Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lessons from Lazarus (2)


Here are three more lessons from Lazarus:

(1) God h as a bigger and better plan in mind. Lazarus was four days dead when Jesus arrived. When the Lord waits, it's for two reasons: (a) That He may be glorified. The Pharisees believed that your spirit left your corpse on the fourth day after you died. So if Jesus had intervened earlier they'd have said, "He wasn't really dead." Hence He told His disciples, "This sickness is...for the glory of God" (Jn 11:4 NKJV). It's in looking back that we clearly see God's hand at work. (b) That our faith may be strengthened. Jesus said, "I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe" (Jn 11:15 NKJV). In life, crises come and go. Your next crisis will be different than your last one, but the thing that must remain strong is your faith. (2) God will ask you to remove the hindrances and deal with the stench. "Jesus said, 'Take away the stone.' Martha...said to Him, 'Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days'" (Jn 11:38-39 NKJV). Are you praying for an answer in one area, while God's telling you to take away the stone and deal with a "stench" buried in another? Surrender, you can't win! When your heart's right with God your prayers will be answered. (3) God wants to make you a living testimony. Everywhere Lazarus went, without even speaking a word, his life declared that Jesus is Lord. And the same should be true of you. God has saved and raised you up to be a testimony to His grace and goodness.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Lessons from Lazarus (1)


Lesson one: Jesus knows how you feel. At Lazarus' funeral, "Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, 'See how He loved him!" (Jn 11:35-36 NKJV) This story proves we serve a God who can not only raise the dead, but can "sympathize with us" (See Heb 4:15 NKJV). So if you're grieving today turn to God and allow Him to comfort you. Lesson two: Jesus can give you back what life's taken from you. He can "restore to you the years" that life has stolen (See Joel 2:25). Claim that promise; take it to the place where you've lost so much, and ask God to replace and renew. Martha said, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You" (Jn 11:21-22 NKJV). Instead of saying "if only," pray "even now I know." It's not too late, God can move on your behalf. Lesson three: Jesus can set you free. "He cried...'Lazarus, come forth!" And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes...Jesus said...'Loose him, and let him go'" (Jn 11:43-44 NKJV). God's Word is greater than the thing that has bound, limited or enslaved you. Even though your mind doesn't fully comprehend it, let your spirit respond to God. Pray with the Psalmist, "Give me understanding, and I shall keey Your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it" (Ps 119:34-35 NKJV). When you pray such a prayer your faith will grow, and the circumstances that seem impossible will be changed by God.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Do you have what it takes?


To lead and succeed in any area of life you must have:

(1) Commitment. Real leaders don't quit; they couldn't even if they wanted to. One guy said to his pastor, "It must be hard leading an exemplary life, handling all those pressures, people waiting for one sign of weakness so they can jump on you. How do you handle it?" Smiling, he quipped, "I stay home a lot!" Only in God's strength will you be able to handle the demands of people, pressures and problems that come your way.

(2) Creativity. Homer wrote, "Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant." Problems unlock your creativity. The story's told of a chicken farmer whose land kept flooding and killing his chickens. In despair he told his wife, "I've had it; I can't afford to buy another place and I can't sell this one. What can I do?" Calmly she replied, "Buy ducks!" A wise leader prays, looks for a solution in every problem, then acts on it.

(3) Compassion. Bob Pearce said, "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." Matthew records, "When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion" (Mt 9:36 NKJV). Pastor, what moves you? Building projects? Budgets? Big crowds? Be careful; it's possible to love crowds but not love people. People are demanding, they're difficult, they're draining. But as Madeline L'Engle said, "If you're going to care about the fall of the sparrow, you can't pick and choose who's going to be the sparrow." So before you say, "Lord, send me," ask yourself, "Do I have what it takes?"

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Stop putting yourself down


When you disregard your positive qualities by telling yourself, "I'm too fat, I'm no good, I never do anything right," you'll always find verification of what you're looking for. Dr. Richard Carlson says: "Putting yourself down reinforces rather than corrects your imperfections by placing unnecessary attention and energy on everything that's wrong, rather that what's right with you. Why would you do this knowing the only possible result is a negative outlook, more negative feelings and less appreciation for the gift of life? People who regularly put themselves down are often seen as complainers, not to mention the example they set. Everyone has aspects of themselves they'd like to improve, but this doesn't mean you should beat yourself up. Here on earth none of us is ever going to be perfect, but putting yourself down isn't the answer."

