Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spiritual Fitness Ten Weeks To A New You Week 7


Have you ever met someone who either could not or would not give a straight answer?

Communication is one of the fundamentals of life. The Apostle Paul said that he had rather speak a few words that were understood by his listeners than to speak thousands of words which had no relative meaning. This he said in specific reference to people speaking in tongues to one another or attempting to communicate spiritual things without being aware of natural limitations.

Practical realities demand that we learn the common rules of communication. Unless the message which is received is the same message the sender intended, communication has not taken place. Speaking in code, half sentences or unintelligible words do not facilitate effective communication.

Some people allow themselves to develop bad communication habits. They interrupt, abruptly change topics, over-talk one another or began thinking when they should be listening. Many times these people think they are communicating but they are not … no matter what they say, they are not communicating … even if they know what they are talking about, others do not. Recent research shows that multitasking is a measurably inhibits a person’s productivity.

In order for us to be spiritually fit and in our best shape, we need to develop good communication skills. One essential element of effective communication is to be:

1. Articulate

To articulate means to speak distinctly, speak intelligibly, to be coherent, precise, understandable and clear.

Genesis 41:16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”

Joseph understood that he was speaking with a man who was used to making tough, high-level decisions; a man who was not going to be impressed with flamboyant speeches or a lot of smoke and mirrors. Joseph’s life was on the line and he opted for the most exact and straight forward expression of the truth. “It’s not in me”.

* Success often hinges on our clear communication of the truth.

To be inarticulate is a disservice to the listener and at times even an offense.

You know what I am talking about: When you ask a straight forward question and get a half hidden response or an answer which side steps or avoids the straight forward answer you need and deserve.

One of our spiritual strengths is clear communication.

When someone asks a clear and straightforward question they deserve a clear and straightforward answer even if the answer is “I’m not going to tell you,” or, “I don’t know.”

Before we leave this exercise allow me to add a few other necessities of communication which will help us be more articulate:
* Get to know and speak the language of your listeners
* Become all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
* Seek to understand before you seek to be understood
* Challenge your bad communication habits such as interrupting, code-talking, half truths and deceptive answers

Exercise number two for week seven:

2. Plan

Genesis 41
35 "And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities.
36 "Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine."

* Joseph thought ahead and developed a plan
* A plan speaks of a commitment to the future and a belief in a better day ahead
* A plan tells us what to do next and keeps us on course
* If you fail to plan, plan to fail
* God gave both Noah and Moses exact plans to follow

It goes without saying that we should always submit our plans to God for His approval and continuing will. However, when God gives us a task to accomplish He will also give us the plans we need to be successful in that work. God has no interest in you failing to achieve successful results in the endeavors of life. We often fail because we fail to correctly assess a situation or fail to make adequate plans.

The spiritual exercise of planning is vital to the success of God’s will. We must give time and allow God to develop His plans in our life if we are going to stay on course and take the right steps.

A dream is not a plan.

Where do you need to be in 1 year, 5 years, or a decade? Do you have a plan? Is that plan written down? If not, then why not?

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God has plans for you and your future. See if you can get a copy of those plans from Him.

Our third spiritual exercise for this week is:

3. Work

* We plan the work and we work the plan.
* Without work our plans will be nothing more than good intentions
* A plan tells us it is possible, but work makes the plan a reality
* A plan gives the next vital step but without work life will leave you where you are … life goes nowhere without work

The Bible says that if a man does not work, neither let him eat. You can plan how to plant a garden but unless you actually work the plan you will never receive a harvest and could live hungry throughout life

Genesis 41:49 And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without numbering.

Joseph put his plan into action and stuck to it.

* If we expect the Lord to bless what we put our hands to, we should put our hands to something.
* Anything worth having is worth working for.

Stick to the plan, it will help you keep the main thing the main thing.

So, what can you do this week? Your exercises are:
* Work on asking clear questions and giving straightforward answers in a language others understand.
* Begin a new habit of writing a simple plan with achievable steps for the things you need to accomplish this year.
* Work the plan by taking the first step. Keep the plan before your eyes and keep working on the next step.

Remember, these invisible things of the spirit realm are the things which will change the visible things of life. Exercise yourself to Godliness. In other words – Become more like God – He says what He means, has a plan for everything He does and works very hard to see it through. So, Exercise – Exercise – Exercise!!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Journey of Faith


I’ve got this thing figured out. It only took me 54 years, but now I think I understand why and how God wants to work with us. You see, it’s like this.

My parents started teaching me the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, the rewards of obedience and the cost of disobedience when I was very young. Then when I grew a little and got to the place I could walk and talk, knew how to feed myself and was potty trained, they allowed to go off to school and sit under various teachers in a controlled environment hoping I would learn more.

As much as was reasonable and necessary my parents protected me, provided for me and guided me while they could, knowing that one day I would be out in life making my own way. They wanted me to be as prepared as possible and ready to handle my affairs when they could no longer control everything I encountered.

For that my parents did a great job. They protected me from every hurt they could and equipped me with the tools necessary to make it through the pressures of life they knew I might face on my own. My parents corrected me when they deemed it best but never for the sake of their pleasure and never did they attempt to hurt me. Rather in everything they did their aim was to make me a better and more capable person. They even spoke into my life to teach me things I never thought I would use. Now, at age 54, I wish I had learned more.

This is the same way God approaches His love and desire for us. God has never and will never hurt you. His aim is to instruct us, prepare us, correct us and equip us to handle life. The things which God may bring our way to stretch and strengthen us are never meant for our harm, and indeed will never harm us. God is attempting to prepare us for the those things which may come our way that He did not send, did not intend, but are either from the devil or of our own making.

It is imperative that we learn from the many teachers God sends us and allow ourselves to be under the yoke of learning for as long as the Lord wills. God knows the things we will face and He has a plan to prepare us with the grace sufficient to handle every problem of life. We cannot always choose what we go through but we can choose how we will go through it.

Such was the case with Abraham in Genesis 22. Jewish scholars observe that Abraham faced ten tests of life. These tests are not seen as God tempting Abraham but rather God leading Abraham on a journey to discover his faith. The last and greatest of these tests is recorded in Genesis 22 where we find both Abraham and his son, Isaac, on a journey of faith together.

Christian scholars easily see God using the life of Abraham, along with many other characters in the Old Testament, to dramatically reveal deeper spiritual truths concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. It is hard to miss the parallels here between Isaac and Jesus.

Let’s turn to Genesis 22 and see what we can learn from this story.

Genesis 22
1 ¶ Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."

At this particular time it seems most reasonable that Isaac is about 30 to 35 years old. The year is approximately 1860 to 1865 years before the birth of Jesus. Abraham and his family have been living in the southern part of Israel in the town of Beersheba.

2 Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."

Now remember, God is not tempting Abraham with evil as some would argue. Rather, God is leading Abraham and Isaac on a journey to discover and experience their faith in God and in the promise God had earlier made to Abraham.

Romans 4:22&23 “Now it was not written for his sake alone … but also for us …”

The Apostle Paul assured us that this account was not written for Abraham’s sake alone but for our sakes as well so that we might also come to trust God.

Genesis 22
3 ¶ So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.

Now notice who is going to be attending this sacrifice.
* Abraham who represents God the Father
* Isaac who is a type and shadow of Jesus, the Son of God
* The two servants, the two witnesses required for such an act, standing in for the two thieves on either side of the cross Jesus would one day be sacrificed on
* And the donkey … whoever could that be? Perhaps the devil or maybe … hmmm … I don’t know … but, I seem to remember an old song, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? …”

Well anyway … back to the story before I get into trouble –

Genesis 22
5 And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you."

