Archive for September, 2009

Home Stretch!

If you have been reading along with us using the Resting at the River’s Edge reading plans, don’t give up now — you are in the home stretch.
October 1 marks the beginning of the last three months of the year.

The big books we have left are Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel, Proverbs, Luke and Revelation. Of course there are many smaller books thrown in to keep it interesting.

In October we’ll read Ezekiel and a little more than half of the Proverbs. We’ll also read Song of Solomon or Song of Songs, Philippians and
Colossians.

We’ve been reading Jeremiah. He prophecied mostly before the Babylonian captivity — that is, when the Israelites were taken into captivity by the Babylonians and forced to leave their home in Jerusalem and move to Babylon. Ezekiel prophecies during the Babylonian captivity. You’ll find a number of familiar passages and have the opportunity to read them in the context in which they were written. For example, pastor recently preached from the passage in Ezekiel 36, the Valley of Dry Bones.

The purpose for the Proverbs is provided in the first one:

1These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.

2The purpose of these proverbs is to teach people wisdom and discipline, and to help them understand wise sayings. 3Through these proverbs, people will receive instruction in discipline, good conduct, and doing what is right, just, and fair. 4These proverbs will make the simpleminded clever. They will give knowledge and purpose to young people.

5Let those who are wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. And let those who understand receive guidance 6by exploring the depth of meaning in these proverbs, parables, wise sayings, and riddles.
(Proverbs 1:1-6, NLT)

Let’s explore the dept of the meaning in the proverbs, not just read them to stay on schedule!

Don’t give up now, friends! We can see the finish line.

Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t kept up. Life happens! Keep plugging away. God is honored by your faithfulness and you will be blessed by continuing to read through the Scriptures.

Be blessed, all!

To download a PDF of October’s reading schedule, click here.

October Recommended Reading Plan

October Recommended Reading Plan

Home Stretch!

If you have been reading along with us using the Resting at the River’s Edge reading plans, don’t give up now — you are in the home stretch.
October 1 marks the beginning of the last three months of the year.

The big books we have left are Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel, Proverbs, Luke and Revelation. Of course there are many smaller books thrown in to keep it interesting.

In October we’ll read Ezekiel and a little more than half of the Proverbs. We’ll also read Song of Solomon or Song of Songs, Philippians and
Colossians.

We’ve been reading Jeremiah. He prophecied mostly before the Babylonian captivity — that is, when the Israelites were taken into captivity by the Babylonians and forced to leave their home in Jerusalem and move to Babylon. Ezekiel prophecies during the Babylonian captivity. You’ll find a number of familiar passages and have the opportunity to read them in the context in which they were written. For example, pastor recently preached from the passage in Ezekiel 36, the Valley of Dry Bones.

The purpose for the Proverbs is provided in the first one:

1These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.

2The purpose of these proverbs is to teach people wisdom and discipline, and to help them understand wise sayings. 3Through these proverbs, people will receive instruction in discipline, good conduct, and doing what is right, just, and fair. 4These proverbs will make the simpleminded clever. They will give knowledge and purpose to young people.

5Let those who are wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. And let those who understand receive guidance 6by exploring the depth of meaning in these proverbs, parables, wise sayings, and riddles. (Proverbs 1:1-6, NLT)

Let’s explore the dept of the meaning in the proverbs, not just read them to stay on schedule!

Don’t give up now, friends! We can see the finish line.

Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t kept up. Life happens! Keep plugging away. God is honored by your faithfulness and you will be blessed by continuing to read through the Scriptures.

Be blessed, all!

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Six Temptations of Failure, Day 6 of 6

Temptation # 6: Living in Fear of Failure
Sometimes we overreact to failure and build walls around ourselves and our activities so that eventually we wall ourselves in and no longer live in the freedom God has given us. Instead, we live in fear that we will fail again. So we essentially stop living. Sure, we’re still breathing and walking and talking, but the life has gone out of our life. Failure is a part of life, friends. We cannot build ourselves into such a safe place that we will not experience it, and to try to do so places limits around us that diminish our lives.

Fear ultimately leads to living a life characterized by legalism. We make rules and regulations to govern our lives and build a hedge of protection around ourselves to keep from ever being hurt again. Most of these new rules aren’t biblical. God never tells His people to stop stepping out in faith. These barriers you erect to prevent future failures all too often separates you from God and His best will for your life.

Fear is the antithesis of faith. Fear is believing that Satan will win instead of believing that the outcome will be what God has said it will be. Choose to believe God, friends. Engage your faith and live life to the fullest.

