Christian, I am not afraid of death! Not in the least! Now Life, that’s a different matter. That’s where I often struggle. There are some issues in life that can be frightening. But not death! Death has lost its sting! Praise God!

The Holy Spirit also says in Philippians 1:21 “to live is Christ, to die is gain”. Did you get that? GAIN! GAIN! GAIN! Let me share with you what “gain” means: to get something desired, to gain possession of an object, to gain permission to enter a country, to acquire as an increase or addition, to obtain as a profit, to win, to reach, arrive at, to gain one's destination.

My Dad, Mallory and countless others who have died knowing Jesus have all gained something, gained something desired, they have experienced an increase, a profit, a win! They have gained their destination! Death is victory! Death is a gain! Yes! Death is a blessing!

James 4:14 says, “You do not know what will happen tomorrow. Life is like a vapor. It is here for a short time and then it is gone” We don’t know what the next day holds. Life is fleeting! It passes fast! Whether you die at the age of 19 or 119, life passes quickly! It seems just like yesterday I was a small child! That was over 50 years ago. The bible says in Hebrews 9:27 “ . . . it is appointed unto men once to die” All of us; young or old, rich or poor, black or white, have an appointment with death. We cannot avoid it except by way of the rapture. For some that appointment may come sooner or it may come later, however, it is unavoidable. So if you and I cannot avoid death, it seems to me to be a very healthy exercise to ask to God to give us a godly, healthy, scriptural revelation of death! We can be cheerful about a Christian’s death, we can understand that death has no pain or sting, we must understand that death is a gain, a profit, and a victory!

Lastly, for those of us who know and love the Lord and have accepted Christ as our savior, we are promised that we will be reunited with Mallory and multitudes of others that have gone on before us! The book of revelation describes this great celebratory gathering. I close this writing by sharing it with you from Revelation 19:

After this, I heard what sounded like a vast crowd in heaven shouting, “Praise the Lord! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. His judgments are true and just. . . And again their voices rang out: “Praise the Lord! The smoke from that city ascends forever and ever!” Then the twenty-four elders and the four living beings fell down and worshiped God, who was sitting on the throne. They cried out, “Amen! Praise the Lord!” And from the throne came a voice that said, Praise our God, all his servants, all who fear him, from the least to the greatest.” Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: Praise the Lord! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. These are true words that come from God.”

Monday, January 3, 2011

The New Year's Priority: Prayer!

The celebration of the New Year is often a time to look back, remembering the events that filled the previous twelve months. For some of us, those months have brought struggles, challenges, and uncertainty. We may have lost jobs, or said good-bye to loved ones as they went to be with the Lord. Yet through God’s help we’ve endured, and are now perhaps able to look back and see His hand at work throughout our circumstances. For others, the previous months have been dominated by the joys of life: a marriage, a new child or grandchild, an exciting new job or ministry. For us, we do well to look back and offer thanks to God for His many incredible blessings. And so, through it all, there is one common thread that runs through our lives, be they highs or lows: We respond to our experience by conversing with God.

For that reason, there is no better way to begin the next twelve months than by seeking God in prayer. None of us knows what the 365 days of 2011 will bring. But God knows. And He will be there every step of the way. Let us seek Him together today and throughout the coming year, surrendering every moment to be governed by His wisdom and love.