Spiritual amputees

In all our lives we can feel weak. We can feel emotionally or spiritually disabled. The sin that we’ve been born with has caused us to loose a part of ourselves. We are all, in a sense, spiritual amputees. We cannot love. We cannot have faith. We cannot do good.

Romans tells us, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

“They are together become unprofitable”

Basically everyone on this earth is useless.

But we don’t all feel that way do we? The rich man feels that he is better than the poor man. The strong man feels  he is better than the weakling. The ruler feels he is better than the commoner. In our own little world, we give glory to those who we see as wise or strong. We erect these measures of status and profitability for our own comparisons among each other. We become disillusioned and blinded to the true measure and standard of God’s power and worthiness.

God doesn’t want to leave us in this false world of fake and useless status, so He shakes things up a bit.

In Corinthians we find, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.

God basically reveals himself by taking those considered weak, and making them strong. He takes the poor man, and uses him to show up the rich man.

He takes a bunch of lowly fishermen, and transforms them into apostles who revolutionize the demographics and belief systems of the entire world. He chooses Gideon, who was lowly in status, to lead an army of very few to defeat a massive army. He takes a life as common and lowly as yours or mine and uses it to make a difference for His glory.

So next time you feel as if you have nothing to offer God. Or that you don’t measure up. Or that you don’t have the tools to succeed. Realize that might just be what God is looking for. God can use anyone. He can use the strongest person in the room. But He seeks out the weakest. He chooses the foolish. He plans to use the ones no one would ever expect, to do the things they could never do on their own. And why? So the world can know all the things they value and esteem worthy of praise are worth nothing. They are all gone out of the way, they are all together become unprofitable. Everyone is useless without Him. There is not exception. There is no comparison worth making between us.

“That no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:29

 

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When your ship is full

Have you ever wondered if God was watching? If God cared? Maybe you are wondering right now. Financial troubles, relationship problems, health issues, and loss can all make us lose sight of God and question Him. We can become angry with God, lose our hope in Him, feel frustrated with Him, and lose faith.

This is exactly how the disciples felt in Mark 4:35-38. They traveling by ship when a storm came upon them. They were no doubt working furiously to save themselves, but it was not enough. There’s a part of this story that can be overlooked very easily. In verse 37, it tells us that the ship was full.

It was full.

There wasn’t just a frightening storm. There wasn’t just turbulent waves. There wasn’t just a few feet of water in the ship.

No.

The ship was full of water.

As I’m composing this, my heart goes out to each and every person who is in such a situation. Maybe you’re struggling financially and you don’t know how you will feed your kids. Maybe a loved one has just passed away. Maybe you find yourself destitute and alone. You find yourself in dire straights, and your ship is full of water. Whatever the circumstances, it looks as if they will certainly drown you.

It is not the end.

Go to Jesus. In the middle of your storm.

Go to Jesus. When your ship is full.

Go to Jesus. Even if you’re doubting Him.

Looking at the passage, we see the disciples aren’t asking for His help. They aren’t going to him in faith. They’re going to him in anger and frustration. Pain and disbelief. They say,

“Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

Jesus immediately calms the storm and the seas become peaceful. He rebukes them for their unbelief. The story ends with them marveling at His power.

There may come a time when you loose all faith in God. You doubt His power, you doubt his involvement, and you doubt His love. Go to Him anyway. Ask Him for His help. He can calm the storm, even when you doubt Him and loose all faith.

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.

 

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?

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.

Herod was troubled, but you don’t have to be

Throughout the gospels, wherever Christ went, he stirred up people. People were inspired, lame men walked, sinful men and women thirsted for righteousness, and the seats of power (the establishment if you will) seemed to loose it’s luster and prestige after seeing the glory of the Most High.

Matthew tells us of the first announcement of Christ’s presence on earth.  Wise men came from the East asking to see Christ and declaring that they knew he had been born. Matthew 2:3 says, “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Don’t miss that last phrase! “All Jerusalem with him.”  Jerusalem heard of Christ’s arrival! They knew! And they were scared.

I ask you, what kind of men shake when they hear of God’s arrival?

