Sometimes I Don’t Enjoy Praying

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-dont-enjoy-praying/

Before I was born again prayer was non-existent in my life

Oh, I prayed the prayers along with everyone else from the book of prayers during the Sunday morning service

Prayers that 50+ years later I can still repeat by memory (head) – but not from my heart

Then I met Jesus and prayer took on whole new dynamic (November 9th, 1976)

It was a very personal and private conversation between Jesus and me 

A time for solitude and stillness when I reconnected with my own heart and the heart of the Father who loves me unconditionally

A very special – and sometimes quiet – time when I experienced God’s peace and His presence that was different than what I experienced during any other time  Read more

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Five

We have seen that to feel confident and appear confident in relationships and in life in general we need to:

1> Establish your worth according to God’s value system.

2> Focus on God and not on our situation

A> Confidence is not the result of an absence of problems.

B> Confidence is a result of trusting God in our problems.

C> Victories yesterday give more confidence for today.

3> Develop friendships with confident people

4> Put a few wins under your belt

5> Quit comparing yourself with others

6> Find something you’re good at and then specialize until you are special.

It could be a sport, a task, a natural ability, or a personally developed talent and ability. Use that strength as much as you can to build your level of assurance and specialization. As you do a confidence will arise inside you. A successful person will play to their strengths and not focus on their weaknesses. And this is true when building solid, long-term relationships as well. Confidence comes from knowing what you are designed and wired to do and doing it to the best of your ability. 

6> Begin to develop a knowledge of people. 

Here is a humorous old story which points out the importance of knowing who you’re dealing with. A Baptist deacon had advertised a cow for sale. “How much are you asking for it?” Inquired a prospective purchaser.

“One hundred and fifty dollars,” said the advertiser.

“And how much milk does she give?”

“Four gallons a day,” the deacon replied.

“But how do I know that she will actually give that amount?” Asked the purchaser.

“Oh, you can trust me,” assured the advertiser. “I’m a Baptist deacon.”

“I’ll buy it,” replied the other. “I’ll take the cow home and bring you the money later. You can trust me. I’m a Presbyterian elder.”

When the deacon arrived home, he asked his wife, “What’s a Presbyterian elder?”

“Oh,” she explained, “ a Presbyterian elder is about the same as a Baptist deacon.”

“Oh, dear,,” groaned the deacon, “I have lost my cow.”

The deacon knew his product; he knew his cow. But his lack of people knowledge defeated him. To have confidence you will need to take the time to study people (be a people watcher), learn necessary relational skills, and develop a well-rounded personality so that you can confidently enter into any relationship within your season of life. 

So, you have developed confidence – what do you do with it now? Now that you have all this confidence, what should you do with it? Keep refuelling it! Confidence is not a constant; it fluctuates according to your success / failure ratio in life. We all have defeats and failures which occasionally and temporarily lower our level of confidence. If you accept the fact that you will not be outstanding in everything you attempt nor in every relationship you work to establish, you will not be devastated when your best is not good enough.

You will also find your confidence has a contagious quality. It will spread throughout your sphere of influence. The Bible provides some interesting examples of “confidence contagion” which we will look at next time. 

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Four

We have seen that to feel confident and appear confident in relationships and in life in general we need to:

1> Establish your worth according to God’s value system.

2> Focus on God and not on our situation

A> Confidence is not the result of an absence of problems.

B> Confidence is a result of trusting God in our problems.

C> Victories yesterday give more confidence for today.

3> Develop friendships with confident people

4> Put a few wins under your belt

Another way to develop confidence is to put a few wins under your belt. Start with building on small successes and little by little you will tackle bigger and bigger challenges. 

A few successful victories under your belt gives you the impetus to keep starching your abilities. If you keep winning, you may see yourself as a no-limits person. Repeated failures produce the opposite effect. You begin to see yourself as a hopeless loser. The best way to develop rational, well-balanced confidence is to go after a few victories immediately following a failure. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of wallowing in self-pity.

A great confidence booster is a personal victory list of past successes and achievements. This is a biblical concept. There are two Bible characters who practiced this: Samson, who became a total failure, and David, who became a great success.

In Judges 16:20 we see Samson’s victory list:  “And she [Delilah] said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ And he awoke from his sleep and said, ‘I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had left him.”

Now let’s read David’s victory list in 1 Samuel 17:37: “And David said, ‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the LORD be with you!’”

