Check me out over at Pop Parables – I was honored to do a guest post for Keri. Check it out here http://popparables.com/2012/03/project-simply-the-simpler-life-defined/
Check me out over at Pop Parables – I was honored to do a guest post for Keri. Check it out here http://popparables.com/2012/03/project-simply-the-simpler-life-defined/
We have been talking about risks over the past few post and we have been looking at it from the view of Luke 8:43-48 which is the woman with the issue of blood. We looked at an illustration of a pumpkin in a jug in the first post which you can read here. We looked at in the last post the various fears we have which keep us from risking it all and you can read those here.
Today I want to share another illustration with you – one you might of heard before but one that is effective and showing how why we fail to take risks sometimes.
Elephants are pretty powerful creatures. They weigh in at as much as 24,000 pounds, and stand as high as thirteen feet tall. Their trunks are agile enough to pick up a single blade of grass, and strong enough to rip branches off of a tree.
Despite their enormous power, elephants can be chained. It doesn’t seem to make sense – what chain is strong enough to hold an elephant who could easily pull it apart? The answer is a small one: a small chain fastened to a metal collar around the elephant’s foot is attached to a wooden peg nailed into the ground. This holds the elephant so strongly that it doesn’t ever struggle to break free. How does this happen?
Chaining an elephant isn’t as simple as just putting a chain around its leg – an adult elephant would snap that chain without even noticing the effort. The way to chain an elephant is to start when it’s a baby. You don’t even need a chain – a strong rope will do. The baby elephant will struggle, but eventually it will realize that it can’t break the rope, and even worse, continuing to struggle creates a painful burn on its leg. The baby elephant learns not to struggle – it accepts that the limit imposed by the rope or chain and it becomes is permanent, and there is no use struggling against it the elephant thinks.
The elephant grows up, and becomes the most powerful land mammal on the face of the earth. Here is the thing – elephants are chained to something that they could easily break but the elephants will not ever try to pull away – they simply believe they cannot do it.
The elephant is like pumpkin in the jug – bound by limits that needs to be broken. We are like the elephant and the pumpkin – we need to break free and live in the freedom and maturity that comes when we go above the limits of what we think, to reach what and who God says we are. Too often we just believe what we have been told to us by someone else or we have given up. That is why it is so important to reach beyond that to be who and what God says we are! How does this happen? It happens when we become positive risk takers who live in faith and not live in the fear. It happens when we listen to God’s voice of truth and not to the voices of those around us. To me, these are the only way the jug break and elephant knows it’s true power – is when the limits are pushed and positive faith risks are taken that we break free and know the true power of God in our lives.
We will talk about some practical things that the woman who touched the hem of the garment did next time but for now let me ask you this:
What is one risk you have not taken because you are chained like the elephant that you need to start pushing for right now?
Why do we not take risks? – The first reason that people do not take risks has to do with “the Fear Factors.” What are these fear factors?
1. The Fear of Loss – but there is the old saying “nothing ventured nothing gained”.
1. Loss of reputation
2. Loss of Friends/Family
3. Loss of Money
Here is the thing – are we really going to fear losing things that are not ours – they all belong to God. Our reputation belongs to God, Our family and friends belong to God, and our money belongs to God. When we understand that, it should make it easier to know that we need not fear.
2. The Fear of Failure – Risking and not making it is the fear. There is no such thing as failing – it is all opportunities to grow. The greatest lessons in life come through failing.
· A winner first knows what losing is like – Malcolm Forbes
Just because you do not succeed does not mean that you failed. The only time we fail is when we quit. You do not measure a man or woman by what they do but by what makes them quit. All too often people quit just before God comes in and shows His power and His answer. Let me just say – if you never taste defeat you really do not understand how sweet success really is – especially God’s success! Never fear failing!
3. The Fear of Humiliation – The definition of humiliation is interesting – it is to reduce to a lower position in one’s own eyes or others’. Whose eyes is it important to be in – that is the real question?
