I need Strength

Friends

I would like to ask you a question today. Do you feel strong in your relationship with Jesus Christ?  Do you ever sit down and review your walk with Him? With all our busy schedules, we often don’t even think about it.  So maybe today, after reading this thought, you might want to sit down for a few minutes and ask yourself; “How is my relationship with Jesus?”

Matthew 5:3 AMP says, “Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].”

God wants a deep relationship with you.  He knows every problem you face. He wants you to be prepared to walk through the fire and come out on the other side without being hurt.  Maybe we need to do a spiritual self-evaluation.

Spiritual self-evaluation should be a positive experience.  We need to maintain a realistic view of where we are in our spiritual journey.  Knowing that we fall short of God’s standard is a good thing. When you read what Jesus is saying in Matthew, chapter 5, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Jesus is saying that those who understand their state of spiritual poverty and know that they must rely on God for deliverance are in a good spot. They receive the kingdom. Feeling bad after evaluation can produce good results when it drives us to Jesus for His grace and mercy.

I want to share with you 11 questions to ask yourself.  They are questions I have asked, as well as others that I gathered from other Christians who spend time evaluating their relationship with Jesus.  Answer the questions honestly.

 

  1. Do I need to forgive someone?  “Jesus is clear that if we don’t forgive others, the Father does not forgive us...” (Matt. 6:14-15 NIV).  So, while we may think our anger is justified, it only hurts us to stay bitter.  Un-forgiveness is serious, as it harms our relationship with God.  

  2. Does my daily talk reflect the character of Jesus?  It is hard to read Ephesians 5:4 NIV (“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving”) without evaluating our daily conversations.  If other believers heard everything you said last week, would your witness be strengthened or harmed?

  3. Does my budget reflect a commitment to God’s work?  Malachi 3:10 NIV “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Test me in this.”  I know it sounds exhaustive, but what we give toward God’s work really does have eternal dividends.  Any sacrifice so others may know Jesus is no sacrifice at all. Would your checkbook show you prioritize God’s kingdom?

  4. Do you know your neighbors and co-workers?  It’s easy to be so “on the go” that we know our neighbors and co-workers on only a superficial basis, if we know them at all – which makes it difficult to share Christ with them.  God has placed you in their lives to lead them to Jesus.

  5. Do I pray regularly for leaders?  Regardless of our political positions, we are mandated to pray for those in authority (1 Timothy. 2:1-2 NIV).  Think about those for whom you might pray: school officials, bosses, mayors, governors, the president, and even your pastor.  Nothing is going to happen without praying.

  6. Do you read Facebook more than you read the Bible?  Obviously, I tread softly here, as I’m deeply grateful you read the church posts.  On the other hand, what Facebooker’s have to say is nothing compared to the Word of God.

  7. Do I pray only when I must?  Many of us pray more reactively than proactively.  Prayer is not in our DNA; it is only our response when we face something we can’t handle.  That kind of praying misses the point of being in a relationship with God.

  8. Are you hiding anything?  Hiddenness is usually a sign the enemy is winning in one’s life.  Psalm 90:8 GWT, “You have put our secret sins in the light of your presence.”   Then, the anguish of such sin is only deepened by the efforts we expend trying to keep it covered up.

  9. Do I really love my church?  Paul thanked God for the Corinthians at the beginning of his letter to them (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 NIV) and expressed his love for them in his closing (1 Corinthians 16:24 NIV).  Every church as problems, it is our responsibility to love and work through.

  10. re you ready to quit?  Maybe your church role has drained you to the point you wonder if it’s worth the effort.  If your faith is being stretched to its limit, I encourage you to gather prayer partners and talk with friends before giving up.  Remember Philippians 3:14 NIV” I press on toward the goal to win...”

  11. Where do you most need to strengthen your walk with God for the rest of this year?  Reading this thought will make no difference unless you make an intentional plan to change.  Share with a close friend or your Life Group what God has laid on your heart.

No Christ-follower is perfect.  We are all in the process of spiritual development.  We are all on the journey together.  The next time you hear that inner-voice saying, “I don’t measure up,” admit the truth of the matter.  The Apostle Paul (Romans 14:1-4) reminds us, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on him…to his own master, he stands or falls.  And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” This is the key: God is able to make you stand.

Believe it!

Make Every Day Count!

Barry

Come Sunday and help others to be an Overcomer!

I Take Joy!

Friends

Joy is essential to the Christian life! 

The Bible says that God created us to be joyful people beginning right now.  Some of you don’t feel like you are joyful because you don’t understand joy yet.  But for most of us joy is lacking in our lives because we don’t understand how God wants to bring it into our lives.

