Imagine hearing truth from Hitler

What if I told you that you should be kind to other people? Would you take that as something to be listened to? Would you take it to heart?

Now imagine your most hated enemy. Or perhaps it’s someone that hates you. Think of someone you hate the most, from history or from current times. Think of Hitler, Stalin, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, a terrorist who wants to kill you. What if they were here, and they told you to be kind to other people? How would you receive it?

In John 4, a woman is confronted by a similar situation. The Jews and the Samaritans had an old hateful relationship. The Jews resented the Samaritans because they were “half-breeds” with the Assyrians. And the Samaritans hated the Jews right back. There was a lot of animosity, and they were not on speaking terms.

So in the story in John 4, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. Immediately she is on guard, and she asks him, why he is talking to her. As the conversation continues, Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah and He changes the woman’s life. She in turn goes back to the town and invites all them men to meet Christ and know His transforming power.

Now I ask you, what if that woman couldn’t see past Jesus’ Jewish heritage? Where would she have gone? How would her story had ended? She opened her heart, even though Jesus was a Jew. She chose to see past the hate.

I would like to pose the idea to you, that God has many ways of teaching us. He may want to teach us through our pastor or trusted friends, or He may use someone we don’t like. Sometimes God brings people in our lives to teach us things and these people we may not especially like. I challenge you, look past the outer shell and see the person on inside. Don’t let hate, bigotry, or stereotypes determine how you treat someone or whether you listen to them.

God uses everyone, don’t ever let your views of other people limit God’s working in your life.

For the Samaritan woman, looking past her feelings about Jews totally changed her life. She had a special talk with Christ, and it left her different. Imagine how God might speak to you if you listened for His leading despite the source.

 

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Thirty-eight years later

Everyone loves a good story! And everyone loves the action! The fights, arguments, climactic points. These form the key elements of the story. Settings, character building, and description are necessary, but they aren’t usually what we remember.

But our lives are not lived like stories. We don’t get to skip to the action, to the climax. Sometimes parts of out lives go on and on without resolution. Days, months, years, decades all pass, and we still wait for the solution.

So it was with the lame man in John 5. We are told that there was a pool in Bethesda where an angel would come down and “stir” the water. The first person in the water after the angel moved it, would be healed. We don’t know how often the angel came, but there were a great many people.

When Jesus passed by, he found a man who had been there a great while. By the end of the story, Jesus heals the man and he leaves joyfully.

Those are the main ideas. That’s the plot. That’s the climax and resolution.

If we skim the story, we miss out on little details. We lose sight of the reality that was that lame man’s. In verse 5, we learn, that the man had been lame for 38 years. It is half of a verse. Barely noticeable to us as readers. But I assure you that it meant a great deal to that man.

38 years of his life he had been lame.

38 years of struggle. 38 years of pain. Was he able to find work at all? Or did he just beg? Did he go hungry at times? How long had he waited at that pool? How many times had he tried to crawl using only his arms? How many people had he seen be healed at that pool while he was too slow to get in? How many nights had he cried himself to sleep wondering if his life had purpose? How many people mocked him for his infirmity? How many times did he wish he could walk?

38 years

years

38 years of his life

And we blow past it in half a sentence.

He spent all those years waiting for healing. Waiting for the power of God. At the end of those years he was still by the pool. He hadn’t given up.

Did you catch that?

After 38 years he hadn’t lost hope.

I challenge you, whatever you are going through in your life, whatever you need God’s power for, whatever you are praying for – Don’t. Give. Up.

Seek God, pray, ask for His intervention, and don’t give up. This man’s story was written down so that 2000 years later we could be encouraged. He waited patiently, and God used his life as a testimony.

Won’t you stand strong and wait for God’s power in your life today?

tomorrow?

Or for as long as it takes?

I promise you it will be worth it.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9

Feel the burn!

“No pain, no gain.” This saying is quipped by many as as a catchy way to explain how improvement comes through uncomfortableness. It is the mantra of sportsman, bodybuilders, and all sorts of physical competitors. They pride themselves on the difficulty they embrace to perfect their skills or deepen their abilities. I’ve seen guys pounding each other’s sore muscles leaving the gym- “Feel the burn!” they chant as they leave a particularly intensive workout.

