Trying to find myself

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Philippians Chapters 1 through 4

Many times I have heard people say that they are trying to find themselves. Some seek to find their identity in a career, some seek to find their identity in their degrees, and some seek to find their identity in their relationships. In the movie Jerry McGuire there are some famous lines like, “Show me the money” and “You had me at hello,” and when Tom Cruise looks at his wife and says, “You complete me.” Complete me? Think about this. Now Roxanna and I have been married for 40 years. We never had a song, movie, or book written about us, we just had each other. While I love her and know in my heart she is God’s gift to me she doesn’t ‘complete me.’ She makes me a better man, but she doesn’t ‘complete me.’ If you were to ask her the same question, she’d tell you that I don’t complete her. I know that’s hard to believe with me being who I am, but I don’t fill the God-shaped hole in her heart, nor am I supposed to. That is God’s job. To expect another person or relationship or a career or a degree to complete you and fill the God-shaped hole in your heart is setting you up to fail. It is unfair and unrealistic. In Philippians 3:9, Paul says that he gave up all the things that he was pursuing to find his identity. He realized what was missing was that he needed to “be found in God.” What Paul is saying here is that he found himself when he opened his life up to God. He was ‘completed’ in God. Rather than trying to find our identity in other things or other people we need to realize that until we find ourselves in God we will never be complete.

Being thankful for ALL things?

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Ephesians Chapters 4 through 6

This week’s reading is found in Ephesians 5:20. “Giving thanks, always, for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When I read this I felt prompted to stop and just meditate on all the things I was thankful for. As I was doing this a few things came to my mind that I was not thankful for. So I began to pray and ask God how could I be thankful for ‘all’ things since there were some things that I was not happy about in my life. I sensed the Holy Spirit challenge me to find something I could be thankful for even in those situations that were difficult. I began to think of things that I could be thankful for, grateful at least that the situations were not as bad as they really could have been, relationships that maybe were not as good as they could be, but at least there were some good things in that relationship to be thankful for, health that maybe was not perfect but still grateful that I was able to do all things that I could still do. In the process of doing this, I felt a true sense of the presence of God and actually a birth in my spirit of a seed of hope. Maybe these things were not as bad as I had thought and even if they were, there was hope that they could get better. Complaining starts first in the mind and then finds its way out of our mouths. When we complain it is almost like pronouncing a curse. When we are thankful in our minds that thankfulness also finds its way out of our mouths. Being thankful, though, is like speaking life into situations. It drives away darkness and despair. Be thankful for ‘all’ things, both the good and the bad. Every time the temptation to complain springs up in our minds, ask God to help you find at least three things to be thankful for in that situation. I believe God will honor this and bring new life in places where there once was only despair.

Walk worthy of your calling

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Ephesians Chapters 4 through 6 

This week’s reading is found in Ephesians 4:1 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” Is this possible? Can we actually walk worthy of our calling? Paul is saying that you are ‘already worthy’ now learn how to walk accordingly. Once you finally know who you are then you will know how to act. We don’t need to argue with God. We have been chosen by Him to be His ambassadors. Humility comes from accepting His choice. False humility comes from arguing with God, denying what He says and what He has done for us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The word “calling” used here means vocation, career, or mission in life. It means that Christian living is “goal oriented.” You have a direction and a purpose that you are striving for. This is not only true for those who are called into full-time ministries, like pastors, missionaries or evangelists. ALL CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED. All Christians have a HOLY CALLING. This is not just to a certain vocation, but also to a way of life. What we are doing should be what we are called to do. Walk worthy of that calling. The day-to-day behavior of the saints must match their status, for we are members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and called to share in our Savior’s glorious destiny.

Like it or not the world watches us. The believer at work is under constant surveillance. When we speak of our Savior and the life He offers, everything we say is filtered through that which has been observed by others. The very best platform upon which we may build a case for Christianity rests on six massive pillars:  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. How do we walk the walk?  Do we walk worthy of our calling? Our calling is a sacred way of life. “’Say, Bob, ‘What is your job?’ ‘Why I am an ordained plumber.’ ‘What is your job, Joe?’ ‘Why I am an ordained computer technician.’” What is your job? Your work is your calling, your family is your calling, and your neighbor is your calling. It is your ordained responsibility. It is your pulpit. Are you walking worthy of your calling?