I like the thought of this: The Father and Son going away together for a while and then coming again!

6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.

By the way, the place God told Abraham to go was the area immediately surrounding Jerusalem and the hill he is about to climb, many believe, is the Temple Mount which leads up to Mount Calvary.

Notice that the wood is laid on Isaac the son. Jesus too would one day have the wood of His own cross laid upon Him in this same place for perhaps this very same climb to the top.

Interesting to note that the Father kept the fire in his own hand and also the knife, this personal instrument of choice in which to slay the sacrifice. Then the two of them walked together.

7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." Then he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"
8 And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." So the two of them went together.

This is a fair question. It’s alright to ask God questions but it is never right to quit on God because you don’t like the answer.

I love the way verse 8 reads in the King James Version: “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” Indicated in the sentence structure is the thought that God will make Himself the sacrificial Lamb.

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.

I think the answer to Isaac’s question is becoming a little more apparent by this point. It is possible he could be thinking that he has been deceived a little here. Abraham is about 145 years old here and I imagine this 30 something year old son, who was strong enough to carry all that wood up the mountain, could probably have given Abraham a run for his money. But he didn’t! Not only did Abraham trust God, but Isaac trusted Abraham. Sometimes our season of life demands that we trust God in others. Don’t get me wrong and don’t try to misunderstand me here … let this truth stand for what it is.

10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
11 ¶ But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" So he said, "Here I am."
12 And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."

Don’t you know that Isaac was relieved … providing he actually heard the voice.

This is a place where Abraham could have easily begun to think that he was schizophrenic, hearing voices argue with one another. The first voice said ‘sacrifice your son’, the second voice said ‘don’t sacrifice your son’. Which one was God? Is God schizophrenic?

Which voice was God’s voice? Both of them were. Both words were words from God. If Abraham had have disbelieved either one or not obeyed both of them there could have been drastic consequences. We must always be ready for a fresh word from heaven.

Sometimes God sends us down a particular road to get to the end of that road and sometimes He sends us down a road to get to the fork in that road. We don’t always know until we get there. This is why we must know God’s voice and always be ready for a fresh word from heaven.

13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

Of course this is a type of Jesus and a shadow of things to come. Jesus, the mature male Lamb of God caught by is nobility and kingly crown in a thicket of lies and hypocrisy was offered up on that hill as a substitute sacrifice for the sins of all mankind including the two thieves on the crosses beside Him and both you and me.

14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, "In the Mount of The LORD it shall be provided."

Jehovah Jireh, The Lord will provide … In the Mount of The Lord it shall be provided. Provision is waiting for you to arrive at the place God desires you to be.

So, what have we learned from this journey of faith?

* God is always with you on every journey of life
* It’s ok to have questions but it’s not ok to quit on God
* Sometimes our season of life demands we trust God in others
* Always be ready for a fresh word from heaven
* The treasure of God’s best for your life is found in the field of God’s will for your life

Right now you may be in the greatest test of your life or perhaps someone you know is going through a problem which requires them to trust God or God in others. Let it be known that our God is a faithful God Who is only out to bless you, prepare you, position and ultimately prosper you as you journey with Him through life. Turn your life and circumstances over to Him and let Him guide you through. Give Him a chance today. Trust Him and see what He will do.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Spiritual Fitness Ten Weeks To A New You Week 6


Key Scriptures: John 8
31 ¶ Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Fact: Most of you are not reaching your potential.

Fact: You would do better if you only knew what to do.

Fact: God knows what you need in order to reach your potential.

Fact: God is not hiding the truth from you. In fact, He brought you right here, right now to tell you what you need to do.

Without God’s plan you are being deceived, wasting time and making costly decisions every day. God’s Word contains His plan; it is a guidebook detailing successful patterns of life which anyone can follow.

Since God has gone to all of the trouble bringing you to this place, preparing what He wants you to hear and positioning you for your next step, you may as well decide right now that you are going make the most of this time. Let me encourage you to listen closely to what I am going to say, looking for at least one thing you can commit to memory and work on this week.

How will you know that one thing? The Holy Spirit of the living God will spark something on the inside of you, like a light coming on or your spirit saying ‘Amen’ to the truth. When it hits you, catch it, grab hold of it, put it in a place of memory in your mind or write it down so you can continue the process of allowing the truth to set you free.

When you feel that spark or hear that ‘amen’ it’s a sign that God is helping you to realize something He has been telling you for a long time and you finally slowed down enough to hear it. Truth often hits us with an “oh yes, I knew that” kind of revelation. It’s not something new, but yet it is. However:

The power of truth is not in the hearing of truth but in the doing of truth.

James 1 NLT
23 For if you just listen and don’t obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance.
24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.
25 But if you keep looking steadily into God’s perfect law—the law that sets you free—and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

So, let’s turn in our Bibles to the book of Genesis, chapter 41, as we continue in the truth, learning principles of success from the life of Joseph. Each of the fifteen principles we have covered thus far are spiritual exercises for life. God wants you to reach your potential, your highest grace of life. In order to do this you need to be in your best spiritual condition. I am going to help you get there.

Don’t be like the forgetful hearer James refers to. Use each exercise as life presents opportunity and strengthen yourself. Believe me, every day life will give you a chance to work on the areas you need to strengthen. Now, let’s get to our exercises for week six.

1. Confidence

Not confidence in yourself or your own abilities, but confidence in God in you … confidence that God can do all things through you.

Genesis 41
39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:
40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.

Joseph had never been the ruler of a nation before. But, he had been the ruler of a home, second in command in Potiphar’s house. And Joseph had been second in command in the prison … so …

* The same God Who had prepared Joseph in the past
* The same God Who had positioned Joseph in the present
* Was the same God Who would prosper Joseph in the future

If you can look behind you and have confidence in the God of your past then you can look ahead and have the same confidence in the God of your future.

If you have no confidence in the god of your past … you may need a new God. Perhaps you were the god of your past … doing it your way … getting your results … worshipping at the altar of your life!

When young David volunteered to fight against Goliath, his own brothers along with the whole army of Israel laughed. What could this little boy do against such a giant, a battle hardened Philistine warrior, King Saul asked? Fair question ... answer:

1 Samuel 17:37 David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.

David had confidence in the God of his past. We all need to build a history with God. It begins by trusting God where you are with what you have.

* It was God who placed Joseph in the court of Pharaoh and Joseph was confident God would sustain him.
* God did not place Joseph in the court without first preparing Joseph for the task.
* Can God sustain us when we have no experience? Yes … however, but most often God chooses to use those who have answered the call to come and be prepared for use.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.

* How does Christ strengthen us … just like He strengthened David and Joseph … life and a lot of exercise!

2. Meekness

Numbers 12:3 Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.

You know who wrote the book of Numbers … Moses did! Meekness is not weakness. Meekness is knowing it’s not you but God in you.

God most often calls greatness out of obscurity and seldom do the flamboyant, braggadocios, arrogant know-it-alls who get too big for their britches, come to great use in the Kingdom of God.

Genesis 41
42 And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;
43 And he made him to ride in the second chariot …
44 … without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.
46 ¶ And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.
49 And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea …

* Joseph did not mind getting his hands dirty and doing the work.
* Joseph did not see himself any better than anyone else.
* One of Joseph’s keys to success was his meekness. He saw himself as no more gifted, no more special, no more entitled than others … but for God!

