Mountains Will Move

So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.  Matthew 17:20 (NKJV)

What mountains do you have in your own life? What seemingly impossible climb are you experiencing that seems to have no end? How can you be sure you will reach the other side?

I know that I have looked at my mountains and thought “there is just no way.” Or I would get half way up and then think there was a better path to go around and right back to the bottom I go looking for an easier way. I am sure that this is a common occurrence in life for many Christians. However, Jesus shows us in this verse that we have, within us, the capability to overcome anything that comes our way. That mountain was not put there by accident.

God does not want us to suffer and not prosper in life. In fact, Jeremiah tells us that He has a plan for each and every one of us. There are no exceptions. God knows what mountain you will face before you ever face it and He already has a plan for you to overcome and grow spiritually. After all, Christian growth is the journey that we all are on.

The mustard seed, is the smallest of all seeds so it is no wonder that Jesus used it as an example. Once this seed is planted, it grows into one of the largest herbs. That small little seed must endure the elements in order to grow and actually uses those elements to grow. Just like the mustard seed, we too have to have a beginning, but once properly nourished, can grow and expand into something wonderful. We too have to grow our faith and then we can overcome anything in our path.

Perhaps your mountain is pride, addiction, a struggling marriage, or even growing a ministry. Whatever the case, God has given each of us the tools necessary to overcome. But faith does not come easy or is often free. We have to endure those mountains in order for our faith to grow.

Remember that when Jesus healed, it was faith that healed them. He did not heal them and then ask for faith. No! Faith had to be applied first in order for the healing to take place. The walls of Jericho fell because of faith and Daniel did not get eaten by the lions because of faith. Here’s a huge mountain for you–the furnace that was heated seven times hotter than usual. It took a real leap of faith to walk through those doors after seeing the guards die just from the heat at the door.

Faith can move mountains in your life but, like anything else in you, it has to be exercised in order to grow strong. Those mountains you face today will one day end up behind you and then you can look back over your journey and see God’s hand in your life. My God is my guide through those mountains. He leads me on the right path to overcome them but it is ultimately my faith in God that gets me there. It is not I overcoming the mountain but rather God helping me to overcome it.

The Bible is full of examples of great faith. Do you think that is a coincidence? How are you saved? Through grace by faith. That is your beginning. What you do with it from there will ultimately determine how your journey will end. God calls each of us into a faithful relationship with Him. The Worthy Lamb paid a debt I could never pay and He did it all out of love for me. He did not do it so that I would have to suffer through life–He did it so that I could HAVE life.

Dear Jesus, I pray that You would have Your hand on each and every person that reads this today. I pray that You help them to increase their faith so that the healing may begin. I know, Jesus, that You did not do all of this for nothing. You love each and every one of us and want us to be happy and prosperous–to have hope. I ask that You continue to work in my life to overcome the huge mountains I have in front of me. I know that You will help to guide each of us through our mountains to strengthen our stamina for the journey. I love you Jesus. Thank You for paying a debt I could never have paid. May we all continue to give You all the glory in all that we accomplish. Amen.

Go climb your mountain!!

Obstacle or Opportunity

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  James 1:12 (NKJV)

We all face stressful situations in life, but how we choose to deal with them will ultimately set us apart form the world. As human beings born into a sinful world, we are prone to “grumble.” The Israelites did it for generations. Every time you turn a page, you find the Israelites grumbling about something and God has to straighten them out. Are we not sometimes the same way? How often do you complain about traffic or the line at the grocery store? I know I do it more often than I would like to admit. So how are we to handle our stressful situations?

It is all in the way we look at them that will determine how we approach the solutions. Do you view them as an obstacle in life or an opportunity to grow? This is a key question that we have to learn to ask in every situation. If we can master this question and answer it honestly, we can be on the road to learning more about God’s character and ours as well.

