Sunday, September 25, 2011

I Can't Do It

I Can't Do It
September 26, 2011
Philippians 4:13 "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Can't, cannot, these are words in our vocabulary that we use to suggest a reason to give up. If I say, "I can't," it gives me justification to quit. If we say it enough, it allows us to even believe it has truth or merit. If we tell other people we "can't" do something, then hopefully they will believe it, too, relieving us of the pressure of having to go through a struggle or difficult task. It is so much easier to believe in "can't" than it is to believe we can do something difficult. "Can't" gives us an excuse for our laziness or unwillingness, it eliminates hard work. Believing in "can't" also signals defeat; it means you will not even try. It is defeat before the opportunity to fail even occurs.

The Bible teaches that this thinking, this failure that results from "can't" is not an appropriate concept to propagate. In fact, it teaches just the opposite if you are a Christian. The Apostle Paul said, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Other translations of his words read it another way, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." We must be careful in how we interpret his teaching, however, being diligent to read the appropriate meaning into it. Paul was not saying Jesus would give him supernatural abilities or Herculean muscles. Paul was not saying that he would now possess physical skills surpassing that of a human, becoming god-like. Paul was saying that in difficult situations, it was the support from the person of Jesus Christ that would allow him to get through it. Paul was referring to emotional fortitude through difficulty or situational struggles. It was meant as a truth to help us endure hardship, not drawing upon human fortitude but rather spiritual grace from the Lord.

Paul was not even suggesting that the situation would be overturned through the strength of Jesus, but rather that survival through it would be possible. The Lord may not pluck you from the circumstance, requiring you to walk through it. There are many situations in life that I don't think I could emotionally or spiritually endure, like being captured by militants in a hostile nation or watching my child battle cancer. But Paul teaches that emotional and spiritual survival is possible if we use Christ as our bolster. His words are spoken as a guarantee for each new situation, meaning the strength of Christ will always be there for those who trust in Him and draw upon their faith in Him. It is a promise for you and me. Christ will be faithful to us. He will be there with us through our struggles, through our difficulties, through all the situations in life when we want to say, "I can't do it." True, you can't do it on your own, but you CAN do it through the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Each of you reading this is going through something that you'd like to quit or change, something difficult in which defeat would seem far easier to accept. But the Lord would like to give you His strength today. For those who are afraid to step out in faith, afraid to venture forward thinking you can't do it, Christ is saying that He will be with you and give you what it takes each step of the way. You may not possess all the strength for the journey up front, but Christ will give you just enough of His fortitude to make it through whatever it is you are dealing with today, right now. Be blessed in knowing you do not walk alone through your struggles. Christ is in the trenches with you through every heartache, every difficulty, every report, every situation or circumstance in which it would be far easier to quit. Quitting is not what the Lord intended for your life and He does not want you to give up now. Draw upon His strength today, dealing with what ails you. You CAN make it through; He promises.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 1 Cor 8:6, 2 Cor 9:8, 1 Tim 1:12, 1 Peter 4:11

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Faith and Sin

Faith and Sin
September 19, 2011
Romans 10:10 "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."

Does having "unconfessed" sin mean that the sin has not been forgiven? This is a question we have all asked at one point. The act of confessing sin is for repentance and change; it is admitting and acknowledging your sin in an effort to take responsibility, to start over with a clean slate. But what about the sin you just committed five minutes ago and haven't had the chance to confess? What if you died without having the opportunity to confess this sin? Does that mean the Lord has not forgiven you for it? Would this also mean you could be denied entrance into Heaven? You might say it could possibly be OK if the sin was a little white lie that didn't hurt anyone, but what about right after having an abortion? I would submit that it is not the act of confession alone that allows your sins to be forgiven; it is your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

There were four men who brought a paralytic to Jesus for healing. They lowered the man through the roof to present him for the opportunity. The words in the Bible right after that did not reveal a healing miracle at first. In fact, Jesus saw the faith of all five men and was astonished. Jesus immediately said, "Your sins are forgiven." The paralyzed man never confessed his sin to Jesus though he received forgiveness for everything he had done. He didn't confess his sins but he DID have tremendous faith in who Jesus was and what Jesus could do.

