Monday, May 18, 2020

Continue to Struggle

We were never promised an easy life.

Even though we know this is true, we always feel like life is unfair when hardships, trials, and difficulties show up in our lives. 

We expect life to go easily, and when it doesn’t it shakes us to the core.

I believe that Christians, though we wouldn’t admit it, secretly believe following Jesus should make life easier. After all, we reason, we are doing God’s will and that means He should help us in our work. This unspoken belief is why it is easy for people to walk away from Jesus when things get difficult.

Let me throw this thought out at you: Does opposition make things easier or more difficult?

The Bible tells us that there is an enemy, Satan, who is opposed to God and His will. It is logical to conclude that following Jesus would make things more difficult. Satan is not going to sit idly by as we pursue the will of God. He is going to fight us every step of the way. 
The presence of an enemy, the reality of evil, and the corruption caused by sin means we can expect difficult times in our lives.

This implies even when we are doing God’s will things will not always go smoothly for us. The mere fact that we are doing God’s will means we can expect opposition. 

When hardships and trials come our way the best thing we can do is to struggle forward. As James pointed out in James 1:2-4, God uses these situations to mature our faith. In the face of opposition, of hardships, and of trials it is vital that we hold on to God’s promise. 

Hope is essential to enduring the struggles of life.

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive:

“I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death. (Revelation 2:8-11; NLT)

Jesus told this group of Christians not to give up in the face of persecution. “Hang in there,” He says, “this persecution won’t last forever.”

Our struggle may not be persecution, but it is still a form of opposition from the enemy. In the middle of hardships we are often tempted to give up and do something else. We need hope to stay the course, and this is why Jesus reminds us of the great promise he has for us: a crown of life. 

Don’t give up, the reward is more than worth the pain!

How do we hang on and trust in Jesus when life becomes a struggle?
  1. Ask yourself the question: Is my struggle tied to right and faithful living? We need to be honest, sometimes life is a struggle because we have made bad choices. If that is the case, then we need to change the way we live. While God won’t take away the consequences of bad choices, He will empower us to get through them. On the other hand, if our hardships come from doing God’s will, then we need to remain faithful. If our desire is to honor God, encourage people, help others, and mature in our faith then we can expect to be opposed by Satan. We overcome Satan by being faithful to Jesus.
  2. Let go of your expectations. Each one of us carries around in minds what it life should look like and the wild success we will experience in ministry. These expectations can motivate us, but they can also be a huge stumbling block when life turns out to be different. That is why it is essential for us to be flexible, to lay down our agendas, and seek God’s guidance. Keep your focus on the hope of Jesus’s promise and not on your expectations.
  3. Surround yourself with friends. If we believe that we are alone in our struggle it is very easy to give up. It is much easier to endure when we are with friends. My first hiking trip to Colorado I went myself and I didn’t complete one hike. The reason was because I was alone and I got discouraged by the difficulties of the trials. When I have gone with friends I have been able to complete the trials, even when I felt like turning around, because we were on the trial together. The same is true in life and ministry.
Life is tough. 

The fact that life is tough doesn’t mean that we are on the wrong trail. Remember, we can expect opposition to find us as we follow Jesus. That means the struggles of life can be an indication that we are doing what God wants us to do. 

Rather than being on the wrong path, we are being opposed by the enemy. Regardless of the circumstances of life we need to stay faithful. It is only by remaining faithful that we can experience the life God created us to live.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Listen to Jesus: Deep Clean

As I a pastor I am currently preaching a sermon series entitled "Listen to Jesus" that looks at 6 teachings of Jesus that provide an understanding of how we can bear God's image in this world.

This is the second sermon in the series that focuses on our part in cleaning our hearts.

Friday, May 15, 2020

God Cares For You

Worries are a part of life.

Some have worries about health problems and medical tests.

Others have worries about relationship issues.

Still others have worries about money and bills.

Worries are universal, a common experience of life.

The apostle Peter wrote; So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you (1 Peter 5:6-7; NLT).

God cares about us!

The implication of this great truth is that all of our worries and cares matter to Him. He cares about those silly fears we have about talking in front of a group of people, being in the dark, or the sound of thunderstorms.

The big worries also matter to God.

