Do You Want to Be Made Well?

Life can be a series of hardships and obstacles. These difficult times can take their toll on us physically, mentally, and spiritually, especially if they drag on for a long time. We can either respond with despair, giving up on life or we can battle back with faith and determination, for ultimately our perceptions of said events are not based on the events themselves, but our responses to them. Our responses in turn, help determine how we face hardships and difficulties.

The Gospel of John records a story of Jesus being in Jerusalem for a festival when He encountered a man at the Pool of Bethesda. The Pool of Bethesda served as a gathering place for people who were sick with all manner of afflictions and diseases. The sick people believed that the pool had healing powers.

“In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.” (John 5:3-4, NKJV).

The Bible tells us that Jesus encountered a man at the pool who had been sick for thirty-eight years. The Bible does not tells us the man’s condition or how he came to be in that condition. Jesus being the great teacher that He was and is, asked the man a question which put the onus of the sick man and cut to the heart of the issue.

“When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time. He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’” (John 5:6, NKJV).

I believe for anyone who has struggled with a problem for thirty-eight years and God in the flesh walks up to you and asks, “Do you want to get better?” the answer would be an emphatic “Yes.” However, there are people who allow their condition or circumstances to define who they are. In essence, they are not known by their name or identity in Christ, but by sickness, addiction, depression, poverty, etc. When we allow our condition or circumstances to define us, we have a hard time visualizing ourselves being anything other than our situation. Think of how the Israelites complained of the wilderness and claimed they had it better as slaves in Egypt. We do the same thing and make excuses as the man at the pool does.

“The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’” (John 5:7, NKJV).

Though the man had spent thirty-eight years in his condition and developed excuses as to why he was not well, he was in the right place at the right time. In Hebrew, Bethesda means “House of Mercy.” This man was in the House of Mercy and received mercy from God, despite his condition, despite the excuses.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.” (John 5:8-9, NKJV).

Since it was the Sabbath, this man carrying his bed was accused by the religious authorities of violating the Sabbath and was questioned as to who healed him. The man did not know it was Jesus until he encountered Jesus a second time.

“Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” (John 5:14, NKJV).

I do not believe that Jesus told the man his condition was brought on by sin nor does the text indicate the man’s condition was a direct result of a sin he committed. I believe that Jesus is speaking to the man’s need to have his sins forgiven. I believe the “worse thing” Jesus spoke of was an eternity in hell, separated from God because the man did not accept Christ as Savior.

How much of our lives have we wasted not coming to the “House of Mercy” or coming to the “Throne of Grace” and not being made whole? Is there something within our God-given power and responsibility we can do to better ourselves? If we are sick, can we take better care of our bodies by eating right, exercising, or seeking medical treatment? If we are heavily in debt, are there ways to cut our expenses? If we are depressed about what we do not have, can we find joy in what we do have? Even if we are stuck in the middle of the wilderness, remember it is much better than going back into the sin and slavery from which Christ has delivered us. There is a way out and Christ is knocking on the door, waiting for us to open it. God bless you all.

The Call of Virtue

To some people, the word “virtue” may seem to be an archaic or old-fashioned concept. We live in what many would call a post-Christian society, where everyone does what is right in his or her own eyes, whereby traditional values are scrapped in favor of “If it feels good, do it.” Virtue, however is not just a biblical concept, but is a sound life principle by which we can direct our lives. Some synonyms for virtue include integrity, sincerity, soundness, blamelessness, temperance, purity, incorruptibility, and decency, all of which are ideals to strive towards.

2 Peter 3:3-8 states: “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (KJV).

Living a virtuous life is a choice and a daily practice. As Christians, our integrity should be solid as we seek to live a life that pleases God and reveals Christ to those around us. We should never circumvent our long-term integrity to compromise our principles for a short-term gain, such as taking unethical shortcuts to make more money or get a promotion at our jobs. In fact, Jesus said a tree is known by its fruit, so let us shown ripe, righteous fruit.

