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I think we’ve been lied to.


 

“I’ve read the last page of the Bible.

It’s all going to turn out all right.”

~ Billy Graham

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there a chance we’ve been lied to?  Do you think some, maybe with great intentions, have led us away from truth?  Do you think there could really be an ‘enemy’ with a plan to give us wrong definitions of things that seem good and worthy?  Do you think that we’d be able to see this lie as soon as it makes eye contact with us?  Or would we possibly be swayed into thinking it is honorable?

 

We’re in the middle of a politically charged election year.  Do you think that we’re going to hear fully the truth of anyone who’s running?  I’m not sure.  Each candidate, whatever office they’re running for, wants their best side to show…mistakes hidden.  We’re like that in a lot of ways as well.  We want people to know us for our strengths and not for our weaknesses.  In many ways we ‘advertise’ something we’re really not in order to please others or to feel good about ourselves.  We might not have evil objectives while doing this, but we act selfishly by nature.  We humans are fairly good at that at times.  There is goodness though that can shine through our darkness.

 

Sometimes organizations, governments and corporations tell us that they have the best ideas, products and plans for our lives.  They say we can depend on them to help us get through life.  And many times, that may be their aim…but is it really the truth?  The world would have us believe that its wisdom for our lives and for our families and for our businesses can provide security and success.  And again, maybe with the best intentions, people in the world lead us towards a lie.

 

“True love always protects, hopes, trusts and never gives up.”  Pieces of that last line have been used in greeting cards, love songs and by heroes in movies and books.  But it actually came from the pen of Paul as he described our living God.  If God is love, then it goes to show that God provides protection, provides complete hope, is completely trustworthy and is persistent to the end of His perfect plan.

 

Are there people who don’t believe in God that I can trust?  Sure there are.  Are there corporations that don’t know me personally but are trying to put out the best products to make my life better?  Absolutely.  Are there governments that truly want the best for their people, but don’t subscribe to a Creator God?  I certainly hope so.  Are there exceptions to what I’ve just said?  Yes, there are people and groups that are completely selfish and are only hungry for power and prestige.  They act with evil intent.  There are those that act to pull us away from truth, away from God, away from goodness and the felt need for forgiveness.  Plans such as these are evil.

 

There are governments that claim to protect us, and might do so here on this planet.  But they cannot provide eternal protection against Satan.  There are wise people and leaders we can trust.  But we cannot put our eternal soul in their trust because they are simply human and in need of the same forgiveness we need that only comes from a God we can trust.  There are family members and friends that we can put our hope in when they give us their word.  But God gives us a hope that is eternal…and Jesus provided a hope that conquers death itself.  There are people who will die for us, but there is already one who has died who didn’t need to.  Jesus was persistent unto death for our sake.  He took the pain.  He humbled himself, being Himself God, and was nailed to a piece of wood to die.  But that’s not the end of the story.  His resurrection over bodily death proved to us that He is someone who can protect our eternal soul.  He’s one to trust…He kept his word.  We can hope in His claim that one day we will be with Him forever…death doesn’t control Him…He hold the keys.  And we can persevere like He did because we know that this world isn’t really our home.

 

And here is the best part of all.  We as Christians have the opportunity every day to show people the truest and best one who can protect them, give them hope, something to trust in…simply a love that never gives up.  It’s like we’re warriors in a battle.  The world, as good as the world can get, cannot surpass God’s goodness.  And the evil one wants us to simply stop at the world’s goodness and call it a day.  See Satan doesn’t need us to be evil…he just needs us to deny God’s perfection and plan.  We can be really, really good people, and never truly show Jesus.  There’s the battle.  Everyday we’re able to show Jesus and His perfect love…we take the battle to the enemy.  And remember…the war is won.  As Billy Graham’s quote at the top of this article says, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.”  Let’s share this with everyone we know.

 

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

ed

 

 

Questions for Growth:

  • If God provides perfect protection, what does that look like?  And how do we share that protection with others?
  • If we can have perfect hope in God, what does that look like?  And how do we share that hope with others?
  • If God gives us something to trust in…why should we?  And how do we share with others that they can trust Him too?
  • What does persistent, never failing love look like?  What would that look like to our friends and family if we were to try and mimic that…to be like Jesus…to them?

