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We need patience in every area of life…we spend a lot of our lives waiting…developing patience


A lot of your life is spent waiting. As a little kid, you wait to start school, then you couldn’t wait until you got out of school, then you couldn’t wait to fall in love, then couldn’t wait to get married, then couldn’t wait to get a job, then couldn’t wait to have kids….. we spend a lot of our lives waiting. There are many things in life that test our patience: freeways, supermarket lines, doctors’ offices, irritating people.  We hate to wait.

We’re going to look at what James has to say on How do you develop patience? You need patience in every area of your life. In this passage, James uses the word “patience” or “perseverance” 6 times.  He uses 3 illustrations to teach us when, why, and how to be patient.

happy-married-life-122WHEN SHOULD I BE PATIENT?  James says there are three special times when you need that extra dose of patience:

1. When circumstances are uncontrollable: a lot of life is beyond your control? You cannot keep your thumb on everything. James uses a farmer as an example of when circumstances are uncontrollable. v. 7 “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient.” 

Part of the job description of being a farmer is you do a lot of waiting: waiting to till, to plant, to prune. Yet more than the factors of waiting on things to do are the factors that the farmer has no control over-weather, rain, heat, the economy, labor practices. You too deal with a lot of uncontrollable factors-circumstances-in life. 

Have you noticed that even when we realize a situation is beyond our control, we still try to control it? We do that by worrying. We think that worry will control a situation. To worry about something you can change is dumb, to worry about something you can’t change is useless. Either way you shouldn’t worry. We need patience in uncontrollable circumstances.

2. When people are unchangeable. When people won’t change. He gives an example of the prophets. Look at v. 10: “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.” What was the duty of prophets? To help people change,  bring them back to God, to be different in their behavior. Have you noticed that people resist change?

Do you have anybody in your life right now who refuses to change? You know how difficult it is to live with that kind of person? We need patience with people. Joyce Lander calls these “irregular people”-they are people who only see their own way. They may never change. What are you going to do about it? James says, have patience.

The word “patience” in the Greek is the word “macrothumos”-“macro” meaning “long” & “thumos” (from which we get the word “thermometer”) meaning “heat”. It literally means “it takes a long time for you to get hot”. You’ve got a long fuse, you don’t blow up. If you’re going to be a success with people, you have to learn patience.  If you’re going to be successful parents, you have to have a long fuse. Spouse. Christian. In your service.

3. When problems are unexplainable. The classic example is in v. 11, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance.” Job played in the Super Bowl of suffering. He won the championship. He was the wealthiest man that had lived to then-had everything going for him. In a 2 day period, everything fell part. He went bankrupt, his children were murdered, he got an incurable, disease that was very painful. You think you’ve got problems! He lost his family, his friends, his finances. He was suffering materially, physically, socially. His wife comes to him and says, “Curse God and die!” And that was his support system!

God allowed the devil to take away everything in his life except a nagging wife. The worst part of Job’s suffering was that he had absolutely no idea why it was happening. There was no apparent reason for his misfortune. Of all people, Job had the privilege to say, “Why me?”

Life is not fair! God never said it would be fair. A lot of things in life just don’t make sense. Maybe we’ll never understand on this of heaven. Job didn’t understand. In all of that unexplained problem, Job maintained his faith. Sometimes we just can’t figure out our problems. When circumstances are uncontrollable, when people are unchangeable, and when problems are unexplainable you really need patience.  WHY BE PATIENT?

1. Because God is in control. “Be patient & stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” v. 8. 3 times in this passage, James says, the Lord’s coming is near. That is the ultimate proof that God is in control. Nothing can stop it. The Bible talks more about Jesus’ 2nd coming-when He comes back to judge the world-than it does about His 1st coming.

God is in control of history.  God’s purpose for your life is greater than any problem you’re facing right now.  God is in control. Though a situation may be out of my control, no circumstance is out of God’s control.  Although I can’t control everything that happens in my life, God can, so I ought to trust Him.

And because God is in control and everything is working out, be patient.  Job persevered. God’s timing is perfect, He’s never late. Some of you are experiencing a real delay right now but God’s delays never thwart His purpose.

2. God rewards patience.  v. 11a “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.”  The second half of Job’s life was more blessed than the first half. God doubled everything he had. It pays to be patient. There are all kinds of rewards. Your character grows, you get along with people better, you’re happier, you reach your goals.  There are lots of benefits of being patient.  God rewards it. But not just on this side of eternity, but on the other side you’re going to be rewarded.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2019 in Disciplines

 

Missed Opportunities? Matthew 13:53-58; 21:18-22; Mark 6:5


We’ve all heard the words of the poet who wrote, “The saddest words of tongue or pen are simply these, It might have been.” How often do we miss opportunities to speak a word for Christ …miss opportunities for service …miss opportunities to worship Him?

I want us to spend our time today looking at two sets of verses which speak in a powerful and practical way to each person here today. The intent is that we see the events of our average day in a different light; that we determine to “open our spiritual eyes” and allow faith to reign.

(Matthew 13:53-58 NIV)  When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. {54} Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. {55} “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? {56} Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” {57} And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” {58} And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

(Mark 6:5 NIV)  He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.

