We are officially two weeks into the year! How is 2017 going so far? Did you set any New Year’s resolutions, or for those who don’t make resolutions, did you pick out some goals for the year? What’s driving you this year? If I asked you to come up with the top fifty goals you would like to see happen, could you? How long would it take you to create such a list?
Recently, I was asked to list the top fifty goals I would like to carry out if there were no restrictions on my obtaining them. And then, I was asked to label them as a 1, 3, 5, or 10 year goal –meaning the timeframe in which I thought they could be accomplished.
It was both interesting and fun to sit and actually let my mind wander! What did I want to happen in the near future?
Believe it or not, it took me a few days to list 50. Oh, when I started writing my list, thoughts just came flying, and I feverishly wrote them out. Then, around 20-25, the process became much harder. What else did I want to happen? “You mean I can list more?”
More seemed so greedy, more seemed so selfish, but after a while MORE came!
What about you? Are you struggling to set a few goals or can you easily come up with 50? What categories do they fall into, such as family life, wealth, or ministry. What do they say about you as a person or as a Christian? Exercises like this one can really help us do a “heart-check” on where we are spiritually. Listen, I believe we can and should think bigger. We serve a BIG God, and those that make the big ask delight Him!
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
However, though we can ask for anything; we shouldn’t expect to receive everything!!
Now wait a minute, Matthew 7 said “ask, and it will be given.” Yes, it does, but don’t take it out of context with other scriptures along the same subject:
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 1 John 5:14
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3
Now I’m just confused!
Don’t be! We should allow ourselves to dream. Dreaming brings creativity and allows us to think beyond what we can readily see. Sounds a little like walking by faith versus sight, doesn’t it? (2 Corinthians 5:7). Yet, as Christians, our requests must align with the will of God. If not, well then, the answer is most likely no! (no magic 8 ball required)
So now, let me give you the rest of the instructions (yes, I left a few details out, but only to help make a point). Once you have your 50 goals and have labeled them by their potential year of completion, from the goals you labeled as one year goals, pick the top 4. How closely does your top 4 goals line up with your Christian faith and God’s will for your life? It makes a difference, doesn’t it?
If only we did this exercise on a regular basis! It could really help to steer our life into a more meaningful, God-oriented existence. And if we were successful in living completely under the influence of God’s will, what would our top 50 look like then? This year, let’s lean into Him and allow Him to shape our top fifty goals! There is no telling how blessed and enriched life will become. I, for one, am ready for it!! Will you join me?
Blessings to you and yours!!
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
I have to tell you; I have often wondered why people in Biblical times, and even now in modern times, believed in the possibility of more than one god existing. It isn’t surprising though, because society has always look to “something else” and changed what that “something else” is to chase what they think will make them happy.
What I really think they are saying is: “You can believe what you want, but don’t mess with me. I like my god, the one I think I control.” Ironic, isn’t it?
And then, there are those who think one higher being exists, some will even label this being God. However, they also reason that you can get to him many ways. I think I feel for this person the most, because the logic he/she is following starts out in the right direction, but then strays completely off course.
So why am I so sure there is only one true God?
Creation proclaims Him. As I sit back and look at some of the most beautiful things in creation – various landscapes, rainbows, and those little people we call babies – I am convinced chaos did not bring them forth.
God Himself makes it known in Scripture. Just one example of this is in Isaiah:
I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. Isa. 45:5-6 NIV
Yes, the God of the Bible is who I believe in. Interestingly, as science moves on to higher levels of discovery, and architectural finds continue to unearth more and more ruins, the Bible is only more justified in its claims of the one true God.
God and I are connected through Jesus.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV
Not only did He leave a very detailed record for me to study, but my connection with Him is unmistakable. It is not a head issue for me, it’s a heart issue. Once Jesus comes into your heart, there is no denying His presence nor that of the Father’s.
So how can you and I help those around us know the one true God?
First, we must be clear on what we believe. The foundational belief of Christianity is that Jesus is the one true son of the living God. He lived, He died, and He rose again to offer salvation for all mankind. Those who are true followers of Christ are convinced He is the reflection of the one true God.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Esp. 4:4-6 NIV
Second, we have to know what makes Christianity different from other religions. No other religion teaches that God reached down to humanity. They instead teach the need for humanity to reach up to God. But John makes it clear that God made the connection for us.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17 NIV
Third, we must be both lifelong students and daily reflections of Him. We will not be able to articulate what makes God stand out above other so called gods if we don’t have a direct and active relationship with Him ourselves. If we know little about what is written in the Bible, we will not have enough to go on. And if I say I believe God is kind and compassionate, I should be kind and compassionate as well. Knowledge linked with action is powerful.