Peter goes on to state: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” (2 Peter 3:9-10, KJV).

If we have failed at some point, let us not live a life of regret and condemnation, but confess to God and bask in His forgiveness. Every day the Lord gives us is another chance to make things right, as His mercies are new every morning.

How can we apply virtue to our daily lives? We can apply virtue to our way of life, our words, and our faith according to the Apostle Paul.

“In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” (Titus 2:7-8, KJV).

“Let no man despise thy youth; but thou be an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12, KJV).

Even if being virtuous cost you personally- whether it be short-term gains, whether it would be difficult or time consuming, or having to bypass the chance “to get even,” choose virtue. No matter what it costs, do the right thing.

If we strive to live a life of virtue and honor, nothing can throw us off track. The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca put it this way: “A good man will do what he thinks will be honorable for him to do even if it is laborious, he will do it even if it is damaging to him, he will do it even if it is dangerous. On the other hand, he will not do what is base even if it brings him money, even if it brings him pleasure, even if it brings him power. Nothing can deflect him from what is honorable, nothing tempt him to what is base. Hence, if he is bound to pursue the honorable course at all costs and to eschew the base at all costs and to look to these two principles in every act of his life, equating the good with the honorable and the bad with the base, if his virtue is wholly uncorrupted and maintains its bearings, then virtue is his sole good and it is impossible for any accident to make it otherwise.”[1]

In order to start living a virtuous life, we must gain the wisdom to do so. We must establish daily goals and work towards them. If we do this, we will see progress over time. We must spend time in prayer and God’s Word. We must love and forgive others as Christ has loved and forgiven us. God bless you all.

[1] Moses Hadas, The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca, “The Sole Good.” New York: W.W. Norton & Company 1958: 211-212.

Live in Unity with the Holy Spirit

Psalm 133:1 states, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” (NIV). The reality of our times though, is one of great opposition and discord within the church and the secular world. With over 7 billion people on our planet, it is reasonable to expect disagreement, but do we have to be so divisive and harsh?

In the daily battles of church against church, family member against family member, political party against political party, the middle ground is quickly disappearing and is seen as bad piece of real estate. If we were to examine ourselves deeply, do we even know why we dislike certain people or even entire groups of people? Do we really know why we are fighting?

Living a life of constant strife is a clear sign that we are not in alignment with the Holy Spirit. I am not saying that our salvation is in question or that you have blasphemed the Holy Spirit, we are simply disconnected like an electrical cord from an outlet. As Christians, we are not called to like everybody- we are called to show the love of Christ. As it can be human nature, we often surround ourselves with people who look like us, act like us, talk like us, and have backgrounds like us. When this happens, we become isolated and put up barriers to those outside of our group.

The love of Christ crosses all social and religious barriers. Consider the examples of Jesus, who broke many of the cultural taboos of His day. To name a few, Jesus ministered to the lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, and other people deemed “sinners.” Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Jesus spoke and ministered to a Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus also healed the “ceremonially unclean” woman with the issue of blood and the Gentile Centurion’s servant. In short, Jesus ministered to those who felt marginalized and disenfranchised by the religious establishment of His day. How much more in these last days should we as the church be ministering to those who need Christ- everyone regardless of whether we agree with their lifestyles or choices?  Were we not at one point sinners who needed the love and grace of a merciful and forgiving God?

I will finish with several verses that emphasize the need for unity within the church and in our lives. God bless you all.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one. Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one- I in them and You in Me-so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:20-23, NIV).

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 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.” (Ephesians 4:3-5, NIV).

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2, NIV).

“My goal is that they [the church at Laodicea] may be encouraged in heart, and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3, NIV, brackets mine).

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14, NIV).

 

The Search for Happiness

Happiness is an elusive concept. Our lives are spent searching for happiness, but we may not know what it looks like. We look to the lives of other people, the pursuit of career, fortune, fame, relationships, hobbies, self-improvement, and even religion. However, if these pursuits bring us to a dead end, we seek ways to dull the pain and misery brought on by crushed dreams and aspirations through addictions, grief, or giving into bitterness and despair. What if we were to view happiness not as a “thing,” but a state of mind that extends beyond our current circumstances?

