Live, heal, and grow

We all have a need for justice. Some of the toughest times in my life are when I feel the wicked are prevailing and the righteous, God’s people, are getting the short end of the stick, so to speak. Habakkuk is feeling the same way. It’s around 605 B.C. and the Babylonians are wreaking havoc over God’s people. The prophet, Habakkuk, questions God, “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me, there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.” (Habakkuk 1:3-4)

Can you relate to what he is questioning? Do you feel a little like Habakkuk, wondering how a loving God can allow evil to prevail? Is God stuck in some kind of Godly paralysis?

There are times in life when we have to wade through our losses. It means we have to experience the grief of our hearts, release the tears of pain, work through the struggles of disappointment and shattered dreams and let the Holy Spirit teach us not only to endure but to live and heal and grow.

I love oak trees. Some that have been around for hundreds of years, stand so proud and their majestic beauty is overwhelming to me. To sit at the base of such a tree, under its protective shade, secure in the thickness of the trunk, reminds me of God’s word and guidance in my life. Oak trees have two kinds of root systems: surface roots (which are very fragile) and tap roots (which can dig as deep as the tree is tall). Tap roots cement the tree. They give the oak its foundation and are the reason the oak can sustain gale force winds and torrential storms. Do you know when tap roots grow the most? Because they need a source of water, they dig down deep during times of drought.

The world around you might be in chaos. You may believe your questions and problems are falling upon God’s deaf ear, but I want you to know, He’s there. It may feel like He’s on vacation or mad at you or listening to anyone but you, “But the Lord is in His Holy Temple, let all the earth be silent before Him.” (Habakkuk 2:20)

Sometimes we have to reach a level of committment in our walk with God which expresses to Him total devotion, even when our world is in disarray.  Habakkuk 3:17-19, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines; though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Do not fret; do not worry; God is not paralyzed; He is on the throne, knows your name, knows your need, and knows your answer. And He is on the way! He is the voice of hope in despair. He is freedom rising up in the midst of bondage. He is making a way for you to overcome and declare victory. He is God, and He is mighty.

Though you may have lost your job; though sickness may run through your family; though you may be facing foreclosure; though divorce may be knocking at your door; though your child may be in trouble; though death may have taken someone you love; though you may have been betrayed; yet we will rejoice in the Lord, we will be joyful in God our Savior!

What do you have?

2 Corinthians 12:9 reads, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power  is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more  gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.'”

I have a weakness. Some of you may know this restaurant and some of you may not. It is called The Varsity. When my son, David, decided to attend college at Georgia Tech, I was proud of his choice because it is a great university but also because it is less than a block from The Varsity. Whenever we visited David and then my daughter Reneé, Connie knew, I had to stop at The Varsity. When a customer walks in the restaurant, a voice calls out “What’d y’all have? What’d y’all have?”

“A Yellow C Dog, walking, ring one, and a F.O,” I call out, translated, “I’ll have a hotdog with mustard, chili, to go, a side of onion rings, and a Frosted Orange.”

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt,  God asked him in Exodus 4:2, “What do you have in your hand?” It was simply a staff, a common, every day tool used during that time for various reasons; but, God used it over and over to help Moses when he turned the Nile to blood or parted the Red Sea.

In 2 Kings 4, Elijah is helping a widow who is in desperation because the creditors of her dead husband are coming to take her children and sell them into slavery.  Elijah asks her, “What do you have in your house?” She responds to him, “A small jar of oil.” Elijah uses that oil, multiplies it, and she is able to pay off her creditors and live on the rest.

Another time Elijah asks a widow to make him a cake of bread. She was actually preparing a final meal for herself and her son with the small amount of flour and oil she had left. She makes Elijah the cake and because of her obedience in 1 Kings 17, we learn she does not run out of flour and oil again.

Jesus is teaching a crowd of 5000 people. The disciples tell him that the people are hungry. He asks them in Matthew 14 and Mark 6, “How many loaves do you have?” Realistically, Jesus could have snapped his finger and created a buffet of food, but He uses what is available and turns 5 loaves and 2 fish into enough for everyone.