There are no great men or women of God … there is only a great God and men who allow God to live in them in a great way.

* Scoot over and let God live in you … work on it!

It’s Christ in you, not you, that’s the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

The last spiritual exercise for week six focuses on the art of being:

3. Normal

In a crazy, busy world where Joseph could have been completely consumed with work, after all he had only seven years … and if this did not work out he would most likely not be sent back to prison but executed … however, in the midst of all of his crazy business and important responsibilities of life, Joseph still found a way to be normal.

Genesis 41
50 And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.
51 And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.
52 And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.

There is a keen and essential balance to life. I have come to know it through one of the more than 500 life principles God has given me over the last 30 years of ministry. The essential balance of life is:

* Make a living
* Make a life
* Make a difference

These are set in their priorities and should be managed so as to accomplish all three of these responsibilities simultaneously. Leave one of them out and you will be out of balance and an out of balance life will not be a successful life.

Joseph’s life was anything but ordinary. However, he found time before the years of famine came to set his life in order.

* Joseph took time for family.
* He paid attention to raising his children, each one special …
* No matter who Joseph was at the office, he was husband and dad at home.

The everyday disciplines of life are difficult during stressful seasons.

People often go astray simply because they lose contact with the importance of simple everyday chores of life.

Life must be maintenanced with a hands-on approach.

If we are great we will first be great in our ordinary.

If we cannot conquer the ordinary, the normal day in and day out disciplines of life, how do we think we qualify for the extraordinary?

God wants you to be successful but if we lose touch with the simple realities and responsibilities of life or forget the most important things of life, what good is that?

What if you gained the whole world, the Bible says, and lost your own soul? What if you made that next million, got that promotion, made that sale but lost your family, sanity or soul?

This week’s exercises:
* Strengthen your confidence factor by trusting God
* Scoot over and let God live greater in you
* Pay attention to the important things in life – Be Normal!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Time Will Tell


There are three questions we are going to consider this morning that deal with faith. Our main text today will come from Matthew 14.

This chapter contains the account of Peter walking on water. Allow me to set the stage …

* When Jesus was close to 31 years old, about the year 27BC, John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded by King Herod.
* When Jesus heard the news, He gathered His disciples and went into a deserted place so that they could be alone and pray.
* The multitudes found Jesus and gathered around Him.
* Jesus had compassion on them and healed their sick.
* It got very late and the great multitude needed to eat.
* All that was available was 5 barley loaves and 2 small fishes.
* Jesus took them, blessed them, broke them and gave them to His disciples and the disciples gave them to the people that sat in groups of fifty on a hillside near the lake.
* More than 5000 men, plus women and children ate their fill.
* Twelve baskets full of food were gathered up afterwards
* Jesus instructed His disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side of the lake while He sent the multitudes away.
* After Jesus sent the people away He went up into a mountain to be alone and pray.
* When evening came Jesus was on the mountain alone and the ship was out in the midst of the lake, tossed by the boisterous winds which blew contrary to their course.

Matthew 14:25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.

* The Fourth Watch A Roman Watch
> The 1st Watch 6 til 9 p.m. Evening
> The 2nd Watch 9 til 12 midnight Midnight
> The 3rd Watch 12 til 3 a.m. Cock-Crowing
> The 4th Watch 3 til 6 a.m. Morning

* Jesus spent most of that late evening and night in prayer
* The disciples spent the night rowing hard against the winds, but covering only about 3 to 4 miles in over 9 hours.
* In the fourth watch of the night, between 3 & 6am, Jesus came to the tossed and troubled boat, walking on the stormy waters.
* The weary disciples saw Him, thought He was a ghost and cried out for fear.
* Jesus spoke to them, “Be of good cheer; It is I, be not afraid.”
* Peter spoke up and said, Lord if it really is You, ask me to come to You on the water.
* Jesus said Come
* Peter got down out of the boat and headed toward Jesus
* As Peter was walking on the water going to Jesus he saw the strong winds and the big waves, he got afraid and he began to sink.
* Peter cried out to Jesus, Lord save me.
* Jesus stretched out His hand immediately and grabbed Peter, He lifted him up and then Jesus sternly rebuked Peter.
* When both Jesus and Peter returned to the boat and climbed inside, immediately the storm ceased.
* All the disciples in that boat started worshipping Jesus and exclaimed, “Truly, You are the Son of God.”

This account centers on Peter and his experience. He did pretty good up until he began to sink. Let’s see if we can learn anything from what Jesus said to Peter when He reached out and lifted him up.

Matthew 14:31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

little faith = one Greek word
GK: oligopistos = compound word
oligos -- little; small &
pistis -- trust or assurance

The Gospels quote Jesus in other instances speaking of people with:
* No Faith Mark 4:40
* Little Faith Luke 12:28
* Great Faith Matthew 8:10

Jesus also said that faith was like a seed and it was meant to be planted in our life and grow to greatness. (Luke 13)

Matthew 9:29 Jesus told two blind men: “According to your faith …”

Mark 5:34 Daughter, your faith has made you whole.

Hebrews 11:6 Without faith it is impossible to please God …

Question number one: What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith is our evidence that we trust in God. And, when we trust God, things happen, mountains move & the impossible becomes possible.

We show the evidence of our faith by what we think, what we say and what we do. Basically, how we act both in the good times and in troubled times of life are testimonies of what we truly believe about God and His Will, His Word and His Way. Faith is man trusting God.

Question number two: Where do I get faith?

Four Ways Faith Comes

1. Romans 12:3 Every man is given a measure
* Salvation Faith
2. Galatians 5:22 Faith is a fruit of the Spirit
* John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches …
3. Romans 10:17 Faith comes by hearing the Word
4. 1 Corinthians 12:7-9 Faith is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit

Peter had faith to get out of the boat and walk on water, but somewhere, somehow, doubt entered into the equation and caused his faith to weaken and become too little to sustain his miracle.

Matthew 14:31 “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

At one time Peter had great faith but his great faith turned into little faith and he began to sink. What caused his faith level to change?

You guessed it! Doubt … Doubt Is The Enemy Of Faith
* Doubt can grow into fear and eventually into unbelief
* Fear replaces faith and stops the miracle process
* Doubt can turn great faith into little faith or no faith

Why did Peter begin to doubt?

Matthew 14:30 “when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid”

Peter got his eyes off Jesus and focused on the circumstances, he lost his assurance and he began to have second thoughts. It happened in an instant … Peter embraced doubt which in turn caused his faith to deteriorate and he began to sink. It’s a spiritual process.

Left unchecked, doubt can turn great faith into a great fear!

Good News … that’s not the end of the story …

When Peter realized he was sinking into his circumstances he cried, “Lord, save me!”

And He did … Jesus will still save those who call upon Him today.

He will not only save you from your problem, but the whole experience, if handled according to the Word of God, will actually cause your faith to grow.

Remember, there were three questions for today:
1. What is faith?
2. Where do I get faith?
3. How can I make my faith grow?

The Apostle Paul told the Believers at the Church in Thessalonica that he could see evidence that their faith was growing and flourishing. In other words, the fruits of their faith were evident to everyone.

Matthew 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

We are given measures of faith by God’s grace. When we read His Word, acknowledge His intervention, spend time seeking Him in prayer, worshipping Him with our praise, listening to His counsel … faith is deposited in our heart like a seed planted in ready soil. But … how can we make this faith grow?

Only life gives faith its chance to grow!

