Sure Deliverance in Times of Despair

by Chad Porter, Pastor of Student Discipleship

I waited patiently for the LORD;Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 3.41.21 PM
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure…

You have multiplied, O LORD my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told…

As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
For evils have encompassed me
beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.
Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me!
O LORD, make haste to help me!
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!
 
— Psalm 40:1-2, 5, 11-13

 

Have you ever felt like this? I have. I wish I could say that the feeling of being in a “pit of destruction” or a “miry bog” was totally foreign to me—but I’d be lying. More often than I’d like to admit I’m stuck in the muck and despair of a given situation, circumstance, conflict, or struggle that weighs me down like a truckload of bricks. Do you know what I’m talking about?
 
How about you? Maybe you and your spouse are constantly arguing and you find yourself at your wits end. Maybe you’re walking through a tough season when your children are being particularly difficult, disobedient, or disrespectful. Maybe things in your life are changing and you have no idea what God wants from you or where He’s leading you.
 
Maybe you feel empty and without purpose, uncertain as to whether or not there’s more to this life. Well, whatever “pit” you’re in now or may stumble into in the future, Psalm 40 is a powerful and precious salve for the wounded and discouraged heart.
 
For example, in it we find companionship with our brother King David (certainly no stranger to situations of despair). He cries out to his God in distress and waits patiently for the Lord to deliver him from the pervasive darkness (v. 1). But have you ever wondered how long he waited? An hour? Day? Week? Month? Year? Longer? It doesn’t say.
 
His cries went up to a God who, for whatever reason and for however long, chose to delay His deliverance. It’s odd how comforting this is in some ways, isn’t it? To know that you and I are not the only ones who’ve experienced crying out to God with no immediate, palpable, circumstance-altering answer can, in many ways, makes us feel less alone; like we may not be the only ones who’ve ever felt as if God was silent in our suffering. God will surely deliver his people, but rarely at the speed we’d like.
 
Next, we also find in this meditation the encouragement to remember. “You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you!” (v. 5). The God who shows Himself to be living and active and almighty and faithful in His dealings with His people throughout the pages of Scripture is the very same God who works in our lives today.
 
The one who delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt through the parted waters of the Red Sea is the same one who says to us “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). He will finish the work He’s started in us (Philippians 1:6). He is always with us (Matthew 28:20). He never fails to hear the cries of his people (Psalm 34:17).
 
Lastly, Psalm 40 tells us, in no uncertain terms, that our God will deliver us. He will not hold back His mercy (v. 11). His steadfast love and faithfulness will sustain us in our waiting (v. 11). Though we be weak and poor and needy, our God will take thought of us and rescue His children (v. 13). There’s no question here as to whether or not our God will act on behalf of His people in the end.
 
His merciful hand, steadfast love, and unshakable faithfulness are sure and steadfast anchors for our souls in times of waiting. He is our refuge and deliverer and He will come through—in the wisdom of His providential timing.
So, when we’re in despair, let us all look together with one mind to our great God and Father—who hears the groanings of His children and surely does not take them lightly.
 
Though we be stuck waiting in the pit, let us not think our God has left us. He has acted before and He will act again. When we are faithless, He remains faithful. Though we are poor and needy, the Lord takes thought for us. He alone is our help and our deliverer; do not delay, O Lord our God!


Can You Handle Criticism?

by Chad Porter, Pastor of Student Discipleship

Can You Handle Criticism? imageDo you enjoy receiving rebuke or correction from others? The answer for most of us is a resounding “No!”
 
But why? Why is it so grating and difficult for us to hear the refining words of critique?
 
Pastor and counselor Alfred Poirier seeks to answer this very question in a great article. Here’s a short excerpt:
 

“In counseling, I see it [the inability to receive criticism] in the humorous way a couple will be diverted from the issue at hand to debate who said what, when, and where. Or in how people debate back and forth as to whether it was a Tuesday or a Wednesday when they did something. Why do we expend so much time and energy swatting at these flies with sledgehammers? Why are our hearts and minds so instantly engaged and our emotions surging with great vigor in our defense? The answer is simple. These issues are not minor or insignificant. We defend that which we deem of great value. We think it is our life we are saving. We believe something much larger will be lost if we do not use every means to rescue it. Our name, our reputation, our honor, our glory.”

