Saturday, May 29, 2010

Acceptable Risks


Much of life is a talent contest and what we do with what we have determines what more we get.

And, if we do nothing more than what we are doing, we will get nothing more than what we’ve got.

Uncertainties are a part of life and most decisions require some level of acceptable risk.

This morning, God willing, I hope to help us discover how we can take advantage of the opportunities God is sending our way.

I’ve condensed the heart of this morning’s message into three key elements of truth. Allow me to make these personal to you.

1. God has a plan for your life.
2. He has equipped you to win your current contest.
a. It is imperative you pay attention since your next victory is predicated on what you gain from your current experience
b. Without regard as to whether you win or lose.
c. Your next test is already on its way.
3. Your success will demand your willingness to take some acceptable risks.
a. It may take time.
b. It will require you to trust God.
c. And most likely it will involve work.

Before we proceed, I need to define ‘acceptable risks’. An acceptable risk is one which is in agreement with God: His nature, His name, and His Word.

Colossians 3:17 Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do it all in the Name of Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

If you are offered victory at the risk of violating God’s name, nature or Word - that is an ‘unacceptable risk’.

Matthew 4
8 The devil took Jesus up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
9 And he said to Jesus, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

Jesus faced just such a temptation when presented the opportunity to become ruler of the world by a fairly easy and immediate route. The risks seemed small and the potential rewards great. However, it was an unacceptable risk.

The victory Jesus gained in that moment was not over the kingdoms of this world, but rather over temptation and over Himself.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

The story I have chosen to help us better understand these key elements of truth comes from the book of Genesis, chapter 30. While you turn there, allow me to catch us up on what’s happening.

Jacob was living in Syria with his mother’s older brother, Laban. He had first arrived at his uncle Laban’s house 14 years earlier and had worked all those years for no pay, except for the privilege of marrying Laban’s two daughters, Leah and Rachael.

When we pick up the story, Jacob is 90 years old with eleven sons and one daughter but as yet owns nothing. He is completely at the mercy of his father-in-law. However, remember the three key elements of truth for this morning …

1. God had a plan for every life.
2. We are all equipped to win our current contest.
3. Our success will demand we be willing to take some acceptable risks.

An acceptable risk is an adventure in which there are no guarantees, there’s only hope and trust in God. It may not work out on paper but you think it will work anyway – you pretty much know what you are doing, but there are some risks.

In our story today, God offers Jacob an opportunity but Jacob will have to be willing to take some risks. Let’s pick up on our story in verse 25:

Genesis 30
25 Soon after Rachael had given birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Please release me so I can go home to my own country.
26 Let me take my wives and children, for I have earned them by serving you, and let me be on my way. You certainly know how hard I have worked for you.”
27 “Please stay with me,” Laban replied. “I have become wealthy, for I have seen how the LORD has blessed me because of you.
28 Tell me how much I shall give you. Whatever it is, I will give it.”

31 … “You shall not give me anything. But, if you will do this one thing, I will continue to feed and take care of your flocks.”

This is what Jacob proposed:
Jacob and his sons would go throughout all Laban’s flock and separate the pure white sheep from all the sheep that had any non white or mixed colored wool. They would then move all of the sheep with colored wool three days distance and keep the two groups completely separate. Jacob would tend to the sheep with pure white wool himself.

It was agreed that any spotted or colored sheep which were born from within the group of those pure white-wool sheep would become the property of Jacob, thus allowing him to begin building his own flock.

Of course this was more than satisfactory to Laban who was well acquainted with the odds of two white wool sheep possessing and passing on a dominant color gene. (The old timers of a more recent history considered colored sheep, specifically black sheep, to be a marker. Instead of counting their whole flock they would only count the black sheep as one of a hundred. If they counted 10 black sheep, they numbered their flock at 1000. It was said that when you had your markers counted, you had numbered your flock.)

