Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Freedom from Your Past


Does your past sometimes creep upon you like an enormous, haunting shadow from which there seems to be no escape? Do you have regrets, failures, hurts, disappointments, or shattered dreams that have left you disillusioned or frustrated with life? Perhaps something was taken from you, your innocence, your dignity, your safety, your trust, and you are left with nothing but the remnants of a fragile, empty shell ready to crack under pressure. On the surface, you may have done a marvelous job of creating a strong and put-together façade for the world to see, but the deepest cry of your heart is not hidden from your heavenly Father.

Understand that you have an enemy who has tried his very best to rob from you, and to thwart God’s good plan for your life, but our compassionate and merciful God can reverse the damage and give you an abundant and fulfilling life instead. He loves you more than you can imagine, and He longs to heal your heart and restore all that has been taken from you. He can remove the bondage of your past and set you free to truly live.



Paul said, "…But one thing I do, Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13b-14 NIV


Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 NLT

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 NIV

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


And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thanks to the Blue Collar Worker



via Microsoft Office clip art


I hear laughter as I glance over at the corner table.  Four men with tanned, leathery skin, obviously from working hard in the scorching sun, and rough, calloused hands that reveal the accumulation of years of work-hardening, were enjoying the reward of a hearty lunch with friends after a long, strenuous morning of providing for their families.  I smiled as I noticed the laugh lines etched in their sun-burned faces which showed me gentle yet jovial dispositions, and that impressed me since they had toiled for hours through the hottest part of the day repairing the roof of a nearby office building. 

I could hardly breathe myself that day from the intense heat as I merely walked across the parking lot toward the popular Amish deli where my daughter and I enjoy having lunch.  It was difficult for me to imagine the men having to return to their roof work in this heat! 

Behind me, the women making the soups, salads, and sandwiches tirelessly served customer after customer with no end seemingly in sight.  I had noticed their red, sweat-beaded faces, yet they continued smiling cheerfully as they prepared their masterpieces for each customer as if each was the only one in the restaurant.  As I scanned the deli, I noticed the shelves of Amish goodies that these ladies had prepared from scratch with their own hands.  A tradition of excellence and hard work have distinguished this deli as one of the top spots to dine in our town.

As my eyes peer out the front window, I see fire trucks speeding through town toward, what I would discover later, one of the town’s historical homes that was burning to the ground.  These heroes rushed toward danger to ensure the safety of lives and the protection of property.

My mind began to swarm with thoughts of all the hard workers that make our country great, such as these roofers, restaurant workers, and fire fighters.  If it weren’t for the blue collar worker, we would not be able to enjoy the various privileges and luxuries to which many of us have become accustomed. Think about it…factory workers, automotive manufacturers, farmers, coal miners, mechanics, truck drivers, seamstresses, cooks and servers, sales associates, teachers, medical professionals, clerical workers, landscapers, custodial workers, electricians, maids, construction workers, policemen, fire fighters, and so on, and so on…  I don’t want to leave anyone out, but I want to include everyone who works hard for a living.  I am consumed with gratitude in my heart for these people whom I consider the backbone of our nation.  

This is my husband's work.  It's fascinating to see a KIA being put together!

As I walked back to my car after lunch, I noticed a family climbing out of an older, modest vehicle.  I observed the muscular yet gentle-spoken father, whose physique and clothing revealed his blue collar status.  I noticed an attentive but weary mother as she struggled with her two rambunctious little boys.  I thought to myself, this is why they do it.  This is why they get up before sunrise and give an honest day’s work, regardless of how their bodies ache.  They are doing it for their precious families.  They may not have much in the way of material possessions, but God bless the fathers and mothers out there who tirelessly do the unpleasant jobs and give the very best they can to ensure the best life possible for their families.  From this core, the benefit of their work is passed on down the line, and indirectly, we are all blessed by these typically unsung men and women.

That day, I was inspired to begin showing more respect and honor to hard workers I encounter everywhere I go.  I am making an effort to take notice of what people around me do, and to show appreciation for their hard work.  I am trying to be more gracious to waitresses, for example, and to tip generously.  I am trying to speak kindly to the uneducated yet skilled workers who are typically overlooked by others.  I recognize the interdependence we all have on each other, regardless of our backgrounds.

I encourage you to say thank you.  Speak kindly.  Smile.  Treat others with dignity.  Tip well.  Pay compliments.  Your appreciation will encourage others to continue doing their part in making our world a bit better.  We may never know when a timely word or gesture may be just what someone needs to keep going.

Secondly, this has caused me to question my own attitude toward work.  During my years as a teacher, my love for my students propelled me to give my very best every day.  However, now that I am in a more flexible situation, it is easy for me to become lax and begin to complain about the work I must do.  As I contemplate the work ethic of the blue collar workers I had observed, I feel ashamed of my own aversion to hard work.  They inspire me to cheerfully labor with excellence and to give God glory with all that I do. 