We know that even the most mature Christians experience periods of joylessness.  Let me share a list with you.  Job wished he had never been born (Job 3:11).  David prayed to be taken away to a place where he would not have to deal with reality (Psalm 55:6–8).  Elijah, even after defeating 450 prophets of Baal with fire called down from heaven (1 Kings 18:16–46), fled into the desert and asked God to take his life (1 Kings 19:3–5).  So how can we experience joy in the Christian life?

The first thing is to realize that joy is not the same as happiness.  Happiness is circumstantial and fleeting.  Joy is a heart posture.  The root word for joy in the Greek is chara, which is closely related with the Greek charis for “grace.”  Joy is both a gift of God as well as a response to the gifts of God.  Joy comes when we are aware of God’s grace and His favor.

It becomes evident that one way to experience joy is to focus on God.  Rather than dwelling on our difficulties or those things robbing our contentment, we can dwell on God.  This is not to say we should deny our discontent or stuff negative emotions.  As many of the psalmists patterned, we can pour out our hearts to God.  We can tell Him bluntly all the things that trouble us.  But then we submit those things to Him and remember who He is.  Take a moment and read Psalms 3, 13, 18, 43, and 103 for some good examples.

Our Heavenly Father created us with an ability to experience joy.  We know when we have it, and we know when we don't.  And even though we can receive enjoyment from our loved ones, activities, work or even material things, only the Lord gives us everlasting joy.  It comes through receiving all of Him, beginning with the joy of salvation and redemption.

The joy of Christ does not go away.  Have you noticed how easily earthly joy can leave? Have you discovered how simple it is for your gladness of today to become your sadness of tomorrow, for your sweetness of the morning to turn into the bitterness of the night?  

But the joy of Christ is a continual, never-ending, constant joy when we follow the principles of the Word of God.  This joy survives all the difficult times in life.  This joy is not hinged on happenings but on a Person.

In John 16:22 NIV, Jesus says, “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

Isn’t that something?  Jesus says the joy He wants to give every one of His children is the kind of joy you don’t have to lose.  Nobody can take it away from you!

That is why Jesus calls us to be His “witnesses.”  When some Christians hear this word, they worry that they need exceptional skill or charisma to share the good news with others.  Yet to witness is not to merely speak of the “plan of salvation” to someone.  The word literally means to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception; to testify; bear witness to; give or afford evidence of.  When John wrote that he was sharing what he had experienced first-hand, he was saying, I am full of joy because of the experience of knowing Jesus, and I want to invite you to share in that joy!”

When you are in love with someone, you are excited about the relationship and time spent together.  Likewise, when you are in love with Jesus, you cannot keep to yourself the joy that comes from knowing Him—it just spills over, bearing witness and strengthening other believers. In fact, as you give testimony of who God is and how He’s working in your life, it makes no difference whether you speak quietly or with great exuberance: in their spirit, Christians will pick up on the deep, genuine gladness in your heart that goes beyond natural happiness.  And people who don’t yet know the Lord will find themselves hungering for the relationship you have.  In that way, they will be drawn to His Spirit in you.

Witnessing is not a matter of eloquence or talent.  It’s an overflow of the personal relationship with Jesus Christ that is conforming you to His image.  As you allow the Holy Spirit to increasingly express His life and power through you, contagious joy will be the “fruit” of His indwelling presence.

But what if you have lost your joy?  I don’t know if that’s where you are today, but if you have ever gone through that period where you feel like you have lost the spark and you are not as close to God as you used to be and you are just going through the motions of life, you need to know that it’s quite easy to get your joy back, too.

So, how do you get your joy back?  The first step you need to do is admit you have lost it.

You simply look at your past and ask yourself a couple of questions:  Has there ever been a time in your life when you were closer to God than you are right now?  Has there ever been a time in your life when you were more joyful in the Lord than you are right now?

Now is the time to make the change.  But you have got to start by admitting that you have lost what you have had in the past.  You could ask God about it; He is waiting to help you.  David prayed this in Psalm 51:12 NIV “Restore to me the joy of your salvation…”

Make Every Day Count!

Barry

Come this Sunday and learn how to remain joyful in your walk with Christ!

I Want to Quit!

Friends

Can I ask you a personal question? Have you ever thought about quitting?  Not your job, but your Christian life? Have you thought about quitting your church?  Maybe, someone in the church has let you down and it has hurt your heart and now you don’t want anything to do with them or Christianity? 

This coming Sunday we are going to look at why we want to quit sometimes and what steps we need to take not too.  The title of the message is called “I want to quit!”

