Navigating Life’s Storms

Every human being faces heartache, trouble, difficulty. Life Storms so to speak. All of us have either been in a storm, are in a storm or are headed into a storm.

Look at Job 5:7 “Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.”

Jesus said it this way In Matthew 5:45 “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Though everyone experiences trouble, we as believers have a very unique kind of trouble. If you are following Jesus, you have an enemy who passionately hates Jesus, therefore you as well.

Three Biblical Principles about Storms

  1. Storms change our comfort.

Acts 27:13-15 NIV When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along.”

Storms change our comfort, that’s why we hate them and fear them. We like things just the way they are. Most people love their comfort zone.

But storms always take us out of our comfort zone. Storms bring difficulty, conflict, danger, headwind, it can slow us down and change our direction.

Even though Paul was in the will of God there was still difficulty, danger and a strong headwind.

This is definitely a dangerous, difficult situation that Paul is in but it was needed. Sometimes you and I need to get our comfort challenged.

A physical example is if you don’t exercise and move much you get flabbier and weaker. You might be comfortable but if you don’t add some resistance to challenge your muscles your body changes for the worse.

Sometimes we call this getting into a rut – It can be Physically, Mentally or Spiritually.

When we move and exercise and eat right we feel better, have more energy and are stronger. When you read books and listen to podcasts and messages you exercise your brain, you learn and stretch your thinking and expand your knowledge.

When you exercise spiritually like Praying, reading and studying God’s Word, using your spiritual gifts, listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. You grow and deepen your faith.

A rut is when we are used to the things being a certain way and when a storm or a person comes along and disrupts that, when it changes our comfort we freak out.

But could it be that God has something so much better than what you’re experiencing right now? That may be why the storm is coming.

  1. Storms also change your Values.

 Acts 27:16-20 NIV 

“As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, 17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor[b] and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

Here we see them preparing the ship for this storm, battening down the hatches so to speak. Because of the storm they didn’t know exactly where they were at, or where they were heading. Storms can disorient us and send us on a wild ride.

Fear began to grip them and fear causes us to not think clearly and make quick or rash decisions.

Here they can’t run and hide from the storm so they try to face it but it’s too powerful, they start throwing everything they can overboard to lighten the load.

Their values and priorities changed. All the things on board were less important than surviving. They threw everything they could overboard.

In a storm we should toss out what won’t help us survive. When a storm hits you hard suddenly that paycheck is not as important as you thought it was. 

In a storm we suddenly realize what’s really most important in our lives, and its not stuff, it’s not money and possession, it’s people and our relationship with God.

Granger Smith Story – Country Music Superstar – in 2019 his son River drowned in the family pool. Plunging them into a deep storm. During this storm Granger and his wife Amber find redemption and purpose, they battle through the tragic loss and turn to God – to Jesus for Faith, Hope and Peace.

Granger left his career in Country music and has dedicated the rest of his life to sharing his story and the good news of Jesus Christ in transforming our lives.

Proverbs 11:4 “Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

  1. Storms will bring out the best in you or they will bring out the worst in you.

Acts 27:21-25 NIV

“After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

Paul tells them here I told you so, not to rub it in, but to urge them to listen to him this time. Paul was taking charge, going from a prisoner on the ship to in essence the captain of the ship.

A good point to make here is that we should all listen to wise godly counsel.

In times of storms we need strong christian leaders to lead. When there is a difficulty and everyone is burned out, paralyzed by fear or panicking a leader arises.

The storm brought out the best in Paul. He shares that the Lord had appeared to him through a messenger and he shares what was told to him.

The metal of a man or a woman is tested in difficulty. If you want to find out who a person is, listen to them, watch them observe them in a trial or difficult time. That’s when a person’s true character is revealed.

Why was Paul able to stay so calm and lead so confidently in the midst of this devastating storm?

Three Anchors that help us through the storms:

  1. The Anchor of our Identity.

“Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong”

Do you belong to Him? Have you given your life to Jesus Christ? If you do belong to God then you have a new identity, you are a child of God, fully adopted into HIs family with full benefits of being a son or daughter of the most high God.

That identity of being in Christ gives you a completely different perspective in trials, difficulties and danger.

If we belong to the Lord God, then we are His responsibility. 

  1. The Anchor of our Service.  Another word we could put there is Worship.

“and whom I serve stood beside me”

Paul is on a mission from God. He knows who he belongs to and he knows why he is still alive. His life is about serving God, Worshiping God with his whole life. Everything Paul did went through the filter of serving and worshiping God.

Paul believed, and we should as well that if we are on my mission from God that he will protect you until you are done with that mission. Paul knew God was calling him to Rome and that he would get there.

Only God knows when our time is up. So keep serving Him, Keep Worshiping Him until that day comes.

  1. The Anchor of our Faith. Or Trust.

“So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me”

Paul trusted God’s Word – Do you completely trust God’s Word?