One of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis is this:
I believe in Christianity as I believe in the rising sun; not because I see it, but by it I can see all else.
Today, let’s work toward telling others about the one true God! Remember, be clear on what you believe and be able to present that to others, know the key difference between Christianity and other religions, and strive to be both a lifelong student as well as a daily reflection Him.
What experiences have you had with others that believe in a different version of God than the God of the Bible?
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
When my dad developed a chronic lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), I hoped and prayed that God would spare him from the sometimes severe effects of the disorder. Some COPD patients go several years before needing supportive oxygen, but as a heavy cigarette smoker, my dad went only a couple of years. It was painful to watch him deteriorate, but before the condition became too severe, he passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident.
Have you had the experience of watching a love one suffer from chronic illness? Perhaps they had a condition such as severe arthritis, fibromyalgia, heart disease, or cancer. Maybe that someone is you?
Though chronic illness is hard, tiring, frustrating, and just plain overwhelming at times, our Savior is a healer. Over and over in the New Testament are stories of Jesus healing – the young, the old, individuals, groups, Jews, and Gentiles.
From these stories we can gleam all the ways in which Jesus healed – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Let’s take one of those stories and breakdown the elements within the story to see these various levels of healing unfold.
Luke 13:10-13 (NLT) states:
One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!
Have you ever felt trapped by your physical or emotional state? Do you feel hopeless to resolve the issue? Jesus is our healer, and what He touches no one can reverse.
I relate to this story of the woman crippled by an evil spirit. There have been times in my life, I have been crippled, engulfed, and overwhelmed by my emotional and physical flaws. Trapped by feelings of insecurity, fear, loneliness, and low self-worth. Trapped by feeling that I am not pretty enough, not tall enough, not slim enough. Gripped by an evil spirit that wanted me to feel less than worthy, less than adequate in regards to my Savior. Jesus constantly flips the table on such things, just as He does in this story.
In the short 3-4 verses that reference her situation, we learn a couple of things about her:
Then Jesus, being the compassionate Savior He is, notices her. He sees something inside her that is worth redeeming, and immediately He goes into action! Notice He “called her over.” She didn’t come to Jesus until He called. Is Jesus calling you?
Then He proclaims, “you are healed of your sickness.” Imagine how those words must have rung in her ears. Her heart must of leaped in that moment. Do you think her faith began to rise?
So here’s a question for you –if Jesus can speak anything into existence, why did He not stop there? She was healed right? He said it was so. Why then did He reach out and touch her? I believe Jesus is all about relationship, not just an acquaintance, but a personal, concrete relationship! And so, He touched her. It doesn’t get more personal than that.
“Instantly she could stand straight.” I would love to know what she saw first from her new vantage point. Was it the crowd? Was it Jesus’ face? Or maybe, it was the synagogue leaders?
Whoever or whatever she saw first, doesn’t compare to her reaction: “How she praised God!” Can you see her thank Jesus over and over? Can you see her almost dance around? Can you imagine how many people she stopped to tell her good fortunate on the way home?
I hope you see the pattern:
Whatever you face today, remember your healer! No matter the circumstance, no matter how much time has passed, don’t give up on believing in His power. One day, He may call you over, speak to your condition, and release you from what “binds” you. Then how you will praise God!
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
A true story…
She was told to never walk on the Indian path, but the sisters decided to race home after they spent the day at Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn; the forbidden path promised a shortcut. She felt quite confident in her independence (at the rough age of 12) to win the race, so she separated from her sisters and speedily began her journey. In what seemed like a moment, she was stuck; quicksand engulfed her body and she knew it was a desperate situation. She clung to the one patch of grass in reach. The sand covered her entire body, to her chin, with the exception of the one arm that clung to the grassy patch as her lifeline. She can remember the face of a neighborhood girl watching in horror from a distance. The little blonde eye-witness ran away.
A young man in his twenties came to the scene. Who was he? Did the little blonde girl send for him? It didn’t matter to her because as their eyes met, she knew he was there to help. He said: “Give me your hand.” Her eyes widened to suggest that there was no possible way that she would let go. What if he didn’t grasp her hand when she reached? What if she would sink entirely?
What other choice did she have?
She must trust. Adrenaline pumping, heart-pounding sensations radiated throughout her body as she approached the moment that took all of her internal strength and focus to accomplish. This was her crucial moment, a now or never deal. She trusted. She let go and she reached up.
He rescued her.
She remembers barely muttering the words “thank you”
as she trembled with a rush of emotion
…and continued her journey home.
She is my nearly 90 year young grandma.
God desires for His children to trust His Mighty Hand.
