Sunday, October 27, 2013

Three Crosses-A Final Message

Luke 23:40-43
But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man has done nothing amiss.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.” And he said unto him, “Truly I say unto you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.”

The three crosses at the time of the crucifixion of Christ provide a significant lesson.  Yes, the greatest reality is that His death on that cross represents the forgiveness of our sins and the grace that would carry us forward in our walk with Christ.  But Christ provided an example of that message, one that once again re-emphasized his message of love versus our message of condemnation.

Christ was verbally attacked by both robbers who were on opposite sides of him.  They were angry and ridiculed him for not doing anything to save them or himself.  One robber remained hateful and angry, a non-believer who ridiculed Christ and only cared about himself.  Christ did not respond to his taunts with any condemnation or criticism, He ignored him.  But the second man on the cross changed his tone, he went from being critical to defending Christ.  It was clear that he knew who Christ was, that he believed Christ was indeed an innocent man not worthy of the death sentence he had received.  Christ listened to this man and loved him despite the many evil things he had done.  Christ never condemned either man but knew to keep  his silence because in that silence the heart of one of these men would be touched.  That one robber confessed his wrong and accepted deserving the punishment he was receiving.

That is true repentance and true repentance opens the doors to heaven. He not only repented, but asked Christ to remember him, to give  him another chance.  How powerful and emotional is that, in the midst of all the pain and agony they were facing this man recognized the Savior for who he was and had faith that Christ would enter into paradise.  That faith prompted him to say the words, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom".  Amazing, isn't it?  Jesus' response was even more powerful and an example for all to follow.  He didn't lay out a series of actions that this sinner would have to take to make it to heaven, he didn't judge him, he didn't condemn him, he didn't gossip about him, he didn't act like he was better than him...   Jesus simply stated, "Truly I say unto you, today you shall be with me in Paradise".  It doesn't matter who you are or what you have done, recognizing that Christ is the savior allows you to call out and say, Jesus remember me and he will forgive your sins and reserve a place for you in paradise.  Just a little advice to go!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Faith Key Opens Amazing Doors

Faith is that key that opens the door to God's promises for you life.  God's word shares many examples of how faith was required for the miracle to take place.  One example of this is the escape of God's people from the bondage of Egypt.  Trapped between the Red Sea and the approach of the Egyptian army, the Israelites found themselves facing death.  But Moses led them to the red sea knowing that the waters would part.  Moses led them there knowing that God would perform the miracle; he believed first and acted second resulting in God's miracle taking place.

So too, we must believe first having abundant faith and knowing that God will respond.  That is the transition that we as believers must all make.  We must move from doubters to faithful servants, from thinking it will happen to knowing it will happen.  When our faith is such, we know God will answer our prayers.  We will then hear that still voice speaking to our hearts and minds and know that it is God leading us.  We won't sit there and try to argue against God's message but will act on it faithfully knowing that his plan is not to be questioned.  

When we follow God's plan and respond to His words, will become aligned with his will and purpose for our lives.  We can then weather any storm and rejoice as His blessings will become an integral part of our lives.  How amazing God is!  Just a little advice to go! 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Be Who You Want To Be!

Sometimes we think that it is impossible to become the person we want to be, but God tells us that there is no such thing as impossible.  Becoming a certain kind of person is only possible if we work at it, trusting in God's Spirit to help get us there.  If you find yourself saying I wish I could be more caring, more helpful around the house, a better friend, a better father and/or a better husband, then start putting a plan together to be better in those areas.

Putting the plan together sometimes requires some research; like asking our children how we can be better fathers, our wives on how we can be better husbands, and the Lord on how we can be better followers.  By being better followers we accomplish the other improvements we are trying to make.

I have been praying and asking God to make me a better servant and to help me better in a variety of other areas.  I am not focused on what others are not doing but on those who are doing the things I want to do.  I am looking at believers who are practicing behaviors that I want to practice and learning from their experiences.  I may not be perfect in any of these areas, but I continue to strive towards perfection, to run that race hoping to finish as someone who ran it well and achieved victory.

Be who you want to be, by putting a plan together that aligns with God's word, praying for his guidance, working with other believers, and trusting God that this is a race you can win!  Just a little advice to go.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...  Amen!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Prayer Plus-A Deeper Conversation

Praying to God is about a conversation that we have come to take for granted.  Too often our prayers fail to reach a point of significance that leads to a real deep conversation with the Lord.  How do we get there and how do we learn to hear God's voice?  These are two questions we all need to answer.  I have been reading a book called Too Busy Not To Pray, Slowing Down to Be with God by Bill Hybels and I would like to share some of his teachings.

Let's start with a framework for prayer that God provides us found in Matthew 6: 9-13, The Lord's Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom,
the power and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever.

This prayer provides a framework that focuses on four critical prayer points many of you may have learned and remember with the acronym, ACTS.  That acronym stands for the following:

1. Adoration-Hallowed be thy name, yes we adore our heavenly father and adoration is the way we open the line of communication in prayer.  We lift our mighty God up in heavenly praise recognizing that he is the king of kings, the lilly of the valley, the bright and morning start, our beginning and our end, and our master and savior.  Start your conversation with the one you love and the one that loves you unconditionally with adoration.

2. Confession-Forgive our debts, yes we need to lay down our sins before God without being embarassed or ashamed.  He knows them already but confessing them and discussing them with God helps us put it out there and discuss the deep realities of our sin and mistakes.  That discussion helps us work through our sins with God and allows for his voice and conviction to minister to our hearts and help us to a place where we can move past that sin.  He forgives us, loves us, and empowers us to overcome those weaknesses we entrust to him.  Be real about your sin confession, God gets it.

3. Thanksgiving-For the kingdom and power and glory are yours; that is how we thank our heavenly father by acknowledging that it is all his, under his control.  We thank him because we know that despite our brokenness, he continues to respond to our prayers.  Philippians 4:6 reminds us that, "In everything with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  Give him thanks and be specific!

4. Supplication-Your will be done, lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil all remind us that we must petition God for his will to take precedence over our will, for his protection from the temptations we will encounter, and for his deliverance when we find ourselves in the midst of evil.  This is a time of yearning and deep conversation with God about those distractors that draw you away from your relationship with him, about those evil occurrences that darken your heart but that he can help you overcome.

This is a model for prayer that I have adopted as my framework for conversing with God.  I even plan for that conversation by writing down what I am going to discuss before going to my prayer corner to talk with God.  Have a strategy for  prayer in place to ensure a deep and sincere conversation with God is taking place and you will be amazed at the responses you receive.  Just a little advice to go!