The famed British evangelist Charles Spurgeon said, “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.”[1]

Martha Washington, wife of the first U.S. President George Washington, echoed the same sentiments as the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:11-13 when she said, “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”[2]

The Stoic philosopher Seneca said, “True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future.”[3]

The Apostle Peter wrote, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3, NIV).

In short, we have all that we need to live a happy life. For the Christian, the Holy Spirit resides in us to guide us in all truth, joy, and contentment. The Holy Spirit is also there to convict us of our sin and to keep us on the correct path in life. If we can rest assured that the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ covers our sins past, present, and future, why is there a need to live in the regret of the past? Why would we need to dread the upcoming day? Why do we live in fear of tomorrow and the future?

Though current circumstances may not be ideal through your or the world’s expectations, we must enjoy it and make the best of it, for God in His infinite wisdom has assigned us these struggles that His glory may shine forth. Everything we have- our families, our possessions, our very lives are simply on loan to us. We are simply stewards and caretakers who must manage the estate until the True Owner returns.

Let us go forth and enjoy today while we have it. Do all for the glory of God. Whatever you are or strive to be in this life, be the best at it. Our abundance of joy and happiness is found in what we have and not what we do not have. The search for happiness begins and ends within our spirits and thoughts. God bless you.

[1] http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/charlesspu131342.html?src=t_happiness Accessed 3 June 2016.

[2] http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/marthawash160612.html?src=t_happiness Accessed 3 June 2016.

[3] : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/luciusanna121552.html?src=t_happiness Accessed 3 June 2016.

Dealing with Offense

The possibility of becoming offended or encountering someone who is offended exist in our society. We can get upset about what is being reported on the news or what we see on social media. We can become offended at the actions of people in our lives or we can join in with other people who are offended.

Imagine for a moment you start your day at work. You are in a good mood when one of your co-workers comes in and complains about the job: “I can’t stand working here. This company is stupid. The bosses don’t know what they’re doing. Why can’t they see these problems?” At this point, you have a choice to make: stay silent and/or positive or join in and get upset. If you choose to join in with the offended co-worker, this will start a downward spiral of you getting upset about your job before the day starts, which will lead to having a bad attitude,  possible poor work performance, and being ungrateful for your job. Complaining and offense is contagious just like a virus. If one person gets “sick” with offense, then someone else will catch it.

Living in constant offense is a waste of time and energy. Yes, there are great causes and social injustices we can speak out against, but what good does it do our bodies and spirits if we go through life angry over petty things all the time?

In the Bible, offenses are synonymous with sins, but offenses are also viewed as stumbling blocks and traps. Just picture yourself tripping over a child’s toy or a pet.  When we get offended. We also become trapped because we take the bait of offense and stay trapped until we look for a way out. What can we do in order to minimize or even eliminate the possibility of being offended?

We must treat seriously the sin of offense

While He was on the earth, Jesus used many teaching methods to bring across His points and the message of the Gospel. One of Jesus’ methods was hyperbole, which is using an extreme example to make a point.

“If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30, NIV).

Of course, Jesus is talking about the seriousness of avoiding sin in our lives. Sin is serious to God, as Jesus died for our sins. Jesus is basically saying to get sin as far away from you as possible, which would include anything that causes us to fall.

We must realize Jesus’ message will be offensive to some

In Matthew 15:3-9, Jesus calls out the Pharisees for their religious hypocrisy of placing man’s traditions above the Word of God. “Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, ‘Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.’” (Matthew 15:10-11, NIV).

With this statement coming on the heels of Jesus comments on the Pharisees’ practices, this caused further offense as the disciples told Jesus.

“Then the disciples came to Him and said, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?’ He replied, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:12-14, NIV).