So if you have 10 minutes today please take a break and read the whole thing, I beg you. You’ll be glad you did.le Criticism? “



Got Questions?

by Justin Windham, Associate Pastor of Outreach & Discipleship

got questionsMany of us are a part of a unique generation–one that lives in the “internet age,” but also remembers a time before the World Wide Web.

In middle school, I can distinctly remember the tedious task of using big, physical, multi-volume encyclopedias to do research for homework assignments.
Yet, just a few years later in high school, I was browsing the internet to find information as though I had been doing it my whole life. Today, I can’t imagine not having the internet at my fingertips at any moment during the day.
As a child being raised in a Christian family, I learned a lot about God and the Bible through my parents and church. But when I had questions about faith, doubt, Jesus, the origins of the universe, pain and suffering, sin, and more–I didn’t know how to find the answers.
Aware of my frustrations, my parents bought me a reference book called, Where to Find It in the Bible: A Reference Guide from A to Z. I tattered that book’s pages as I would regularly scour it for biblical answers to very real questions I had.
Once our home PC became “web-enabled,” I began searching online for those same answers but quickly realized there was no “biblical orthodoxy” filter that ensured the results I found were actually from a Christ-honoring, bible-based perspective.
A few years later, a new and unique website called GotQuestions.org was published with the explicit mission of seeking “to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by providing biblical, applicable, and timely answers to spiritually related questions through an internet presence.
Since that discovery, this has been my single most treasured online resource in my personal life and ministry.
The website does not just offer certain theologians’ opinions, but uses the Scriptures as the primary source of drawing conclusions. If a potential claim cannot be soundly backed by Scripture, the claim is not made.
And when ambiguity remains and clear-cut answers cannot be arrived at with confidence, the website gives the most compelling Scriptural arguments from the most prevalent views and leaves the reader to arrive at his/her own conclusions.
I have long believed that God is not afraid of our questions. If He’s truly God, there will always be satisfying answers to our most daunting questions.
Certainly, some of those questions won’t be answered on this side of heaven, but until then, www.gotquestions.org does a fantastic job attempting to fill the gap.
To understand the depth and breadth of this resource, I’m posting their current Top 10 most frequently asked questions. Click the links to view the related article.
As much as I love this website, like any extra-biblical material, no man-made resource is perfect and no one has all the answers except God Himself. I hope you enjoy using this website, but remember to always search the Scriptures for yourself and ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance as you seek truth.


Have You Ever Purchased Something You Didn’t Use? God Hasn’t.

Useless purchase
by Justin Windham, Associate Pastor of Outreach & Discipleship
 
Growing up, I observed a fascinating phenomenon. I refer to it as the Two-Week Shift. It centers around the unique and mostly spontaneous purchases my parents would make on occasion.
 
Ab Roller

Ab Roller (abcbeachabs.com)

Whether it was a bread making machine, a hand-held steam cleaner, a multi-horsepower electric back massager, a vacuum sealer, the Ab-Roller (or really any piece of exercise equipment), or a fancy juicer—all of these items produced grand aspirations in the minds of my parents as they imagined how owning a particular gadget would change our lives for the better.

Maybe you can relate. If so, you know that after about two weeks of owning one of these “life-changing” products, a shift occurs when the item loses its initial luster and appeal, resulting in the owner being much less enthusiastic about its use.

The following two-week span introduces another shift as the owner realizes that because the product requires time, maintenance, and energy to use it effectively and achieve lasting results, such dedication to the product actually makes owning it more of a burden than a blessing.

Ultimately, the final two-week span involves 1) the owner coming to grips with the fact that the product is no longer being used and 2) finally gathering the courage to box it up and place it in the garage—otherwise known as “The Black Hole,” “The Abyss,” or my favorite, “The Island of Misfit Toys.

The Two-Week Shift is really just a demonstration of an underlying issue:
 
Things that we purchase are rarely used to their full potential. For instance:

*My wife & I paid for 4-sessions of swim lessons for our daughter this summer, but we only went to two of them.

*Americans allowed $41 billion in gift cards to go unspent between 2005-2011.

*An all-you-can-eat buffet might cost just $12 for a unlimited smorgasbord of food, however the average customer only eats $2.50 worth.

Fortunately for us, our human tendencies to lose interest and not use things to their potential are not at all attributable to God in relation to His possessions: us.

First of all, did you know that we were purchased through Jesus Christ for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)?

