Proverbs on Planning

What a great day we had at Liberty on Sunday! We praise God for the grand opening of the York River Campus and for the additional service that launched at Harbour View. What an awesome privilege to be a part of God’s work here! This week we continue through our series in Proverbs, talking about planning. All of us have plans. Students plan to go to college. Singles plan to get married. Couples plan to start a family. Maybe you are planning for vacation or retirement. The key to finding God’s plan for your life is found in Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

 

Decisions

Life is a series of decisions. Every day we make decisions, large and small. Every decision involves trust. Think about it. We eat food and don’t know the cook. We get on a plane not knowing the pilot or the co-pilot. We trust these people with our lives! The only way to make wise decisions is to trust God. “Trust in the Lord….” Before you buy a car or house, take a job, choose a career, choose a mate, etc., consult God. Pray and ask God what He wants and surrender to His will.  “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Prov. 16:3). Does this verse say plan and ask God to bless your plan? No. Commit whatever you do and your plans will succeed. Commit your actions to the Lord and you will make wise plans. When we rush to conclusions, relationships, purchases, etc., we don’t always make wise decisions.

 

Direction

“…Lean not on your own understanding.” The wisest man in the world, Solomon, said to lean not on your own. Don’t trust your intellect, instinct, information or insight. Lean not on your own experience and knowledge. Have you ever tried to put something together without reading the directions? I have!

It takes time to read directions! It may add 30 minutes before you start. But, it might save you 3 hours in the long run! That is what it is like trying to live life without reading God’s directions. Take time to read your Bible and ask God for direction. He can do more in a moment than you can do in a lifetime!

 

Last week I read George Muller’s autobiography. He prayed for hours about everything.  He never asked man for anything, but asked God for everything. He took his plans to God for confirmation. God gave direction through the Word, the Holy Spirt, wise counselors (Prov. 19:21, 15:22, 20:18), circumstances, his conscience, through a check in spirit. God will give direction to you and me the same way!

 

Destination

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” All means all avenues and aspects of life relationally, financially, vocationally, recreationally, etc. Direct means to clear a path. Andy Stanley wrote a book called The Principle of the Path. Here’s the principle: “Direction, not intention, determines destination.” For example, if you want to go to the Outer Banks from Hampton Roads you have to go south. You can pack your swimsuit, get sunscreen, beach chairs and towels, but it does not matter how much you intend to go to Outer Banks, you will never get there from Hampton Roads going north! The path you are on determines your destination. Here is my take on it: Decisions determine direction, and direction determines destination. Are you going in the right direction? Proverbs 4:26 says, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

 

Be honest. Are you where you wanted to be in your life, relationships, finances, health, etc.? What did you expect based on your decisions? Hope is not a plan! You have to do something to change! God’s plan is not just a roadmap but a relationship. It is not trust in a plan, program, or philosophy, but in a person. If you stay on the path you are on, where will you end up?

Proverbs on The Heart

Guest Blogger: Zachary Ethridge

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the heart. In the ESV translation there are 77 references to the heart in just 31 chapters, and that doesn’t include allusions to the heart with words like desire, love, long, etc. For Solomon, a heart of wisdom is central to a life of wisdom. Consider Proverbs 4:23 – “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Keep (or guard) your heart with all vigilance. Diligently defend your heart. And this is why—because FROM it flow the springs of life. Pastor Dalton worded it like this:

The condition of your heart determines the course of your life.

In the book of Proverbs there are only two paths to take: the path of wisdom or the path of folly. Your heart is the source that determines the course of your life. From it flows your whole life. God knows if He has your heart he has your life, and Satan knows it too. The stakes could not be higher! So, if you are going to guard your heart effectively, you must first understand that there is a battle for your heart.

The battle for your life will be won or lost in your heart. You’ve never lost a battle against temptation that you didn’t first lose in your heart. So, here’s the question: How do I guard my heart? In the preceding verses, Solomon tells his son to incline his ear to his sayings and to keep them in his sight. He’s showing us a connection between the eyes, ears, and heart.

Your eyes and ears are the doors to your heart.