 

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Why Pray When You Can Worry?!

September 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Worry is rust upon the blade. ~ Henry Ward Hughes

Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow. ~ Swedish Proverb

You can never worry your way to enlightenment. ~ Ed Northstrum

I’ve developed a new philosophy. I only dread one day at a time. ~ Charlie Brown

Worry bankrupts the spirit. ~ Berri Clove

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. ~ Leo Buscaglia

Quit worrying about your health. It’ll go away. J  ~ Robert Orben

Raise your hand if you worry too much.  Yes, mine is raised as well.  I can be a worry wart.  I am aptly skilled at staying up all night, staring at the ceiling, while having discussions and fixing problems in my head.  Did I forget to mention that I am also skilled at  being creative?  Most of these discussions and problems never happened, I create them all by myself.  They most likely will never take place…but I worry all night wondering if they could or would.  I’ve wasted valuable sleep hours and probably made myself sick simply by worrying.

Jesus, being our creator and knowing our weakness in sin, knows how much worry holds us back from being the person He created us to be.  What I know is this…much of the Bible deals directly with God wanting us to simply know who we are.

Let’s start at the beginning and move through the Bible with things that we know.  We are created by God (Genesis 1-2, John 1:1-4).  He has a special plan for each of our lives and for us as the family of God as well (Psalm 113:13-17, Jeremiah 29:11).  This world is not our home (John 18:36, Romans 14:17, John 3:16-17).  Our Father will take care of our needs while we are in this world (Matthew 6:25-34, Matthew 7:9-12).  Those are all scriptures that I know well.  However, I still worry about my days.  I worry about what people think about me.  I worry about making ends meet.  I worry about Dr’s visits.  I worry about teaching lessons to the groups I lead.  I worry about the Browns winning…ok…I know what you’re thinking.  I worry about saying the right thing…or the wrong thing.  All this worry…instead of trust.  Jesus has a better way.  Jesus trusted and lived in peace.

Many of you have heard me talk about my two Biblical heroes…other than Jesus.  Peter and Paul.  I love these guys because they figured this “don’t worry” thing out.  They started with what they knew to be true.  Reread that again…they started with truth.  Jesus had risen from the dead.  If that was true…everything Jesus said was true.  If everything Jesus said was true, then they had nothing to worry about.  All they needed to do was listen for direction, love people, and follow God.  It didn’t matter what people thought of them or what people did to them or if they slipped up here and there.  Forgiveness covered their wrongs and their home was in Heaven.  They knew that no one could take that away and that this world is temporary.  They knew that Jesus said even the Hell could not stand in their way.  They were part of the Kingdom.  They had real peace because they knew who they were, who God was, and where they were.  Worry didn’t have a place in their life.

I have to say that as I get older I have gotten better at this worry crap.  Haha…yes, I said crap.  Because I’ve come to realize that that’s really what it is.  Don’t get me wrong or hear what I’m not typing…I’m concerned about things.  Concern drives me to make corrections, dive in to unknown waters, or get work done.  But worry handcuffs me into doing nothing.  And I hate it when I allow worry to do that to me.

What about you?  Does worry have handcuffs on you?  Sometimes we put those handcuffs on ourselves!  Sometimes we wallow in our worry.  Sometimes we want people to feel sorry for us so we worry in public so others will see our worry.  I think all that does is get other people to worry with us…not helpful.  We put handcuffs on and then pass more around to our friends.  I often hear people in restaurants having hour long discussions all centered in worry about something.  I think next time I hear that happening I’m just going to go over and say, “Do you want me to get ya’ll some handcuffs?  I can strap you down to your chairs.”

Let’s remember who we are and who’s we are.  If we can wake up knowing that and lay our head down at night resting in that peace, life would be much fuller.  I’m confident of that.  Jesus wants us to always seek His Kingdom first.  If we’re not, we’re obviously seeking someone else’s.  And someone else’s will give us things to worry about.

