Tag Archive | change the world

HOW TAKING A DAY OFF CHANGED OUR LIVES

How Taking a Day Off Changed Our Lives (3DM Stories)Today’s story is from Tim and Sara Harvey, whose life was transformed when they decided to take a day off once a week. They recently moved from Indiana to California, and this is Tim’s reflection on the journey.

Originally Posted by – August 25, 2014

 

It all started with taking a day off

A few years ago we found ourselves struggling along with the needs of a busy family and the relentless pace of life. Weeks sped by and despite feeling like many of the things we gave our time to were meaningful, it didn’t feel like the net result was terribly valuable and we were often very, very tired.

Granted, three kids under the age of 5 will do that to you on its own ;) But it was more than that. Our life wasn’t sustainable and I wouldn’t wish our life’s pace on anyone else.

Despite their own busy schedules, we noticed that our dear friends the Sternkes and the folks they spent time with didn’t have the harried look in their eyes that we did. Rather than try to figure out our own way of doing life, they encouraged us to try imitating their lives (just as they had imitated others) and see what would happen. “Why not?” we thought.

So we started by trying to establish some rhythm to our life, first making time during the week to work, and taking time off. As we looked at our schedule, it was clear that the weekend was our only hope and we had enough commitments on Sunday that it was out.

So Saturday was going to be our day off. We’d do everything we could to relax and leave chores and responsibilities for another day.

Why is it so hard to rest?

Taking a day off seems like it would be an easy thing to do. But let me tell you, for a recovering workaholic like me, it… was… hard.

Some weeks were great, and some (maybe even most) were a struggle. We’d get to the end of the day and feel more worked up and anxious about all there was to do. I couldn’t even begin to figure out what would be restful.

I’d sometimes walk around the house (wander, really) and see all that needed to be done. Our friends were so patient and encouraged us to come along with them as they lived life. There are people you hang out with, but this was different. They really invited us to experience what life was like for them at a much deeper level.

It’s a pretty powerful and scary thing (on both sides) to have someone invite you into their life. Not just the “I just vacuumed and picked up and put my happy face on and told the kids they better not mess up” life. The nitty-gritty, real, messy, dirty, sometimes angry, joyful, legit life.

So we started hanging out with these guys on their day off just to see how it worked, because we couldn’t figure even that much out on our own. ;) We found that they did adventures together, spent time alone, and did whatever seemed to strike their fancy.

Dad would play video games with the kids and sometimes the kids’ crazy requests were met with, “Sure! Let’s try that!” Sara and I slowly began to get the picture and found our footing. Our days off began to really ready us for the week and left us much-needed time to ponder life and consider what was most valuable to invest in.

Predictable patterns for life

Our season of life living down the road from these guys (we actually moved to be closer to them) led to numerous patterns in our life that we’ll probably never give up. The rhythm of work and rest now permeates our week, our year, our seasons, and more recently we’ve even found a solid way to see that in each day (hint…we generally stop doing anything productive after the kids go to bed).

As we did life with our friends, it wasn’t just our two families. We grew extraordinarily close with what became an extended family. We still had plenty of biological family in the area that we deeply loved and spent lots of time with. But in addition there were other families that helped us when we were down and were a crucial part of our kids’ lives.

When we started exploring the idea of moving to California, we just knew that our mission was to bring all that we learned and experienced to an area rife with overwork and isolated families. It was extraordinarily hard to leave and we knew it would be costly (on a variety of levels), but it was what we felt was right. Even more so, our community was with us every step of the way as we pondered whether this was the right direction. As all the doors opened up, we felt that it was meant to be.

All that time and investment paid off big time as we’ve settled into California this year.

When the going gets tough, stick to your rhythms

When we found ourselves in California, the thing that held us steady was our rhythms. When the going gets rough, fall back on what you know and stick with it. While there were times that felt pretty lonely and we wondered if we paid too high a price, our pattern of life kept us steady.

As the months went by, our first order of business was to begin seeking out and building our new extended family here. To really make an impact, especially in the area of lonely overworked families, we needed support and friends! (Our extended families in Indiana didn’t go away, but the orbit–which used to be measured in days–widened considerably to be once or twice a year.)

Our first apartment building in California proved a great place to start searching for an extended family. Because many of the families who lived there were transplants like us, they there were hungry for friends. We found people tremendously receptive and warm. We met some great folks who have been treasured friends this year.