Beginning with 13:53 and continuing through the first part of chapter 16, Matthew records eight incidents in the life of the Lord that correspond to and demonstrate the truths presented in the two parables mentioned.

Jesus had been ministering in and around Capernaum for about a year, using it as His home base (see 4:13; 8:5). But the majority of the people who saw and heard Him in that region eventually fell away, manifesting their rejection either by blasé indifference or direct opposition. Because of that rejection, His last teaching there was done entirely in parables, in order that, “while seeing they [would] not see, and while hearing they [would] not hear, nor … understand” (13:13). After Jesus finished the parables on the kingdom, He departed from there.

Because the Lord had spent more time there than anywhere else thus far in His ministry, Capernaum was especially guilty for rejecting Him. Earlier, Jesus had scorchingly rebuked them, saying, “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day” 11:23.

Jesus had, in effect, pronounced a curse on Capernaum, and when He departed from there, that city’s doom was imminent. Jesus never went there again except as He passed through to minister elsewhere. He had come into the city and demonstrated power that could only have been from God. Yet the people would not have Him as Lord. Many marveled and some criticized, but few believed.

Now Capernaum’s opportunity was passed, and she entered a decline into oblivion from which she never recovered. Today the city is in virtually the same state of ruin—without houses or people—that it was a few centuries after Jesus was there. Apparently the town and the synagogue enjoyed a period of worldly prosperity for a while, but archaeological excavations show increasing pagan influence on the Jews there.

The last synagogue built in Capernaum, erected over the floor of the one where Jesus taught, was decorated with various animals and mythological figures. Having rejected the true God, the people were at the mercy of false ones.

Jesus’ home town was Nazareth, where Joseph and Mary went to live after returning from Egypt with their infant Son (2:23). It was to Nazareth that Jesus returned after His baptism and temptations (4:12-13); and we learn from Luke that the response to Him then was the same as it was on this occasion.

At first the people did not understand that Jesus was referring to Himself, because their initial response was quite favorable: “All were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’” (Luke 4:17-22).

Knowing that the people’s praise was based merely on faithless recognition of His popularity and power, Jesus began to expose their real motives. He knew they wanted Him to duplicate in Nazareth the miracles He had performed in Capernaum. And He knew that if He complied with their demand they still would not accept Him as the Messiah, because “no prophet is welcome in his home town.”

In further rebuke of their hypocrisy and faithlessness, He reminded them that in the days of Elijah God had shut up the rain in Israel for three-and-a-half years and caused a great famine. During that time the Lord showed mercy on none of the many suffering widows in Israel but showed great mercy on a Gentile widow of Zarephath.

He also reminded them that during the time of Elisha, God cleansed no lepers in Israel but did cleanse the leprosy of the Gentile Naaman of Syria (vv. 23-27). They could not have missed Jesus’ powerful, rebuking point that a believing Gentile is dearer to God than an unbelieving Jew.

When Jesus made clear that He understood their wicked motives and would not bend to their hard-hearted provincial desire to have their own display of miracles, “all in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things;” and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff” (vv. 28-29).

From Jesus’ second, and similar, encounter with His former neighbors in Nazareth we can learn four important truths about unbelief: it blurs the obvious, builds up the irrelevant, blinds to the truth, and blocks the supernatural.

Unbelief Blurs the Obvious

And coming to His home town He began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they became astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom, and these miraculous powers?” (13:54)

The people at the synagogue in Jesus’ home town of Nazareth immediately recognized Him as the person they had known as a boy and young man. They also remembered that less than a year earlier He had worked miracles in other parts of Galilee, had impressed them with His great wisdom, and had so angered them by exposing their hypocrisy and unbelief that they tried to throw Him over the cliff to His death.

He taught about regeneration, worship, evangelism, sin, salvation, morality, divorce, murder, service, servanthood, pride, hate, love, anger, jealousy, hypocrisy, prayer, fasting, true and false doctrine, true and false teachers, the Sabbath, the law, discipleship, grace, blasphemy, signs and wonders, repentance, humility, dying to self, obedience to God, and countless other subjects. He taught the truth about everything that pertained to spiritual life and godliness (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3).

In addition to teaching with great wisdom, Jesus had displayed supernatural power that all but banished sickness and disease from Palestine and had performed miracles of nature that astonished the most hardened skeptics. At the very least, it should have been clear that Jesus was a prophet of God unequaled by any of the Old Testament era. How could the people not believe Jesus was from God, when only divine power and wisdom could explain the greatness of what He said and did?

Like the scribes and Pharisees, the people of Jesus’ home town synagogue refused to make the logical and obvious connection between His power and His divinity because they were willfully unbelieving. The seed of the gospel fell on the hard-packed soil of sin-loving hearts into which God’s truth could not make the slightest penetration.

Those who heard and saw Jesus did not reject Him for lack of evidence but in spite of overwhelming evidence. They did not reject Him because they lacked the truth but because they rejected the truth. They refused forgiveness because they wanted to keep their sins. They denied the light because they preferred darkness. The reason for rejecting the Lord has always been that men prefer their own way to His.

