Thursday, May 14, 2015

How God Uses Our Lack To Show His Miraculous Provision

overflowing glass
Matthew 14:13-21 tells us the story of Jesus feeding a crowd of five thousand with a little boy's lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish. Regardless of how big those two fish and loaves of bread may have been, the fact remains that they were barely enough to feed just the disciples, much less a crowd of five thousand. Take a moment to read the story here.

This short story contains some profound principles for our lives in moments of need. Read on to discover some basic principles found in this story.

#1 - We want God to make the problem go away while God wants us to face it head-on

The disciples' solution was the logical one--send everyone home. I don't think this was a bad idea, nor wrong, but often times the logical solution or the one that makes sense to us may solve the problem but prevents God from being able to show us his miraculous provision. Jesus tells them to do something about it. I believe that Jesus intended for the disciples to do the miracle themselves. When you face a seemingly impossible situation, resist the temptation to take the logical route. Instead, roll up your sleeves and allow God to work through you to do the impossible.

#2 - The greater our lack, the greater his provision

Jesus wasn't surprised by the meager resources that were presented. He knew full well that the disciples did not have the ability to feed that crowd on their own. But that was his point. He specializes in the impossible! When we are at our worst he is at his best. Our lack ushers in the miraculous provision of a God who does not lack. When we have resources, when we can provide the answer in our own power, we don't need God to provide. But when we have nothing we are at the place where we are completely dependent upon God. When you have nothing to offer fasten your seat belt because that means God is on the verge of a miracle.
more than enough
#3 - God doesn't stop at just enough. He provides more than enough

Jesus didn't just satisfy the immediate need of the moment. He didn't just provide enough food for everyone to have lunch. He provided twelve baskets of leftovers. God is a big God and he always supplies our needs in a big way. He doesn't provide according to the dimension of our need. He provides according to the dimension of his greatness. Philippians 4:19 says, "But my God shall supply all my needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." I am so glad his provision is not dependent upon our limited, human resources but on his unlimited, supernatural resources! I serve a God who is not just good enough. I serve a God who is more than enough. No matter how big your problem is or how desperate your need is, know that he is always bigger. Not only will he supply your need, he will give you an abundance of leftovers that will sustain you long after the need is met.

Whatever you may face today or in the days to come, don't forget the kind of God you serve. He is Jehovah-Jireh! That name literally means the Lord will provide. When you are in need, call out his name and he will provide.
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Thursday, May 7, 2015

4 Things Prayer Is Not

prayer hands
Prayer is not a complicated thing. I think there is a tendency to make prayer something that it was not intended to be. I've heard countless sermons on the subject in my lifetime and have even attended prayer conferences to learn how to pray. These are all good, but I wonder if somehow we lose sight of the simplicity of prayer that Jesus taught. Jesus' teaching on prayer in Matthew 6 includes how we are not to pray and then how we should pray. Let me share a few thoughts about what prayer is not.

#1 - Prayer is not meant to move God but to move us.
God's will is sovereign and simply praying a prayer will not cause him to change his mind. If prayer becomes merely a method to get God to do something we want him to do, we have lost sight of what prayer is really all about. The reality is that prayer is meant to change US, not God. As we pray, if we are not being moved by God to change, then it is not prayer. We are to pray His will be done, not ours.

#2 - Prayer is not how we get God's attention but how he gets ours.
We already have his full attention and in fact, Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us 24/7. Prayer is God's design to capture our attention and focus it on him and his will. The result of prayer must be that the focus is taken off of us and put solely upon the Father. 

#3 - Prayer is not designed to elevate us but to lower us.
God is not impressed by how we pray and he warns us not to try and impress other people by how well we pray. What impresses our Father the most is not our eloquence, but rather our humility. Prayer in the truest sense exalts God and lowers us. Too often we get this backwards and use prayer as a way to elevate ourselves in the eyes of God and each other. This is not prayer.

#4 - Prayer is not an annual holiday but makes every day a "holy day."
Please understand me here. I am NOT saying we shouldn't observe a National Day of Prayer. We should and I'm thankful we set aside a day of prayer. What I am saying is this - if prayer is limited to one day a year then it is not prayer. It is just a religious ritual. The National Day of Prayer only has real meaning if we actually pray every day of the year. Prayer is like the heart to the human body. It is what keeps us alive and it keeps pumping every second. If it ever stops, we die. Likewise, prayer must be on-going in the life of the believer. This is why we are commanded to "pray without ceasing."