He cares about the fact that we worry about the salvation of our friends and family, that we are unable to find work, or that our parents' are sick. Everything that causes us to worry or that we care about, God also cares about.

How do we know that?

Peter wrote that God “cares about what happens to you.”

The evidence of God's love for us is seen in the blessings He generously gives. This is why it is important to take a few minutes on a regular basis to write a list of God’s blessing.

The life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus is more evidence that God cares for us. He is the one who took the initiative to save us when He had every right to allow us experience the pain of our rejection of Him.

The knowledge of God's love for us should motivate us to pray. The knowledge that God cares about the smallest detail of our lives helps us not to hesitate to pray about the circumstances of our lives, the wounds of our hearts, and the problems of our loved ones.

We have to be aware that with our limited perspective on life will lead us to question what God does and how He answers prayer. Even when we don't understand, I am certain as we reflect on our lives we will be able to see God's handiwork.   I am even more confident that when all is said and done we will realize that God led us by the best path for us.

I think this passage provides us with a great picture of God. We matter to God, and He cares about what happens in our lives. May this truth motivate us to continually come to God in prayer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

How to Read the Bible: Setting

An expectation God has for His people is that we will be holy as He is holy. To help us in this task God has given us the Bible. 

The Bible is a wonderful library of books that cover many different events and themes, which are woven together to tell one story. This one story leads to Jesus.

Even though the Bible is a wonderful gift that helps us understand Jesus and guides us on how to live, it can be hard to understand. We need to be taught how to read the Bible.

One of the basic things we need to understand about the Bible is that it is written in a variety of literary styles. The most common of these styles is historical narrative. Understanding narrative means we have to follow the plot, know the characters, and discover the setting. Knowing the setting of the narrative provides essential clues to understanding the point of the story.

 

When we take the settings of the narratives into account it helps us to build links to others stories. As we link different stories together we are able to see the unity of Scripture. For example, garden narratives should get us to recall chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis and get us to start drawing similarities and differences between what that story and what happened in the Garden of Eden.

Another key component of settings is time. The number seven is important because it going to remind people about Sabbath and resting.

Like any good story, it is important that we pay attention to the setting as we read through the narratives in the Bible. The biblical authors provide details about the setting to give us clues to the larger story that is going on.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Citizens of God's Kingdom

{Ephesians 2:19-22; NLT} 
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit. 

 
There are two kingdoms. 

There is the kingdom of this world and there is the kingdom of God. 

 The reality of life, apart from Jesus, is that we are excluded from God’s kingdom. This means we are strangers and foreigners in the very kingdom that God created us to call home. 

Things can be different! 

Our citizenship can be changed!

 Not only can we become citizens of God’s kingdom, but we can even be adopted into God’s family! 

Before, while we were in our sin, we were outsiders, we didn’t belong to God’s Kingdom, but now we do. We were citizens of the world, and foreigners in the Kingdom of God, but now our citizenship has changed. 

The world is no longer our home, we are pilgrims in this land, because our citizenship is now in Heaven.

 I want to point out two implications that come with being citizens of God’s Ki ngdom. 

  1. We are not alone. I am not the only citizen of the Kingdom, and though it might feel like I am all alone at times, that is just a feeling and not reality. In this Kingdom reside all the faithful who lived under the Old Covenant as well as all of the faithful who follow Christ Jesus. The writer of Hebrews writes of a “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). It encourages me to think about all the people who have lived faithful lives, because it reminds me that I am not the only one to experience the struggles of faith. 
  2. There is a standard for living. God expects His people to live in a certain way. One of the expectations God has for His people is that we will be servants. We need to help those people who are in need and in the process bring God’s love and hope into their lives. A second expectation is that we live moral lives. The moral standard that we live by needs to be better than the standard the rest of the world by. People need to recognize that there is a difference in the way we live and the they live. 

What a word of hope we find in this passage. 

We are part of God’s Kingdom! Being citizens of God’s kingdom is going provide us with some challenges. It will be a challenge simply because our purpose of life has changed. The fact that we are citizens of God’s kingdom and members of His household needs to shape the way we live.

Why? 

It needs to shape our lives because we no longer live for ourselves. Now we are representatives, ambassadors, of God’s Kingdom, and is essential that we to play the part.

