Friday, October 30, 2015

Be Bold: Proverbs 10:25

"When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever." (NIV)

"When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation." (NKJV)

"The wicked are destroyed when trouble comes, but good people stand strong forever." (ERV)

We have spent this week discussing the storms or trials and tribulations in our lives. We have discussed the foggy haze that overtakes us and doesn't allow us to see God's silver lining. Even though we know He is with us and He is for us, we have trouble seeing Him when we are in the midst of the storms. It is at these most vulnerable times; however, that it is most important to keep our eyes strongly affixed on our Lord. Just like the disciples in the boat, we must invite God in to our hearts to help calm the storms. 

In the midst of these storms it is often the hardest to keep our values and our character strong. This is especially true when a person or people are harming us. These storms, to me, are the most challenging. People will fight us, condemn us, and can even hurt us to the very core. So how then, do we keep our own character strong and not lash out and hurt them back? It is when someone is hurting us the most, that we must remember this proverb. When the storm clears, the wicked are gone but the righteous stand strong. So, when your storm clears, do you want to be cast aside like the wicked or do you want to be standing firm in your faith foundation. 

As you move forward in to the weekend take some time to reflect on who you may have hurt during a storm, and think about those who you may have hurt because you were their storm. Often those we have hurt or have hurt us are those closest to us. Take this time to also pray on how you can best resolve these hurts in the name of the Lord. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Be Bold: Job 9:17

"He would crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason." (NIV)

"For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause." (KJV)

"For he breaketh me with a tempest, And multiplieth my wounds without cause." (ASV)

As you examined the storms in your life yesterday, did you find one or more that you said, "God is not in this." or "There is nothing good coming from this challenge." I know that I have had that response on more than one occasion. In the midst of your challenges, it is so often hard to see the silver lining or even the type of storm that God is using for you. 

Job had the same response in his life. He was unable to see that God was with him all along. God was using the storm that Job was drowning in so that he would grow. Job saw it as vindictive, mean, and uncaring. Job looked at God as a being with a personal vendetta against him. I have also been caught in the midst of the most challenging of storms with blinders on. We must, however, learn to be able to remove the blinders and see beyond the storm clouds to our Father's goals and ambitions for us. 

I know that is often the hardest and most challenging thing to accept. You look through the dense fog of your life only to see more fog and more turmoil. Like fog, however, you can continue to move forward, because somewhere beyond that fog is a rainbow or a golden meadow welcoming you and providing treats and pleasures beyond imagination. 

Today, look at your life at this exact moment. Take note of the storms you wrote off yesterday as the devil's work, coincidence, or as simply something you couldn't understand. Reexamine those storms. Look through the haze and see if you can find even the smallest glimpse of golden meadow. Make a list of three things God could possibly be trying to tell you within those horrible storm clouds. Pray about the results, sit quietly and allow God to speak to your heart, then take another moment to find two more things that God may be trying to tell you within that storm. Use these five results to continue to rejoice, pray, and thank throughout the week. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Be Bold: John 6:18

"But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” (NIV)

"he reassured them, “It’s me. It’s all right. Don’t be afraid.” (MSG)

"But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (NKJV)

How did it go yesterday? Was that feeling in the pit of your stomach just a little bit less intense than it was yesterday? How much farther were you able to push yourself than the day before? While you were pushing yourself, were you able to rejoice in God's greatness, pray for God to give you strength, and thank God for having the ability to take that step out in the first place? It is glorious that we can make these steps. 

