Strength from Within

I am often looking around for examples to use during sermons, devotions, or even in an article, and I came across a story about a college professor and a glass beaker. You know the ones that I am talking about – remember science class, that beaker that had an opening of about an inch that then opened up to about 7-inches at the bottom and would hold about a quart of liquid.

The professor wanted to show the class how strong a beaker is and used it to drive a nail into a piece of wood, showing that the glass was so well tempered that it would not break. He then took a steel ball-bearing and dropped in into the beaker through the opening. When the ball struck the bottom of the beaker it shattered, breaking it from within.

Now what could this possibly have to do with what I am trying to say? Let me tell you, I’ve seen this in action as a coach, I have seen it in families, and I’ve seen it in churches…the real danger in each of these is what is happening on the inside….not the exterior forces being applied, but yet the battles that happen within.

Athletic teams are successful and can battle anything as long as they are well tempered and battle tough, but one small problem from the inside and things can fall apart quickly. A family can last through just about anything the world can throw at them, but if a member of a family decides that they have problems with the others, walks away, starts to talk, it can fall apart quickly.

Churches are the same way, all of the outside forces that can come against a church have nothing to stand on when it comes to the power of God’s people standing tall. This is why I think we have seen the church become infiltrated with those who are not looking to be a part of that family, but rather have begun to destroy it from the inside out. Church, we can not waver on what the scripture says, but we have to stand strong on the Word of God and allow it to change us from the inside out.

When we allow God to take control in such a way, he will temper us both inside and out, so that we can face the trials that come. It is the only way to ensure that our strength is more than just exterior strength. Let God strengthen you today! Do not allow something to get inside and destroy from the inside out. Take it with you into every relationship that you have in your life, whether family, friendships, teams, or even church, do not let the enemy destroy it from the inside out.

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Not What it Seems

I came across a story about a gift that really hit me hard recently.

The story is about a young man who is about to graduate from college and wants a sports car for graduation from a local dealership from his father. He drops the hints to his dad and knows that he has the money to make such a purchase and over the weeks leading up to his graduation was on the lookout for signs that he was getting the car.

Graduation Day came and his father called the boy into his study. The boy went, anticipating what he just knew was the gift he had wanted. His father handed him a box, the boy opened it to find a Bible and became angry. He threw the box back down on his father’s desk and stormed out.

Years passed as the son went on with his life, not talking to his father, but one day he received a message saying his father was in declining health. The son began to make plans to go back and mend fences with his father, but before he could arrive he received a telegram that his father had passed away and had left his entire estate to the son.

The man returned home to start the process of assessing all he had received, filled with regret and disappointment in himself over how he had not seen his father since Graduation Day and had never made up with him. As he entered his father’s study he found that the new Bible he had been given was still sitting right where he had left it that day.

He opened the box and began to thumb through the pages and a small envelope fell out of the back of the Bible. In the envelope was a key to the sports car, the tag on the key had the date of his graduation and said the words, “Paid in Full”.

This got me thinking about how many times I have missed blessings because I was expecting something different than what happened or a different answer to something that I had so desperately wanted to happen a specific way…in fact, I began thinking about how this happens daily around us, whether to us or someone we know.

The truth is, we have all received a gift in the form of a Savior, who came with a tag that simply stated, “Paid in Full!” Jesus came to show us the way, he has the answer that we have always wanted, but we must read to find it…we must live a life that can help us to find the key that is hidden in His word…we must devote ourselves to finding the key and not becoming angry when things don’t seem to be what we think they should be.

Are you missing that blessing today? The key is in the Word of God…

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” – John 3:16-17

What We Think Others See

I came across a story about a researcher who wanted to do an experiment. This story wrecked me to my core when I began thinking about the impact that our “blemishes” have on us.

Separating the volunteers for this study into 10 different cubicles without mirrors, she explained that the purpose of the study was to examine how other people would respond to a stranger with a physical deformity, such as a facial scar. She used Hollywood makeup tricks, putting horrific scars on the left cheek of the volunteers. She then showed them the “scar” in a small mirror and put it away.

The final step in each cubicle was to tell each volunteer that she needed to put some finishing powder on his or her scar to prevent it from smearing. She went through the motions of finishing the scar, but in reality removed each scar from the face of the volunteers.

Each volunteer was then sent out into the waiting rooms of different medical offices with instructions to notice how strangers in the office responded to the scar. After the appointed time, all 10 volunteers returned with the same report. They noticed that strangers were rude to them, less kind to them, and stared at their “scar;” none of them with the knowledge that they had nothing on their face.

We become preoccupied with our personal flaws, no matter what they may be. We begin to assume that others find them as repulsive as we do; when in reality, most of them hardly notice the things that we think are wrong with ourselves. They begin to consume us…we begin to perceive things that are not happening, often times being rude ourselves, acting as if they have wronged us.

What can we learn from this? Our perception of our selves is vital to our perception of others as we go through this life. If we want to develop lasting and healthy friendships and relationships with others, we first have to take a positive view of ourselves. I’ve heard it said, “You have to love yourself before you can love others.”

I feel like we all need to take a step back and realize that our “Scars” only serve to give us character and purpose. We can use our “flaws” to help us move forward, by accepting ourselves and not allowing our perception of others view of us.

Ultimately, of course, a healthy self-image comes from knowing that God thinks highly of you. He created you and loves you as his child. When you take time to listen to God’s voice telling you who you really are, you will be less likely to worry about what others think of you.

Beginning…again

“First This: God created the Heavens and Earth…”

–Genesis 1:1 (the Msg)

That was the first day of this world…creation: God style. One week is all it took for everything that we see around us to take form, gain substance, and come into life as we know it. Seven days is all it took for the God of the universe to create what we now know as Earth.

Not only did He create it…we’re told that He saw that it was good. Everything was perfect, life was good, no worries: to quote the Lion King, “Hakuna Matata.” And then, we got in the way.

One tree is all that we were commanded to let be: we ate.

I would venture to say that of all the trees in the Garden of Eden that tree may have had the sweetest tasting fruit. It was probably a fruit that sparked Adam and Eve to question at first, “This is amazing, why would God tell us to leave this tree alone?” But the same tree that probably had the greatest tasting fruit in the garden quickly showed us why God commanded us to not eat: the Aftertaste.

The aftertaste from that tree was bitter and 6000+ years later still leaves us with an unwelcome taste in our mouths.The tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was intended to be left alone, but we couldn’t resist…and now we are left still trying to pick up the pieces of the fall.

We were created as children, and like children we stumble, and we need guidance.When God created Adam and Eve…they had the mind of a child.The untainted mind of a child that was not clouded by sin and corruption, but the serpent would prove was still persuadable.

But we should not be discouraged, because it is this childlike mentality that we have been created with that keeps us where we need to be. The way for us to overcome this fall is to strive to keep the mind of a child, to strive to be more childlike when it comes to our Christian life…because as children we aren’t afraid of anything…until we are persuaded to be.

This year, start new! Don’t allow your past to dictate your future…Let God guide your steps.  It is a new year; you have a blank slate…just like the mind of a child.  Don’t be afraid to believe in the impossible…because lets face it, the impossible is something we came up with because of fear.