Herod was carnally minded. He didn’t want Christ to take his “power” from him. The rest of Jerusalem was probably thinking the same way. They didn’t want to disturb the status quo. They liked their life the way it was, and though they were Jews, and called by His name, they were not interested in their Savior if it meant giving up their comfortable life.

How about you?

What is your reaction when you sense Christ nearing to your heart? Do you prefer the comfort and familiarity of your life to the transforming power of Christ?

Some of us are so carnally minded we aren’t interested in Christ being Lord of our life. We like our routine, the sinful pleasures we allow ourselves, the prerogative to do whatever we want.

When Christ shows up, he changes things.

If your spiritual life is stagnant, perhaps it is because you have only allowed Christ to get “so close.” You don’t want Christ to permeate every part of your life, because then you might have to change. You might have to give up your “dominion” of your life.

I challenge you, don’t make that foolish decision. Don’t ever shut Christ out and tell the Lord of Lords to not be the Lord of your heart. Let us be like the wise men who searched out Christ. Let us seek him and lay our lives down before Him.

Herod’s life ended badly. His life was supernaturally ended for not giving God the proper praise. It didn’t have to be that way.

God promised in ancient times, “Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” – 1 Samuel 2:30

The path to glory is not up, but down.

Don’t be the one shaken with fear at the mention of Christ. Be the one who searches for him each day, to lay your gifts at His feet.

10 minutes could save you . . .

There’s a popular insurance ad that reads, “15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance.” It’s sales tactic is simple, take some time out of your day and explore the possibility of . . . Think of the time it would take!

Only 15 minutes!

That’s not a lot of time. And you could save money too! This advertisement has become somewhat known in America and I’m sure many parts of the world. It’s tactic is brilliant.

So I’d like to use it.

But let’s shorten it. Let’s say ten. What could you do with ten minutes? You could aimlessly surf the internet, chat with a friend, play a Sudoku game – I’m running out, so think of something that you would do in a 10 minute window of time. You probably come across these once or twice a day. You know, that random time between appointments. What do you do with it?

I don’t know what your schedule is like. Or what you face every day. But I would challenge you, take 10 minutes every day, and invest it. Do something eternally profitable.

For instance, if you struggle with laziness – take ten minutes every day to suppress your sin nature. Do that thing that you’ve been putting off for some odd days. You may not be able to finish it, but start. And start again day 2- for ten minutes.

If you’ve noticed that worry or anxiety has been stressing you out, take ten minutes. And spend it in constant prayer. Take that time to turn your eyes heavenward. God promises that he will keep you in peace if you keep your eyes on Him.

If you’ve been feeling distant from God. Take ten minutes and spend it in His Word. Flip through proverbs, or psalms, or wherever the Spirit takes you and learn from Him. And then do it day 2. And so forth.

If you’re like me, you’ve spent more than ten minutes surfing the internet, or having a long conversation with a friend. It flies by doesn’t it? Not very much time. Take that time and invest it in God’s eternal kingdom, and you will be amazed at what He does with it.

I challenge you, take 10 minutes. Every day. And watch your world change

 

Have you listened?

It’s interesting to note that in a world of sound bite journalism, research by scrolling, and studying by cliffnotes- we rarely take the time to listen to one another. When was the last time you spent time listening intently to what another person had to say? If you have listened recently, Great! , but if you’re like the majority of us in this modern age, you may not have been listening quite intently as you should.

James 1 says, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” In this verse, the idea of being swift to hear is clearly contrasted with being slow to speak and slow to wrath. Did you catch the meaning here?

If you listen to another, you are saying that their thoughts, ideas, feelings, and concerns are worth your time and attention. But if you are constantly eager to speak, and say what you want- and you are easily moved to anger, you are too much focused on yourself.

God tells us that every man should be “swift to hear.” He should be speedy to hear. He should run to hear. It should be something he’s fast at. You don’t get fast at something you do every once in a while. If you want speed, you have to practice. Listening should be something you’ve trained himself to do. Get the idea?