Consider the fall of humanity. Genesis 3:1 says, “He said to the woman…” Genesis 3:6 says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes…” He SAID. She SAW. They SINNED. When they were listening to the wrong voice and looking at the wrong thing, their hearts were turned away from God. And from that day forward, every person has been born with a heart that’s on the path of folly. We don’t love God, and we do love sin. Solomon would later write, “Who can say I have made my heart pure (Prov. 20:9)?” No one! But that’s what the gospel is all about! We couldn’t clean our hearts and lives, so out of love for us (1 John 4:19, Rom. 5:8, Eph. 2:4-5), Jesus gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26).

The gospel changes the direction of our lives by changing the condition of our hearts.

And yet I sense that our hearts are prone to wander. There’s still an ongoing battle for our affections. We love the wrong things too much, and the right things too little. Here’s a principle that should guide our love: Your love for something should be proportional to its significance.

We need bigger hearts for God and people and smaller hearts for less important things. To do that we need new habits and routines with our eyes and ears. What we desperately need are habits and routines that reinforce our regeneration. So, what are you looking at? You are becoming what you are beholding. And what are you listening to? What lies are you believing about God, yourself, etc.? No one talks to you more than you do. Stop listening to your carnal self and start preaching the gospel to yourself! More than anything, look to Jesus and become like Him (2 Cor. 3:8, 1 John 3:2). Listen to Jesus and live (Proverbs 4:2, Proverbs 4:22)!

Proverbs on Friendship

The book of Proverbs has much to say on friendship. True friends are rare and limited. It is estimated that most people have between 500-2500 acquaintances, about 10-20 core friends that they see somewhat regularly, but only 1-7 intimate friends. Most times, you can count them on one hand!

 

The Basis of Friendship

At creation, God made everything and said, “It is good.” The only thing that was not good was loneliness. “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone…’” (Gen. 2:18). In every stage of life, you make friends almost instantly. In childhood, toddlers play together in the nursery. Teens want to belong and be accepted.  Adults forge friendship with other adults in the same season of life. Senior adults still enjoy social interaction even when their health is declining and many of their friends are dying. Friendship has so much to do with season of life. When seasons change and you no longer see close friends very often, they are not failed friendships! This is something that is natural and normal. God gives you those friendships to make it through that season of life. You need them to make it through that period of time. Due to graduation, a marriage, a job change, a move, etc., you may leave behind friends. Years later though, you can thank God for the joy they brought you on the journey.

 

The Building of Friendship

Proverbs 12:26 says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully….” You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. Show me your friends and I will show you your future! Proverbs has much to say about building the right kind of friendships. We are warned against being friends with an angry man (22:24) and are told that wealth brings friends so we know to be cautious with fake friendships (14:20, 19:4,6). We are also warned against friends you can’t depend on (25:19) and against friends who gossip (16:28, 17:9). When it comes to being a good friend, we are encouraged to be friendly ourselves (18:24), to be sensitive to others (27:14), and not to overstay our welcome (25:17).

Making friends is one thing.  Maintaining friendships is another.  Les and Leslie Parrott, in their book on Relationships, say that friends to die for have the following qualities: Loyalty, Forgiveness, Honesty, and Dedication. A real friend walks in when everyone else walks out. What kind of friends do you have?

 

The Benefits of Friendship

“He who walks with wise men will be wise…” (Prov. 13:20). Friends are like buttons on an elevator, they can take you up or they will take you down. I thank God that He took some people out of my life and brought other people into my life. Faithful are the wounds of a friend… And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel” (Prov. 27:6, 9). A friend will tell you the truth even when it hurts. They give good advice. “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17). Every time you are around a godly friend they make you a better person. I married my best friend. She makes me better. The devil does not want you to have a godly friend, or to be in church with a group of Christian friends. Jesus had the crowds, He had 12 disciples, and He had three men in His inner circle. If Jesus in His humanity needed friends, how much more do we need friends. The native Indians had a word for friend that meant “he who carries my sorrow on his back.”  That is what Jesus did for us. Jesus is the friend of sinners. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends… (John 15:13-15).