When a person willfully rejects the Lord, even the most compelling evidence will not convince Him of divine truth. Cultists and liberal theologians who refuse to acknowledge Jesus as the divine Son of God can find countless ways to discount or explain away the most obvious truths of Scripture. They then congratulate themselves for their intellectualism in explaining Scripture without accepting its truths, for seeming to honor Christ without believing in Him or in what He taught, and for calling themselves by His name while denying His divine nature and power.

 UNBELIEF BUILDS UP THE IRRELEVANT

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary; and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (13:55-56)

Instead of accepting the obvious and overwhelming evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, the people of Nazareth focused their attention on the irrelevant. It was indeed surprising to see someone they had watched grow up and with whom they had gone to synagogue all His life suddenly come on the scene as a great leader—with no formal training and no recognition by the accepted religious hierarchy

The facts that Jesus was the carpenter’s son and the Son of Mary, that He had brothers named James and Joseph and Simon and Judas who everyone in  Nazareth knew, and that He had sisters who still lived there were irrelevant to the issues of His being the Messiah or not.

The fact that the citizens of Nazareth did not regard Jesus and His family as being out of the ordinary completely undercuts myths that attribute bizarre miracles to Him when He was a child. One story maintains that whenever He found a bird with a broken wing, He would stroke it gently and send it flying on its way healed and healthy. This text completely mitigates against such fabrications.

It is tragic that small issues can be used as great excuses for not believing. The people of Nazareth were like people throughout the history of the church who can find every foolish reason to justify their rejection of the gospel.

They don’t like the attitude of the one who witnesses to them; they think most church people are hypocrites; they think the preacher is too loud or too soft, too stuffy or too overbearing; and the services are too formal or too informal. They are offended at the slightest things Christians do and construe the insignificant as being all important. They put up one smoke screen after another to excuse their unwillingness to believe the clear and demanding claims and promises of Christ.

UNBELIEF BLINDS TO THE TRUTH

And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, and in his own household.” (13:57)

Took offense is from skandalizoô, which has the basic idea of causing to stumble or trip up and is the term from which our English scandalize is derived. Jesus’ friends and former neighbors were offended by His claims. They were offended by His ordinary background, by the commonness of His family, the limits of His formal training, His lack of official religious status, and many other irrelevant or secondary issues.

Until a person is willing to have the hard ground of his heart plowed up by God’s truth and to confess and forsake his sin, he will be offended by the gospel. Until a person faces his sin in penitence, the truth of the gospel is hidden from him, and the blessing of the gospel is lost to him.

Unbelief Blocks the Supernatural

And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief. (13:58)

Some of Jesus’ miracles were done in direct response to personal faith; but many others, perhaps most of them, were done regardless of any specific expression of an individual’s faith. All of the miracles were done to strengthen the faith of those who believed in Him; but although God can perform miracles where there is no belief, He chose not to perform them where there was hard and willful unbelief.

Jesus warned, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matt. 7:6).

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2019 in Jesus Christ

 

Questions Jesus Asked – How Many Loaves Do You Have? Mark 6:30-46


“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

The biographers of Jesus regarded the miraculous supply of food for a large crowd as a key event. Apart from the resurrection of Christ, it is the only miracle recounted in all four Gospels.

These miracles shows that God will provide when we are in need. Jesus was not transforming rocks into food, but multiplying bread and fish. He was doing instantly what he does constantly throughout nature. He was not breaking the “laws of nature,” but was demonstrating that he was in control of these “laws.” Christ’s power to feed a multitude, walk on water, and heal diseases all point to his identity as Lord of creation.

We’ve been going through the gospel of Mark, stopping at places where Jesus asked a question. The question before us now was addressed to ambassadors: “How many loaves do you have? What has God given you that he can put into service to himself?”

 Mark 5::30-44 (ESV)
30  The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.
31  And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
32  And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.

The disciples returned from their mission and reported to Jesus. They reported two things: what they had done and what they had taught.

How they had lived and what they had taught were both of vital interest to Christ. He had given them precise instructions in both areas. This report would reveal their obedience to Him, the degree of commitment and effectiveness of each disciple. Jesus needed to know, for the salvation of the world depended on their lives and teaching. He was soon to leave all in their hands.

The pairs returned (apparently at a prearranged time) to Capernaum and gathered around Jesus, giving him their reports of all that they had done and taught. This marked the first time the disciples had gone out on their own, so quite naturally, they were full of excitement upon their return—telling stories, sharing together the thrill of preaching the message and doing miracles in God’s power. This had been their training mission, their “student teaching,” and Jesus to their stories and answered their questions.

Jesus told the disciples to take a break. He knew their weaknesses. There is only so much a person can do physically and spiritually; then the body needs rest and the soul needs refreshment. As if it were a new discovery, sports physiologists and motivational experts now preach the wisdom of hard work, then adequate rest. People who hope to accomplish big goals need this healthy rhythm for success and stamina.

Rest allows time for reflection, meditation, conversation, reading, and prayer. In all your work, take a little time to dream. Walk in the woods. Stare at the stars. Count your blessings. Sing a prayer of praise where only God can hear.