So, this was more than acceptable to Laban. But what made Jacob take this risk? Well, Jacob knew that:

1. God had a plan for his life
2. He was well equipped for this adventure. (You see, God will most likely bless you in the area which he has equipped you)
3. He was willing to take some acceptable risk. (He may not have known all the details, and it certainly did not work out on paper, but he had received inspiration from God in the form of a dream)

You have heard it said that success is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. This was so in the case of God prospering Jacob. It took Jacob six years of hard work, following the dream God gave him, to finally build the wealth God wanted him to have.

What actually happened? Well, it’s an amazing story, and since I love to tell the stories of the Bible, let me fill you in on this one. This story has so many life applications.

In the dream Jacob saw that all the rams which were fathering offspring were speckled, spotted, and multicolored. Well, Jacob had seen this but none of the sheep or goats had seen it. Jacob believed it but he had to find a way to get the sheep and goats to believe it. Jacob saw the rams as multicolored but he needed the rams to see themselves as multicolored. Jacob needed to get them to see themselves differently.

How could he accomplish this? You can read it in full for yourself and discover so many more life applications, but for the sake of this morning’s message, allow me to tell you what Jacob did.

Now remember, Jacob was tending the pure white colored sheep and goats.

So, Jacob took branches from several different trees, green poplar, almond, and chestnut, and he peeled white strips in them to expose the white beneath the bark. These partially peeled places began to turn differing colors of brown. From these branches Jacob made a fence, much like you imagine a bamboo curtain turned sideways. When strung together these branches looked like a multicolored blanket.

Jacob then placed this fence in the breeding pen right in the line of sight for the sheep and goats when they came to drink from the watering troughs for this is where they mated.

Genesis 30:39 So when they conceived before the branches, they gave birth to young that were streaked, speckled, and spotted.

I know, it was a risk, but it was a risk worth taking.

Genesis 30:43 Thus Jacob became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

What you see makes a difference. When Jacob saw what God saw, it was then Jacob’s part to get others to see it. What did Jacob see?

1. He saw that God had a plan for his life.
2. He saw that he was already well equipped for this adventure.
3. He saw this as an acceptable risk worth his investment.
a. It did not violate God’s Name.
b. It did not violate God’s Nature.
c. It did not violate God’s Word.

All it cost Jacob was his time and energy to follow the dream God placed in his heart. What are you doing with the time and energy God has given you?

Remember: Much of life is a talent contest and what we do with what we have determines what more we get. And, if we do nothing more than what we are doing, we will get nothing more than what we’ve got.

Ask God what His plan is for your life and start making a difference today.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Talent Contests


Many of the rewards offered in life are commensurate with the risks which they demand.

Although we in America are sometimes called the “Wal Mart” generation, which refers to the Wal Mart guarantee, “If you don’t like it for any reason, bring it back for a full, cheerful refund” … although we are called the “Wal Mart” generation, life does not always offer guarantees.

Uncertainties are a part of life and most decisions contain some level of acceptable risk.

You have probably heard the saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. Some people however think just the opposite; they say to themselves, “Nothing ventured, nothing lost”. While this may be true in some sense it stands squarely against the higher truths of life. In actuality, we are most likely to lose every time we stand in the batter’s box and refuse to swing; we lose our potential gains every time we choose to do nothing.

Sure, you may miss some of the balls if you swing, but you are guaranteed to miss every ball if you don’t. The game of baseball, like the game of life, contains some acceptable risks. However, games are won, based on the number of runs, and the game is designed to be played by hitters. Those who refuse to take the risks associated with the game will find themselves on the losing side of life and soon they will not be playing the game at all.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

One thing I love about life is that we don’t have to be great to participate. Another thing I love is that we are only asked to participate on our level. And for that reason, every person has the potential to be a star, hit a home run, or make a winning play. All we have to do is use the talent God has given us at the level we can play.

Not every person is called or gifted to play in the major leagues. Rather, everyone is placed in life where they have the potential do their best and win.

It would be wrong to think life is not a competitive sport. We daily compete in life with all that would oppose our victories. From health issues, financial interests, and relationship concerns, to spiritual matters, we compete to determine who wins in this life … Keep in mind: Winners have already been determined in the next life – then, in the next life, there will be no more opponents - however, this life is a competition.