There are two strong similarities between these two men. They were both chosen, ordained, and anointed by God, and they were both leaders of Israel at a time when Israel was battling agains the Philistines. But this is where it stops; Samson and David also had three distinct differences. These differences made one a winner (and confident) and the other a loser.

The first thing we notice about Samson is that he wanted to please himself. He lived life in the flesh, depending on his own strength and felt no need to rely on God, even when going into battle. He chose the road that always leads to ultimate defeat. Unlike Samson, David desired to please God. He knew that, left to his own resources, he was already defeated. So he called upon the Lord and went to battle with divine help. His weakness became God’s strength and he was assured victory.

Samson’s alienation from God not only led to his defeat, it ended his leadership. For David, however, this episode with Goliath was the beginning of his leadership. It was the incident that brought him into a position where God could greatly use him. Victory lists should give us confidence, not cockiness.

5> Quit comparing yourself with others

Another way to increase your confidence is to quit comparing yourself with others. Comparisons always leaves you found wanting. If you are better than the person you are comparing yourself to, this makes you proud — not more confident. If you are not as good as the person you are comparing yourself to then you become depressed and, again, not more confident. 

The following little story illustrates the point. A milk truck passes two cows grazing in a pasture. On the side of the truck are the words, “Pasteurized, homogenized, standardized, Vitamin A added.” Noticing this, one cow says to the other, “Makes you kind of feel inadequate, doesn’t it?” I think we have all known that feeling of inadequacy when we compare what we can offer with what someone else offers.

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Three

To be comfortable with others and thus build great relationships that have depth and substance we need to be confident in who we are and what it is God has called us to accomplish for Him. So, how can we become confident and thus able to be transparent and vulnerable when building relationships with others?

1> Establish your worth according to God’s value system.

God demonstrated our importance to Him in two great acts. First, He created us in His own image, and second He — through Jesus Christ — died for our sins. God thought so much of you, believed in you, and saw you as a person of such worth, that He allowed His Son to die so that you could live. When we begin to see ourselves in light of God’s actions on our behalf, then we immediately begin to have more confidence. There is nothing more humbling than the realization that if you were the only person on this earth, Jesus would have died for you. That makes you priceless. 

2> Focus on God and not on our situation

Focusing on God — what He has done, is doing, and will be doing — brings you personal confidence in life. Try living according to Psalm 27:1-3…

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.”

We can make three observations from these brief verses.

A> Confidence is not the result of an absence of problems.

It is very clear that the psalmist encountered many problems and difficulties. He mentions his enemies, evildoers who want to devour his flesh, adversaries, and a host encamping around him.

B> Confidence is a result of trusting God in our problems.

In the midst of his difficulties, the psalmist kept focusing on God and not on his difficult situation. “The Lord is the defence of my life.”

C> Victories yesterday give more confidence for today.

In verse two the psalmist speaks in the past tense. “When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, they stumbled and fell.” He’s talking about yesterday. In verse three, he talks about today: “Though an host encamp against me, my heart will not fear.” Confidence today is a result of victories yesterday.

3> Develop friendships with confident people

The old cliché is true: Birds of a feather do flock together. A big man is one who makes us feel bigger when we are with him.

Many people are doomed to suffer the “Charlie Brown complex.” It seems that Charlie Brown just can’t do anything right. But notice that one of his problems is the fact that Lucy is always around him. Lucy does not make it any better for Charlie Brown because she is always quick to point out the error of his ways.

On one occasion Lucy puts her hands on her hips and says, “You, Charlie Brown, are a foul ball in the line drive of life! You’re in the shadow of your own goal posts! You are a miscue! You are three putts on the eighteenth green! You are a seven-ten split in the tenth frame! You are a dropped rod and reel in the lake of life! You are a missed free throw, a shanked nine iron, and a called third trike! Do you understand? Have I made myself clear?”

Do you have a Lucy around you? It’s safe to say that if you surround yourself with people like her, you will have a difficult time developing a sense of confidence. Every time you start out there will be someone to remind you what you aren’t, haven’t been, and never will become. If we want to be confident, we must surround ourselves with confident people, people who believe in us and will be encouragers. 

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Two

So, why do we need confidence?  Why do you need confidence in yourself as we saw yesterday from Hebrews 10:35?  “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” 

First of all, it will give you stability in every area of your life. Confidence equals contentment with self; contentment is knowing you have all you need for the present circumstances. This leads to confidence.