There have been times when I felt like a failure in this game of life.  The combination of the many struggles I must deal with on a daily basis, sometimes leaves me feeling like I want to quit.  Just when I think I can manage, a few days will go by, and a new storm takes place… there’s been an accident, someone newly diagnosed with cancer or a death.  I feel the pain my church family goes through to the point where sometimes I’m not sure how I can go on.

But then, in the middle of my pain, God moves in my heart and reminds me of three important things, and regardless of the size of your storm or the damage it creates, this lesson is one I, and perhaps you, need to remember.

First of all, when you feel like you cannot go on, remember to keep things in the right perspective.  Remember our vision is limited… only God sees all and knows all.  He tells us He has a plan (read Jeremiah 29:11) … it’s one for good and has a purpose.  Trust Him.  Let me give you an example of the “right perspective.”

A story is told about a famous composer-pianist who was scheduled to perform at a great concert hall in America.  It was an evening to remember—black tuxedos and long evening dresses—a high society extravaganza.  Present in the audience that evening, was a mother with her fidgety nine-year-old son.  Weary of waiting, the little boy squirmed in his seat.  His mother was hoping that her boy would be encouraged to practice the piano if he could just hear the immortal pianist at the keyboard.  So, against the little boy's wishes, he had come.

As the mother turned to talk with friends, her son decided that he could stay seated no longer.  He slipped away from her side, strangely drawn to the ebony concert grand Steinway and its leather tufted stool on the huge stage flooded with blinding lights. Without much notice from the sophisticated audience, the boy sat down at the stool, staring wide-eyed at the black and white keys.  He placed his small, trembling fingers in the right location and began to play "Chopsticks."  The roar of the crowd was hushed as hundreds of frowning faces turned in his direction.  Irritated and embarrassed, they began to shout: "Get that boy away from there!"  "Who would bring a kid that young in here?"  "Where's his mother?" "Somebody stop him!"

Backstage, the master overheard the sounds out front and quickly put together in his mind what was happening.  Hurriedly, he grabbed his coat and rushed toward the stage.  Without one word of announcement, he stooped over behind the stool, reached around the boy, and began to improvise a countermelody to harmonize with and enhance the boy’s rendition of "Chopsticks."  As the two of them played together, the famous pianist kept whispering in the boy's ear "Keep going.  Don't quit, son. Keep playing.  Don't stop... don't quit."

God is the expert who improvises a countermelody and enhances our efforts.  Like the master pianist, He whispers in our ear.  "Don't stop.... Don't give up."  He recognizes and encourages us to continue, even when our efforts appear small—especially in the eyes of others (or how we think others see our efforts).

The second thing I have learned is when the desire to quit comes from feelings of failure; we must stop and let go of the idea of perfection.

Friends, there is one Perfect Person and it’s not me or you.  Jesus is Perfect and though we should strive to be more and more like Him every day, you cannot waste your life worrying about failed moments in your life.

Worry is counterproductive:

•It wastes time that could be spent in better ways.

•It focuses on the problem, not the solution.

•It causes us to assume responsibility that belongs only to God.

•It paralyzes us with fear.

•It saps our joy.

•It drains our energy.

•It keeps us sidetracked when we could be doing God’s will.

•If we want to get off to a good start each morning we need to begin in the right place.

We must not let our “failures” cause us to quit.  Our struggles, shortcomings and setbacks can lead to growth… if we let them.  Through hard times, our faith gets stronger and God’s Perfection is clearer.

Finally, when we want to quit (regardless of the reason) we must do what Jesus did, persevere.  Faith is not a one-time thing… it’s a muscle we must exercise daily.  He often allows trials, troubles, tribulations, and problems in our life to teach us diligence, determination, and character.

I love what Paul shares about troubles, failures, and disappointments, in Romans 5:3-4 GWT, when we are suffering. We know that suffering creates endurance, endurance creates character, and character creates confidence.”

Let me give one more piece of encouragement today.  In 2 Corinthians 4:16 NLT “That is why we never give up.” People who follow Jesus keep on keeping on, no matter what happens in life.  Followers of Jesus are single-minded.  Followers of Jesus are hardworking.  Followers of Jesus don’t know how to quit

God does not expect us to arrive overnight, but He did create us to press on through the pain and endure the trials.  When we do, He will strengthen our faith and bless our obedience.

God is more interested in what you are becoming than in what is happening to you.  The problem you are going through right now?  It’s an examination of your faithfulness.  Will you continue to serve God even when life is tough?

Make Every Day Count!

Barry

Please don’t Quit!  Come Sunday and learn how not to!

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!