Monday, January 31, 2011

I just Can't Let go

When I was growing up, my parents always made sure we took family trips.  Do you remember the good ol' days of family trips?  We usually went to the beach or to the mountains.  I have to say that my favorite trips were always to the beach - Maybe that's why I enjoyed living in Hawaii so much.  There was always something compelling about the sun, sand, surf and smells of the air at the beach.  I remember on one particular trip, we went crabbing.  We went out on the pier and would put the appropriate bait on a string and lower it in the ocean.  We would wait a few minutes and then slowly pull the line up out of the water.  If we pulled it at just the right pace, there would be a crab holding onto the bait with his claw.  We would pull him out of the water and drop him into a bucket and he would eventually become dinner.  The taste of crab meat was okay, but I really enjoyed catching the crabs.  I was fascinated that these crabs would hold onto the bait until they were caught and then it was too late.  All the crab had to do to get away was to let go of the bait.  I was just amazed that they would not let go.

Isn't it amazing how we can be just like those crabs.  I Peter 5:8 tells us:  "Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith."  When we lack self-control, we end up being like a crab that has been hooked by Satan.  We are holding on to something that will be destructive to us, to our family or to our testimony.  We slowly get pulled out of safety and still refuse to let go.  We see the trap of the consequences of continuing to hold on, yet still we won't let go.  

The ability to overcome these sins and struggles is to admit our weakness.  Until we own up to the fact that the pressure is greater than our will power, we will continue to fail.  In each of our lives, we have secret struggles that can be defeating us over and over again.  There is never victory in these areas until we admit our sin and our inability to change.  That opens the door for us to allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen us.  I have found, the Holy Spirit usually utilizes other Godly people in my life to help build accountability and prayer support to experience success and victory.  Then I am able to develop the Spirit-given self-control to see Satan plans and let go of the sin.

Are you ready to let go yet?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Excited about a giant

On Sunday, Shane Miura brought us a message of hope for those facing overwhelming obstacles.  He reminded us of the lesson David taught us when he fought Goliath.  David didn't look at the size of Goliath, he looked at the size of his God.  He remembered how God had been faithful to help him defend his sheep against predators, so he knew God would protect him from this super-sized predator of God's people.  Then in I Samuel 17:48, we see that David ran to fight Goliath.  He ran to meet the giant.

I don't know about you, but I rarely run to face the struggles in my life.  I don't get excited about having troubles.  My usual reaction is to complain or to ask God to take it away.  Rarely do I thank Him and focus on what God wants to do in the midst of this struggle.  I let frustration, fear and anxiety be my first step and early companion rather than faith, assurance and peace.  Does this sound familiar?

Just a few chapters before David's encounter with Goliath, we see Jonathan teach us a similar lesson.  Jon is the son of King Saul and seems to be a young man with faith, passion and energy.  In I Samuel 14, we see that the Israelites are oppressed by the Philistines.  Only Saul and Jon have weapons, so the outlook is rather bleak.  It looks as if Israel will continue to be held under the thumb of these foreigners.  However, Jon goes out to spy on the Philistines and in 14:6 he tells his armor-bear, "Come, let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows.  Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf.  Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many of by few."  So Jon goes to check it out, gets in a fight and kill 20 of the enemy as they attack him.  This puts the Philistines in a panic, which leads to a rout by the rest of Saul's army.  One man with total trust in God sent a whole army into retreat and defeat.

God is waiting for us to approach our problems like David and Jonathan.  We need to have supreme confidence that God can bring about victory.  That victory does not depend on how large our army is, how talented we are, how smart we are, how much money we have or any other human factor.  It has to do with being obedient to God when facing a God-sized problem.  Just remember that Goliath and the Philistine army really are the underdogs because they are going up against God.  That problem is the underdog because it is facing off against God, not against us.

So what obstacle are you facing?  What is keeping you afraid and imprisoned?  What hinders you from the freedom, grace and joy that God has in store?  Follow the King of Glory into battle and we will always have a victory!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What gift?