 

Everyone needs an E3:20

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Ephesians Chapter 3:20

Everyone needs an E3:20 experience. Everyone needs an E3:20 story in their life. What does E3:20 stand for? It stands for Ephesians chapter 3, verse 20. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.” The Amplified Version says, “Now to Him Who, is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think, infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams.” The words, exceedingly, abundantly, above all mean the same thing, “more than.” So we could actually read this passage like this, “Now to Him who is able to do more than, more than, and more than, we ask or think.” Do you get the point Paul is trying to make here? He is overemphasizing the truth that God is not hung up on just providing exactly what we need, actually, Paul is saying that God is hung up on providing “more than” we need. Many times we hear people say that God is not interested in our “wants” but He is interested in our “needs.” While it is true that God is interested in our needs, this verse makes it very clear that God is interested in our “wants.” This verse is saying that God is interested in “more” than our wants. When it says, “above all we ask or THINK” this is saying that sometimes we don’t even know what we want but God does and He is willing to provide even when we don’t ask Him for it.

I truly believe everyone should have an E3:20 experience in their lives. Actually, we should all have several E3:20 experiences. ‘Coincidences’ that we know were not coincidences but were actually times that God fulfilled Ephesians 3:20 in our lives, times when God did ABOVE what we asked or times when God did more than we even thought. When I was building our house next to the church, we received the blueprints and I began to change them. One of the changes I made was to eliminate a large stone fireplace that covered the entire wall in our living room. This was going to save us about $5,000. We didn’t have much money so every bit counted. I decided to just leave the wall, a plain wall. My friend, Mark Poland, came over to measure for my windows. When he came into the living room, he asked me what I was going to do with the big plain wall. I explained to him that I was just going to leave it plain. He said that a large bow window would look great there. I told him that a large bow window would cost me as much as the fireplace that I whited out. He agreed, but then he said that sometimes his company had mismeasured windows they sometimes sold off cheap. Why not give them a call and see if they had any mismeasured bow windows? We called his company and he put the call on speakerphone, so I could hear it. He asked them if they had any mismeasured bow windows. They said that it was strange that he would ask for a mismeasured bow window. Just the day before, they had received the largest mismeasured bow window in their company’s history! The window was made for a special house that had six-inch walls and an eighteen-inch overhang. My house just happened to have six-inch walls and an eighteen-inch overhang! Almost all houses are built with four-inch walls, but when I built my house I wanted the extra insulation, so I put in six-inch walls. The length of the bow window just happened to be exactly what I needed, twelve feet. The manager gave us the window for free!  All we had to do was to pay a hundred fifty dollars to ship it and Mark helped me put it in. When we had put it in I was standing in my living room just admiring the window. I was thinking, “Wow it would have been great if I could say, that I prayed for that window. That would be an awesome answered prayer!” But then God reminded me of this scripture in Ephesians that says He gives us above and beyond all that we can ask OR THINK! It was better that I didn’t pray for it. I didn’t even think of putting one in. I surely didn’t even have the faith to ask God to provide a bow window. I was just going to be happy with a big wall, but God wanted me to know that sometimes it just gave Him joy to bless me with things I didn’t even think to ask for. Some people get all hung up about praying the exact and correct way. It is important to pray correctly, but I want to go on record that God is able to give above and beyond all that we ask or think. Exceedingly and abundantly above all that we ask or think. God wants us to have ABOVE our needs. Paul uses triple adjectives, “exceedingly, abundantly, and above.” This is done to OVER EMPHASIZE the point he is making. Make no doubt about it. God can do it, and will. God’s ability and willingness are not separated, as Satan often tells us. “Oh yes He can but will He?” Of course He will. That’s the whole point. Superabundance is God’s way.

Jesus talked about this when He told the story of the prodigal son. When the prodigal son was thinking about returning to his father’s house, he said, “In my father’s house there is bread and enough to spare.” That is what drew the wayward son back home. He knew his father was a loving, giving father. Ephesians 3:20 is one of those verses, every Christian should spend some time meditating on. Too many people never tap into the tremendous resources that God has made available to us. He will do ABOVE all that I ask. He will do ABOVE all that I think. He will do ABOVE! He will do ABOVE all that I ask OR even think! Ephesians 3:20 is telling us that God is bigger than our best prayers! God answers prayers you might not have even thought to pray! How great is that?

When are you good enough?

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Ephesians Chapters 1 through 3

This week’s reading is found in Ephesians chapter 2:8-9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” There are many people today who call themselves Christians who think that if they are good enough they will go to heaven after they die. I believe this is the true dividing line between those who have had a spiritual awakening and those who have not. Many people are what I would call ‘cultural’ Christians. They grew up in America, went to church for a period of time and feel that makes them a Christian. When asked about going to heaven their standard answer is, “I am a good person. I believe God will let me into heaven when I die.” The problem with this kind of thinking is that the Bible makes it perfectly clear that no one is good enough to earn their way to heaven. “It is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Salvation is a gift from God. No one will ever be able to do enough good works to earn their way to heaven. Each one of us has committed sins and we cannot do enough good works to offset the bad things we have done. Even though we may think we are not as bad as some people, the fact is we have all sinned! This is why God sent His Son Jesus to earth, that He might pay the penalty for each one of us. What a relief to know that I can be assured of my salvation because of what Jesus did, rather than thinking I have to keep doing good works in hopes that they will erase all my bad works. Now I can live my life doing those good works not because I hope they earn me a place in heaven, but out of thanksgiving to God for what He has done for me. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Never give up!