Indeed, if you have repented of your sins and placed your trust in the risen Christ, you have been lovingly purchased by your Creator—saved from the consequence of sin and prepared and preserved for an eternity with God (Acts 17:30; John 3:16; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

Let me assure you, none of God’s special possessions are treated the way we tend to treat ours. Check out these encouraging comparisons:

*We choose possessions on a whim; God chose us from before the world existed (Ephesians 1:4)!

*We enjoy things for a limited time; God will enjoy us—and we will enjoy Him—for eternity (John 3:16; John 14:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 21:3).

*We put things away or throw them out when we get tired of them; God will never leave us or let anything separate us from Him (Hebrews 13:5b; Romans 8:38-39).

*We blame the object when it doesn’t work right; God sees us as blameless in Christ, even though we continually fall short of God’s standard (1 Corinthians 1:8-9 & 30; Romans 3:23-25)!

*We get frustrated when the things we own are flawed or don’t work right; God knows we are flawed but is patiently changing and maturing us along the way–until the day we will be perfected in Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 2:10-11).

Have you ever felt discarded by God? Have you ever felt abandoned by Him—in a void without direction or usefulness? Have you ever felt like a burden to God—as one whose benefit is not worth the necessary upkeep and maintenance required by Him?
 
Those feelings and perceptions about God and yourself are not what He desires for His children. So, look up and meditate on the above passages for some reassurance and inspiration. If you think you may need to establish a relationship with God, go here (www.needgod.com).


Leaps & Bounds!

leaps and bounds
by Doug Baker, Lead Teaching Pastor
 
Growth! We see it around us all the time. It is evident in the way our children grow by leaps and bounds as we measure them against the growth charts penciled on the walls of their rooms.
 
We observe it in our organic gardens as the kale and lettuce darken in color and the cherry tomato plants grow tall and sprout tiny yellow blossoms. We see it in our community as new parks are planted, and housing developments and shopping plazas add stucco to timber. We witness it in ourselves as we gain understanding and mastery of difficult subjects necessary for our personal development and advancement at work. And we see it in our churches as new people join us and new ministries develop.
 
Growth indicates health. In fact, its a quality so important to us that we measure and track it whenever possible. But what produces growth? Where does it come from? How can we ensure that we will continue to experience its amazing properties in our lives?
 
Initially, we are tempted to answer the question with statements of our own personal effort. For instance, we feed and guide our children and it’s natural to feel that their growth is due in large part to those efforts. We put the right nutrients into the soil of our gardens to ripen and thrive and we feel justified in thinking we have made a difference in the quality of the produce. We pay city fees and elect good council members who will spend our funds wisely for the benefit of the whole city, so we feel the civic improvements are directly tied to our support.
 

Paul gives us insight into the growth process of a church in 1 Cor 3. He writes in verses 1-9:

“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”
 
Paul reminds us that growth is the result of many things:
 
1.    It requires a personal dependence on God’s Holy Spirit and Word rather than solely relying on our own human abilities and personal perspectives (vv. 1-3) “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it…you are still of the flesh.”
 
2.    It requires rejecting the idea that one or two key people will contribute to growth more than others  (v. 4) “For when one says “I follow Paul” and another “I follow Apollos” are you not being merely human?”
 
3.    It requires understanding that the people God uses to bring about growth do so as nothing more than His servants…servants who are even assigned their success and others to train and disciple by God. (v. 5) “What then is Apollos?   What is Paul? Servants! Through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.”
 
4.    It requires the perspective that, while each of us works for God, He alone produces the actual growth (vv. 6-7) “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
 
5.    It requires the conclusion that all of God’s servants are really a unified team that stand or fall together–not as individuals (vv.. 8-9)  “He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”
 
As we contemplate and seek growth for our church, we need to realize that the growth of FCC will flow mainly from a clear dependence on God’s Spirit as opposed to a reliance on our own human capacities, strengths, ingenuity, or resources.  To ignore this spiritual truth is to burn people out.
 
Leaders, boards, and staff who buy into this fallacy usually fail to delegate. Not only does delegation seem counter-productive (after all aren’t they the most talented individuals for the job?), but delegation also seems to put their own jobs at risk (since people seem to be looking to them to make the church grow).
 