2 Corinthians 4 says that light afflictions and adverse circumstances of life are designed to work for us, not against us, if we will just keep our focus on God and eternity.

James, the Pastor of the first Church in Jerusalem, puts it this way:

James 1
2 ¶ Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.
3 For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.

Only time will tell if you have no faith, little faith or great faith! It will be evidenced by how you approach and process the life God has given you. Put your trust in God and watch your faith grow.

We don’t pass or fail because of what we go through, but rather how we go through it. Again I encourage you, trust in the Lord and keep your focus on Him … The journey is your friend & time is on our side.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spiritual Fitness Ten Weeks to a New You Week 5


The first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, is generally understood to have been written by Moses as he led the children of Israel through the wilderness approximately 1500 years before the birth of Christ. If there were a most important book in the Bible, to many scholars and laymen alike, Genesis would claim that honor.

Genesis is the book of beginnings. The information God chose to include in this first book is vitally important to the growth and development of God’s Children. From the account of creation to the fall of mankind; from the great flood to the new world; from the covenant of Abraham to the twelve sons of Israel, history (His Story), reveals God working with man to bring him to his greatest day.

Genesis contains fifty chapters of crucial interaction between God and man as God guides, guards and rebuilds His dream. God is preparing a people, giving them instruction and examples to follow, so that they might rise up, take their stand, claim their inheritance and live His dream. Before concluding the Book of Genesis God included every principle necessary to life and life more abundantly. If you can’t find support for a doctrine within the principles contained in the book of Genesis then I would consider that doctrine to be in error. Genesis is a book of truths that transcend time.

Suffice it to say that I believe that the book of Genesis says it all. This is why we have been paying special attention to the life of one of the central figures in the book of Genesis. This person I am referring to is Joseph. Why Joseph?

Out of the 50 chapters in Genesis, 13 of those chapters are taken up with the story of Joseph’s life, from chapter 37 till the very last verse:

Genesis 50:26 So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

Joseph is God’s chosen pattern for mankind’s journey through life. From that proverbial 98 pound weakling to the heavy weight champion of the known world, God walked with Joseph step by step through every challenge, transforming Joseph into the winner God had birthed him to be. We should all pay special attention to Joseph’s life story and add his character qualities to our life so that we too might be transformed step by step into the champion God sees in us.

So without further be-laboring of the point … let’s turn to Genesis 41 and continue adding to our spiritual exercises with three exercises for week 5 of our Ten Weeks To A New You.

If you have missed any of the weeks prior, please log onto church online dot TV to view the archived message or you can also purchase a DVD of any of the lessons from the information desk or through COTR dot com. Some have asked if these teachings will be available in a set and the answer is yes. At the end of the ten weeks we will put the whole ten lessons into a DVD set and make those available at our cost.

Ok … The first spiritual exercise for week 5 comes from Genesis 41.

Joseph is 30 years old and has been separated from his family for over a decade. He has been sold twice, spitefully accused of rape and put into prison. While in prison he became the head trustee and was also given charge to serve the King’s prisoners. Two of the prisoners we studied in Week 4 were the Chief Butler and Baker.

You may remember they both dreamed separate dreams in one night and the dreams troubled them. Joseph accurately interpreted the dreams and in only three days, just as Joseph told them, the Chief Baker was hanged but the Chief Butler was restored to his former position, waiting on the King of Egypt.

In repayment for the kindness showed to the Chief Butler and the dream interpreted, Joseph asks only that the butler remember him when he returned to his royal position. However, he forgot Joseph.

Let’s pick up the story with the last verse in:

Genesis 40:23 Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

Genesis 41
1 ¶ Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream …
8 Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them for Pharaoh.
9 ¶ Then the chief butler spoke to Pharaoh, saying: "I remember my faults this day.

The butler told Pharaoh how that when he was in prison with the Chief Baker they both dreamed dreams which troubled them. Yet, there was a young Hebrew man in prison who accurately interpreted their dreams and so it happened, just as this man had told them.

What was going on in Joseph’s life during these two years?

1. Faithfulness

For two full years after Joseph interpreted the butler’s dream, after the butler was restored to his former position, Joseph continued to faithfully exercise himself to Godliness and allow God the time and space to be God.

* Joseph was faithful, trusting and depending on God and not on the arm of the flesh.
* Sometimes people forget … but God never forgets.
* God has a plan for my life and He has not forgotten me.
* God’s timing is perfect.
* Joseph trusted God with his present circumstances and with his future.
* The absolute best thing we can do is to be faithful where we are for as long as we are where we are.

2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

* Ability is nothing without faithfulness …
* God will make the faithful able, but He cannot make the able faithful.
* What we do while we wait on God will often determine how long we wait.
* Do not be weary in well doing for in due season you will reap if you faint not.
* A part of being faithful is learning to wait on God. Wait patiently on the Lord and while you wait … BE FAITHFUL!

The second exercise for this week is:

2. Flexibility

Genesis 41:14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh.

* Don’t be prideful … God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
* Humility is not being quiet on the outside while screaming on the inside.
* Humility is not appearing submissive to those over you while telling your three best friends how you are being mistreated.
* Humility comes from a heart that is truly dependent on God.

Genesis 41
15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it."
16 So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace."

* The truly humble will be flexible.

Flexibility is the ability to embrace change or transition in a graceful manner.
* God’s new wine cannot be poured into inflexible containers
* Ability without faithful is nothing … so … ability without flexibility is not all it could be.
* When told to bathe and put on new clothes, Joseph simply went with the flow of God.
* Whether we are called upon to lead, follow or get out of the way … what is that to us, except we are inflexible or filled with pride.

Joseph was neither … not that it did not matter to Joseph … certainly he had wants, desires, skills, abilities and dreams … however … he exercised himself to Godliness and remained flexible, embracing change and transition in a graceful manner.

Joseph continued to rub the anointing oil of a right relationship with God and man on his life. This kept Joseph flexible, pliable, moldable, easy to work with and out of the stubborn ruts of life.

If we are not careful we can make some assessments, some judgments and draw some conclusions that take us down the wrong path in life. How do we keep from doing this … our 3rd exercise:

3. Perspective

All we know is the little we know until we know more. At times when we know more the little we know is just blown away. Yet, so many people guide their life by the little they know … their own limited perspective. “Do you know who I think I am?”

Genesis 41:33 Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt.

Now I am certain that many of us would have used this moment to be a little more self promoting. After all, this was most likely the first time in several years that Joseph had been treated to such fine things. He had a fresh shave, a bath, and new clothes and was standing in a place that probably smelled a whole lot better than his current prison cell. I imagine the change felt nice and desirable.

Think Joseph wanted to stay in the palace or go back to the prison?

How many of use would have changed the scripture just a little and said: “Now therefore, let Pharaoh appoint me over the land of Egypt …”

Come on now … we all know who we think we are … many men are legends in their own mind, serving delusions of grandeur, sadly mistaken and so often frustrated when not recognized or chosen …

Perspective can be broken down phonetically and understood as:

Per = according to
Spective = small view

Your perspective is basically how you see things from your viewpoint … it may not be real … it may not be how others see it and it may not be how God sees things. We may need a new paradigm.

Life must be viewed from the big picture … sometimes we have it and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we must put ourselves in other people’s shoes so we can gain a greater perspective.

With the wrong perspective you could have the sails on your ship set to catch a wind that never blows.

Joseph knew that there may be things beyond his perspective and beyond what he was currently aware of. Joseph attempted to view the situation he was in through Pharaoh’s eyes and not just his own.

