Are You Prepared?

“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.”Daniel 6:10. 

One of the greatest challenges in understanding God’s vision and plan for our lives is reconciling the relationship between God’s part and our part in that vision. But even if we don’t fully understand the balance, we can certainly focus on doing what God has instructed us to do in His Word. There is something that every one of us can do in 2019. 

Each one of us should ask this question: do you believe that God has things that He would like to do in/through you in 2019? And secondly,  do you also believe that you have to be prepared if you want God to do those things in/through you in 2019? 

A quick read of the Bible will reveal examples where the Lord chose to do something significant in/through the lives of one of His servants.  God continues to use people today. The question is are we prepared for what God choose to do in/through us this year. Look. at the example of Daniel. 

A powerful king is so impacted by the life of one of his servants that he makes a proclamation throughout the entire empire that the God of Israel is the Living God whose kingdom will not be destroyed and whose dominion will be forever. Daniel actually served several different kings, but the one who made this incredible proclamation was Darius. This proclamation was made because of what happened the night before in the lion’s den. What if God wanted to do something like that in your life this year? What if God put you right in the middle of a difficult trial just so that He could put His power on display in a way that cause the people around you to make a decision in their hearts to trust the Lord? 

God was able to use Daniel in this way because of the way Daniel had chosen to previously live.The king was about to appoint Daniel to be the leader of the entire nation, so the other politicians tried to find a way to discredit Daniel. But they couldn’t

Remember Daniel 6:10: Daniel had no idea when this particular year that all these events would unfold. All he knew was to be faithful and to be prepared spiritually for what might happen. he needed to be prepared to do his part and then trust God to do His. So here is the $64,000 question: what would “being prepared spiritually” for what God may choose to do in/through you this year look like?And what do we need to do to ensure we are prepared? 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does being prepared spiritually mean to you? 
  2. What can we do this week to prepare for what God may want to so in/through us this year?

An Unbelievable Belief

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58. 

We all want to know who we are. We try numerous ways including personality tests and other assessments to “find ourselves.” We learn that we are like a certain animal, or that we are an overachiever, or a skeptic, a competitor or an academic. But as helpful as those tests can be, we should stop and ask ourselves, “What does God think about me? Who does He say that I am?”

One of the most unbelievable things that I believe is that Almighty God believes in us. He has faith in us. He trusts us. He gives us the freedom to choose, encourages us to “choose life:” “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) We have a choice.  God lets us decide.  

C.S. Lewis said, “Reality is something you couldn’t have guessed.” So true.  Who could have guessed that God would love us even though the Old Testament prophet Isaiah points out, our righteousness is about as good as a “snot rag.” (Isaiah 64:6). Fortunately, God’s grace is greater than our filthy rags. We can look at nature and marvel at what we see. We can see technology advancements that are simply mind boggling; but nothing compares or rises to the level of the fact that each one of us is a dearly-loved child of God. If He didn’t love us, He never would have sent His only Son into the world to die for us. But Jesus Christ did come into the world, and He did die on the cross for our sins. The only possible explanation for enduring the cross is because God loves us. The Bible says, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10).

Everything that God has ever done testifies to His love for us. He did it all because He loves us and believes in us and is not willing that any of us should perish. His enduring hope is that we will stop doubting His intentions and trust Him back.

All of us can remember someone who believed in us. Whether it was a person to talk, spend time with or do life with. The people who have believe in us and support us give us a gift and the hope for a better future. God believes in us – we need to learn to embrace and depend on Him. To accomplish our vision, to have the future we all long for, we need a champion in our corner. And the ultimate champion is Jesus Christ. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What would you say is your life’s mission? How do your actions reflect in the things you believe in?
  2. What do you believe would happen if your actions reflected your belief in the next generation?

The Power Of Vision

“A common vision can unite people of very different temperaments.” – Tim Keller

Each of us is faced daily with the potential to “plateau” in our lives…to stop progressing, maturing and growing. The same is true for churches, businesses, and organizations.

In the first part of Proverbs 29:18, we find a familiar portion of Scripture. Most Christians are familiar with the quote from the KJV: “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” The translation in the NLT gives us insight as to why people with no vision perish: “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild…” In other words, where there is no vision, no direction from God, people will “do their own thing” and “go their own way,” which in many cases ends up badly.  

Vision requires some introspection, it requires asking some tough questions: Do we as Christians have a sense of vision? Do we have a God-given dream? De we believe God is directing us? Leading us? We need the answers to those questions because God is in the people business. And the more we are in lock step with God’s direction for our lives the more we will have a direct impact on people’s lives.