 

Jesus is the best friend of all. His arms are opened wide. He will never leave or forsake you. Just like Abraham was the friend of God, you can be the friend of God. A friend knows all about you and loves you anyway. Even the best of earthly friends will disappoint you and let you down. But not Jesus.  He will never leave us or forsake us. Today you can know the greatest friend of all, Jesus.

Proverbs on Anger

Solomon prayed for wisdom and God gave him a heart to discern right from wrong. In this series, we are learning how to do right. Today, we will look at the right way to handle anger. Proverbs 19:11 says, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” What does it mean to be slow to anger and to overlook a transgression?  First, we have to understand… 

The Meaning of Anger
Anger is an emotion, a feeling of intense indignation regarding a real or imagined threat, frustration, or injustice toward you or others you love. The truth is that we all have anger! The key word throughout Scripture is slow. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry, and do not sin.” Be angry is a command, and so is do not sin. It is a sin to never get angry, but it is also a sin to blow up. Wisdom is slow to anger. Psalm 103:8 says the Lord is slow to anger. Proverbs 16:32 says, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty.” Anger is natural and normal. What you do with it makes it a sin. Jesus never sinned yet He got angry and drove out the moneychangers from the temple. He did it out of love for the Father’s House and the people. Anger is a God-given capacity. What makes you mad? We should get angry over injustice in the world, not things like losing our keys or being cut off in traffic.

The Misuse of Anger
Moses, David, Jonah, and Peter all got angry and got in trouble. Take Moses for example. He paid a high price for how he acted and didn’t get to enter the Promised Land. Anger can get you in a lot of trouble. Don’t fly off the handle or into a fit of rage. Will Rogers said, “People who fly into rage seldom make a good landing.” Proverbs 14:17 says, “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly.” Have you ever said something or did something when you were mad and then felt like a fool afterwards? “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly” (Prov. 14:29).

The Management of Anger
It is so important to confront your anger. It is pride that says, “I am above getting angry.” Stop refusing to deal with it. Stop making excuses like, “God made me that way.  I just have Irish blood in me.” Consider your anger. Ask yourself, “Why am I so mad?” Sometimes we are mad over daily irritations or hurt from the past and everyone around pays for what someone else did.

It is also important to control your anger. You can control it. Just let the phone ring in the middle of an argument. You go from screaming, to a calm, “Hello.” The person on the other end of the line has no idea you were just in an argument! Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  It is not just what you say but how you say it. Anger is a choice.

Confess your anger. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” Settle your conflict before you go to bed. Don’t allow the problem to fester. Don’t let the devil get the best of you. When your temper gets the best of you it reveals the worst in you. Break the stronghold and curse. Don’t pass it down to your children. Get alone with God and confess your anger and your sin to Jesus.

Finally, channel your anger. Redirect it to something else. You may say, “I’m so mad I’m going to clean out the garage!” That would be a great thing. Go exercise, hit golf balls at the driving range, etc.

In anger, the world killed Jesus. He opened not His mouth. He could have destroyed us all, but instead He took the anger and the wrath of God that we deserved. Through Jesus, and His death and resurrection, we can have victory over our anger!

Proverbs on Words

As we saw last week, the theme of the book of Proverbs is wisdom. The first nine chapters are on wisdom, but starting with Chapter 10, there are 375 individual proverbs that carry self-contained lessons. That’s different than any other book. This week we will look at aligning our words with wisdom. The words tongue, mouth, lips, and words are used almost 150 times in Proverbs.

Proverbs 18:21 says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Most everyone would agree that words are powerful! Tammy and I had never dated. We were best friends. On a Tuesday night, I went to her college campus with seven questions. The last one was, “Will you marry me?” Those four words changed my life and hers forever! After we were married three months, we said, “Let’s start a family.” On Christmas Day, she woke up with morning sickness! Words are powerful!

The Power of Destructive Words
Words can hurt, cut, and kill. Words have caused suicide, started wars, and destroyed friendships. Proverbs 16:28 says, “…a whisperer separates the best of friends” and 11:13 says, “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” Talebearer means to go about. A gossip goes from person to person running their mouth. Mind your own business! Think before you speak. Don’t get involved in someone else’s argument. Stop listening to gossip! “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips” (Prov. 20:19).

Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.” Some parents only speak negatively to their children. For some spouses, the only thing they ever really say to their mate is negative, short, hateful, or with a harsh tone of voice. Before you say a word stop and think, It is true? Is it confidential? Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it necessary?

Proverbs 6:16 begins a passage in which we read of things the Lord hates. Three of the seven have to do with the tongue – a lying tongue, a false witness, and one who sows discord. “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19). The more you speak the more likely you are to be misunderstood and hurt someone. Less is more! People, marriages, families, churches, and relationships are dying because of harsh words. They are dying to hear healing words of love, affirmation, encouragement.

The Power of Constructive Words
Proverbs describes positive/constructive words as silver (10:20), a tree of life (15:4), food (10:21), refreshing water (10:11, 18:4), and medicine (12:18). Words have the power to create and transform. Creation came out of communication. God said, “Let there be light.” Most of Jesus’ miracles happened through His words. Jesus spoke and the lame walked, lepers were healed, storms stopped, and the dead came back to life!

Proverbs 15 gives us another list of the ways positive words make a difference. “A soft answer turns away wrath… A wholesome tongue is a tree of life… The lips of the wise disperse knowledge… A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!” Verse 28 of that chapter says, “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer.” Be careful about what you say! You don’t always have to respond. Proverbs 13:3 says, “He who guards his mouth preserves his life.”

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver…” (Prov. 25:11). “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” (Prov. 30:5). Change your words and you will change your life! Words have power over the listener and the speaker. Speak words of life. Speak the word of God. You hear it. The enemy hears it. God hears it.

Proverbs on Wisdom

A proverb has been defined as “a short statement based on long experience.” The theme of the book of Proverbs is wisdom, the right use of knowledge. If you are perfect and have never made any bad decisions, you can take the next 12 weeks off. We are going to study this book and cover a wide range of subjects that will help those of us who know we need it. Today, we begin with wisdom.

The What of Wisdom
When Solomon was taking over for his father David, he had a dream in which God asked him what one thing he wanted. God was willing to give Solomon anything he asked. Solomon asked for wisdom. In the first few verses of Proverbs 1, we read that Solomon sought wisdom, instruction, understanding, knowledge, increased learning, and wise counsel (v. 1-5). Wisdom is the one thing we need more than anything else. It is to your life what the foundation is to your house.

Wisdom and intellect or education are not the same. The Bible says knowledge alone puffs up, making you arrogant. Knowledge is for the head but wisdom is for the heart. Knowledge teaches you, but wisdom transforms you. Wisdom is supernatural. More than information, wisdom is application. We live in a world that is drowning in information and starving for wisdom. Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way….” Wisdom is understanding why you do the things you do. When you are at a loss and don’t have a clue, ask God! He is not silent. He is speaking today.

The Way of Wisdom
Proverbs 2:1-3 says, “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding….” A wise person is teachable. Tune in to God. Incline your ear to Him. Cry out for wisdom and discernment. James 1:5 says God will give it generously to those who ask. The wiser you become the more you realize how much you don’t know. Wise men receive rebuke and correction. How do you take rebuke? Fools get defensive, argue, and blame others.

The Worth of Wisdom
“If you seek [wisdom] as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:4-5). Wisdom is more important than all the wealth and fame in the world. You cannot separate wisdom from the word of God. How much time do you spend reading the news compared to the Bible? Do you dig and search for hidden treasure in Scripture? Proverbs 16:16 says, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” We are all capable of making decisions that we will regret and that will impact our children and grandchildren for years to come. Wisdom is a gift we can pass on that will last. Money they will spend, property they will sell, etc. Give them wisdom. Give them Jesus.

The Who of Wisdom
You can’t know wisdom without knowing Jesus. Colossians 2:3 says, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Wisdom is knowing what God is doing in our time. Our culture is addicted to youth. Everyone is looking for the fountain of youth but what we need is the fountain of life! The world thinks the Bible is behind the times. Proverbs tell us these truths have stood the test of time. The wisdom of God is a person, Jesus.