Philippians 4:11-13 provides the basis for this thought. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

These verses cannot be separated because there is an absolute relationship between experiencing life’s lows and enjoying its highs. The apostle Paul is resting on the assurance that his strength is in God alone. And, he understood that confidence and contentment gave him stability in every situation he encountered in his tumultuous life. 

Contentment is taking your present situation — whatever obstacles you are facing, whatever limitation you are living with, whatever chronic condition wears you down, whatever has smashed your dreams, whatever factors and circumstances in life tend to push you under — and admitting you don’t like it but never saying, “I can’t cope with it.”

Contentment means you may feel distress, but you may never feel despair. You may feel pressed down, but you may never feel defeated. Paul says there are unlimited resources, and as soon as you say, “I can’t cope, “ you are failing to draw on these resources that Christ has readily, by His loving-kindness, made available to you. Contentment, therefore, is being confident that you measure up to any test you face because Christ has made His strength available within you.

If the first thing confidence does is to stabilize you, the second thing it does is to stretch you. The moment that I have my foundation strong and stable, I am in position to begin stretching. Insecure people and those who lack self-confidence seldom stretch because they are not willing to live on the edge of adventure in life. They are too insecure to risk what they have for what they might achieve and gain if only they let go and stepped out in faith. 

Helen Keller said, “Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” 

Think about a rubber band which is totally useless unless it is stretched. When insecurity and lack of self-confidence keeps us from stretching and growing, we end up with a life that is as unexciting and useless as a limp rubber band. 

We need confidence so that we can be stable in life not allowing neither want or abundance to control our response to daily circumstances and situations. Secondly, confidence allows us to risk stepping out in faith and in the process stretching and growing. 

Transferring this truth to the leadership level we see that confidence helps a leader to believe in other people because they are secure and confident. I mean, don’t we see others as we see ourselves? Show me a leader who believes in other people, and i will show you a leader who has a lot of confidence in their life. An insecure leader, on the other hand, believes neither in themselves nor in others. Insecure people are afraid to risk building up others with compliments, because they are constantly in need of compliments themselves.

A leader with confidence is a leader who brings about positive change in people. People must have affirmation, praise, and encouragement in order to believe in themselves, move forward, and maintain a high-level of excellence in the things they are called to do. Withholding negative or critical comments is not nearly as important as giving positive input through complements and praise. Again, the only people who can do this are those who feel positive about themselves. Work plus praise increases energy, but work without praise drains energy.

If you study the life of Paul, you will note he uses the word “confidence” in three distinct but related ways. Six times Paul refers to confidence in his relationship with Christ, six times to his confidence in himself, and six times he mentions his confidence in relationships with other people. There must be a balance because all three areas are related. Without confidence in Christ we could be tempted to become egocentric and cocky. Without confidence in ourselves we are defeated, powerless Christians. Without confidence in others we are suspicious and untrusting. 

Paul learned this lesson and it made him a successful motivator, leader, and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself. The price tag the world puts on us is just about identical to the one we put on ourselves. Self-confidence is the first prerequisite to doing great things for the Lord and the Kingdom of God. 

Feeling Confident In Life – Part One

Have you ever noticed that some people simply stand out in a crowd? What is it about them that sets them apart and that draws them to your attention? 

    • Their sense of direction — the assurance that they know where they are going?
    • Is it an awareness that they have certain abilities?
    • Maybe it’s because they have good people skills?
    • Is it their sincerity?
    • Their past successes?
    • Their ability to use eye contact and body language?

What do they have that draws people to them and that people appreciate, apparently feel comfortable around, and even want?

I believe it is “confidence!” Self-confidence carries a conviction, a strength, and it draws others to you. It allows you to stand out in a crowd. And, it helps people to feel comfortable around you. But most importantly, confidence allows you to feel comfortable and even relaxed around others. You know who you are. You understand your purpose at this stage in your life. You are good at what you do – having sharpened your talent and learned important skills. You feel strong and secure, self-confident. The result: you live with conviction and as a result others will feel comfortable around you. 

A story I read back in September, 1989 goes like this:

A five-year-old boy was intently working with his crayons at the kitchen table when his mother walked in and questioned what he was doing. Her son replied, “I’m drawing a picture of God.”

“But honey,” she responded, “no one knows what God looks like.”

With great confidence the boy boldly stated, “They will when I’m done.”

I like that sense of self-confidence, boldness, and positiveness. And, believe me, this confidence is powerful. And, confidence is also contagious. 

