Do You See Anything?

This at times can be a loaded question…and one that I feel can sometimes leave us with more questions than answers.  But let me explore this question for our lives in a way this morning that I hope will help us develop our faith and understanding of God, His ways, and our faith.

When you hear the name Elijah, most likely the first thing that comes to mind is that he was a prophet in the Old Testament; some may even go so far as to remember that he was taken up in a chariot of fire and did not face death on this earth. But it isn’t this testament to his faith in that God took him home in that way that I want to focus on … in fact, I want to focus on how he handled one particular circumstance that many of us may have missed along the way.

Elijah prayed for God to close the heaven’s, and God answered by not allowing it to rain for 3 ½ years…but still, this is not the part of the story we need to understand as Christians…it’s what happened at the end of the drought that I believe can guide us in our lives today.  The faith Elijah had was unmatched in his day, because he knew that God would answer his prayers…and he did not give up until he got that answer.

After 3 ½ years, Elijah began to pray for God to open the heavens and send rain…and he had faith it would happen….so he prayed and sent an assistant to see if clouds were forming, the answer, “no”, and he could have stopped there, but he didn’t.  Elijah prayed over and over, persistently and passionately that God would hear his cry, and on the 7th time the assistant returned and said, “There is a cloud!”

“There is a cloud!”

This was an exclamation of an answered prayer…until we look at it in today’s terms, would we have the faith that Elijah and his assistant did to believe that the cloud that was seen was something that could produce rain?  It was the size of a man’s hand…something small, seemingly insignificant, and honestly could have been easily missed if we were not focused on seeing even the smallest of blessings in front of us.  But they saw it and exclaimed, “There is a cloud!”

This followed by Elijah issuing a warning to the king to clear the area and save everything before the rains came…all over a little six inch cloud…a SIX INCH CLOUD! How is your faith today? Would you have had the faith to exclaim, “There is a cloud!”?

Are you looking for even the smallest of blessings that can grow into larger ones? Are you seeing the first signs of God’s provision in your life? Are you focused enough to see that little six inch cloud that is about to become a blessing?

Where is your focus today? Are you praying persistently and fervently? Can you say, “There is a cloud”?

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” – James 5:16

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Biblical Answers: God’s Will

One question I get asked often is, “How do I know this is God’s Will for my life?”

Well, that’s a great question…and honestly, the answer is as individual as the person asking the question.  It comes down to our own discernment and knowledge of God’s Word.  It can be as simple as the scriptures that tell us point-blank that something is the will of God:

His will in our prayer life: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)”

His will in how we should live: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)”

And honestly, I could probably go one with a number of scripture to tell us different things that are the will of God for circumstances we may face…but how can we be sure that we are praying according to His will? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is the request clearly the will of God according to His word?
  2. Does the request line up with the priorities that God has for my life?
  3. Does the request fit the plan that God has for my life?
  4. Am I willing to persevere in prayer until I know His will in the matter?

If we are willing to sit down and truly explore these questions over our circumstances and situations we will find ourselves in the middle of the plan He is pursuing for us.  To be sure of His will we must be willing to completely commit to His way, no matter what the answer to our request may be…even if it isn’t what we fully want.

Paul gives us that example of enduring through faith in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10: “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

No matter what you are going through, trust that God is in control and will reveal his plan if you persist and pursue in prayer.  Remain true and see it through, God truly is good all the time.

“When you pray, pray in this way…” – Luke 11:2

Biblical Answers: Social Issues

I want to take a moment to address something that we don’t normally like to talk about.  The problem of social issues, or if you will, people problems.  Many of us have this struggle that we refuse to admit…that is a problem with people, or at least certain people.

The struggle is real, and unfortunately we don’t want to admit that we have it.  Whether it is a problem with someone because of an illness and we just don’t know how to act, or one that goes deeper because of a personal issue that we have with someone, we all have an issue that we need to address at times.

One of the biggest things that we see is that many times we need to drop our pride and be willing to work through the issue…but we won’t.  We refuse to face it head on, rather we would like to sit and share it with someone else who has nothing to do with the situation.