1. What will others say? – Is this really something we should be asking ourselves?
2. What will I think of myself? – Again, is this a right question to ask?
3. Here is the Right question – What will God say? It is all about being faithful to Him!
Fear is a healthy thing if it is put into it proper place. Fear is there to protect us, but we are wrong and off base when we allow it to run and rule us. This woman that touched the hem of Jesus garment did not allow fear of loss, failure, or humiliations keep her from taking the risk of faith that she took. Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear – (Mark Twain) and I see that this woman most likely had fear but she allowed faith to rule her life and not the fear. Do you allow fear or faith to rule your life?
The second reason we do not take risks has to do with”the Comfort Zone.”
We all desire to be comfortable. I lived in an apartment that the heat unit was called the comfort zone. You would put the dial on the comfort zone and walk away. It was the area on the dial that made the room or apartment comfortable so that you would not want to leave it. We all desire comfort but sometimes being uncomfortable brings about positive change. The Bible nowhere promises us that we are going to be comfortable in this life. I do not know of anytime that someone died from being uncomfortable – it will not kill you but will most likely build character in you. This life is not about our comfort but it is about Christ. All too often we just do not risk because we do not want to get out of that comfort zone.
We stop challenging ourselves. When we are comfortable we are not challenged. There are times at home when we need to not to be challenged but we need to rest. There are also times that we need to be challenged. You really do not know yourself until you have been challenged. You need to be stretched out. A challenge brings about growth. Challenges show us who we really are and even more than that challenges show us what we really believe. You can tell me all about your faith in Christ but what happens when the challenge comes – do you seek Christ or do you blame Him? The challenge really shows what you believe.
Again, going back to the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment, she had to step out of her comfort zone to get healed. She had to put herself in a position that was uncomfortable and she did and it was well worth it because she found the healing she was looking for. She had to challenge herself to go and do something that I am sure she did not want to do. She had to push herself to get through the crowd just to touch that fringe of the robe of Jesus. It paid off for her and the same is true for all of us – if we are willing to be uncomfortable and challenge ourselves – we are putting ourselves in a position where Christ can do even more amazing things in and through us!
The third reason we do not take risks is “the Can’t Syndrome.”
You have told yourself you can’t do it – You in your mind tell yourself that there is no way that you could take the risk and you will not do. Or you tell yourself that you are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough or whatever and you don’t! If you do not believe you can – you won’t. What we are doing when we say these kinds of things is – limiting what God can do through us. We make ourselves unavailable to Him for use.
Someone else has told you that you can’t do it – Maybe you did not tell yourself that you can’t but someone else told you that you would not be able to do it. The sad part is that you believed without ever trying and seeing. You never took the risk of trying – you just gave up and believed them. I am here to tell not that you can but you will never know until you do you best to do it!
The women who touched the hem of the garment pushed past all the excuses she made and others gave her to touch the garment. She did push past and got her goal.
What is something that you fear?
Over the next several post we are going to look at risking it all.
A farmer was walking through his pumpkin patch early in the growing season, and while walking near the road that ran by his farm, he found a one-gallon glass jug. He stood looking at the jug for a few moments, and then, for no particularly good reason, he picked up the jug, laid it near a plant and then he poked a small pumpkin into the jug without damaging the vine and then wondered on his way.
Later when the pumpkins were full grown and were being picked and stacked, he came across the jug again, this time completely filled with the pumpkin he’d poked inside. The pumpkin had filled the jug completely, and had stopped growing; it was the size and shape of the jug. It did not break the jug but just grew to the limits that glass provided. The other pumpkins around it had grown to be full and mature but this one pumpkin was the size and shape of the jug and it was stunted.
Now, what we need to understand is in life there are many people who are like the pumpkin in the jug; they only grow to a certain point or in other words they are stunted because they are living their lives in a jug that holds them back. They have allowed themselves to be held to certain limits because of the jug they are living in. They have never grown to their full potential or full maturity.