Our Faith in God is a strong anchor in a time of trouble. God is a promise keeper and we can hold onto the many promises he gives us in His Word.

Abraham Lincoln – President during the most terrible time in our country the Civil War. Bible on his Desk. After he died they looked through and they noticed under one of the Psalms a smudge mark that looked like a place he would have put his finger to read the Psalm.

Psalm 34:4 “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

That’s a great Word from God for a leader during a difficult, painful, dangerous time.

The enemy also has some anchors he wants to use to weigh us down: Lies, Doubt, Fear. So understand and embrace your true identity, Serve and worship the Lord daily and Trust God completely.

Four Things God Does to Encourage us

If you are like me it’s so easy to become discouraged and disappointed when things don’t go as you had planned. Life can be difficult and painful at times and most people become weary and tired as well.

In the book of Acts Paul faced many challenges, disappointments, rejections and dangerous situations on his missionary journey’s that started the early church and Christian movement. I’m sure he was weary, tired and discouraged. There are some consistent things that God did to encourage and help Paul for his mission and journey.

God does these same things in our lives. The key is being aware and acknowledging these things when they happen. I don’t believe things just happen by chance, God is always at work in our lives if we pay attention.

  1. God sends helpers and encouragers. God always works through people. People that are obedient to His ways and looking for ways to love and serve those around them. When you are discouraged, feeling alone or struggling with issues of life. Pray and ask God to bring the right people into your life. It’s in times like this that God sends people to encourage us and help us. 

Remember, we also have an enemy that does not want that to happen and will try to get you to isolate yourself even more and to avoid people. Battle against that. As you connect with God he will give you the discernment to know who is from Him and who is not from Him. That’s important because some people are not good for our faith and walk with God. Some people will give counsel that does not line up with Scripture and can deceive us. That is why we must be in God’s Word ourselves and work on the most important relationship in your life and that is the relationship with Jesus Christ.

The big question is who are those people that God has brought into your life to be an encourager, helper or mentor. But even more than that, who are you doing that for. Who are you encouraging, helping or mentoring?

2. God does the unexpected. So many times in Scripture and in our own lives God does something unexpected or miraculous. It’s usually at the most unexpected times as well. It’s those only God moments, where you can’t explain it other than only God.

For Paul there are so many times that God does the miraculous. Whether it’s a person believing that he does not think will, or God healing someone or delivering someone from evil. When we are down and discouraged look for God to do the unexpected to bring us encouragement.

3. God spoke to him directly.

In Acts 18:9-10 it says this: 9 “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”

This is what God said to Paul and I believe this applies to us today as well. God uses these words to encourage and help us. Today we have all of the Bible to hear from God. That is the primary way God speaks to us today.

  • God’s Courage – Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.” 

Embrace perseverance: Courage often requires perseverance through trials and difficulties. Endure with faith, knowing that God is refining your character and strengthening your courage. James 1:12 encourages us, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

Pray for courage daily: Bring your fears, anxieties, and concerns to God in prayer. Ask Him to grant you courage to face challenges and to trust in His power. Psalm 31:24 says, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!”

Trust that God will equip and empower you for the task. Isaiah 41:10 assures us, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

  • God’s Presence“For I am with you”

How do we stay aware of God’s presence?

Become more aware of God’s presence by creating space.You cannot become more aware of His presence without quieting your soul. Dallas Willard said, “Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life.”  You need time and space to hear God clearly. When we are always on the go, moving from task to task with the earbuds in, email open, television blasting, and social media buzzing, God is left in the background.  Listen to what Jesus did according to Mark 1:35, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Why was it solitary? Simply, he was removing the distractions so that He could focus on God. You and I should do the same at least once a day if not more. And then we need to do it for extended times. It is during these times when we can hear and sense God more clearly.

Become more aware of God’s presence by obeying His Word. A key spiritual principle is that God makes Himself known and reveals His presence to those who choose to obey His word. Jesus explained it this way, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (John 14:21)  The word “reveal” means to appear in person! How cool is that? God shows Himself to those who are willing to obey because their obedience reveals their love for Him. In this sense, God is just like you and me. He is drawn to those who love Him.

Become more aware of God’s presence by talking to Him. Paul encouraged all believers in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “…pray without ceasing.” When we turn our inner conversation into a conversation with God, it brings Him into our lives like nothing else can.  You can literally talk to Him about everything that is going on all the time. As you get better and better at this, you begin to hear Him speak back to you. And this, my friends, is what you were created for.

  • God’s Protection – “and no one is going to attack and harm you”

God’s protection is not the absence of trials but the confidence that He is with His people, providing strength, guidance, and shelter in every circumstance.