33  Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.
34  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.

A danger is losing sight of people who are as sheep without a shepherd. Again the scene is descriptive. As the boat approached the shore, Jesus stood in the boat watching the multitude clamoring for space on the seashore. He needed rest, and the disciples needed rest even more. But He was not annoyed or irritated with the people. Contrariwise, He was moved with deep, intense compassion because the people were as sheep without a shepherd. He could not turn from them. He could not send them away despite the need for rest. He could do only one thing. He had to meet their need; He had to teach them, so He began “to teach them many things.”

  1. Sheep without a shepherd are bewildered and wander about, not knowing where they are or where they are going. They get lost ever so easily, and cannot find their way back to the flock. So it is with people. People without the shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, are bewildered. They do not know where they have come from, where they are going, nor why they are where they are. They wander about, getting lost in place after place, never finding the way to true life.
  2. Sheep without a shepherd go hungry. They do not have adequate nourishment. They cannot find sufficient food to live. So it is with people. People without the Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, go hungry. They do not have the Shepherd of God to feed and inspire their souls, nor to satisfy their inner longings for peace, love, and joy (Galatians 5:22-23). They have only themselves to depend upon as they seek to meet their craving for life.
  3. Sheep without a shepherd cannot find shelter or safety. The sheep are exposed to all the dangers of the wilderness. So it is with people. People without the Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, are exposed to all that is within the world, and they are doomed. They are doomed because the beasts, the temptations and trials of the world, attack at every opportunity and destroy all who wander about.

Everyone can list a few things in their life which might fit into the category of “impossible.” Jesus had already shown His disciples some pretty “impossible” things; and great crowds of people were beginning to also take notice.

35  And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late.
36  Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37  But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?”
38  And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”

In reply to their question about going and spending an extravagant amount of money on bread, Jesus told them first to check out their resources. “Go and see how many loaves you have.” John records that the five loaves (round barley cakes) and two dried fish they found were from the lunch of a young boy (John 6:9). Apparently, in their hurry, no one else in the crowd had thought to bring along food to eat, or they were unwilling to share it. The young boy offered his lunch to the disciples (specifically to Andrew, see John 6:8), but again the disciples could see only the impossibility of the situation.

39  Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.
40  So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties.
41  And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all.
42  And they all ate and were satisfied.
43  And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.
44  And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

– From a Human Perspective.

With their limited, human understanding, these weary fishermen can see only a swelling sea of humanity threatening to wash over them. In verse 10 we’re told that this great multitude numbered 5,000 men. Including women and children, this figure could easily have been 8,000-10,000.

– From a Divine Perspective.

From Jesus’ point of view, the crowds weren’t an infringement but an opportunity–a chance to reveal His glory and, at the same time, stretch his disciple’s faith.

`Resources: there are six attitudes toward resources. It takes resources to meet human need. In consideration of this, there is a fact that needs to be acknowledged. Every person has something he can give. Every person can help and do something to meet a need when a need confronts him. The problem is not lack of resources nor a lack of ability or money or time. The problem is attitude—attitude toward the resources which one has.

  1. There is the attitude of questioning one’s ability to give (Mark 6:37). Jesus had just said, “Give them food.” The disciples were shocked and even disturbed with the instructions, for the crowd was enormous and the task impossible. They were already upset over the presence and burden of the crowd. Irritated, the disciples fired back at Jesus, “Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?” This amounted to about six months’ labor for the disciples. They did not have the money, so the request by Jesus was ridiculous to them. There was no way they could give food to meet the need of the crowd. But note something: the disciples forgot two things.
  2. They forgot that they did have something. The need of the crowd in this instance was for food, and the disciples had food for themselves (or at least enough money to buy food for themselves). Yet, they did not think to mention this fact. They were thinking only of what excess, what above their own needs they had to give.
  3. They forgot the power of God. They forgot that God loved and cared for these people as well as for them. They forgot that God would meet the needs of any and all, if only they would put what they had at His disposal. They forgot that God’s power could take little and multiply it.
  4. There is the attitude of checking to see what one can give (Mark 6:38). In response to the disciples’ impatience, Jesus remained cool, asking rather forcefully, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” The disciples checked and reported that they had five loaves of bread and two fish. Note two facts.
  5. They had resources that were overlooked. Why were they overlooked? Because the resources were so little. There was no possibility the resources could ever meet the need. In fact, two fish and five loaves of bread could not even make a dent in the hunger of five thousand men. In the eyes of the disciples it was impossible for the resources to do any good whatsoever.
  6. Jesus did not ask the disciples to check on how to feed all five thousand men. He asked them to check on what resources they had to give. They were to look at what they themselves could give, not at how the whole task could be done. Their eyes and perspective were to be on using what they had, not on the mammoth impossibility of the task. This is a critical point and it should be carefully noted when looking at the vast needs of the world.
  7. There is the attitude of organizing what resources one has so that they might be used (Mark 6:39-40). This is an important step Christ takes and it should be well noted. The hour was late. Darkness was rapidly approaching. Distribution could have easily become a problem. The people had to be organized into small circles or rows which left room for the disciples to walk between them and distribute the food.
  8. There is the attitude of being thankful for what one has and can give (Mark 6:41). What Jesus did was impressive. He took into His hands what they had, and He looked up to heaven and gave thanks for it. It was small; it was insignificant. It looked like it would do little, like it would be insignificant; but He took it anyway and looked up to heaven, and blessed it.
  9. There is the attitude of giving what one has (Mark 6:41-42). After giving thanks, Jesus took the food and gave it to the disciples to set before the people. And a miracle happened! The resource multiplied: all the people were fed and were filled (Mark 6:42).
  10. There is the attitude of being careful in the handling of resources (Mark 6:43-44). Very simply, Christ teaches that resources are not to be wasted. They are to be used day after day. When there is more than enough to meet one need, what is left over is to be gathered up to use elsewhere.