The writer of Hebrews recognized the value of confidence:

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (Hebrews 10:35)

The author of Hebrews is letting us know that confidence is not set in cement; it’s possible to lose it. And one of the key elements that removes confidence from the way we live life is those that we hang out with. Most people fall into two categories: confidence builders and confidence shakers. If you are unsure of yourself, a confidence shaker can do you in. 

The following story provides a great example of confidence breakdown.

A man lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs. He was hard of hearing, so he had no radio. He had trouble with his eyes, so he read no newspapers. But he sold good hot dogs.

This man put up signs on the highway advertising his wonderful hot dogs. He stood on the side of the road and cried, “Buy a hot dog, mister?” And people bought his hot dogs. He increased his meat and bun orders, and he bought a bigger stove to take care of his trade. He made enough money to put his son through college.

Unfortunately, the son came home from college an educated pessimist. He said, “Father, haven’t you been listening to the radio? Haven’t you been reading the newspaper? There’s a big recession on. The European situation is terrible, and the domestic situation is worse.”

Whereupon the father thought, “Well, my son’s been to college. He reads papers and he listens to the radio; he ought to know.” So the father cut down his meat and bun orders, took down his signs and no longer bothered to stand out on the highways to sell his hot dogs.

Of course, his sales fell overnight. “You’re right, son,” the father said to the boy. “We certainly are in the middle of a big recession.”

Confidence shakers see the negative side of everything. When they get you to buy into it, the very thing that was helping you be successful becomes your downfall. 

Unfortunately, this negative process can and too often does happen in the lives of Christians. We all go through periods of testing, wondering if God really can meet our every need. With a little discouragement from a good confidence shaker, we begin to doubt His ability and our own. This can begin a downward spiral which ends in the pit of failure and frustration. Our confidence has not only been shaken but uprooted.

The positive message from Hebrews 10:35 is that our confidence has a great reward. If we keep and build on it, we will be more than recompensed. Confidence in oneself is the cornerstone to inter-personal success ad healthy relationships that last. It is difficult for those who do not believe in themselves to have much faith in anyone else. Self-confidence breeds confidence in others.

 

    Sometimes It Is Hard To Be Civil

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimesits-hard-tobe-civil/

A pastor writes …

I received a message on Instagram from someone I didn’t know. Many people follow me who I don’t really know. And I follow many people who I don’t know hoping to have an opportunity to impact them with the Gospel.

One day he sent me the following message:

So umm… I see that you are following me, but I don’t understand why? I’m like a homosexual Satanist and I don’t believe in fairy tales — *cough, God, * cough

So, um yeah … unless you want something else from me … I would suggest blocking me.

If you had received this message, what would you have done? 

How would you have responded?

I wanted to say something that wouldn’t turn him away.

Something that would keep the conversation going.

I thought for a moment, started to type, and hit enter.

Why do you consider yourself a Satanist??

I just kind of skipped over the homosexual part and got right to the heart of the matter. And he responded by saying:

Just kidding. I’m an atheist.

Then I wrote:

So you are a comedic atheist?

He replied:

I guess … haha!

The next day I received this message from the guy:

What do you get from God? What does He do for you?

Wow, did I answer that question with joy! One of the many things I shared was:

I feel like I’m never alone. That I am blessed by God and that He has a plan, a direction for my life. I look up at the stars and think there must be a Creator; that none of this is an accident. And I just read the Bible, and it rang true. 

And then I challenged him to try to read the Bible. I figured he probably didn’t own a Bible, so I wrote:

Google “James 1” and read it, and you will see how cool it is — and wise.

He wrote back:

I said … I don’t read fairy tales

So then I prayed, “Lord give me the perfect answer to pique his interest,” and I sent him this message:

James is a history book! Try just one chapter. What would it hurt? What if it was a vast treasure just at your fingertips? If … after reading one chapter, you think it’s meaningless, then I’ll understand.

A couple of days went by, and I received a new message in my inbox from him. It read in all caps:

BEST READ OF MY LIFE!