Ultimately, such a point of view fails to engage the total body of Christ in serving God. When we expect a church staff to grow a church, we are judging them by their productivity, demanding longer and longer hours of them, and communicating that they, rather than God, are the source of a church’s success- making them more proud than humble.
 
So, what can we do to help FCC grow? The truth is that church growth ultimately comes ONLY from God. Yes, he uses gifted people to assist in growing a church, but he does not chose only a few people to produce that growth. His method is to engage all of his people and call each of them to be His servants–nothing more, nothing less.
 
His growth comes not from a super-star upon whom everything rests, but from many many servants–all whom God uses as he sees fit and assigns success as he desires them to have. The results of their hard work will not ultimately be in their control. It will be only in God’s! The church is His team and He takes responsibility for their ultimate productivity and rewards their determined efforts as He sees fit.
 
So, as we seek growth in our lives and our church, let’s keep God’s perspective in mind. No one or two people are going to make FCC grow. God wants us all to engage in “spirit-empowered” service to the King. He will give each of us the successes and new believers to train that he wants us to have. And as we all serve, the pressure will be taken off the key leaders.
 
They will feel the freedom to be the servants God wants them to be, to delegate and train others to serve even better, and to be content with whatever successes God chooses to give them (whether they be behind the scenes investments in others OR some very visible attendance and financial boosting outcomes) as He grows our church.


Shush!

by Doug Baker, Lead Teaching Pastor
Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 10.39.48 AM

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” was a mantra with which I was brought up. Living in a family of six children, I’m sure its intended use was to foster kinder relations and less bickering. But, recently I’ve noticed circumstances in which it is increasingly difficult to hold to this maxim.

We observe today acts of injustice, social wrong, and immoral behavior that beg for someone to speak up.

From simple things like running a red light at an intersection because a driver didn’t want to wait, to more troubling developments such as the breakdown of civil debate about moral issues, an increase of corruption among our political and civic leaders, or the even more pernicious and troubling increase of sex-slave trafficking in San Diego—there are certain things that cry out for a response.

Every day there are disturbing news reports that challenge my childhood mantra, and I find it increasingly difficult to say anything nice when I hear them. But I also find that I cannot remain silent, saying nothing at all. There is an increasing moral necessity to speak up and address these injustices, highlight these wrongs, and re-affirm the moral standards by which ordered societies have always lived.

But instead of hearing a cacophony of voices agreeing with the necessity of jettisoning this boyhood proverb, what I often hear instead is a loud “Shush!  You need to get along and not make waves.” And this sometimes even from people who call themselves Christian.

I wonder what God would say about all this?

Would He want us to only speak up about our own wrongs and remain nicely silent before a world torn apart by its rejection of truth? Or would He want his people to speak truth into a decaying culture and bring light to its darkness?

The answer depends largely on whether or not we are concerned about the eternal state of people. First  Corinthians 5:9-13 tells us to not judge people in this world for their wrong choices, because God will ultimately judge them. However, we are also told to judge believers who engage in the world’s wrong behaviors.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

We are compelled by God in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 to know that only those who have been cleansed from this world’s wrong behaviors will enter God’s future eternal Kingdom:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

In putting these two perspectives together we are reminded both that God is very concerned with the way people in our world live and that He tells us He will ultimately hold them accountable for their behavior. We are not to judge them, rather God will do that in His time.

However, God does expect us to hold each other accountable for our choices and behaviors within the church. We are to judge each other so that evil does not gain a foothold among the God’s people.

According to God, people can be changed and their eternal destinies re-routed from hell to heaven. In fact, we were all once numbered among those excluded from God’s world and future kingdom. But a day came for each one of us when someone lovingly spoke up and gently addressed our wrong behaviors.

They were not judgmental in their comments. Rather, they let the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts while they spoke to our conscience and common sense. We felt God’s conviction within us and we responded in faith to God’s offer and these people’s urging.

God uses former sinners saved by grace, His Word, and His Spirit to speak to the hearts of men and women today to change them. And He most assuredly wants us to “associate with the sexually immoral of this world, the greedy and swindlers, idolaters, adulterers, men who practice homosexuality, thieves, drunkards, and revilers” in such non-judgmental ways that they can hear from us God’s call to a new way of life.

It is clear that He desires for each of them to be washed from their former sins, sanctified in their present practices, and justified before God almighty so that they too can participate in the coming Kingdom of God.

