Self Sufficient? Not Even Close.

Under normal circumstances, men love to pull over and ask for directions. Especially if their wife is right next to them asking them to do it. I might have that mixed up. Most of us don’t like to admit when we need help. We like to think we are big and strong and can handle anything that comes our way.

The reality is quite tragic in comparison to our delusion that we can accomplish anything in our own strength.

Mark 10:25-27 (NLT) In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

How long will we continue to depend upon our own strength rather than relying fully upon the grace of God? Perhaps I’m the only one who struggles with this, but it seems like one day I lay down my will, and surrender my life entirely to God and the next I’m trying to work things out in my own strength and force my own plans to succeed.

John 15:5 (NKJV) I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 

Jesus is our source! Why do we so quickly abandon His paths and follow our own strategies. Why do we try to be so self sufficient instead of relying on the sustaining strength of the Lord? One of my favorite scriptures is when the apostle Paul talks about boasting in weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NLT) Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

This is to me one of the most freeing verses in all of scripture! We are free from having to have it all together. We don’t have to be the strongest, or the smartest, we simply have to depend on Jesus.

There is a song by Sleeping at Last entitled emphasis in which the author proclaims, “The sweetest thing I’ve ever heard is that I don’t have all the answers.”

One thing we should strive for today is to stop trying to keep it all together and fall securely into the arms of Jesus. To run into the shelter of the most high God. Let Him be our shield and our strength. Let’s trust the Lord fully in the midst of even the most challenging circumstances.

We do not have to be self-sufficient, but rather self-surrendered, allowing God to be our sufficiency.

2 Corinthians 3:5 (NKJV) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,

Pile of Poop

You did not misread the title of this blog, and before you check to see if you’re in the right place, let me assure you, you are. No, I didn’t lose my mind before the week began. I’m Pastor Chris and I love Jesus. Thanks for being here. My whole purpose for writing is to encourage people to pursue Jesus above all else! Today we are going to look at a scripture that so eloquently explains why I am so passionate about this.

Philippians 3:8 (NLT) Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.

Everything is worthless compared to knowing Jesus! That is a bold statement. In my younger years I loved this scripture and boldly proclaimed that all this world is worthless, that we should forsake our sin, forsake our worldly desires and pursue Jesus!

That is true, however, the scripture goes much deeper than that. The apostle Paul isn’t referring to sin or wrong desires. It is a given that those things are garbage compared  to Christ. Just a few verses before he was explaining all of his accomplishments as a Jewish man and as a pharisee. He is saying that all the things he once thought were valuable are not worthless because knowing Jesus is the greatest reward.

The King James version actually refers to all his accomplishments it as “dung”. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it is an antiquated term meaning poop. Think about that. All of my accomplishments, the best I have to offer actually amounts to nothing more than a pile of poop compared to knowing Jesus.

This is incredible to me! It means all my goals and dreams that I might have outside of Jesus become not only less important, but as desirable to me as a pile of poop. For those paying attention, that is absolutely NOT desirable in the slightest. In fact, it’s repulsive.

Do you long for Jesus so greatly that by comparison everything else is garbage? I pray that my life, once lived, would be able to boast one thing and one thing alone. That I pursued Jesus with all that I had within me.What can I accomplish apart from God?

Psalm 44:6-8 (NLT)  I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us. O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name. 

Today let’s boast in our God! Let us remember we can do nothing a part from Him! Our salvation comes from Him alone. Our trust is in God alone! What great joy to give glory to the Lord, to praise His name all throughout the day.

That’s my challenge for you today. Try to praise God constantly throughout the game. Make a game out of it if you’d like. See how many times you can give God praise throughout the day. Try and bring God to your mind every single minute, and praise Him! Thank Him! Say a quick prayer.

Let us live in constant awe of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! After all, everything else is just a pile of poop.

Spiritual Fruit

We’ve come to the end of our second week together. Once again I’d like to close this week by evaluating our Spiritual progress. Last week I briefly made mention of the fruit of the Spirit. This week I’d like to take a closer look.