For those who are content to merely pass time with mediocrity, I want to challenge you to raise the bar.  Give your best.  Work enthusiastically and strive for excellence.  Do the best you can with what you have, and be content with nothing less.  At the end of the day, nothing is more satisfying than knowing that you have contributed your best to fulfill your part of the big picture.

To all of the blue collar workers out there, thank you!  What you do matters, and your hard work is appreciated!

Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.  Ephesians 6:7-8 NLT


This song says it all!  I love it!







Saturday, June 7, 2014

How Are You Weathering the Storm?



(These are my sermon notes for Sunday, June 8, 2014)

Philippians 4:4-8 NLT

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.


Romans 12:12 NLT

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.


Chances are that every single person reading this is in one of three places right now.  1. You are either in the middle of a storm, 2. Coming out of a storm, 3. Or on your way into a storm.  It’s inevitable.  It’s life!

In two out of those three scenarios, the words of Paul in chapter 4 of Philippians can either leave a person feeling frustrated, angry, and confused, on one hand, because the storm can be so overwhelming.  Or, these words can comfort, encourage, or empower us on the other hand, because our eyes are fixed on the indestructible and firm foundation of God’s Word and His unfailing love.  It’s all on how you look at it. 

What is your perspective through life’s storms?  Are you holding on to God’s promises or drowning in fear and doubt?  Do you have the true joy and peace that we just read about, no matter what?  Even in the middle of the storm?   Where is your hope?  Do you have an unmovable anchor to hold on to through life’s storms?

Jesus made it clear to us in John 16:33 that we would have trials and tribulation while we live on this earth.  However, he didn’t stop there; He offered tremendous hope for us in the middle of it all.  He said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Many popular clichés have been written about how to respond to the storms of life.  For example, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.” “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.”  “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King, Jr.  Those are so powerful!  How about the familiar: “There is always a silver lining” and “Look at the bright side.”

There may be mounds of truth packed into these simple sayings, and they are excellent reminders for us, but they can seem so shallow in the face of real life situations.  We need something much deeper and stronger to sustain us when it feels like our lives, our homes and families, our country, our church, or everything around us seem to be falling apart.  We need more than just feel-good-warm-fuzzies and pithy sayings.  It is more than just a decision to cheer up or look on the bright side.  We must have a real, solid, stable foundation upon which to place our hope.  A strong, sturdy, unshakable, unmovable, unbreakable anchor in times of life’s terrible storms. 

If we rely on our own strength alone, how will we stand?  How can we weather life's storms without the anchor of God's presence with us, faith in who He is and the price He paid, and hope in the trustworthy promises in His Word? 


Let’s look at this illustration from Mark 4:35-41:

Jesus Calms the Storm
35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.


38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”



39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”



41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. (in awe) “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”


We can glean several powerful points from this story to strengthen our hope in the middle of our crisis.

      I.        God has a plan. The storm came even though the disciples were in obedience to Christ, following exactly where He led them. Jesus was right there with them too.  He led them to the boat, right to the storm, even though He knew what was getting ready to happen, but He had a plan.  A good plan!   Storms are a part of life, and Jesus made it clear that we would experience difficulties on this earth.  We may bring some of them upon ourselves, true, but often, our storms are merely a natural consequence of living in this world.  Regardless of what you are facing, God will lead you through it, and He has a perfect plan for you. (Jeremiah 29:11)  If He allowed this storm in your life, then it is part of His plan for you.  Even if He did not cause the storm, He has interwoven His good plan for you through it.  He would not have allowed it if He did not plan to use it for your good.  Following Him does not make us immune to storms, nor does it ensure a life of ease. However, trusting in Him gives us the assurance that He will work all things together for our good. (Romans 8:28)
a.    Somehow, we have gotten the mistaken belief in some circles that as believers, life is always going to be smooth sailing.  Prosperity teaching, while valuable within Scriptural context, has often tilted into a misrepresentation of the reality of what the Bible says about going through trials in life. Then, when the storms do come, one’s faith is easily shattered because it is built on shaky ground, that is on only partial truth.  It is too often built on an incomplete, feel-good doctrine instead of the whole Word of God.
b.    But, when our faith is built on the firm foundation of God’s Word in its entirety, we are not rattled when storms come.  We know that God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!  That’s a fact!  It is when God allows us to go through the storms that He has an opportunity to show Himself mightily to us.  We learn who He is and who we are, and we build experiences with God that develop our character and our faith. 
c.    Jesus wasn’t surprised by this storm, and He is not surprised by your storm either!  He knows what you are going through, where you are, and how long you have been going through it.  He uses life’s difficulties to strengthen us and make us more like Him. God has allowed your storm for a reason, and He still has a perfect plan for you!  Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
    II.        Jesus was asleep, but He was still in control.  He was waiting for a reason.  Jesus was waiting for the disciples’ reaction.  Sometimes it seems to us that God is uninvolved, or ignoring us when we need Him most.  Why is God quiet when we are going through life’s storms?   Is He asleep?
a.    God is often waiting for us to call on Him and to trust Him no matter what is going on around us. 
b.    He may prolong His direct involvement in our situation, although He never has His hands off completely, in order to do a perfecting work in our hearts.  We cannot rush the process, but we can improve our odds by going to Him and trusting Him instead of entertaining fear and doubt. 
   III.        The situation looked hopeless.  Yours may too!  But, it’s not!  Keep your hope alive!  Hope can be defined and “confident expectation,” or in the Message, hope is often referred to as “cheerfully expectant.”  I love that!  You know that you know that you know that no matter how hopeless your situation looks, you can still confidently expect God’s goodness.  You know you have something to look forward to!  That is hope.
a.    Romans 5:5 - And this hope will not lead to disappointment (put us to shame). For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