When it comes to God’s protection:

Pray for Protection: It’s appropriate to pray for God’s protection in specific situations or for loved ones. Philippians 4:6 encourages believers to “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Put on the Armor of God: Ephesians 6:11-13 encourages believers to “put on the whole armor of God” to stand against spiritual forces of evil. This spiritual armor includes truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, and the Word of God.

Stay Connected to the Church: Being part of a Christian community is a way God protects us. We all need the strength of companionship and support in times of adversity. Brothers and sisters in Christ, praying for each other, listening to each other, caring for each other, guiding each other, and even challenging each other.

  • God’s reveals part of His Plan – “because I have many people in this city.”

Why is God reminding him to not be afraid, keep on speaking, reminding him that God is with him and that he will protect him. It’s because God knows there are a lot of people in this city that will believe in Jesus and be saved. He wants Paul to stay there and deeply invest in the people of this city. 

God is all knowing and His plan needs to be our plan. Our obedience is key in this. That means sometimes doing things that don’t make complete sense to us.

God’s ultimate plan is always for people to believe in Jesus and have eternal life – Salvation. Our part is planting the seeds, watering those seeds that have been planted and being a Christ like example to the people around us.

God reveals His plan to us in small doses. Here He is telling Paul to stay, to invest deeply into these people and develop disciples. 

However, if we are not spending time with God, not praying much, not opening our Bibles, not going to church or in community with other believers it’s very difficult to hear from God and his plan for us.

4. God Guides us to what was next.

That vision from God gave Paul a peace about continuing to stay there and preach the Word. Paul was able to teach, coach and disciple many people because of the people around him, the courage he got from knowing that God was with Him always and that He would be protected on this journey. He also knew that many would come to faith which spurred him on to share about Jesus.

Because Paul was regularly practicing the presence of God and deepening that relationship with God he was guided by God through the Holy Spirit. He could sense when he was released to pursue something else or go to a new place.

Throughout the book of Acts on this journey that Paul is on we see him walking with the Spirit. God’s Spirit guiding Paul to stay or go, speak or be silent, even who to talk to and what to say.

Today we too are guided by the Holy Spirit. When we walk in tune with the Spirit we get the guidance to what is next. We get the courage to take that step and we are often protected along the way.

Ask God to guide you to what is next in your life. It starts with prayer and asking God for help and direction. Then look for the people God will send your way and dig into God’s word to hear directly from him, and of course expect the unexpected.

The Seven Statements of Jesus on the Cross

John 20:1-10 NIV 

The Empty Tomb

20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

You can sense the level of confusion and the fear as they ran to the tomb. Even though Jesus had told them what would happen they still struggled to believe it actually could. The tomb was empty, he was not there! He has Risen!

This is the most significant time for the Christian Faith. When Jesus comes back from the dead.

Yet I want to take you back to Friday, to the Cross. Without the resurrection we would have all missed what happened on the cross. When Jesus came back and interacted with people after his death and burial he solidified the faith of those early disciples.

On Friday morning around 9am Jesus was nailed to the cross. While he was hanging on the cross He said some very powerful and important things that are recorded for us today.

He made 7 statements – A person’s last words before they die are usually very significant. It’s honest, raw and real. We know these are not His final words before going to heaven, but these are the final words before he died and was resurrected.

As I mentioned this is the most significant time in the history of our world and yet most people did not know it was even happening or what was actually happening.

Even Satan and the demons did not know what was happening. They thought they had won, finally defeating the Son of God. A major victory in this spiritual war.

Jesus was doing His greatest work on earth and He was uttering His greatest words on earth.

I believe this was his greatest sermon, these 7 statements. I wish I had time to unpack deeply every statement. These statements come from all 4 Gospels as none of them have all 7. That is the beauty of the Gospels, each has a slightly different emphasis as they describe the same event.

The first 3 hours He gave 3 statements. All of them were about other people, not about himself.

His first statement, His first words on the cross were “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He is fully displaying his love and mercy for all people. Emphasizing how important forgiveness is for all of us.

His second statement was to a man who was dying on the cross next to him. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” By simply believing in Jesus this man was saved.

His third statement was to His mother “Woman, behold your son!” and then to John “Behold, your mother!” Jesus is expressing how important it is to care for our families, to love them to the end and make sure they are provided for.

Then at noon Mathew, Mark & Luke record that there was darkness over the whole land, it went dark, Jesus was silent, Luke also tells us that the curtain in the temple between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the temple was torn in two and Mark tells us it was torn from top to bottom.

This went on for 3 hours, then suddenly, Jesus breaks the silence with His 4th statement:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why did Jesus say this?

This comes from prophecy in Psalm 22 and it’s the moment that God turns away from Jesus because the sins of the world have been laid upon him. The agony, the feelings of abandonment, the isolation all came upon Jesus.

That statement got a lot of people’s attention. Some thought he was calling on Elijiah to come and there was this sense of anticipation like something was about to happen. That’s when someone went to get the spong and the sour wine.