In fact, much of life is a talent contest. Allow me to explain as we turn to:

Matthew 25 NKJV
14 ¶ "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.
15 "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.
16 "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.
17 "And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.
18 "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.
19 "After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’
21 "His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
22 "He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’
23 "His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
24 "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.
25 ‘And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
26 "But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.
27 ‘So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
28 ‘Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
30 ‘And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Life is a talent contest and what we do with what we have determines what more we get.

This is true whether we are talking about opportunities, business, relationships, finances, or faith.

Of course, not everything is going to work every time. And, there are no guarantees except the guarantee that:

If you do nothing more than what you are doing, you will get nothing more than what you’ve got.

By the way, not all risks are acceptable risks, and not all risks should be taken.

There is a story in the Old Testament book of Genesis that tells about a man named Jacob who was a risks taker. Jacob was born with the ability to take risks, some of which he should not have taken.

The Bible tells how things should be and then also tells things how they are. When we read the stories of the Bible we should not always assume that we are free to make the same choices or do the same things that the people in those stories did. If we were to do that there is no telling which story we would pattern our life after … it might be Jezebel or Judas or even some more acceptable character like Samson in one of his bad decision moments of life.

God wants us to learn from many teachers, and in life, just as in the Bible, there are moments in people’s life when they teach us what to do, and how to be, and there are moments when they teach us what not to do and how not to be … both of these are valid lessons.

Such was the case in Jacob’s young life. Genesis 26 records Jacob taking a risk and tricking his father into giving him the blessing which was supposed to be reserved for the firstborn son in the family, which Jacob was not. This deception which was perpetrated by Jacob in conspiracy with his mother held great risks but also potentially great reward. Motivated by the reward, Jacob took the risk.

Even though I do not personally imagine that Jacob was behaving as God would have had him behave, the story does reveal Jacob as having the capacity to take calculated risks. Although this was not the place to have used that strength, nonetheless Jacob would indeed need this ability later in his life when God needed him to take other risks which were just as potentially costly and also just as potentially rewarding.

Remember what we have discussed in the past few weeks?
·Just because you can make it happen does not mean you should make it happen.
·It is not our weaknesses which most often cause us to fail but rather our unbridled strengths.

Another risk Jacob took in life happened several years later when, as a result of deceiving his father, Jacob was living in Syria. This particular story is one of my favorite stories in the Bible.

I will not take the time to tell you the story and its impact on my life right now. However, this coming Sunday I plan to share this story and use its principles to teach you how to achieve success and gain wealth. You see,

Much of life is a talent contest and what you do with what you have determines what more you get.

And, if you do nothing more than what you are doing, you will get nothing more than what you’ve got.

Allow me to reveal some viable alternatives and lay out some acceptable risks.

I’ll see you this Sunday morning, God willing, to discover how you can take advantage of the opportunities God is sending you way.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Journey

During the height of the Roman Empire’s rule in much of the known world, it was considered a great privilege to be a Roman citizen. Citizens of Rome carried a status that afforded many meaningful social and legal benefits which others in the Empire did not enjoy.

  • A Roman citizen was not subject to many of taxes which were levied upon other non-citizens in the Empire
  • A Roman citizen could legally marry another Roman citizen and theirchildren would also be Roman citizens
  • Vote and hold public office
  • Bring law suits
  • Had the right of appeal to a higher court
  • The rights of paterfamilias (fatherhood equaled ownership)
  • Rights of travel and preserved rights of citizenship relocation
  • Could not be tortured, whipped or receive the death penalty exceptfor treason
  • No Roman citizen could die on a cross. (Both the Apostles Paul andPeter were convicted of basically the same crime but died in differing ways;Paul was beheaded while Peter was crucified because Peter was not a citizenof Rome.)
There were three basic ways in which people could become citizens: First a person could be born from the legal union of two Roman citizens; Also, to be the legitimate child of a Roman soldier who was honorably discharged after serving his 20 years military service qualified one as a citizen; And three,one could purchase citizenship from the Empire at great costs. From Biblical records we understand that in about the year 10AD, a son was born to a couple living in what is now South Central Turkey, about 12 miles north of the Mediterranean Sea, in the city of Tarsus which still exists today. During the Roman era, Tarsus was an important commercial center and history tells us it is the place where Mark Anthony first met Cleopatra.