This pastor was working hard to be civil … and it is not always easy

But, often the best way to open the door to sharing Jesus with someone is to begin a civil conversation

This means we maintain a sincere, kind, and respectful tone as we dialogue

Not preach at, not monolog as we share, but discuss and dialogue

It also means praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance about what to say, including when and how to say it

Many Christians fall into one of two categories – two different extremes

1> There are some who don’t engage with nonbelievers at all about spiritual matters because they feel afraid, intimidated, or ill-equipped

2> there are others who do engage with nonbelievers, but it can be in a manner that is obnoxious or argumentative; critical and judgmental

The solution or remedy to both of these extremes is found in 1 Peter 3:15

“… but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV)

“Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.” (MSG)

Our effectiveness for the Gospel begins with a reverence for Jesus as Lord in our hearts

And we are called to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask us the reason why we have hope

This must be done with gentleness and respect – in a civil manner -because it is coming from your heart which, as the verse states, is focused on Jesus

What the world needs now, more than ever before, is for believers to be open, engaging, and available to engage in civil conversations 

Often difficult in a culture where people are becoming more and more hostile to Christianity — and to each other — and there are so many different ‘camps’

Just look at any comments section of a social media post or news article online

It can be the simplest topic to the most controversial — It doesn’t matter

In just about every instance, you will have people who disagree with one another and begin labeling and attacking without a filter

Civil discourse seems to have left the building

Having a civil conversation with someone when you disagree seems almost impossible

And, I admit, “sometimes it is hard to be civil”

And, we Christians are just as guilty of this as nonbelievers

The truth is:

We are not going to win anyone or convince anyone of anything with our harsh and obnoxious Facebook posts over petty differences

We are not going to argue anyone into God’s Kingdom

Instead, we need to engage in civil dialogues and civil conversations with those who do not know Jesus … and those who do, for that matter!

Throughout Scripture, almost every conversion story began with some type of civil conversation

In Acts 8, Philip had a conversation with an Ethiopian who ended up getting baptized

In Acts 10, Peter and a man named Cornelius had a conversation, and the next thing you know, Cornelius and his family surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ

It was in Acts 16:13-14, during a conversation with Paul and his companions, that a woman named Lydia opened her heart to receive Christ as Lord

Jesus peached and taught the people but in His one-on-one conversations we see that He would often take on a different approach by being civil, conversing and asking questions

One of the best examples of this is recorded in the third chapter of John

A man named Nicodemus had an encounter with Jesus — and his life was forever changed.

John 3:1-15 “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Nicodemus was someone you might meet fo the first time and think, He’ll never become Christian

The guy had political influence and clout

He represented the status quo

He was wealthy

A guardian of the rules

A keeper of the laws

Nicodemus subscribed to all kinds of unwritten laws as a teacher of Israel

He represents the people who believe that by keeping all the rules they are somehow saved or made righteous

And yet Nicodemus came to Jesus at night because he was very intrigued by Him

He wanted to learn more about Him and the things He had been teaching, the healings, the signs and wonders

So, Nicodemus said, “Rabbi,” which means “teacher, “ and the conversation begins.

John 3:2 “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Some things to note within Jesus’ and Nicodemus’s exchange that will be immensely helpful to you and me as we share our faithshare in a civil manner

1> Straight to the point

Jesus was willing to have a civil conversation with Nicodemus, but He also got straight to the point

John 3:3 “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

It could have been because it was late at night and Jesus was tired after a long day … and small talk was not something Jesus wanted to engage in

But it most likely had more to do with Jesus’s desire to see Nicodemus saved

He didn’t pull any punches

He did not shy away from this opportunity to speak openly and honestly with one of Israel’s most important and religious leaders

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

That’s pretty direct

“Truly, truly” means “Listen carefully, I’m not lying”

Nicodemus heard this phrase born again and he couldn’t figure it out

He didn’t understand it

So he asked the question:

“How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4)

Jesus answered, and once again, He did not mince words:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit…”

Of course, we know what this meant but Nicodemus didn’t…

What Jesus meant was that Nicodemus had already been born physically; he needed to be born spiritually

But Nicodemus did not get it

But to fair, consider where we are in history:

Jesus has not died on the cross yet

The Day of Pentecost was still three years away

The Church had not started yet

There were no pastors

No church buildings on the corner of the street

No crosses on church buildings

Jesus was speaking prophetically when He pointed out the truth about being born of water and the Spirit

No wonder Nicodemus didn’t understand

I’m not sure that at this point in the conversation he was suppose to understand

And Jesus might have been thinking ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ … But He laid everything out directly anyways

Sometimes when believers are talking with someone who doesn’t know Christ, we beat around the bush

We use too many words

We preface or sugarcoat or water down the message

Jesus’s civil conversation with Nicodemus teaches us that sometimes we need to get straight to the point.