When we show and share the love of Christ with those in our lives, we cannot control their response. If someone is offended, that is their response, that is their judgment, do not let it pollute your spirit.

Being offended will stop the work of God

After Jesus established His ministry, He came back to His hometown of Nazareth and encountered an offended crowd:

“’Where did this man get these things?’ they asked, ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given Him? What are these remarkable miracles He is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6:2-6, NIV, emphasis mine).

Being offended will disrupt our fellowship with God

In the Parable of the Four Soils, Jesus explains the four different ways people will respond to the preaching of God’s Word. Regarding the soil that falls on the rocky path, Jesus speaks as to how offense affects that person:

“The seed falling on the rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” (Matthew 13:20-21, NIV.

As Christians, we must be mindful of our behavior

People pay more attention to what you do as opposed to what you say. As we interact with believers and non-believers alike, we must be careful as not to cause a stumbling block or weaken another’s faith because of our behavior.

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause division and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people.” (Romans 16:17-18, NIV).

When offense presents itself, take the high road

“Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9, NIV).

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11, NIV).

Brothers and sisters, remember that we will encounter people and situations that will offend us, as it is the way of the world. We have no control over neither what happens nor over the actions of others. Instead of spending hours, months, or years of our short lives being upset and grumbling, let us forgive and rejoice. If we have done the offending, let us seek God’s forgiveness and reach out to those we have hurt. God bless you all.

 

 

Toward a More Practical Faith

Everyone regardless of their spiritual background has faith. For example, a farmer who plants his seed has faith that his crops will grow. If I go to work, I have faith that I will receive a paycheck at the end of the week. People put money in various stocks, bonds, and funds believing they will have money to live comfortably after they retire. A coach believes that his or her game plan will win the game. These are oversimplified examples of “worldly faith,” where principles are applied and put into practice. We can at times, however, view our Christian faith as something more abstract. We have the “saving faith” to accept what Jesus did on the cross, but we may be confused on how to apply it to everyday life.

The Apostle Paul’s influence on Christianity is undeniable, as he is the author of thirteen of the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament. Paul’s multiple missionary journeys touched countless people all around the world of his time. Though Paul was a very learned man and spoke with kings, governors, and religious leaders, his epistles to the churches were written for everyday people who were trying to live out their everyday lives. I believe Paul’s letters give us insight on how to live a practical Christian faith in our daily interactions with our families, friends, and coworkers. Just as Paul instructed the Philippian church: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9, NIV).

The following list is far from comprehensive, but I believe this will give us a foundation upon which we can apply biblical principles to our daily lives.

We must live our faith

 “…Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’” (Philippians 2:12-15a, NIV).

How do we live out our faith according to Paul?

Value everyone as God values them

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NKJV).

We must remember our lives before Christ

“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh-who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands- that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11-13, NKJV).

Remember that we are one church

 One of Satan’s best strategies is to divide and conquer. If he can keep the church at odds with ourselves, how can we stand together to defeat him.

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:1-7, NKJV).

We must continue to grow in the Spirit

 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4, NKJV).

“That He would grant you, according to the riches of riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Ephesians 3:16-17a, NKJV).

Don’t get caught up in petty arguments

   “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes. Knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:23-26, NKJV).

Change your thinking

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, NKJV).

Put your time to good use

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NKJV).

Accept what comes our way

Because we are in Christ, that does not mean that our lives will be free from hardship and difficulty, but God can use our stories to reach someone else. The Apostle Paul spoke of such an event during his first imprisonment:

“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14, NKJV).

Seek the higher peace

Finally, if we come to understand that God allows for everything that happens in our lives, we can live through the most difficult circumstances with a peace of mind that would baffle other people.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NKJV).

May the Lord be with you and bless you.

John the Baptist and Doubt

It is perfectly normal to have our doubts about people and situations. If we face a difficult life decision such as a career change, getting married, or seeking help to overcome a problem, we can and will have our doubts as to whether or not we are doing the right thing. Doubt, if it is allowed to run free in our minds can be crippling and lead us to indecision and inaction. Doubt is corrosive like an acid that eats away at our faith.

