Investing in Others

Friends

Over the last months I have been wondering what is the one thing we should be doing every day?  Helping people, yes.  Serving others, yes.  Loving others, yes.  Caring about others, yes.  Everything we do should be “leading others to Jesus Christ.”  So why don’t we?  I am sure there are many reasons, but I think the main reason is that it’s not our top priority. 

At the end of your life if you were asked, “How can you determine if your life was worthwhile?”  How would you answer that?  You come to the end of your life and start reviewing it and you ask, “Did my life count?  Did my life make a difference, an impact?”  What are you going to look for?  Wealth?  Fame?  Popularity?  Pleasure?  Experiences you had in life? 

Who are you investing in?  Family, friends, people you work with, or people you go to school with?  Scripture teaches us to tell others about Jesus Christ.  And while sharing the gospel is awesome, it is simply not enough.  We should continue to encourage and invest in new believers.  Many don't know where to begin reading in the Bible or how to spend time with their heavenly Father.

Of course, God takes each person's spiritual journey seriously, and He won't leave a seeking heart unsatisfied.  At the same time, we have a responsibility to invest in the lives of spiritual brothers and sisters by sharing our understanding and experience.  We do this almost every day at Carolinas Cornerstone through Life Groups!

This type of teaching is called discipleship, and it is both an honor and a great responsibility.  As you commence this type of relationship, consider the following points.

Make sure to continually spend time with the Lord so that you are growing and in tune with His Spirit.  

Be prepared with a plan.  Your friend needs to understand the basics, such as how to read the Bible, what prayer is, and where to find fellowship. New believers will have questions--answers are important, as is your ability to find resources when you are unsure of how to reply.

Help the individual understand generally what to expect as he embarks on his Christian walk.

In Mark 10:17 we meet a man known as the Rich Young Ruler.  He’s a good man, a religious man, and he recognizes something unique in Jesus.  He humbles himself and asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life.  “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

That is not a typical question for a wealthy young person; his heart is bent toward God.  He tells Jesus he has kept the commandments, and Jesus says, “Then you’re only lacking one thing.  You need to sell your things and follow me.”  It’s the same invitation that Peter, James, and John received.  But the young man went away saddened, because he was wealthy and thought the invitation was too costly. Did Jesus need his wealth?  No.  He was giving him an invitation to a life far beyond what his earthly riches could provide.  The man was thoroughly invested in time and had a small imagination of eternity.

Think about it this way, what you do now on earth will impact you for all eternity.  Where are you sowing your seeds?  Where, what, and who are you investing in?  There are many people on their way to hell right now, and as servants of Christ, it is our job to do all we can to reach them.  They are our investment.  Witnessing to the lost with our lives, as well as our words, is how we will truly build up rewards in heaven.

For many people in your life, you may be the only Jesus they ever see.  In other words, our obedience to Christ’s call to reach them may be the only thing that can bring them to Him.  What they do once we reach them is up to them.  Don’t assume you know how they will react to Christ’s call on their life.  Instead, ask yourself if you are remaining obedient to Christ’s call in yours.

Most of us learned, struggled, and learned some more till we began to understand the basics of life in Christ.  Godly mentors can be a tremendous help.  And remember, no matter how long we've believed, we never stop needing advice and encouragement from those farther along in the journey.

How are we investing our?

  • Energy
  • Time
  • Emotions – in our relationships
  • Resources
  • Name – our reputation
  • Intellect
  • Talents
  • Your Soul 

In John’s gospel, you see a very simple yet profound practice that Jesus employs in order that his mission will continue after his death and resurrection: the practice of invitation.  In John 1:35-51, Jesus first invested in people then He extends the invitation to Andrew, Peter, and Phillip by simply calling them to “Come and See” and “Follow Me”.  Although these would-be disciples have no idea what is in store for them, they drop what they are doing and begin the journey of learning from Jesus.

If your aim is to make disciples, this practice is essential for you as well.  I believe the simple and intentional practice of extending an invitation to another person to teach them the truth of Christ and model for them a life in Christ is what is often missing in our attempts to make disciples.

Who are you investing in?  Who’s lives are you making a difference in?  

Make every Day Count!

Barry

Come Sunday and learn to invest and they invite others to Jesus Christ!

Disappointment

Friends

Have you ever been disappointed?  I know the answer is YES.  I don’t know anyone who has not gone through some type of disappointment. 