 

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2019 in Mark

 

We must develop a strong desire toward excellence: when ‘good’ is not good enough


In keeping with the biblical goal of spiritual growth and greater levels of maturity, we often find in Scripture the call to abound or excel in Christian character, especially in the various ways we can express love to one another. Spiritual maturity is a quest for character for which there will be little progress without the pursuit of excellence.

Without pursuing excellence, life will remain bland, very vanilla, lukewarm at best (see Rev. 3:15-16). The quest for excellence fuels our fire and keeps us from just drifting downstream gathering debris. This focus and need becomes quickly evident from the following verses.

template picEcclesiastes 9:10: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

1 Corinthians 10:31: So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 8:7: But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us –see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

Philippians 1:9-10: And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, {10} so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,

1 Thessalonians 4:1: Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.

From these verses, it should be clear that God wants His people to abound or excel in both what they are (inward character) and in what they do (behavior or good deeds). It would seem obvious that there is simply no way one can love God with all his heart (Matt. 23:37) without seeking to do his or her best to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Since that is so, the pursuit of excellence is both a goal and a mark of spiritual maturity. However, for this to be true, the pursuit of excellence must be motivated by the right values, priorities, and motives. If we go astray here, the pursuit of excellence can quickly become a mark of immaturity and just another result of man’s obsession with his own significance, which, as mentioned previously, is a perilous pursuit.

Because of who Christians are in Christ, because of our eternal hope, and because of the enabling grace of God available to all believers in Christ,  seeking to do our best and choosing what is best is part of God’s will and an evidence of genuine spiritual growth and maturity. However, there is one distinction that needs to be stressed up front.

Brian Harbour made this comment in Rising Above the Crowd: “Success means being the best. Excellence means being your best. Success, to many, means being better than everyone else. Excellence means being better tomorrow than you were yesterday. Success means exceeding the achievements of other people. Excellence means matching your practice with your potential.”

Excellence isn’t determined by comparing our score or performance to someone else’s. The pursuit of excellence comes from doing our best with what we have to God’s glory and with a view to growing and improving, but not with a view to the score or who is watching from man’s standpoint.

So then, biblically speaking, the pursuit of excellence refers to pursuing and doing the best we can with the gifts and abilities God gives, giving our best to the glory of God. But ideally, it is done without the spirit of competition or seeking to excel simply to be better than others. Excellence includes doing common, everyday things, but in very uncommon ways regardless of whether people are watching.

The reality is that God sees our work and rewards us accordingly (1 Corinthians 15:58)  “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain..”

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2019 in Encouragement

 

A Question We All Ask: Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People? – Psalm 73:1-18


Have you ever wondered if it pays to be a godly person? It is very easy when we are trying to live right, to look around us and see people openly living in sin who seem to get along better in this world than we do. It isn’t uncommon to see known drug dealers get away with it for long periods of time without ever being caught.

We often see people who cheat on their taxes or cheat in business, but still seem to prosper. We see those who are immoral, cheaters in their marriage, still rise to the top in the political arena or even the business arena. It often seems we make heroes of the ones living in rebellion to what is right.

difficult peopleWhy is that the case? (Ecclesiastes 8:11 NIV)  When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.

 GOOD COMES ON BAD FOLKS BECAUSE GOD DOESN’T SETTLE HIS ACCOUNTS AT THE END OF EACH DAY.

Notice David’s picture of the wicked, which caused him to be envious of them in their prosperity and arrogance. (Psalm 78)

  • No pains in their death and their body is fat. Vs. 4
  • No trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like mankind. Vs. 5
  • They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; they speak from on high. Vs. 8
  • They are always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Vs. 12

 To David it seemed that he had kept his heart pure in vain. Vs. 13. When he pondered all this it was troublesome to him, “Until he came into the sanctuary of God; then he perceived their end. Vs. 16,17

 Surely God has set them in a slippery place. Vs. 18

Imagine what would happen with shoplifting if every time someone shoplifted, they were caught and had their right hand cut off. What would happen to those who manufacture drugs to sell to children or unsuspecting adults if every time they made the drugs to sell, they were caught and put into hard labor for the next 30 years?