Questions to consider: 
  • What was your life like before Jesus? 
  • Do you gain any hope from knowing you are part of God’s kingdom? 
  • How can you be a good representative of God’s kingdom?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Face Reality

I am an introvert. That is one of the reasons why I spend so much time pondering.  

All my pondering often leads to introspection. I am constantly evaluating my life.

One of my goals is to live as consistently as possible. I am always examining my thoughts and my actions to see if they line up with what I claim to believe. 

This is both good and bad. 

On the one hand, it helps me to live with integrity, which is a key part of following Jesus. 

On the other hand, it puts a lot of pressure on me, because I can see all the areas where I fall short of my ideals.

When it comes to following Jesus it is good to spend time evaluating the condition of our hearts and the way we live. 

The apostle Paul wrote:
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. (Romans 12:3; NLT)
Paul taught that we need to have the proper understanding of who we are. 

This requires that we take time to honestly evaluate ourselves. The warning Paul gave is that we don't think of ourselves better than we are. We shouldn't put a positive spin on things, rather we accept our strengths and victories as we admit to our weakness and failures. 

For a healthy life we need to do both. We need value the positive things and confess the negative things.

Too often people fail to examine their lives and ask the tough questions. They try to keep the status quo and not rock the boat, and the result is that they remain stunted in their maturity. Some of our most profound times of growth occur when we take stock of our lives and begin the hard work of making the appropriate changes.

What is true on a personal level is also true on a group level. 

Churches stagnate and die because the members don't want to take time and to face reality. The crisis the Church in the United States is facing right now is, in part, due to the reality that we have wanted to keep the status quo rather than seeking ways to connect with people living in a post-Christian internet age.

This failure to honestly examine things is also true in the nation as a whole. We can talk about a health care crisis or a financial crisis, but we never ask the tough questions that need to be asked that help us understand the root of these crises. We don't want to know what truly caused the problem, we just want the government to make it go away.

My point in all of this is to remind us that as long as we are dealing with superficial issues we will continue to miss the core problem. Whether it is in our personal lives, in our churches, or in our nation, we need to look beyond the superficial and examine what really matters. 

While this is harder to do in the short term it will pay huge benefits in the long run. Effective solutions are those that actually deal with root problem.  By not addressing the real issue, we are just wasting time doing things that ultimately will not matter. 

We need to face reality if we hope to become the people, the church, or the country God created us to be.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Listen to Jesus: Teach Us to Pray

Last Sunday I began a new sermon series entitled Listen to Jesus.


 This series will take a look at 6 teachings from Luke 11-15 as we explore how are able to bear the image of God in this world. The only person qualified to teach on this subject is Jesus, and that is why we need to listen to him.

 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Discipleship Happens in Community


Change is hard.

We grow comfortable with the way things are, so when our circumstances or our environment changes it can be hard to accept.

Change is also hard when we want to make changes.

We convince ourselves that we are in control, but when we seek to make a change in our lives, we discover that we have engrained habits that are hard to break.

This raises two important questions:

What is the process of change?
How can I become the person I desire to be?

I have tried to change but it seems I have made little progress. It seems that the same sins and struggles that plagued my life five years ago still haunt me today. I have tried writing out a plan, enlisting the help of others, and just gritting my teeth as I try to "white knuckle" it through. 

Nothing seems to work.

When we feel like we are making little progress presents a huge problem for the Christians. 

Why is it a problem for a Christian? 

It is a problem because a lack of progress leads to discouragement, and discouragement leads to people giving up.

One of the keys to change is to know all our effort is making a difference. When we are able to see progress we begin to feel like there is hope for transformation after all.

Hope is crucial for the success of change.

There is nothing more discouraging in our journey of faith than feeling like we faking the whole thing. 

We compare our lives to the Christians we know and it seems like they have thing together, and so we come to believe that we are doing something wrong. While these people are the real deal, we are just imperfect copies.

How do we help people to change?

I believe part of the solution, especially when it comes to spiritual formation, is discipleship. 

Discipleship is not about adding another class or series of classes that explain church doctrine or what is expected from church membership. It is also not about handing people a list of "spiritual" disciplines that they need to add to their lives (though disciplines do play part in discipleship).

Discipleship requires community. We need to have a group of people who model Jesus’ love for one another, encourage each other, and help one another. While change is ultimately is a personal decision, it has a better chance of success when other people are involved.