When Christ was on this earth, He took the time to hear the concerns of others. He listened, and then He spoke. If the God of the universe would listen to His own creation, shouldn’t we? After all, isn’t genuine listening a natural result of genuine love?

How many times have you heard that someone was grateful to another because they listened? Sometimes the wise words aren’t necessary- just the ear.

I challenge you, be swift to hear. During this next year take the time to hear what others say. Let us put others first and make it a point to value their ideas and concerns. Let’s show Christ’s love by listening. It doesn’t take supernatural skill or immense intelligence to do. Just a willing heart.

Would you cut off your arm?

There’s a scene in one of my favorite movies when the great climax is in full motion. One character is struggling with a personal battle as well as a physical battle. His best friend and companion declares, that he may not be able to carry his particular burden, but he can carry him to where he needs to go. It’s a great scene, and it’s a good reminder to all of us what true dedication and friendship is.

Christ commands us to carry one another when he said, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” That word “forbear” literally means to hold erect. We are to hold each other up, and forgive each other’s faults.

The next verses continue to speak of living with love and peace, but then it mentions something very interesting. It says, “ye are called in one body . . .”

You know, I’ve noticed that when a team, group, club, or any “body” of members has a fault- or a weak link- it causes one of two things. Either the individuals turn on the weak one in anger and hate- or they reach out with compassion and help him. They either have the mentality of individuals, or the mentality of “what happens to you- happens to me.”

If something happens to your right arm, say it’s injured. Suddenly, you can’t work as hard. You get slower. You have pain. You aren’t efficient. Would you chop that arm off? No, obviously not! You would bandage it. Give it rest. Make adjustments so it can heal. It’s the same with the body of Christ.

To many people see a weakness in someone and want to amputate them from the body. Instead, that member needs more attention, love, compassion, and forgiveness. When it comes to the church, we need to have the mentality of, “What happens to you- happens to me.” We need to be understanding of one another’s faults and willing to uplift a brother who has fallen.

I challenge you, don’t look at yourself as an individual in the body, look at yourself as part of the body of Christ. Don’t look at your own needs and desires, see the larger picture and take notice of what others need, and the healing they might be in need for.

As the Scripture says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Philippians 2:4

Is there a necessity?

You’ve probably heard the phrase before, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” And it’s true, there are countless stories of someone in need who found a way to get something done. They needed to. So they found a way. It’s true of people in the Bible also, when then needed something, they found a way to get it. Take the story in Mark 2 for instance:

Jesus is inside a house teaching, and the house is full, and there are people outside the house. And people outside those people- everyone wants to hear Jesus. Now, one man is sick of a debilitating disease. His friends want to get him to Jesus. What do they do? The place is crowded, there’s too many people. No one wants to step aside so they can see Jesus, Jesus is busy teaching anyway, their friend is getting to heavy to carry now, might as well go home right? Wrong.

One of their ingenious party gets the bright idea to go through the roof. They make their way (probably around a multitude of people) to the roof of the house, and they start tearing it up. Eventually there is enough space to lower their friend. They lower their friend down to Jesus and Jesus not only heals him, but forgives his sin. Mission accomplished.

But that’s not the only story where people overcame “impossible” situations to get to Christ. Remember Zacchaeus who was so short that he decided to climb a tree so he could see Jesus when He passed by? Jesus understood his heart and decided to visit his house that night. How about the blind man who couldn’t even see Jesus? He yelled and yelled and wouldn’t stop ’till Jesus came to him. He received his sight.

So how about you in your life? The question is not whether or not you “have time for God,” or if you are “too busy,” or “not getting anything out of your devotions.” The question is, “Is there a necessity?” Do you NEED to get to Jesus. Because if you don’t, you can always find an excuse not to, but if you do you can always find a way to make yourself available to hear from Him.

I challenge you to search your heart on this matter. Is there a necessity to seek God, or is knowing God just an option in your mentality? Only you can answer that. But you can be sure, if you make God a priority and seek Him with a pure heart, He will not be hard to find.

“The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” – Psalm 34:15

Remember, it does not matter who you are, if you cry out to God for fellowship with Him, He will not be far away.