Changing and Growing!
They go from strength to strength... Psalm 84:7
In an old Peanuts cartoon Charlie Brown says to his friend Linus, 'What would you do if you felt that no one liked you?' Linus replies, 'I'd see what I could do to improve.' To which Charlie Brown replies, 'I hate that answer!' There are three reasons we hate that answer and want to freeze life where it's at: 1) When it took everything we had to get to where we are, 'Let's go' is not what we want to hear. 2) We're creatures of habit; we form our habits, then our habits form us. 3) Change makes us feel insecure; deep down, we fear we don't have what it takes. Near the top of Mount Everest is a marker which reads, 'He died climbing.' (What a great way to be remembered!) Growth is an uphill climb. If you want to keep growing you must never stop climbing: '...the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day' (Proverbs 4:18). How do we grow and change? 'They go from strength to strength.' In his book Teaching to Change Lives Dr. Howard Hendricks asks teachers these soul-searching questions. 'How have you changed lately? In the last week, let's say? Or the last month? Can you be very specific? Or must your answer always be incredibly vague? You say you're growing, okay-how?' 'Well,' you say, 'In all kinds of ways.' Great; name one! You see, effective teaching only comes through a changed person. When you stop changing, you stop leading.' Today ask God to pinpoint the areas in which you need to change and grow.
You Can Conquer Worry don't be anxious about tomorrow Matthew 6:34 Most of the stuff we worry about never happens, or turns out better than we anticipate. Worry, like faith, is a spiritual force. Like a magnet, it attracts the very things we fear, clouds our judgment and distorts our perspective. God never intended us to carry tomorrow's burdens along with today's. So, here are three steps to help you conquer worry: 1) Replace it. Telling somebody not to worry doesn't work. Worry is like an emotional spasm; the only way to break it is to replace it. '...whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things' (Philippians 4:8 NIV). In other words, switch the channel! 2) Dissect it. '...fear involves torment...' (1 John 4:18 NKJV). Worry torments you; your imagination runs amok, conjuring up all kinds of scary scenarios. But it's also illogical; when you take it apart rationally and systemically, it loses its power to control you. 3) Rise above it. A well-known pastor was flying over the Mississippi River one day when the sky grew dark. 'We can't see where we're going!' he exclaimed. Calmly the pilot replied, 'We just need to rise above the ground heat, dust and smoke.' After climbing another 1,000 feet they emerged into a clear, beautiful world. Corrie Ten Boom called faith 'the radar that pierces through the fog.' When worry tries to fog you in, you can rise above it by placing your trust in the Lord. '...those who trust in the Lord...will soar...like eagles...' (Isaiah 40:31 NLT).
When God shows up The Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come Malachi 3:1 Sometimes God shows up dramatically: like an unexpected cheque in the mail, a door suddenly opening, or the Lord protecting you from a situation that would otherwise destroy you (See Psalm 91:11). Other times He shows up quietly, replacing your anxiety with assurance, whispering, 'Fear not...I am with you...' (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV). And when those around you say, 'You're different today, what's changed?' you reply, 'I don't know, I just have peace about it.' That's because, '...the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come...'(Malachi 3:1 NKJV) Here are two Bible stories which illustrate this:The first story demonstrates how God intervenes in situations where you are misunderstood and mistreated. 'After they had been severely flogged...About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns...Suddenly...all the prison doors flew open...' (Acts 16:23-26 NIV). Midnight prayers and songs of praise help you see beyond the problem, to God, the great problem-solver. By taking the focus off yourself and putting it on Him, your whole outlook begins to change. The second story demonstrates how God intervenes when we are overwhelmed by the sheer size of the challenge. Faced with leading two million Israelites into the Promised Land, Moses prays, '...show me now Your way...' (Exodus 33:13 NKJV). And God replies, '..."Here is a place by Me...I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand...' (Exodus 33:21-23 NKJV). When God tells you, 'Here is a place by me,' get into it and stay there! Even when you can't see Him clearly, you'll feel His presence, experience His goodness, and know that everything is going to be okay.