One of the failings of the Western church has been a lack of discipleship. 

There are many reasons for this, but at the top of the list focus on the Sunday worship event. A lot of time and money are put into producing a large event that hopefully draws a crowd, but there is little intentionality that is put on making disciples. The one answer churches continue to come back to is that discipleship happens in small groups.

As wonderful as Sunday morning worship and a once a week small group are, they are not enough to bring transformation to the lives of people. This is one of those places where the values of the culture are going to go against the values of the Kingdom.

Americans tend to fill every waking moment with activity, but for Christians we need to slow down and work into our lives time to spend with people. 

I know that this is not easy to do. As a pastor I know people need a spiritual community that is integrated into their way of life. This cannot be programmed to fit into their schedules. It needs to be an organic thing that emerges from the desire to be in fellowship with God and people. We are talk about real relationships that encourages faith, that challenges beliefs, and provides opportunities to love others.

The bottomline is that change is next to impossible because we try to go it alone. We need the encouragement that comes from a loving community for transformation to become a reality.

Discipleship is the key to change, and discipleship happens within the context community.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

How to Read the Bible: Character

The Bible is a gift from God to His people. 
 
We know that it is important to read the Bible, but there are many places in the Bible that are hard to understand. There are also parts that seem rather boring and we loose interest.

Since the Bible doesn't always make sense to our modern western ears means that we need to take time to understand it. 

The Bible is a collection of books written in different literary styles. In fact, many books contain more than one type of literary style within it. 

This is important because we don't read poetry the same way as we read narrative. Understanding the literary type helps us understand what God wants us to know.

About a third of the Bible is narrative, which makes it the most common literary style found in Scripture.

In order to understand narrative we need to understand the basic plot. Often when we read the Bible we pluck sections out of their context, looking for some eternal truth that we can apply to our lives, and in the process we miss out on the bigger plot of the story.

Another feature of narratives is character development. Every good story is about people, and their development within the story draws us into the narrative and makes us care about what is going on.

To be honest, it is hard to relate to Biblical characters. Their world is alien to us. We live surrounded by technology, which prevents us from experiencing the natural world around us. The people described in the Bible were outside people. They were herders who cared for animals and lived a nomadic existence. 

This is just one of the issues we face as we come to read and understand the Bible.

How can better understand the characters written about in the Bible?


 

 The characters in the Bible show us what humans are like. They are a commentary on human nature, a reminder that we are a complex mixture of good and bad motives and actions.

While the Biblical authors provide minimal detail when describing these people, especially in terms of modern day novel authors, the details they provide are important and give insight into their character.

Another key feature is the name of the character. We don't always think about the name of a person, but for the authors of the Bible names were very important and shed light into who the person was.

A frustrating feature of Biblical narrative is that the thoughts and motives of people are rarely shared. In the stories we read and watch the authors typically provide us glimpses into the minds of their characters.

Instead, the Biblical authors provide the details of what happened without moral commentary. This forces us to ponder about what was right and wrong in that situation and how we would have responded.

The Bible is not a collection of nice children's fables that provide a moral at the end of the story. We have tried to do that when teaching the Bible to children, and have ended up watering Scripture down.

The Bible is not a children's story. The narratives in the Old and New Testaments are filled with complicated characters, who often make the bad choice. Over all, these are not people we want to imitate.

What we want to do is to pay attention to the failures of these characters and why they made those decisions. This helps us to think about our actions and the reasons behind our failures and our faith.

We also want to pay attention to how they turn to God and experience God's grace and love. These are the moments that allow us to see God's character and the love He has for us.

The more time we spend reading and meditating on Scripture the better it is able to guide our lives.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Uniquely You

At some level I think everyone wishes they were someone else.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It means we realize there are areas in our lives we wish were different. Dissatisfaction can motivate us to make changes in the way we live.

 Ravi Zacharias wrote:
One of the most liberating moments in life is when we are able to accept ourselves as God has made us and are free from the shackles of trying to be someone we are not and were never meant to be. We then soar to be the unique personality God has given to each of us. (Cries Of The Heart; pp. 39-40)

Life can be disappointing when you dream about being someone else. 

Believe me, I know. For much of my life I wished I could be someone other than who I was. 