One of our favorite activities has been Open Dinner, an accidentally great experiment from our days in Indiana. Every Wednesday over the summer, we’d set out a table with lunch meat and bread and invite anyone and everyone to stop by for dinner. People generally brought something to share and it was always a great time. We kept it lightweight and low-maintenance so that we never felt like it was a burden, even if no one came.

But most weeks, there were 2-3 other couples and plenty of kids. Eventually, some friends started to host and we moved around and everyone had the joy of sharing a meal and feeling included. When we met someone, rather than the usual “we should get together”, we had a concrete “Come join us for Open Dinner on Wednesday!” So fun.

Another rhythm is that we regularly have several families over for our Friday night Pizza and Movie Night, and have started sending out several couples (leaving a few behind with a bottle of wine and the kids) for date night. The off-weeks, we’ve been visiting a local nursing home to do game night. It’s been a blast and the kids are falling in love with the residents.

In fact, now the neighbors tend to stop by so much that we’ve instituted the “10-minute rule” we used to have in Indiana with our friends. The rule says that neighbors are welcome to drop by someone else’s house anytime (even if we’re in the middle of dishes, laundry, etc) and stay for up to 10 minutes without feeling like a bother. If you don’t get the invite to stay longer, you enjoy a few minutes of chit-chat and then carry on your way. It’s been a perfect way to open life up to others without feeling drained when you just need some time to yourself.

We’ve really learned a lot about what it means to cultivate an extended family on mission with Jesus, and the going hasn’t always been easy. But it doesn’t have to happen all at once.

For us it all started with one thing: taking a day off!

CELEBRATE ACHIEVEMENT NOT CELEBRITY

Base jumper Vincent Philippe Benjamin Re

You don’t find monkeys base jumping, or gorillas scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, or chimps parachuting from planes at 20,000 feet.

Only human beings have a desire to transcend their natural limitations, to take risks in order to make a mark and be remembered.

What’s more, only human beings long to make a difference in the world. Whether it’s through making some breakthrough for science, or defining a new point of excellence in our profession, or giving our time and money for charity, or even raising great kids, we long to leave a legacy.

We are wired for significance through achievement.

The Judeo/Christian faith teaches that humankind is made in the image of a wise, benevolent, just and, above all, loving Father. We were made to inhabit a special place of favour under God, overseeing his natural creation and developing its awesome potential.

In this, we are like God himself. Throughout the Bible, God revealed himself as someone who thinks in epic, heroic terms.

The God of the Bible aligns himself with the underdog; he exalts the lowly and brings success to the little guy, in defiance of the odds; think David and Goliath.

God takes risks.
The birth of Jesus labelled the incarnation was the greatest risk of all. According to the Bible, God the Son took on human form to rescue us from ourselves, to redeem our lives to bring us into the Kingdom of heaven. As St. John put it, ‘he came unto his own, but his own received him not.’

This was a massive risk. Human beings are creatures of free will, with the capacity to accept or refuse any gift, no matter how lovingly it is given. The sinful, fallen tendencies in our nature makes us more likely to walk away from God than to accept him, even when He comes to teach us profound things about love and to perform amazing acts of mercy.

From a human standpoint – and we must remember that Jesus who was fully God was also fully man and so as a human – the cross was a heroic act. The four gospels amplify the fact that Jesus had every chance to avoid it.

On many occasions, he foretold how he would die – and why. His disciples couldn’t understand what he was saying. ‘What’s all this talk about dying?’ they thought, ‘He’s so full of life!’

In the last week of his life, Jesus’ every word and action seems to have been designed to bring on a confrontation with the authorities and eventually hasten his demise. All along, he was pursuing the cross.

‘No man takes my life from me,’ he said. ‘I lay it down willingly.’ He was no victim of circumstance: taking this path was his choice.

Jesus may have thought: ‘What if nobody ever remembers this moment? What if my death is forgotten, my life and all that I’ve done simply buried in history? What if people don’t accept this salvation which, for me, comes at such a high price?’

Today, the life and death of Christ form a standard against which other human achievements are measured.

They show us that achievement often comes on the other side of adversity; that heroism is usually born in the fires of trial; that the world is changed not by celebrity-seekers but by people who take self-denying risks to improve the lot of others.

In a culture that is so smitten with the self-importance of celebrity, so taken with the idea of fame for fame’s sake, it’s healthy for us to remember that celebrity itself does little to change the world for good.

If any modern day celebrity were to remind us that self-sacrifice and service, combined with a voice of hope, are the way to real and lasting influence, then perhaps their recognition could be the used as an achievement. Until then celebrity is empty. We need to celebrate the heroism of selfless accomplishments not selfish accolades.