For us in life – in order to grow to our full potential and to really be mature we will need to take some risks to get out beyond the boundaries of the jug of life. When you do this you will grow to full maturity and reach your full potential. You might think – I am too old for this or too young for this or too set in my ways – but read carefully over these posts because I think God has something in store for you.
We are going to talk about what those boundaries are that keep us in the jug and stunted. We are going to talk about what keeps us from being all God intends us to be. God does not put us in a jug but God wants us out of the jug to grow fully and to maturity. God does not want us to be stunted! Sadly we put ourselves in the jug or allow others to put us there and it is not what God has intended.
In these posts we will look at a woman in the Bible who got tired of living in her jug of life. She got tired of the limits that she had on her. She wanted and desired to be all God intended her to be and she knew she could not be that living in the jug. She got sick and tired of being sick and tired and so then she was willing to do whatever it took to break out of the jug and to have the full life that she knew God intended for her.
Luke 8:43 -48: 43 And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, 44came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.45 And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.” 47 When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
This is a story of a woman who got out of the jug by taking a risk of faith. You see every one of us is like this woman. We are all sick and in of healing from the master in some areas of our lives. All of us in one way or another are trapped in a jug and not growing to our full potential. What we need to do is take a risk of faith like this woman did here. We need to take this risk and become all God intends for us to be.
What are Risks? According to Webster – they are the possibility of loss or injury. There are negative risks. These are times that the possibility of loss overshadows any of the benefits that come from taking the chance. There are also positive risks. These are times that the possibility of loss is overshadowed by the benefits that come from taking the chance.
What are the risks that the woman in the story took? She was ceremonially unclean and could not practice her faith and she would make everyone she touched unclean and they would have to be purified.
What is the greatest risks that you have taken in you life?
One of the things that I can say about ministry is that it is seasonal work.
You might wonder – what in the world is he talking about? Anyone who has been in ministry for any length of time can tell you that you this – you will have seasons where things will be smooth and sail along and then you will have seasons that are hectic and crazy.
The seasons that are smooth – you might have someone in the hospital but nothing too serious. You are able to get plenty of study done and do some planning for the future. You are able to be out and about building relationships.
The seasons that are hectic and crazy – you will have two or three people in the hospital and very serious and life threatening. You are not able to do any extra study. Your out and about is to hospitals and you are not building very many new relationships. During these seasons you might have a funeral or two and maybe some counseling that you did not count on.
Here is the thing – it is all needed ministry. The families with loved ones in the hospital need people to minister to them. I have found that sometimes during these periods I rely on the Spirit more to lead me in study and speaking. There is opportunity to minister around every corner during these periods.
Right now I am in a hectic period. There are several people in the hospital and things are crazy. Here is the thing though – Christ is working and ministering.
Let me ask – please pray for me and my family during this crazy busy time of ministry.
How can I pray for you right now?
I praying about some posts and some preaching around the idea of having a “God Encounter” so I want to ask you a few questions (Please take just a second to answer them)
1. What comes to your mind when you think of a “God Encounter”?
2. Have you ever had a God Encounter? One separate from salvation? Could you explain your “God Encounter” to me?
3. What are the three “God Encounters” from the Bible that comes to your mind? What makes them so special?
The idea of “God Encounters” has been rattling around my mind – looking forward to what you have to say.
I want to share on a strange subject and that is spiritual suicide. First thing in looking at this is read 2nd Samuel 17 to gain some context of what is happening. What I want to focus on is 2nd Samuel 17:23 which says: 23 Now when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and arose and went to his home, to his city, and set his house in order, and strangled himself; thus he died and was buried in the grave of his father.
Here are a few thoughts on this verse and on suicide and spiritual suicide based off this verse.