May our prayer today be that our heartbeat would be a lifestyle of prayer. As we do, may our hearts be moved by him. May he capture our full attention and may we humble ourselves before him. May your kingdom come, God, and may your will be done on earth today as it is in heaven.
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

6 Keys to Facing Giants in Your Life

6 keys to facing the giants
When I was growing up in a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California I was always the smallest kid in my class. I'm convinced that there is a secret school assembly at the beginning of every school year that short people aren't invited to. In that assembly, instructions are given to all the other kids and the teachers, especially gym teachers, to publicly point out to every short kid how short they are. I think tall people are convinced that short people need to be reminded how short they are. Anyway, growing up as a shrimp is very challenging and at times, painful. I did eventually get my growth spurt and caught up to most of my classmates. I'm not bitter that it didn't come until my junior year in high school, though. As a result of my traumatic childhood (yes, that was a blatant attempt at winning your sympathy), I learned some important lessons on how to deal with Giants in life. I'm no longer a shrimp, but I still have to face Giants from time to time.

I can relate to the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. David was a small boy, always living in the shadow of his older, and I'm sure, taller brothers. As you read this story, I want to point out 6 Keys to facing the giants in life. David arrives on the scene in this story to find that a giant, 11-foot Philistine soldier has been standing on a hillside yelling threats and taunting the army of Israel. This had been going on for 40 days by the time David showed up. Everyone believed that they were powerless against this freak of nature. Everyone, that is, except David. To make a long story short, the shrimp of Israel marches right out to Goliath, kills him and cuts off his head. How did he do it? There are 6 keys David possessed that enabled him to become a giant-killer and these same 6 keys will enable you and I to kill the giants that we will face in life.

Key #1 - Size doesn't matter.

In life, bigger is not always better and smaller is not bad. God always does things backwards or upside down from the way we do them. The giants we face in life can be enormous and incredibly scary. But just because something is bigger than you, don't let it determine the outcome. David didn't let the obvious size difference rattle him. Just remember that the smaller you are, the bigger God can be through you. It is true that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Key #2 - Giants lie!

The biggest mistake the men of Israel made was believing everything Goliath was saying to them. This paralyzed them and rendered them useless. David would have none of it and knew the real truth. When you face a giant who is threatening you and mocking your God, don't listen to him. Remind yourself of the truth and boldly tell him what David told his giant. Always remember that a giant has no defense against the truth of God's Word. That is your best weapon, so use it.

Key #3 - Giants won't go away on their own.

Goliath was prepared to step out on that hill for the rest of eternity if Israel let him. The giants we face will continue to invade our daily life if we fail to face them head-on. The saddest part of this story is that the mighty men of Israel let this go on for 40 straight days. Israel had settled in to a way of life and had resigned themselves to the fact that this giant was there to stay. It is up to us whether the giant stays or leaves. We need to be like David and decide that we will not tolerate giants in our life.

Key #4 - Facing giants is a lonely profession.

When David decides to do something about this uncircumcised Philistine, he catches incredible flack from his brothers. They said things like, "Who do you think you are?" If you want to be a giant slayer in life you have to be willing to stand alone because your actions will make others uncomfortable because they are reminded of the fact that they are choosing to do nothing about the giants in their own lives. Be like David - be brave and don't ever follow the crowd.

Key #5 - Don't let your giant call the shots.

For 40 days Goliath was dictating the outcome for Israel. Notice the difference between the way David handled the situation and the way everyone else did. Until David arrived on the scene, Goliath was doing all the talking and Israel was just listening. David marches up to that giant and starts calling the shots. There is a scene in the movie 300 that captures this point. King Xerxes of Persia sends his general to inform King Leonidas and his 300-man Spartan army that if they surrender, he will let them live and serve as part of his army. King Leonidas boldly tells this general that they will be slaves to no one. Enraged, the general declares that on that day, the arrows from the 1000-nation army of King Xerxes will blot out the sun and destroy them all. To this King Leonidas responds, "Then we shall fight in the shade!" That is how you deal with giants. You call the shots!

