Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Giving it All

It can be easy to think that your participation isn't significant. Every one of us can be trapped from time to time by feelings of inferiority when we compare our abilities or resources to others. Our call to be generous is no different; we can feel hesitant to participate in this effort because of our own perceived insignificance.

Interestingly, Jesus isn't impressed by the amount that anyone gives. He is impressed by giving inspired by sacrificial love. A story in Luke 21:1-4 illustrates this beautifully. Jesus is at the temple and watches some very rich worshippers make their offerings, followed by a widow who is only able to give 2 tiny copper coins; equivalent to less than a penny. Jesus is so proud of this woman that he makes her an eternal example of what the spirit of generosity looks like:

"I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." Luke 21:3-4

Jesus makes it clear that it isn't WHAT you give, it is HOW you give. Jesus is interested in our hearts. This woman showed her heart belonged to her Heavenly Father by faithfully giving all she had. So what is God calling you to give? If you know God is calling you to give up something and you can't obey, then you no longer own that object. It owns you! So many people end up letting their possessions posses them. Don't fall into that trap. Recognize that everything you have comes from God and then faithfully release everything into his hands to use as he sees fit.

Be generous this week, and make generosity a part of your character.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You Can't Walk on Water with Your Feet in the Boat

It is hard to break a reputation once you have earned it. One of the great examples of this in the scriptures is in the life of Peter, probably the most well known of the 12 disciples. Throughout the ministry of Jesus, Peter is the guy who is the first to act and the first to speak in many pivotal points. Sometimes this leads to him saying some pretty profound words. After all, Peter proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, the chosen one of God, before any other disciple. There are many touching moments when the tender heart of Peter is revealed in various situations.

However, Peter is a bit more known for his other side. He is the guy that runs his mouth first, usually saying something foolish. He makes promises he cannot keep, most notably his promise to never betray Jesus; just hours after that promise Peter managed to deny Jesus three times. Peter is also the guy who rushes into action without thinking things through; he is the man who cut off a person's ear when soldiers came to arrest Jesus. I get the feeling that would have been a bigger deal if Jesus didn't step in and heal the poor guy by reattaching the ear. He gets labeled as a coward for abandoning Jesus the night before the crucifixion, like all but one of the disciples.

Another time Peter seems to fail is in Matthew 14. One of the most famous scenes in the Bible takes place here when Jesus walks on water through rough seas to reach the boat his followers were on. Peter sees that the figure moving toward them was Jesus, and he asks Jesus to call him out onto the water. Jesus does, and Peter gets out of the boat and begins heading to him. The high seas become too much for Peter, and he begins to sink until Jesus rescues him. Peter is rebuked for his lack of faith, and all the disciples are amazed at what they saw. This event gets written down as yet another time when Peter failed to rise to the occasion.

Call me crazy, but I think Peter deserves some credit here. As people, we tend to focus on the failures of others and overlook their success. As far as I know, there have only been two people that walked on water. One of them was the Son of God. The other one was Peter. Isn't that pretty incredible? How many of us are on a list that short and in such good company? The other disciples all had the same opportunity Peter had; yet none of them were willing to risk that first step. How much courage did it take to leave the safety of your boat and set foot on those waves?

I think there is a lesson here for all of us. If you want to achieve something incredible in your life, you have to get out of the boat. I can promise you that the path God has created for you will not be found in the safe place you are accustomed to; it will be found in the swirling danger far from your comfort. If you allow your fear to lock you in place, the most you can ever be is an observer. Don't just be a spectator in life, participate! Take a risk, and step out of the boat and into the waters of faith.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Art of Living

Life is art. The most beautiful canvas that has ever been used are the lives of people. The way we live is the artwork we are creating, our choices are the medium used to form this art.

The choices we make form qualities in our life that can make a beautiful picture or a marred image. Nobody's art is perfect; our mistakes and shortcomings serve to distort the picture. No matter what imperfections are a part of your painting, know that Jesus came to cleanse the impurities and give us all a clean slate. We can learn to create a true masterpiece by incorporating qualities in our life that are noble and honorable.

Join us this Sunday as we learn together how to master the art of living by living a life of courage.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stepping into the River

There is a constant battle raging in our world today. Some may think this battle is only between good and evil, but I am not certain that is the case. The primary battle in the world is between fear and faith. If you think about your life, most of the decisions you make aren't between a horrific sin and a truly good act. If you are like me, your decisions are between what you know and what is uncertain, between what is comfortable and safe and what is outside your comfort zone and may cost you something.

The people of Israel faced a similar choice in Joshua 3 when they reached the bank of the Jordan River. The edge of that river represented the beginning of a new era in the history of Israel; it was the boundary of the land that God promised them many years ago. They had been here forty years before and had let their fear of the monstrous people within the land keep them from pursuing God's purpose for their nation. Now a new generation of Israelites had an opportunity to follow God boldly into the land and take possession of what they had been promised.

The problem was the river itself. It wasn't the typical calm, gentle current the Jordan usually followed; this was a raging river during the flood season. God provided a way across this river; he told the priests of Israel to take the ark of the covenant and walk right into the river. God promised that if they trusted him, he would make a way for the entire nation to cross the Jordan River safely.

Now the people of Israel had a choice to make. They could play it safe and stay on the other side of the Jordan, or they could take a step of courage and faith into the raging waters of the river. I think we all have similar decisions to make in our lives. We can play it safe on the edge of the river where life is calm and secure, or we can risk it all by stepping into the chaos of our world. The willingness to risk security and comfort is a must if you want to experience the best God has to offer you. God's best never comes easily! All too often we choose the easy path because of our fears.

Know this: whenever you play it safe you reinforce your fears! We spend so much time talking and arguing with ourselves and others about the proper path in life that we forget to actually do anything. Don't debate it. DO IT! Reject the natural impulse to always play it safe and instead choose to get your feet wet!

Learning to Let Go

Resentment can be a powerful enemy in your life. It is so easy to hold grudges and allow hurt to fester in your soul. The words and actions of other people have a far greater impact on our lives than we are willing to admit. It can be strangely satisfying to hold onto your anger or hurt toward another person instead of simply letting go of those emotions. It is almost like we believe that the way we feel inside can actually strike back at those who have hurt us.

Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple. Job 5:2 (NIV)

In reality, the opposite is true. Resentment kills! I have found that the person that can make me angry controls me. The same is true in your life. The only way to find peace is through forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn't condone the behavior, or mean that you pretend that what happened to you was ok. It does mean that you are forfeit your right to be angry at others. Your forgiveness releases those that have hurt you from condemnation; and it releases your soul from damaging hurt. If you don't release the people that have hurt you, you will begin to resemble them.

Practice forgiveness this week. After all, Jesus has forgiven you!