If you are like me you might wonder: Why did he kill himself? Was it self-pity? Was something like, If you are not going to listen to my advice, I am just going to get mad and take my life and make you all feel sorry for it. Why do you think he traveled home to killed himself? Was it to get away from what was happening? It could be that he was the best adviser ever and most likely he had not face rejection of his counsel like this before and that might have led him down the path of going home and killing himself.
I really do not see any of this as the reason.
Here is the thing; Ahithophel is not dumb by any stretch of the imagination. He knows that what just happened with Absalom taking the advice of Hushai, it is the end of Absalom. He knows that because Absalom is following this advice that it will not take long for David to put together a plan which will be a good one because David would have time to work things out. Remember, Ahithophel has most likely been David’s advisor for thirty years and he knows all too well how David operates. He knows that even though David is old and not as good as he used to be that he is still a military genius and he will work all this out in his favor. Ahithophel knows that David will win because God is with him.
And he also knows that when David comes back to the kingdom that there is no place for him and even more than that he is going to have to answer for his betrayal and face execution! So in his bitterness he has decided that he is really he is not going to give David the privilege of having him executed so he is just going to go home and take his life.
It all boils down to this: Ahithophel did not kill himself over hurt feelings because his counsel was rejected. Instead, he was wise enough to know that under Hushai’s plan Absalom would fail and Ahithophel would be implicated in the conspiracy. He knew all would be lost and that he was going to die anyway.
Ahithophel committed suicide, and we know that suicide is a sin because it is self-murder and God commands, you shall not murder in Exodus 20:13. Yet suicide should not be regarded as an unforgivable sin. Suicide is wrong and very selfish, but also understand that it is not the unpardonable sin, the only unpardonable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit which is talked about in Matthew 12:31. What Jesus was referring to there was the rejection of the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives, which is to draw people to Christ. If you reject Christ you are blaspheming the work of the Holy Spirit and condemning yourself to eternal separation from God. Yes, when a Christian commits suicide it paints a bad picture of God and destroys the witness that they leave behind, but they don’t lose their salvation. Anyone who does commit suicide has given in to the lies and deceptions of Satan, whose purpose is to kill and destroy as we read about in John 10:10.
Think about it, Ahithophel may have been one of the wisest men ever, but this was nothing but foolishness. When a person commits suicide, they are taking the easy way out. They are leaving all their problems behind to be taken care of by their loved ones. They leave behind people who will feel overwhelmed with grief and guilt, wondering, “If I had only said this or done that …” Ahithophel is only thinking of himself which was brought on by his own bitterness. Suicide is an act of extreme selfishness and this selfishness in Ahithophel’s life is brought on by his bitterness. Bitterness in your life will eat away at you and eat away at you. Bitterness never has a positive end it has to be taken care of by forgiveness.
Take a close look at this account: set his house in order, and strangled himself. To set his house in order, showed that he was a wise man; to hang himself, proved that he was a fool. You have here a strange mixture of good judgment and foolishness and of a solid mind and madness. Just think about it, he took the time to arrange his worldly affairs with care, and still he was so miserable that he took his own life. Such a sad set of circumstances- suicide is never an answer and if you have those type of thoughts you need to let others know and seek help.
There are thousands that will set their houses in order, but destroy their souls not by taking their physical life but by destroy their souls none the less. These are the people that look over all the details of life and the best for everything except for their hearts’ best interests. They gather broken shells with continuous hard work, but they throw away priceless diamonds. They exercise planning, cautiousness, care, everywhere around them except for where it is most required. They save their money and buy big things, they have it all and have their kids involved in all but in doing so they squander any real joy and commit suicides with their souls. They might not be like Ahithophel and literally take their own lives – they do it slower – they do it day by day as the neglect the most important parts of life.
They do commit spiritual suicide day by day as they neglect their souls. They do it day by day as they make time for everything else in life and do not make any time for God. It is a sad thing to see people who tell you how busy they are with things of this world and make time for the insignificant but yet make no time for the eternal. Is this you? Are you so busy making time and seeking out treasures of this world that you are slowly committing spiritual suicide? Are you slowly starving out and making numb the spiritual part of your life?