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

ed

Questions for Growth:

  • Do you have issues with worry?  Is “worry” your friend?  J
  • What has worry done to help you lately?
  • Examples…When have you worried and gotten nowhere?
  • Is that a way you want to live?
  • So…forward thinking…what can you do to pick yourself up out of worrying?  Be specific. (Examples: memorize some pertinent scripture, pray, have inspiring music at hand, call a friend to tell you to quit…haha…what ever works)
  • Do you know someone who worries?  What can you do to help them…this week?  Be specific and follow through.

Remember, you may…probably will fail at times in your plan to quit the worry habit.  But if you never start or try, you’ll always keep those handcuffs on.

Oh Happiness!

October 15, 2010 Leave a comment

 

Some thoughtful and some funny one liners on Happiness.

  • Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.
  • Money can’t buy happiness; it can, however, rent it.
  • Money can’t buy you happiness but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.
  • If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have paradise in a few years.
  • To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.
  • Happiness or unhappiness is often a matter of choice.
  • Happiness is not having what you want, it’s wanting what you have.

Happiness and contentment is something that I believe every person on the planet struggles for. All of us have different levels or perspectives of happiness depending on our life situation. Someone in a 3rd world nation might see happiness as finding extra food for their family during one week. Someone in America might see happiness as winning the 20 dollar jackpot on the scratch off ticket. The Bible, however, teaches us true happiness…for everyone.

Paul address this head on in a small section of Scripture that ends with a verse that I’m sure all of us have quoted in our own lives many times over. Paul was no stranger to just about any type of life we could think of. Paul had fame. Paul had cash. Paul had responsibility. Paul was feared. Paul had power. Paul was a go-getter. Paul was successful. Paul was beaten. Paul had reason to be fearful. Paul was in jail. Paul was without food. Paul was despised. Paul was hated. Paul was sought after for both his praise and his ridicule. Paul was sought after for both his wisdom and leadership as well as to be captured and killed. Yet, with all of this, Paul, like us, still searched for well being and happiness.

I think what Paul’s whole story demonstrates is a search for Peace. The Peace that Passes Understanding. In his search, God radically uses Paul. God saw Paul’s search for Peace as one that jived fully with His endeavor to bless people with Peace. Paul explains this in verses 11-3 of chapter 4 of Philippians. He says that he can do anything through the power of his savior, Jesus.

Can we talk like that? I mean, yeah, it’s a nice motivational quote, but do we live it as a message to other people around us? Do people look at us and go, “Wow, I want what she’s got.” “I wish I could be as happy as Him.” Does your life reflect Jesus’ smile? Does your life give away peace with a capital P? Do you bleed happiness that only comes from Heaven?

If not, you’re simply on a search for more of God. Yes, I used the word ‘simply,’ because that’s what it all comes down to. God wants to give us more of Him. And then He wants us to give Him away. Then, and only then, can we start to occupy that space called contentment.

How Did I Get Here!

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

You know you are in deep trouble when…

* The stewardess on your American Airlines flight tells you NOT to fasten your seatbelt.

* Your accountant’s letter of resignation is postmarked Panama.

* You have to hitch hike to the bank to make your late car payment.

* The little league puts you on waivers.

* Your suggestion box starts ticking.

* Your secretary tells you the FBI is on line 1, the DEA is on line 2, and CBS is on line 3.

* You see the cruise captain running toward the railing wearing a life jacket.

* They pay your wages out of petty cash.

* A black cat crosses you path and drops dead.

* You take an assertiveness training course and you’re afraid to tell your wife.

* Your pacemaker has only a thirty day guarantee.

* The candles on your cake set off your smoke alarm.

* The pest exterminator crawls under your house and never comes out.

So how many of you have ever found yourself in a spot that you didn’t want to be, and then wondered how you got there. It might be with your job. It might be with your debt. It might be with your health. It might be with a hobbie…or lack of one. It might be with a relationship. Whatever it might be, you got there and would really like to know how. The other thing you want to know is how to get out of it and get back to what you really wanted in the first place.

I ask that you read the scripture reference Steve is preaching from this weak as I’m only going to make references to it rather than retell the storyline.