How can you become wise? You can’t know wisdom apart from knowing Jesus. Learning from Jesus and loving Jesus is wisdom. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Greet One Another

I’ve certainly enjoyed the One Another series this summer! Thank you to Daniel and Dalton for preaching and blogging for me while I was away. It was great to be back preaching on Sunday! While there are 59 “one another” passages in Scripture, and we only looked at 10, it is clear that God commands us to do life with others. You cannot “one another” yourself! The way we live, act, and treat one another is evidence that we belong to Jesus. Living out these “one anothers” is living out the gospel before a watching world. The final command we will look at is “Greet one another…” (Romans 16:16).

It is Visible
Romans 16:16 says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss….” To greet with a kiss was a common practice in Bible times, and still is in parts of the world today. If it is not cultural to kiss, it may be to bow, to shake hands, or even to stick out your tongue. What these greetings have in common is that they can be seen. They are visible. A “holy” kiss takes the normal, cultural greeting and sanctifies it. We can greet each other with a holy handshake, a holy fist bump, or a holy high five. It is different in every culture. The form changes, but the function is the same. Demonstrate your love for others. A holy greeting is a genuine, heartfelt, appropriate, visible expression of love, not to be misunderstood or misused.

It is Valuable
In this chapter, we read the longest greeting list in the Bible. Paul mentions 35 people by name! He had many friends and he valued their friendship in the Lord. These people partnered with him and risked their lives for the sake of the Gospel! The church is family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ! Greeting one another is not optional or trivial. It is commanded. Paul used their names. The Bible lists the names of David’s mighty men, those who served with him. Do you know people’s names? When you go to a church it is obvious if there is someone there to greet you. Some churches are like the frozen chosen! No one smiles, speaks, or waves at you. Don’t be a cold fish or snobbish! We must work at waving at one another, greeting one another, and saying, “Good morning!” and “Glad to see you!”

It is Victorious
Romans 16:17 says to “note those who cause divisions and offenses.” It is the nature of love to warn against anyone or anything that would harm those we love. We must oppose what is harmful or evil. Spouses do that for one another. Parents do that for their children. The Bible not only lists David’s mighty men, but also his enemies! God lists those who helped Nehemiah, and those who opposed him. Whose side are you on? Will eternity reveal that you helped or hindered the work? Remember the story of the prodigal son? Did the elder brother greet his brother? No! The father embraced and kissed him, but the elder brother is religious. He hears the music and hates it. He refuses to celebrate. The greeting, the kiss, the celebration, and the focus on the lost is right! Churches are dying across America because they spend all their time and resources not reaching the prodigal, but trying to pacify the elder brothers! God has not called us to make sure cranky Christians are happy! Mark and avoid those who divide!

Verse 20 says, “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” How did Judas betray our Lord? With a kiss. The kiss of death! Some people will mean the kiss of death on a church. That is not the end, however, because God promised in Genesis that He would send a Messiah. Satan would bruise His heel, and He would crush the Serpent’s head. Jesus is crushing Satan under YOUR feet!

Jesus welcomed the lepers, sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and Samaritans. We must greet and welcome all nations, people groups, and the marginalized of our day. Because Jesus prays for, comforts, prefers, forgives, and encourages us, we can do the same for others. Because Jesus welcomed us into His family, we can greet and welcome others into the family.

You Can Trust the Lord

Guest Blogger: Dalton Stoltz

Trusting the Lord has been the best investment of my life.

You can trust him in your darkest hour. You can trust Him when you’re filled with fear. You can trust Him when you’re full of anxiety.

The most frequent teaching in the New Testament by Jesus was not to be holy, or to love one another, it was to not worry. It was to not be afraid. It was to not be anxious.

This is mentioned 365 times in Scripture, one for each day of the year, because He wants us to Trust Him.

Isaiah 26:3-4 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

Isaiah, was a prophet and an evangelist. Isaiah believed the only hope for mankind was centered in trusting God.

“YOU KEEP HIM” is a powerful statement as it expresses confidence in God. The Hebrew wording states that God is acting like a watchman at night. Isaiah was declaring that our God is not passive, distant or ignoring his children. Rather, God is proactively keeping those in perfect peace.