This does not mean you should be frantic, rude, or abrupt

Jesus was gentle and at ease as He shared the truth

It may not be comfortable to confront someone’s beliefs, but you can learn to do it

As we practice sharing our testimony and the Gospel message, we must learn to cut out all the hemming and hawing and get down to what’s most important

The simple story of Christ’s transforming love

2> The Spirit is there and is always moving (ministering)

Next Jesus says to Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

Nicodemus ask, “How can this be?” (John 3:9)

The reason he asked this question is because he was convinced that the law was what saved a person

But since the law cannot save, there was a restlessness in Nicodemus’s soul

Despite the fact that he was a “law man” — and had money, fame, power, position, and religion — he was empty inside

He didn’t know why he was feeling what he was feeling

He was searching

He didn’t know what he was searching for

But, he was searching – or else he would not have come to Jesus in the first place

I think Jesus was trying to quiet all the noise in Nicodemus’s mind and heart by saying,

“Shh, Listen to the sound of the wind. The Holy Spirit of God is drawing you toward something that can save”

And here is the best part:

Even though Nicodemus came searching for Jesus that night, it was actually Jesus via the Holy Spirit who was searching for Nicodemus

Do you remember the story in the Bible about a man named Zacchaeus who was a short little guy?

He climbed a tree to look for Jesus, who was passing through the town of Jericho

Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5)

Let me ask you a question:

Was Zacchaeus searching for Jesus, or was Jesus searching for Zacchaeus?

Even though Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector, a “sinner” by everyone else’s account, he was valuable to the Lord

Jesus was looking for him and wanted to be a guest in his home

After encountering the Lord, Zacchaeus repented of his sins, vowing to give half of what he owned to the poor and to pay restitution to anyone he cheated in the past

If there was any doubt that Jesus was in fact looking for Zacchaeus, what the Lord declared next should clear things up:

Luke 19:9-10 ““Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

The Spirit of God moved in the heart of a wealthy tax collector to climb that tree in Jericho in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world

God’s Spirit also moved in the heart of Nicodemus to seek out Jesus for the answers to his questions

Behind the scenes, this very moment, the Spirit of God is moving!

He blows wherever He wants to

As you approach casual conversations with others, take comfort in the fact that God’s Spirit is always moving and wooing — even in folks you think would never be saved

John 14:17 “…He is with you, and will be in you

John16:7-11 “… convict the world (the unsaved) of sin, righteousness, and judgment”

There is a blogger named Russell Moore and he wrote:

“The next Billy Graham might be passed our drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now. But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so.”

Don’t ever doubt whom God can reach and whom God can save!

So, when speaking to anyone and everyone – be civil, polite, gentle, kind, and get to the point so the Holy Spirit can do His work

You share the truth of the Gospel 

The Holy Spirit convicts them of sin and moves in their heart to receive Jesus

Here is what I know is true:

Right now there are people in your life — and perhaps even folks you have not met yet — who are restless in their heart and soul just like Nicodemus and Zacchaeus

They are wondering what it means to be alive – what’s my purpose and reason for living?

There is an emptiness in their hearts that the law, or self-righteousness, or money, or power, or fame, or sex, or relationships, or drugs, or alcohol cannot fill

The Spirit of God could be reaching out to them through you

Let that amazing truth be your confidence as you initiate civil conversations with them about matters of the faith

1> Straight to the point

2> The Spirit is always moving

3> Patience — even when they don’t understand

After Nicodemus asked, “How can this be?” Jesus continued to talk with him and explained Himself is quite some detail

Even though Nicodemus was a teacher of the law and should have been able to grasp these concepts

Even though, by all appearances, the conversation is going nowhere and his conversion is nowhere in sight

And what we learn from Christ’s approach and demeanour is that we must be patient with others, even when they don’t understand

Jesus patiently took Nicodemus back to a familiar story in Numbers, chapter 21 to explain salvation

The people of God were complaining when they should have been rejoicing because God had delivered them from captivity in Egypt and was leading them to the promised land

They questioned Moses’s leadership abilities

They didn’t like the monotonous and dry food God was supplying daily

They began to infect the camp with poisonous words

So the Lord sent real, live snakes into their midst, to do literally the very thing the people were guilty of doing figuratively: poisoning

Many of the Israelites died

Those who were left realized their sin and went to Moses to repent

They knew they were doomed and beyond hope

In recounting this story, Jesus reminded Nicodemus how Moses lifted up a bronze snake on a pole and whoever looked upon that snake would live