Sometimes we feel inadequate. Our insecurities tell us we are incapable. Maybe we don’t have enough money or education; maybe we do not have the ability to create or articulate what God is asking us to do; Maybe our skills in certain areas are lacking or our physical appearance is less than what we believe is beautiful. Do you know God wants what we have? He performed some of His greatest miracles through the simple possessions of his people: a staff, oil, flour, a loaf of bread and fish.

God doesn’t need fancy things; He needs you.  God can use what we see as a limitation or something small and unimportant to perform His most impressive works. God is interested in what we have and our willingness to use it. So, what do you have?

The seed sown

Mark 4: 3-8, “He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 ‘Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.’”

Jesus’ method of teaching can at times be confusing, so confusing, that even the disciples questioned what He meant. Jesus used parables to engage the listeners in something they could understand – every day life events. The parables were also meant to stimulate our minds and to make us think for ourselves.

God’s word is available through out the world. With today’s technology and the ability of travel, there are very few people who cannot be reached by God’s word. The tough part is how do they (we) hear the word?

The parable above tells us how the word of God is heard and received. Jesus later explains the parable to His disciples in Mark 4:14-20. He tells them the seed which was sown on the path is like a person who hears the word of God but Satan comes and takes the word from them. I call it “the inaudible” truth. Ever tried to give advice to a brick wall? Those words just splash right back in your face. Without a willingness from the listener to allow the words to penetrate his/her mind, the Word of God is quickly lost, like throwing seed to birds.

The seed which is sown on the rocky places can be an example of how some of us respond to God’s Word. Have you ever heard an inspirational sermon which fills your heart with joy and motivates you to change the way you think or to change your actions, but the moment you step out of the church and life hits you, all is forgotten. There is no core within to attach and therefore the Word of God cannot take root. “In one ear and out the other” is an old adage which describes this portion of the parable well.

The seeds among thorns describe those who hear God’s Word, know it is the truth, but disregard it.  They know what is right and wrong. They know their lifestyles do not line up; but, the desires for sin are greater than the desire for God. His Word is choked out by the thorns around them.

The final seed sown, on good soil, is accepted and lived out on a daily basis. It is the seed that will change the world. It is the seed that spreads the Word of God by living it on a daily basis.

What are you? Maybe a little of all at various times in your life. When you hear God’s word, ask Him to show you how it applies to you. Stop worrying if Susie two rows in front of you is listening and start listening yourself. What is God trying to convey to you in the scriptures? How we hear the word and put it into practice in our lives matters tremendously to God.

The key to success

Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. It is so hard to keep a positive attitude in the midst of failure. None of us like to fail. We are judged based upon our performance. We are applauded when we win. We are paid when we are successful in our jobs.”

How do you view success and failure? Is it based on money? Gold medals? Status? Power?

Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

God knows the importance of goals. He knows that as human beings we need to have plans and desires to strive to be better people. Sometimes though, it is our failures that make us the people God wants us to be. How we handle failure is more important to God; in fact, how we handle failure may be our success.

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, and an incredibly intelligent man stated, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” We need to understand sometimes when our plans do not work out the way we wanted, it brings us closer to where God wants us.

Oral Roberts, an evangelist, used to open his sermons with, “Something good is going to happen to you today!”

All of us have expectations and when those are not met we feel weary and disappointed. But God tells us in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

If we do not give up… the key to success…the answer…

Nelson Mandela said, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”

Do not give up. See what the world deems as failure as your step up to what God has for you next. Rely on Him when you feel weary and know that He will deliver in His time.

Becoming a Good Neighbor

Mark 12:28-31, “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Sometimes it can be confusing. Who exactly is our neighbor? And is it really possible to love our neighbor as ourself?

Steps to becoming a Good Neighbor:

1. Loving our neighbor means putting our needs aside.

When we love our neighbor as we should, we are showing a selfless act, an admittance that demonstrates divine love in ways nothing else can. Showing love to our neighbor is the best example of Godliness there is. When Jesus came to walk with us here on earth, He came as a servant to all mankind. We, in turn, are to be servants to others, demonstrating a Godly love. Whether or not the person to whom you are showing love accepts it or not, it is still our responsibility and duty as Godly people.