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Galatians Chapters 4 through 6

This week’s reading is found in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Another way of saying this is “Never give up!” Many of us quit, half way through with what we have started and we have plenty of reasons why we should. Yet Paul is saying, “Hang in there, in due season we shall reap if we do not faint.” When things don’t happen as fast as we would like them to happen we can get weary and be tempted to give up. Yet many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. You are never a failure until you quit!

Quitting can become a dangerous habit. When I was younger I remember quitting the football team. Things were not working out the way I thought they should, so I quit. The next year I went out again and faced the same problems, things were not working out the way I thought they should. I was thinking of quitting and even though I was not saved, I am sure I heard the voice of God speak to me, “Dave, if you quit now it is going to become a habit that will destroy your life!” I heard that voice and decided to stay on the team. I decided that day, that quitting would not be a part of my life, no matter what challenges I faced.

Doing good can sometimes be difficult. People may not appreciate what we are doing. There may actually be times of opposition when we are trying to help people. We may find ourselves being criticized or ostracized for doing good. We may lack support from others while we are doing good. But we must never give up. Doing good will bear fruit. Doing good will always win out. Doing good is the right way to live. Remember this, “Being defeated is temporary, but giving up is permanent!”

Bewitched!

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Galatians Chapters 1 through 3

This week’s reading is found in Galatians chapter 3:1 “Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” Paul was writing to these churches because he was concerned that they had left the simplicity of the gospel. They had been brought into salvation by his preaching of the work of grace. They believed in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of all of their sins. But somehow they had lost their way and were beginning to think that they had to do certain things to really be saved. They had been “bewitched!”

This is not an uncommon thing, many Christians fall into this trap. The gospel of grace, being saved not by our own works, is sometimes hard to hold onto. It is so easy to start thinking we must do something to earn God’s favor. Many Christians fall into living a life that is driven by keeping rules, “Do this, don’t do that!” Almost the entire letter that Paul wrote to this church was about the impossibility of doing enough good things to earn salvation. It is important to understand the place that good works have in our lives. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. This is a gift of God. There is nothing else that we can do that will make this more secure. It is complete and final. The good works that we do as Christians are the result of this great gift! They are the evidence that we have been saved and have received God’s Holy Spirit in our lives. They are the result of a life that is so grateful for what God has done for them that spreading this good news is merely our way of expressing our gratitude. Good works and faith go together like peanut butter and jelly but don’t get “bewitched” and start thinking you can ever earn your salvation.

Troubleshooting Instructions

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2 Corinthians Chapters 11 through 13

Paul at the end of 2 Corinthians gave us some final instructions that are really the summary of the entire letter that he wrote. “The grace of our the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” This is like the troubleshooting instructions that are the end of the instruction manuals that you get when you buy something new. If it is not working, the first thing to check is the power source. Plug it in. This is the trouble-shooting section for our Christian faith. If it is not working the first thing to check is the power source. Is it plugged in? What Paul was saying is that grace, love, and communion with the Holy Spirit are the key ingredients that make our faith really work.

Grace is the perfect balance between mercy and truth. Mercy or truth by itself can be dangerous. Too much mercy can cause someone to be tempted to mock God. Too much truth can be hurtful. But, grace is the perfect blend between the two. It means to speak the truth but to do it in love. Grace is the summary of the entire New Testament. The last verse of the entire bible is, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, Amen.” Grace is getting what I don’t deserve. Mercy is not getting what I do deserve. God is a God of grace and mercy. I need them both every day.

Then there is God’s love, which is referred to as agape love. Agape love means to love someone in spite of what they do. All other loves are based on loving someone “because of what they do.” Agape love is based on God’s eternal reservoir of love, which can never run dry. Experiencing this kind of love causes great pleasure or delight. It is actually emotionally healing. It is possible for us to say we love everyone but not necessarily like everyone.  We experience personality clashes with people. Not so with God. The love of God means that He actually likes being around you, ALL the time! The closest thing that relates to this kind of love is parental love. It wasn’t until I started having children that I really began to understand agape love. Your love for your child is so deep it can even overcome their bad behavior! This is the way it is with God. His love for you is all encompassing. When you know the love of God it will lead you to repentance. In Romans 2:3 we read, “It is the love of God, which leads men to repentance.” Rules without relationship bring rebellion. God has rules for us to live by but He wants to have a relationship with us. Relationship brings obedience from the heart.  As I get to know God, and how much He loves me, I am motivated to serve Him more.