Put a knife to your throat when you dine with a King … it’s probably not all about your hunger … get a bigger perspective! (Pro 23)

James 4:13-16 tells us not to boast in our own arrogance about tomorrow saying that we are going to a certain city and make a profit … rather we should always say, “If the Lord wills” … this will allow for God to have a different view than we may have.

* Don’t get your heart set on your own ideas. God may want to do it another way or He may not want to do it at all.
* Don’t assume or be presumptuous
* Be not wise in your own eyes but acknowledge the Lord …
* Don’t always be focused on how things affect you
* Don’t get stuck in that early selfish stage of human development where you think everyone sees things from your vantage point
* Don’t get depressed when life does not unfold according to your expectations, assumptions or perspective.
* When the decision is not yours to make don’t assume you know all the factors that form the answer.
* Endeavor to see things from God’s big picture perspective

Isaiah 55
8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.
9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

If time permits, create a paradigm shift with the late night sleepy travel story between Dallas and Texarkana.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stand Tall


Our message today will come from a passage in 2 Samuel 23.

Key Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:7 “…For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Throughout history there have been those who have stood tall, made their mark and left their legacy as an example for us to follow.

It has taken men and women from varied races, differing cultures and diverse traditions working together to make America the proud and strong nation God has used to spread His Gospel message around the world.

February is Black History Month in America. In respect to this 83 year old tradition, I want to share a couple of stories which epitomize the grace, strength, character and determination of some less well known pioneers of our faith and nation in hopes of showing what makes a true American truly great.

First this morning I want to introduce you to:

Jarena Lee (1783-185?)

Jarena Lee was a Black woman born on February 11, 1783 in Cape May, New Jersey. Jarena was born the same year the American Revolutionary War ended, two years before George Washington accepted his first presidency and six years before the Constitution of the United States along with its Bill of Rights was ratified. What a pivotal moment in history.

Prior to the early 1800’s the American Colonies were mostly populated by slaves, convicts from Great Britain and indentured servants from India, Africa and all across Europe. In 1700 fully half of the total population of America was Black. The census of 1790 revealed that 75% of the population of Kentucky were indentured to a company or in some way owned by another person. As I said, these were people who had come to America either as slaves, convict laborers or indentured servants. Jarena Lee was none of these … Jarena was born free.

Jarena Lee was raised by parents who were not God conscious people and therefore she was taught nothing about Him. However, in her early twenties Jarena came under the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit while attending the African Episcopal Methodist Church in Philadelphia. During one meeting she fell under such conviction of sin that she gave her life to Jesus and, moved by His Spirit, began testifying and exhorting others to repentance and salvation.

Some time after her conversion Jarena heard a voice speak to her and say, “Preach the Gospel”. She considered that it might be the devil speaking to her since she saw no way in which this could ever happen. She finally petitioned her pastor who told her that he just did not know if this was even a possibility within their denomination or scripture for that matter. Soon afterwards Jarena married Joseph Lee, Pastor of a small congregation on the outskirts of Philadelphia.

Somewhere near 1815, Jarena’s husband died leaving her with two small children. It had been 8 years since she had first heard the call to preach. During those 8 years Jarena continued to petition the Reverend Richard Allen, who had now become the Bishop of his denomination, to license her and release her to the ministry.

One Sunday during the morning service Jarena was so moved by the Holy Spirit that she interrupted a visiting minister and began to exhort the congregation with power and conviction. Bishop Allen stood and made a public confession that after eight years of constant petitioning, he believed that she was truly called by God to preach the Gospel. He therefore sanctioned her and released her to minister. Jarena’s persistence had paid off!

Over the next many years Jarena Lee became known far and wide for her powerful preaching and missionary work which she traveled great distances to accomplish. She was indeed hindered both by her color and her gender and encountered great prejudices. Nonetheless, empowered by the Holy Ghost, she preached and the conviction of God fell on all those who heard, saints and sinners alike.

There was no where she would not go and no one she would not speak to. In 1827, for instance, she traveled 2,325 miles and delivered a total of 178 sermons calling sinners to repentance and a new nation to righteousness. Jarena Lee stands tall as one of the founding mothers of Christianity in American History.

A second African American pioneer of our great faith and nation was:

Willie Kennard: Yankee Hill's Black Marshal
The unlikely tamer of Colorado's wild Yankee Hill was 42-year-old black marshal Willie Kennard.
By Gerald Lindemann
The Colorado gold mining town of Yankee Hill desperately needed a new town marshal, having lost its last three in only a three-month stretch. The reason for the high turnover rate was a hard case named Barney Casewit. Fast with a gun, with no qualms about killing, he had bullied and terrorized the town for two years. The culmination of his vile reign of terror came in 1874. After he raped 15-year-old Birdie Campbell, the girl's father, a bookkeeper at the bank, tried to avenge his daughter. Casewit shot him dead and then did the same to the marshal at the time, a man named Craig, who attempted to arrest Casewit. Ben Reed from nearby Ruby Hill replaced Marshal Craig, but Reed also was outgunned by Casewit. The next lawman the camp hired turned in his badge and shipped out of town one night after watching Casewit gun down two saddle tramps.

Yes, Yankee Hill desperately needed a new marshal. The town councilmen, however, never expected anyone like Willie Kennard to show up in answer to the advertisement they had placed in the Rocky Mountain News. Matt Borden, owner of the Square Deal General Store and mayor of Yankee Hill, and the four other councilmen were discussing town business over their usual cups of morning coffee in Fat Sarah Palmer's Cafe when a gangly 42-year-old black man approached them and said he had read the ad. "You mean you can read, boy?" one of the councilmen asked. Notwithstanding the grim look on Kennard's face, Mayor Borden decided to have some fun with this unlikely candidate for marshal. Before the councilmen could hire anyone, they had to make certain he was up to handling the job. A little test was in order. The job was his if he could arrest a notorious criminal who at that very moment was across the street playing poker in Gaylor's Saloon. That was agreeable to Kennard, who pinned on a star and calmly headed for the saloon to make his first arrest.
One of the councilmen, lawyer Bert Corgan, later wrote in his autobiography, Mining Camp Lawyer (published in 1897 by Pruett Bros. of Los Angeles): "I was perplexed by this darky. He was either, I calculated, an impetuous bunghead or as cold-blooded a gunslinger as ever I saw. With the others, I accompanied him to Gaylor's Saloon, a rowdy place which the miscreant, Barney Casewit, frequented."

After pausing momentarily to size up his quarry, Kennard moved toward Casewit's table. Casewit and his cronies really thought it hilarious when Kennard told him he was under arrest. "I'm just supposed to come with you?" Casewit asked innocently. "Where are we supposed to go?" When Kennard told him it was his choice, either jail or hell, Casewit knew the new lawman was not bluffing. And the way he wore his two revolvers, low and tied down, meant he probably knew how to use them. But Casewit was not about to let himself be arrested. Even if he wasn't hanged, no one would ever respect him again if word got around that he had backed down to a black man.

Casewit got to his feet and, not heeding Kennard's last-chance warning to give up peaceably, reached for the Colt .44s at his sides. The badman had barely gotten his hands on the butts when, according to Corgan, Kennard did something only talked about in legend but never before actually seen by anyone in Gaylor's Saloon. Kennard drew his revolver and fired into Casewit's still holstered Colts. The impact of the bullets knocked the butts out of Casewit's hands. The shots almost ripped the holsters from his gunbelt and rendered his guns totally useless. Two of Casewit's companions, Ira Goodrich and Sam Betts, decided this would be a propitious moment to make their moves on behalf of their friend. They were dead wrong. Kennard dropped them both with clean shots between the eyes as they drew, their guns barely clearing leather. Casewit's hands instantly went straight up. He was taking no chances lest Kennard think he also might try something.