 

Photo credit: Guardian UK

WHEN THE END IS NEAR

the end is near

A few weeks ago, I heard a pastor finally confess something I’d been waiting for a pastor to say my entire life. During the middle of his sermon, he declared, “This sermon is going to have four endings.” I was so happy I wanted to give him the world’s most awesome side hug. Finally, a pastor was admitting the difficulty of ending a sermon.

“WHEN THE END IS NEAR”
Seven Signs a Sermon Is (Almost) Over

This blog post is from Jon Acuff and he has heard quite a few sermons in his day. Here’s his handy guide for discerning when the end is near.

Some pastors just preach until the clock runs out and then tie the whole thing off unexpectedly with a prayer. With little or no warning, right after they’ve read a Bible verse, they’ll say, “Dear God, we just thank you for this Sunday.” If you’re in the audience taking notes you don’t even know you’re supposed to have your eyes closed. “Are we in a prayer right now? Was that the end?”

To prevent End of Sermon Whiplash or “ESW,” I’ve collected seven signs that will indicate to you that the ride is about to come to an end. Get your Bibles and your coat. Break yourself, fool, it’s time to go to lunch!

1. “In closing…”

This is an old school sermon ender. When you hear this phrase, you’ve got about seven minutes left.

2. “If I could leave you with one thing today…”

When I hear this, I kick everything else out of my head and laser focus. The “one thing” approach is like a grenade of knowledge that is about to be dropped.

3. “As we’re wrapping up…”

Technically not accurate, since only the pastor should be wrapping up. Hopefully the crowd isn’t zipping up Bibles or gathering stuff while he’s trying to close the sermon. That’s distracting.

4. The band starts to materialize like musical mist.

Wait a second, is that a guitar player slowly creeping onto the stage all quiet like? Did the drummer just rise out of the floor to sit behind his kit?

5. The pastor closes his Bible.

Class is over. We took a good look at the good book and now we’re done.

6. The pastor sneaks a peek at the clock and gets nervous.

I’m not a pastor, but occasionally you’ll see me do this when I’m speaking. A lot of churches have clocks on the back walls indicating how much time you have to speak. And they count backward. When you go over your time they start flashing red. If you ever see a pastor look up, as if to the heavens, and get “insta-sweaty” it’s because he’s way behind.

7. They start talking faster.

I have two talking speeds – fast and wicked fast. If I realize I’m out of time but still have two main points to share, I speed up. Like a ninja. Or a cheetah. Or a ninja cheetah, the fastest of all martial arts jungle cats.

Those are the signs a sermon is about to end. If on the other hand a pastor takes his coat off, removes his watch or says, “Today I want to talk about …” forget it, that sermon is nowhere near over.

Me, personally? I don’t worry about the length of a sermon. I let the Holy Spirit take all the time necessary, but I’m probably holier than you are.

Question: What does your pastor say at the end of sermons? Are there any other signs that a sermon is about to end?

VAMPIRES DON’T SPARKLE

Twilight is for teenage girls what porn is to teenage boys: sick, twisted, evil, dangerous, deceptive, and popular.

This past weekend, millions flocked to movie theaters for the final installment of the teen vampire saga. Tragically, many were driven by their parents, including some cougar moms encouraging and joining their daughters’ obsession with handsome young males.

Our family car won’t be driving to the theater for Twilight—or over a cliff for that matter.

I want to give a special thanks to Mark Driscoll for this tough love approach article to raising kids in a Christ-less culture. Pastor Mark ranted on this garbage-tastic phenomenon before, and finds the whole genre profoundly troubling.

The popularity of supernatural soap operas has inspired some real-life demonic trends. Overreaction? Tell that to the kids biting, cutting, drinking blood—sometimes while having sex—and sinking deeper into the occult:

