Distracted Living

Let’s face it…almost all of us have a cell phone.

Lately I have been noticing something more and more in my own life, and honestly, I have seen evidence of it around also…that is the increased usage of cell phones, more specifically, smart phones.  They’re all the rage…they’re in just about everyone’s hands from 10 to 90, and the reality of it is that it has our attention.

Many of us (myself included) feel lost without our phone attached to us in some way…we almost can’t function without our phone.  We spend more than 4 hours a day focused on that small screen looking up news, texting, calling, browsing social media, and more.  A recent study showed that the average American adult uses the cell phone 4-5 hours a day and sends and receives around 1,000 text messages daily…

Where this really started to hit home for me is that I have realized that my phone usage has begun to be such a part of my daily routine that even my prayer life has taken a hit because of this modern marvel.  This began to bother me, because Prayer should be something that we are focused continually on.  In fact, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul tells us that God’s will for us in Jesus is to, “Rejoice always, Pray continually, and be thankful in all circumstances.”

When we begin replacing these things, they begin to suffer…we begin to allow these things to take a back seat to posting that new Facebook status or Instagram post. No matter how many times we post something and say, “#Blessed” or “#Thankful”, it isn’t the same.  We must rejoice always and be in constant conversation with God…that is His will for us in Christ.

It also tells us to be thankful IN, not for, all circumstances…that means we may be going through a difficult time, but that isn’t time for us to take it to Facebook and let everyone know how awful our neighbor is or how bad we have it…it is a time to hit our knees and pray, being grateful and rejoicing that God has given us an opportunity to see Him work in our lives.

Let’s drop the distracted living, put down our phones, and turn to Christ.  If we want to see things improve in this world, we must take steps to remove the distractions that take our focus off of Him and allow Him to lead us….it’s hard to see where He is leading you with your head down in your phone.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life…no one comes to the Father except by me.” – Jesus (John 14:6)

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Faith that Heals

“For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.” – Matthew 9:21-22 (NKJV)

These two verses have been a focus of my studies lately, trying to get a grip on exactly what we can learn from this woman and her actions…and as the scene has played over and over in my mind, one realization I have come to is that two things happened here that can show us some great things about the God we serve.

First, the woman knew that if she could just get close enough to touch his garment she could find healing. She just wanted to find peace and comfort from 12 years of sickness, so she decided that she needed to be near Jesus.  She knew that just being in His presence would help…and we all feel that way, whether we know it or not.  How do I know this? Because we begin to pray when the going gets tough…whether we truly believe it will work or not, we give it a shot, right?

But that being said, the second thing that we see may show us why our prayers seem to go unanswered…Jesus answered her and told her to, “Be of good cheer…your faith has made you well.”  He didn’t say to her that he was glad she was able to touch him, he told her that her faith had made her well…HER FAITH is what brought her to his presence in the first place…and when there, she put action to it and realized that she could be healed if in his presence and by faith…she believed it would happen and it did.  She went away and was well from that point forward.

Do you have the faith that heals? Are you struggling through life in such a way that you may say a prayer, but may not believe in its power?

We must have the faith to approach his presence with a desire to simply touch his garment…to be healed by his power because we know he’s the great healer….We must seek his presence in our lives and know healing will come…because after all, it was her faith that made her well, and it will be your faith that will heal you in your time of trouble and need.

God has given us His Spirit and His Word to be that presence in our lives today, we must submit to His authority in our lives, seek the cleansing He offers, and allow Him to do what is needed.  He has given us the promise never to leave us nor forsake us, and he has given us each other for encouragement and support.  Approach Him with faith today!

Signs of the Times

I’ve spent a lot of time studying lately on scripture that leads us up to the return of Christ…and something interesting that I came across recently got my attention…

In Matthew 24 we see Jesus answer his disciples when they ask what the signs of the end of the age will be, and Jesus lays out a number of things…but I find a few things interesting here that I wanted to share this week.

Verses 4-14 show us a very vivid answer to the question of what we can expect to happen…but he opens the statement with two very key instructions: 1-Pay attention that you are not deceived and 2-Do not be troubled or alarmed.