Justice was usually swift in the mining camps and towns of the Old West. The trial was held the next day, with Corgan, the only man in Yankee Hill available who had knowledge of the law, presiding. Casewit was found guilty of raping Birdie Campbell and sentenced to hang. Not wanting to waste time and money building a gallows, Corgan instructed Kennard to nail a crossbar to an old pine behind Glen Ritchey's blacksmith shop. Casewit's hands were tied behind his back, and a noose was looped around his neck. Kennard pulled him up about 10 feet off the ground. Casewit tried to delay his demise by wrapping his legs around the tree trunk and shinnying up it. He only succeeded in prolonging his agony. After about 20 minutes, the strength in his legs gave out. Releasing his grip, Casewit could only dangle helplessly as the rope slowly strangled him to death.
After this astonishing performance, no one on the Yankee Hill town council doubted Willie Kennard's ability to fully execute the duties of the office of marshal; however, they wanted to know something about the man before taking him on permanently. Kennard obligingly filled them in on his background.

During the Civil War he had been a corporal in the 7th Illinois Rifles, a company made up entirely of black volunteers. Having a natural talent for using sidearms, he was made an instructor at the Montrose Training Camp. After the war, having found scant opportunities for civilian employment, Kennard enlisted in a black unit, the 9th Cavalry. He served five years at Fort Bliss, Texas, and then relocated with his unit to Fort Davis in Arizona Territory. He saw action against the Warm Springs Apache and Mescalero Apache. When his enlistment ran out, Kennard drifted about for a few months before responding to the newspaper ad in the summer of 1874 and becoming the marshal of Yankee Hill, Colorado Territory, at the tidy salary of $100 per month.

The town of Yankee Hill had a short but fascinating history. In 1858, pay dirt was struck in Colorado Territory in the area around Pikes Peak. As word spread, another California-style gold rush began. By 1866, hundreds of small mining camps had sprouted. Among them was Yankee Hill, situated about 25 miles west of Denver. Benefitting from its location on the toll road (the so-called Gold Trail) between Central City and Georgetown, Yankee Hill flourished. By 1874 the town had several hundred permanent residents and a few hundred more transient prospectors. Yankee Hill's progress and prosperity brought with it the expected influx of human predators, including men like Barney Casewit who were fast with a gun and totally bereft of conscience. Relying on locals to enforce the laws and maintain order was not good enough anymore. And so it was that Yankee Hill advertised for a professional town tamer.

Willie Kennard's auspicious debut as town marshal earned him instant respect from the citizens of Yankee Hill, who were grateful to be free of Casewit's cruel tyranny. It was inevitable, though, that there would be those who could not accept the concept of a black man as town marshal. Reese Durham, local manager of the Butterfield Stage Station, became obsessed with the desire to run the lawman out of town. On the afternoon of September 2, 1874, emboldened by several glasses of whiskey, Durham challenged Kennard to a gunfight but only earned himself an early trip to the local cemetery.

In the spring of 1875, the town was being plagued by a gang of outlaws preying on the freight wagons and passenger stages that traveled the Gold Trail. The gang was an eight-man outfit led by Billy McGeorge, a 40-year-old fugitive from the Colorado Territorial Prison at Canon City. The town council asked Marshal Kennard to go out and round them up.

Not wanting to chase McGeorge up and down the trails and over half the territory, the marshal decided to set a trap. He had posters nailed to trees, offering a $50 reward for McGeorge's capture "dead or alive." McGeorge flew into a fit of rage when he saw one of the posters. There wasn't another marshal in the territory offering less than $300. It was an insult that could not go unchallenged. On Monday, June 28, 1875, McGeorge and his gang rode into Yankee Hill to secure vengeance.

Alerted to their arrival, Kennard met them at the end of Front Street with a double-barreled shotgun loaded with buckshot. He ordered McGeorge and his men to toss their rifles to the ground. One of the outlaws, Cash Downing, tested the black marshal's skill with a gun and paid for it with his life. The shot also killed the outlaw behind Downing and shattered the glass of the Evans Hardware Store. McGeorge then ordered his men to drop their guns. As Kennard led the gang off to the hoosegow, McGeorge vowed that someday he would get even. However, that day never came for McGeorge. Lawyer Bert Corgan, again acting as judge, had a slew of charges to choose from on which to try McGeorge. The murders of a family of immigrants from Ohio named Stalcup were suitable for the purpose. Found guilty, Billy McGeorge was hanged from the same pine on which Barney Casewit had met his fate just one year earlier.

By 1877, Kennard had thoroughly tamed the once wild and woolly mining town. The population was also declining as the gold began to play out. The traffic through Yankee Hill dropped because mining in Central City and Georgetown had plummeted. Kennard, most likely Colorado's first black lawman, decided it was time for him to move on as well. He handed in his badge, saying he was headed back East to find a wife. Not much is known of his whereabouts or activities after he left Yankee Hill. He surfaced for a time in Denver in 1884, working as a bodyguard for Barney Ford, a wealthy businessman and former slave who became known as the "Black Baron of Colorado." Where Kennard went after that remains a mystery, as does the date of his death. As for Yankee Hill, it is gone and all but forgotten. Only remnants of a few buildings remain.

Legendary lawmen such as Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and Wild Bill Hickok are well remembered today, but most Western lawmen, like Willie Kennard, toiled and died in obscurity after bringing law and order to an untamed land. Bat Masterson described them as "just plain ordinary men who could shoot straight and had the most utter courage and perfect nerve--and, for the most part, a keen sense of right and wrong." Well, in Willie Kennard's case, maybe not so ordinary.
This article was written by Gerald Lindemann and originally appeared in the February 1996 issue of Wild West.

Marshal Willie Kennard was truly one of America’s Mighty Men … A man who stood tall against all odds.

Marshal Kennard reminds me of a man in the bible named Gideon whom God deputized to clean up the town. (Judges 6ff)

The Bible contains several stories of men and women with the same faith and conscious convictions we so admire in people like Jarena Lee and Willie Kennard.

People who stood tall in the face of adversity, against the odds and persevere through hard times for little or no guaranteed earthly reward. Men and women who right wrongs, protect the innocent, challenge injustice and bring conviction to a nation dependent on its leaders to be right and righteous, moral and unselfish … Men and women who stand tall against the odds.

2 Samuel 23 (KJV)
8 ¶ These be the names of the mighty men whom David had: The Tachmonite that sat in the seat, chief among the captains; the same was Adino the Eznite: he lift up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time.
9 And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David, when they defied the Philistines that were there gathered together to battle, and the men of Israel were gone away:
10 He arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to spoil.
11 And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles: and the people fled from the Philistines.
12 But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the LORD wrought a great victory.

David’s Mighty Men stood tall in difficult times.
* Times which came to test them, their character and their resolve.
* Hard times test our commitment … easy times test our character.

Those who leave a legacy of character and commitment are those who, like David’s mighty men, choose to stand tall in tough times, even in the face of:

Insurmountable Odds
800 against 1, Adino engaged the fight and stood tall
Indefinable Fatigue
Wearied by the battle, Eleazar fought on and stood tall
Insignificant Reward
Alone and for beans, Shammah stood his ground and stood tall

Perhaps like Queen Ester and David’s Mighty Men, Jarena Lee went against the odds to bring salvation to her nation and she, along with Marshal Kennard, the first black lawman in Colorado, were people born for such a time. The marvelous mystery of God is that we all are born to serve at our greatest in the times in which we live.