Today we look to John's account of the same storm that Matthew recounted yesterday. Instead of focusing on Peter's ability to walk on water with the help of the Lord, John focuses on the weather produced by the Lord and the cosmos. 
18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
God's pop quizzes come in so many shapes and sizes.  This storm was only one of many that tested the disciples faith. During the storm and troubles all the disciples had to do was accept Christ in to their boat for the waters to calm. Throughout our lives, the Lord uses several different types of storms in many different ways.
  • Correcting Storms - These are storms like the one that Jonah went through. During the catastrophe of the storm, he found God again. 
  • Perfecting Storms - These storms are similar to the ones that Joseph experienced in Genesis. Joseph went through many trials though he did nothing to bring them upon himself. The storms that he experienced; however, served to strengthen his faith in God. 
  • Protecting Storms - This is what we see here in the gospel with the disciples. In these storms, the Lord is protecting us from a far worse storm that we would have experienced. Often we don't know what that worse storm would have been, but we need to have faith the the Lord is using our current tribulation to protect us from far worse. 
  • Growing Storms - These storms are similar to perfecting storms and correcting storms combined. They are ones that break you from a rut that you may have found yourself in. Even though still strong in faith it gives you a chance to see how God can move your journey along rather than only fixing or directing it. 
The Bible speaks of what we should be looking forward to (and are looking forward to). We have salvation in the Lord which leads us to the Millennial Kingdom, which gives us eternal life with God, which gives us a future after death. So what about my life now? I am a sinner and I deserve nothing from God in the present or in the future. I deserve the trials and tribulations in my life.

Today, think about the storms you are currently experiencing or have experienced recently? What type of storm do you think that God is using? What should the outcome be? Journal today about whays you can reframe the way you think about life's storms. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Be Bold: Matthew 14:27

"But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (ESV)

"But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid." (ASV)

"But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” (NKJV)

Did you take that step out of your comfort zone yesterday? How did it make you feel? If you are like me it made you feel as if you had food poisoning. I get pits in my stomach, begin to sweat, feel my throat tighten, and that is just the beginning. I pray that your experience wasn't quite so dramatic. These baby steps will help you to feel more and more comfortable outside your comfort zone and you will be able to take bigger and longer and more frequent steps. Do not try to do it all at once and do not try to do it without your eyes on the Lord. 

In the gospel of Matthew, as well as in the gospel of Mark, the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water is accounted. 
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,”he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. (NIV)
Peter was given an amazing gift from God, the ability to walk on water. As long as he held faith and had his eyes on the Lord, he was able to continue to this feat far outside his comfort zone. When Peter's faith and eyesight wavered, however, he began to sink and struggle to finish his task. We should see this story as instruction as well as a warning. When we are called by the Lord outside of our comfort zone, we must keep the faith that the Lord will continue to lead and instruct our steps. In exchange, we must keep our eyes turned to Him.

Today, try to take another step outside of your comfort zone. Build upon yesterday's step. If the step you took was, say, 3 feet out of your comfort zone, today go 4 feet. It doesn't take much, but it does push your limits. In all of it, keep your eyes turned to the Lord. Build upon what we learned last week as well, rejoice, pray, and thank God for all that He is doing for you in giving you courage and strength.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Be Bold: Exodus 20:20

"Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so you may have enough fear of Him to keep you from sinning.” (NLV)

"And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not." (KJV)

"Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” (ESV)

Pop Quiz! What strikes fear in to school children more than this phrase. When we finally get out of school we are safe from those evils, right? I mean, yes, there are times at work where you are struck with the same fear and doubt of your abilities; however, for the most part, you are not living in fear of a quiz on an obscure book that you never read. 

Not so! God gives us pop quizzes in order to test us and to push us beyond our comfort zone. I am very happy with my comfort zone. It is comfortable there! When things get too stressful or too anxiety provoking I retreat back in to my comfort zone to get that cozy and safe feeling back. I believe that most people do this. The problem with our comfort zones; however, is that once we retreat back in to them, it is hard to get us out.

That is when God springs a Pop Quiz on us. God places trials, tribulation, and storms in to our lives in order to push us to and beyond those limits. How will we know how much we can achieve with God if we do not step out to where He wishes us to be. God wants us to keep our eyes on Him during these storms so that we may see His awesome power. 