God Will Forgive and Restore You!! John 18:25 John records, '...The servants and officials stood around a fire... Peter also was standing with them... he was asked, "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it, saying, "I am not"' (John 18:18, 25 NIV). Earlier that day Peter had drawn his sword in order to defend Jesus; now he's denying Him. Has that ever happened to you? Under pressure you falter. Now what do you do? Dismiss it: 'Everybody slips; it's no big deal.' Deny it: 'Fall? Are you joking? Not me!' Distort it: 'Don't blame me; it was their fault!' But there's another option - to deal with it honestly. When Frederick the Great visited Potsdam Prison, every prisoner claimed to be innocent. Only one said, 'I'm guilty; I deserve my punishment.' When the emperor heard this he told the warden, 'Quickly, release him before he corrupts all these other innocent men!' The Bible says, 'Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable' (Hebrews 4:13 NLT). Confession isn't just telling God what you've done, He already knows. It's agreeing that it's wrong and asking forgiveness. God can't heal what you won't reveal or cleanse what you won't confess. That night Peter stood before two fires: the first fire was made by men before the crucifixion; the second fire was made by the Master after His resurrection. At the first fire Peter denied Jesus; at the second fire He acknowledged Him as Lord. But in between, Peter had two life-changing experiences: his tears and Christ's cross. When your tears of repentance meet Christ's forgiveness, you lose your guilt and find new joy!
Be Determined! 'Blessed is the man... whose confidence is in God. Jeremiah 17:7 It takes courage to be led by God. It's not easy to 'break the mould' and rise above the limits others place on you. When you do, you'll face disapproval. Jesus did. When the folks He grew up around said, 'Isn't this the carpenter's son?...' (Matthew 13:55 NIV), they were really saying, 'He should stay in His place!' When they tell you that, don't listen. '...each of us will give an account of himself to God' (Romans 14:12 NIV). In the final audit you'll discover that not only is it wrong to be judgmental of others, it's also wrong to permit their opinions to control you. 'Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.' To follow God's leading you must have confidence that He loves you in spite of your shortcomings; He has a definite plan for your life; you are capable of hearing from Him for yourself; and whatever He asks of you, He will enable you to do. Once you've heard from God, be resolute! Things worth having never come easy. If you find yourself weakening, ask God for determination and He will impart it to you through His Spirit. If you find yourself being in two minds, go back and ask yourself what God told you in the beginning - then stick with it. Don't go in a different direction because of worry, discouragement or the sentiments of others. Remind yourself that you have what it takes to succeed in whatever God has called you to do. If you've made Jesus Lord of your life, His determination lives in you - because He lives in you.
Do It God's Way and Find Fulfilment
The thief comes only to steal - John 10:10 Using his own home as a demo, TV anchorman Brandon Brooks showed his viewers how to protect their homes from robbers. He installed double locks on all the doors, windows that can't be opened from outside, sophisticated alarms-the works. But what he failed to take into account was that thieves were also watching and learning the details of his security system and where the TV, VCR, and furniture were located. The following week, while Brooks was on the air, they cleaned him out-because that's what thieves do! Satan is a thief! Jesus said he '...comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that [you] may have life...to the full.'(John 10:10 NIV) Henry Blackaby says: 'Since Adam and Eve, people have had to choose who to believe. Satan convinced them that disobeying God would gain them everything. Instead it robbed them of all they had, and for the rest of their lives they experienced only a fraction of the blessing God intended...The world wants to convince you you'll find fulfilment by adopting its standards of morality for your marriage, raising your children, and advancing your career...If you believe this you'll never experience the blessings God intended. Sin brings death (Romans 6:23)...Jesus wants you to live your life with security, knowing you're His beloved child. If you're not experiencing His love, joy and peace today you're settling for less than God intended. If you've been making excuses for why you're not living an abundant and joyful life, determine to settle for nothing less than God's best. Instead of following the world's way...listen to the Saviour's voice and...find fulfilment.'