They did this against all odds, often alone in the heat of the battle and for a whole lot less money than what it was worth. History bears witness, they are truly among America’s Mighty sons and daughters.

Where are America’s Mighty Men and Women of today?
Many of them are serving in our military, and in our communities as policeman, fireman, as nurses and teachers, coaches and clergy, as foster parents and CASA workers, in family practice and community projects, standing tall and giving their lives to right wrongs, protect the innocent and challenge injustice.

Where are God’s Mighty Men and Women today?
Right here in front of me!

You are the ones whom God has called to stand tall for Him in this day … even when you may be called to stand:
Against Insurmountable Odds
In The Face of Indefinable Fatigue
For Seemingly Insignificant Reward

Man may not see the potential inside of you but God does. God looks after the heart and not after the outward appearance.

The Angel called Gideon a, “Mighty man of valor”, before Gideon did anything heroic. (Judges 6:12)

Won’t you take your stand and stand tall this week. Stand up and stand tall for Jesus; Protect the innocent; Challenge injustice; Preach the Gospel! (Colossians 3:17 Do everything you do for God’s glory.)

May God Continue To Bless America and May God Bless You!
* You stand your tallest when you stand with Jesus …

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Spiritual Fitness Ten Weeks To A New You Week 4


Ok you know the routine …
* Imagine you at your best …
* In the best condition of life …
* Wiser, stronger, more spiritually fit than ever …
* You at your best for you, your family and your God …

What are you doing right now to get yourself from where you are to that best place in life?

Remember: A dream is not a plan!

* You have an image of you at your best
* You have considered some things you must do in order to move yourself closer to that image
* Now, open your mouth, take a chance, make a declaration of faith … tell somebody about it … if only talking to yourself or to the devil … tell somebody! Pull the trigger and start the race.

These stretching exercises are important to your faith and spiritual fitness. With those first three exercises in mind, let’s tackle the new exercises for this week. Turn to the book of Genesis.

Last week we concluded in Genesis 39 with the continuing review of Joseph’s life, that 98 pound weakling whom God turned into a real heavy weight champion of the whole known world. Both God and Joseph teach us that:

Success in life is more than a one step process.

God wants every Believer to do some spiritual exercises every day so that each one of us might grow stronger and last longer and not faint in the day of our greatest need.

We ended week three with:

Genesis 39:23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.

At the age of seventeen Joseph caught a glimpse of destiny. He saw something in a dream that spoke to him and gave him a vision and hope for his future. No one else in his world imagined that what Joseph saw could actually come to pass. However, this dream Joseph had was but a seed of the destiny God planted in Joseph’s life and it was Joseph’s trust in God’s dream that kept him on track through many years of hardships and great difficulties.

By the time we get to the end of Genesis 39, Joseph is 27 or 28 years old and had been separated from his family for about 10 years. He was sold by his jealous brothers, falsely reported as having been vicious killed by wild animals, taken to a foreign country, sold into slavery, unjustly accused of attempted rape, and thrown into prison.

At every injustice served him, his accusers benefited. All Joseph had was a dream for his future and he would not let go of that dream. Now in prison Joseph continues adding to his life the virtues of a spiritually fit child of God … Joseph is growing spiritually strong.

We pick up this story in the very next verse:

Genesis 40
1 ¶ It came to pass after these things that the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt.
2 And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief butler and the chief baker.
3 So he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison, the place where Joseph was confined.
4 And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them; so they were in custody for a while.
5 ¶ Then the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man’s dream in one night and each man’s dream with its own interpretation.
6 And Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad.
7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in the custody of his lord’s house, saying, "Why do you look so sad today?"

As if Joseph did not have enough troubles of his own. In the eyes of the world Joseph ought to have been the one sitting around in the corner of his cell, perhaps curled up in a fetal position, crying about his plight and the unfairness of his situation, waiting for someone to bring him his daily ration of bread and water.

However, this is not the posture of a man who is exercising himself to spiritually fitness. Joseph wanted to be ready at any moment to embrace his dream. There was not time for self pity.

In order to become spiritually fit we need to exercise ourselves, regardless of our own problems, exercise ourselves in the virtues of:

1. Kindness

* If we help enough people get what they want, we will get what we want.
* Joseph was given the keys to his own prison, he was a trustee, but he could not set himself free … his freedom was going to come through someone else … someone to whom he was kind.
* Our greatest blessings in life may be waiting on us becoming a blessing to others.

Job 42:10 ¶ And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.

* Pray for others, be kind to them … try to meet someone else’s need every day … and watch God deliver you in return.

A second virtue Joseph added to his exercise program was:

2. Candidness

The Chief Butler and the Chief Baker of Pharaoh were very sad to find themselves out of the palace and in prison. Each of them had a very vivid dream the same night and could not figure out what their dreams meant. When Joseph took the time and asked them to share their dreams with him they agreed.

* So many people in prison have dreams but don’t understand what they mean.

First the Chief Butler told his dream and Joseph was given the interpretation from God. Joseph promptly told him that he would be restored to his former position within three days.

Seeing that the interpretation given to the butler was a favorable one, the baker told Joseph his dream too. When the Spirit of God gave Joseph understanding of the dream it was not favorable. Joseph knew that in three days the baker would be hanged on a tree and that the birds would peck at and eat his flesh.

What could Joseph do? This was a horrible interpretation, a devastating message for anyone to hear. How could Joseph say such a thing? The only way … with care, but with candidness.

* Joseph answered in a responsibly honest manner.
* There is a difference between being responsibly honest and being irresponsibly honest.

This baker had a need and a right to know and even though it was difficult to hear, nonetheless it was best that he be told the truth.

* It is important for our spiritual fitness that we have and exercise the ability to be candid, not irresponsibly honest, unkind or uncaring, but when the situation calls for it … straightforward.

A few years ago I was in Canyon City, Colorado visiting with a new ministry acquaintance. Earlier that morning while in prayer I asked the Lord to help me become a good counselor to other pastors and leaders and to give me wisdom and grace to speak the truth to other people in love.

I heard in my spirit that I should be both willing and able to tell others to their face what I would tell my wife about them in private. That challenged me. So, after listening to this pastor across the breakfast table and feeling compassion for him, I took a deep breath and simply said, “Allow me to be candid with you. The very best counsel I can give you is to tell you face to face what I would tell my wife about you.”

With this I saw is eyes searching my facial expressions and gauging my body language for any signs of falseness or lack of sincerity. Finding none he asked me to please continue. I was candid and it ministered to him in a very profound way. From that time forth I have been able to draw on that experience when truth, although difficult, deserves to be shared. I get a lot of exercise on this one and it has become one of my most relied upon strengths.

Proverbs 27:5 Open rebuke is better than secret love.

Not only should we exercise ourselves by Kindness and Candidness but also we need to realize the power of:

3. Influence

Genesis 40
14 "But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house.
21 Then Pharaoh restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.
22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them.
23 Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

* Don’t think that because nothing happens immediately that nothing will happen.
* God knows how and when to awaken His Word and Will in a person’s life.
* You have more influence than you imagine … than you may ever see.