Runners, weight lifters, athletic trainers all speak about that “good” pain. That “good” ache. Their body screams in agony, but they themselves fill with joy- they know that they have pushed themselves farther. They know they will be stronger. They know that their ultimate goals are just that much more in reach.

It’s funny how such a thought could be so obvious on a physical level, but completely escape our minds on a spiritual one. James tells us,

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

The temptations and trials you face- even your failures can be stepping stones to the victory you seek in Christ. When we are surrounded by pain, suffering, loneliness, betrayal, and temptations of all sorts- We should rejoice! The Christian life isn’t about comfort. It’s not about having everything just so. It’s about going through all of life’s hardships with confidence in Christ’s ability to bring us through stronger.

Every fear you face, every trial you endure, every temptation you forgo- you are growing. You are maturing. The pain of failure, the ache of regret, the weariness that you feel- all throw you into the arms of the Savior. They drive you closer to your God.

Be encouraged by it all! Every trial is a reminder of how much you need Christ! In Christ, you can be encouraged that your failures are not the end, and they don’t define you. Your regrets can be wiped away by joy and hope in God’s plans. Your weariness can be replaced by His strength.

Be encouraged by pain. Be joyous in tribulation. Be elated at the sight of trials.

Without such we might never feel our need for Him, we might never experience His power to perfect us, and we might never see how much He loves us and wants to empower us.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;” Romans 5:3

Is your solution, His solution?

Prayer is a powerful vehicle for our lives for good. We can ask God for His will to come to pass in out lives, and He works on bringing it to fruition. The thing is, we can pray for anything. And it doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen. You could pray for the continents to move together and become one land mass (because you think it would be cool). And I’m gonna tell you that’s probably not going to happen.

You could ask God to change your natural hair color. And it’s probably not going to happen.

There’s a lot you could ask God for. The limits are boundless. But the thing is, God isn’t going to do anything that is outside of His will. It’s in His character.

It’s important to pray right. Pray according to His will, or we won’t get results, we will waste our breath, and we will be left with disillusions of what God wants or His capabilities.

Let me give you an example.

In John 17, Jesus is praying. He says, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”

Jesus was praying for believers, and praying for them to do well. He clarified at one point (probably for our benefit) that He wasn’t asking the Father to remove the disciples from the influence of the world, but to protect them from evil. Isn’t that interesting. God wanted them in the world as a witness. As a stark contrast between what a righteous person’s life was like, and what a sinners was like. Being in the world was probably a growing experience for the disciples as well.

I invite you to remember what God’s will is when you pray. If you’re stressed, maybe don’t just pray the stress goes away. Perhaps it would be better for you to pray that God teaches you how to trust Him in your stress. If you are scared of something, perhaps you don’t need to pray for a specific solution, but for God to calm your fears. If you are in a job you don’t like, maybe you don’t need to pray for a new one. Maybe you need to pray for contentment right where God has you.

Every situation is different. But I challenge you to consider that God’s solutions are not always our solutions. There was a time when Christ calmed the storm for the disciples. And there was a time He invited Peter to walk on the water in the middle of the storm.

Won’t you ask God for wisdom when you pray?

Don’t look at your feet!

 

Sweat bands, running shoes, compression clothing

Electrolyte enhanced drinks and orange slices.

It’s a race! The runners take off from their marks and begin to flash towards the finish line.

Hebrews 12 compares our Christian life to a race. In this race it tells us we should run, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;”

He’s the author and the finisher.

I know for myself, I forget the finisher part. I think over and over, that God shows me what’s wrong, and then its just up to me to fix it. But this isn’t the case. The thing is, once I decide to fix it- with wonderful intentions of course, I’ll begin to look at my actions, attitudes, feelings, wrongdoing, and whatever else I can find. I look to my own self so much, I stop looking at God.

That’s no way to win in the Christian life. You don’t look at your hands when you shoot a basket. You don’t look at your legs when you kick a goal. You don’t look at your feet when you run a race. You don’t look at yourself when you live your Christian life.