The idea of having a plan for the future makes perfect sense. But developing that plan sounds like the province of a corporate think tank.  But is it really that complicated? We can simplify it by looking at our lives and asking what changes do we need to make going forward that we live our life so radically different that we are seen as people who are living their life “on mission” for Jesus Christ. What can we do to impact the people around us as David did? “…David had done the will of God in his own generation…” (Acts 13:36) 

Think about it this way: what would your life be like if you were not afraid to believe God and your faith reflected that? What if you believed God’s promises? How different would you view your vision of the future? Would you dare to dream bigger dreams? Dreaming big, casting a large vision, does not cost anything. The Bible says,  “God . . . is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (Ephesians 3:20 TLB). So no matter how big we think in our life, in our ministry, in our church, God can do it and so much more.  It starts with a vision.  

Ask God, “What do you want me to do? How do you want me to do it? And when do you want me to do it?” Pray and ask God to bless what you are doing. Pray and ask God to do some exciting things in your life today and ask that you play a part in some of them.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. How long has it been, if ever, since you asked God, “How am I doing?” What might be some of the ways God would use in your life to answer that question?

The Power of God

Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power.” – 2 Corinthians 13:4. 

We live in a culture that admires and promotes the powerful. The business world is built upon the premise that more power is better and the one with the most power wins. While the world caters to the powerful, for many of us much of life involves trying to cope with the times when we are powerless, overwhelmed and looking for answers. 

That was the position King Jehoshaphat found himself in and it is sometimes the reality for each of us as well. It is tough to have a problem without a solution. No one wants to be weak, at least not if they have a choice. We all want to be physically and emotionally strong, rich and competent. And good looking wouldn’t hurt either.

But like King Jehoshaphat, we often find ourselves lacking the ability to deal with our circumstances when we get overwhelmed. We often find ourselves powerless. Though the world looks at these times of being powerless as the ultimate failure, scripture sees it as an opportunity to receive a blessing from God. “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

God is our strength. There are days when I am overwhelmed. He empowers me to handle it. There are days when I wonder if the money will be there when the bills come. Somehow He provides a way and the bills are paid. There are days when I doubt His presence. But then He is there. There are days when temptations seem too strong for me to resist. Somehow He provides a way of escape or strength to resist. There are days when I feel almost worthless. Somehow He reminds me of the price that has been paid for me. There are days when when I am weak. Somehow He makes me strong.

Chances are good that sometime in your life you will find yourself faced with a situation that you cannot control. It may be a business deal, it may be a relationship, or it may be a family crisis. You are totally and absolutely powerless to fix it, change it, undo it, or improve it. It may be the result of your own actions, or it may not be. Regardless, you are powerless.

Being powerless may feel wrong and unfair at the time, but you may be in the best situation of your life to experience the grace and power of God. Though it appears hopeless, you can recover if you will allow God to come to you in your powerless state and do what only He can do: “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the things only God can do? What are the things only you can do? Do you find yourself trying to do the things only God can do? 
  2. In what ways do you need God to be strong in your weakness at this time in your life?

Trust God No Matter What

“ Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.”  –  Habakkuk 3:17-19.

As followers of Jesus we are often told to trust in God at all times, but especially when we have experienced difficulties that were quite devastating to us at the time. And not only are these difficulties causing us to be envious or worried, they make little sense to us. Trusting in God does not entitle Christians to a problem-free life. Nor does it mean that if a believer has problems that must mean they don’t have enough faith.

The Bible paints a pretty clear picture on this. Jesus said in John 16:33, “…you will have many trials and sorrows.“ The Bible is replete with stories of Godly people who suffered trials and sorrows.  We are not immune from trials either. When hard times come, the true nature of our trust in God, our faith will be revealed.

True trust begins by acknowledging God, His wisdom, and His ways, and then choosing to act on what we’ve acknowledged. Trusting in God means that no matter what happens, we will turn to Him rather than away from Him. That in a nutshell is it. There are no conditions, requirements, expectations, minimum acceptable standards or escape clauses. Even if life hurts real bad and nothing you asked God for worked out the way you were hoping it would. Trusting means you continue to turn to Him. Trusting God means to respond as Job did: “…The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” (Job 1:21)  

Trust is not an easy issue. Real trust assumes that the one whom we trust demonstrates the character of honesty, fairness, truthfulness, justice, morality, ethics, and consistency. When reading that list most people would be sighing and saying, “that leaves out everyone I know.”  But that defense mechanism of not trusting others is completely irrelevant when it comes to God.  His character is one of honesty, fairness, faithfulness, truthfulness, and justice. He is the ultimate example of one who is moral, ethical, and consistent. He is unfaltering. He is dependable. He has earned our trust. He is worthy of our trust. And by trusting Him, we can find the freedom, joy, rest, and peace that comes only from God. .  

Discussion Questions

  1. Read Proverbs 3:5-6. This passage instructs us to fully trust in God, not on our own understanding. How do we know if God is trustworthy? What are some specific ways we can trust in Him?
  2. What is one thing you can completely give to God now? 