At any rate, Tarsus of that day was known as a city of culture, wealth and education, and it also contained a large and influential Jewish community. Perhaps one of the soldiers sent by Rome, honorably rose in the ranks while stationed in Tarsus and after completing his military duty, married a Jewish girl. This would explain how Saul, a man of Jewish heritage, could be born a citizen of Rome in the city or Tarsus.

Acts 22:3 I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.

As was the custom for influential families of that day, young boys were sent to study abroad. Saul, due to his Jewish roots, was sent to Jerusalem to study under the great teacher, Gamaliel. He excelled in his studies and became zealous for the law of God.

It is reasonable to assume that young Saul was in Jerusalem, at about age 17 or 18, when a man named Jesus was arrested, tried and convicted of proclaiming Himself to be the Son of God. This Jesus was crucified and three days later His followers claimed that He was raised from the dead. Rumors persisted and the follower’s numbers grew until only after a few months the assembly of believers in Jesus as Messiah reached over 8000 converts.

This was not only alarming to the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem but served as a threat to all Jewish communities everywhere. These Believers became more and more organized and confident. They established a secondary level of leaders to help distribute some of the workload brought on by the benevolent efforts of this group. These leaders they called deacons, and one of these deacons was quite a nuisance to the established Jewish religious leaders of that day. His name was Stephen.

One day – well, let me read it to you:

Acts 6 NKJV
8 ¶ And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.
9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen(Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.
10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
11 Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God."

Well, you can imagine, or perhaps you’ve read, what happened.

Acts 7
¶ When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.
55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
56 and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord;
58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Sometime after this event, this young man Saul completed his studies, came of age and decided to stay on in Jerusalem to help fight against these converts and all who followed Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah. And, Saul was pretty good at what he set out to do:

Acts 8:3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house,and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.

At some point Saul decided to approach the High Priest seeking to be deputized and given letters authorizing him to search out and arrest any Jew who was found to be a Believer in Jesus. His requests were met and he was given letters authorizing him to investigate and bring back captive any who were found to be of that way.

Acts 9
3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.
4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul,why are you persecuting Me?"
5 And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads."
6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" Then the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

Saul immediately obeyed and was led blind into the city awaiting further instructions. After three days a Believer named Ananias reluctantly came and laid his hands on Saul, prayed, and Saul’s sight was restored and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Saul, who is also called Paul, was baptized as a Believer in Jesus as Messiah and the rest is history. Can you imagine what peace, what confidence, what boldness, what joy it was to Paul when he found that the journey he had been on all of his life was actually not his journey, but God’s. He loved God and wanted to help. God was involved every step of the way, even before Paul was born, deciding and directing where he would be born, when he would be born, who his parents would be and where they would be from. Although God did not make everychoice for Paul, He nonetheless orchestrated every event to turn out to the benefit of His plan both for Paul and for all mankind. Paul later declared, God works all things together for good. Paul continued his journey on to Damascus but now he was going for God and not for himself. His journey became God’s journey. This reminds me of the story of Jacob told at the end of Genesis 45 and into chapter 46. Jacob was 130 years when he found out that his favorite son,Joseph, was still alive. Jacob had not seen Joseph for more than 20 years.He believed that Joseph had been killed by wild beasts. How deeply Jacob had grieved and mourned over the loss of his son Joseph. Now, all of the sudden, he hears that Joseph his beloved son is alive and a ruler in Egypt. Jacob says with a firm resolve:

Genesis 45:28 Then Israel said, "It is enough. Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die."

Then, with abandon he set out on a long walk to go to Egypt. After a day’s journey, Jacob stopped in Beersheba where he had once dug a well and built and altar. Jacob stopped to offer a sacrifice to God. It was at the altar, in the night, that Jacob had a vision and heard the voice of God.

Genesis 46
2 Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, "Jacob,Jacob!" And he said, "Here I am."
3 So He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there.
4 "I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes."