It may seem right to try to deduce what went wrong, where the wrong thinking was, how you got to be so out of line. Sometimes examining these things is very helpful, but we must remember it is not the solution to the problem.

 

God is the solution.

No matter how hard we think about our problems, we can’t fix them. We need God to transform us. We need God at the center of our lives. If we will look to Him, and focus on His plan for us, and His will for us; we will probably be surprised how easily things work out.

Putting God at the center of our lives, humbly asking Him to change us is the only way to ensure genuine lasting change in our lives.

Won’t you do that today?

You can mourn, or you can dance. But please do one.

My 8 yr old head was pressed against the school bus window, I was staring at the side of road as it blurred past. Every time the old bus hit a pothole, my head would bounce off the window, only to smack against it again. Over the radio I could hear some sad sounding pop song playing. This particular one, played an awful lot.

“Would you dance, If I asked you to dance?” and later on the singer would ask, “Would you cry, if you saw me crying.”

Smack! The bus hit a pothole again, and my head hit the window. Perhaps I can remember this all so clearly because I had hit my head so much. Maybe it was something else.

I remember thinking, that if I loved someone. I’d cry with them. If I loved someone, I’d dance with them. I would share their pain and their joy. It resonated with me. I could not imagine a close friend for whom I did not ache when they were in pain. And I could not imagine not laughing with them when they had joy.

You share emotion with those you love.

In Matthew 11, Christ is berating those who rejected Him. He says that they are like children who are talking to their friends. The children say,

“We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance; we wailed in mourning, yet you did not weep.” (Mt 11:17 NET)

Christ explains his illustration. When John the Baptist preached without eating usual food or drink, the people said he was possessed. When Christ preached while eating and drinking the people said He was a glutton and a drunk.

God had extended Himself in two very different ways, and yet the people would not hear Him. They had no desire to relate to the truth. They refused to see past their ignorance. And why was that?

They didn’t love God.

They never wanted Him. They refused to hear Him. They refused to hear His solemn message of judgment. They refused to hear His tender message of love. Their hearts would not be moved. They would not be reached.

Christ knew He had been offering a relationship to a people that had no desire for Him. There was nothing for Him to do concerning these people.

Is there something in your life you need to address? Has Christ been calling out to you? Would your heart listen to His?

Would you mourn with Him over your sin? Would you dance with Him because of His love?

You can do either, or both.

But if you close your heart to Him and feel nothing, you will lose much.

Do you run?

There’s a small list of people who went to Jesus in Mark chapter 5. They each had a request. They needed healing, for themselves or someone close to them. They wanted freedom or redemption. Whatever it was, they wanted the power of Christ in their lives. And of course, Christ gave it to them.

There was a ruler in the synagogue who’s daughter was sick. There was a woman who had a major illness. And there was a man possessed of demons.

Each one of these stories has an essence of desperation in them. The man’s daughter was literally on her deathbed. The woman couldn’t be healed by any of her doctors. The demon possessed man has a horrible quality of life. Each one of these people came to Christ in their desperation.

The ruler of the synagogue was powerful, and had multiple servants. But he came himself. He counted God’s power to be something that was personal, and worthy of His full attention. We know the woman must have been weak from her blood loss, and the crowd thronged Christ. Fighting her way through must have taken every ounce of her strength. And she considered it worth the fight. The man possessed of demons ran. He ran to Jesus. He knew he was in a miserable state, and he wanted to remain tormented no longer. He wasted no time coming to Christ.

Put each of these portraits together. What do you have?

Coming to Christ needs to be personal.

Coming to Christ needs to be worth the fight.

Coming to Christ needs to be first priority.

Do you consider your relationship with Christ to be all that? Do you give Him all of your attention? All of your effort? All of your urgency?

I would submit to you, your relationship with Christ must be all three. And you must count every deliverance worth all three. Are you addicted to something? Need deliverance? Do you count your deliverance worth all of these?

Do you succumb to temptation occasionally? Do you want to have victory? Do you count your victory worth all of these?

Are you apathetic in any area of your relationship with Christ? If you want victory, you must give Christ your full attention, your every effort, and your utmost urgency.