In matters of faith, doubt can make us think and say such things as “Have I missed God’s call on my life?” “How can I be sure the Bible is God’s word?” “If I took a stand for God, why am I going through this?” If you have ever struggled with these questions or others like it, you are in good company.

John the Baptist was one person who struggled with doubt. John the Baptist reached a point in his life where he even began to doubt who Jesus was. John the Baptist was imprisoned for speaking out against the relationship of King Herod and his wife, Herodias, who was the former wife of Herod’s brother. Old Testament law forbid one brother from marrying another brother’s wife while that brother was alive. It was while John was in prison that he began to doubt.

“After Jesus had finished instructing His twelve disciples, He went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” (Matthew 11:1-3, NIV, see also Luke 7:18-20).

“Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of Me.’” (Matthew 11:4-6, NIV, see also Luke 7:21-23).

Throughout the Old Testament, there are miracles recorded, but not miracles on the scale of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus did not condemn John for his doubt, but reminded him of all that was taking place. The Gospels record only a small portion of Jesus’ miracles, but they are sufficient to make anyone believe that Jesus was the Messiah. John the Baptist was later executed by King Herod (Matthew 14:1-12, Mark 6:14-29, and Luke 9:7-9), but let us examine John’s life prior to his imprisonment:

*John preached repentance and baptized people in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:1-6, Mark 1:1-8, Luke 3:1-17).

*John criticized the Pharisees and Sadducees for their religious hypocrisy (Matthew 3:7-10).

*John said the Messiah was coming after him (Matthew 3:11-12, Mark 1:7-8, John 1:15, John 1:19-28).

*John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and witnessed the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus and heard the voice of God (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22).

*John stated that his ministry would lose influence when Jesus came on the scene (John 3:27-36).

*John declared Jesus to be the Messiah (John 1:29-34).

John’s disciples posed his question as Jesus was ministering. Think for a moment the impact this question would have had on the crowd. “John the Baptist is having his doubts?” “Is this Jesus really the Messiah?” However, Jesus used this moment to confirm John’s ministry as the forerunner to Jesus as the Messiah.

“As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare the way before you. Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he…And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’” (Matthew 11:7-11; 11:14-15, NIV).

Notice that the Scripture says as John’s disciples were leaving, meaning there is the possibility they overheard Jesus talking about John the Baptist. John’s disciples relaying not only Jesus’ miracles but His statements about John would have encouraged John’s spirit and confirmed John’s ministry.

Jude 1:22 says to “Be merciful to those who doubt.” (NIV). When we come across a doubting brother or sister, do not belittle what they are battling. If John the Baptist can have his doubts, then no one is immune from doubt. However, we must remember that doubt and faith cannot co-exist. If we come to God with doubts while we pray, we will be what James calls “double-minded” (James 1:6-8).

Just as Jesus told John’s disciples to tell of the miracles, so too we must remember the greatest miracle Jesus ever performed in our lives: our salvation. What has God already done in your life? What does God’s Word say about you? (I would encourage you to read Ephesians). If we feed our faith, we will starve our doubt. Meditate on the goodness of God and place His Word in your heart. God bless you all.

 

Go in the Strength of the Lord

There are many ways to show strength. Strength can be shown in our demeanor during a crisis, admitting that we need help, our sheer will power to overcome an obstacle, and how much of a physical load we can lift or carry. In the context of nations, strength can be shown by the size of a country’s armed forces and its financial influence on the global marketplace. However, these shows of strength are only temporary as our bodies lose physical strength with age and illness, our pride can stop us from asking for help, we can become discouraged and give up the fight, nations rise and fall, and world financial markets are volatile. Thus, what if we viewed our spiritual strength not from an offensive position, but from a defensive position with the Lord serving as our fortress? What if we could look past our frail abilities, beyond ourselves and look to the Lord for strength?

