Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Will You Walk With Jesus all the Way?

So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever.  –Psalm 119:44 (KJV)

In Jesus Christ, we find the freedom to walk in faith.  Walking in faith empowers.  Walking in self, which is our strength and our power, holds us back.  Faith in Jesus Christ empowers us to go forward.  I often encounter people of stalled faith; therefore, their faith stagnates rather than grows.  They have lost their forward momentum.  Moreover, with the loss of their forward momentum they have lost the joy of living.  Be careful about this happening because the next thing you know bitterness will set in.  Lose your forward motion and we become bitter.  Bitterness is like having to be on your knees for a little while, maybe to do a little gardening or cleaning.  When you go to get back up you wonder if you are going to make it.  There is some groaning; oh, that is painful!  We can hear our joints in our knees seizing up.  Ouch!  Bitterness is like that.  We have an aching in the soul.  We are down spiritually and we wonder if we will be able to get back up.  When we try, it hurts.  Jesus Christ liberates, empowers, and gets us back on our feet again. 

What the psalmist was saying was a declaration that he would be faithful to God all the days of his life.  Nothing would hinder him in that pursuit.  Are we willing to make the same commitment?  Let us proclaim, “I am going to walk with Jesus all the way!” 

God bless you today.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Christ's Love Overcomes Hatred

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? -Matthew 5:43-46 (KJV)

God blesses us when we seek to bless others with the love of Jesus Christ.  The power of Christ's love works in our lives in wonderful and powerful ways.  Pray for those we might otherwise have hated.  Are you aware that when we hate someone we give the person a certain amount of control over us?  Hatred will interfere with our rest, sleep, appetite, concentration, and overall peace of mind.  On the other hand, forgiveness, prayer, and the love of Jesus Christ liberates us.  

The love of Jesus, functioning in us, unshackles us from the power of hatred.  Jesus Christ overcomes sin, evil, hell, and the grave, and add hatred to the list as well.  We are then empowered to bless rather than hate.  Furthermore, we are released from the burden of holding grudges and bitterness in our hearts. A relationship with Jesus Christ gives us power to bless others by His light shining from us.  Those around us see Jesus in us and they are blessed in the process.  They will be reminded of how real Christ is in us, and if He is real to us He will be real to them.  

I read a story about a man who was at a national park, and he observed a grizzly bear eating with a skunkThe grizzly allowed no other animal to eat with him. Although he resented the skunk, the bear would not pick a fight with him. He had no doubt learned the high cost of getting even!  

Hatred will tear us apart.  We bless others and we do ourselves a world of good when we let Jesus overcome hatred with His love.  According to God's Word, it is better to walk the extra mile, pray for our enemies, turn the other cheek, or give away a coat, than to end up with a bad case of nerves, ulcers, or sleepless nights, which is what hatred and bitterness brings.

Jesus Christ liberates us from the insidious forces of hatred.  Trust the Lord, walk in faith, and experience the joyous freedom of Christ today.

God bless you.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Waiting on the Lord

For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.  –Psalm 37:9 (KJV)
Pray without ceasing.  –I Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)

Often we pray, yet we think our prayers go unanswered.  The problem with such flawed thinking is we fail to realize the possibility of an undesirable answer.  When we seek the Lord and ask for something in prayer, we may discover the answer is “wait.”  Such an answer indicates God is indeed still with us, concerned, caring, and working toward our best interests.  When we wait on the Lord, we are engaging in active Christian discipleship.  Waiting on the Lord is not to be confused with doing nothing.

Does praying daily, staying in the Word, keeping the Scriptures in our hearts, resisting temptations, walking in faith, and living in godly integrity sound like we are doing nothing?  As we wait on the Lord, we are actively involved in an ongoing process of serving the Lord and doing His will.  Never believe when God leads us to wait that we are doing nothing.  We are in fact, doing what is most important, for we are growing closer to God with every step we take.

Consider Abraham, who waited 25 years for God to give him the promised son.  Consider the Israelites, who waited through 40 years of wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land.  Consider the saints of old, who waiting patiently through the years for the will of God.  Think of countless missionaries, toiling daily in the spreading of the gospel as they wait for the first convert.

No matter what you are facing, trust the Lord, be patient, and wait on the Lord, for He is still in control.

God bless you today.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The power of God in Us.

And Samuel did that which the Lord spake, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably?  -I Samuel 16:4 (KJV)

What was it about Samuel that made the elders of the town of Bethlehem tremble?  This intrigues me because there is nothing about me that ever made anyone tremble.  Was it Samuel's physical size or imposing demeanor?  The answer is no.  Even if we had a physical description of him, we know this would not have been it.  He was a known prophet of God, a man who prayed and the power of God was evident.  Remember, he was also a man who anointed kings and confronted them when they got out of God’s will.

The reason the elders pf Bethlehem trembled at Samuel's presence was that he had the power of God in his life.  I am not Samuel and neither are you, but we can possess Holy Spirit power in our lives, which makes a profound difference in our outlook and attitude.  Samuel was a man of prayer and communion with God.  We also have this divine resource.

This leads us to considerations regarding the power of God in our lives.  How does the power of God affect us?  The power of God affects our:

Attitude: this is how we deal with life and those around us.