Today, take a few moments to note when you have a chance to step out for God but recoil back in to your comfort zone. Take one chance today to take that one baby step beyond your comfort zone. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Be Bold: John 14:1

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me" (NIV)

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me." (KJV)

“Do not let your heart be troubled. You have put your trust in God, put your trust in Me also." (NLV)

So many things in this world cause us harm and cause us to worry unnecessarily. Isn't it wonderful that God has provided us a way to settle all of this frustration, worry, and doubt by simply being still in His word? How did He provide this? It is through His son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that we have this calming influence. In John, Jesus reminds us that it is not enough to believe in God. Jesus is God's mediator and it is through our belief in Jesus Christ as son of God that are worries can be silenced by our eternal salvation. 

Jesus goes on in this passage to assure us that God's house has enough room for all of His followers. Jesus comforts us in saying that He would not have invited us if there were not room. This reminds me of when I was a kid and my sister and I would fight over who our mother or father loved more. My mom would say "I love you both the same". If you have a sibling you know that this answer never put the argument to rest. We would continue to argue; however, Mom would continually assure us that she had enough love in her heart for both my sister and my self. I wondered if this meant she loved my older sister half as much as she did before I was born? If she loved my sister 100% before I was born, she certainly only loved her 50% now since there were two. right? Well, no. 

The same way that my mom's love multiplied over and over again when she had a second daughter, God's love multiplies with each and every new child adopted in to His kingdom. His house is certainly big enough for all of the believers in this world dead, alive, and future and it is certainly able to be multiplied over and over again as we set out on the Great Commission to bring more followers to Christ. There is no end to the love that God has for us; therefor, we need to go forth an allow others to experience that love. Bringing other followers to the house will not lessen the spot that Jesus has prepared for us, it only multiplies to love that much more! 

Today, challenge yourself to speak with one person outside your family about the love of Jesus Christ. As a new challenge, this can be a fellow believer. The Great commission can be hard for those of us with shy and silent personalities, but God is there for us through it all. So, make that effort. Spread some extra love from Jesus to a friend or coworker today. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Be Bold: Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (NKJV)

I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for (GNT)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)

How did your task go yesterday? Were you able to keep track of the small glories that God produced in your life? Did you rejoice, pray, and thank Him? I know that it helped me so much to feel the presence of God in my life at every single moment of my day. This is something that takes time and takes work. It is not easy, but it does get easier as you practice. I like continuing to use the notebook, as it helps me to remember what I am supposed to be looking out for. It also helps me to be in a better mood. When something negative happens I can take that split second and say, but what good has come or what worse did not come. I wonderful exercise for those of us who are known to begin spiraling down the rabbit hole when one thing goes wrong. 

Today's verse follows the same trend from the rest of this week. There is an old Yiddish proverb that roughly translates to "When man plans, God laughs". I find this proverb both funny and self-fulfilling at the same time. God knows our future. God knows where He needs us and when He needs us there. It is all a part of His global and universal plan. That does not mean we are called to sit on the couch and eat potato chips, though that does seem appealing some days. It means that we need to listen to God's plan and calling. This is hard. It does not come easily for most people, but we needn't fear. God has His ways of getting us to exactly where He wants us to be. 

How do we know if what we are doing is pleasing to God and following His plan? There are a couple tests that you can play out, though the final answer may not be revealed until the moment when you see Jesus face to face in this world or the next. One test is that God will never contradict His own word. Therefor, if you believe that your task or path is one that contradicts the Bible, it is not from the Lord. The next test is in relation to today's verse. The Lord's plan for you will lead you to eventual prosperity and hope. This does not mean that there will not be heart ache or pain along the way; however, the Lord does not wish for us to be in disaster and mayhem long term. Storms and tribulation are used for the eventual good; however, that is exactly that point, the eventual good! 

So, we needn't worry about our futures. As children of God we can be assured in our salvation and eventual resting place with the Lord God. I will be straight with you though, your eventual good may not be on this earth and in this world. God wants that you should have joy and prosperity and hope; however, these are all feelings that will be 100% achieved in God's kingdom. It would be wonderful for them to be achieved on this earth as well, but do not disparage God when you find that this world does not hold that exact opportunity. 

Today let's work to look toward the future with hope. Let's look forward and tell God that we are excited for the next steps that He brings to us in this world and that we are hopeful for the wonderful gifts that we will receive in the next.