So, the nicest thing we can do for anyone is to lovingly and clearly speak up, address the practices and behaviors around us that God calls sin, and invite people who are engaged in them to turn to Him and be changed.

In light of all this, who do you know that needs to hear this message of renewal and hope from you today? How can you come alongside them in the near future and thoughtfully share the truth with them?



The Power of God’s Unrivaled Word

by Chad Porter, Pastor of Student Discipleship
 

Power of Gods Word“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” — Isaiah 55:10-11

God’s Word is not an impersonal thing or merely dead writing on a page. It is living. It is active. It pierces our soul. As one author puts it, “It changes what it touches.”¹

In light of this, two questions come to mind as I consider these verses from Isaiah.

First, how’s our attitude with respect to our own reading of the Bible? Do we see it as a chore? Is it boring for us to spend time meditating on this book? Do we say by our actions that it doesn’t matter all that much or that it’s just not that helpful? God, forgive us! This text is a preservation of God’s very words to his people. This book is where we’re told who the God is, who we are, and how we relate to our all-powerful Creator. This book is what the Holy Spirit uses to teach us, train us, encourage us, convict us, and change us.

God intends to grow us in holiness and he has decreed that this will come about THROUGH HIS WORD. May God give us a love for this precious text.

Second, do we believe in the power of God’s Word in our evangelism? I know in my own life I often get scared that whoever I’m sharing with won’t receive what I have to say—that is, I won’t be able to convince them and they’ll just reject me. After all, what do I have? Bible verses? What unbeliever would give even two seconds of their time and mental power to think about what the Bible says?

These are the kinds of thoughts that, I’m sorry to say, run through my head all-too-often. Oh, how small is my view of God’s powerful testimony in the Bible! His word will go forth and accomplish that which he purposes (Is. 55:11), period. What power and confidence we have in evangelism when the King of all creation—the one who alone has control over everything that lives and moves and has being—has told us that he will use his Word to accomplish his purposes. It will change what it touches.

Far from boring, then, this book is filled with the very life our souls desperately need. Far from weak and insignificant, this text is God’s mighty weapon to pierce the soul of an unbeliever as we faithfully proclaim it in evangelism.

We are a people of the book. We base our lives and all we believe on what’s written in the Bible’s pages. May God make us a into people who, in our actions, show that we truly and passionately love his precious Word.


 

¹ Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change, p. 23.



God’s Glory in Our Weakness

by Chad Porter, Pastor of Student Discipleship
 

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 1.21.01 PM“And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” -1 Corinthians 2:3-5

Do you ever feel unfit or ill-equipped for ministry? Does the thought of serving in a particular way ever make you feel weak or scared? For example, what goes through your mind at the prospect of intentionally discipling another Christian? Lovingly encouraging someone in your small group in an area where they struggle?

It’s striking to me that the apostle Paul—you know, the guy who wrote a good portion of the New Testament, saw the resurrected Christ, was called to his ministry directly by God, witnessed miracles, performed miracles, etc.—says that his own ministry to the Corinthian church was marked by weakness and fear and much trembling. These are not words that immediately come to mind when I think of Paul’s service to the church, but I’m so glad they’re recorded for us here.

The fact is, we’re all weak and unfit and insufficient—and that’s the point.

The terrifying thing about ministering to others is that we have absolutely no control over the final outcome of things. Only God can change hearts. Only he can orchestrate a situation to bring about lasting change or harmony. Only he can give us words and wisdom to act in ways that will be helpful and edifying in the moment. We come to the end of ourselves rather quickly when we step out in the obedience of faith and try to do something that’s ultimately out of our control.

But this is precisely how God likes it. In fact, it’s how he intentionally set things up. A few verses earlier in 1 Cor Paul says,

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor 1:26-29).

Praise God! When I feel my weakness most fully is when God gets the most glory. He intentionally calls weak people to his service so that at the end of the day NO ONE can boast in themselves. If we’re not stepping out and serving in ways that make us feel the weight of God’s greatness and the reality of our smallness then something’s not quite right.

So how is God calling you to serve in your weakness?



The “I’m Scared” Excuse

By Justin Windham, Associate Pastor of Outreach & Discipleship

Lexi, our nearly two-year-old daughter has learned a new word: scared.

Seemingly out of nowhere, she’s suddenly “scared to get down,” “scared of the dog,” and “scared of the song” that popped up on her Pandora lullaby station.