Maybe you have longed for healing, for a job, for a baby, or for a wife.  You have faithfully and earnestly prayed for weeks and months — even years.  But you are still sick, still unemployed, still childless, or still single.  And you are disappointed.  Most of all, you are disappointed by God.

Disappointment comes in all sizes, doesn't it?  Any time our hopes are not realized, or our expectations or desires are not fulfilled, we feel disappointed.  Disappointment can be a passing emotion over a temporary loss, or it may strike powerfully when something permanently changes our lives.  A major disappointment can remain within us all the time, shadowing our reactions to everything.

We all experience disappointment for different reasons.  Feeling disappointed is not a sin.  How we handle it is the crucial issue.  Disappointment is so common to humanity that it is difficult to choose which biblical characters to best illustrate it.  The Bible is full of disappointed people.

Think of the years of disappointment experienced by Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth.  Month after month, year after year, they saw the evidence of their childlessness.  Job and Joseph had good reason to be disappointed, too, both in people and in God.  Elijah the prophet expected the great evidence of God's power on Mount Carmel would bring revival.  Instead, it only put a price on his head.  He was so disappointed he asked to die.

If anyone was ever faced with a repeated disappointment, it was Moses.  In infancy he was rescued from death by the faith of his parents and the ingenuity of his mother.  God arranged for him to be adopted by the princess of Egypt.  But he spent the first formative years of his life being raised by his own parents.  From them he learned of God's promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He was taught that the Israelites were God's people, chosen to bless the world, and that God would make them a nation and give them a land.

Moses was never able to forget what his parents had taught him, even after he went to live with Pharaoh's daughter, his foster mother, in the palace.  This double identity must have caused him a great deal of tension.  As he grew, he saw the Hebrew slaves struggling under terrible bondage while he lived luxuriously, enjoying all the privileges of royalty.  Finally, Moses tried to do something to help his people.

"When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites.  He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian.  Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not." (Acts 7:23-25 NLT)

Many years before God called him to do so, Moses longed to be a deliverer of his people.  He was willing to use his power and influence to change their desperate situation.  But they rejected him.  In fact, he had to flee for his life from Egypt to live in the backside of the desert for another forty years after the murder incident.  Talk about disappointment!

Satan has a strategy to invade our spirits and bring us down until we are defeated.

satan pyramid.png

•The tip of the wedge seems so harmless.  It is simply disappointment.

•But if we let our disappointment fester, the wedge is driven in a little farther, and we experience discouragement.

•Unchecked, discouragement because disillusionment.

•Then the wedge invades even more territory as it proceeds to depression

•Ultimately, we end in defeat.

Disappointment is a hard pill to swallow.  Nobody likes it, but it’s something we will face throughout our lifetime.  We will face disappointment again and again in our lives, but how we respond to it should change over time.

In overcoming disappointments, it is important to keep them in perspective.  Even though we cannot eliminate suffering or disappointment this side of heaven, it can become less formidable when viewed from a different vantage point.  The first thing to keep in mind is this: no amount of suffering or disappointment we experience in this life can ever undo what God has done for us in Christ.  Apart from Scripture, it is very difficult to have a proper perspective on suffering and disappointment, and these things will rarely make sense to those unacquainted with God’s Word.  Neither psychology nor philosophy can offer a sufficient explanation for it.  No social science can work restoration on the soul; only God can do this (Psalm 23:3).  The truth is, our trials and disappointments, though we may not like them, do serve a purpose.  It is through trials that we learn patience and humility, endurance and trust—virtues that strengthen us and develop godly character.

I have learned three things about how to deal with disappointments

• Release your disappointment to God

• Evaluate and adjust your expectations

•Get moving quickly

It’s also important to remember that God didn’t disappoint you—life’s circumstances and people disappointed you.  When something bad happens in life, it’s not a time to blame God, it’s a time to run to Him.

Make Every Day Count!

Barry

Come Sunday and learn how to be an Overcomer!

How to deal with failure...

Friends
Over the last year I have personally reflected on how God can use failure in your life.  I have been a Christian for over forty years.  I estimate that in my Christian lifetime I have attended upward of a couple of thousand church services, scores of Christian meetings, conferences, and so on.  Yet during this entire time I have never once—not a single time in the hundreds of meetings over some forty-odd years—heard a speaker address the subject of failure.  In fact, I probably would not myself have reflected seriously on the topic if it had not been for a crushing failure that drove me to face reality.
 