Give God What You Can’t Do

“They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee,”Luke 24:2-6

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ and His resurrection are the two most important events in human history. And even though it was futile, the people who crucified Jesus Christ did everything they possibly could to keep His body locked inside the tomb. They rolled a huge stone in front of it, sealed it, and even stationed guards all around it. Today we would shrug our shoulders and say “really….did you think that worked?” God can’t be stopped or hindered in any way.  When they arrived the two women found that the stone was miraculously rolled away. Jesus Christ had risen from the grave.

Revelation 3:8 says, “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close…” Moving the stone covering the tomb of Jesus Christ was seen as impossible. There are things in our lives that we have tried to move, unsuccessfully; to the point it seems impossible. But God in His strength, power, and supernatural ability can make the impossible possible. He can move those stones.

Maybe you have been battling an illness you just can’t defeat. Perhaps you have been searching for a job. Maybe there is a relationship you just can’t seem to make whole.  As Christians, regardless of what it is that we can’t do, God alone can make things whole. He alone can give us the breakthroughs we’re longing for.

Remember that Jesus Christ came to this earth for a distinct purpose: to die on the cross in our place. He defeated death by rising again on the third day. And if you are wondering where you place your allegiance, as Andy Stanley often says, “I am going with the guy who rose from the dead.” Given that, what worries, cares, and burdens are you holding on to today?  Instead of trying to solve unsolvable problems take the shortcut and leave them at Jesus’s feet.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you look at events that you can’t solve? 
  2. How can we take the events, circumstances, etc, we can’t solve and give them to God this week?

What Can I Do?

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58. 

Most Christians yearn to do great things for the Kingdom. We look at people like Jonathan Edwards, Dwight Moody, C.S. Lewis to name a few and wonder how we can be more like them. The reality though, is that most of us will never have our name in the same pantheon as theirs. We will get normal jobs, start families, and hopefully live our golden years near the beach. While it might not sound as glamorous, an ordinary life still offers numerous opportunities to serve Christ. It all boils down to what we are willing to do. And when.  

We wait until just the right moment to do the right thing or a “big” thing. And while we wait, we do “no” thing. We want to wait until conditions are right. When we feel brave enough, strong enough, good enough, motivated enough or knowledgable enough. We want to wait until someone gives us the opportunity. The problem is life can be passing us by as we wait. Remember that we have the ability to choose. Each and every day, you can choose to do something that honors God. Each day we get to choose whether we do something or wait for another opportunity. 

Almost fifty years ago, Joni Eareckson Tada became a paraplegic after diving into a lake and severing her spinal cord. She has not had use of her legs or arms since she was a teenager. During the darkest times of her life and seasons of great physical and emotional pain, she decided to rediscover her love of art and figure out how to once again participate in a creative experience. Joni learned how to paint by holding a paintbrush with her mouth. Many people have read her own autobiography, sharing the story of her difficult journey. A few years later, that story became a movie. Joni has used that platform to champion the cause of the physically disabled and tell people about her love for God. She did what she could do. Sometimes doing what you can opens doors that you never could have imagined.

And sometimes doing what you can do with what you have creates new paths and new perspectives. God proves over and over in the Scriptures that He loves to use people who are willing to do what they can with what they have. When Jesus and His disciples were discussing solutions for feeding five thousand hungry people, a little boy allowed the disciples to have his five fish and two loaves of bread. He was willing to use what he had, make his next meal available for God’s use, and believe that Jesus could do something with what little he had to give (John 6:8–10).

God invites you to do what you can with what you have. In order for you to experience the fullness of what He can do in and through your life, you must do your part. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” ~ Helen Keller. What does that quote mean to you?
  2. What can we do this week to start doing what we can? 

What, Me Worry?

“No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you…This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:5, 9. 

Alfred E. Neuman is not alone. Worrying is something we all do from time to time. You might worry that you left a burner on at home or that you didn’t study enough for a test or that the deal you have been working on for months will fall through. But if a large percentage of your thoughts center on worrying, then you are probably asking yourself “why do I worry so much?” You may even be worried about it.

Joshua could have spent a lot of time worrying. With enemies to conquer, rivers to cross, in-house problems to solve, and land to divide fairly, many people depended on him for their safety and well-being. But before Joshua had embarked on the task of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, as we read in the passage above, God had spoken to him about fear and worry.  By the end of his life, Joshua had seen God’s faithfulness to His promises. Every time Joshua acted on faith rather than fear, God came through with everything Joshua needed to accomplish God’s purposes. Joshua 23:14 says, “Soon I will die, going the way of everything on earth. Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!”  