Obstacle is defined as “a thing that blocks one’s way or prevents or hinders progress.” We tend to look at life’s challenges as obstacles in achieving what we believe we need in life. When we hit this point in our lives, our natural instinct is to fight to overcome or find another path. The latter is usually not an option so we continue to fight our way through the challenge as though our lives depended on it.

Now an opportunity is defined as “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.” When we are faced with an opportunity we carefully weigh our options and make a decision based on emotion and prosperity. These are sometimes so much easier to deal with. We often experience a lot less stress and find that making a decision brings a sense of peace to our hearts. However, for those who jump at every opportunity without considering the consequences end up creating another obstacle from an intended opportunity.

Because of free will, life is full of choices so when God allows something to take place in our lives, He is giving us a chance for personal and spiritual growth and discovery. We can learn to look at them as an opportunity or an obstacle. Is this an opportunity for me to grow in my faith and prayer disciplines by turning to God for answers or will I simply grumble that yet another obstacle is in my way?

God desires for us to use these situations as opportunities to come closer to Him and in return, He will draw closer us (James 4:8). What a marvelous opportunity to come into a fuller relationship with God! In order for this to happen we have to learn to trust and have faith that He will lead us in the right direction.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

The evil one will jump on every situation if we allow him to. If we decide to look at the situation as an obstacle it only gives him opportunity to use it against us. But, if we look at it as an opportunity, he will find an obstacle in his path. Rest assured that God has a plan for your life but you have to be willing to allow it to happen as He intended.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

It is oh so easy to get caught in a trap of looking at life as an obstacle. We all have desires and dreams that are rooted in our own wants and needs. It is only when we learn to let go of the world that we can ever learn what it is to be truly free. God has promised endurance, strength, courage, and wisdom in our times of need. All we have to do is ask for it.

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”     Isaiah 30:21 (NKJV)

Dear Father, I come before You today humbled by the fact that only You can rescue me from all that this sinful world throws my way. It is only by Your amazing grace endless mercy that I am here. I thank You for each and every person that reads this today and I ask that You will be with them as they face whatever trials and temptations are thrown their way. May they learn to turn to You for the answers they seek in their lives and may they only find those answers at the cross. You are a faithful God and only desire for us to be happy and abide in Your presence. May we all continue to give Your Son all the glory forever. Amen.

Walking the Tightrope

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

Have you ever seen a high wire act? I always think to myself, “That must take a lot of confidence to step out onto that wire every time with nothing except a stick.” It becomes even more incredible when they perform without a safety net in place. That takes real courage.

The movie The Walk, is about a French aerialist named Philippe Petit who walked a tightrope between the twin towers. He was suspended in midair with nothing between him and the ground and in the movie; he does it all with a hurt foot. What an incredible amount of faith he must have had to take that first step.

In order to get to this point, he first had to train. So that he would gain confidence, he had to have a safety net below him because he would inevitably fall. Even when we learn to walk as children, we fall down before we learn to keep our balance and walk. Our parents walk along side of us holding our hands so that we do not fall but it is only when we do fall that we learn to stand on our own two feet.

Our lives in Christ are much like a tightrope walker. We walk through life never fearing because we have God as our safety net. We become complacent and this makes way for spiritual laziness. How can we ever expect to build our faith when we always have that net to catch us when we fall? So, in order to teach us real faith, God sometimes takes away the net and still expects us to take the first step. It is a lesson in humility meant to teach us faith.

I have been out on that tightrope and looked down only to find no net is there. I cry out to God to reveal Himself to me but my voice echoes back to me from the silence. God has withheld Himself in order that I may learn to walk with nothing more than just my faith. He may be silent but He is never absent. How can we ever really learn faith while we always know that He will be there to bail us out? We can’t.

I am not suggesting that God will abandon us, because He has promised that He never will, but rather He pulls away from us to teach us. St. John of the Cross called it a Dark Night [of the Soul]. These dark nights are necessary on any journey toward Christ. They build our character and at the same time God reveals more of His character to us through them.