Everyone wants to be a success.  I have never met anyone who purposely set out to be a failure.  It’s easy to understand why so much has been written on the topic “How to be a Success” and why these books are so popular.  I think it was Theodore Roosevelt who said, “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” The simple reality is that failure is one of those ugly realities of life—a common experience to all of us to some degree.
 
The ability to handle failure in its various forms and degrees is a vital part of the spiritual life and another sign of maturity.  A careful study of the Bible reveals that most of the great figures of Scripture experienced failure at one time or another, yet those failures did not keep them from effective service for God.  As a partial list, this was true of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, and Peter.  Though they failed at some point, and often in significant ways, they not only recovered from their failure, but they used it as a tool of growth—they learned from their failure, confessed it to God, and were often able to be used in even mightier ways
 
A favorite hymn for many Christians is “Victory in Jesus” because there IS victory in the Savior.  In fact, Christians are super-conquerors in Christ.  There are those who have, as translated by the NET Bible, “complete victory” (Roman 8:27).  Expressively, this statement by Paul is made in a context that considers the reality of the varied onslaughts of life which must include failure.
 
Failure questions: Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us!  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39 NET).
 
In view of this, we often speak of the victorious Christian life.  But the truth is there is a lot of defeat in the Christian’s life because none of us will always and perfectly appropriate the victory over sin that Christ has accomplished for us by the cross. Additional, the amount of deliverance we each experience is a matter of growth; so, on the road to maturity and even after reaching a certain degree of spiritual maturity, Christians will sin and fail—sometimes seriously so.  We don’t like to talk about it or admit it, but there is a lot of failure.  Failure is a fact of life for the Christian community, but God’s grace is more than adequate to overcome any situation.  The Christian is one who has learned to apply God’s grace remedy for failure.
 
Presently the bookstores are full of popular “How to Succeed Manuals” on every conceivable subject.  And why is that?  Because we are so concerned with the glory of God? I would hope so, but there are also other reasons.  Too often, it is because we look at failure with eyes of scorn.  We view failure as a Waterloo (check the history book on this one).  We see it as the plague of plagues and as the worst thing that could happen to us.
 
As a result, the fear of failure has many people in neutral or paralyzed or playing the game of cover up.  We consciously or subconsciously ignore our sins and failures because to admit them is to admit failure and that’s a plague worse than death.  People often refuse to tackle a job or take on a responsibility for fear of failure.  People believe if they fail they are no good.  They think failure means you are a bad person and you are a failure.  But, as previously mentioned, most of the great leaders in Scripture at some time in their careers experienced some sort of failure.

For instance:
•When Abraham should have stayed in the land and trusted the Lord, he fled to Egypt because of the drought. And this was by no means the last of Abraham’s failures.
 
• Moses, in trying to help his people, ran ahead of the Lord and killed the Egyptian. Later, against the command of God, he struck the rock in his anger.
 
• When David should have been out in the field of battle, he stayed home and committed adultery with Bathsheba and then plotted the murder of her husband.
 
• Peter, despite his self-confidence and his great boast, denied the Lord, as did the rest of the disciples who fled before the evening our Lord’s arrest was over.  There is a fundamental principle here.  Sometimes God must engineer failure in us before He can bring about success with us.  Our failures are often rungs on the ladder of growth—we can learn from our mistakes rather than grovel in the dirt.
 
This is not to make excuses for sin or to place a premium on mistakes or failure.  This does not mean that a person must fail before they can be a success, but our failures, whether in the form of rebellion or just foolish blunders, can become tools of learning and stepping stones to success.  The point is, we should never allow our fear of failure to paralyze us from tackling a job or trying something that challenges our comfort zone.
 
Make Every Count!
 
Barry
 
Come Sunday and hang out with others who have failed!

God Uses Weak People

Friends

This coming Sunday we are going to be looking at the fact that God uses “weak people.”  Instead of hiding and denying our weaknesses, we need to learn to recognize them.  We need to learn to share them.  And we need to learn to glory in our weaknesses.  Because if God is ever going to use you greatly, you will walk with a limp the rest of your life.  Read the story of Jacob.