Why would Jesus instruct his disciples to pay attention about the deceptions that may happen around them? Why would he tell them not to be alarmed? Because, deception will pull you away from where you are supposed to be…almost like smoke and mirrors of the enemy to keep your attention away from what is really going on around you.  When you are alarmed and surprised by the things happening around you, you have a tendency to find yourself trying to fix what is happening….but Jesus says, these things must happen.

This leads me past the “beginning of sorrows” into the meat of what Jesus is saying…the troubles we see and hear about have to happen before the end…but in verse 10 we can see exactly where we may be…I found this verse intriguing given the climate around us in the world today…

“There will be many who are offended, many will betray one another, and many will hate one another.”

We need to stop joining in the battle of the offended, stop being surprised by what is going on around us, and start loving as Christ loved, knowing that the world will turn to their own ways…but a couple verses later we see the promise for those in Christ.

“He who endures to the end, he is the one that will be saved.” – Matthew 24:13

Endure to the end, and stop being distracted and alarmed by what is happening around you today….Jesus told us it would happen and that we would see things happen, but encouraged us to endure to the end…Stay strong and love one another, do not be deceived and do not be troubled.

Death at the Door

Death is one thing that I’ve been faced with a lot lately…in reality, we have all faced it in one way or another.  In fact, we have heard the statement that, “Life is tough, no one gets out alive.”

This has been a thought that I have considered over the past few days and have begun to really think through some parts of it…and I honestly do not agree with the statement like I used to.  What I have realized is that we have been promised something that we have forgotten, that is that we have been promised is that life will not end for us when we are centered in Christ.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we find a promise that we can rest assured in…this is where I have found my comfort recently in these difficult times we face…that is that when someone close to us passes away, we are forced to deal with the reality of death….we are forced to face our own mortality at times…we are forced to take inventory of our own lives and realize what might happen should we also pass on…are we ready to take that final step to LIFE?

The scripture reads: “13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout , with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (NASB)”

We have a promise of a life to come…so that leads me to know, through faith in Christ, that death is not the end of life, but the beginning…death is simply our entering the door to the eternal promise that Christ has prepared us a place and we go there to be with Him…we enter into LIFE.  This tells me that if you are in Christ, not only do you get out Alive, but better than ever….you achieve what you live your life to achieve.  You reach your final goal…a LIFE with Christ Himself for eternity.

I believe it is high time for us to stop thinking that death is the end all, be all for those who are in Christ…but we must also realize that if we are not in Christ then we will find that death is the end of our opportunity to know Christ as He desires to be known…

Do you know Christ? Do you have a personal relationship? If the answer to either of these questions is no…I urge you today to find a relationship with the one who died for you on a cross…a death to defeat death and offer life…a death that offered salvation…a death that leaves us with this statement about our lives…

“For me to live is Christ…and to die is gain!” Galatians 2:20

The Savior wants to know you today…do you want to know Him?

Who or What are you Voting for?

I have heard this question many times over the past couple of weeks, whether in the form of a question, or in the actual answers that some are giving, and it has broken my heart to see some of the things that are being said…Please continue reading before you write me off on this article.

First things first, I encourage everyone to vote. You do have a voice…do not let it be stifled because you feel that your vote will not count. One penny doesn’t equal a lot of money, but when a number of pennies are put together it can grow into a great amount of money…Second, I can think of no better way to state it than I already have in a Facebook post from earlier in the week:

“We are acting no better than the two candidates digging up and bickering about the past that had already happened and worrying about a future that has yet to happen. We have this moment that we can do something about….THIS MOMENT ALONE…and after this moment is gone we have another. At this point I am praying and even more undecided about who I should vote for based on all the talk and am earnestly praying about who to vote for…and I would urge each of you to put down your phones and push away your keyboards and do the same.

Vote with your conscience! Not with the media…not with your friends…vote for yourself and stop all the arguing. We are the UNITED STATES of America, yet right now we seem like the UNTIED States. Show our unity and not our division. We have allowed the media and politics to completely divide and dictate how we feel and how we act. They tell us that there is a problem, but the problem is the lies that are being passed off as truths. Please pray that we will wake up and see what is happening and pray for guidance in this election season. Stop buying into the lies that you have to vote for this or for that…and don’t buy the farce that a vote for a third party is a vote against a major candidate.

Do we even realize that people have lost homes and lives because of flooding? Or is all we care about these two egotistical candidates who are acting like preschool children and playing a game of “I know you are but what am I?”