I grew up wanting to be like Han Solo, that dashing rogue from Star Wars. There was also Snake-Eyes, the silent ninja from GI Joe. Last but not least, I wanted to be like the Batman, the greatest super-hero of all time. When I was younger I dreamed about being strong, being a hero, and going on an adventure.

As I grew older, I met people whose life I wanted to have. I was envious of the All-Star. Every sort of game and physical activity seemed to come so easily for him. He was able to excel on the basketball court, the soccer field, and the golf course. I have a competitive spirit, and jealousy set in, because I wanted to win like he does. I wanted to be the All-Star.

Another life I wished to have was the All-American. You know the type, the guy who seems to have everything together. Not only does he excel in the sport he plays, but he excels in the classroom as well. Other people look to him as an example to follow. I wanted to be the All-American.

There is nothing wrong with looking up to people and using them as an example to follow. The apostle Paul actually encourages that behavior; "Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example." (Philippians 3:17; NLT). 

We need people to model behavior for us, to help us understand how to respond to the different situations life throws our way. The problem is not in having role models, but becoming jealous of their lives.

It is hard to be happy with yourself when you wish you were someone different:
  • You cannot take joy in your accomplishments because they are not what you want to accomplish. 
  • You cannot take pride in your talents because they are not the talents you want to have. 
  • You cannot find contentment with your life because you are dreaming of a different life.
This type of living means we miss out on the best God has for us. God has created us uniquely, and the full life He promised can only be found in trusting Him as we live our lives.

Satan deceives us by getting us to believe that we will be happy if we just had what our brother, best friend, or neighbor have. Envy is a life robber of the first degree.

The truth is accomplishments and talents are not what makes us happy. If I had the athletic ability of the All-Star I still would not be happy. That is not what I was created to be. 

Happiness and fulfillment are only found when we are doing what God has created us to do.

The best lesson I learned during the five years I was the youth pastor at the Stronghurst Christian Church is that I don’t have to be anyone else. 

When I first arrived at Stronghurst I tried to be the stereo-typical youth pastor. I tried to be high energy, play crazy games, and come up with big events. I believed that if I could do those things and attract students to come, then I would be a success. The trouble is I didn’t find success or satisfaction in any of those things. I am not high energy, I am not crazy, and my passion is not in planning big events. 

By trying to be someone else, I became frustrated and discouraged.

It took a couple of conversations with my brother to help me understand my problem. Tom encouraged me to look at my talents and to spend 80 percent of my time doing what my strengths are. Focusing on my teaching, preaching, and writing has made all the difference. Not only did it make me excited about what was happening with the students at Stronghurst, but I have also began to enjoy who I am. 

By embracing the gifts God has given me I am able to find joy and contentment in the life He has given to me.

It is not enough to simply embrace the gifts God has given us. 

Using the gift for the wrong purpose will still leave us miserable and frustrated. Our talents must be used for God’s purpose, not for our purpose. If we are to find satisfaction with who we are, we must glorify the One who has given us life. 

This is one of the lessons we learn from the story of the three servants which Jesus told in Matthew 25:14-30. 

The first two servants were praised, not because they accepted their gifts, but because they risked their gifts for the expansion of the Master’s kingdom. The last servant accepted the gift, but he did not risk it or use it for the expansion of the Master’s kingdom. The result was that he was thrown out of the kingdom. 

The difference between being praised or being thrown out is not found in our acceptance of God's blessings, but in how we use those blessings. God has created us to reflect His character in this world. The only way we can do that is to use God's blessings to bless the world around us.

What this means is I have to understand how God has blessed me and how I can use those blessings to help build for God’s kingdom. 

The two go together. 

My greatest successes have happened when I allowed God to work through the gifts He has given me. These experiences taught me that God has not called me to be someone I am not, but He has called me to simply be me.

The Apostle Paul said: 
But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. (Acts 20:24; NLT). 

Paul recognized that his life had significance when he lived according to his calling. 

The same is true for us. 

Our life will only have meaning and worth when we live it according to God's purpose for our lives. 

We discover our calling by knowing the gifts (talents, skills, education, experiences, resources) God has given us and by understanding our place in the Great commission. Each one of us has a role to play in making disciples of all nations. It is only by working together that we can accomplish this great task.