These last three statements come one after the other fairly quickly. The 5th statement is simply “I am thirsty”

Look at verse John 19:28-29 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. ”.

So after he cries out to Father God, it says Jesus knows it’s finished but he first says I am thirsty. Why not just say it is finished and give up his spirit.

What does that mean so that Scripture would be fulfilled?

Jesus was thinking about Psalm 69:21 another prophecy about the coming of the Messiah which says “and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.”

So yes, he would have been thirsty, he had gone for a very long time without food or water. He had lost a lot of blood and fluids, but he was also sending us a message that He is the Messiah, He is fulfilling what the old testament said about him. Even in a small detail like that.

Another interesting thing that happened was that they used a Hyssop branch to extend the sour wine to him. Those same hyssop branches would have been used to spread the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and also to sprinkle the blood of sacrifices on the altar happening right at that moment in the temple as they prepared lambs for the passover meals that evening.

Another symbol, to show us that Jesus is the final sacrifice.

So Jesus knew that was the final prophecy to be fulfilled. He knew he had completed the work by taking on the sin of the world and that is why he said the next statement.

“It is Finished”

John 19:30 “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Think about what Jesus had done on that cross. He went into darkness, he was separated from God “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” and he experienced a burning thirst. 

To me that sounds a lot like Hell. Darkness, separation from God, burning thirst. Jesus took Hell so that you and I could have Heaven! Jesus Endured Thirst so that you and I could be satisfied for eternity.

On the cross God the Father treated Jesus Christ as if he had committed every sin committed by every person who ever lived.

Look at 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

In other words God the Father treated Jesus like you and I deserve to be treated, so that God could then treat you and I like Jesus deserves to be treated.

So when Jesus cries out It is Finished, He wasn’t saying He was finished or done. No, He was saying the work is finished, the sacrifice is finished, the prophecy is finished, the sins of the world are now covered and paid for.

It was a cry of victory, not of defeat. 

Which leads to the final statement Jesus made on the cross. This statement we find in Luke, Again in a loud voice Jesus says “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.”

In John it says With that statement “It is FInished” He bows his head – He rests His head and He chooses to commit His spirit to God. At that moment he breathed his last breath.

This lets us know that it was Jesus’ decision to die, not man. He gave His life, it was not taken. He loved us to the end, and with that end came eternal life for all who believe in Him.

So back to today. To Sunday, to the Resurrection! Now that Jesus has come back again all that happened before makes so much more sense. All the things he said came true, all the things from the Old Testament came true.

Jesus fulfilled all that was said about him, Jesus fulfilled all that He said would happen. And Do you know what else Jesus said?

In the last book of the Bible, the last chapter of that Book, three times Jesus tells John the writer of Revelation and us today “Behold, I am coming soon.” The third time he says Surely I am coming soon!

What Jesus Said

I love good quotes. If you follow me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, you will notice that I post a lot of quotes, mostly other peoples quotes, but some of my own.

When I think about the greatest quotes of all time I immediately think about Jesus!

In all of history, no one’s words have had as much of a profound impact as that of Jesus Christ. Most of Jesus’ quotes are found in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which record the life, teachings, and actions of Jesus. 

Jesus’s love for humanity is evident in everything He did, said, and revealed to us. 

Jesus stands alone as the only person to have walked this Earth, and was completely sinless. 

His incredible influence has forever altered the course of history. His sacrificial death on a cross, his burial and then his amazing resurrection are what makes Jesus unique, and distinct from any other religions.

No other God became man, lived among us, taught, healed, discipled and challenged a group of followers that would go on and change the world forever.

His actions and words continue to inspire us daily, urging us to embrace our own challenges, confident that He will walk alongside us, drawing us nearer to Him. 

Listen to these quotes by Jesus.

Jesus’ Quotes on Love and Compassion for Others

Matthew 25:40: “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

Luke 6:31: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Matthew 22:37: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”

John 15:13: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus’ Quotes On Faith

Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 19:26: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 6:19-22: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Jesus Quotes on Forgiveness and Repentance

Luke 5:31-32: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Matthew 18:21-22: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Mathew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Luke 15:7: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.”

Jesus Quotes on Salvation and Eternal Life

John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Mark 8:34: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Mark 1:15: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Matthew 18:3: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

John 19:30: “It is finished.”

Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:3-10:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Son of God “I AM” Statements

John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 10:11: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

John 6:35: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

John 8:32: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 11:25: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

John 15:5” “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Revelation 22:30: “Surely I am coming quickly.”

Read through those again and ask God to speak to you. What is He saying to you today?

Just Jesus

This week at Eight Days of Hope 20 in Amory Mississippi we have been loving and serving this community that was hit by a huge tornado last year. We are rebuilding homes, including 7 complete rebuilds and serving over 100 families during these 8 days.