God, have mercy on us! Pray for unity and pray for revival!!”

You DO have a voice! Let it be heard in November….let HIM be heard in November!

 

Patience: Dealing with a No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexanders Bad Day“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972)

You ever have one of those days where nothing seems to go right?  One of those days where even your best efforts don’t seem to be enough?  A day in which you feel that moving to another country might be the answer you are looking for?  A day that could only be described as a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”?

Some days life can get us down…some days life can throw us a curve ball…some days we want to move to Australia to get away from all of our troubles…Some days we feel like Alexander.  The 1972 children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day written by Judith Viorst is a book about a young man who wants to get away from it all by moving to Australia.  His logic?  That everything in Australia is upside-down, so it would have to flip his fortune…deserted by a friend, no dessert in his lunch bag, lima beans for dinner, kissing on TV…with many other little things thrown in the mix…all contributing to one of the worst days in his young life.

Many of us can relate to Alexander…dealing with the small things that can all pile up…forcing us to wonder, “can it get any worse?”  Life can cause us pain.  Life can get us down.  Life can defeat us on a daily basis…all working together to get us off our game.  Job had one of those days…lost his family…lost his belongings…lost everything that he could have ever wanted in life…all without reason…all without explanation.

Job was a man of God, giving God the praise in every situation in his life, earning God’s favor.  In the Book of Job we see many things that we can apply to our lives as Christians… First, we see that Satan doesn’t mess with those he already has.  Satan knew of Job because God knew of Job…we see this in the way that Satan was looking for someone to bully.  Satan had to go to God to ask permission to mess with Job’s life…which leads us to the second point…God will not give us more than we can handle at any given time.  God allows Satan to attack Job, but gives him guidelines each and every time that Satan asks.  Third, we see repentance and redemption as the book comes to a close…and we also see God establishing His authority.  As part of this we see Job brought down to size by the words and ways of God…as God explains what authority He has in a world that has forgotten Him.

First, Satan cannot mess with a child of God unless God allows it to happen.  Not only do we see this from the fact that Satan had to ask God for permission to even approach Job and his family.  God was looking out for Job, and also proving a point to Satan that a true believer will stand firm no matter what the test.  Over the first few chapters it looks like Satan is winning…he is attacking Job from every angle, but Job continues to stand strong through out the battles.  Satan may have seemingly won the first few battles, but when all is said and done we see that God won the war.

Job faced the storms in his life with a hope that endured…loss of virtually everything that contributed to the livelihood of his life.  Think about the economy we live in today…many losing their jobs, losing money, losing assets, houses, etc.  We are in a financially trying time.  That is what Job was facing, complete loss of a way of life…and on top of it all he lost his family and his health…and we think we have it bad?  Paul even echoed this in his life where in Philippians 3:9 he says, “I consider it all lost for the sake of knowing Christ.”  Paul echoes this in Galatians 2:20, stating, “I am crucified with Christ, yet I live…” as well as in Romans 8:28 – “For we know that God works all things together for good for those that love Him.”

Paul was on both ends of this; going from persecuting the church to being persecuted for being part of the church…Paul understood that no matter the struggle, no matter the situation, God would not allow him to be tested if he couldn’t have handled it…Paul had patience…the patience of Job.

Job’s patience was a part of the second point of God not allowing more than we can handle.  Our patience is needed for us to fully grasp the love that God has for us…if we can’t be patient and anticipate the good that will come from the bad, there is no way we can receive the blessings granted to a child of the Most High God.  Look back at Paul’s words in Romans 8…

18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that[i] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

— Romans 8:18-27 (NIV)

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Paul states that the sufferings that we face here on earth are no where near comparable to the glory that awaits us…in other words, the good greatly out weighs the bad.  He goes on to state that all creation is waiting for the children of God to step up and exemplify the love of God to the world…we do this through living a righteous life, be it through missions, ministries, or even how we handle that unruly neighbor…all of these show God’s glory to a suffering world.

In verse 24 Paul states, “For in this hope we were save.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?” Is Paul saying that we have no hope?  No, Paul is saying we must have faith.  He tells us here that the hope of our future is what we were saved for…the eternal hope that comes as a promise from a Father who loves deeper than the oceans, higher than the skies, and as far as east is from the west.  The instance of where hope is gone mentioned here by Paul is this – when hope is realized.  When we receive what we hope for, there is no reason to hope.  If we have received our hopes, it is pointless to hope any longer for that; we have it…why waste time hoping for what you have.  We redirect focus when hopes are realized.