It was here, at the altar, where Jacob’s journey became God’s journey. Jacob continued on to Egypt and lived with his son Joseph for another 17 years without fear. Why, because he knew it was not his journey, but God’s.

Much like both Saul, stopped on the road to Damascus, and Jacob who stopped on the road to Egypt, we too need to stop and check in with God about our journey. It may not mean a new destination but rather a new reason, a new value, a new vision for the journey you are already on.

You are most likely more in the will of God for your life right now than you give yourself credit for. You may be afraid, lack confidence, have anger issues, doing it for the wrong reasons, have no direction, no joy, no peace, and no connection with God - perhaps you only know your own journey. Stop, check in with God, and you may be amazed that you have been on God’s journey all along. Turn your journey into God’s journey and find the peace you have been missing. Turn your journey over to Him! And remember: The journey is your friend!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Life Change


It seems like the older I get the less I know, that I know for sure. I used to believe I knew almost everything but came to realize along the way that instead of knowing almost everything, I really just had strong opinions on almost everything.

As I am maturing through life a process is taking place which is causing me to identify, clarify and hold tight to the few things which I really do know. I may end up not knowing but a few things, but the few things I do know, those things which have stood the test of life and time are more valuable to me than ever before.

For instance:

1. I know that there is nothing more powerful than love.
* The love of God for mankind.
* The love one person has for another
> Whether it be a man for his wife or a woman for her husband
> The love of a mother for her children
> The love people have for money, fame, power or position
> The love Samson had for Delilah
* Both love which is right and misplaced love, both are powerful.

2. I know God is good; He loves me, knows my name and has a special plan for my life.
* Despite the ills of life which come our way, God is good.
* God is working all things together for the good.
* God can be trusted with my every thought, hope, dream & desire.
* I can talk to Him and He listens and considers my every request.

3. I know that Jesus is the Son of God, Messiah, Savior, Lord and Friend.

4. I know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

5. I know God will forgive, accept and help anyone, at any time, if they are only willing to turn their life over to Him.
* Everyone is a candidate for a life change
* Both the sinner and the saint
> The sinner can be born again
> The saved can have a new day, a fresh start, and another chance.

Life change is something I know something about.

How do you get a life change?

For those who have never been ‘born again’, the life change you need is found in salvation.

However, tonight I feel compelled to speak to those of you who have been saved, those of you who have had a previous encounter with God, do believe that Jesus is the Son of God who paid for your sins on the cross of Calvary. Tonight I want to speak to you who know God, love God and yet need a life change.

Mark 14 NKJV
66 ¶ Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came.
67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, "You also were with Jesus of Nazareth."
68 But he denied it, saying, "I neither know nor understand what you are saying." And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed.
69 And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, "This is one of them."
70 But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, "Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it."
71 Then he began to curse and swear, "I do not know this Man of whom you speak!"
72 A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, "Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." And when he thought about it, he wept.

Peter knew Jesus and knew what was right and yet he acted as though he did not. But, Jesus did not leave him there – at his last worst mistake …

In John 21:15-17, Jesus again spoke to Peter and asked him three times, “Peter, do you love me?” Each time Peter affirmed his love and Jesus re-confirmed him.

Although Peter knew Jesus, what Peter needed was a fresh encounter with Him. Peter needed to hear the voice of his Lord once again confirming him, once again including him, once again forgiving him.

Sometimes in life we need a fresh encounter with Jesus, the Church, and the things of God.

It was even so in the Old Testament days as we can see by the life of Jacob. Genesis 28 tells us that Jacob, after being raised in a good family, had a personal encounter with God. It was at Bethel, which means the House of God, that Jacob made his first recorded commitment to give his life to God.

Some 20 years later, married now with several children, many servants and much property, Jacob found himself in need of a life change. Literally he was at the place where he did not know what to do and he was afraid.

The story can be found in Genesis 32. It is a long story which you can read for yourselves but allow me to cover the meat of tonight’s message from the passage beginning in verse 24. (I have taken the liberty to highlight some of the critical elements leading to a life change)

Genesis 32 NKJV
24 ¶ Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.
25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.
26 And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks." But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!"
27 So He said to him, "What is your name?" He said, "Jacob."
28 And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed."
29 Then Jacob asked, saying, "Tell me Your name, I pray." And He said, "Why is it that you ask about My name?" And He blessed him there.
30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."
31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.
32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.