b.    Romans 8:18 - Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.

c.    Hebrews 10:35 - So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!

d.    1 Colossians 1:27-29b - …And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. (Christ in you, the hope of glory.)
  IV.        The disciples went to Jesus.  They knew He was their only hope in a hopeless situation.  Go to Him instead of wringing your hands, trying to figure it out on your own.  He is waiting.  Pour your heart out to Him.  Tell Him what you are feeling.  Be honest.  Ask Him for what you need.  However, ask in faith, not in fear and doubt as the disciples did.  Give thanks.  Declare His goodness. Give Him praise!  Trust Him.  The formula for going to God in your storm is in Philippians 4:6.  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
   V.        Jesus calmed the storm.  Hallelujah!  Jesus simply spoke the word, and the wind and waves suddenly became still.  He had the power all along, and He acted at the perfect time.  He had the situation under control the entire time, even though it looked to the disciples that they would perish.  They made it through, and they were safe.  You will too!  God is in the process of working in your situation right now.  He will do it!  When you place your hope in Him, you will be rewarded.  He will see you through, and it will be worth it!
  VI.        They were in awe because they had underestimated the power of Jesus.  Who is this God in whom you have put your hope?  How stable is this anchor, really?  No matter how big you think He is, He is more than that!  “Who is this man that even the winds and waves obey Him?” 
a.    He is more than you can imagine. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe!  Psalm 19:1 - The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display his craftsmanship.  Our finite minds cannot even come close to comprehending His awesomeness, His majesty, His glory, His splendor, His holiness, His might.  That is in whom we put our trust!  He is certainly big enough to handle any storm that comes our way!
b.    He is sovereign.  His ways are above our ways.  Isaiah 55:8-9 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
c.    He is faithful.  You can trust Him to keep His promises.  If He promised it, it WILL be done.  If it doesn’t happen the way we expect it, then we misunderstood what He promised.  1 Cor. 1:9. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says…
d.    He will never leave us or abandon us.  We can never be snatched from His hands.  Deuteronomy 31:6- So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” And John 10:28-29 - I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.
e.    He is ALWAYS good.  Psalm 145:9 - The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.
f.      He never changes.  Everything we read in Scripture, and everything we have experienced in the past about God is STILL true!  He was, is, continues to be, and will always be awesome, mighty, sovereign, faithful, good, and full of love, compassion, grace, and mercy.  That will NEVER change!
                                          i.    Why do we have these stories in Scripture?  Romans 15:4 - Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

                                        ii.    Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
                                       iii.    When we read stories such as this, we have an opportunity to see the character of God in action.  His methods may vary through the ages, but HE never changes!  You can take that to the bank!  Why would He choose to stop being God in your situation? 
                                       iv.    (Matthew 7:24-25 - “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.)
 VII.        Now, the reality of our opening texts, take on a whole new meaning since we have established this solid foundation upon which to place our hope.
a.    Phlippians 4:4-7 in The Message - Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

b.    6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

c.    Romans 12:12 - Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.

Satan CANNOT take our joy, our peace, our hope, or our faith from us.  We would have to hand it over to him.  No!  Don’t do it!  You hold on!

We CAN be full of joy at all times.  We CAN hold on to hope no matter how hopeless our situation seems.  We CAN have a heart at peace no matter how tumultuous the storm around is moving. 

Our faith CAN remain rock solid, because we have built our faith on the Solid Rock!  We have an unshakable foundation.  We have an anchor that WILL hold!  We CAN and WILL make it through!

Philippians 4:13 NLT—For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.

via The Christian Post