Monday, April 30, 2012

Push through...

Week 18:

Romans 5:3-4 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Pushing through sufferings and trials is such a challenge in today’s current culture.  Our “have it now”, comfort based society has produced in myself as well as many others a “run from the problem” or “take my toys and go home” mentality.  We see a rough situation on the horizon and we either avoid the conflict, or run from the situation, or deny it exists.  The problem is…we really never escape the trial and even do further damage, worse damage, by not pushing through the situation.

Not only in the above passage, but also in James 1:2-3 the promise is that we will gain perseverance through our trials and suffering.  Furthermore, perseverance produces character, hope, maturity, and completeness. In both passages, the writers even say we are to rejoice in these trials and sufferings.  Now, let me take a side note here.  The writers do not say that we are joyful or enjoy the trials.  We are to rejoice knowing that when we come out on the other side, we will gain strength and be better due to pushing through the trials and sufferings. 

I love how Rick Warren explains in The Purpose Driven Life trials are placed in our path to strengthen us and allow us to rely on God.  When we run from a trial, we are likely to face that same type of trial in new situations until we have pushed through or mastered that particular situation in our life. Essentially, when I run from a problem instead of facing it, that type of problem keeps showing up in my life until I have pushed through and mastered my life around the problem.  I find that once I have done this, that same situation may come up again but, it does not have the same effect on me.  I believe it is because I pushed through and gained the gifts of perseverance, character, hope, and maturity.  Therefore, I do not look at that type of problem from the same perspective…or may not even see it as a problem for me at all. 

So, what does running from problems/conflicts/situations do for us.  First we do not gain the strength of perseverance.  If we continue to avoid trails then we will not have perseverance.  We need perseverance to make it through this life until Jesus returns and makes new what has been twisted and broken.  Second, we do not grow and mature.  If the gifts are character, maturity, hope, and completeness…then the opposite is true when we do not face the trials.

This is not to say the pushing through the trials and sufferings is a breeze.  However, in my experience and in dealing with others who have similar experiences, the running from the trials produces much worse, long term results than the pain of pushing through.  Something I might add here…when we push through is when God uses His power and showers on us His grace.  So that when we are finished, the only one who can receive the glory is God.  When I come out on the other end of my trials, I know that God was the one who sustained me.  He transformed me through what I had to face.  

Do not run…push through!  3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.


1.      What trials or sufferings may you be facing now or see on the horizon?
2.      What has been your pattern in the past when facing trials?
3.      How has that worked for you?
4.      What are some trials that you see you have matured from?
5.      Spend some time this week reflecting on past trials and where God has brought you now.  Ask Jesus to reveal to you how you can push through your current trial or your next trial.
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Monday, April 23, 2012

The good I ought to do...

Week 17:

James 4:17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins.
Nestled in a passage of scripture many call the “sin of presumption” is this passage about not acting on the good we ought to do.  Prior to this specific line is a small discourse on presuming that there is a tomorrow.  I believe in this message James is pointing out that the readers have lost their focus.  They have forgotten that life is short and need to be reminded of that fact. 
Now we read the haunting passage of knowing the good we ought to do and not acting on it is sin.   What keeps me from doing the good that I know I ought to do?  I believe those James was talking to a group who was caught up in their material possessions and could not see what was right in front of them.  This passage reminds me of that fact and more.

Many times I am caught up in my future plans and I do not see the work that God has laid out for me in that moment.  In that moment, I have something right in front of me that God expects me to take care of, but I am caught up in what I think I want to do “out there”.
Another obstacle that keeps me from doing the good I ought to is fear.  My fear of failure gets in the way.  What if I attempt to do the good and fail at it?  What will people think of me?  What will I think of myself?  I also have a fear that someone may think I am doing the good for wrong motives…to draw attention to myself.  Fear gets in the way.
Another obstacle that gets in the way is laziness.  Many times, I see what I ought to do and I’m just too lazy to get up and o it.  I may procrastinate until it’s too late.  I may find something else to do in order to avoid the work it may take to accomplish the good task. 
Busyness stands in the way as well.  I use the excuse that I am just too busy to take care of that good deed.  I rationalize that someone else will step up and take care of that task.  Or, I truly do become so busy that I do not make the deed a priority and realize I am too late.  I also will use, “Life just gets in the way.” as an excuse.
No matter what the obstacle is, they are all excuses.  As Galatians 6:10 suggests, we ought to do good to all.  I need to change my mind set to one that looks for the good to do in every situation that I am in.  Once I change my mind and attitude, it becomes easier to see the good I ought to do and act upon it.
1.       Describe a situation where you saw the good you should have done and did not act upon it.
2.       Explain some of the excuses you use to avoid doing the good.
3.       Describe an instance that is happening in your life right now where you should or can be acting upon.
4.       Make a commitment to someone today around doing the good you ought to do right now.  Ask them to hold you accountable in that action.
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Monday, April 16, 2012

The Spirit intercedes...

Week 16:
Romans 8:26-27 26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.   27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
I have always felt that I was terrible at praying.  In public prayer, I could form the right words and say prayers the “right” way.  But, for me that was just so that I was looked upon as prayerful person.  I do know that there is something to be gained out of praying a prayer that ministers to others.  Many times my heart has been drawn closer to God by the prayers I have heard others speak.  However, my perceived lack of competence in my prayers goes deeper than just public prayer.  I feel that I lack the right wording or repeat the same thing over and over for God.  When I pray alone, my mind wanders, I become selfish, and I become repetitive. 
Obviously, I want to become better in how I pray and what I say.  But I will say that this passage gives me some comfort.  To know that the Spirit intercedes with “groans” to God for me is comforting.  Even if I had the right words, those words are still not God’s language.  Only the Spirit knows God’s language since the Spirit is a part of God.  Therefore, the Spirit translates what is in my heart for God.