Can God really use something weak to point people to Him?  Yes!  He does it all the time.  I love 1 Corinthians 1:27 CEV “But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame.  He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame.”

People say, “Well, I don't believe God can use me.”  You are insulting God.  You are limiting Him.  “Well,” you say, “all right then, I will just serve God in my poor little old weak way.”  Quit it!  He doesn't want you to serve him in your “poor little old weak way.”  God wants to take ordinary people and do extraordinary things through them!

There are many examples of this in the Bible.  Take Rahab, who saved the lives of the 2 Hebrew spies.  Look at the widow of Zarephath who fed Elijah.  Look at the boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish.

This is the kind of people God wants to use. He delights to use them.  He’s done it from the dawn on time! Gideon, Deborah, young Samuel, Ruth the widow, David the shepherd boy, Esther the orphan, Matthew the tax collector. Don’t forget Cornelius, the member of an occupying army; Saul, the church-persecutor; Peter, the denier; and John Mark, the deserter.

It's not your fame; it's your faith.  It's not your scholarship; it's your relationship.  It's not your ability; it is your availability.  It's not who you know; it's Whose you are that counts.

One my favorite stories on this subject, is Elijah.  When we think of Elijah, we generally think of powerful miracles.  No doubt he was one of the greatest miracle-working prophets of all. He raised the dead. He stopped the rain. He called fire down from heaven.  (I think he would be a great guy to have at a barbecue.)

The Bible tells us that Elijah was a Tishbite, from Gilead.  That means very little to us, but it’s important for us to know that Gilead was east of the Jordan River.  The people who lived there were roughhewn, tanned from the sun, and tough.  He would have dressed in animal skins.  We know Elijah as a man who was bold and courageous.  He was fearless.

When we hear a story like Elijah’s, we might ask, “What does this have to do with me?” Yet the Bible tells us in the book of James that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (5:17).  The New Living Translation says, “Elijah was as human as we are.”

Sometimes Elijah seems like he was a superman, but he was not.  In fact, he had moments of great fear.  At one point he was so despondent that he wanted to give up and die.

Have you ever felt that way?  Here is the good news.  God can use flawed people.  God can use imperfect people.  God can use people who have weaknesses.  In fact, it appears God goes out of His way to find people like that.

Why?  Because if God only used super talented, beautiful, handsome, people, we would say, “There is no hope for us.”  But when God uses the person who is pretty much like we are, we know there is hope.

Today our society and culture often considered Christians to be a weak, puny, pathetic, useless group of religious idiots.  They were literally the butt of all the jokes and were viewed as societal rubbish.

You see, the devil fears believers because He knows the power and authority they possess.  That’s why he uses the entertainment industry, educational institutions, and other human agencies to try to belittle the Church and make it look irrelevant, inconsequential, and trivial.

The enemy does everything he can to give the impression that we are minor-league players — a worthless waste of time.  He knows the power God has placed at our disposal, so he attempts to discredit us in the eyes of the world.  Therefore, if we perceive that the Church today is the butt of jokes and viewed in a derogatory fashion, we just need to realize that this perception is nothing new.

Here’s one more example of God using weak people- read the story of Gideon.  I think the Bible’s most courageous coward was Gideon.

Just before heading into battle with the mighty Midianite army, Gideon hears from God: “The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men.  I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’”  (Judges 7:2 NIV).  So, God gives Gideon a couple of tests, designed to trim the ranks.

Test 1 is to send all the fearful people home.  It turns out that’s a decent number, and 22,000 of Gideon’s 32,000 leave.  (I wonder if Gideon tried to sneak off with them?) Now, that might not have been a foolish decision.  Fear is contagious, so 10,000 brave soldiers are better than three times that many if 70% of them are wimps.

But if Test 1 was designed to create a braver army, Test 2 was only designed to create a smaller and weaker one.  God tells Gideon to have his men drink from a stream, and all the men who “lap like dogs” (who does that?) are the ones that should stay.  It’s an arbitrary test, but an effective one: only 300 men remain.

God was teaching Gideon what He wants to teach us today: when He wants to use us, He often begins by weakening us.  As Hudson Taylor said, God wants you to have something far better than riches and gold, and that is helpless dependence on him.”

Are you weak enough to be used by God? 

Make every Day Count.

Barry

Come Sunday and hang out with the “weak people”