Aptitude: this refers to the abilities God gives us. 

Latitude: what will we allow into our lives?

Altitude: will we grovel in fear or sore on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31)?

Walk in faith, walk in the power of Christ, and remember, it is not about us, but it is about Christ in us.  This makes all the difference.

God bless you today.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Spiritual and Physical Wellness

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. -II Peter 3:18 (KJV)

I was going through my documents file recently when I came across an article I wrote a few years ago about pastors and their health. I submitted it to a few Christian publications hoping to get it published, but none were interested. However, as I read the article I considered the number of pastors who might find it encouraging. Please forward it to your pastor if you feel lead to do so, or you may find it helpful and applicable to you personally. I believe the principles are useful to all of us as laypersons or ministers.

Over the years I have observed my fellow ministers becoming discouraged, disillusioned, and emotionally exhausted.  How can we lead our congregations to victorious Christian living when we ourselves are falling apart?  Sad to say, but we as ministers are depressed, burnt-out, wore out, in poor health, and quitting the ministry in droves.  The numbers of pastors leaving the ministry due to discouragement and depression are hard to determine because so many never admit to suffering from these afflictions.  We tend to view being honest about depression and discouragement as ministerial career killers.  However, the opposite is true: Failure to admit and then resolve personal issues regarding depression, burnout, and discouragement will eventually wreck our lives and drive us from the ministry.  When we take care of ourselves spiritually, physically, and emotionally, we will then be better equipped to minister to our own families and our congregations. 
Allow me to share some tips for my fellow pastors and ministers which I have found helpful and have kept me on track over the years.

Maintain a Vibrant Prayer Life.  A crucial part of growing in our faith and keeping a vibrant attitude toward life and ministry is the discipline of prayer.  This is an essential element in keeping a healthy perspective on life, family, and ministry.  We are called to lead by example, and nowhere is this more relevant than in the area of prayer.  During a conference I attended a few years ago, Dr. Richard Blackaby told the story of a pastor who had become so discouraged that he left the ministry.  Dr. Blackaby asked him how his prayer life had been while he was a pastor.  The man replied, “Prayer?  I didn’t have time to pray.  How could I be expected to find time to pray in the midst of everything else I had to do?”  Place prayer at the top of our to-do list, never at the bottom.  We can only take our congregations as far spiritually as we have gone ourselves.  Make time to pray and we have made time to begin walking forward in daily spiritual victory.
  • Start getting up earlier every day for the purpose of prayer. 
  • Resolve to begin the day with a period of prayer rather than the morning news.
  • After a devoted time of prayer, open the Scriptures and allow Gods Word to speak to your heart not for planning a sermon, but rather for your own spiritual edification. 
  • Make up your mind that from this day forward you will make prayer a top priority.  You will begin to see immediate and powerful results. 

Maintain a Proper Diet.  Being overweight can lead to an assortment of health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, poor self-esteem, and overall lethargy.  Regardless of your physical condition, a consultation with your family doctor about how to get in shape is always a good idea.  This consultation can also be an opportunity to discuss starting an exercise program or how to manage depression. 
Healthy eating habits begin with the first meal of the day. 

  • Say goodbye to doughnuts and pastries in the morning and try some oatmeal, grapefruit, whole-wheat toast, or yogurt and granolaReplace cookies, cake, pie, and ice cream with healthy snacks such as raisons, celery sticks, carrots sticks, and fresh fruits.
  • Try eliminating all sugar from your diet for 6 months.  What?!  Yes, you read that correctly.  Cut all sugar from your diet and you will lose weight. 
  • Stick with healthy foods such as fruits, green leafy vegetables, and various meats without the bread. 

There are a gazillion books on the market which are great resources for healthy eating, but I dare say you are smart enough to figure this out for yourself.  Eat less and eat smart –  that’s the key.

Maintain an Exercise Program.  For many reading this, regular exercise will seem something along the lines of climbing Mount Everest.  However, your exercise program does not have to be anything fancy.  Four years ago, I began a new exercise program and I am yet to join a health club or buy expensive exercise equipment.  Every morning I spend around 20-30 minutes doing basic calisthenics: jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, and stretching exercises.  Then, if my schedule permits, I snap the leash on my dogs and we take a brisk walk.  All of this can begin before your daily schedule revs up in earnest.  You will then face the day with new energy, confidence, and well-being.

Maintain Some Unique Interests.  As ministers of the gospel, we give extensively of ourselves to those around us.  Set aside time to pursue an engaging pursuit that will facilitate relaxation and lowering of stress levels.  Take up a new hobby, learn to play an instrument, learn a foreign language, take a culinary arts class, begin keeping a journal or online blog, or sit down and actually begin writing the book you have long dreamed of.  Treat yourself to the occasional cup of gourmet coffee with a bran muffin (fat-free, of course!).  The possibilities are endless.

Christ has called us to go into all the world and be His witnesses (Matthew 28:19, Acts 1:8).  We are better equipped to our calling when we take steps toward maintaining healthy lifestyles.  The Lord has empowered us, our families need us, and the church and community are looking to us for leadership.  Rise up, get going, and get started.  The time is now.