(Tell the story of Musa Njuguna and the South African missionary)

* You have not because you ask not …
* Ask and receive that your joy will be full …
* Spend your spiritual capital
* You will no longer need your spiritual capital and influence in heaven
* Through influence one can lead from the middle of the pack

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Assignment for this week:

1. Take time to be kind.

2. Be responsibly honest and speak the truth in love.

3. Contemplate your circle of influence. Do something to build and bless the kingdom of God by using your influence.

Your blessing and best in life might be waiting just on the other side of you blessing and helping someone else.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Handfuls of Purpose


Life is a script which only God can write.

Key Scriptures: Ruth 2
15 … Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let Ruth glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not:
16 And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.

The book of Ruth is actually a story about two people who are very different but who are perfectly joined together for God’s plan. This story of Ruth and Boaz is a love story which was written in heaven.

Life should be a script that only God can write.

Scholars agree that Boaz is a type and shadow of the Bethlehem born Messiah who takes to Himself a Gentile bride, Ruth, who is a picture of the New Testament Church.

The authority of this book is unquestioned and believed to be written by the prophet Samuel in order to bridge the gap between the Judges and the King he so dearly loved and anointed, King David.

The story of Ruth …
* Begins about the year 1200 BC … some say nearer 1186BC, when the Midianite army was raiding the land of Israel, stealing their harvested crops, so that food was nowhere to be found. This takes place at the same time God sends His angel to call a young man named Gideon to deliver the Children of Israel from their enemies.
* At that time, since there was no food in Israel, a man from Bethlehem took his wife named Naomi, along with their two sons and moved them to the neighboring land of Moab, just on the East side of the Dead Sea in the bordering country we now call Jordan.
* While in the land of Moab … (Ruth 1-4 – The Story)
* … in the end Boaz redeems Ruth, marries her and …

The story of Ruth reveals three Kingdom Principles that are worth noting. You see, God does things on purpose … daily He still delivers us handfuls of purpose. How can we take advantage of these opportunities of a lifetime? Let’s consider these Kingdom Principles.

1. A Kingdom Covenant

Ruth 1
14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
15 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.
16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

There is a difference between kissing and cleaving. Many will kiss with good intentions but God is looking for those who have a covenant conviction … a capacity to cleave.

Covenant between two people is possible when they both realize that God has divinely orchestrated their relationship for a Kingdom purpose higher and more valuable than their individual desires. God joins people together for His purpose.

When people embrace that spark of destiny’s covenant we often have no words to adequately express it, so we call it love … and it is … it is the love of God which is meant to bind souls together in His Kingdom cause … a relationship born by the spirit, flooding the soul, joining the hearts. Covenant is a conviction which demands expression.

We see a prime example of this in the covenant between Jonathan and David.

1 Samuel 18:1ff
Now when David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul … Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.

2 Samuel 1:26 How I weep for you, my brother Jonathan! Oh, how much I loved you! And your love to me was deep, surpassing the love of women!

No less moving is the relationship we have with Christ and with those to whom He joins us in covenant.

Not only does the story of Ruth and Boaz tell us about the Kingdom Covenant but it also reveals the power and purpose of:

2. A Kingdom Culture

You will find nothing more powerful than the uncommon courtesies of just being kind to others, friends, neighbors, strangers and yes, even your enemies. This is a part of the Kingdom Culture.

Ruth 2
8 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, "Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the women working in my field.
9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to bother you. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well."
10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. "Why are you being so kind to me?" she asked. "I am only a foreigner."
11 "Yes, I know," Boaz replied. "But I also know about the love and kindness you have shown your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers.
12 May the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully."

Boaz was nice to Ruth … Ruth cared for Naomi’s welfare … Naomi appreciated Ruth and promoted her … the good-guys in this story were not lazy or selfish, greedy or jealous, but rather they cared for one another and were kind to each other.

Kingdom Culture is nothing more than living the simple courtesies of life which God gave man from the beginning. Those character qualities such as kindness and consideration, treating others the way we want to be treated ourselves, patient and forgiving, encouraging and helpful along life’s way. We should be unselfish, non critical, non condemning, and non judgmental people of our word.

This is the kind of person God can work through. Boaz and Ruth were examples of people who believed in and lived according to Kingdom Culture. It was rare in those days and it is still rare today.

God has called His children to a higher way of life than their own humanity, nationality or ethnicity. While we cherish and celebrate the heritage we were born to or have adopted along the way, we reach higher to see, higher to know, higher to embrace the Kingdom way of life. Covenant Believers have no other gods before Jehovah and follow no greater commands than to:

Love God more than we do ourselves and to love others as much as we do ourselves.

Let’s not miss the greatest opportunities of life, those handfuls of purpose from heaven … let’s not disqualify ourselves because we won’t forgive, are selfish, greedy or follow after the ways of this world and serve another god. Let’s adopt a Kingdom Culture as our dominant philosophy of life and be kind. This is the way of Christ.

The story of Ruth teaches us about a Kingdom Covenant and a Kingdom Culture but it is also a testimony of:

3. A Kingdom Commitment

The Kingdom Commitment I am referring to is a commitment which God made. You see, God is committed to the Kingdom of His Dear Son. So committed that He orchestrates Kingdom covenants and superintends the events of life to bring about His purpose … no one can stop Him … God is committed to the Kingdom.

I find it more than intriguing how God devises plans and coordinates the lives of men and women for years, generation after generation, in order to fulfill His Kingdom purposes. God had been orchestrating Ruth’s redemption for years and years and years.

We notice in the last few verses of the book of Ruth that some credit is given to the lineage of this man Boaz who, as we understand, is a great, great grandfather to both Mary, the mother of Jesus, and to Joseph, her husband, who adopted Jesus.

Ruth 4:18 Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron

Why did the writer go back only so far as Pharez in the genealogy?

God wants us to understand that He is so committed to His Kingdom purpose that He looked down from heaven and saw this young boy named Pharez and, despite his birth circumstances and his condition of life, God called him and used him anyway. Who is Pharez?

Ruth 4:12 And let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the LORD shall give thee of this young woman.

Pharez was the son of Judah, born to his daughter-in-law Tamar who disguised herself as a prostitute. She pretended to be soliciting along a roadside when she enticed Judah into her tent to lay with her whereupon she became pregnant with twin boys. However God still chose to use Pharez and blessed him greatly, more so than many realize. Pharez’s descendants run from Caleb to David, from Jabez to Zerubbabel. Pharez was and still is favored by God.

Not only did God use Pharez but He also used Ruth, a Moabitess! Who were the Moabites? What were Ruth’s roots and what difference did it make then or does it make now?

Genesis 19
36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
37 And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.

Moab was the son of Lot born to his eldest daughter, conceived in a cave, one drunken night as the result of an incestuous relationship. For this reason the Moabites were looked down upon, especially by the descendants of Jacob … how could God ever use a person like that?

How could God choose to use either of them, Ruth or Boaz?

* Because of their Kingdom Covenant
* Because of their Kingdom Culture
* Because of His Kingdom Commitment

And it’s no different with you and me. God does not see as other men see, is not limited by what limits man and has a perspective and a purpose that is out of this world.

In conclusion I encourage us all to:

1. Open our hearts to recognize and embrace the covenant relationships God has purposed for our life.

2. Be willing to be inconvenienced for others … realize that it is not out of our way to help others … it is on our way … right on our way to heaven … be kind.

3. Realize that God is committed to His Kingdom.

Perhaps we need to consider our commitment to His Kingdom and begin receiving our handfuls of purpose today.