 God wants people to change their lives and come to Him. But He doesn’t want folks to give their lives to Him only out of fear of hell.  (Romans 2:5 NIV)  But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

 GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO BAD PEOPLE TO SHOW GOD’S LOVE FOR ALL.

(Matthew 5:43-48 NIV)  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ {44} But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, {45} that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. {46} If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? {47} And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? {48} Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

a. We are challenged to love our neighbor as ourselves.

b. In application we are challenged to love our enemies, bless those who curse us and pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us.

c. That you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Vs. 45

d. If we do good only to those who are good, we miss the Lord. Even tax collectors are good to those who are good to them and greet those who greet them.

e. We are to be perfect as the Father is perfect by loving even the sinner, the unlovable. Vs. 48

f. In the doing good even to the wicked God is giving them a witness that it might turn them to Him in time.

(Acts 14:17 NIV)  Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

 g. All of one blood and God has before determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, so that they should seek the Lord, in hope they might grope after Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

 (Acts 17:24-28 NIV)  “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. {25} And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. {26} From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. {27} God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. {28} ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

 SATAN BRINGS GOOD THINGS TO BAD PEOPLE TO KEEP THEM IN THE EVIL.

a. By giving good things to bad people convinces them to trust in their riches.

(Luke 12:13-21 NIV)  Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” {14} Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” {15} Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” {16} And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. {17} He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ {18} “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. {19} And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘ {20} “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ {21} “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

 b. Get to thinking that life consist in the abundance of things we have or possessions. Vs. 15

c. Thought he could satisfy the soul with what he had.

d. Thus Satan claimed his soul and he lived like a fool.

e. Satan brings temporary pleasure in sin and makes us think it will last forever if we just stay with Him.

 (Hebrews 11:24-25 NIV)  By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. {25} He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.

 f. He shouts to the world how much fun is in immorality. Now whole countries are losing population to aids. People even quoted, as saying can’t live without immoral relationships. Satan must be thrilled with such attitudes. World is paying a heavy price.

 g. Need to see where the evil and ungodly life ultimately leads.  (Romans 6:23 NIV)  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 SOMETIMES WHAT SEEMS GOOD TO THOSE LOOKING ON MAY NOT BE.

  • Very prosperity, which causes some to envy, can become more a source of pain than pleasure. Hoard it. Make it my god.
  • The fun which evil seems to have often a place to hide from their empty hearts. Must keep laughing, adding to the worldly pleasure, because simple joys of like are being missed.
  • Only God can see the inside of a person. Nothing hidden from His view.

(Hebrews 4:13 NIV)  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

  • He will ultimately judge by truth, not what we think or feel.

 CONCLUSION

Real joy will last all through life and eternity. Are you living in such a relationship with God that you can face even death without the fear of losing all that is good?

Close with verses from Psalm 37

 

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2019 in Church, Encouragement

 

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS TO BE AN INTROVERT, ACCORDING TO A PSYCHOLOGIST


By Beth Anne MacAluso

It’s hard out here for an introvert. At work, at school, with friends, and even around immediate family, the world seems designed to recognize and reward the things that don’t come naturally to people who identify as introverts—and overlook, or even dismiss outright, the things that do. (Did anybody else’s parents ever stress about the fact that you preferred reading Nancy Drew in your room to playing with your fellow tiny humans? Just me? Cool.)

“In our society, there seems to be an emphasis on the idea of ‘get out there and show what you’ve got,’ rather than ‘stay in and develop what you’ve got,’” says Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., a psychologist, associate professor of behavioral sciences at the Ross University School of Medicine, and author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength. That can make it tough for introverts, who tend to focus on what’s happening internally instead of on their external surroundings, to find their niche.

But what does it mean to be an introvert? Well, it’s complicated. Generally, introverts are energized from time alone rather than social time and are more focused on what’s happening internally (thoughts and feelings) instead of their external surroundings and what others are doing. This tendency to hold back and stay in makes many people dismiss introverts as “aloof,” “reserved,” or “shy.” But not all introverts are shy, and not all extroverts are outgoing. “Shyness refers to social reticence, while introversion refers to a way of processing information,” Dr. Helgoe explains. “Introverts may seem shy when they are quietly reflecting, but that is a misinterpretation of what is happening. The introvert is not withdrawing from interaction to avoid people, but simply out of a need to focus internally.”

And nobody is purely introverted or purely extroverted. “It’s a continuum,” says Dr. Helgoe. “We’re not either/or. We’re more or less, basically.”

If you’re wondering where on the spectrum you fall, think about the last time you found yourself in a crowded bar or at a networking event full of people you didn’t know. Did you feel right at home, or were you ready to leave five minutes after you got there? “How soon you want to exit a high-stimulus social situation would probably determine whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert,” Dr. Helgoe says. “Extroverts tend to get energized by social interaction, whereas introverts want to pull away and recharge by processing and listening to their own thoughts.” In other words: “We could sort extroverts and introverts by how soon they leave the party,” the self-proclaimed introvert jokes.

Although Dr. Helgoe cautions that there’s no such thing as a “typical” introvert—“We make up half the population!” she says—there are some common qualities that emerge when you look at introverts as a group.