The words are not the key here.  The heart is the key.  God searches my heart to see what it is that I want, need, desire, and deserve.  Then, he answers according to His will.  God knows where I am because the Spirit of God intercedes on my behalf.  Notice where it says, “…the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”  In some ways, it matters not what we pray or what we say.  The Spirit will intercede according the will of God.  At first, I think to myself, “I may never get what I want, what I request”.  But, with further examination, who better to lead me according to his will than the Almighty Creator?  God knows my heart…He knows what is best for me. 
So, does this mean I cease praying and cease requesting?  Absolutely not!  James 4:2b-3 says, 2b“You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”   And Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  God wants us to ask.  God wants to have a conversation with us, with me.  And, there is some importance to my motives as I talk to God.  The heart is the key.  Where is my heart when I approach God in prayer?  If you are like me…many times I approach God with the right heart, but I just don’t know what to say.  Therefore, I become repetitive, predictable.  That is where the Spirit comes in and intercedes.  Thank God that he deposited the Spirit into our hearts when we accepted Christ and were baptized into him! 
1.       In what ways do you feel you are good at prayer?
2.       In what ways do you feel you are weak in prayer?
3.       What does your heart tell you when you hear that the Spirit intercedes for you?
4.       Do you trust the Spirit?  Why or why not?
5.       Ask God through the Spirit to reveal to you this week a glimpse into the Spirit’s working in your prayer life.  Then watch and listen.
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Monday, April 9, 2012

God is with you...

Week 15:
Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
I hear the phrase, “God is with you.” a lot.  But do I really believe it?  There are times in my life where it is difficult for me to see God is with me.  However, when I read passages like this one it is revealed to me that God is with me…possibly in ways I don not realize. 
The first thing that comes to mind in the first few words of the passage is Emmanuel, “God with us”.  Jesus was Emmanuel.  He was God among us.  He was the extension of the living God and his life is an example of what God intended for man.  Just reading about him allows me to see where God is with me. 
Second, God is mighty to save.  There is nothing in my life that God cannot handle or save me from.  He is on the throne and reigns forever.  His mighty, saving hand is more powerful than anything I can face in my life and he is willing to save me.  He sent his son as proof that he is willing to save me.

Third, he takes great delight in me.  This is hard for me to fathom.  I see the evil parts of me and the sinful actions that I practice.  Because of those, I tend to judge myself and believe that God has the same judgment for me.  I actually cast myself onto God and assume he judges me as I judge myself.  However, God delights in me.  He sees past my evil and my actions into my heart and calls me good.  What a comfort!
Fourth, when my soul is restless, he will quiet me with his love.  In times of fear and restlessness, God is with me.  I need to bask in his love for me.  There are so many ways he shows his love for me and I need to recognize those as I hit times of restlessness.  In those times that I feel peace and comfort, I need to recognize that God has quieted me with his love.
Finally, he rejoices over me with singing.  In Genesis, God makes man his crowning work of creation.  He saw that it was good to make us, humans.  Not only does he see us as his crowning work, he rejoices over us.  Not only does he rejoice…he also sings over us.  I would love to hear God sing.  Can you imagine?  I have had songs touch and move me many times.  Maybe these are times that God is singing over me and I get a glimpse of what it is like as he rejoices in me. 

This passage is a great reminder that God loves us and is rooting for us.  When I do not feel worthy, I am reminded that God is mighty to save, delights in me, quiets me with his love, and rejoices over me with singing.  What a wonderful God we serve!
1.        In what ways do you judge yourself harshly?
2.       Explain a time when God has shown you his love.
3.       What came to mind for you when you read, ‘he will rejoice over you with singing.’?
4.       This week, look for ways that God is with you.  Pay particular attention to the ways the passage points out that God is with us.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

The "I am"...

Week 14:

Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites:  ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

The great I AM, the God of the universe who spoke existence out of nothing.  I love this phrase, “I AM.”  When speaking to Moses and Moses was doubting himself and hiding it as doubting God, God straightens him out with ‘I AM’.  When he told Moses that, Moses knew he was dealing with God and he knew the Israelites would know the same. 

Jesus used the phrase with the Pharisees in John 8:58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”  The Pharisees, setting themselves as the true keepers of the law and understanding Israel’s history, knew right away that Jesus was claiming to be God.  They were going to stone him over it.

To me the phrase ‘I am’ is God’s way of stopping his people in their tracks.  It’s as if he says, “Enough, I am God, you are not.”  I just love the power of the almighty in that phraseology. It makes me reflect to times where God used an ‘I am’ statement (figuratively) in my life.  Now, I have never heard the audible voice of God and I know of no one close to me who has either.  I know God has the power to speak audibly to any of us at any time…he did in the Bible.  But, I know he speaks to me in other ways.  And I have had some of those ‘I am’ moments.

Now, I probably was like Moses in some of those ‘I am’ moments, and really did not want to hear the ‘I am’ at the time.  However, I know that it was for my own good.  There are other ‘I am’ statements that Jesus made that were powerful but not direction changing.  Like “I am the true vine”, “I am the way, the Truth, the life.”  As I was looking up the John passage, there were many ‘I am’ statements made by Jesus, because he was the extension of the great ‘I AM’…the one that stopped Moses in his tracks.  The one who is our ‘I AM’.  I take great comfort in the strength of the ‘I AM’.

“I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites:  ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

  1. What came to mind first when you read this passage?
  2. What do you think God’s temperament was when He spoke these words to Moses?
  3. What do you think Jesus’ temperament was when He spoke these words to the Pharisees?
  4. Describe an ‘I AM’ moment for you.

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