Third, we see repentance and redemption through the story of Job.  Job had the counsel of his friends, four friends who offered their advice on Job’s situation…three of which told Job that it was his fault he was facing the sorrow and loss.  Job was already suffering, and his friends felt that they would share in his suffering by offering words of an earthly fix.  How many of us do this on a daily basis?  We sit with a friend who is suffering and offer our condolences by supplying a fix…but where is God?  We offer advice too many times based on an earthly feeling of recovery…does this mean we should not offer friendship and counsel in someone’s time of need?  Not at all…what it means is we should be like the fourth friend of Job…the friend that explains that God is in control, that God is working through the situation, that God should be the main focus.

Why do we feel that we have to have all the answers?  If we did, we’d have nothing to hope for…nothing to have faith in…nothing to look forward to.  Toward the end of the book, Job seems to have taken it upon himself to explain why he should not be suffering…something we do daily as well.  We’ve all had those days where the only way to explain something in our minds is to focus on our accomplishments, to focus on what we have going for us.  Job was being told by his friends that he had to have committed a great sin for God to allow this kind of suffering, and Job bought in.  Job explains that he is a righteous man, a man who has devoted his life to God and served diligently.  But, Job forgot one thing…to give God the credit…Job focused on what he had done to better his life, but where was God in Job’s response?

God responded, asking questions of Job, asking Job who he was to question God…establishing the authority that He has had from the beginning of time.  God allowed Job to suffer, because He knew Job could handle it…but when Job lost focus and was forced to repent and receive the redemption that only God could provide.  Job’s patience had run out, but the end of the story is that God’s grace was sufficient when Job’s hope was gone…which means for us…that God’s grace is there when our hope is gone.

This truth of God’s grace is evident to us in His promise in Jeremiah 31:13…

“I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”

— Jeremiah 31:13b (NIV)

God’s promise rings as true today as it did then…he offers happiness to those who have lost hope…he offers comfort and joy to those who have none…He offers life to those who believe.  God is God, and we are not…He is in control, we aren’t…He is always there, even when we feel alone…God is right there with us…God offered Job redemption…as He does each of us…

Let your prayer be the prayer of Job today:

“1 Then Job replied to the LORD:

2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.

3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’

5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.

6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

— Job 42:1-6

Brought to Your Knees

The most interesting thing about when people become Christians is the fire that is within them to share the Gospel to those around them.  The hardest part of the whole process is the ‘let-down’ that takes place when those who are around them start to reject the message they are sharing.  This can be demoralizing and even destructive for many new Christians.

I want to share a couple of words of encouragement to these people this week.  First, don’t lose hope…remember that you once were right where they are at now; rejecting the message that is being shared to you.  Many new Christians don’t remember what they came from, and that is good, because once you are there, God doesn’t remember where you came from either.

This can be discouraging however for many who are experiencing this new life.  They are so wrapped up in how great it feels to have a new life that they lose sight of what it took to get them to this point.  They become overzealous with the idea that everyone should want this in their life and at times do not remember what it took to get through their walls that first time.  We need to help each other through these moments (moments that will occur in an even greater scale for those closest to us).

Secondly, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.  When the world rejects us, we tend to sink back and lose hope…these are the moments where we can shine even brighter.  The world is content in self-service.  No one wants to be told that they are doing it wrong…no one wants to give up selfish ambition or pride; especially if that is what they have always known.

There are many in this world that only seek to please themselves, and in many cases, don’t even know they are doing it.  They always degrade those around them, pushing others down and using them as stepping stools to reach that next plateau.  These people are so self consumed that the good news of Christ is something they cannot even fathom because of their vanity and pride.

Remember this, when they push you to your knees…you are in the perfect position to pray for them.  I would venture to say that if you look back over your life, there are times when you were the same way.  In going back to the first point…I’m not saying remember your old life…I’m saying remember what you came from and how much more enjoyable and pleasing your life is now that you found the way out.

It may not be easy, but Jesus does give us a promise in Matthew 11:28-30:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Take time to show this to others…share the joy of the relationship…show them it is different…and hit the ground praying.