The Psalms are a perfect example of life’s ups and downs. One Psalm could be praising God for a mighty victory and the next Psalm lamenting over sin and defeat. Even in the Psalms where all seems lost, the writers express their hope in the Lord and that deliverance is coming. The Bible has hundreds of verses concerning strength and the King James Version of the Psalms alone contains sixteen Hebrew words for strength. In studying these different words, we learn how nuanced the word strength is, but strength in the Psalms breaks down into four basic categories: force, majesty, praise, and security.

Our praises of God bring strength

“Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightiest still the enemy and the avenger.” (Psalm 8:2, KJV).

“Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength.” (Psalm 29:1, KJV).

“Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and His strength is in the clouds.” (Psalm 68:34, KJV).

“Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.” (Psalm 81:1, KJV).

Our God is mighty in His strength

“I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.” (Psalm 71:16, KJV).

“It is God that girdeth me with strength, and make my way perfect…For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.” (Psalm 18:32, 39 KJV).

“Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed; He will hear him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand.” (Psalm 20:6, KJV).

“The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.” (Psalm 110:2, KJV).

God’s majesty is in His strength

“Bless the Lord, ye His angels that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word.” (Psalm 103:20, KJV).

“Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength. Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.” (Psalm 132:8-9).

“Honor and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” (Psalm 96:6, KJV).

“The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith He hath girded Himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.” (Psalm 93:1, KJV).

God’s strength brings us security

 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1, KJV).

  “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1, KJV).

“The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.” (Psalm 29:11, KJV).

 “Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing for God is my defense, and the God of my mercy.” (Psalm 59:17, KJV).

We cannot rely solely on ourselves and our possessions

Throughout the Psalms, there are reminders and warnings that we cannot place our strength in neither our physical bodies nor in armies or possessions.

Psalms about loss of physical strength- Psalms 22:15, 31:10, 38:10, 71:9, 73:4,88:4, 90:10, 105:36, and 147:10.

Psalms warning about placing strength in armies and possessions- Psalms 33:16-17 and 52:7.

Coming to a place where we realize that our bodies, minds, and resources have limitations can be very difficult to accept. I have in the last year battled health problems that have changed my perspective on my physical abilities and my outlook on life. I have struggled with this new perspective, but I am learning to let go of what I cannot control. All things are not meant to be in our control, for we serve an Almighty and All-Powerful God. Who else would you rather deal with it- you or God? The best that we can do is to praise God and rejoice where we are at, make the most of the time we have left to live, and realize that where our strength ends, God’s strength begins. The Apostle Paul was a man who dealt with many difficulties and persecutions as he proclaimed the Gospel and asked God to remove these obstacles, but God had a different and probably unexpected response that strengthened Paul.

  “And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, KJV).

God bless you all.

 

Raise Your Hands in the Battle

I worked with a personal trainer who put me through an intense weight training program. During our year-long plus sessions, I would be tested at various points to assess my progress. One of the exercises used was what is called a “max bench press.” In this exercise, the trainer would put a baseline amount of weight on the bar and increase the weight to test how much weight I could lift. Over time, my strength increased and I was able to lift more weight. However, there were times when the weight was too much to lift and I would need the trainer’s help to put the bar back on the rack. If I did not ask for the trainer’s help, I could have been seriously injured by the weight.

The total weight of our life experiences can weigh us down. There are times when the burdens can weigh us down gradually or we will be hit suddenly with an “Olympic-sized” load.  We can find ourselves weighed down by any number of things: the consequences of our sins, family issues, career struggles, financial obligations, addictions, terminal illness, and so on and so forth. If we try to tackle these issues on our own, the struggle will be much harder and we will find ourselves beaten down. We do not have to carry our burdens alone.