Every morning and evening we have worship and devotions for all the volunteers well over 1,000 every day. I had the honor of sharing a devotional about Jesus and how to share the Gospel.

Jesus gave us a clear mission. Right before He went into heaven he said these words, which are found in Acts 1:8

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

A witness is someone who shares Christ with their lips (words) and with their lives (actions) in the power of the Holy Spirit wherever they go.

Listen to this story of Philip being a witness

In Acts 8:30-31,35

“Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”

What I love about that interaction was first Phillip was obedient. He was looking for an opportunity to share the Gospel. Then God brings this person across his path and he goes. We are called to do the same every day.

Also notice what he didn’t do. He didn’t force his way in or smack him upside the head with the Bible. He didn’t tell him he is going to hell or use fear to get his attention.

He simply asked a question. He asked do you understand what you are reading? And that led to a much deeper conversation about Jesus, and how Jesus was who he was reading about. That person ends up believing in Jesus and getting saved and then baptized.

How can we have genuine gospel conversations where people don’t feel like they are targets or projects, and communicate that we genuinely care?

  • Ask great questions. About them and their lives, about what they believe about God, or spiritually. You might not get to God in the first conversation, but as you get to know them look for times to ask questions about God, the Church, their faith.
  • Admire what you can about what they believe. Find ways to connect with them and find some agreement.
  • Admit that you need Jesus too. Share how you came to realize that you were a sinner that needed a Savior.

If that door opens and they seem ready to hear more you can use something like the 3 circle method to share the Gospel. 

THE FIRST CIRCLE REPRESENTS GOD’S DESIGN

I believe God has a perfect design for every area of our lives. God has a plan for our families, our marriages, our money, our work life. God has a design for every area of our lives.

The Problem is Sin

In our selfishness and rebellion we leave God’s design and go our own way and do our own thing. Sin simply means missing the mark. Falling short, ignoring God and rejecting His ways.

THE SECOND CIRCLE REPRESENTS BROKENNESS

Sin always leads us to brokenness. This is tragic because brokenness really hurts. The brokenness of human life is real and is something that every person can relate to. 

Whether you go to church every Sunday or whether you have never gone to church your entire life, you probably know what it is like to experience brokenness either because of your own choices or because of the choices of someone who has hurt you. 

THE CROOKED LINES COMING OUT OF THE BROKEN CIRCLE

When people find themselves in a place of brokenness, they look for ways to fix themselves or for a solution for the pain we feel. 

We go on a search for a way to numb the pain, to escape the depressed feeling, and to get out of the place of brokenness. The problem is that we just get more and more broken. 

Repent & Believe

The Bible actually has a word for change and the Bible word for change is the word “repent.” When we come to a point where we realize we cannot change ourselves, we realize we need God’s help. This feeling drives us to our knees to ask God to help us change.

THE THIRD CIRCLE REPRESENTS GOD’S PLAN OF SALVATION

The Bible has a solution for the problem of brokenness and its called, “The Gospel.” Gospel is a Bible word that means “good news.” This is the good news, that God loves us so much that when He sees us in our brokenness he does not leave us there. Two thousand years ago, He sent His own Son Jesus to come and live a perfect life. 

Jesus never sinned. He loved people. He cared about people. He healed people who were hurting, and He spoke up for people who were broken.

Jesus went to the cross for us. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, God put the sins of the whole world on Jesus, including your sins and my sins. His body was broken so that our broken lives could be fixed.

Jesus died on the cross, but He did not stay dead. The good news is that after three days, Jesus rose from the dead. This miracle resurrection proved that Jesus is the Son of God and that He has the power to forgive our sins.

Recover & Pursue

So, if we truly want to experience change, we have to believe in Jesus. The Bible word for believing in Jesus is the word “faith.” We have to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and we have to put our faith and trust in Him. By faith, we believe that Jesus is our Savior and that He can rescue us from our brokenness.

When we turn away from our sins and turn to Jesus, God does a miracle in our lives. He restores us to His original plan for our lives and we become whole. When we cry out to Jesus, He fixes everything that is broken and gives us the ability to pursue God’s perfect design for our lives.

No matter what you have done or what mistake you have made or how broken your life is, God is waiting for you. Once you become a believer in Jesus, you come full circle all the back to God’s perfect design for your life.

  • Does that make sense?
  • Is there anything holding you back from trusting in Jesus right now?

While we are Waiting

Waiting is not something we like to do. Waiting in line, waiting on hold, waiting for the results. When it comes to our faith often times we find ourselves waiting on the Lord. How do we do that and not run ahead of God? Here are a few thoughts on waiting for God to answer, guide or intercede:

1. Trust God – This is part of our faith, believing that God loves you and cares about you and is actively working for you. Trust that He is good, and knows what is best. Trust that His ways are better than your ways. Trust that He will show you what is next. Trust that it will be in His timing. Proverbs 3:5-7

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”

2. Seek God – During times of waiting it always helps me to read Gods Word. Deep dives into Scripture and times of solitude in deep reading and prayer. Worshipping through music and singing and walking in nature are ways we seek God. Reading a devotional and even books on a topic of interest. Another way to seek God is through getting godly counsel from trusted Christians. Talking with other people and having them join you in prayer is a great way to wait on the Lord. Lastly, fasting is also a great spiritual discipline that helps as you wait.