Do you want perfect peace? People who have a perfect peace have what is translated as “a frame of mind, a perspective.” That is, “undeviating commitment to a purpose,” or “undeviating commitment to a conviction or person.” So, the big idea here is that someone who has perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on God, is someone whose thought processes and perspectives are totally dependent, totally trusting, totally leaning on the King of the Universe. The person who does this feels safe, secure, even confident. They feel this way not because they are trusting in themselves but because they are trusting in the Lord.

I know many people who want to live in perfect peace, they just don’t want the God of Peace who supplies it. Did you catch that? Everyone wants to live in perfect peace, they just don’t want the God of Peace who supplies it. It is impossible, however, to have the Peace of God without the God of Peace.

You can have perfect peace if you trust in the Lord. Verse 4 more accurately translates “Trust in Jehovah.” Jehovah is a name for God meaning, “The Existing One.” Trust in the Lord God, because He is an Everlasting Rock! He is not shaky. He is stable. He is full of protection. He is a firm foundation.

Today and everyday, I want you to know that you can trust the Lord because:

1) He is on His Throne- Isaiah 6:1-3
2) He is in Control- Isaiah 40:12,26
3) He Won’t Forget You- Isaiah 49:15

No seduction this world has to offer will ever come close to Him. Only He is BIG enough to give you true peace. Trust in God is like a tender seed. It can be nurtured or neglected. When we nurture our trust in God, through prayer, through worship, through studying God’s word, He blesses our lives and lifts our spirits. When we neglect intimacy with the Lord, we do ourselves and our loved ones a profound disservice. What are you going to do today? Who are you going to trust today?

The Lord is greater than your greatest fear, worry or anxiety. Trusting Him will be the best investment of your life.

Changing Your Perspective

Guest Blogger: Daniel Ethridge

Growing up Pastor Grant’s son was quite the adventure. I remember when I was five years old I packed a suitcase, full of all my essential toys, and walked out the front door. After a few minutes of walking down the road I heard a car behind me. When I turned around I saw my dad, hanging out the window, with our family video camera. He was filming me run away. Once I got tired, he put me back in the car, drove me home, and the minute we walked inside he sat me in front of the TV and made me watch the video. It was impactful enough that I still remember it. He gave me something extremely effective that day: a new perspective to see who I truly was.

This past Sunday, in Luke chapter 5, we saw a story of multiple types of people who encountered Jesus. Which one of them would you have been?

The Bystanders
The report about Jesus was beginning to grow and Luke tells us in verse 15 that “great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.” The sad thing in this story is that only one man leaves healed. Why was it that out of all the people there, only one man would leave having been changed? The scripture explicitly says that the “power of the Lord was present with Jesus to heal.” Yet for some reason, they would leave the same. Every week we have people who sit in our congregation and leave the same. Many individuals want to get close enough to Jesus to experience the work of God, but not close enough to be changed by it. We want all the benefits without any commitment. How committed are you to the things of God? Are you a bystander? At Liberty we say, “It’s not just church, It’s life!” Does that adequately describe your life?

The Pharisees
The Pharisees are a part of the same crowd as the bystanders, but they are a very different group. Luke tells us in verse 17 and 21 that they were sitting and questioning the things of God. This is a great picture of religious people today. They come to be a part of the church activities but they aren’t active in the mission that Jesus was on. This crowd claimed to know the things of God but they couldn’t see Him when He stood in front of them. What was it that kept them from seeing and believing Jesus? When you look at the gospels, it can be summed up in two things: status and tradition. Have we become a people so set on our preferences that we are keeping others from getting to Jesus? My fear is that we’ve become a social club for the saved, rather than a home for the lost or a hospital for the sick. In Matthew 23:13-15 Jesus called out the Pharisees. “You shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” That is exactly what Luke 5:18-20 shows us they did.

The Friends
Not everyone in the story responded incorrectly. The friends completely reoriented their lives in order to get this man to Jesus. They believed that Jesus was what the crippled man needed and they were willing to do anything to remove the hindrances! Are you doing everything possible to see your coworkers, family, neighbors, and friends come to Jesus? Verse 20 says, “And when [Jesus] saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” Does your faith in Jesus lead others to Him? James tells us that faith without works is dead.