I beg of you to begin today to make time for the most important thing that will make you a better father, mother, husband, wife, worker, boss, student- what is this, it is taking time with God and seeking out and doing things that will build you spiritually! Too often we feed everything every longing we have in life and do not feed the spiritual longing. We feel guilty for a moment and say I should do the bible study or I should do this or that to help my spiritual life – yet we do not do it. We feel guilty and say I should read my bible and pray and yet we do not do it. In not doing what we know we are to do we are slowly committing spiritual suicide. As a matter of fact in doing that – we are sinning James 4:17 says, Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. So please stop feeling guilty and sinning and start putting action to what you know to do! Do the right things and you will see real life , do the right things and stop committing spiritual suicide
Any thoughts on this today?
I had something happen this past Sunday that has not happened in years. I stopped preaching. In the middle of a sermon – I just stopped preaching.
Let me explain.
I have been preaching/teaching through the life of David on and off for two and a half years. Normally on Tuesday, I prepare about eight pages of a scripted set of notes. Eight pages normally fits just right as far as what I want to say and less importantly into the time frame I want to say it.
This past week I had eight pages that I prayed about and I prayed over. I went over and over the message as I usually do throughout the week. I hone the message over the course of the week by preaching it out loud and making changes to it along the way. I do nothing with the message all day Saturday but I do go over it one last time before I go to bed and then on Sunday I go over it once during the hour before the service.
This week on Saturday night I started getting a gnawing feeling when I was going over it. I started getting the sense that I should just stop about 4 pages in. I was covering chapter 17 of 2nd Samuel and specifically verses 15 –29. I changed things up and was to cover verse 23 first, which has to do with Ahithophel’s suicide, then go back to verse 15 and go to the end of the chapter. The reason I was doing this was because I sensed that the message would flow better starting here and then moving back then going forward in the verses.
My main point on verse 23 had to do with how Ahithophel committed suicide by hanging himself but many of us commit spiritual suicide because we strangle ourselves spiritually by not doing the things we know need to do. By ignoring the spiritual things in life and not doing what we need to do, we slowly commit spiritual suicide. As I said, Saturday night I started getting this gnawing feeling and sensing the spirit wanted me to stop at this point but I was unsure. I wrestled with those thoughts for sometime then went to bed unsure of what I was to do.
Sunday morning before I went to the study at the church to go over the message I was getting the same sense from the Spirit but was still unsure. When I got to the study, I went over the whole thing and was still really unsure of what to do. It was a battle going on inside of me of what the Spirit was leading to do. The service started and as we were singing some songs I said things to God like “Lord – if we get to this time and I have not stood to speak then I know that it is a sign that I am to only do verse 23 but if not then I am to do the whole thing”. I was still struggling with what really the leading of the Spirit was.
I stood up to preach. In all honesty, I did not do a great job with the message because I was distracted and I stammered though some parts of it. I preached through verse 23 and then went back and started reading verses 15 and 16 to preach them and that was the moment it was all clear. I just needed to stop right then and there. So I stopped preaching. I was in the middle of reading verses and I just stopped and paused.
I looked up and said “The Spirit of God is prompting me to stop right here and right now”. I wrapped things up and finished up the service with a closing hymn and opened up the altar to those who wished to pray or speak with me about anything which is what happens each Sunday.
Here is the thing – Revival did not break out. A couple people came up and prayed and comments about the message were at a minimum. The reality is – that is all just fine. The thing is – in this case I was obedient to the Spirit and that was the most important thing. My point is this: when the Spirit leads – be obedient – we simply need to be obedient. I see obedience as a real key to life and a key to ministry. I pray I get better at it.