Galatians 5:22-23 NLT But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

There is good news and bad news. Would you like the bad news first? If the answer is no then skip this paragraph. These are all spiritual qualities that we are incapable of producing in our own ability. No matter how hard we find, there is no true joy or peace unless the Spirit produces it in our lives. Sure we can find worldly substitutes, worldly joy, worldly peace, but such peace only lasts so long as our present circumstance. Spiritual joy lasts no matter what situation we find ourselves in.

The good news, because we cannot produce these qualities in our own ability we don’t have to freak out about not having enough of one of them. We can simply go into our prayer closet, shut the door and get alone with our Father. As we grow closer to God many of these fruits will automatically become more apparent in our lives. The Spirit produces them.

If you’re like me and you find yourself struggling with some of them from time to time, you don’t need to panic. Perhaps you’ve been in a situation where you are really struggling to speak kindly to a specific person for whatever reason. You don’t panic and say, “I thought I was a Christian, why am I not more kind?!”

You simply go and pray, “Lord, I am struggling to treat this person with kindness, please produce this fruit in a greater amount in my life. Help me to speak to them with kindness, help me to show them kindness with my actions, so that You might receive glory.

That sounds simple, but like many simple things it isn’t easy. Many times we feel they deserve the attitude we are harboring for them, and maybe they do. However that doesn’t change the fact we need to treat them with kindness.

I challenge you to find some time today and reflect on each of these fruits and ask yourself if you  are truly displaying them in every area of your life.

Start with love. This is the most important one for me. I believe that as we grow in Christ, our love grows in correspondence. The more spiritually mature we are, the more love we have, not only for the people in our lives, but for the world. Our compassion for those in need is increasing as well.

Joy and Peace. I know they’re not the same thing, but similar thoughts come to my mind. These are difficult to have in challenging situations. I think they may be the best tool we have in evaluating our spiritual life. If we are living in the Spirit, I believe we will have sufficient joy and especially peace. When times come and we find ourselves lacking in this department, it’s time to evaluate. Ok Lord, where have I stopped living in the Spirit and started living in the natural?

Patience is also a challenge! How many times do we act impulsively instead of waiting on leading from the Lord?

Kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness. These qualities are so vital to us as Christians and we should display them in every situation. Are we always kind? Are we always good? Are we always faithful? Are we always gentle? No, but everyday is an opportunity to grow greater fruit.

Self-control is last, and I am sure it is by design. The ability to truly control oneself in every way is a true test of maturity. This is our goal, to be completely spirit led, to surrender every ounce of control and let the Spirit have His way. To not act in every situation, to hold our tongue on when needed. Yet also to act boldly and speak truth as the Spirit leads. This should be the goal of every believer.

If you’re reading this today, I just want you to know that you’re gonna make it. You’re not forgotten and you haven’t made too many mistakes. Today is perfect day to determine in your heart a renewed determination to live for Jesus, to develop spiritual fruit and display to the world the love of Christ.

We Are But A Moment

We all like to think our life is the center of the everything. We don’t give voice to these thoughts, but we do tend to think of our life as outlasting everyone else’s. The reality, however, is that not one life that has ever existed on earth is truly lasting. 

Psalm 39:4-5 (NLT) “ LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.”

Eternity is a difficult concept to understand, in fact it’s impossible to fully grasp by our finite minds. We each have a clearly defined beginning and death is a certainty. Our time here on earth will end. 

Our numbered days do have a number and each one of them is valuable. I look back on how I chose to spend some of those days and I realize, I wasted them on things that have no lasting value.

Eternity is a different beast. It has no beginning. There is no ending. Praise God that because of Jesus’ precious sacrifice on the cross that we will pass into eternity with joy into the presence of God. 

The scripture said our life is but a single breath to God. In the scheme of eternity our life is like a single dot on a line that stretches endlessly in either direction. 

How often do we make all of our decisions based on what will benefit the dot? We have this natural inclination to make decisions to benefit our life here on earth when our real life has barely begun. 