  • NBC News: “Teenagers obsessed with the Twilight vampire saga, or those simply fascinated with fangs, reportedly have been biting each other—hard—and then licking or sucking the blood. ‘These are kids who think they are real vampires,’ said Dr. Orly Avitzur. [. . .] ‘Having that thick, warm copper-tasting blood in my mouth is the best thing I can think of!’ wrote a teenager identified as ‘GothicGirl10’ this year. ‘Sometimes my boyfriend lets me feed off him. I let him feed off me as well.’”
  • ABC News: “Paola Hernandez, 15, said a boyfriend tried to pressure her to allow herself to be bitten. ‘He said, “I love you and that’s the way I want to show you,”’ she said. ‘I didn’t give in because it was kind of idiotic.’ She said some of her classmates, mimicking on-screen vampires, even cut their skin so they can taste one another’s blood. ‘That means you’re stuck with them, they have your blood inside of them and you have their blood and so you’re closer to each other,’ she said.”
  • Sanguinarius is a popular website for “Real Vampires” that includes a special section for teens with “advice on the problems and issues teen vamps face: school, parents, coping with awakening, how to enter the vampiric community without looking like a fool, and more.” Other resources on the site include techniques for “safe bloodletting and feeding, dealing with bloodthirst, flavoring your donor’s blood, and cooking with blood.”
  • Another support page for Real Vampires appeals to outsiders with “a few words for anyone who has ever been bullied, picked on, teased or harassed because you’re different. What you have suffered is wrong. It is wrong for anyone to hit you or harass you, or to make you hate yourself for being different, whether or not you consider yourself a vampire.”
  • The Week: “Lyle Monroe Bensley, 19, was arrested in his boxer shorts after he allegedly broke into the Galveston, Texas, home of a randomly chosen single woman, growled and hissed at her, dragged her down the hall, and tried to bite her on her neck. . . . When the police arrested Bensley a short time later, he told them he was a 500-year-old vampire. ‘He was begging us to restrain him because he didn’t want to kill us,’ says Galveston officer Daniel Erickson. ‘He said he needed to feed.’”
  • The UK’s Channel 4 produced a documentary about the growing vampire subculture. The chance to play vampire provides an opportunity to “be nasty and evil and let my darker side out for the evening,” says one subject. The film profiles a group of teenagers in Texas who consider themselves to be real vampires (and werewolves). One explains, “When I drink someone’s blood, I feel like I own them in a sense. Like they’re mine.”

Please pray for these kids. If you know them, speak with them lovingly, honestly, biblically, and quickly. Satan is real, clever, and a deceiver who “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). He’s not going to come at us with a pitchfork and horns. More likely, he’ll attempt to lure people towards darkness with methods like “harmless” entertainment, possibly in the form of bad acting and melodrama.

As a father to a teenage girl, I find it devastating to simply read the most popular web pages that come up when searching for “teen vampire.” There, girls the same age of my 15-year-old daughter are talking about “awakening,” which is their word for converting to paganism (like the Christian word “born again”). In a perverted twist on Communion, their sacraments include the giving of your own blood by becoming a “donor.” This is entirely pagan. These storylines offer eternality without God and salvation; in the place of Jesus’ shed blood, girls and boys shed their own blood to be awakened to their own salvation of a new spiritual way of life filled with sex and occult behavior.

I do not shelter my children from these sorts of things. Pop culture is too pervasive to hide from (on a recent trip to a Barnes & Noble with my daughter we noticed an entire section of books dedicated to “Teenage Vampire Romance”). My wife and I talk to my daughter about these things so that she can be discerning, informed, and safe.

However, we do not treat things like movies, books, and TV shows as harmless entertainment, but rather a potential threat to her well-being to be aware of so she can walk in wisdom by God’s grace. I rejoice that our oldest daughter (and all of our five children) loves Jesus, see right through this demonic deception, and speak freely with us about these sorts of things. I want that for all children and families.

As a pastor and a father, I am particularly concerned for Christian parents who are naively allowing this filth into their children’s lives, buying these books and driving kids to see these movies. To such parents, “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9–11, emphasis added).

I want to give a special thanks to Mark Driscoll for this tough love approach article to raising kids in a Christ-less culture. 

A REVELATION: THE BATTLE BETWEEN OUR TECHNOLOGY AND OUR HUMANITY

IS OUR TECHNOLOGY MUTING OUR PERSONAL HUMANITY?

At a specific time in history, God put on human form as we might put on an overcoat. He came in a form we can understand. He heard the cry of our heart for revelation and said, ‘This is what I’m like.’

In today’s world, however, many people are robbed of the chance to discover God even during this Christmas season. They are offered a bit of historical information about the manger scene without the glorious revelation of why He came. So often information triumphs over revelation. This gives rise to a society that is built on technology without truth.

The major claim to acceptance of any new technology is that ‘it works’. Technological development is based on pragmatism, on getting practical results. We buy into new technologies because they give us helpful new techniques for doing everyday things.

Traditionally, technologies came into existence in response to human need. Tools existed because we needed them. We accepted new technologies because they clearly made our lives better. In our time, though, many new techniques exist only because the technology is there to make them possible. In other words, the technology often runs ahead of our ability to decide if it is helpful or not!