Jacob found himself in a place that he didn’t intend to be. A bunch of things happened in a seemingly short amount of time that led his family name to be questioned. It seems as though he is wondering if he actually made the right decision surrounding events involving his daughter. His sons seemed to be caught up in a violent and vengeful reaction that was planned without his knowledge. He could have made many decisions at this point. He could have reacted to his sons and his daughter in many different ways. He could have … well, you fill in the blanks. We all might have had different emotional drives if in the same situation. I know I would have. I’m sorry to say that I might have been out of line with legalities too. It is also alluded to that his family and servants have walked away from believing in the one true God. They are worshipping idols. I’m not sure how, but Jacob does make a choice. He listened to God’s whisper.

Do you ever have that whisper in your ear or in your heart? You know, the whisper you get when you know you’re in a jam. The one you get when you’ve done something wrong, or about to do something wrong. That whisper that you get when you lay down at night and are contemplating the realities of the day, the ones you don’t want to remember. Jacob heard. Jacob obeyed…and for good reason.

Jacob’s response to all of this is, “I’m going to Bethel to build an altar to God, the one who answered me in my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

While in Atlanta a couple weeks ago, I heard a church leader from D.C. speak of something he does to help him when he gets those feelings of, “How in the world did I get here?” He went back to Illinois, where he grew up, took a photographer with him, and traveled to the farming area where he was walking one day in the past. This was the place where God spoke some very significant words to him. It was the place where he heard God in a big and changing way. The photographer snapped a shot of the field and blew it up to poster size, framed it. Mark Batterson now has this framed picture hanging right behind his desk in his office. You know the rest of the story. It’s his reminder of God’s direction for life.

Author and church leader Andy Stanley wrote a book titled, The Principle of the Path. He said that we all end up in places where we did not intend to be. But, no matter where we end up, it started with us beginning down a path and staying on it. Sure, there are exit signs along the way, decisions we probably should have made, but at the end, it was the path we chose to follow. If the path I’m on leads me to eat 5 Snickers Bars a day and drink 5 Dr. Peppers a day, then we can all figure out where that path is going to take me. If you don’t put effort into relationships around you that are important, that path will lead somewhere…probably a place you don’t want to go. Jacob listened to God’s voice and stopped. He then chose a path that would lead he and his family and his household to a place different than where they were currently headed. He went back to where He met God in a big way.

Have you ever gone back to where you met God? Have you ever heard God asking you to take some time to stop and rethink what you’re doing? It might be that you’re hearing God whisper, “…you’re on the wrong path. Come back to me and let me help you start over again.” As one of my favorite groups of spiritual teachers say, “God is the God of second chances” (Veggie Tales – Jonah and the Big Fish). Jacob was beginning to know just how big God’s forgiveness and grace is. We can know too.

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Standing on the Promises

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Teacher: What is your ambition?
Student: I want to be a Politician

Teacher: Why?
Student: Because I am very good at making false promises

This is one of my favorite sections of the Bible. It is where I believe God sets up the remainder of the Old Testament right up to the birth of Christ and beyond to the day you are reading this. The promises given to Abram/Abraham from God’s own lips are the foundation of God’s family and the church. In reality, you are a part of those promises as a believer in Jesus.

The verses listed above cover just 5 or so promises, depending on how you group them or count them. However, these same verses cover nearly 2000 of years. Abraham didn’t get to see all of them fulfilled. In fact, he really only got to see one of them fulfilled. I say “see” as in see them fulfilled here on Earth.

How a person keeps their promises shows who they really are. In the olden days…and sometimes today…a man’s word was as good as the handshake he gave. People who were trusted had a good name. If someone’s handshake was not well trusted, they had less than a good name. Simplicity ruled. A man was as good as his word…or the promises he fulfilled.

Being truthful with what you can do and with how you follow through is important. As Christian leaders, we are entrusted with the gift of the Holy Spirit and with the Gospel of Peace. We are to be the hands and feet of the One we represent. If people are to see the One who promises forgiveness and eternal life, they will see Him through us and our word and our faithfulness.

Do people trust you? Are you a person who is talked about in outside circles as one who keeps their word? Do you talk about people behind their back when they’ve trusted you with their words? Do you promise with the life you live to lift others above you; enemies and friends alike? Are you trusted? Are you called a ‘good man’ or ‘good lady’? I can only imagine that if Jesus lived in the times when people were heading westward in America, that He would be known throughout the towns as a ‘Good Man’…someone who you could trust your life with. And He is.