What does it mean to be an introvert? Here are some common qualities introverted people share:

1. You enjoy alone time. A night (or three) at home isn’t going to throw an introvert off their game. Quite the opposite, in fact—research shows that introverts see improvements in their moods and energy levels after quality alone time. “I think the ability to enjoy solitude is a huge life skill, because the fact is, we’re going to have times when we’re alone,” says Dr. Helgoe. Score one for introverts.

2. You tend to be less motivated by external rewards. There’s tons of research to suggest that introvert and extrovert brains process the exact same stimuli differently. One study from 2013 found that extroverts actually get a rush of dopamine from their external surroundings. (When dopamine is released, we feel contentment, and our brain starts to associate the situation/person/thing we were around with pleasure.) But outside stimuli (people, places, events) doesn’t necessarily result in the same chemical reward for the introverts—which in Dr. Helgoe’s view is a good thing.

“I think there’s a huge advantage to the fact that we are less dependent on external rewards than extroverts tend to be,” says Dr. Helgoe. “Extroverts tend to experience activation in brain areas that pursue rewards in the environment.” Because introverts aren’t as easily influenced by their surroundings, they’re more likely to stay the course, regardless of what’s happening around them.

3. You usually think before you speak. Everyone knows somebody who doesn’t talk much, but manages to cut right to the heart of the matter every time they do. Those loved ones, coworkers, or acquaintances are all likely introverted. “Introverts process information internally and privately,” Dr. Helgoe explains. Because of that, they take however much time they need before they share their thoughts with others. Extroverts, meanwhile, “process information interactively,” Dr. Helgoe adds—making them more likely to chime in as they work to make sense of things.

4. You prefer one-on-one interactions. Another common misconception about introverts? That they’re cranky and antisocial. “We crave connection too,” says Dr. Helgoe. “We just crave it differently.” Introverts would rather spend quality time one-on-one or in small groups, rather than interacting with a lot of people all at once, while extroverts get bored in quieter settings with limited opportunities for interaction.

Neither approach to socializing is superior—they’re just different.

But when you’re raised in a culture that puts a premium on qualities like gregariousness and boldness, it can be easy to start feeling like there’s something wrong with you. The key, says Dr. Helgoe, is self-acceptance, and with that comes owning your introversion—not apologizing for it. “Party does not equal fun for everybody. We’re allowed to say, ‘Yeah, not for me. That’s not my thing,’ and not have to explain it,” she says.

Despite their differences, extroverts and introverts are more than capable of forming successful friendships or partnerships with one another. But compromise and communication are key, Dr. Helgoe notes. If your extroverted bestie is stressed about a party she’s hosting and really wants you there, don’t let her down by staying home. And if you’re the extroverted one in this scenario, agree to let your favorite introvert choose the activity next time—and don’t take it personally when they say they need alone time. The more out in the open everything is, the more solid the introvert/extrovert relationship will be. Who knows? They may even find themselves leaving the next party at the same time.

Still not sure if you’re more of an extrovert or an introvert? Take this quiz. And here’s how to make friends when you’d rather just stay at home and read

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2019 in Encouragement

 

Principles Related to Being Good Examples


Being a godly example is not an option, it is commanded in Scripture.  We have no choice in being an example of some kind and having an impact on those around us, but we do have a choice in the kind of witness and impact we provide.

Someone is going to follow us and be influenced by us. The questions are: Do we know where we are going? Are we providing the kind of example that will enhance their lives, or are we like the blind leading the blind?

The Perfect Example“I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “don’t follow me, I’m lost too.”  That’s the state of the world and, unfortunately, of many well-meaning Christians. They are like the commercial pilot who told his passengers, “I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is we are lost, but the good news is we are making good time.”

Motion in itself does not mean direction. Activity in itself never means effectiveness. We need quality lives with quality motion aimed in the right direction with specific, biblical objectives.

We need Christian maturity that provides people with real honest-to-God examples of authentic Christ-like living. Effective ministry to others is often equated with such things as dynamic per­sonali­ties, with talent, giftedness, training, enthusiasm, and with charisma. But these things alone are inadequate. Much more is needed.

In the Bible, the qualities that lead to effective ministry are found in the elements of spiritual character, in the character of Christ reproduced in us by the ministry of the Spirit (see Eph. 4:12f.; Gal. 5:22ff). Look at the disciples. How would you like to launch a worldwide campaign with the likes of Peter and his comrades? Yet, with these common, average, uneducated men, the Lord launched a campaign that has spanned the globe and turned the world upside down.

Was this because of their unique and imaginative methodology? No! It was because these common men knew the Lord and began to experience His life and His qualities of godliness. He took common men and made them into great men who became spiritual leaders because they were experiencing Him through the power of the Spirit of God.

Mature Christians and leaders have a responsibility to maintain a consistent example. This is a constant theme of the Bible. Other than the raw power of the Word itself, nothing is so determinative for spiritual change in the lives of others as one’s own example.

To be a disciple of Christ requires that we are disciplined in our life of faith, which comes alive and becomes faithful in love. It means we exercise self-control, engaging only in activities that enhance our walk with the Lord, while at the same time resisting the demon of busyness and finding a healthy balance between the “doing and being sides” of our lives.