Just as He did with His “born again” statement earlier, Jesus was pointing out the spiritual with the physical

In fact, He told Nicodemus that He was speaking of heavenly things:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Jesus was patient with Nicodemus as He led him to the truth of the Gospel

We are called to do the same in our civil conversations with others

It may look like they don’t understand

It may look like they are never going to receive the message

But God has called us to lift up Jesus so that He can draw all people to Him (John 12:32)

That is our only job

That is all we have to be focused on

More and more every day, our world is becoming so divided and confused and poisoned 

Like the Israelites who had snakes in the midst of their camp, it may seem as though we are all doomed

Our only hope is Jesus Christ

In everything we do

In every conversation we have

We believers must be loving, patient, truthful, and above all, lift up Jesus so that the entire world will believe.

1> Straight to the point

2> The Spirit is always moving

3> Patience — even when they don’t understand

CONCLUSION:

As I attempt to put myself in Nicodemus’s sandals after this fascinating conversation with the Saviour of the world, her is what I imagine Nicodemus saying or thinking:

“Jesus, everything that You’re saying has completely turned my thought process upside down. Everything I have ever been taught since I was a child is that the law is what saves! You come along with these miracles and signs that force me to listen to You. You tell me I have to be born again of water and the Spirit. And that the Son of Man must be lifted up.”

I imagine him continuing, “Jesus, I’m an educated man, but I need You to simplify this for me. I’m very interested — but I don’t understand. I know the Scriptures front and back. I know what the rabbis have taught for thousands of years, but … I have no idea what You are saying.”

Then, in perhaps the greatest verse in John’s entire Gospel, Jesus really did simplify it all for Nicodemus when He declared:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

People can keep all the laws, but the laws can’t save

They can be leaders among leaders, but fame and recognition can’t save

They can be wealthy, but material possessions cannot save

Only knowing the Son Of God — Jesus — can save a person

Christ went to the Cross and died for the sins of the world

All who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life!

As Jesus spoke in a very civil and friendly manner with Nicodemus, we can can show others through patient, civil conversations that it was all part of God’s plan

      • God’s story
      • God’s love
      • God’s Spirit
      • God’s calling
      • God’s Son
      • God’s salvation

Any time you see people getting saved, lives being changes, miracles and signs, and people moving from darkness to light — it is all God

Anything good you see is because God is at work around the world to redeem humankind before Jesus returns

Unbelievers may not understand this, but we can help them. However, “Sometimes it is hard to be civil.”

Building Healthy Relationships – Part Five

Within the realm of healthy relationships we have see:

1> You want others to encourage you

2> You want others to appreciate you. 

3> You want others to forgive you

4> You want others to listen to you and respond

5> You want others to understand and accept you

How do you feel when you are misunderstood? What kinds of feelings well up inside you? Loneliness? Frustration?  Disappointment? Resentment? Rejection? These are common feelings when we have been misunderstood.

Peter Drucker, often called the “Father of American Management,” claims that 60 percent of all management problems are a result of faulty communications. A leading marriage counsellor says that at least half of all divorces result from faulty communication between spouses. And criminologists tell us that upwards of 90 percent of all criminals have difficulty communicating with other people. Communicating is fundamental to understanding and acceptance. 

And unless a person truly listens and understands you, you never reach the stage of feeling accepted. Without feeling accepted you will not continue to feel free to share because it will seem to you that others are judging, criticizing, and rejecting you. 

A side note:

When someone shares a feeling you should never say “You shouldn’t feel that way.” That is actually rejecting the person’s feelings and thus rejecting them because the feeling is them at the moment. You may not agree with the feeling or the reason behind the feeling – but it is their feeling. It is neither good or bad as feelings are just feelings. What you do with them and about them determines good or bad. So, when someone is sharing a feeling you should work to accept how they are feeling, and let them know that you accept not only the feeling but them having the feeling. 

In the last week in this series of blogs we have discovered that in relationships you want others to:

      • Encourage you
      • Appreciate you
      • Forgive you
      • Listen to you
      • Understand you

As you think about these qualities, consider how they apply to your own life. Perhaps this short course in human relations can help each of us develop qualities that we admire in others:

  • The least important word: I (gets the least amount done)
  • The most important word: We (gets the most amount done) — relationships
  • The two most important words: Thank you — appreciation
  • The three most important words: All is forgiven — forgiveness
  • The four most important words: What is your opinion? — listening
  • The five most important words: You did a good job — encouragement
  • The six most important words: I want to know you better — understanding. 

