Wednesday, October 28, 2009


For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4 [emphasis added]

3. Major change in energy level~
Often times we forget to be “human beings” not “human doings.” Maybe, just maybe, that change in energy level is both a divine and physical signal to SLOW DOWN, and not necessarily negative. Honestly ask yourself, What am I doing to refill my energy tank? For example, do you take time out of your schedule to spend quality time with your spouse? Do you have a hobby? When is the last time you had a picnic with your kids? How many times a day does your cell phone interrupt face-to-face time with a child, spouse, friend? Do you spend the evening on Facebook while your kids are playing Xbox in their bedrooms and your spouse is asleep in the recliner with the TV full blast? At the end of the day, do you melt into the couch with a bowl of ice cream flipping channels —day after day, year after year? I’m not the only one noticing these trends, “More than 31% of college-educated male workers are regularly logging 50 or more hours a week at work, up from 22% in 1980. Forty percent of American adults get less than seven hours of sleep on weekdays, reports the National Sleep Foundation, up from 31% in 2001. About 60% of us are sometimes or often rushed at mealtime, and one-third wolf down lunch at our desks, according to a survey by the American Dietetic Assn. To avoid wasting time, we're talking on our cell phones while rushing to work, answering e-mails during conference calls, waking up at 4 a.m. to call Europe, and generally multitasking our brains out” ( No wonder Americans are over their credit limit, over-worked, over-stressed, over-whelmed, over-stimulated, and over-fatigued.

Why is our energy level so low? Where are we spending our energy? Why are we working so hard? The whole book of Ecclesiastes seems to ponder the meaning of life—in Ecclesiastes 4:4-8 the writer observes, “And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind…There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless—a miserable business!” The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be encouraging moderation, to appreciate both hard work and the simple things in life. In the Good News Bible verse six translates, “It is better to have only a little with peace of mind, than be busy all the time with both hands.” In the New Testament, Paul emphasizes the importance of Christ-reliance and describes the peace he’s found as a result, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Phillipians 4:12-13 Therefore, the secret to success is find balance in our lives and trust in God to supply our needs.

When you lie down at night are you unable to turn off your mind and get adequate rest? Are you staying awake worrying how to keep the utilities on, how to pay for your child’s braces? Are you concerned about your to do list for the following day? David wrote in Psalms 4:8, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Can all your worrying change anything? No, but prayer can. My life verse encourages, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let your petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 That verse speaks to my heart when it says “petitions and praises”—it reminds me that I am to not only pray but praise. Thinking of all the things I have to be grateful--the roof over my head, the blanket, my spouse beside me, the children sleeping in their beds, the air in my lungs—suddenly, I’m breathing deeper and relaxing. Furthermore, Jesus emphases that “You cannot serve both God and Money. ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:24-25, 31-33 Worry is a demonic distraction—we stop focusing on praising God for all that He has provided and we lose our momentum to carry out the divine mission He’s placed in our hearts.

Did you know that the Bible talks about how business and worry interfere with our spiritual lives? The Bible speaks very clearly that our faith is to rest in Him not the false hope of wealth. The parable of the seeds in Matthew talks about how God’s word can be choked by the busyness of life and materialism: “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worried of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22. Yet another example of Christ-reliance vs. financial-reliance is the story of the wealthy man who asked Christ how to have eternal life; “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Matt.19:21-22 Clearly, the man valued his worldly possessions more the eternal life.

Luke 12:33-34 summarizes over 800 Biblical verses that discuss money, “…a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” My grandmother had a beautiful vacation home where our family enjoyed visiting with relatives and relaxing in the country. A call in the middle of the night revealed the worst—a suspicious fire had reduced the home and contents to nothing but ash. Worse yet, my grandfather had only insured the home, not the contents. My grandmother’s heart was broken, so many lovely items…so many memories…so many future plans. As a woman of faith, my grandmother understandably grieved; but she also remembered that thankfully no one was injured, she had another home, and it was only wood and brick. If you think your worldly treasures can’t be gone in a minute, spend an afternoon listening looking at the sheriff sale section of your local paper, visit the unemployment office and hear about jobs sent overseas, and/or visit the oncology wing of the hospital. A recent article in The Atlantic points out that “Adverse medical conditions also lead to personal bankruptcy filings, but other adverse events such as divorce and unemployment have marginal effects. Over-consumption makes households financially over-stretched and more susceptible to adverse events, which reconcile the strategic filing and adverse event explanations” ( Biblical truths are apparent in the modern world—where the effects of sin are cumulating in personal, civic and economic meltdowns.

Moses instructed the Hebrews that “The Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you…on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.” Exodus 16:29, 20:11 [emphasis added] If the Father honors rest; then, we, who are created in his image, must value it too. God urges us time and time again to be still, have patience, worship, and meditate on him. In my hectic life, I struggle to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 The Sabbath is declared holy so that we can spend time alone with Him, the ultimate source of energy. Jesus instructs us, “Here’s what I want you to do: ‘Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play…Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.’” Matthew 6:6 I’m preaching to myself here, but the Sabbath is not intended as the catch-up day for all the things we didn’t accomplish during the week. Moreover, Jesus asked in Matthew 11:28-29 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” Life is a rhythm of seasons; some are for work and some are for rest. Most people who honor the Sabbath find that the rest of their week is more productive. Personally, songs of praise and worship refill my spiritual vessel—they focus my attention on all of my blessings and often readjust my attitude. Listening to WOW CDs or K-Love on my way to work helps focus my perspective for the workday, and on the way home, I can wind down from work. During church service, these songs allow me to close my eyes and join with the body of Christ in an unison of worship.
God is a renewable energy. Jesus reflected the will of the Father “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 Pray for the promise of restoration: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31 In summary, I encourage you to find balance; focus on the eternal/spiritual rather than the temporal/earthly matters; trust God to meet your needs; and discover the restoration found by spending time alone with God.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