Reuben Job wrote: “Consider it a gift when you keenly feel the tension between doing and being. It is a positive sign of your awareness of God’s call, a sign of your maturity in Christ, and one of the places where every Christian must experience significant growth and renewal.”

It is God’s priority that we understand our “being,” for it is there that we discover him more intimately! Being in Christ requires that my soul first listens to His still, small voice our of my love and obedience to His Word, His Lordship, His reveled truth and His will for my life.

(Matthew 22:34-40)  “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. {35} One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: {36} “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” {37} Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ {38} This is the first and greatest commandment. {39} And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ {40} All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.””

(Luke 10:38-42)  “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. {39} She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. {40} But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” {41} “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, {42} but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.””

The Latin root for the word “obedience” means “to listen.” Only after we have first taken time to listen for God’s Word will we be able to fully respond to His love and Word in obedience.

Dallas Willard said: “There is nothing that requires more energy for the typical American Christian than the discipline of doing nothing. The hardest thing you can get anyone to do is to do [and say] nothing. We are addicted to our world, addicted to talk…The goal of Christian spirituality is conformity to Christ—not togetherness or meditation or acceptance. The issue is discipleship. Discipleship is learning from Jesus Christ how to live my life as He would live it if He were me.”

Henri Nouwen: “We do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to him…The amount of time will vary for each person according to temperament, age, job, lifestyle, and maturity…The more we train ourselves to spend time with God and him alone, the more we will discover that God is with us at all times and in all places. Then we will be able to recognize him even in the midst of a busy and active life…The discipline of solitude enables us to live active lives in the world, while remaining always in the presence of the living God.”

When the prophet Elijah, zealous for the Lord, was sent to the mountain to wait for God to pass by (1 Kings 19:9-13), was God in a powerful wind? In an earthquake? A fire? No! Surprisingly, the Lord made his presence known through a gently whisper.

So often we come to God and want to be “zapped,” tingling with His presence, when all the while he wants us to rest in him, be comforted by his love for us, and listen carefully for his gently whispers.

Beyond our busyness and our lack of communication with God, what are some of the other distractions we face? The occupations and pre- occupations that get us off course from the direction we should be heading as Christ-followers?

The lure of the evil one. Satan’s activity level is heightened when he thinks we are vulnerable to his attacks and his cunning nature. We need to be fully aware of his sly movements that seek to destroy and devour God’s people.

Messed-up priorities. Too often, we are not wise in the use of our time and energies, and the tyranny of the urgent far outweighs what’s truly important. It may be time to reassess your priorities and realign your schedule so you can spend time developing your heart for God and his Word.

Our desire to climb the ladder of success. When our hearts and minds are fixated on adding wealth to our portfolios, we are distracted from spiritual formation and pulled away from a sacrificial lifestyle of love and generosity. The needs of others tend to wait until it’s more convenient for us to give. But Jesus calls us to a life of sacrifice, service, and surrender.

We hunger and thirst for things that don’t feed our souls. A carryover to the success syndrome is the accumulation of things and experiences that thrill us, often to the neglect of the spiritual life. We have computers, laptops, handheld gadgets, boats, ski-boats, golf sets, summer homes, winter homes, fancy cars, expensive vacations, and a ton of other “stuff’ that gets accumulated over the years. The more we have, the more we want; all the while our excitement for being alone with God and his  Word wanes. I am convinced that the judgment on our generation will be focused on the almighty dollar and how we spent it so luxuriously on ourselves, often to the neglect of the poor and needy.

Skepticism. In many respects, we don’t take seriously the role of the Keeper of our soul, mostly because we are skeptical if he’s really necessary. We are an independent people who like to make it on our own. This works for a while, but eventually our attitudes and speech reveal the state of our souls. If we fully believe in the fruit of ongoing spiritual disciplines, though, our skepticism will be reversed and heartfelt commitment will return.

A lack of models. We are human “doings” much more than human “beings,” so creating a quiet center is generally more difficult. But we need to be modeling for each other what a healthy spiritual life looks like. I long to see the day when local church leaders hold one another accountable for their personal spiritual life and see this role as more significant than the work they are called to accomplish together.

We are more self-reliant than God-dependent. We are very confident in our own abilities, so we don’t depend on God for our day-to-day needs. In crisis moments we cry out for mercy and strength because of our desperate need. But in the mundane aspects of our life in him, we tend to walk the walk how we see fit.

We are far more reactive than proactive. Instead of reacting to the issues of life all around us, we need to proactively choose to step off our treadmills and find a place and time to be alone with God. It takes focused! discipline, but it’s absolutely essential.

We have lost our first love. This is the most difficult possibility to raise and sometimes the most difficult to discern if it’s true. If you sense that you are falling out of love with God, remember that He is still faithful. He has always been by your side, available and aware of your heart cries. He has always longed for your love and is waiting with open arms to receive you once again.

If you are a prodigal child and need to return home, he will be there to greet you. Don’t let your feelings of love lost  for God hinder your return to him today.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2019 in Encouragement

 
 
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