2. Who is our neighbor in God’s eyes?

When Jesus was asked this question, He told the story of the Good Samaritan. Once I heard a story of a Sunday School teacher who asked a group of Third Graders what they would do if they saw a person on the road beaten and bloodied. After some thought, a little girl raised her hand and responded, “I would probably throw-up!” And the Good Samaritan might have felt that way too, but he helped the man anyway. A neighbor is anyone close by to where you are. Regardless of how we feel, God asks us to demonstrate His love to them.

3. Love is the greatest witness of Christ.

Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

1 Peter 2:15, “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”

1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Be the neighbor God has called you to be to those around you.

Make God a daily habit

Psalm 1:1-2, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,  and who meditates on his law day and night.”

Blessed is the oneThose words in and of themselves should make us stand up and take notice. Isn’t that what we all want? To be blessed by God? When I read those words I want to say, “Yes! What do I need to do?” We have no problem when we hear an ad on TV, “Lose 20 pounds in two weeks. Follow this full-proof plan!” We grab our phones and start dialing to order for $19.99 a month. Here, the Holy Spirit is telling us how to have a blessed life.

who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockersNo one wants or sets out to be a sinner. A four-year old doesn’t profess to his parents, “I think I’ll grow up to be wicked.” Sin has a way of creeping up on us unexpectedly at times and blatantly at others. It should not be welcomed in our homes, our cars, our workplace, our schools. We do not want its company. We do not want to follow its example.

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.God wants us to make Him a daily habit. Everything in scripture leads up to Christ. The  ultimate goal in reading the Bible is not so we can win a Bible trivia contest or quote scripture to impress others; it is to cultivate a relationship with the Savior of the world. From cover to cover, the Bible is all about our salvation. Why wouldn’t we read it?

2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Sitting by the Red Sea

1 Samuel tells of an event in the life of David. He is not yet the king. Saul is king and the city in which David, his soldiers, and their families have been living, was attacked and burned. David and his soldiers were actually gone when it happened and their wives and children were taken by the Amalekites.

David prays to God to ask what to do, and God instructs him to go after the Amalekites. No strategic battle, no blueprint, God simply tells him to pursue them. On the way, David’s soldiers find a sick man, an Egyptian who is the abandoned slave of an Amalekite.

1 Samuel 30:13, “…’I am an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago. We raided the Negev of the Kerethites and the territory belonging to Judah and the Negev of Caleb. And we burned Ziklag.'”

Now Ziklag is David’s town. David asked the slave if he could lead him to the raiding party and the slave responds, “Swear to me before God that you will not kill me or hand me over to my master, and I will take you down to them.”

Sometimes we are looking for God’s BIG ANSWER. When Moses stood before the Red Sea, the Egyptian soldiers thundering down upon the Israelites, millions of lives hanging in the balance, God parts the waters and the Israelites are delivered. Red Sea – Big Answer – Big Miracle.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (the guys thrown into the fiery furnace), God shows up and is in the furnace with them. The king actually sees a fourth person in the fire! Fiery Furnace – Big Answer – Big Miracle.

If only God worked that way all the time.

God sometimes gives us answers in ways we would have never thought. Would David have ever imagined he would find a sick slave who would lead him to the exact location of his enemy?

Be careful that you are not sitting by the Red Sea waiting for the waters to part, when God has someone in need for you to help who will in turn help you. Consider, David’s men could have passed this guy up. David could have instructed them, “We don’t have time to help this sick man, we are pursuing an army! We are going to rescue our wives and children! We are on a mission instructed by God. Who has time to stop and help a sick man!”

Who are you passing by? What are you missing that God is going to use to help you? Who are you too busy to help?

When looking for God’s answers, make sure your eyes and ears are opened to hear and see what He is trying to convey. Through out the Bible, time and time again, God shows up in ways no one ever expected. Since God doesn’t change, why do we look for Him in the obvious? He is not a God of the obvious, but of the extraordinary, unique, and impossible.

Today, ask God to open your eyes and ears to see the miracle He is planning for you. Your answer is on the way.


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