Can God be trusted? Yes, He can. Why? Because He keeps His word. He is entitled to Honor based on His character and performance with the promises He gives. He said He would rise from the dead. He did. Based on that, He can be trusted.

One of the most important characteristics of a leader is trust. People will follow someone who can be trusted.

We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot. ~Abraham Lincoln

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“In God We Trust”

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

A Sunday School teacher, having trouble finding subjects to talk

about, was discussing with her class how Noah might have spent his

time on the Ark.

A girl volunteered, “Maybe he went fishing.”

A boy countered, “With only two worms????”

*************

Here’s a quote from John Adams in a letter to his wife dated July 3, 1776.

“It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting and distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, it will have this good effect, at least: it will inspire us with many virtues, which we have not, and correct many errors, follies, and vices, which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement, in states as well as individuals. And the new governments we are assuming, in every part, will require a purification from our vices, and an augmentation of our virtues or there will be no blessings…But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence; in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.”
John Adams, July 3, 1776

Did you catch that last sentence in the quote above? I’ll bet that Noah had many quotes very similar to that as he carried out God’s instructions to build the ark, enter the ark, and begin his stormy journey. His faith and hope was realized when the ark slowly rested on solid ground. We know that Noah had nothing but God on his mind when this happened because directly after the exit door opened, an altar was built in honor and praise of the one who brought the storm and kept a family safe through that storm. Noah firmly believed.

Do we firmly believe…even though Christianity may be “unfashionable”?

Do we just give lip service to our belief or does our very life reflect our heart’s secure hope? Do our words and our actions show a belief that someone would “write home about?” Or, do our words and actions seem current and fashionable? Do people see us living as though a flood is about to begin, or are do we look like the crowds around us?

Some of the signers of the Declaration of Independence have quotes referenced to them that speak of the treason their committing…treason befitting death at the hands of the British Monarchy. What is our risk of believing in the freedom that God has given us through Jesus? Some of these men were not full and complete Christian believers, but they all recognized that God has the only and best way to live and live together in community/country. They recognized His sovereignty. They recognized His plan for freedom. They recognized His Lordship. They recognized Him as Creator. Thus, they looked to Him in their time of need and direction. In God they trusted.

Noah trusted God no matter what happened…and God gives us a glimpse of the trust He has in us as well. If you’ve read Genesis chapter 8, you’ll see that at the end He promises to never flood the earth again…even though our ‘hearts are evil from childhood.’ We see here His love for us…even in our guilt. He recognizes the created potential in all of us. He made us like Him. His long term plan is for us to be with Him forever. For that plan to work out ‘perfectly’ Jesus had to be here as a sacrifice for our sins. This is the final reason that we have a God to believe in…to trust in. God sent Noah plans for an ark. God sent us Jesus.

This is basically one of those texts that is a story for life in general. Here’s a two part saying that I’m adding third part to. God either brings or allows storms to surround us. There are also storms that He asks us to jump into. In our lives there will be storms that God plans for our growth. There will also be storms from the enemy that God knows we can handle with His help. Then there are those storms of life where God simply says, “Get involved and make a difference…jump into it!” I can see from history that our founders jumped into a storm that was brewing. They could have just accepted the storm, but they took the storm to an entire new level for the Cause…and I believe…with the blessing of Providence.

Noah knew there was a storm coming. He obeyed God when the storm began. He trusted in God through it…and recognized and honored God for His faithfulness by way of an altar built with praising hands.

How do we teach our students…how do we lead our congregation to honor God through the storms that come and that we jump into? First, I think we need to do it through our very own lives. There has to be more than just sermons and lessons. People need to see us in the middle of the storm, surviving and trusting. Does that mean we make storms for ourselves? I don’t think so…but I think we should try to be open and honest to share our personal storms…as leaders…so others can follow our successes and be watchful when we fail. If we fail and a storm overtakes us for a time, people need to see us rise to the occasion…standing on the Trust and Faith we claim with our words.

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