3. Pray to God – When you are waiting it’s vital to talk to God. It can be crying out with questions and frustrations, sharing your fears, and deepest inner thoughts. It can be praying Scripture to God, some of the Psalms are great for that (Try Psalm 27). You can pray in your car, at work, in your bed or on your knees. When a worrying thought comes to your mind, tell God about it. When a temptation comes your way, talk to God about it. This is part of walking with the Spirit, daily tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit to help us wait on the Lord.

As you are waiting be open to God working on you. In the waiting God often has transformational work He wants to do in you. Maybe the reason your waiting is God is refining you, growing you, helping you to mature in your faith. Trust, Seek and Pray.

Do You Enjoy Waiting?

I meet with and talk with a lot of people and one thing I don’t think I have ever heard is someone say they are really good at being patient.  Not many people list that as a strength, most often it’s listed as a weakness.  The meaning of the word patience is quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence.  It’s an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.  Calmness, stability, and persistent courage in trying circumstances.  Does that describe me?  How about you?

Have you heard or made this comment: “Be careful when you pray for patience, because you might be tested.”  It’s almost like we are afraid to ask God for patience, because then we may be put into a position to have to actually be patient.  So why is it so hard for most people to be patient?  Why is this this virtue such a challenge to the majority of people.

Some of it stems from living in an instant gratification culture.  We have access to almost anything through our computers and phones, from emails to movie tickets.  I have seen people nearly go ballistic if they have to wait in line for more than a few minutes.  When looking to check-out at Walmart we work hard at finding the quickest line and when the line beside us goes faster, we get angry.  This mindset of getting things instantly has a dark side to it.  It affects our emotional intelligence and spiritual maturity.  The capacity to wait – trading a temporary delight for a more substantial success later- is a core component of emotional intelligence and spiritual maturity.

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. Psalms 27:14

If we have a hard time waiting, we tend to act like children and throw a temper tantrum to get what we want.  Studies at Columbia University measured 4 year old’s ability to resist candy, then followed up more than a decade later.  Kids who could wait only a few seconds for the candy, had SAT scores as teens that averaged 60 points lower than those of the kids who’d had the self-control to resist for 5 minutes or longer.  Good things come to those who wait.  This is often hard to see in the moment when we really want something.  However, going with those first impulses can get us into trouble and into debt.

The good news is that we can all change and everyone can improve in this area of patience.  Our brains can be rewired and transformed, so that we actually respond and behave in a different way.  This of course takes time and patience with lots of endurance.  Here are a few suggestions on how to practice and improve our patience:

  1. Create more space between impulse and action – When hit with that impulse that I must have this or I must buy that, wait for a few hours and see if you still feel that way.  Delaying that impulse often leads to better more sound decisions, health and relationships.  Maybe the impulse is to say something to your spouse to defend yourself or attack his behavior, hold those words in and wait.  Think through how those words could be received and how they could do more damage.  Maybe it’s a purchase of something beyond the budget.  The power to walk away will begin to rewire the brain and help change the finances.
  2. Plan on Waiting – If we plan ahead for when we have to wait, it can be a huge shift in perspective.  When waiting in traffic, use that time to breath deeply and pray.  The deep belly breathing is a proven stress reliever and prayer has a way of shifting our focus to the right things.  Also, listening to a podcast or worship music can be a great way to use the time while you wait.  When you plan on waiting, those long waits can become little retreats.
  3. Plan Ahead – Allow more time, not less, to get to places; don’t leave important tasks to the last minute; resist doing one more thing before leaving the office or home, which causes us to be anxious, and often late, even before starting out.  The more we can plan ahead, the less impatient we will be when delayed.
  4. Practice saying No – Our lives are too busy because we take on too much.  Simplifying our lives can dramatically improve our patience.  Most of the things we are doing or involved in are good things, but too much is too much.  Start by listing out the most important things in your life.  What other things are distracting you from the most important?  When we are able to say no to some things we are able excel in others.
  5. Don’t try to change other people – The harder we try to change the other person the worse the relationship becomes.  Being patient with other people takes a shift from trying to figure out how to change them, to trying to figure out how to love and serve them.  Our patience level goes way up when we approach other people with a mindset to serve them and love them instead of change them.  That way when they don’t behave like we think they should it’s much easier to just keep serving and loving.  It’s not our job to fix other people or the world, it’s our job to work on ourselves.
  6. Understand why some things push your buttons – We all have hot buttons, those things that set us off and lead us into impatience and other emotions.  When we fully understand why certain things set us off, then we can learn new ways of responding when those buttons get pushed.  Our response after that button is pushed is what leads to conflict, anger, impatience and immaturity.  Our buttons are based on core fears we all have.  Things like fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being misunderstood or unheard, fear of being inadequate, judged or cheated.  Fears like that cause us to respond is some whacked out ways. Some self discovery here can help you in all your relationships and be more patient with others and yourself.
  7. Be Flexible – We get most impatient when our plans are messed up.  When our schedule does not work out or something or someone blocks our goal.  When those unexpected things come up, take it as a learning experience and an opportunity to grow.  Maybe that person was brought into your life in that moment to help you grow more mature.  When we are so rigid in our goals and schedule it causes us to be very impatient with anyone that gets in the way.  We live in a fallen broken world with fallen broken people.  Expect roadblocks and distractions, and be prepared to adjust the best laid plans as necessary.
  8. Include God – On our own we will fail miserably in becoming more patient.  Asking God to help us in this area is the best thing any of us can do.  The more we talk to God about patience and other areas we need help in, the more He shapes and molds us.  When we plug into God, anything is possible.
  9. Finally, keep being persistent in your prayers even if God doesn’t seem to be answering. God does hear your prayers and is working in many ways that you do not see. Trust Him and His timing and keep doing your part of working on yourself and praying for others and the circumstances around you.