I’m not Alice in Wonderland, nor Dorothy in Oz. I don’t always desire adventure or want to explore. I don’t think I would’ve ventured down the forbidden trail of quicksand as my grandma attempted. The unfamiliar places of life overwhelm me. I long for assurance, security, and peace in the journey far beyond adventure and exploration. I want to victoriously overcome and not cave to the overwhelming possibilities or fears of the unknown. I’m willing to learn lessons along the way to a destination, but oh yes, I want that assurance and security!
Is it possible? This life is full of disappointment, unexpected struggles or loss, and full of hurting and sinful people who hurt others. Everyone experiences the painful, the hurtful, the heart breaks… and the result is lack of trust. It’s difficult to trust in an untrustworthy world.
I cannot trust in man alone (because there will be disappointments).
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5 NIV)
Nor can I trust the best provisions of man for the fulfillment of the deep longings in my heart, including that assurance and security I so much desire!
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20:7 NIV)
I’m a child of God settling my life and heart in the palm of His Great hand.
Do I trust Him?
Jonah in the whale, Daniel in the lion’s den, Joseph in slavery and prison, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace; the disciples as they watched their leader die on a cross…
I’m sure the characters felt overwhelmed and fearful, but when everything else was stripped away, what choice remained?
Trust God or not?
Job piercingly states:
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. (Job 13:15 KJV)
Be His friend unto death, or not?
The once highly favored and successful Job had all stripped from him, including the lives of his family members, his property, his health, and the loyalty of his friends. He stood falsely accused of unconfessed sin that his friends claimed must be the reason for his loss and pain. His friends didn’t trust him and didn’t encourage him. Job could’ve lost all hope. He knew that God could allow him to die, but he put his trust in God, maintained his position of integrity, and continued to plead with God. Job sought to understand God, and God granted revelation of Himself to Job.
Job’s depth and understanding came with a great price, but God chose to honor His faithful servant and doubly restore all unto him.
God is with His faithful servants in the beautiful places of deliverance, restoration, and blessing. He seeks to be honored and glorified in the lovely seasons of life.
God is with His faithful servants in the ugliest of places… in the belly of a whale, in the den of lions, in slavery and prison, in a fiery furnace, in false accusation, in grief, in loss, in illness, disappointment, and sinking sand. He wants to be trusted. He wants to be honored and glorified as He’s trusted and called upon.
In this life, can I trust God is a Healer when He hasn’t healed me or someone I love? Can I trust He answers prayers while in waiting for the answer? Can I trust He is good when the bad happens?
How can I trust Him? The only way to trust Him is to spend the time knowing Him. Faithful prayer and Bible reading is the way to the secrets of His heart. Trust cannot be built in any relationship without the time dedicated to the other person. It’s the same with God and it will be difficult to trust Him if I don’t know Him. I read in His word the sweet encouragement to call on Him in the day of trouble. I know His word on the matter; I see His heart in the matter. He wants me to call on Him in trouble … so indeed, I will!
And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. (Psalm 50:15 KJV)
There is so much to juggle in life, why not entrust it all to His skillful hand? I stand in a place needing the peace and assurance for the future, for the lives, health, and provision for my husband, children, and other loved ones. I can only stand secure when I first let go of my fears; my trust in man; favorable circumstances; any sense of entitlement to the promises of God for having previously suffered and remaining faithful through the trials – I must let go of it all. Absolutely all of it must go, and then I can extend my hand upward to God and allow Him to reach down and rescue me from all that entangles, engulfs, and entraps me in lack of trust of Him.
I otherwise feel like I’m sinking fast in sand.
He is gentle. He is loving. He is kind. He sweetly promises and reminds that…
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV)
The great men and women of the Bible first grew in their faith. They developed a strong relationship with God even when they didn’t have all of the facts about what would happen as they moved forward. I love the story of Abraham when he was called to venture into unknown territory. Hebrews 11:8 says that he “obeyed and went even though he did not know where he was going.”
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1) and trust is knowing the facts and odds are potentially lined up against you, but being willing to take a leap of faith anyway… because God is God. He is the Great I AM. He is trustworthy. Period.
The new seasons of life with unfamiliar territory of emotions and questions require new levels of trust, but also bring new revelation of who He is. Embrace the opportunity to know Him more and trust Him to guide.
I honestly trust my car GPS to get me to my desired destination. Likewise, God is my Guide. He knows the way through life and the secrets of life and the heart. He knows the way to eternity and He provides direction through His word. He promises to lead and guide through life and to eternal destiny. I trust He knows the best path for my life.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NLT)
He furthermore promises restoration in the next life for all of those that faithfully love, trust, and serve Him in this life. In the circumstances of this life when promises are not fulfilled, we can rest assured that He will fulfill every longing, reveal all things in truth, and reward in eternity.