On another occasion, when Jesus was hanging on the cross, there was a man next to Him being crucified for his own sin of thievery. The man looked at Jesus and recognized He was the Son of the Living God. The man asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus made it to Heaven. Jesus, upon seeing the man's faith in Him was willing to honor the request. The man never confessed his sin directly, but died receiving eternal salvation.

The paralyzed man never confessed his sin but was forgiven. The dying thief never confessed his sin but made it to Heaven. Neither man made a physical act of confession for his sin. Jesus honored them both, though, not because they had an opportunity to confess but because they both demonstrated tremendous faith in who Jesus was and is, recognizing Him as the Savior, as the Son of God.

Interestingly, these two men are not known in the Bible by their names, which are never mentioned. They are known and will always be known by their faith. It takes faith in who Jesus is and what He can do in order to accomplish the forgiveness of sin and gain entrance into Heaven. No amount of heartless confession, nice deeds, or clean living will warrant forgiveness from the Lord. It takes faith in the person of Jesus as the Christ to lose the chains of sin and gain the freedom of eternity. It is the confession of faith that is critical then, the true heart facing Jesus that will be forgiven and saved.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26, Luke 23:32-43, Rom 5:1, Tim 6:12, James 5:15

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Unforgivable Sin

Unforgivable Sin
Sept 12, 2011
Mark 3:29 "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."

Jesus was a man. Yes, He was the son of God, which made Him a deity, but He was also a man. In that same vein, He functioned all the days of His life on earth as a man. He performed many miracles, which seem to reflect Him as God, but He performed them as a man. Interestingly, if you tally all the miracles performed by Jesus and compare them to the miracles performed by the disciples after Jesus ascended into Heaven, the number that Jesus performed would be small. But few seem to remember that the disciples worked miracles, too. In fact, it was Jesus who taught the disciples His secret to performing miracles: the Power of the Holy Spirit. Anything Jesus did on earth was only through the Power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not perform any god-like functions in His own strength while earth bound; He was a conduit of the Holy Spirit.

On one occasion while Jesus was performing miracles, the Pharisees accused Him of driving out demons by the power of a demon. Jesus was quick with His retort, saying that it was by the Power of the Holy Spirit (not the power of a demon or His own power as the Son of God). This led to the next discussion Jesus had regarding the Holy Spirit: blaspheming the Holy Spirit as an unforgivable sin. He said that you could deny Jesus as the Son of God and still be forgiven, but you would never be forgiven if you blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. The word blaspheme was used to describe an abuse, a curse, or irreverence regarding the Power of the Holy Spirit. Why this is such a grave sin, I do not understand, but I DO understand the Power of the Holy Spirit.

When my wife was pregnant with our second child, she suffered from a brain tumor. She could not undergo treatments while pregnant. Our unborn daughter at the time also suffered in utero, as all the scans and ultrasounds reflected health problems. The doctors said it appeared our unborn child would enter the world with mal-functioning kidneys, spina bifida, and Down’s syndrome, if she made it out alive (my wife’s tumor could have terminated the pregnancy). All we could do was pray that the Power of the Holy Spirit, the same Power that raised Christ from the dead, would heal our daughter. Our daughter was soon born and in perfect health; her kidney issues resolved within months. No spina bifida or Down’s, either. A few weeks later, the doctors checked on my wife’s brain tumor. The results were astonishing. They could not find a tumor; the Lord had healed her through the Power of the Holy Spirit. To honor the Lord and the Power that healed our daughter, we named our daughter a very special name which carries the meaning of the Holy Spirit. Her first name means "like a dove" or "small bird" and her middle name means "small fire" or "like tongues of fire" (both references to the physical demonstration of the Holy Spirit).

