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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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Psalm 6 - A Journey From Desperation to Hope

Psalm 6 - When we are at our worst, God is at His best
I have to admit that the book of Psalms can be very difficult to read at times. David was a very complex young man. We know he was an artist who wrote hundreds of worship songs. He was a deep thinker who felt deeply about things. He spent a good portion of his early life alone, wandering the countryside as he watched his father's flocks. A large part of the Psalms were written in this setting. In case you don't know it, artistic types thrive on isolation. They tend to be introverted and if given the choice, would rather be by themselves. They are prone to depression and anxiety, fueled by loneliness. They are misunderstood and often criticized.

For those who tend to be extroverted or seldom struggle with depression or anxiety, the Psalms can be difficult because you cannot relate to them much. Your thought processes and emotions are on a completely different plane than David's. For those like David, the Psalms can also be hard to read because you can relate to them and it just reminds you of your own personal struggles. But either way, the Psalms bring light and hope for us. The key is you have to understand that they always bring us to the place of truth in the reality of who God is, his love and faithfulness for us, and how that transforms the way we think, act and feel. David never simply pours out his heart to God and leaves it at that. He always allows the truth to transcend how he feels. That is key for us as we deal with our emotions, feelings and circumstances.

Psalm 6 is an excellent example. From a psychological standpoint, this chapter reveals a man who is, at best, clinically depressed. He is possibly experiencing a full-scale panic attack. He is feeling completely overwhelmed and even talks about death. He wonders if God really loves him. These are all beginning to manifest physical symptoms in his body. His bones ache. He is physically weak and he has bouts of uncontrollable weeping. This is far from how we think a King should act. In today's church culture he would be accused of not having faith or had sin in his life. Some might say he was demon possessed. Others would simply just avoid him because he was just too difficult to deal with. All of this would just add to his struggle.

If you struggle with any of the above, whether at the same level or perhaps just slightly, David's life gives us hope that we don't ever have to be subject to our circumstances, our emotions or how we feel. The last three verses in Psalm 6 are the key to this. As David pours out his anguish before God he then rehearses the truth about him. He remembers three important things about him:
  • He always hears us when we call out to him (v. 8)
  • He always answers us when we pray (v. 9)
  • He always turns back our shame on our enemy (v. 19)
Though we can't physically see it, we have to believe it anyway. Those things that are pressing against us may not turn back right away, but wait for it. It will come in God's time. Don't let your feelings, emotions and circumstances dictate how you feel. Let the truth about God dictate how you feel. David teaches us that when we struggle with our faith, emotions, feelings or circumstances the key is to verbally rehearse these three truths about God. Our circumstances may not change but I guarantee you that your feelings and emotions will change as a result.
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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Jesus Died So His Enemies Could Live

crown of thorns
"For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" Romans 5:10 (NIV)

Throughout history, millions of men and women have laid down their own lives in battle against an enemy that threatened to take away their freedom. They died, not only for their friends, but they willingly died for people they didn't even know. On this day nearly two thousand years ago, a man named Jesus willingly laid down his life for every human being to defeat an enemy that threatened to enslave us for all of eternity. That enemy was Satan. In one fell swoop, Jesus defeated him by offering himself as our once-and-for-all sacrifice.

That is only part of the story. What separates Christianity from all other religions is that our God is the only one who died so that his enemies could live. Think about that for a moment and let the reality of that sink in. Jesus didn't die on the cross because we loved him. He died on the cross because we didn't love him. Isaiah 53:3 says, "He was despised and rejected--a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care." Yet, he died for us anyway. Man's method of dealing with his enemies is to kill them. God's method is to reconcile them so they can live with him.

Wait! There is more. Not only did the God of the universe die for his enemies so that they could live, he made them his very own sons and daughters. John 3:1 says, "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" That is the good news of the Gospel. We were enemies of God but now we are his sons and daughters. Wow! I can think of no better definition of lavish love than that.

As you celebrate Good Friday today and remember what Jesus did for you on the cross, my prayer is that you would come to the full knowledge and understanding of the love Jesus lavished on you that changed you from his enemy into his son or daughter.

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 6:17-19

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