1. He was alone. Life change is something only you can do.
2. God demands that we participate in our miracles and the miracle of life change can definitely be a struggle. In other words, it may not be easy.
3. We must be determined to not let go until we are blessed – changed!
4. Jacob had a name change which represents a change in nature. He struggled with God for help and with himself to change. He did not just leave it up to God but he pressed himself to change as well.
5. What you need is to see the face of God … to have a fresh encounter with God face to face and you will survive.
6. Never trust yourself or anyone else who does not walk with a limp. Our encounters with God should change us, and change us so that everyone else can see.
7. Jacob’s change, and ours, should last not only for the rest of our life, but will speak to and impact our children and our children’s children for generations to come.

Now that’s a life change and it happened at a fresh encounter to Jacob, a man who already knew God and had already had an initial personal encounter with Him.

What about you? Do you need a life change? Then: Get alone with God; participate in your miracle; it may not be easy; you will need to be determined; but God hang in there; you will see the face of God; He will change what needs to be changed in you if you will work with Him; and, it will not only change you but impact others for years to come.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Passion & Strength


John 2 NLT
13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem.
14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.
15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables.
16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”

What are you passionate about?

For Jesus it was the House of God. Jesus was consumed with passion for God’s House. And this passion drove Jesus to action, gave Him strength, boldness, courage and confidence. Our passions will do the same for us.

Passion is where we find our strength, our confidence, our courage.

Jesus always, in all situations and circumstances of life, continually submitted Himself and His strengths to God’s will.

Hebrews 10:7 “… I have come to do Your will O God.”

John 8:29 “… I always do those things which please My Father.”

Luke 22:42 “… not My will, but Your will be done.”

Matthew 26:53 “Don’t you realize that I could pray right now for thousands of angels and My Father would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the scriptures ever be fulfilled?”

Jesus had a passion, a purpose and a power for life but He always submitted His strengths to God’s will. He was strong, but submitted.

So many times we ask God to help us cover our weaknesses without realizing that most often our greatest weaknesses come from our greatest strengths, our greatest passions, areas in which we have great confidence.
Our greatest tests may not be what to do when we don’t know what to do, but what to do when we do know what to do and when we could fix it ourselves or when we could muscle it through to get our way. Sometimes the greatest tests we face is the test of deciding if what we want, and can make happen, is really God’s will or just our own.

Just because you can make it happen, does not mean you should make it happen.

Even when we are strong, we must still humble ourselves and submit our strength and our passions to God.

About 2000 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, when Israel was known as the land of Canaan and was used as a highway, a trade route between the Assyrian and Northern Mesopotamian, and the Egyptian empires, there was a man born in Ur of the Chaldees named Abraham. Abraham had a covenant with God.

He married and eventually moved his family to the Land of Canaan where he had a son with his wife Sarah. Their son’s name was Isaac. Like Abraham, Isaac lived in the Land of Canaan as a stranger but with the promise of God that his descendants would one day possess that land.

When Isaac was 60 years old, he and his wife Rebekah had twin sons and named the firstborn Esau and the second, Jacob. The boys did not get along very well and struggled with each other even before they came from their mother’s womb. These two boys were just different …

Esau was a rough man, a man of the field and a hunter by trade, while Jacob was a mild mannered boy, staying close to his mother and the tents, even cooking meals on occasion. Suffice it to say that these two boys had different approaches to life and this served to foster even more struggles between them.

According to a prophecy given to their mother before they were born, the older brother, Esau, was destined to end up serving the younger, Jacob. These boys were not only different in nature and approach to life but also held very different destinies as determined by God. Jacob was the one chosen by God to become the inheritor of the covenant blessing God had first given to Abraham and then to Isaac. And for this, God had equipped Jacob with certain passions, strengths and character qualities of life.