In life, you are either going to see people as your adversaries or as your assets. If they are adversaries, you will be continually sparring with them, trying to defend your position. If you see people as assets, you will help them see their potential, and you will become allies in making the most of each other. The happiest day of your life will be the day when you realize “we” really is the most important word in the English language. 

Building Healthy Relationships – Part Three

We are looking at what makes for a healthy relationship within the family, with friends, and at work. Of course, not everyone will be your BFF in real life but we all need to be involved in a number of healthy relationships so we can continue to grow and mature and become all that God wants us to be. God created us to be social creatures. We need other people. 

Within the realm of relationships we have seen:

1> You want others to encourage you

2> You want others to appreciate you. 

3> You want others to forgive you

Almost all emotional problems and stress come from unresolved conflicts, failure to have developed right relationships with people. Because of this, many people have a deep desire for total forgiveness. A forgiving spirit is the one basic, necessary ingredient for a solid relationship. Forgiveness frees us from guilt and allows us to interact positively with other people.  

Earnest Hemingway, in his short story, “The Capital of the World,” tells the story about a father and his teenage son who lived in Spain. Their relationship became strained, eventually shattered, and the son ran away from home. The father began a long journey in search of the lost and rebellious son, finally putting an ad in the Madrid newspaper as a last resort. His son’s name was Paco, a very common name in Spain. The ad simply read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the Madrid newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you.” As Hemingway writes, the next day at noon in front of the newspaper office there were 800 “Pacos” all seeking forgiveness.

There are countless Pacos in the world who want more than anything else to be forgiven. The two great marks of a Christian are that they are giving and forgiving. Show me a person who walks with God, and I’ll show you a person who has a giving heart and is forgiving of others.

The unfortunate truth is that many of us, instead of offering total forgiveness, pray something like this Irish Prayer:

May those who love us, love us;

And those who don’t love us

May God turn their hearts;

And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,

My He turn their ankles,

So we’ll know them by their limping.

People who find it difficult to forgive don’t see themselves realistically. They are either terribly arrogant or tremendously insecure. Though hanging onto a grudge gives some people a feeling of satisfaction, the truth is people who do not forgive are hurting themselves much more than they’re hurting others. A person who possesses this characteristic and keeps score in relationships is a person who is emotionally and sometimes physically under stress. We just are not wired to carry all the stress that goes with carrying grudges.

Too often people wait too long to forgive other people. Forgiveness should be given as quickly and as totally as possible. Do it now. It does not get easier over time, so the sooner you go and deal with the issues and become reconciled through offering forgiveness, the better off you will be. 

Over my years in ministry there have been a number of times when I’ve experienced strained relationships. I have had people swear at me, tell me where to go, how to get there, and offer their assistance. But I have never knowingly let them walk out the door without telling them I love them. I don’t hold any grudges or carry any resentment against anyone. I cannot stress this enough: if you don’t have peace, it isn’t because someone took it from you; you gave it away. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control what happens in you. 

A side note or two: 

Many years ago I learned a truth from a book I was reading: “Unforgiveness is like you drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” The only person unforgiveness really hurts is you.

Sometimes when we are in a long term relationship – a deep friendship or a marriage – and something goes wrong we see the other person go “historical.” Not hysterical but historical. They throw back in your face all the things that you did wrong over the  last number of years. This is a sure sign of unforgiveness. 

Often, like the story of Paco and his dad, there is a need to make things right with a parent. Trust me, it is far easier to do that while they are alive than after they die. I became a believer a number of years after my father had died and there were some outstanding issues that had never been dealt with. As a believer I still needed to deal with them but, of course, without being able to talk to my father. Much easier to deal with issues while a parent is still living.

Sometimes I Deceive Myself

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-deceive-myself/

 

Sometimes I Deceive Myself

Slogan: Deception Infection

I don’t watch a lot of television but I do watch on You Tube parts of American Idol

I am careful, since it does sound kind of … idolatrous

If you were to watch the first few shows of the season — when the judges travel around the country for auditions

You soon become aware of how easily people are self-deceived

You watch people trying out for a spot on the show when competition starts in ernest

It is seriously difficult to comprehend how many horrifically bad singers truly believe they deserve to be the next vocal superstar! Read more