The Bible says God "has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." Max Lucado writes: "Underline the word perfect. Note, the word isn't better. Not improving. Not on the upswing. God doesn't improve; he perfects. He doesn't enhance; he completes...I realize there's a sense in which we're imperfect. We still err. We still stumble. We still do exactly what we don't want to do...that part of us is 'being made holy.' But when it comes to our position before God, we're perfect. When he sees each of us, he sees someone who has been made perfect through the One who is perfect - Jesus Christ." It's okay to work on improving yourself, but go easy; stop often and remind yourself that you're "being made new...becoming like the One who made you" (Col 3:10 NCV)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Handling your anger the right way


A guy's car stalled at an intersection causing a chorus of honking horns from behind. He got out, walked calmly to the next car in line and said, "Sorry, I can't get my car started. If you'd like to give it a shot I'll sit here and honk your horn!" When you don't know how to handle your anger properly, two things happen: (1) You stay angry. You walk around with your thermostat at boiling point. Be realistic. More problems in life are forgotten than are ever resolved to our liking. (2) You don't get angry even when it's appropriate. Consequently, issues that could build character, end up creating vacillation and indifference. Express your anger the right way! When you lack the courage to confront your boss or an associate at work, you're more likely to explode at home. Jesus said, "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you" (Mt 18:15 NIV). Sometimes we're supposed to get angry. Paul writes: "When Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed...he would eat with the Gentiles; but when [the Jews] came, he...separated himself, fearing [them]...the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite...so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy" (Gal 2:11-13 NKJV). It's wrong to tolerate wrong when you can do something about it. Just do it the scriptural way. Say what you have to in kindness. This is called "speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15). Slamming doors and storming out are un-Christ like and counterproductive. Direct your anger toward the problem, not the person.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tall cedars


Towering above the other cedars that grew on the mountains of Lebanon was the tall cedar. However, its strength was not in its height but in the depth of its root system. It's said that the tall cedar could bend almost to the ground without breaking, and come back stronger. Today God uses tall cedars to build great churches.

The new birth is only 5% of the process; the other 95% is growing up into spiritual maturity. "Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity" (Heb 5:12-6:1 NIV). Note the words "who by constant use have trained themselves [in the Scriptures]." You can't be like the old farmer who always testified at the Wednesday night prayer meeting: "I'm not making much progress, but thank God I'm established." One spring when his tractor was bogged down, its wheels spinning but going nowhere, the pastor happened to drive by. Rolling down his window, the preacher smiled and said: "Think of it this way brother; you may not be making much progress, but thank God you're established." No more excuses for immaturity! You must strive to be "mature and full grown in the Lord...becoming more and more in every way like Christ" (See Eph 4:13 NLT).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Humming Cedars


Picture the wind blowing through the cedars of Lebanon and some of them "humming" in response. And the greater the storm, the sweeter their song. These were called humming cedars. And God uses humming cedars to build strong churches. In Acts, a couple of humming cedars were incarcerated in a Philippian dungeon, their hands and feet locked in stocks, their backs flogged, the contempt of society heaped upon them. How did they respond? "At midnight Paul and Silas were...singing hymns to God...Suddenly there was a great earthquake...the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors opened and everyone's chains were loosed" (Ac 16:25-26 NKJV). One old preacher said: "God got so caught up in their praises that He began to tap His big foot. And when God taps His foot, you get earthquakes."

Praise breaks chains and opens doors; it's the strategy for victory. Satan will try to stop you from praising God because he knows: (a) The importance of praise. "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised" (Ps 48:1 NKJV). (b) The healing effects of praise. God's answer to "the spirit of heaviness" is "the garment of praise" (Isa 61:3). But like any garment, you must put it on. (c) The power of praise in times of crisis. When Israel was outnumbered by the enemy, God told them to put a choir in front of the army and march into battle. And it worked! "When they began...to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the [enemy]" (2 Ch 20:22 NKJV). Don't wait until the battle is over to shout; go to war with praise of God on your lips and watch Him turn your situation around.