“For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6

God’s employee benefits [no begging required]

When you’re looking for a job, it’s almost paramount to have good pay, but you probably also want benefits. Sometimes employers will pay for holidays, contribute to a 401k retirement account, vacation pay, sick pay, stock options, company car, you name it! You work for them, they take good care of you.

What about God?

God promises to provide for us many times in the New Testament. In Matthew 6, He tells us to look at the flowers of the field and see how God takes care of them. Look at the birds, how they are supplied for. He tells us not to take a care, but to follow Him and seek His kingdom. He says, “All these things shall be added unto you.”

So think about that.

Food, drink, and clothing are all taken care of. “shall be added”

Does that sound like you have to work for them?

Do you have to work for things that will be added to you? No, of course not, they’re added.

So before you go quit your job, realize the first condition. You must seek the kingdom of God. That means following God’s direction in your occupation, your singleness or your married life, your leisure time, and your ministry. Seek to glorify God first, and God will add all the necessary earthly things to your life.

Isn’t that wonderful?

God tells us, you focus on my agenda, I’ll make sure you don’t have to think about where your next meal will come from. He’s got it covered!

Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”

His seed [children] will not beg for food.

Not: they won’t starve. It says: They won’t beg.

If you follow God, you don’t have to beg for His provision. He takes care of it!

I challenge you, choose to follow God. Seek His will. Seek His kingdom. The benefits will always be there, and the compensation will be out of this world! 😉

Do you wait for a mistake?

Have you ever watched someone, waiting for them to make a mistake? Maybe they showed you up at work. Or they always got an A on their tests. Maybe they seemed to be the perfect brother or sister. You hated the fact that they always did so well. you wanted to see them fail.

In Mark 3, the Pharisees did just that. Jesus entered the synagogue, and there was a man who needed healing. Immediately, the Pharisees were wondering if Jesus would work a miracle on the Sabbath.

They were looking to accuse Him.

They didn’t care about the man with the problem. They didn’t wonder or appreciate Jesus’ power and goodness. They cared about whether Jesus would heal on the Sabbath. And why? Honestly why?

Could I submit to you, that they pridefully wanted to have a grievance against Him. They wanted to be able to say He had a fault. They wanted to be better than Him.

Think about that.

They were filled with pride, they were blind to those around them. They didn’t care about Christ’s goodness or someone else’s condition. All they cared about was whether or not they were better than Christ.

Pride will do that to you. Pride will want you to accuse others. Pride will teach you indifference to the problems of others, and teach you to only observe you’re own assessed worth, how you measure up to others, and how they measure up to you.

Pride will teach you to accuse. To search for a fault in others, in your friends, and even in God.

I challenge you, make a commitment to banish pride from your life. Don’t allow foolish selfish pride to steal you from loving others, from loving those close to you, and loving God.

The Bible teaches us that Satan is the accuser of the brethren.

He doesn’t need any help.

When you’re in love . . .

I have never heard someone who was completely in love, obsess about something they really wanted- while in the presence of their love. When you’re with your special someone, the whole world seems right. Suddenly that muscle car, new pair of jeans, newest smartphone, or whatever else you desire- doesn’t seem so desirable. You are with your love- what else do you need?

You might still want a good steak, or a nice purse, or a new pair of sunglasses- but you don’t obsess about them. You are perfectly content. You are in love.

Now let’s take a look at Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

It tells us that our conversation (meaning lifestyle) should be without covetousness. We should be content. We’ve all heard this before right? Be content. Don’t be jealous of others. Don’t be obsessed with what you don’t have.

But Why?

Did you catch the reason?

God has said, “I will never leave thee”

God promised to spend eternity and whatever beyond with you. He will never leave you. Never.

That’s why we should be content.

The God of the entire Universe will share every moment of our lives with us. He loves us. He died for us. He made us so He could enjoy us. He is our purpose for living. Our true love in every sense. He will never leave us.

Why then, do we obsess about pleasing ourselves through the emptiness of things on this earth? The living breathing God, wants us. Is standing next to us. Is relishing every moment with us. And we run after things.

I challenge you, be content with the things you have.

Not because they are enough. Not because you will make yourself miserable if you run after what you don’t have.

No,

Be content, because the God who loves you, will always be with you.

What more could you ever want?