Colossians 3:3 (NKJV) For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Philippians 3:20 (NLT) But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.

I would challenge you today to examine what factors you consider in your decision making process. Are you deciding how to spend your time and resources based on self fulfillment? That is the natural way of doing things, but should live each day based on how it will affect our eternity. 

I am reminded of the fact that all our gain on earth has zero eternal value. The only thing we can take with us to Heaven is other people. If anything could be said of my life when it is done, I hope it is that I did everything I could do to populate Heaven. 

When we were saved we were radically and gloriously transformed and added to the Kingdom of God. Let’s put aside our old life and get to work further building the Kingdom. 

Mind Game

Have you ever felt distracted? You’re supposed to be focused on something of great importance, yet your mind is wandering, drifting away with your head in the clouds rather than on the task at hand. The great challenge of every Christian is the battle to bring our minds into full the submission of Jesus.

This is so great a struggle because we have a natural way of thinking, before Christ we all were thinking, living, functional humans, but now we are called to live differently. Actions and attitudes that were natural before Jesus are now being revealed by His Spirit as sinful and He is calling us to repent and change.

Romans 8:5-6 (NLT) Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

A good test of how you are doing spiritually is examining where your mind tends to naturally drift to. Do you naturally think about the Kingdom of God? Your prayer list? People who have needs that God could help you meet? Do you think about worshipping Jesus and growing closer to Him?

Most of the time our mind doesn’t naturally drift to those things, but rather the issues of our daily life and many times our mind would quicker drift to sinful things than holy things. The bad news is that thinking on sinful things inevitably leads to death, but the good news is we don’t have to allow our mind to stay that way. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can take every thought into captivity and renew our mind to think on Godly things! (2 Corinthians 10:5, Romans 12:2)

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NKJV)Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

I believe God is calling this generation back to holiness. In a world that is becoming increasingly comfortable with sin, God is searching for those willing to put to death all forms of sinful activity and truly pursue Him whole heartedly. Praise God that the as surely as He calls us, He is faithful to provide us with the power and resources to fulfill that call!

John 6:35 (NLT) Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Jesus is our supply! When we abide in Him and seek our nourishment from Him we will have all we need to be satisfied. We will have all we need to stand on the truth of His word and proclaim the gospel in our community. We will have the power to turn our minds over to His Spirit, rather than be dominated by sinful thoughts.

Romans 8:12-14 (NLT) Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

I love the part that says we have no obligation to do what our sinful nature urges us to do. The enemy wants to lie and make you believe that you are forever a slave to your own desires, but through the power of God you have the power to fully put to death that sinful nature inside of you. You can be free from that addiction, from that attitude, from those words that slip out.

Whatever struggle you find yourself dealing with, know that you can be free. Don’t just allow your mind to drift to whatever comes natural. Turn every thought over to the Lord today and bring them into submission to the lordship Jesus.

Don’t Play With Fire!

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Have you ever been told not to play with fire? What did you do? If you’re like me, I bet you played with it anyway! Who hasn’t melted that plastic spoon over the candle during a Banquet. Fire is fun! Fire is awesome. Fire is also incredibly dangerous and can be a source of great destruction. Are you afraid of fire? Probably not, but most of us eventually come to a place of respecting the fire and treat it with careful consideration.

It is interesting to me that scripture refers to God as a consuming fire.

Hebrews 12:20 (NKJV) For our God is a consuming fire.

Leviticus 9:24 (NLT) Fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When the people saw this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground.

I share this scripture because it so beautifully depicts God as an all consuming fire. I love how the people were filled with joy, yet they also fell down on their faces in reverence to God.

This is to me, a picture of what the fear of the Lord should look like. The fear of the Lord, is something that has often baffled me. Because obviously, God is love! The Bible even tells us that we shouldn’t have a Spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). So I never fully understood scriptures telling us we should have a fear of the Lord.

Psalm 111:10 (NLT) Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.