I want to trust Him right here and right now, so I will seek Him… to know Him… to trust Him.
I will trust in the Mighty Hand of God. I will trust in HIM.
For such is God, Our God forever and ever; He will guide us until death. (Psalm 48:14 NASB)
How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you. (Psalm 31:19 NIV)
Planting God’s Seeds of Hope
This post was written by Brook Joy. She writes articles on Faith, Life, Culture, and her personal journey with Health (IBD). Brook is a chocolate-loving wife & homeschooling mama (and a Christian for 20+ years)… planting and growing God’s seeds of hope at missionzera.com
I’m not sure what your church service looked like this past Sunday, but this was mine! At Believers Church, we had service outside underneath a HUGE tent adjacent to the property our church family will soon call home (hopefully within the next 18 months to 2 years). We called it Celebration Sunday!
Yes, we got a little crazy, but isn’t the love of Jesus something to be crazy about!
So what were we celebrating? I am so glad you asked! During this service, we were able to look back and see how far the church has come since the Rescue Project, a former project that allowed the church to build our current worship center. Back then, the church was really no bigger than your average Baptist church is today, and my husband and I weren’t part of the membership! We have, however, benefited from the hard work and strong faith of those who took God at His word and launched out into the unknown “to rescue those who were drowning in their sin.” Darrell and I came to Believers in 2006. Next year, we will have been with the church 10 years! And the growth has been incredible, so much so that we have outgrown our current building and are working toward building a new church that house all the kids, teens, and adults that Jesus sees fit to send us each Sunday (almost 1500 total).
This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Consider reading John 11:17-44 prior to reading this post.
So as we move on with our story – Jesus has arrived in Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. It has been 4 days since Lazarus’ death. Take note of the number of days. 4 days leaves nothing to chance, 4 days means finality, 4 days means only He could be the Messiah, because only the Messiah could cause death to retreat in its tracks.
As Jesus nears the city, word gets back to Martha He is coming. Being the assertive sister, she goes to meet Jesus just outside the city.
When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” John 11:20-22*
Martha has faith, but has limited the options it can produce. Even after Jesus tells her Lazarus will live again, she continues to misunderstand the gravity of Jesus’ remarks.
This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Today, consider reading John 11:1-16 prior to reading this post.
As chapter 11 begins, we see that Lazarus is sick and his sisters, Martha and Mary, have sent word to Jesus (verse 3). Surely, their friend, but more importantly their Messiah, would come quickly. However, instead of leaving immediately, Jesus stays where He is, not just for the moment, but for two whole days. His only remark:
But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” John 11:4*
Imagine the disciples listening to Jesus calmly state Lazarus’ illness would not end in death. Several things could have been assumed:
1. Jesus did not feel compelled to leave the city He was in due to bigger, more pressing priorities. Sure, Jesus loved Lazarus, but did Lazarus’ family really expect Jesus to just drop everything and come to them? Thousands of people wanted the Messiah’s attention. How could Jesus show such favoritism to one when He was needed by so many?
I remember as a little girl in Sunday School some really terrific Bible stories. I had some great teachers who knew how to make Bible stories just jump off the page. One of the stories told over and over was the raising of Lazarus from the dead. As a kid, it was the coolest magic trick Jesus did. Now that I am older and wiser, I know the story of Lazarus coming back to life was much more than a trick, it was proof of the power of Jesus.
But, who the heck is Lazarus anyway? And doesn’t the names Martha and Mary sound familiar?
Before we get to the ‘good’ part of the story, let’s step back a little and gain some perspective on the characters in this story: Jesus, the disciples, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Most especially, we need to understand the relationship between Jesus and Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
So the past few weeks have been incredibly busy, stressful, and just plan overwhelming! I know we all have days like that, but when they pile on all at once, it is crazy! You can just get defeated!
This past week, I decided to get some help! I needed intercession, and I went for it! I am blessed to have some awesome friends who were willing to pray with me this past week. Praying to God can take the weight off your shoulders, but praying to God with friends can lift you off the ground.
This week we will wrap up the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. You will want to refer to chapters 6-13. During the past few weeks, as we have walked through the book of Nehemiah, we have watched one person who deeply loves the Lord make a huge difference. He has reached out to the Israelites in love and rekindled their hope and belief in God. Now, he is moments away from finishing an incredible feat –the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall. Through it all, he has met tremendous opposition time and time again, all the while managing to rise to the occasion.
As we start chapter 6, Nehemiah, having settled an internal issue among the Jewish people, now faces a reemerging issue from his enemies:
Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates. So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?” Nehemiah 6:1-3