Discernment

Discernment helps to do several important things:

  1. Discover what’s under the surface.  Discernment enables a person to see a partial picture, fill in the missing pieces intuitively, and find the real heart of a matter. You can dig beneath what’s happening on the surface.
  2. Sharpen your problem solving ability.  The closer a person is to their area of gifting, the stronger their intuition and ability to see root causes. Discernment helps you know what the real problems are. Good discernment also helps to resolve conflict in a more healthy way.
  3. Evaluate your options, and make better decisions.  Discernment enables you to use both your gut and your head to find the best option for your family or your organization. It helps you to slow down and think clearly before making a decision.
  4. Multiply your opportunities.  People create their own “luck” as the result of discernment, that willingness to use their experience and follow their instincts. Doing that often leads to new discoveries and new opportunities.

To improve your discernment, do the following:

  • Pray and ask God to give you discernment.
  • Learn from past successes and failures.  
  • Learn how others think and practice empathy.
  • Ask good questions, and actively listen.

The Mustard Seed and the Leaven

Matthew 13:31-33

31 “He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

It’s like a Mustard Seed

The mustard seed is miniscule, about the size of the tip of a pencil lead. Your eye would barely notice it.

Nevertheless, if this mustard seed falls into the soil and if rain and sun nurture it, months later you could see a remarkable bush that has grown from that very small seed. How is that possible? 

When it was a seed, it looked like nothing. It seemed worthless and lifeless. But after it has nestled in the soil and received sun and water, the bird that didn’t notice the seed before might soon find this bush to be good place to build its nest.

Likewise, the kingdom of God may look insignificant, worthless, and lifeless to us. We might be tempted to pass over it in our thinking and instead dwell on things like earthly governments, the media, popular trends, political figures, human institutions, and so on.

The same would have been true of the kingdom of God in Christ’s time. If you had lived then, perhaps your atten­tion would have been focused on the Roman government as it controlled the then-known world. 

Uprisings, taxes, political intrigue – many such things would have seemed a lot more significant than a wandering rabbi from the back country of Galilee with a band of twelve followers. 

How many people in the Roman Empire do you think noticed what happened one Passover outside of Jerusalem, when Jesus was crucified between two thieves, with all His followers scattered and offended? 

Don’t you think what happened there seemed like just a mustard seed compared to things that must have seemed more important?

What lasting good could come out of an odd group of people spreading the news about things they saw and heard?

Yet, when we survey the growth of God’s kingdom since Christ’s death, what a gigantic “bush” has grown up! And it continues to spread, over lands and nations, across oceans and deserts. 

People from every corner of the earth have seen this “bush” branch out right in front of them, and, like birds, many of us have found a place to hide and shelter in its branch­es – all from a single, miniscule “mustard seed” planted in the soil outside of Jerusalem long ago.

Jesus goes on to teach another aspect of the kingdom of God and its growth. 

It’s like Leaven

Leaven or yeast is a fermenting fungus. What Jesus refers to would have been a piece of fermented dough from a previ­ous baking, which a woman would knead into a new batch of dough. 

Imperceptibly, the leaven would move throughout the whole dough, powerfully impacting all of it and making it rise.

Sometimes the Bible uses the picture of leaven for some­thing evil, such as “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Luke 12:1) or “the leaven of malice and wickedness” (1 Cor. 5:8). 