At the time of creation, God decided that we were to be created in His image; therefore we work to build our character to be like His. Even in the tough times, we look to Him for strength and refuge from the storm. God has not abandoned me; He is simply allowing me to learn to trust Him more. He tests my faith and strength by allowing me to walk alone for a short time.

Perhaps you are experiencing a dark night of the soul right now. Perhaps you are struggling with many of the things that life throws at us daily. Rest assured that God has promised His continued support and love. He has demonstrated His love time and time again. He did not send His Son to the cross for no reason. He did it because He loves us so much that He wants to spend eternity with us. So the next time you feel all alone and that God is not listening, just remember to “Be still and know I am God.”

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.   Romans 5:8 (NKJV)

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19 (NKJV)

And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.                                               2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)

Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.  Isaiah 12:2 (NKJV)

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for your great mercy and grace. I thank you for all the glorious things You have done for us. You created us in Your image and placed us amongst the rest of Your creation so that we may enjoy it. You give us grace even though we do not deserve it, and You even sent Your Son to shed His blood on Calvary for us so that we would not have to be separated from you by sin. I thank you for always being there when I need You. You may not always speak to me like I want, but I know that these are the times that You are teaching me to walk upright in faith. I pray that you bless each and every person that reads this that they may experience You the way I do. There is no greater joy than to serve You. In all things, I will give You the glory forever. Amen.

Facing the Bullies in our Life

Have you ever felt bullied? I don’t mean “picked on” once in a while but rather continual chastisement for whatever reason. This is a problem that I am all too familiar with. Fortunately, there is a way to handle bullies that will end their reign in our lives.

As a child, I had to endure the daily torment of others. It is as if children have a special sense of who is different and they pounce on them like a lion–devouring them. I was made fun of, chased on the playground, pursued nine long blocks home every day while insults were hurled at me. I was pummeled with rocks, beaten, humiliated, and laughed at. I had no way out and no one to protect me so I just dealt with it each day and quickly came to understand that I was never going to be worthy of friends. The summers were long and lonely, counting the days until I had to return to the daily torment.

This kind of behavior can certainly influence the way a person thinks and sees themselves later in life. It will often times drive them into a “self-medication” mode early in life and they soon spiral out of control. My heart aches daily for all the children in the schools that have to endure that same things that I had to as a child. My daughter often comes home and tells me how someone pushed her or made fun of her at school. It breaks my heart and “dad mode” kicks in and off to the school we go.

The Israelites were bullied by the Egyptians for over 400 years. They were enslaved and made to labor day and night. God, however, stood up for them. He protected His chosen people. He allowed it to happen in order to bring them to a point where He could work with them. Much like the potter with the clay.

Yet you Lord are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.    Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)

Our Heavenly Father does this with us sometimes in order to bring us to a place where we are more “pliable.” Sometimes it is only in our times of true brokenness that we are able to be used for His will. As humans born into a sinful nature, it is easier for us to take control of our own lives rather than have the faith that is needed to allow God full control. But only by doing so can we ever experience God’s plan for us…and He does have one!

“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.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

So, Moses and Aaron were dispatched to bring God’s people out of Egypt. We all know the story of how God hardened the heart of the pharaoh and then rained down plagues on him and his people and was finally convinced to let them leave. Now by this time the Israelites numbered over 600,000. This number only reflects the men so in reality there were probably closer to 2-2.5 million people including women and children. They made up almost half of the population of Egypt during that time.

God marched the Israelites around the edge of the mountains and circled them back to encamp on the banks of the Red Sea. They were led by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night. When they arrived at the Red Sea, they found that the pharaoh and his army were pursuing them and they became afraid. They began to complain to Moses about their situation.

Isn’t that just like us? We don’t get what we think we need or we are put in a situation that looks hopeless and we begin to complain. Remember that the Israelites were camped in an area that gave them no way out. They had mountains on two sides, the Red Sea on another, and the world’s greatest army coming after them. They were locked in with no way to escape.