In many cases, there is very little discussion about where technology is taking us over all, or about what specific technologies might mean to our basic humanity or our environment. At the moment, for example, there are not too many people who think that human cloning would be a good idea, but few there are very few realists who do not foresee a time when it will not be happening at some level.

Technology thrives on pragmatism and that’s fine, up to a point. We generally love it when we find gadgets that will do things better, faster and more economically. Yet pragmatism on its own can sometimes work against truth. The Bible puts it like this:

‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.’ (Proverbs 14:12)

Sometimes a man-made solution to a problem may seem to work, but it may lead to spiritual and even physical ruin down the road. Only revelation can provide the objective bedrock on which we can base healthy debates on the moral implications of technologies like cloning or gene therapy.

Of course, new technologies have brought with them some great benefits. To say, as some Christians seem to do, that we should fear technology just because it represents change is ridiculous.

Industrial technologies, for example, have enabled us to produce more. In the 1800s, one farmer could produce enough food for about four people. With machinery and fertilizers, one farmer can now produce enough food for about one hundred people.

More recently, information technology has begun to dramatically change the way we buy and sell and even the way we form relationships. Many of us have come to rely on our PDAs  (cell phones, tablets and laptops). For us, they’re more tools than toys. We’ve already seen amazing things, but information technology is still only taking its first baby steps.

With all the desirable effects of technology, though, there are obviously downsides. Environmental pollution and the depletion of natural resources are good examples. Fossil fuels are being used up at a rapid rate and freeways, factories and junkyards clutter up the landscape.

Some psychologists and sociologists are now talking about a new phenomenon they call ‘technological alienation’. The word ‘alienation’ simply means a sense of powerlessness and estrangement. The rapid growth in our reliance on technology does sometimes contribute to alienation between people groups, by, for example, boosting the advantage one group or nation has over another (the technological haves verses the have nots).

In some ways, there’s an even more dangerous kind of alienation — alienation from ourselves. At the most fundamental level, what we are facing today is, in many ways, a battle between our technology and our humanity. There’s a tug of war going on between what we feel in our conscience to be right and what is made possible by modern science.

Jacques Ellul wrote that technology has taken over from Christian faith as the most sacred thing in our western society. Once we couldn’t live without God, but today we can’t live without gadgets.

We’ve invited technology into our workplaces, then into our homes, and now even into our bodies. Before long, medicos will be able to inject tiny robots (‘nanobots’) into your blood stream, to help heal you of your ailments.

Many people today live as if they take it for granted that our technology can, at least in time, meet all our most important needs. But can it?

In the natural world, the principle of entropy says that any natural system left to itself, without any outside energy source, tends to wind down. If I take a kettle of water and plug it into an electric socket and turn it on, it will gradually come to the boil. Once I turn off the power, though, it quickly cools again. Its energy winds down.

It’s the same with us on a spiritual or moral level. Without a constant input of revelation, of truth that is based on God’s character, we tend to sink toward the lowest common denominator.

Without revelation, we will go on making the same mistakes as we have always made. Only as time goes by and our technological power grows, we will make those mistakes on an even bigger scale.

Revelation does not work against technology; it helps us keep technology in check. It helps us ensure that technology remains our servant and never becomes our master.

So as you engage in the Christmas season, giving & receiving, loving & laughing and eating & treating remember to take the time to download some biblical revelation and put your personal technologies in their proper place. Enjoy the human interaction and ponder the divine revelation of why He came and maybe you will receive something truly meaningful to text, tweet or blog about.

🙂

BUILDING BRIDGES NOT BURNING BRIDGES

Let’s Build Bridges to Reach Today’s Generation

It’s a real challenge to reach our culture today. In my 25 plus years of ministry, I have never seen greater Bible illiteracy.

There was a time when you could assume most people had a general idea of the Bible. If you were talking with someone and made a reference to Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, Noah and his ark, or even Jesus Christ, they would have a sense of what or who you were referring to.

Not anymore. People are largely oblivious to the Bible, not only as God’s Word but even as great literature. The obsession of some to implement the “separation of church and state” has contributed to this illiteracy concerning God’s Word.

When I present the gospel today—especially to younger people—I can no longer assume that they understand what I mean when I say something along the lines of, “You need to repent of your sin and put your faith in Jesus and become His disciple!” They might wonder what it means to repent, or even what sin is.

Our challenge as believers in reaching this post-modern generation is to make sense without compromising our message.

By the way, I think way too much is made of the whole modern/post-modern generational issue. There are some valid things to know about each group, but let’s not forget that the essential gospel message does not change. The gospel that the apostles delivered in the first century still resonates with the twenty-first century.