Psalm 33:8 (NLT) Let the whole world fear the Lordand let everyone stand in awe of him.

Surely it doesn’t mean that we should be trembling with fear of our loving God? Or maybe it does Matthew tells us we should fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell! (Matthew 10:28). That’s pretty terrifying.

It is when I put it in the context of fire that it makes sense to me. We shouldn’t walk around terrified of God, but like the fire we should treat God and His presence with great care.

2 Corinthians 7:1 (NLT) Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

This is why I believe that it is the fear of the Lord that leads to wisdom. Like fire we know that God is not something to be played around with. We accept His free gift of salvation, but now we must turn from our sins. We must approach His presence with awe and reverence. We should seek to live in such a way that honors Him completely.

Today is a great time to ask yourself if you’ve lived your life with a healthy fear of the Lord. Are you seeking to live in a way that truly honors him? Not just in avoiding sin, but in the attitudes you have and the way you speak to people?

Maybe throughout this post you’ve realized you don’t fear the Lord in the proper way. Don’t be discouraged, simply ask God to help you develop a renewed fear of the Lord and remember….

Don’t play with fire.

The Battle Between…

Recently I’ve realized my faith isn’t as strong as I thought it was. That statement isn’t an easy one to make. We have perceptions of who we are and occasionally we have difficult moments where we truly see through our own web of self deception and see reality. Too often we only see our intentions and overlook our lack of action.

That’s the key right there, because to have faith is to know without doubt that what you believe will come to pass. When we are pursuing God’s will for our lives, we should live boldly with no doubt that our plans will succeed, because God is on our side. If you have this kind of faith then ACTION will be the natural byproduct. It’s easy to act on what we know, it’s hard to act on what we doubt.
GettyImages-489748108_master.0.jpgI will sit in a chair with confidence, because I know it will hold me up, but if you ask me to walk across a bridge made of  glass, forget it! I will be filled with fear and as a byproduct be filled with inaction. Frozen.

Frozen is where I have found myself on more than one occasion. I fully believe God’s ability to accomplish what He has put in my heart and in my life, yet many times when it comes down to it, I am filled with doubt.

Things don’t always work out the way we expect, these are the moments that test the genuineness of our faith. It is the trying times, when circumstances seem to tear apart our dreams that we will either stand firm on the promises of God or give way to fear.

In the latter half of Mark 5 we see such a moment develop. Jarius, a leader in the local synagogue came to Jesus full of faith that Jesus could heal his dying daughter. I am sure he was in a hurry and was frustrated by the great crowds following Jesus. As a father, worried over his dying daughter he must have been feeling very anxious when the woman with the issue of blood touched Jesus and he stopped to interrogate the crowd.

The woman confessed that it was her who had touched Him and Jesus told her, in verse 34 “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” Jesus knew she had faith because of the corresponding action, she fought her way through the thick throngs of people and was just barely able to touch the bottom of His robe.

Jarius must have felt encouraged, again seeing Jesus has the power to heal, and full of faith that Jesus would do the same for his daughter.

Then everything changed.

Mark 5:35-36  (NLT) While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.  But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

We know how the story ends. Jesus goes to the little girl and performs a great miracle, but what if Jarius had listened to his companions? What if he had set his sights completely upon his physical reality instead of having faith in a spiritual reality? It would have been easy to listen to this news and completely despair, but Jesus intervened.

There will be times we have to choose to look past our fears, look past our doubts and look to Jesus, trusting in Him completely. David understood this.

Psalm 38:13-15  (NLT) Meanwhile, my enemies lay traps to kill me. Those who wish me harm make plans to ruin me. All day long they plan their treachery. But I am deaf to all their threats. I am silent before them as one who cannot speak. I choose to hear nothing, and I make no reply. For I am waiting for you, O LordYou must answer for me, O Lord my God.

I want to encourage you today, don’t listen to the negative voices that would have you believe your dreams are dead. Be like David and choose not to hear them and definitely don’t respond. Instead wait on the Lord.

Continue to have faith that He will make a way.