I say all this as to not blaspheme the Power of the Holy Spirit. If I count my wife’s healing and my daughter’s perfection to happenstance, I blaspheme the Holy Spirit, an unforgivable sin. If I attribute success to modern science and do not speak reverently of the Power of the Holy Spirit, I blaspheme Him. If I dismiss miracles in my life as commonplace or random acts of nature, I risk living with an unforgivable sin. If I call my miracles as though I somehow had a part in them, I risk the Lord holding something against me. You, too, have undoubtedly had a miracle in your life at one point or another and must recognize that it was through the Power of the Holy Spirit. Recount your story and be sure to attribute the success to the Power of the Holy Spirit. Be careful not to give credit to modern science, luck, randomness, or the gods of this world. This could leave you with an unforgivable sin.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matt 9:4-8, Matt 10, Matt 12:15-32, Mark 2:23 - Mark 3:30

Monday, September 5, 2011

Get Out of the Boat

Get Out of the Boat
September 5, 2011
Matthew 14:29 "'Come,' [the Lord] said."

We've all heard the story about Jesus walking on the water; it was during this same instance that He called to Peter and he, too, walked on water. (To get the full effect of the story, it must be read in three versions of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, & John). The disciples had just witnessed the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Then Jesus instructed the disciples to go on ahead to the next stop, which required an evening's row across a lake. In fact, the lake was approximately 8-10 miles across; the disciples had made it about half way across by 2 a.m. They were rowing the boat when a storm began to blow; they struggled to row against it. Then rising out of the stormy night, they saw an apparition walking on the lake; they didn't know it was Jesus. They were petrified, believing what they saw was a ghost, or an evil spirit. It was like a scene out of a scary, horror movie--a dark and stormy night complete with a suspenseful spirit.

Jesus knew their fearful thoughts and called out to them, telling them not to be afraid. They heard His voice, a familiar voice. Peter decided to double check, wanting to make sure it was really Him. Peter asked Jesus to invite him out on the water to verify His identity. Peter said, "Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water." Then Jesus said, "Come." When Peter heard that word "Come," he knew it was Jesus and stepped out of the boat to walk on the water with Him. Peter was willing to step out in faith because he had heard the voice of Jesus. Recall when Peter met Jesus for the first time. Peter was in the exact same position, sitting in a boat, and Jesus said, "Come." Peter was familiar with this direction from the Lord; he had heard it before. He followed the first time, and he was willing to get out of the boat to walk on the water when he heard it again. But notice, before Jesus called him from the safety of the boat, to walk out in faith, Peter made himself available to the opportunity.

I recall one time when the Lord asked me to step out in faith. I had been a Christian for years, and was trying to figure out the next step in my life. I needed direction. After making myself available to the Lord through prayer, I distinctly heard His voice calling me to make a huge move (about 2,000 miles away from my current, comfortable position). I was willing to follow The Voice because I was familiar with it. After moving forward, though, I became afraid; it was a major decision and I didn't really have a plan. All I had was that voice telling me to step out. After speaking with a very wise man, he counseled me regarding my fears. He told me to re-play that voice in my head, the one calling me out, every time I was fearful in my new journey. Thankfully, I did what he suggested. I stepped out in faith and the Lord carried me through. Fear crept inside my head every now and again, but I played the voice of the Lord over and over, reminding myself it was Him who had called me to step out in faith.

Peter didn't do that. Peter didn't remember it was the voice of the Lord who had called him out of the boat onto that water. Even though it was only moments before, Peter became afraid on the water and started to sink. The fear of sinking is what keeps you and me from stepping out. In fact, the fear of sinking is what keeps us from being willing to step out. We seldom make ourselves available to the Lord, for fear He might actually ask us to step out in faith. Be honest with yourself; you probably aren't willing to sell everything you own and move to a different country tomorrow. And if you have done that, you know what it is like to be fearful of doing the right or wrong thing. But the Lord will always carry you through if you have faith in Him and you are stepping out in obedience to His voice.

Peter didn't begin to sink until he lacked faith out in the midst of the lake. Jesus never changed His position; it was Peter who forgot it was the voice of the Lord calling him to step out. Know that if you step out, you must have faith that the Lord WILL carry you through. Make yourself available, listen for His voice, and remain faithful to that voice however fearful you are when the waters are rough. You will only sink if you lose faith that the Lord is the one calling you, taking your eyes off of Him. Go ahead, make yourself available; He promises not to let you sink when you step out.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matthew 14, Mark 6, John 6