Our challenge for this year is "Grace".  Grace is defined by different definitions:  Some people may think grace is what we say before we eat a meal while others may think of Grace as a name.  However, God's grace is a most precious gift.  I heard grace defined once this way and I have always enjoyed this definition:  Grace is an unexpected gift from and unobligated giver.  Grace comes from God in unexpected ways through His holiness to His creation.

I saw an example of that while I was back in North Carolina.  We were visiting my mother for Christmas and my side of the family was all planning to arrive on Christmas Day at my mom's house.  Leah, Thaddeus and I had been in Greensboro since December 14th, but the rest of the family would be traveling.  On Christmas afternoon, snow began to fall.  The weather report had said there may be quite a bit of snow, but I didn't get my hopes up.  However, the snow began to fall and stuck on the ground, but not on the roads.  I was worried because one of my brothers had to drive all the way from Aiken, South Carolina.  As each sibling and their family arrived, the snow seemed to fall harder, but still did not stick to the roads.  Once my last sibling arrived, the snow began to stick on the roads and the accumulation was close to five inches.  That is the first time in over 60 years that Greensboro had more than a trace of snow on Christmas day.  Yet, the roads were fine until all of my family arrived.  We all spent the night together at my mom's house and enjoyed the snow.  We went walking in the snow, playing in the snow, making snowmen and having snowball fights.  Most people would look at this and think this was a nice coincidence.  I look at the timing of the snow and the safety issue and look at it like God's grace.  It was an unexpected gift from an unobligated giver.  I know, others may not have been as fortunate to miss all the snow.  My point is this:  The timing of the snow reminded me that I serve a God whose timing is perfect and who enjoys surprising His children.

The greatest expression of grace is Jesus, Himself.  John 1:17 reminds us that grace came through Jesus and Ephesians 2:8 that we have been saved by grace.  The most unexpected gift to mankind is salvation.  God was not and is not obligated to give us eternal life, yet He did.  

As we go through 2011, may we go with gratitude for the gift God gave us in Jesus.  May we also share his gift of grace with others during this year.  May we show the same patience with annoying people that God has shown with us.  May we give those close to us second and third chances to blow it just like God has done for us.  May 2011 find us enjoying sips of grace from God's well.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Do I love me.....too much!

This morning, I was in the locker room of the gym where I work out.  Unfortunately, the music was playing too loud to ignore.  I usually have my own Ipod, so I don't have to listen to the latest music on the top 40 list.  This morning, I had no choice and the two songs which I heard caught my ear.  The first one was "I am Beautiful" - I don't know if that was the title, but the female singer continued to sing this line over and over again.  She felt she was beautiful regardless of what anyone else had to say or think.  The second song was sung by a woman telling a man that he wished she was his girlfriend.  She talked about how hot and sexy she was and how much he must long for her.  I do not know who sings either of these songs nor do I know how popular they are.  However, I do know they reflect a very sick and hurting view of self.  Psychologists use the term of "narcissist" to describe someone who has this type of infatuation with self. 

Now, I'm not the world's deepest thinker nor the greatest theologian, but I know these songs reveal a deep hurt and brokenness in our world today.  I doubt either of these singers profess faith in Christ because their words are in such opposition to the truth of Christ.  When we commit our lives to Jesus, He gives us a sense of purpose...a calling which moves us beyond ourselves.  No longer is our own world the most important.  We experience a change in outlook which allows us to put others before ourselves.  We find the joy of "being last" rather than fighting to be first.  We become an encourager like Barnabas who would rather spend time strengthening others and helping them along in life than obsessing over our own bodies and desires.   We realize that being great in Jesus' Kingdom is all about being a servant of others. 

Now this kind of mindset is difficult because it goes against human nature and what we are taught.  Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we have this kind of attitude.  If you are like me, you struggle against being selfish and self-centered.  I want what I want.  However, as I allow Jesus to transform my life, I begin to want what He wants.  I have found that what He wants is eternal and satisfying while my desires are superficial and leave me empty. 

Let us not allow the culture of our lives to dictate the direction of our lives.  Let us be the one who serve and allow others to go first.  May this Sip of the Well refresh you to become a servant like Jesus!