It’s as though she realized that claiming to be scared gets her immediate attention from mom and dad and is a free pass out of any situation that she does not find to be ideal (although we have now caught on and no longer allow “being scared” of her vegetables as a reason not to eat them).

Yet somehow in our Christian walks we too often seem to use being “scared” as an excuse to not do certain things.

I’m scared of…

*…being a missionary, so I won’t go to the lost.

*…sharing Jesus with my neighbor, so I’ll just smile and wave.

*…engaging a homeless person, so I’ll just pretend to be on the phone when I walk by.

*…what God might call me to do, so I won’t pray.

*…change, so I won’t apply the Bible to my life.

Sounds a bit ridiculous, don’t you think? What would happen if we stopped letting “scary” be our excuse? Now, that’s a scary thought!

The beauty of the Bible is that God does not just give us challenging things to do. He tells us what to do and then empowers us to do them–with confidence and courage.

Look at the Great Commission for example:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

I will be the first to admit, the huge responsibility of making disciples of all nations can be a very scary thought. Not only does this include sharing our faith to make converts wherever we are and may go, but we are also to baptize and teach others all that the Lord has commanded. *Gulp!*

However, look at how God has equipped us to take on this responsibility. Jesus, the Creator who has “all authority in heaven and earth,” is with us…and will continue to be through the end of time! We know that our loving and all-powerful Father is with us. In fact, he’s even living inside of us right now (1 Corinthians 3:16).

There are times when Lexi is legitimately scared. Her body quivers, her voice gets shaky, and her eyes lock quickly on mom or dad. When she sees her loving “all-powerful” parent next to her, hears our words of assurance, and trusts in our promises that we won’t leave her side–suddenly the fear evaporates. The same happens when we lock eyes on the Savior and trust in His promises to never let us go.

So what are you fearful of when it comes to seeking God and obeying Him in all areas of your life?

How can trusting the Lord’s promises move you from fear to freedom as you follow Him more faithfully?

Here are a few more incredible promises from our loving God. May the Lord use these verses to remind you of the confidence you can have in Him…no matter how scary life may be!

Psalm 56:3-4; Isaiah 41:10; 2 Timothy 1:7



Does God Owe Us an Answer?

By Justin Windham, Associate Pastor of Outreach & Discipleship

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 12.06.34 PMWhen we find ourselves going through trials, tribulations, and suffering, one of the most natural questions to ask God is, “Why?”

It’s common to think that if we only knew why we were experiencing pain, it would somehow be easier to go through.

If you are like me, you may have gotten frustrated when you ask, “Why, Lord?” and He simply does not answer–not through an audible voice, not through the wisdom of others, not through a perfectly timed Bible passage–nothing.

So this begs the question, does God owe us an answer?

In the book of Job, the title character suffers much! Experiencing death of family, destruction of possessions, disease, and more, Job is the epitome of a “sufferer.” His friends come to him and together they spend a long time pontificating about the possible reasons why God is bringing so much pain into his life.

Finally, God shows up and speaks at length. However, you might be surprised to discover that God does not ever address the answer to why Job is suffering. In fact, God asks Job an extensive list of questions!

Look at what the Lord says to Job (Job 38:2-7):

Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

Job’s response to God’s line of questioning (Job 42:2-6):

I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me…I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.

God does not owe us an answer to the question of why we suffer. Can He choose to provide a specific answer? Yes. Is it a sin to ask God, “Why?” Not necessarily.

Yet, before we demand answers from God, we should learn from Job’s experience and remember that God can do anything He chooses for any reason(s) that He chooses. The comfort comes in knowing we can have full confidence that His decisions will always be in line with His character and His Word.

Therefore, we can rest assured that whatever trial we are experiencing is for God’s ultimate glorification (Isaiah 48:9-10), for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28), and for our growth in holiness as His sons and daughters (Hebrews 12:5-10).

One parting piece of food for thought: before we ask “Why, Lord?” let’s be sure to recall and reflect on the Scriptural reasons that God has already given us.

First Corinthians 1:3-7 tells us that one reason suffering comes is so we can cling all the more to Christ for comfort and then in turn be able to comfort others who are suffering as well:

God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

So the next time you experience a painful trial, instead of asking God, “Why?”, consider asking yourself…

How might I draw closer to Christ through this time and in turn encourage others who are hurting as well?