2. Feeling hopeless/helpless~

Maybe you are feeling hopeless and helpless because you aren’t seeing results YET…Dayton Vineyard pastor Doug Roe says, God is never late, but he is seldom early. He is always right on time! The first step should be to pray for discernment, “We should make plans—counting on God to direct us.” Proverbs 16:9 How many times have you rushed into something, to realize it was the wrong decision: the interest rate was 32% …he had put on his “game face” while you were first dating…? How many times have you been stuck and frustrated—and then God moves: the house you wanted sold, but now you found a more suitable house…? As Dayton Vineyard pastors are fond of saying: God’s will is often clearer in the rearview mirror. The human downfall is that we are anxious and don’t want to trust His omnipotent power.

Throughout the Bible there are numerous examples of God’s answer being, “No, trust me. It is for your own good.” We don’t tell our children no just to exercise our authority and neither does God. The commandments are there for our best interest. He is trying to protect us from the “wages of sin.” Deuteronomy 30:15-16 summarizes, “I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” Maybe the “No” is a result of your sin. Moses and his siblings were not permitted to enter the Promised Land as a result of their disobedience and self-reliance.

On the other hand, possibly the “no” is prohibitive. Have you stopped long enough to consider that the “No” is possibly a road block to a destructive path? Sometimes God’s no is a way of keeping our attitude in check. Paul seems to have uncovered the purpose of God’s “No” in his life when he writes in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” The no makes us humble and realize how weak we truly are. Furthermore, James 4:3 explains, “When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” My dear friend calls those “Ouch, Hallelujah!” moments. The divine truth hurts sometimes, but we are better for it!

Sometimes God’s answer is “Yes, but wait.” The story of Abraham and Sarah’s long wait for a child illustrates the importance of God’s timing. Our impatience and intervention often leads to our demise. In Genesis 15, God promises the barren Abraham and Sarah children too numerous to count. In Genesis 18:14, “GOD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh saying, 'Me? Have a baby? An old woman like me?' Is anything too hard for GOD? I'll be back about this time next year and Sarah will have a baby." Not trusting in God’s timetable, Sarah impatiently convinces him to copulate with her maid. Not until Genesis 21 when Abraham is 88, does God fulfill the promise of a child (Ishmael) through the maid. Later, Sarah’s child, Isaac, is born when Abraham nears 100 years old. Not only does Ishmael cause conflict between Sarah, Abraham, and the maid; but many will ague that the children of Abraham are in conflict today—both physically through the Jews (Isaac) and Palestinians (Ishmael), and spiritually between the Jews/Christians and Muslims. When we don’t allow God’s will prevail, we multiply our heartaches. Unfortunately, this can impact our families for years to come. As a result of our interfering in God’s plan, we may have to wait even longer for our blessing.

Once again, Paul’s life is an illustration of faith and perseverance through hardships. Acts 27-28 tells the story of Paul’s enduring a storm, shipwreck, snake bite, and natives idolizing him as a god. I’m sure Paul wasn’t overjoyed by God’s detours, but he held fast to his belief that none would perish and that God would provide. As a result, the natives on the island where they shipwrecked heard the gospel and many were healed! God divinely orchestrated the shipwreck so that more people could have life-changing relationship with Him. Joseph being betrayed by his brothers, enslaved, and wrongly imprisoned led to his saving thousands of lives, including those who betrayed him. God’s unorthodox plans for us are bigger that we could ever imagine.

Put your faith in God, whose vantage point is higher than ours. Have you ever worked a 1000 piece puzzle? We stare at and fixate on that one piece. Sometimes it isn’t until we set the piece down and take a look at the whole, that we unlock the clues. How many times in life do we get stuck on that one piece, not willing to set it aside so that we can move on to the next piece? We become obsessed with the one piece…where could it possibly go…why can’t I figure this out?!? The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I forget what happened yesterday, and I keep my eyes on what is ahead. I press on to win the prize that God is keeping for me - and that is to share in an everlasting life overflowing with love and happiness with Jesus.” We simply don’t see the big picture—but God does. Indeed, “And we know that for those who love God, that is, for those who are called according to his purpose, all things are working together for good.” Romans 8:28 Does Paul say, “Some things?…most things?” NO, all things! God wants you to approach difficulties with confidence in Him. “Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I the Lord, am with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 Our faith can be a journey, the simple act of moving forward like the man in Mark 9:24 who sought healing for his child “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Be authentic with God, tell him what you need and like the father in the story—he will heal you.

I have found that keeping verses in my pockets, on my mirror, or computer desktop serves as a visual reminder to “keep my eyes on the prize.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 is taped to my desk at work—my goal is to plant the words in my heart, “…do not lose heart…For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Furthermore, Christ emphasizes, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25 In the midst of the storm all we can see is the wind, lightening, and rain. But God, knows that there is a beautiful day, and sometimes a rainbow, on the other side of the storm cell.

In Christ, we are neither helpless nor hopeless: “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 Claim it—not most…not a few—all things are possible. Later in verse 19 Paul states, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Please note that it doesn’t say that God will supply my wants—but my needs. In my life there have been so many times that an unexpected check has come in the mail when there is a past due notice is sitting on the kitchen table, or there is just enough change in the house to buy a pack of diapers….and so on. Let’s face it sometimes the check doesn’t come in the mail, there is a lesson to be learned in those times too. When trouble comes and Christ warns us it will come, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33; we must keep our eyes on the ultimate goal in order to not be distracted by life’s trials. Again, love God first and the rest will work out for itself. Like Paul, we just have to have patience and faith.