Sad thing is this – there have been many times where I was not obedient to the Spirit. Times when I have been prompted to give money and it stayed in my wallet. Times when I was prompted to say something and I kept quiet. Times I was prompted to stop preaching in the past and I continued anyway in my own strength and not His.
Lord – help me be obedient to you and your promptings today.
What is the craziest thing that the has Spirit prompted you to do? Did you do it? What were the consequences – good or bad?
On several occasions I have asked those who read this blog to pray for the housing issues I have had.
Back in January 2008 I was given six months to find a new job and at that time we had only owned our home 11 months. I have talked about how hard this was on my and family and me but one of the things that was particularly hard especially for my wife and I was the house – what would happen with the house?
We tried to sell the house but this was at the point when the housing market was falling apart. Our house was underwater financially and there was no way out. We had people come through the house – a lot of people come through the house – but no offers. We then switched tactics.
We then had the house on the market to sell but also added it in to rent. We had several people who were interested in renting the house and about two days before we moved we signed a year rental agreement. We could not rent the house for what the mortgage was and so we lost our shirts so to speak renting it. It was nice having renters but they were moving out and now we were stuck with an even worse housing market and we could not afford to rent anymore. We then went to plan b.
Plan b was to short sell the home. We put the house back on the market and began the process of trying to short sell the house. We went several months with nothing then we got an offer and the offer went to bank and we were praying that it would be accepted. Word came back that it was not accepted by the bank and we had not been paying the mortgage and so we were in need to do something different.
The new idea was to do a deed in lieu of foreclosure – giving the house back to the bank. We were approved for the deed in lieu and on Jan. 21st of 2011 we signed and it was notarized. In Feb. we were told that everything with it was taken care of. In late April we found out that the negotiator we had quit and that created issued with the deed in lieu.
Over the course of the summer we found ourselves battling each week trying to get this taken care of. In November I was told it was in the hands of the lawyers and basically finished. In the course of time we were not paying the Home Owners Association fees because the mortgage company told us they would pay them. On December 23rd there was a knock on the door at 8:30pm and it was some dude in a trench coat who asked me my name. I told him and he told me he was serving me court documents. I was being sued by the home owners association.
I did some research and found on Jan. 5th of 2012 our house was recorded in the county courthouse and was no longer ours. I was frustrated and sent out a tweet a week later that resulted in this post. All along I had a nagging thought (which I believe came from the Holy Spirit) which was that as of Jan. 21st we did not own the home and we were paid up on our HOA fees at that time plus the mortgage company give us a cancelation of debt and was dated the 21st of Jan. I did some research and really thought this was right so I sent an email to the attorney for the HOA a week ago Friday and on Monday I got this short response from the attorney:
It appears that you are correct. I will dismiss the lawsuit and follow up with you in more detail by letter.
This past Thursday we got the official letter from the Attorney. It was like a weight lifted at the moment I read the letter because it has been a long hard road with this house but it is all over – Praise God! Thank you to all who prayed! You have no idea how much your prayers mean to me!
Have you ever had something that happened that was like a weight being lifted?
I saw this liked it and wanted to share it:
IT TAKES COURAGE – Author Unknown
It takes strength to be firm,
It takes courage to be gentle.
It takes strength to conquer,
It takes courage to surrender.
It takes strength to be certain,
It takes courage to have doubt.
It takes strength to fit in,
It takes courage to stand out.
It takes strength to feel a friend’s pain,
It takes courage to feel your own pain.
It takes strength to endure abuse,
It takes courage to stop it.
It takes strength to stand alone,
It takes courage to lean on another.
It takes strength to love,
It takes courage to be loved.
It takes strength to survive,
It takes courage to live.
I like this poem but I love what these have to say about courage:
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. – (NKJV)
I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you … No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.
Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (NLT)
1 Chronicles 28:20
David also said to Solomon his son, "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 16:13
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. (NIV)
These are some of my favorite verses on courage – what is your favorite Bible verse on courage?