The Israelites were so used to being bullied that their natural reaction was one of chaos. They were conditioned to think of themselves as less than a person and to believe that nothing good could come of their lives. They needed an intercession from God to make them believe that someone did find them to be more valuable than anything. They were a “chosen” people just like we are. Here is Moses’ response to their complaining:

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” Exodus 14:13-14 (NIV)

Moses tells them to just relax and allow the Lord to do His work. “…you need only be still.” So the angel of the Lord and the cloud moved from in front of them to behind them coming in between them and the Egyptians. It must have taken a tremendous act of faith for the Israelites to “be still” in that situation. Faced with a regretful and hateful pharaoh and his army pursuing them to drive them back. But that is what is required of us in order for God to work in our lives…faith.

We need to remember that no matter how the devil tries to bully us, there is always someone on our side that will fight for us. God will protect us from whatever we face, if we only allow Him to do so. He will position himself between us and the problem. We have to give up complete control and allow His work to be done through us. Just as he used the Israelites situation to bring about belief, He can do the same in our lives. Only God can turn a negative into a positive!

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:28-30 (NIV)

Remember that bullies only have power and control in your life if you allow them to. Satan can only bully you if you allow him to. Stand strong and turn to your faith in God as your refuge. This world is only temporary and one day we will all be in the presence of our Deliverer to sing praises to His name. Don’t be bogged down with the things of this world but rather “be still.”

Dear Father, as I approach your Throne of Grace today, I want to thank you for looking out for me all those many years. I look back now and can see your plan unfolding. I thank you for your mercy and Your grace. Your love will endure forever and I look to that whenever I am feeling down about my life. I pray that you protect all those that are faced with bullies everyday and that you bestow upon them the peace that surpasses all understanding. I pray that you may reveal yourself to them and remind them to just be still and know you are God! I will continue to give you all the glory. Amen.

 

Are My Prayers Heard?

Where do we find God? Where is He when we need Him most? Is He near? Why can’t I feel Him? Does He not hear me anymore? These are questions I think every Christian asks at some point or another. Perhaps you have been asking these very questions? Are you going through a rough patch and wondering where God is? Good news…..He is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Since the Word of God is infallible, that is a promise you can stand on! But perhaps we are just not recognizing Him when He answers our prayers. Are our prayers pure in heart or motivated by selfishness? If you are praying for God’s will to be done and you mean it in your heart, then they are pure. God hears the prayers of the righteous man.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16b

I believe that we get so caught up in the details that we lose track of the fact that God will deliver. We go into it with expectations and that is all we can see. When we pray for patience, perhaps God puts someone in our path to test our patience in order to teach us patience. Perhaps you have prayed for God to use you but cannot seem to find out how. Maybe he has been putting that same homeless man outside of your office building or on the same corner day after day to teach us outreach. The truth is we never really know what God has in plan for us but we need to remember that he is never late and he hears our prayers.

I heard a great sermon last night about commitment. It was powerful and truly stirred my soul. Have I been committing to the wrong things in life? I am committed to allow God to use me however He sees fit and with that comes the knowledge that it could be absolutely anything. He could choose for me to be homeless tomorrow or to be jobless. Whatever it is I have to accept as His plan and be joyful. That’s not easy sometimes because, let’s face it, we are human.

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18

When Jesus walked the earth, he did not avoid those that were in need but instead went to them. They were broken and He met them and made them whole. He has and will continue to do the same for us. He promised to never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy  31:6) which means that no matter where we are or what we are facing He is there with us facing it too. We may not always know when He is answering prayer for us, but we can pray for wisdom (James 1:5) and He will give it to us. Remember that just because you may be going through a rough time, does not mean that God is not answering your prayer. He just may not be answering it the way you want Him to.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

Dear Father, Thank you for this opportunity that you have given me to share what you have put in my heart. I ask that you may use this to reach someone that is struggling. Let Your words be a light in their darkness. I pray that you also teach me how to be more in tune with what you are providing for me when you answer my prayers. I may not always get what I want but I always get what I need. Thank you for your son Jesus and the stripes that healed me. Amen.