It occurs to me that perhaps I seem uncompassionate in this blog. Trust me, friends, I have compassion for those experiencing failure. Been there — done that. Refused to buy the T-shirt and don’t want to go back to have another opportunity to do so. But I also know that the temptations listed in these blogs are Satan’s way of binding us to the failure and blinding us to the plans God has for us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

God desires to give us freedom. God desires for us to be whole. God desires to make something great out of your failure and mine. Let’s resist Satan’s bait and trust God for the good stuff!

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Six Temptations of Failure, Day 5 of 6

Are you still with me? So far we’ve covered the following temptations:

  1. Believing that You are the Failure
  2. Allowing a Failure to Spread its Branches
  3. Making Inappropriate or Unintentional Vows
  4. Blaming Others

Only two more to go. I pray that God is speaking to your heart as you read this series of blogs.

Temptation #5: Avoiding Others
In the midst of a failure, you may be quite tempted to avoid others because of feelings of humiliation.

First, know that the feelings of humiliation are probably totally inappropriate. Humility is a good thing; humiliation is a bad thing. Experiencing a failure may be humbling, but you should not feel humiliated by it. You tried something and it didn’t go as planned.

Repeat after me: “Everyone fails.” It’s a part of life. There’s no reason for you to feel humiliated. And everyone makes mistakes. If a mistake on your part lead to the failure, it wasn’t your first mistake and it undoubtedly won’t be your last. Learn to live with not being perfect. Only God is perfect and you’re not God.

So resist the temptation to avoid others – you need them to love you as you recover from the failure. You need people around you who will regularly remind you about the great talents and gifts God has given you, and about how special you are to God and to them. You need people to love you. Trust me, avoiding friends is debilitating and will prolong your recovery process.

And perhaps most importantly of all, the world needs to see how a confessing Christian deals with failures and setbacks in their lives. This might be the most important message that your life could ever deliver to the watching world around us. Hiding your failure and avoiding the world will never get that message across. It’s like burying your talent in the sand.

If you’ve avoided others lately, let me encourage to right now think of someone you will call later today or tomorrow. Or perhaps you can reach for the phone right now. Go for it!

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Six Temptations of Failure, Day 4 of 6

Temptation #4: Blaming Others

Taking responsibility for our actions is an important step in our emotional and spiritual maturity. Guard yourself against placing the bulk of the blame on someone else for everything that is wrong in your life. Doing so has several consequences:

  • It changes the way you think, eventually causing to think of yourself (consciously or subconsciously) as a victim.
  • It stunts your emotional and spiritual growth because it cheats you from learning what God wants you to learn from the experience.
  • At some level, you are lying to yourself and others. God does not honor dishonesty.
  • On a practical level, you’re not fooling others and you will develop a reputation as a blame-shifter and someone who lacks integrity.

It’s no fun shouldering the responsibility for a failure, but when it is appropriate, don’t hesitate to do so. Remember, don’t let the failure define you or spread it’s branches, but do accept the responsibility for your mistakes. Then take these actions:

  • Ask God to forgive you if there was any sin involved.
  • Ask others to forgive you if you committed any wrong against them.
  • Ask God (and perhaps others) for His leading in the current situation and future situations.
  • Let it go. Don’t carry the failure with you into the future. Leave it in the past. Don’t let a failure take root or spread it’s territory. It’s time for God to begin a new work!

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Six Temptations of Failure, Day 3 of 6

So far we’ve looked at two temptations we often face when we experience failure: The temptation to believe that we are the failure instead of properly identifying the event or situation as a failure, and the temptation to allow the sense of failure to grow until we believe that we can’t do anything right. Both temptations can have debilitating affects on our lives. Let’s look at a third that can also impact our lives for years beyond the failure.

Temptation #3: Making Inappropriate or Unintentional Vows
Sometimes when we fail, we are so intent on not having it happen again that we make inappropriate and/or unintentional vows. Those vows can take on a life of their own and begin to define us in ways that we don’t want to be defined. Let me give you two examples:

  • Perhaps your marriage failed and you were so devastated by it that you said in your heart, “I’ll never let anyone be able to hurt me like this again.” That’s a vow and God honors our vows. Years later you may wonder why you are so unhappy in your next marriage. The answer may be because you are not making yourself vulnerable to your spouse – after all, if you allow yourself to be vulnerable again, you may be hurt again.
  • Perhaps you have a business that failed and in the aftermath of the failure you vow that you will never take a financial risk again. Years later you may wonder why you find yourself in a position that gives you no fulfillment and brings little income. Perhaps it’s because you resisted trusting God when He made another position available that required you to take a reasonable risk.