Use Your Gift Romans 12:6 The Bible says, 'Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them...' (Romans 12:6 NKJV) God has 'graced' you to do certain things well. Now, that doesn't mean doors will automatically open, and, like cream, you'll just rise to the top. Indeed, what you get overnight you can lose overnight. You must first discern your gifts, use every opportunity to sharpen them, learn from your mistakes, and be tenacious about what God's called you to do. In high school 'Sparky' flunked Latin, algebra, English and physics. He made the golf team but promptly lost the only match of the season, then he lost the consolation match. He was awkward socially-more shy than disliked. He never once asked a girl out on a date in high school. One thing, however, was important to Sparky-drawing. He was proud of his artwork even though nobody else appreciated it. He submitted cartoons to the editors of his high school yearbook but they were rejected. Even so, he aspired to be an artist. After high school he sent samples of his work to The Walt Disney Studios. Again he was rejected. But Sparky didn't quit. He decided to write his autobiography in cartoons. The popularity of his cartoon strip eventually led to countless books and television shows. You see, Sparky was Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, the most famous cartoonist of all time. Like his main character, Charlie Brown, Schulz seemed unable to succeed at many things. But he made the most of his God-given talent, refused to quit, and ended up winning. So, use your gift.
Be strong and of good courage... Deuteronomy 31:6 Over and over in Scripture God says things like, 'Be strong and of good courage, do not...be afraid...for the Lord...goes with you' (Deuteronomy 31:6 NKJV). Why? To bring out the best in us! The history books are full of stories of gifted people whose talents were overlooked until someone believed in them. Einstein was four years old before he could speak. Isaac Newton did poorly in primary school. A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had 'no good ideas'. Tolstoy dropped out of college. There's a lesson here: people develop at different rates. To motivate them you must always be on the outlook for hidden capacities. Your words create an environment in which people not only discover their gifts, but also develop and excel in them. John Erskine, Professor of English at Colombia University, was an educator, concert pianist, author of 60 books, president of the Juilliard School of Music, and a popular and witty lecturer. Writing about that remarkable career, his wife, Helen, attributed it to his 'defiant optimism'. 'He was a good teacher,' she said, 'because of his own excitement for learning and his trust in the future.' He would say to her, 'Let's tell our young people that the best books are yet to be written; the best paintings have not yet been painted; the best governments are yet to be formed; the best is yet to be done by them.' Within every human being there is a God-given drive to achieve something. If you tap into that drive and demonstrate that you believe in their future, they'll do almost anything to live up to your expectations.
I have finished my course 2 Timothy 4:7 To finish strong, you must understand three things. First, that people will leave you. It may be because you've outgrown them, or to fulfil their own vision, or because they don't want to go where God's taking you. People left Jesus: '...many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more' (John 6:66 NKJV). Second, that challenges will come. Everybody God uses moves from one challenge to the next. Paul writes, '...People are watching us as we stay at our post ... when we're praised, and when we're blamed; slandered, and honoured; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognised by God; terrifically alive, though rumoured to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all!' (2 Corinthians 6:4-10 TM). Finally, that satan will attack you. When he does, remember, attack is a sign of respect. It lets you know you're valuable to God. It also indicates the level of blessing that awaits you beyond the attack. Satan will attack when God is about to bring something to birth in your life. It may be the birth of a relationship, a career, a ministry, or even a child God will use. Your 'difficult child' may be a child of destiny; that's why they encounter more difficulties than your other children. They have an assignment the enemy has discerned. When the attack comes, stand on God's Word and say, 'Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Corinthians 15:57 NKJV).
"Who will go for us?" Isaiah 6:8 Understand two things. First, that borrowed beliefs have no power. You must have a personal encounter with God or your life will have no impact. After they'd been filled with the Holy Spirit, we read, 'The apostles testified powerfully... and God's great blessing was upon them all' (Acts 4:33 NLT). Second, that unused power has no value. Isaiah writes, 'The posts of the door were shaken... and the house was filled with smoke' (6:4 NKJV). What a mind-blowing experience to have in church! But Isaiah had to leave, go out and perform God's purposes. 'I heard the voice of the Lord saying: "Whom shall I send?"... Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." And He said, "Go, and tell this people"' (Isaiah 6:8-9 NKJV). You must spend time in God's presence building a relationship with Him, then carry His word to those hurting around you. When Jesus took His disciples up the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter got so caught up in the experience that he wanted to stay there. '..."Lord, it is good for us to be here..."' (Matthew 17:4 NIV). But Christ explained that His power is not for storing, but sharing. Paul wrote, 'I will not... speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me...' (Romans 15:18 NIV). Paul didn't glory in what Christ had done for him, but through him. God has only one reason for filling you with His Spirit, and that's to pour you out in service to others. Jesus said, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach... & heal the broken hearted...' (Luke 4:18 NKJV). You have been empowered for a purpose!