Key #6 - Never forget who is fighting for you.

Israel was paralyzed by the fact that they didn't have anyone to fight this giant, but David was emboldened by the fact that the battle was not his, but the Lord's. It is so easy to get caught up in our own weakness in the face of a giant that we forget that we have God on our side. David knew he was powerless against Goliath, but he also knew that Goliath was powerless against God. It is critical to remember this when facing giants. The Apostle Paul states it this way in Romans 8:31 - "And if our God is for us, then who can be against us?" The next time you face a giant tell him what David told Goliath - "This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head." That is how a giant killer talks!

As certain as we know there will be giants to face, we also know that God is on our side. When you feel all alone in the shadow of your giant remember that you are not alone for God is with you. Then march right up to that giant and cut his head off!
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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Salvation Is Much More Than Just Forgiveness

God did not just give us the free gift of salvation; he gave us a living hope. In addition, he did not stop there because on top of that, he backed up that hope with an eternal promise. It does not stop there either. On top of all that, he has ensured that we would be protected from harm. I am so glad that God did not just save us and leave us on our own. He has done everything possible to make sure that we are not only saved now, but are saved forever. Be assured that this salvation not only saves you from your past, it saves you from your present, and it will continue to save you from your future. You are fully covered! 1 Corinthians 1: 18 says, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

Did you know that the blood of Jesus does not cover up our sin? No! It removes it from us. There is a huge difference and we must understand that if we want to fully understand the power of salvation. I have heard many people refer to the sea of forgetfulness, referring to how God treats our sin. Did you know that there is no such thing? Psalm 103: 12 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Notice the wording here. It says he removes our sin. God does no forget our sin, nor does he cover it up. At the moment Jesus died, our sin was obliterated and is gone forever, never to be brought up again. In fact, the way God sees it, it is just as though we never sinned. That is what justified means. We have been declared not guilty in the court of our Heavenly Father and are not just set free, but now there is no longer any record of wrongdoing. That means no one can ever bring a case against you. Not the Devil, not you, not even God himself if he wanted to. There is no evidence.

Are you beginning to get the picture? Yes, we were guilty. Yes, we deserve to be punished. It is not that we were wrongly accused and God cleared our name. Through the blood and death of his only Son, Jesus, we now stand before him absolutely innocent. Wow! I do not understand how or why the God of the universe would do that for me, but I am glad that he did. Do not just let that grab hold of you. Let it shake you to your core!
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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Hope That Will Not Fade

My parents gave their lives to the work of the ministry. They sacrificed everything to fulfill God's call to be missionaries and later to be pastors. They did not make much money, did not get to see their extended family often, and willingly lived in a fish bowl allowing their lives to be in the spotlight where their every move was scrutinized. They were often misunderstood, criticized, and on a few occasions, betrayed by trusted church members. I never heard one word of regret fall from their lips for choosing a life of ministry.

I heard countless messages about God's goodness and loving kindness from my father and then watched both of them lose their battle with cancer in their later years. It was disheartening to watch them sacrifice so much only to suffer in the end. What should have left me bitter and disillusioned left me hopeful and more convinced of God's promise of faithfulness. I observed both my parents before they had cancer and observed them fight for their lives. What I observed was that their faith never wavered. It literally got stronger the weaker they became physically. One of the last things my dad said to me has had a profound impact on my life ever since. As I sat on the couch with a man who could barely keep his eyes open, much less sit up, or walk, he grabbed my hand with what little strength he had, looked me in the eye with a smile and said that everything he ever preached about God is true and he believed it now more than ever. From that moment on, I knew that because God was faithful to my dad and that he could trust him in his darkest moment, I would be able to trust him too.

Not only do we have a hope in a living Savior, we have a hope that because he lives, we too will live with him forever. That is what Paul meant in Philippians 1:21 when he said, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." I love that God does things BIG. You see, he did not just save us from our sin. He delivered us from death too! The way we know this promise will never fade is because he is still alive and he lives forever. When God makes a promise, he always backs it up with collateral. The collateral we can bank on is that his Son is alive and seated at his right hand. As long as he lives, we can bank on his promise of our salvation. My dad is living proof that it is true.
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