Evil can indeed move imperceptibly and powerfully. However, in this passage, Jesus is not referring to something evil; He is again referring to the kingdom of heaven and its growth within individuals throughout the world. 

So how does the kingdom of heaven work like leaven?

  1. Its work is hidden from view. The process of leavening cannot be seen with the human eye. Neither can the growth of the kingdom of God in a person’s heart. The Holy Spirit changes a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. This new heart is soft and pliable.
  1. It changes from the inside out. Jesus accused the Phari­sees of cleaning only the outside of their “cup,” while the inside remained dirty. Their lives might have seemed righteous on the outside, but their hearts remained unclean and evil. This is not how the kingdom of God works in the heart. Like leaven working from the inside out, the changed heart brings forth a changed life.
     
  2. It works as a comprehensive change in the end. Leaven makes the whole loaf rise. It makes it light and airy and tasty throughout; not one bit of loaf is left unaffected. In the same way, someone whose heart has been affected by the gos­pel, will ultimately show in his whole life that a change has taken place. 

It’s true that, on this side of eternity, believers will still continue to be plagued by sin. Yet, the growth of the kingdom within us will impact all of us: our thoughts, our habits, our actions, our words, our pursuits, our priorities – in short, our life as a whole will be dramatically changed.

So Let’s not despise the day of small things. Just because we don’t see anything happening on the surface doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing is going on below the sur­face. Let’s continue to pray earnestly that the Spirit of God would do His mysterious invisible work. 

Let’s adore the secret work of God. The Spirit’s work in each heart is mysterious and powerful. It reaches where no one can reach. In the secret depths of sinful hearts, God implants a new principle that radically changes peo­ple in every possible way. 

Has this change been worked deep in the recesses of our hearts? Do our lives pass on the leaven of the gospel in our families, churches, workplaces, and communities?

The Mustard seed is small but powerful, and leaven penetrates and permeates everything, and a little of either will go a long way.

Why Does the Church Exist?

Church has become a negative word to many people these days. For followers of Jesus it can also be challenging, because they may have been hurt, let down, or disappointed by church people or leaders in the past.

However, God set up the church as the way to reach the world with the Good News about Jesus Christ. The church exists to bring glory to God. That is not only true in a worship service, but it is also true of us in life. Look at what 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” . Whatever Christians do, they should be doing it to bring glory to God – in their careers, in their marriages and in the choices they make in life. The church was created to bring pleasure to God and bring glory to his name.

It’s really the people that make up the church, and the people that make up a church are to bring glory to God, we do this in several ways. Jesus gave this compelling vision to the church just before He returned to heaven. in Matthew 28:18-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The Five Purposes of the Church

  1. To Make Disciples.

Very clearly one of the main purposes of the church is to make disciples. What is discipleship? It’s exploring God’s ways, it’s becoming more like Christ. It is a life-long process of maturing and growing in your faith. Disciples are learners, learning the ways of Jesus, and walking with him on the narrow road.

2. To Share the Gospel.

In order to become a disciple you first have to meet Jesus and believe in Him as your Lord and Savior. So another important purpose of the church is evangelism. The church is here in order to expand God’s kingdom. Introducing people to the authentic, real Jesus will transform their lives. The people in a church play a big part in this, because as they grow as a follower of Christ, they become more like Jesus and therefore allow other people to see Jesus in them. Everything we do should bring glory to God and draw people closer to Jesus. When we share the love of Christ with others, the Holy Spirit can do transformational work in their hearts.

3. To Worship God.

Another purpose of the church is worship. Christ followers glorify God through worship in all areas of their lives. Worship brings the church to life and life to the church. Worship is exalting God’s worth. We do that many ways in a church setting. We worship through music and singing, through giving and serving, through prayer and reflection, through reading and preaching God’s Word, through communion and baptism. We were created to worship, and the church helps us to live that out in our lives, not just in a church gathering.

4. To Fellowship Together.

We need each other. God created us for community. It is not good to be alone. The church is a great place to build meaningful, life long relationships. It’s a place were we can connect with one another. A place where we can be real and authentic. We do that by worshipping together, serving together, eating together, caring for each other, encouraging each other and doing life together.

5. To Minister to Others.

This last purpose of the church is vital. Everywhere Jesus went, he extended his grace and mercy to those who need it most. When we serve unselfishly, we become extensions of Jesus. Ministering selflessly to a broken and bruised world should characterize every follower of Jesus Christ. This is how the church lives out the mission of making disciples, by being the church to people inside and outside the church. Finding ways to show the love of Christ is ministry.

The church is not perfect, it’s filled with people that are in process with flaws and problems. Yet as we grow and live out these 5 purposes, the church can have a huge impact on the world around us. I hope you will consider being a part of a local church. Pray and ask God to direct you to a church where you can be a part of making a difference in the world, and grow as a disciple.