You may not be able to directly control your circumstances, but you can control how you react to them. If you expect the worst, you will probably get it. Your inner thoughts tend to externalize themselves. You become what you think about. Whatever dominates your thoughts tends to manifest itself in your life. This is why it is imperative to control your thinking.  Here’s the good news: it is nearly impossible to be discouraged when you are praising God. As long as you are focused on God-glorifying activities, there is no room for fear-producing thoughts and feelings. The essence of faith is acting like a thing is so, even when it is not. 

Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it. Isaiah 26:3 says,  “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” And Colossians 3:15 adds, “says, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

Things beyond our control will happen in our day-to-day lives, but if we have the peace of God, confidence replaces doubt and peace replaces worry. Because instead of relying on our own strength to carry us, we rely on the promises found in Christ Jesus.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When you face a worrying situation, do you tend to take action or to be more passive? What are some advantages and disadvantages to the way you respond to worry?  
  2. Think about some of the things that cause you to worry. What are some of the costs of spending your time and energy worrying about those things?
  3. What can we do this week to worry less and trust God more?

When Ambition Meets Perspective

“My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, “Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.” – Romans 15:20-21.  

We all need some kind of ambition in our lives. Paul’s ambition was laid out clearly in the Romans passage above. That ambition included visiting Rome: “One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you.” (Romans 1:10) Clearly, Paul had his heart set on visiting Rome. It was certainly not to see the Sistine Chapel or throw coins in Trevi Fountain as we do today. He wanted to fellowship with the believers at Rome and help build them up in the Christian faith (Romans 1:11-12)  and to preach the gospel to Rome (vs, 14-15). But his godly plans were prevented. We see that it’s not only Paul’s desire, but God’s will, that he go to Rome : “That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.” (Acts 23:11) But that doesn’t mean a straight direct easy journey to Rome. In fact, it was anything but easy. 

Paul did eventually get to Rome…as a prisoner. Hardly the way he planned to arrive in Rome. For two years he was chained to a Roman guard under house arrest in Rome while he waited for his case to be decided. A logical question would be why. What good could come out of more obstacles, more delays and more disruption of God’s work? In Philippians 1:12-­14, we are told one of the reasons: “…everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.  For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.” Because of Paul’s predicament, the gospel made its way into the ranks of the imperial Roman guards. Through this conduit, who knows how many people were reached in Rome.

And let’s not forget that the apostle Paul wrote four New Testament books during his imprisonment in Rome. We can be eternally grateful that God changed Paul’s plans for travel to His plans for writing the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon.  

Perspective could be defined as our perception of things based upon our angle of view. Our perspective can determine both our outlook and outcome in life. Paul kept his perspective and his faith in God’s promises. So whatever the storm of life, or mountain that stands in your way, put your trust in God and let him change your perspective. You will see life in a whole new way and never be afraid of the storm again.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does our perspective change the way we view things? 
  2. What can we do this week to have more of a biblical perspective? 

For Goodness Sake

The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.” – Psalm 145:9 

The expression “God is Good” is said in many ways in many places throughout the verses of the Bible. The goodness of God is also used in songs, sermons, and has become a catch phrase to be used  when both good and bad things happen in our lives: “God is good, all the time, and all the time God is good.”  

Many people have tried to properly define the goodness of God but failed, because we tend to explain God’s goodness by what seems good to us. And there are any number of things that happen in our life that we do not see as good. So God’s goodness can become a mental tug of war between the truths you know and the emotions you feel. So sometimes we wonder how a good God can do some things that are not good. Sometimes we feel like He doesn’t care or turned His back on me. From our vantage point, we see the goodness of God manifested in the lives of others; their prayers are answered, their lives are a Hallmark greeting card, while we remain, waiting on God to direct His goodness our way.  

God is good all the time and all the time God is good. To fully believe that is a daily mind and heart challenge. As I said, we have tendency to attribute our idea of what is good on God. We attribute parent like attributes to God. But we should never attribute human characteristics to God. God is, in fact, all-knowing, all-powerful and perfect in His love for each of us. He holds our lives and the entire universe, simultaneously, in His hand. He does not have to ration His goodness. His goodness doesn’t run out after granting a particular quota of prayers or petitions. God’s goodness shows up in our lives every single day.  Although we often think of his goodness when something big happens, his goodness is present all the time–in every hour, minute, and second of the day, in the smallest of things around us. 1 Peter 3:12 says, “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers….” And Psalm 119:68 says, “You are good and do only good…” 

We can see glimpses of God’s goodness in places we never noticed before; We see his faithfulness, we see his overwhelming grace woven throughout our lives.  God is for you. He has your back. And He expresses His love in an expansive, over-whelming, God-sized goodness and generosity toward you.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you see God’s goodness in your life?
  2. How can we see God’s goodness in time of trial or adversity?