The ability to delegate is an important skill to have not only in business, but in life. If we can allow others, namely God to help us with the struggles and burdens we face, our lives will be much better and we will not be so weighed down. However, there are times when pride, fear of being perceived as weak, or even false humility will prevent us from asking for help. Delegation is a biblical concept, as you do not see David without Solomon, Jesus without the disciples, Paul without Timothy, the Apostles without the elders, or Moses without Aaron and Joshua.

The story of Moses is one that stresses the importance of not taking on burdens alone, for God and others are with us. In Exodus 17, Moses and the Israelites went to war with Amalek. Moses was to stand on top of a hill with the rod of God in his hand as Joshua and the Israelites fought with Amalek.

“And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” (Exodus 17:11-13, KJV).

At first glance, this seems like an ordinary passage about a battle, but there is so much symbolism behind it:

*Moses stood on top of the hill (He had the high ground).

*Moses raised his hands toward Heaven.

*Moses had the rod of God in his hand (God’s authority).

*Moses sat on the rock (the Psalms use the expression “The Lord is my rock”).

*God sent two other people to lift up Moses arms.

*Moses kept up his arms and the battle was won.

We can and will win the battle we are facing if we lift our hands to God. As Christians, we have the spiritual authority to overtake the enemy. We can come to the throne room with boldness and grace. As Moses had the rod of God, Aaron, and Hur, we have God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. As I write this, my inner spirit man is leaping for joy. Brothers and sisters, I will leave you with verses about lifting our hands. God bless you all.

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that they might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3, KJV).

“Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward the holy oracle.” (Psalm 28:2, KJV).

“Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy Name.” (Psalm 63:4, KJV).

“My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:48, KJV).

“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141:2, KJV).

 

Purposeful Living and Thinking

James Allen wrote, “A man should conceive of a legitimate purpose in his heart, and set out to accomplish it. He should make this purpose the centralizing point of his thoughts.”[1] We live in a time of great distractions and it is very easy to get caught up in these distractions and lose focus of our life’s purpose. If we give free reign to these distractions, our thoughts and words will delve into gossip, complaining, worry, and fear to name a few problems.

Life is short. Why spend time and energy on things that have no purpose? Why should we spend our limited days getting caught up in the drama of others or allowing pettiness to rule our lives?

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2, NIV).

The Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus echoes the same sentiment, “Attach yourself to what is spiritually superior, regardless of what other people think or do. Hold to your aspirations no matter what is going on around you.”

In order to set ourselves on the road to purposefulness, there are three areas we can address.

Minding Our Own Business

 “…And to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: you should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, NIV).

God has a different plan for all of our lives because God has gifted each of us differently. After His resurrection, Jesus taught this lesson to Peter. Jesus explained to Peter that he would die a martyr for Christ.

“Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is going to betray you?’ When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me.’” (John 21:20-22, NIV, brackets mine).

In other words, Jesus told Peter, “Don’t worry about John. Focus on what you have to do. You follow Me.” This is certainly a lesson we can apply to our lives as not to be resentful of someone who is called to a different and maybe greater purpose.

 

Let Go of Worry

As much as we try to be “control freaks” in our lives, there are numerous things out of our control such as the weather, the economy, what other people think. We also had no control of what country or family we were born into, whether we grew up rich or poor, or how long we will live. However, we can be purposeful by working on the areas within our control. We cannot do anything about yesterday and we are not guaranteed tomorrow, so we must make the best of today.

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27, NIV).

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34, NIV).

Be Thankful

Once we stop being resentful of the past or worrying about the future, we are able to live a life of thankfulness. We can be thankful that God has given us another day to live. We can be thankful for the people in our lives. If we are thankful about what we have, we will not grieve over what we do not have.

“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-21, NIV).

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15, NIV).

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

It is not too late to begin living a purposeful life. Our thoughts determine our focus. Our thoughts shape our character. Just as lifting weights and exercising can change the shape of our bodies, so to must we change our thoughts in order to properly shape our minds and lives. God bless you all.

 

[1] James Allen, As A Man Thinketh. New York: Barnes and Noble (2007 edition): 33.