In the midst of a failure, guard against the temptation to make rash statement and inappropriate vows. Our words mean things and vows have authority that only Christ can break. Don’t let rash words that you have spoken define your life. If you find that you have made inappropriate vows, specifically renounce them before God in the name of Jesus. Ask Jesus to free you from the vow.

A friend shared this story with me. She’s given me permission to share it with you.

“As a child, I did something that turned out to be a big mistake. My mom wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to explain that it was an accident. I vowed in my heart never to tell her anything again. Nearly fifty years later, the vow was still in force…I have spent a lifetime accepting blame without speaking truth and a lifetime ‘never telling [anyone] anything of any importance.’ But now Christ has broken that vow, and freed me to share more openly than ever before.”

Renouncing vows are worth the effort!

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Six Temptations of Failure, Day 2 of 6

Yesterday I started a 6-part blog about the temptations of failure. The first temptation we looked at was the temptation to believe that you are a failure. It’s a lie. Don’t believe it. Believing it leads to the second temptation.

Temptation #2: Allowing a Failure to Spread Its Branches
Once you start to buy into the lie that you yourself are a failure (instead of seeing the truth that you are loved by God who continues to delight in you, despite the fact that you have experienced some things that didn’t work the way you intended), the next step for many is believing that you “can’t do anything right.” The first lie has taken root and has begun to spread its branches into every area of your thinking.

This one always shocks me when someone says it, simply because it’s such a blatant and bogus lie! Of course you can do MANY things right! You probably did a pretty good job at taking a shower and getting dressed this morning! This week you may have cooked some good meals or balanced the checkbook or made a sale or made a good decision. You probably did LOTS of those things and many others very well.

Every professional athlete experiences a “slump” from time to time. Home run king Babe Ruth also held another record — the one for most strike-outs. Thomas Edison tried 5,000 different ideas before he invented a workable light bulb. The prophets Elijah and Jeremiah both despaired that all of their efforts and all of their ministry didn’t produce any change in the lives of those they preached to. Each of these great people, when they were in their slump, could have bought into the lie that they can’t do anything right, but history shows it isn’t true.

If you’re ever tempted to believe this lie, step back and say as Jesus did, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” Then sit down and make a list of ALL the things you did right today. Did you ask for God’s help at all? That’s doing something right. Did you pray or read your Bible? Those are things you did right. Did you call a friend when you were overwhelmed? That was a good decision. The list could go on, of course, but make your own list. Walk through your day in your mind and list everything you did right, even the small things.

I’m serious! Do it! You’ll begin to see that the sentence “I can’t do anything right” is a foolish one.

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Six Temptations of Failure, Day 1 of 6

Blogs by nature are generally supposed to be short. I’m not good at that. I’ve written an article that I’m confident is a message that many people need to hear. Rather than subject you to the reading the article as a very long blog, however, I’m breaking it into six smaller blogs.

Now, on to an introduction and temptation #1.

Six Temptations of Failure

Failure. It’s such an “ending word.” At least it sounds that way to me. In God’s economy, though, it is anything but an ending word. It is the beginning of something great that God wants to make out of the situation and those involved in it. God’s Word says:

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NRSV)

If you love God and are pursuing His purposes for your life, when you experience failure you can know that God is going to begin to make something good out of the situation. Failure isn’t necessarily from Satan – God allows us to fail to bring about growth in our lives. He uses our failures to teach us things, to conform us to the image of Christ, and to show forth His glory. That’s part of the “good” that God works in our lives.

But when God begins to make something good, we can also know that Satan tries to foil His plans. One of his favorite tactics, especially in failure, is to misdirect God’s people with enticing alternatives. Failure carries with it many temptations, all of which have the potential to stop us in our tracks if we don’t resist them.

Bringing goodness – or even greatness – out of failure is God’s specialty. Bringing defeat and death is Satan’s specialty. Whether we embrace the greatness or the defeat is up to us. In this blog, I hope to debunk many of the temptations the enemy uses to entice us away from God’s plan when we experience failure.

Temptation #1: Believing That You are a Failure
I hope all of you have heard the phrase “failure is an event, not a person.” I’ve heard it from many people, but I think the first was Christian motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. Failure is the event that didn’t go as planned; it is not the person who planned, implemented or participated in the event.

One of the first things Satan throws in our face when we experience a failure is the lie that we are the failure. On the surface it would seem like a hard sell for Satan – after all, who wants to think of themselves as a failure? The truth, though, is that for many of us it’s easier to believe the lie that we are a failure than to hold on to the hope of success. Scripture says “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). When we experience a failure, it’s easy to lose hope. If we allow the failure to define us instead of applying the word “failure” only to the event, it’s easier to believe that we are the failure instead of holding onto the promise that God has something better for us.