All throughout Jacob’s life we see him as a man of passion, a man of strength, a man of decisiveness, aggressive, determined, bold, a risk taker, a man who finds it easy to commit and resolves himself to keep his commitments. This guy has the capacity to stay focused and let time work for him. God equipped Jacob to inherit the covenant and birth the nation of Israel.

One of Jacob’s greatest strengths was his evident capacity to deeply, passionately, and completely commit himself. This was also where Jacob most often failed in life and where he caused the most trouble for others.

It’s not our weaknesses that cause us to fail, but rather our unbridled strengths.

Jacob was a lover, not a fighter. He had great capacity to commit and to focus his love and attention. He would need this strength to become one of the three founding patriarchs of the covenant between God and man. But, this strength also gave him the ability to so focus his love and attention on one thing or person so much, that he completely abandoned other people and other things which were just as important. For example:

• Jacob had a favorite parent – his mother Rebekah whom he loved and was focused on and to whom he was solely committed and submitted to without question. (This caused problems)
• Jacob had a favorite wife – Rachel for whom he worked, at hard labor for 14 years, for no pay other than the promise of her hand, (which turned out to be a lie after the first 7 years), but that did not stop his pursuits, change his focus or detour his passion nor his commitment to her, even to the exclusion of his wife, Leah.
• Jacob had a favorite child – Joseph, called the son of his old age, (but he had a younger son whom he fathered with the same woman at an older age). This too caused problems …

Genesis 37
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a coat of many colors.
4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.

Jacob’s greatest strength was also his greatest weakness. His ability to commit to his passion no doubt caused him to struggle in the womb; manipulate the purchase of Esau’s birthright for himself; lie, cheat and steal the firstborn blessing from his father Isaac.

You know, just because you can do something, does not mean you should do it.

In fact, the things we are most able to do for ourselves, may be the things we most need to submit to God.

Your strength, insubordinate to God, is your greatest potential weakness.

So, what have we learned today?

1. We are given strengths commensurate with God’s chosen destiny for our life.
2. Our greatest strengths are connected to the passions God placed within us. This is designed to meld our deepest feelings with our greatest work.
3. Confidence in our own strength, fueled by our own passion, cannot always be trusted.
4. We must submit ourselves, especially our strengths, to the will of God.

2 Corinthians 12:10 For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Our greatest strength will always be found in doing God’s will.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother’s Day


Psalms 113:9 He makes the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD.

There is a truth that has been told and retold for ages which says:

When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Leviticus 19:3 You shall fear every man his mother … (I’d be afraid of making that woman mad!)

Mother’s Day is both a day of great joy and a day of great sorrow.
Some mothers show us the kindness of our Father God
While other mothers prove the cruelties of this world

Mother’s day is for many, all about the past

The good
The bad
The ugly

Mother’s day for others is all about the present
Joys of family and fulfillment
Home life and all the demands
Children and all the demands
Parents and all the demands

While Mother’s day for some is all about the future
And fears

Mothers come in three basic varieties
Not bad just disconnected
Not selfish just not engaged
Just don’t know how to be a mother
Under developed sense of nurture

Without regard as to your experiences with mothers, God’s Word is clear

Exodus 20:12 Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God gives to you.

Not just biological mothers but all elder women as well as those spiritually adopted mothers and our extended family matriarchs.

1 Timothy 5:2 (Treat) the older women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

Romans 16:13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.

2 Timothy 1:5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that it is in you also.

Of all the great mothers in the Bible two stand out to me above the rest

The first is Jochebed, the mother of Moses – She gave him life (Exodus 2)
First she gave him life by birthing him into this world, despite the trouble of her day. She gave him life by holding him and hiding him to keep him as long as she could, nurturing and protecting him from the dangers of this world. She gave him life by releasing him and letting him go, in God’s time, trusting God to direct him and care for him amidst the perils of this life.

The second is Mary, the mother of Jesus – She was always there for Him
She was there for Him at Bethlehem – (Luke 2)
She was there for Him at Calvary – (John 19:25)
She was there for Him at Pentecost – (Acts 1:14)

Mothers, thank you for giving us life and for always being there for us