We do not need to be afraid of facing these issues; in fact, we are commanded to confront them, one-on-one, face-to-face…

Matthew 18:15 states, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

Why are we so afraid to just sit down and talk about something we are facing with the person we are facing it with?  Why do we build walls and struggle through a circumstance that we honestly could let go of and resolve?

I want to issue a challenge to everyone today…including myself.  If there is an issue you are facing with someone, face it, head on…if you are struggling to let go of issues that can cause social stereotyping, ask God to help you let go of the personal prejudices that are keeping you from being Christ-like…Do not let your personal vendettas cause a rift between you and your Heavenly Father.

Resolve to keep from having issues with one another and let’s practice what Christ preached today!

We Remember…

This week we celebrate Memorial Day…

A day in which we are reminded that it is a day which has been set aside to remember those who lost their lives in service to this great country in the line of duty, we mourn those who died for the Country to remind ourselves of worthy ideals, virtues, and priorities.  May their sacrifice be a constant reminder of things that matter, we remember those who weighed the costs and truly embraced what Christ was saying in John 15:13, “Greater Love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

We celebrate because we are truly humbled and grateful for the sacrifice of those who lost their lives fighting for the United States of America, and in that we hope that their courage and dedication will never be forgotten.  We praise men and women for their sacrifice, for their selfless devotion, courage that is second-to-none, and an honor that should be inspirational…inspiring us to make their sacrifice meaningful.

The reminder in this day of remembrance is that if we understand why we celebrate Memorial Day, then we fully understand what Christ’s sacrifice meant for us on the cross. Christ laid down His life for His friends…the ones who He commanded to love as he loved, which was a love that took Him to the cross and required the utmost sacrifice.  If you embrace the meaning of Memorial Day, but do not know Christ as your Savior, today is not too late…we all have this opportunity because of God’s mercy afforded us on Calvary’s Hill, but also because Christ walked out of that grave.

This week as you remember, I would encourage you to reflect on the sacrifice that many gave for our Country, and in doing so, reflect on the sacrifice Christ made for you.  There truly was no greater display of love that man will ever see than Christ on the cross.

To those who gave their lives in service to our country.  We remember and appreciate your invaluable contribution for renewed hope, unity, and freedom.  With the deepest admiration and gratitude we should live daily by the liberties and principles for which the bravest of the brave fell.

Ronald Regan stated on Memorial Day of 1982 at Arlington National Cemetery:

“I can’t claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don’t know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? That is what we must all ask.”

I adapt that today to ask…”Does the cross still stand over the church as a symbol of love and redemption?” We truly must ask that question today as well…

Biblical Answers: Stress

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment…one of the leading problems we have in our lives today is Stress. In today’s world it is virtually impossible to avoid stress. Almost everyone is carrying some amount of it, in varying degrees; It seems to be everywhere, from work to the home, and there never seems to be an end.

“If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”

“When it rains, it pours.”

“I need 36 hours/8 days in a day/week.”

All of these statements are made, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, because of the stress in our lives…but how do we find relief from the stress of the days we face?

Unfortunately, most of us cannot just unload stress like a backpack. It seems to be intrinsically woven into the very fabric of our lives. It lurks somewhere beneath our skin. It keeps us up late into the night, just when we need sleep the most. It presses in on us from all sides.

We can find all the answers to the stresses of life in God’s Word, and we don’t have to go much farther than the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me all who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” But, there are many more places we can find comfort from the stresses of life.

Stress typically comes from the worries we face, so how do we combat the worry?

We come to Him…Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

We face our fear with faith…Psalm 127 says that unless the Lord builds the House we labor in vain, Romans 8 reminds us that if God is for us, who can be against us, and 1 John 4 states, “There is no fear in love but perfect love drives out fear, for fear has a torment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love,” shortly after reminding us that “God is love.”

We allow Him to lead…we take His yoke upon us…again, relying on the reminder that He has already lightened our load.

And, we rejoice in the Lord…Just look at Paul and Silas when imprisoned, they sang songs of worship and praised God through the stresses of their incarceration.  We may not be facing a literal jail, but we may be facing imprisonment of our minds….but in the midst of the struggle we can praise God through the storms and welcome the blessings of His love.