The truth is that God made us uniquely for His purposes. Holding on to His truth requires actively engaging our faith. Believing the lie that we are a failure doesn’t require much of anything from us. Experiencing a failure takes the wind out of our sails and lowers our resistance to temptation. Although it is debilitating and painful, believing the lie can be the path of least resistance. Believing the lie is easier than holding steadfastly to the truth that God has something greater for us. Believing the truth requires that we expend the emotional and spiritual energy to actively engage our faith – to say “God will prevail on my behalf.”

Tomorrow’s Temptation: Allowing a Failure to Spread It’s Branches

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1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
1 Peter 1:1-2

I love the epistles – the letters written to the early Christians by their fathers in the faith. I am often stopped by the greeting. That’s how it was today as I read the Resting at the River’s Edge recommended reading. The Apostle Peter writes to “God’s Elect.” That would be those of us who have trust Christ as our Savior – God’s chosen people. Peter doesn’t stop there, though. He goes on and gives us a stronger or clearer definition of who we are. Let’s look at the list:

  • God’s elect or God’s chosen – The people God has chosen. You and I are special, chosen by God.
  • Strangers in the world – This world is not our home. Our home, our ultimate destination and the place where we will experience the security and peace of home is heaven. We ought never to allow this world to feel like “home.” We ought never to be so comfortable with those who are of the world that we don’t feel like strangers around them. I don’t mean to say we cannot be friends with unbelievers. But there ought to always be a distinct difference between us such that we remain strangers to them. That doesn’t mean we don’t become vulnerable with our unbelieving friends – Christ became vulnerable to all so that we might come to know Him. But not all make that choice and those who don’t, those who remain “of the world,” create a place in which we are strangers, just passing through on our way home.
  • Scattered – We are not to be cloistered, but scattered, as seeds are when they are planted.
  • Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God – I’m not going to get into a debate on Calvinism, I’m simply going to accept that I am chosen according to the foreknowledge of God. It is part of who I am. And that makes me special. I like it!
  • Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit – I was chosen through the sanctifying – cleansing, purifying – work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit made me holy – set me apart for sacred purposes – as a part of being chosen by God.
  • For obedience to Jesus Christ – I was chosen and sanctified for a purpose – obedience to Christ. That’s a lofty purpose because I know that Christ has plans for my life that can only be accomplished by my obedience and through His power. I like having a purpose, even if that purpose is to be obedient to Christ. Some might consider being chosen to be obedient a calling unworthy. No so. The Creator and Sustainer of the Universe has asked for and deserves my allegiance. I will give it gladly. (Yes, I will fail at that sometimes, but it is my heart to give my allegiance gladly.)
  • And sprinkling by His blood. – Chosen for sprinkling by Christ’s blood. The blood of Christ carries salvation, deliverance and healing. As I write this I’m reminded of times when I have run through sprinklers for relief from a hot summer day. Sprinklers come in many varieties, intensities and speeds. Lord, I’d like the kind that gives more of a soaking than the kind that just leaves a few drops on my clothes. I’d like full deliverance, healing and refreshing.

I am thankful for my identity in Christ. The greeting in many of the epistles go way beyond the “Hi, How are you?” greeting I usually give. The greetings in Scripture remind me who I am and why I am here. Thank You, Lord.

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As for the saints who are in the land,
they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

Psalm 16:3

I’ve read this Scripture many times before, but last night I noticed a very important small word in it – ALL – It says that God saves ALL His delight for “the saints.” If you’ve trusted Christ as your Savior, that means you! It means me, too. We’re talking about the God of the universe here, the God who created heaven and earth and all that is in it. That God – saves all his delight for His children.

There are more than 350,000 different kinds of beetles. God created each one. If it were me, I’d be happy with about four different types. But God wasn’t satisfied with four, he made 350,000, Having made all those beetles, I’d think God would delight in them. But Psalm 16 says that God saves ALL his delight for me.

I love to go to sea world and I’m delighted by the sea anemones. They have no structure, no body, but they float around in the water. It amazes and delights me. I love to stand next to Shamu’s tank and am delighted at this huge creature. How can anything so big be so graceful? But God doesn’t delight in the sea anemone or the killer whale or the 350,000 different types of beetles. God delights in me.

Wow!

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God is not discoverable or demonstrable by purely scientific means, unfortunately for the scientifically-minded. But that really proves nothing. It simply means that the wrong instruments are being used for the job.
J. B. Phillips (1906–1982)

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