Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Will Not Be Afraid

Fear is real. We all have areas in our lives where we are fearful. I am afraid of heights. I also have a fear of failure. But the problem with fear is that it causes us to not live life to the fullest. Fear causes us to hold back. And while President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "the only thing to fear is fear itself," the reality is that we do allow ourselves to have fear.
Fear can be paralyzing. It can rob us of our peace and joy. It can keep us from stepping out in faith to do what we know we should do. If you were to look at the life of King David (from the Bible), you would see that David had many opportunities to fear. As a shepherd he regularly encountered wild animals threatening his sheep. He had to overcome his fear to fight them off. He ended up fighting a giant named Goliath, who was much bigger and stronger than he was. He had to overcome his faith as he defeated Goliath with a sling shot and 3 stones.
In the book of Psalms, David wrote a very important Psalm in regards to conquering fear through prayer. Let's look at this prayer in Psalm 27:1-3:

"The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident."

In this prayer David declared that even when evil was around him and threatened him, he would remain confident because God was there to protect him. As David said, "The Lord is my light and my salvation." Where do you feel some fear? I know I need to trust God to help me to be successful in my endeavors as I trust him to lead me even when others around me attack me. How wonderful it is to know that with God I can overcome my fear!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

High Gas Prices

How have the gas prices affected you? These days everybody is fed up with the rising gas prices. It's not just that it seems so wrong to have the prices be so high. It's that it affects us in every aspect of life. Because of the high prices, we see airline prices going up, food prices going up, consumer prices going up.
As I was reflecting on the affect it has had on my own life, I realize that it has caused me and my family to make some changes. My wife and I are regularly trying to work out our schedule so that we can use one car at times, instead of two. This makes it difficult, because we often have different schedules and places to be. And even though we seek to live on a budget, most of our spending money goes to money for gas, instead of going out to eat, or driving somewhere for an outing. And while spending time at home can be a healthy family discipline, it can be a bit much some times.
The high gas prices is causing a lot of anger these days. You might have read the article of the Danville woman who was accused of setting 2 gas stations on fire in protest. There are gasoline protest meeting groups online. There are attempts to hurt the gas companies (like the effort to encourage people not to buy gas from a particular company, or on a particular day). Or how about Bob Oyster, who was told by Shell he was going to have to pay higher prices for the gas, so he jacked up the price well over $4.00 (that was when it was selling in the mid to high $3.00 range). He did this to make a statement. As Oyster says: "I got fed up. It makes a statement, and I guess when people see that price they also see the Shell sign right next to it.''
While things are tight financially, I am still able to pay for gas. But that doesn't mean I want to give all my money to the oil companies. And what about those who can't afford the gas anymore? What are we to do? I'm not sure I have the answer, but I do know that as consumers, we CAN make a statement by trying to limit our gas purchases. After a while, it WILL begin to send a loud statement to the oil companies. By doing this, we also are seeking to be good stewards of the money we do have.

I ask again, how have the gas prices affected you?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Turning Bad Into Good

Life is full of bad experiences. Bad things happen all the time, to good people as well as bad. Bad things can even happen to Christians. There are many who wonder why God doesn't protect them from the bad things in our world. But think about this, the bad things that happen to us are either our own doing, or a product of the bad in our world.
First, we sometimes create the bad which happens to us. We don't always make good decisions, and some of our decisions lead us into situations that cause bad to come to us. Those who choose to smoke will have to deal with this addiction (maybe for a lifetime), and for some they will get cancer and die. If you choose to lie, and get caught in your lie it can cause you trouble. If you go out for dinner all the time, even though you don't have the money, you might find yourself short when it comes time to pay the bills. Our bad choices cause bad to come into our lives.
Second, sin creates bad things in our world. Romans 3:23 tells us, "For ALL have sinned and fallen short of God's glory." You don't have to read far into the newspaper to see all that bad that exists in our world; war, rape, robbery, kidnapping, drugs, gangs, and on and on I could go. Since we live in this world, there are times when this bad affects us and impacts our world. Maybe you don't live in a safe neighborhood, maybe something bad like this has happened to you, maybe you are afraid to go out into the world.
But there is good news. God wants to bring good out of our bad. Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." The Bible promises us that when we trust God, God can take the bad that has happened in our lives and work out good from it. I know that in my own life, the struggles I have gone through have taught me important lessons, or prepared me for something else I was going to do in my life later on.
There is an interesting process that you can go through that helps you to discover this. What you do is get a bunch of yellow and pink sticky notes. On the yellow sticky notes write all the good that has happened in your life, and on the pink sticky notes write all the bad things that have happened. Then put them in chronological order. When you read through your time line in this way, you will discover that much of the good that has happened follows the bad; God used the bad to prepare you for the good that was to come.
So, what should you do? Trust yourself to God. Believe that God will bring good out of your bad. Don't give up living. Be passionate about life.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Childlke Faith

In Matthew 18:1-5 Jesus says, "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me." Here we have a situation where the disciples were wanting to be great. We see ego; pride; selfishness. Jesus surprises them with these words.
What is Jesus saying here? Greatness comes not from physical strength, but from spiritual strength; a humility of spirit. Kids are humble. They believe what you say. They are not hard hearted. They are persistent. They believe in miracles. They have a capacity for wonder. And if we are going to be great, then we need to have a childlike faith.
When we do not have a childlike faith, we try to be in control. We think that we have to have all the answers. We think that we need to take care of all of our needs. We think that we have enough strength to do what needs to be done. But in the end, we become predictable, because we usually do what is expected of us to do.
Predictability and faith cannot coexist. What characterized Jesus (and ultimately His disciples) was unpredictability. The things Jesus said and the things Jesus did was always surprising those around Him. He ate with sinners, hung around tax collectors, prostitutes, and lepers, and healed people on the Sabbath. In fact, when Jesus was present, everyone was uncomfortable because they didn’t know what to expect.
This is what childlike faith does for us; it leads us to do the unexpected because when we follow God's leading, it usually is not what is expected. I know in my life when I follow my lead, it is nothing new or profound, but when I have faith like a child and trust Jesus, then it is very profound.
I challenge you to think about how you can be more childlike in your faith. What do you need to do differently? Where do you need to let go? Where do you need to trust more? What miracle do you need to ask God for?