But we still need to adapt and become, as Paul said, “all things to all men.” Paul said: “I have become a servant of everyone so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Jews, I became one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. Yes , I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

Note that Paul says, “I fit in with them as much as I can.” There is a place to draw the line when you are around people who have differing or contrary beliefs to your own. We want to be careful to try to influence them more than they are influencing us.

Sometimes, in an attempt to “relate” to people who do not believe in Christ, Christians will make unnecessary compromises. Listen, if you become too much like them, they will never want to become like you. Let’s reach people, but let’s also stand our ground and hold to our principles as followers of Jesus.

Some may want to rationalize compromise in their life as a Christian by protesting, “Well, Jesus hung around sinners!” That is not really true. Jesus did not “hang around sinners,” for the most part. Actually, He “hung around” his disciples when He was not teaching.

When Jesus was with sinners who were separated from God, they did not stay that way for long.

He confronted the woman at the well about her sin. Sure, He loved her, but he pointed out she was living in sin with a man at present. She also came to faith after that.

Yes, Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, but it was only after she called Him “Lord.” Even then, He said to her, “Go, and sin no more. . . ”

When he went into the home of the notorious and despised tax collector named Zacchaeus, the little guy emerged transformed.

So, let’s work on building bridges to our lost world, not burning bridges.

At the same time, let’s not lower our standards in order to extend our reach.

EXCHANGE: TURN YOUR MESSES INTO MESSAGES

What Do You Mean By Turning Messes into Messages?

Sometimes people create a big mess: addiction, debt, divorce, etc. God wants good things for us. He desires to take our messes and redeem us, to make something wonderful, even out of our mistakes.

On the other hand some people today seem to believe that if they can appear successful or achieve fame or be some kind of celebrity in their world, they will lead a really significant life. Then there are others who feel that only great riches make you important. But celebrity is largely about a false image and image alone can be dangerous! It works against the power of truth.

 

John 8:32 ’Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’

 

They’ve told our generation that we are children of monkeys — then they wonder why people act like animals. They’ve told us that there is no right to wrong — then they wonder why people look confused. They tell us that there is no heaven or hell — and they wonder why people just live for the moment. They tell us that there is no higher purpose in this life — and they wonder why we have a problem with suicide! The simple fact is, you and I possess something that no animal has: the drive to be significant, to be somebody, to have influence. It’s in our wiring. We were designed to change our environment more than it changes us! Don’t settle for less. Seek after God with all your heart and watch your life take on a new dimension.

Sometimes people create a big mess, sometimes people settle for less, but our God can deliver us from both and bring us into good success.

 

Isaiah 37.20 “Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”

 

If you find yourself in a mess, do what Isaiah did: take it to the Lord and ask him for help and healing. Watch Him turn your life of messes into a life of true successes. That will be your personal message of redemption that others will notice.

 

Prayer: ‘Father, I don’t need fame, fortune or friends to be successful or significant. Help me not to be drawn into a life of empty role-playing. Help me to be real and honest even in my messes. Let my life not be based false pretences, on something shaky and uncertain, but on the truth of who you are and who I am meant to be.’

RUST NEVER SLEEPS

Rust never sleeps and sometimes I don’t either. We have a fairly new leased (or as Dave Ramsay says ‘fleeced’) car and it is showing signs of age already. Of all the things that could wear out on a vehicle our window frames are rusting. Now this article isn’t about the pros and cons of a new car or leasing per-say it is about how new things lose their ‘gleam’ so quickly and how easy it is to become discontent with things.

“For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”—Philippians 4:11

If we can learn how to be content in these very uncertain times we will know something very important.

Contentment, quite simply, means satisfaction, being at ease and at peace with one’s situation. We also might define it as “being comfortable in one’s own skin.”

We might think we know where contentment comes from. We may think it comes from affluence – from having plenty of money. John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men of his day, and who had a net worth of $100 million, was once asked, “How much wealth does it take to be happy?” He answered, “Another million dollars.”

A person with six kids is more content than a person with $6 million. Why? Because the person with $6 million wants more! (That was a poor attempt at humour)

Anyways, the thing about money is, no matter how much we have, we think we need more.

We may think contentment comes from achievement. If we earn one more degree, get one more promotion, then we’ll be content.

Or we may think contentment can be found in acquisitions – from getting things on our “wish list.” A new house, a new car, a new boat, a vacation home – that will make us feel content.

But contentment seldom comes from affluence, achievement, or acquisitions. Paul learned that lesson.