Then there is “communion with the Holy Spirit. A person does not know God until he begins to have communion with His Holy Spirit. At best, a person will know ABOUT God, but that is not the same as knowing Him on a personal basis. The Holy Spirit is God. He is not God the Father or God the Son, but God the Holy Spirit. Just because He is named third does not make Him any less than the Father or the Son. The Holy Spirit is a person just like you and me. Contrary to popular opinion, the Holy Spirit is not an “IT.” Without communion with the Holy Spirit, there is no life but rather a religion with a set of rules. Without communion, it is impossible to understand the intent and heart of the Bible. Communion means to become one with. It means fellowship which is a two-way sharing whereas, for many, prayer is just one-way. In Acts 15:28 we read, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us.” They were sharing their ideas with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit was sharing His ideas with them.

Grace, love, and communion, are you experiencing them?

The battle for your mind

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2 Corinthians Chapters 9 and 10

 

This week’s reading is from 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we walk in the flesh we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bringing every thought into captivity.” Most people are not aware of the battle that goes on for the control of our minds and their thought life. Many people don’t realize the power of our thoughts and are not even aware that they can control their thought life. Many times when you get down to the heart of people’s problems, somebody is seriously mixed up on their thinking. All of us tend to get mixed up on our thinking at times, and often we don’t even see the problem. But Jesus Christ can straighten out our thinking a whole lot better than Dr. Phil or anybody else in this world. Paul would not say this if it were not possible to control our thoughts. As Christians, we CAN take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. Our thoughts do not have to control us; we can control our thoughts.

We are called to cast down arguments, and every high thing that is contrary to the ways of God. Other translations call these “imaginations (v.5).” That means we are to conquer them. We are to attack and conquer imaginations of this world. Paul is saying “Be your own thought police.” With God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within you, you CAN do it. It is time we stop letting the devil win the battles for our minds and our lives and our families. It is time to identify his wiles, and his schemes and defeat them with God’s weapons. When we allow the devil a foothold in our lives it pollutes our mind. There is a war raging in our souls and in our minds. Satan is out to destroy you and your witness for Jesus Christ. He is out to capture, corrupt and control your mind. You don’t have to let him win! What are some things that you do that have helped you to gain victory over your thoughts?

The difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow

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2 Corinthians Chapters 6 through 8

This week’s reading is from 2 Corinthians 7:10. “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted: but the sorrow of the world produces death.” There is a big difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow.

Worldly sorrow is lamenting without repenting. This means someone is sorry because they are CAUGHT or sorry because they have to pay the consequences. This has nothing to do with sorrow because what you did was wrong or against the laws of God. In I Samuel 7:2-4 we read the story of when the people of Israel lamented for years but never repented. They grieved because of their suffering but they still worshiped idols. It wasn’t until the prophet Samuel confronted them about worshipping their idols and told them to get rid of them, that they ever really repented. In Hebrews 12:16-17 we read that Esau repented even with tears yet he found NO forgiveness. This is the story of when Esau gave away his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of lentil soup. He did not care about his spiritual heritage and was hungry so he gave his spiritual authority as the oldest son away to his brother Jacob. Then afterward we are told he repented even with tears. Yet he was not forgiven. Why, because his sorrow was worldly not godly sorrow. There is a big difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. Esau was sad because he lost his inheritance. He wasn’t sad because disdained his spiritual responsibility as the oldest son. Judas who betrayed Jesus was full of worldly sorrow and the result of it was he killed himself. Worldly sorrow works death. It is the weeping of self-pity, regret over material losses, or sorrow that our sins have been found out. The fruit of this kind of sorrow is not life, but rather it produces bitterness, cursing, and death. Pharaoh, Balaam and King Saul, each said, “I have sinned,” but the returning prodigal said, “I have sinned, against heaven and before God.”

Only godly sorrow produces true change. In Acts 2:37 we read that 3,000 people “were pierced in their hearts and cried out,” after Peter preached a powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost. Godly sorrow means to be pierced in our heart. It means to feel the pain of our sin. They realized that they had offended Almighty God with their sin. This kind of sorrow produced a change in these people. Godly sorrow works life. True godly sorrow PRODUCES REPENTANCE. It produces a real change so that we turn away. The city of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, showed godly sorrow when the prophet Jonah rebuked them. We read that they repented in sackcloth and ashes. In Psalm 51 we read about David’s godly sorrow as he mourned for his sin.

Godly sorrow means that we are sorry because what we did was WRONG. We realize that we have sinned against God. This is the kind of mourning that Jesus was talking about, when He said, “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” May God give us godly sorrow for our sins that we may find life and forgiveness.