After years of wishing I was someone else, I am learning to accept me for who God created me to be. 

I am no longer frustrated and discouraged with the direction of my life. I am happy and fulfilled. 

I don’t want it to sound like I never have times of discouragement and disappointment, I do, but overall I am content with my life. I know that I am doing what God has created me to do, and I am fulfilling His purpose for my life.

A Scripture passage that has helped me in this journey is 1 Peter 4:10-11:
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. (NLT)

God created us uniquely. 

Each of us have gifts that are able to be used for God’s Kingdom. When we use them in this manner we discover the life God created us to live.

We need to stop looking at other people and wishing we had what they have. 

What they have will not satisfy us. 

God has created us uniquely and what He has given us is meant just for us, just as what they have is meant just for them. When our focus is on using our talents to build for God’s Kingdom, then we discover the contentment, joy, and meaning we desperately want in life.

Embrace the unique you God created you to be.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Trust God's Goodness

This thought from George MacDonald resonated with me: "Because we easily imagine ourselves in need, we imagine that God is ready to forsake us." (The Best of George MacDonald, p. 36)

I may not verbalize, "If God doesn't come through and meet my need that means He has abandoned me," but it is how I feel at times.

I have this unspoken belief that if God doesn't arrange for the life I want to live, then He doesn't love me.

This is a tragic thought, and Satan uses it to rob us of life and to doubt God's goodness.

This is why it is vital we remember God as our loving Heavenly Father.

I know that the name "Heavenly Father" can make God sound cold and distant. We imagine heaven being out there somewhere and father seems to be formal name that we don't usually use. Our perspective about God makes it difficult to picture him as loving, good, and present.

Changing our perspective about God takes time and it requires a change of experience. The only thing we can do is to start acting like God is our good loving father. As we trust God we begin to experience Him as our good loving father.

Here is the question I want you to ponder: How would it change our lives if we did begin to trust God as our good and loving Heavenly Father?

Here is how I think it would change my life.
  1. It would mean not worrying about life. Instead of worrying I would be confident that God will provide for what I need for living a holy life. 2 Peter 1:3 says, "By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence." (NLT). It is hard to enjoy life when I am consumed with fear and worry. To trust God to provide means I would be free to live life.
  2. It would mean that I pursue the things of God rather than the things of this world. I live in the world and I am vulnerable to falling into the same worries, concerns, ambitions, and desires the people around me have. Jesus wants me to intentionally live in a different way. "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." (Matthew 6:33, NLT). I learn to trust God and experience His provision as I give myself to His will.
  3. It would mean that I live generously. When I trust God that He will provide for me and my desire shifts to pursuing His will, then I will be more inclined to bless other people. Luke described how the first Christians took care of one another, "And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need." (Acts 2:44-45; NLT). To be free from worry allows me to find ways to bless and encourage other people.
Yes, we have needs, but these needs are not evidence that God has abandoned us or doesn't care about us. My needs are opportunities for us to learn to trust God as our loving Heavenly Father. It is this trust that motivates our prayers and gives us hope.

God is our good loving, and gracious Heavenly Father. Trusting Him will make all the difference in our lives.


Sunday, May 3, 2020

Worship in Thanksgiving

{Psalms 9:1-2; ESV}

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;

I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Heavenly Father, my great provider, open my eyes to the blessings You have generously given me. I have begun to take these great blessings for granted and I have not thanked You for Your generosity. I have come to expect these blessings as my right rather than as great gifts.

Move my heart to be thankful and open my eyes to see You at work in my life. I thank You for the food I enjoy, the clothes that I wear, the relationships that enrich my life, the work that uses my creativity, and the ministry that allows me to complete the good works You created me to do.

I worship You because You are the Creator, giving the universe beauty and meaning. I worship You because You are the Savior, giving me hope and freedom. I worship You because You are the Provider, giving me all that I need for life and righteousness. I worship You.

In the name of the Son, Christ Jesus, I pray, amen

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Trust Jesus for Hope

Online preaching is what I am doing right now.

 It is different. I would rather speak in front of an audience, but I have to do what I have to do.

 This is the conclusion of the sermon series: Trust Jesus. I added this sermon after the Covid-19 pandemic hit because I thought hope is something that we need right now.

Take some time and watch Trust Jesus for Hope.

 

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