The Healed Man
This character was the one who left completely changed. Can you imagine when they lowered him at Jesus’ feet? He had to know something incredible was about to happen, and then Jesus said, “your sins are forgiven you.” It couldn’t have been what the crowd expected. This man was unable to walk! Yet Jesus sees our greatest need. His legs were what brought him to Jesus but his soul was what was really in need of transformation from God. What is bringing you to Jesus? It might be a failing marriage, an economic struggle, a wayward child, a physical illness, or even a death in the family. All those things are just a symptom of a greater issue. Ask God to forgive your sins and begin to walk daily with Him. The story ends with the man’s legs being completely restored. I cannot promise that walking with Jesus is going to be easy, but I can promise that it will be worth it. If He is able to save you and give you an eternity with Him, you can rest assured, knowing that He can guide you through whatever you are facing.

If you had been in this story, who would you have been? I am praying that God would personally touch you today, so that you will know the power of God and live a life bringing others to Him.

Comfort One Another

What a great day of worship we had on Sunday! Our son Daniel, Worship Pastor at the Greenbrier Campus, did his CD release concert. If you missed it, you can purchase a CD Sunday at your campus at the Media Center. He did a great job on this project and we could not be more proud of him and the worship team! Our services Sunday morning were so full of the Lord’s presence; it was one of those days where you don’t want to leave! The message was on comforting one another. Everyone is hurting. “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18) is so practical and personal. Paul unpacks this idea further in 2 Corinthians 1, where he uses the word “comfort” nine times. In this passage, we see four reasons why we can comfort one another.

The Presence of God
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, we read that the “God of all comfort… comforts us in all our tribulation….” Tribulation can be physical, emotional, financial, or relational. It is a one-size-fits-all kind of word. Fill in the blank with whatever you are going through! In John 14:26, the Holy Spirt is called the Comforter. God said, “When you go through the fire I will be with you” (Is. 43:2), and “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). We have a God who stands beside us to take up our cause, encourage us, strengthen us, and comfort us. In order to experience comfort, you must first experience tribulation, hurt, pain, and know what it means to mourn. God is the only source of comfort. When you complain, feel sorry for yourself, wallow in self-pity, or grow bitter, you cut yourself off from the only source of comfort.

The Purposes of God
The second half of verse 4 says, “that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble….” God lets you go through some things knowing somebody will travel that same road. In 1992 when we buried our little boy, a lady said, “Pastor you cannot see it now but God is going to use this in your life to help so many couples who have lost a child.” God sent us to the school of suffering so we would learn comfort. God does the comforting, but He uses people. God’s comfort will fill your cup till it runs over! God gives us enough to meet our needs and the needs of others. Another purpose is that we might be emptied of all self-reliance. Verse 9 says, “that we should not trust in ourselves but in God.” Dr. Ron Dunn used to say, “You learn to trust God by trusting God. You only trust God when you have to. God will see to it that you have to.”

The Promises of God
Verse 20 references the promises of God. The difference between happy and unhappy people is not the absence of trouble, it is the way they respond to their trouble. There are two ways you can deal with problems: God’s way or the world’s way. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” God’s way changes your heart. The world’s way produces death, anger, bitterness, and resentment. There is no comfort in unbelief. There is a God and we have the promises of His word to hold on to! Think about the 23rd Psalm, Isaiah 42:1-3, Romans 15:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Romans 8:28, and more.

The People of God
In 2 Corinthians 1:1, Paul talks about Timothy. In 2 Corinthians 7:6, he says God “comforted us by the coming of Titus….” There are people all around us ready to give up on life, give up on their marriage, kids, job, church, etc., but God is going to send YOU to comfort them and spur them to keep going.

Sometimes, God allows things He hates to accomplish what He loves. Do you have a broken heart today? We throw broken things away but God never uses someone until they are broken. If you have a broken heart, broken hopes, a broken home, bring it to Jesus. Jesus was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. You can know Him, in the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.

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