Paul was one of the most ambitious men in the Bible. He was driven to succeed, to excel. And he had accomplished quite a lot in his life before he met the risen Christ. He lists some of his accomplishments in the third chapter of Philippians. (Check it out)
But he had also suffered a lot as an apostle and as a follower of Jesus Christ. He had suffered vicious beatings, shipwrecks, and being thrown in prison. But he could still write these words:

“I have learned to be content.”

Paul had discovered the secret of contentment. The secret was not found in external experience. He learned that contentment is an inside job.

Paul made this discovery: Contentment is not a matter of affluence, achievement, or acquisitions. Contentment is a matter of attitude.

The translator of The Message Bible explains it this way.

Philippians 4:10-13 “I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

I have also learned to be content. It sucks that my Jetta is rusting in weird places but really it’s just a car. When I was younger there was a band called ‘Elim Hall’ I liked their music a lot and once I met the band members I really liked them personally as well. They came out with a recording called “Things Break”. It made an impression on me that has lasted all these years. Bottom line: Stuff is temporal. When I wrap my heart and attitude around that and put my thoughts towards people and the things unseen. I find contentment, I find calm, I find the Kingdom.

I think that is why Jesus said so clearly to put treasures in the heavenly realm where moth and rust have no affect.

On earth rust may not sleep but in heaven rust is deceased.

 

UNSTOPPABLE FAITH

The Acts of the Apostles

Act 9

Saul was on the way to destroy children of the WAY but later on God put him in the same WAY to destroy the schemes of darkness. All power has to bow down before the power from above. That’s why Acts of Apostles is also called has “The PowerBook” of the Bible.

Verses 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

It was in fact the children of God who was persecuted but if you look and see the Lord identifies himself with His people. Jesus wept when his loved ones cried, in the previous chapters we have seen that when one was stoned, Jesus stood for Him. He show kindness to the crying ones and stands for the helpless. The Psalmist says that ‘ Let God arise, Let His enemies be scattered’ When the whole world stands against the saints, God stands for the saints so we conclude here that ‘ If God is with us who can be against us’ in other words if God is with us it doesn’t matter who is against us.

Verses 10-11In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

This proves that Ananias was praying man; He saw a vision while he was praying. Praying men & women will hear the voice of God, they will receive instructions from the Lord, they will receive guidance from the Lord, and a praying man or woman will obey the Lord. Prayer can do wonders. One king saw a dream but he forgot what he saw but God revealed the dream to a praying man- Daniel. God told to Ananias to go to the house of Judas and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. This was the testimony of God about Saul. God found Saul has praying. What will God testimony about us? Oh, there she is gossiping, oh there he is fighting for the chair.

Saul heard and obeyed the voice of the Lord and now he is known as praying and seeing visions. Obedience and humility are the main ingredients for growing in the Lord. The moment we obey, God starts His works in us. This is the moral of this book ‘The Acts of Apostles’. Samaritan women threw her pot and ran to the town and proclaimed Christ. She became the evangelist in the town of Samaria and many believed and came to Christ because of her. She does not have past experience with Christ but she decided to leave her old life and run towards the voice of God. Our past experience in the Lord does not count at all for the work of God but it is obeying the voice of the Lord and walking with him day by day that counts.

Verses 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel

Saul was the vessel of this world but he was broken down completely and made into a new vessel now he is no more a vessel of law but he is a vessel of God. The old vessel was broken down with its old form, now no more it is the old thing that’s why God said to Ananias “He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name”. This is the message for everyone who is called according to His will. We are His vessel to carry His name…Let us not carry the things of this world but carry Him who carried us. That’s why Paul always liked him to mention as prisoner of Christ.

Verses 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized

Ananias laid his hands on Saul and he was filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately Scales of tradition started falling from the eyes of Saul. No one can open the blind eyes by his/her effort but it is by the power of Holy Spirit the scales will be removed. Saul was zealous for the law and he would do anything for the truth he knows but when the power from above was upon him every scale that was hindering him to receive the knowledge of God started falling away. Scales of tradition, darkness or evil cannot stand before the power of Holy Spirit. All will fall.

Verses 36-40 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.