Lean on Him today, allow Him to lighten your load and to help you breathe easier.

Psalm 46:10 – “Be Still and Know that He is God.”

Biblical Answers: Anger

Let’s face it – Anger seems to be a part of our everyday lives…

There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t find ourselves facing at least one moment in which we have the choice before us to become angry, or at least frustrated with a circumstance or situation. Can we honestly say that we have never been angry?

I think that each of us would be lying if we were to say that we have never been angry at some point, in fact, I would venture to say that we have all had a moment in which we acted out of anger and left ourselves hurting and embarrassed about how we maybe even handled the situation; but that being said, I want to explore this by first asking the simple question: “Is anger a sin?”

Short answer is NO.  A better answer would be to go to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “Be Angry, and do not sin: Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. (4:26-27, NKJV)”

In essence Paul is saying, it isn’t a sin to be angry…go ahead and get angry, it is what you do with your anger that becomes the sin, so do not sin in anger.

Anger happens, situations don’t always go to your liking, but it doesn’t mean that you have to react in a sinful way to the anger you feel.  Jesus himself got angry, he entered the temple and witnessed the thieves that were taking advantage of the worshipers…but he did not sin in his anger, he did react, and corrected them with his words and actions.

This is a lesson for us; does it mean that we should flip the tables? In some senses, yes, we have to flip the tables on evil and rebuke the spirit that causes our anger, but we do not have to fight sin with sin.  Paul continues in the statement to say that we should not let the sun go down on anger, do not let it fester within you…release it before the day is over because the longer you hold on to something the harder it is to avoid sinning in the process.

“But how can I not continue thinking about it when I’ve been wronged?”

Well, that is a good question, but the better question I have is this, “Why would you not want to let it go?” When we sit and allow our anger to fester within us, we are giving place to the devil to plant temptations in our hearts…plotting revenge because we feel that we have to respond in a way that is worthy of the hurt we feel.

The quickest way to avoid sinning in your anger is to control your feelings and avoid anger if you can – Proverbs 16:32 says to us, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” If we can control our anger and avoid the desire for revenge, we will find ourselves in a better mindset and releasing the feelings of anger before they become an issue.  The quicker we can say NO to the feelings of anger, the happier and more content we will feel.

Do not sin in anger. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. Do not give Satan a foothold.

Biblical Answers: Death

We have experienced a lot of death over the past few weeks…and as I’ve thought of this and looked over some verses that speak to death and speak to what comes after we pass from this life, it has brought to mind a couple of the questions that I have been asked before that I hope I can answer in a way that is helpful…

First, why must we die? We die because sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve by partaking in the very thing God commanded them to abstain from.  Once sin entered the world, life as it was intended had to change, there was no way for it to continue in the Paradise of Eden.

Biblically speaking, however, that sin no longer has a grip on life as we know it because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross that offers us a new, restored relationship with God…because HE paid the price of our sin, which brings us to the second question.

Why did Christ have to die? Because as we are told by Paul in the book of Romans, “The wages of sin is death;” which takes us back to the first question, we have to die because of sin, because death is the punishment for sin.

But GOD in His infinite mercy chose to repair that relationship, step down and fulfill that punishment for our sins, so that we could have the opportunity to have that relationship restored…because there is nothing good in us that can earn us that salvation but that God deemed us worthy of His grace and has poured it out freely in His mercy.

Does that mean that death is something that will come?

As hard as it may be for us to deal with when it comes to others and their passing, it is something the scripture tells us is appointed for man once to die…and it then speaks of the second death….that death is one that cannot be undone or reversed if the first is reached without the redemption of Christ in our lives.

Death came because man could not obey God…

Why do people have to die? Because we are sinners…

Only one has lived and defeated the death this world brings, but that One came and paid the price that we should have to pay, and it is because of Him that we can rest in the hope of that promise that Eternal Life awaits for those who believe.

Perhaps the best way I can wrap this up is this way: “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.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, NKJV