Tabitha is dead so she cannot have the faith but the faith of Peter matters much here. How much faith he should have to raise this dead woman? What did peter do? I want to show 3 things out of these verses

1)Peter sent them all out of the room
2)He got down on his knees and prayed
3)Turning toward the dead woman, he said “ Tabitha Get up”

House was full of people who never expected Tabitha to come back to life. It was impossible in their eyes but here is the man of God who believes she will come back and he knows nothing is impossible for God.
So first the believing Peter cast all doubters out of the room. This is what we need to do….if you find any doubt in you first cast it out through the promise of Word. Now the house which was full of doubters is now full of faith. Secondly, Peter got down on his knees and prayed…There is nothing impossible for a person who kneels before God. Prayer is talking to God. Peter knelt before God and laid his situation before the throne of mercy. Thirdly, He turned toward the dead woman and spoke the words of unstoppable faith. He never turned toward the dead initially but he turned toward God. These verses teach us to not look at the situation first for your answer. Here is the secret key before turning toward your dead situation turn toward to God, pray and receive the miracle.

UNSTOPPABLE WITNESS

The Acts of the Apostles

Act 8

The key of this chapter which the Spirit of the Lord inspired me is that

Verses 1 speaks about Great Persecution
Verses 2 speaks about Great Lamentation
Verses 8 speaks about Great Joy

So we conclude here that after every Great Persecution and lamentation there is a Great Joy. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. Psalms 30:11

Verse 1 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Some persecution comes to take us from the comfort zone, Jesus command was to leave the place once they had received the power of Holy Spirit but they stayed inside Jerusalem only. God shook the nest like eagle’s do and people were scattered through out the regions of Judea and Samaria. They were fruitful in Jerusalem but Father God wants them to be more fruitful around the world that’s why He pruned those fruitful branches. If you are persecuted for His name sake then remember you are a fruitful branch don’t be satisfied by just being fruitful, God wants you to bear much fruit for His name and through this His name will be glorified. John 15:8 says; “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. Rejoice when you are persecuted for His name sake for your reward is in the hand of God”.

Verses 5 to 8 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.

Notice Philip was not performing miracles firstly but he preached Christ. Miracles followed when they paid close attention to the Word. You don’t need separate miracle sessions but when we pay close attention to the Word miracles will follow thereafter. Miracles come by faith and faith comes by hearing the word of God.

If one Stephen is dead, God is able to raise many more Stephens. If one way is closed God will open another way to share His word. The world cannot stop the church. The church is unstoppable. Why there was a great Joy in that city because someone preached Christ to them. If Christ is missing, Joy will be missing. If anyone reading this is missing joy, needs healing or lacks peace in their life receive the Holy Spirit see the difference HE makes.

In the Old Testament it says that ‘The house of Obededom was blessed because of the presence of the ARK; everyone who visited him was blessed’. The Ark of the Covenant represents the Holy Spirit/Christ’s anointing which is now in you through faith in Jesus. You and the people whom you are associated will be also blessed. Joseph was put into various places but because of him those places and people were blessed because God was with Joseph.

Verses 12 and 13 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

Here is the proof of true baptism. Baptism was given to those who believed in Christ and we don’t find any infants or children in this group, it says both men and women were baptized. Secondly, being baptized is a personal decision no one can compel anyone. Verses 13 say Simon himself believed and was baptized. So these verses nullify the false teaching that someone else’s faith (like a parent) is enough for your baptism to have effect. This is why we call it ‘The Believers Baptism’. Did you believe when you were baptized or did someone else believe when you were baptized? The difference is clear.


Verses 22-23 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.

This verse states that Saint Peter has no authority to forgive your sins. If he cannot do it while he was alive how then he will mediate for you when he is dead? There is only mediator between God and us and He is the MAN Jesus Christ.

Peter seeing the bitterness of Simon says to him to pray to the Lord and not himself. Let all who mediate through the saints read this verse and understand the truth.

Verses 26-39 speaks about a servant of God who yielded to the voice of Spirit and that obedience made one person to receive Christ. It is not our talents that bring person to Christ. We just need to obey the Holy Spirit who will give us wisdom on what we need to speak, how we need to speak, to whom we need to speak …let us be in the position of obedience. After all it is not the brilliant words that attract a soul towards Christ but it is the Spirit who draws all people to the Father in Heaven.

Verses 31 How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains t to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

I want to show you two beautiful thoughts from this verse:

1) He invited Philip to come up- Philip went up to his level
2) Philip sat with him

While we share Gospel firstly we should be listeners and go the level of the person whom we are sharing the good news. Secondly, we must make a relationship with that person and then speak out the truth. Most people will not accept the truth in your first encounter, we need to make a relationship first and then proclaim the grace and truth of Christ Jesus. What was the result of this effective way of witnessing? Philip accepted and believed in Christ. Let us be an effective and unstoppable witness of Christ. Where is ‘your Philip’? How are you building a bridge of relationship to him? Is it time to share the Gospel with ‘your Philip’? I think so.

Next week Chapter 9 & 10