Thursday, August 27, 2009

EQUIP Conference

Tomorrow afternoon, a group of us Rockies are making a 750 mile round-trip trek to Corpus Christi for the EQUIP conference. This conference is being hosted at Solid Rock Worship Center, but is being taught by Pastor Sergio De La Mora of Cornerstone Church (San Diego, CA) and his staff.

I think we're a little crazy to travel this far for an overnight trip, but I truly believe it'll be worth our time and effort. I also think it'll be a lot of fun to travel with the group that is going.

I'm expecting to receive substantial and significant teaching about doing the Lord's work at this conference. It's gonna be good!

Pray for us this weekend. We'll be back late Saturday night so we can be in church Sunday morning. See you then!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Free from Tomorrow's Pessimism

There are a lot of pessimistic people today. They’re pessimistic about government, about schools, about religion and churches. They’re pessimistic about the economy, and their jobs.

The truth is, people have lost faith in a lot of things.

But really when you get down to it, most people are discouraged about personal issues. And some are very pessimistic and cynical.

The reality is that when you are pessimistic, you are unhappy. And being unhappy is a terrible way to live.

Pessimism causes unhappiness, but that is where a lot of people are. They are without hope.

What is it that causes people to lose hope? Why is it that we lose hope so quickly?

When it comes down to it, there are two reasons why people lose hope.

People lose hope when they face a situation that needs to be changed and they can’t change it.

It might be a circumstance you wish you could change, or maybe a person in your life, or maybe yourself. But whatever it is that needs to be changed, when you realize it’s not happening, it’s easy to lose hope.

Have you ever heard someone say, “My marriage is hopeless. I have tried to make this thing work, but it isn’t working. We’ve tried everything: talking it over, going to a counselor. It’s still not working.” And the hope starts to drain out.

Or parents will say, “I’m watching my kids make wrong decisions, and hang out with the wrong crowd. I see them headed for destruction, and I am helpless to get them back on track. I feel a sense of despair.”

Or people say, “No matter what I do my finances are getting worse and worse. I'm getting further and further behind.”

Or “I see things in my life that I’d really like to change. I don’t want to stay the same. I want to grow. I want to develop. I want to be different. But I just can’t get it together no matter what I do.”

There’s another reason people lose hope and become pessimistic: when they don’t know their purpose in life.

The Bible is very clear that God made everyone on earth for a purpose. The sad thing is many people go all through life never discovering either: (a) a relationship with God, or (b) the purpose for their lives.

If you don’t know your purpose in life, life is pointless.

Have you ever wondered, “What does God think of me?” Maybe you’ve even wondered, “Does God even think about me?” The truth is God thinks about you all the time far more than you think about Him.

The Bible tells us that God is constantly thinking about you. What does He think about you? Does He think about how bad you are? No. Does He think about what a disappointment you are? No. Does He think about how you just don’t measure up to His standard of perfection? No.

The Bible tells us what God thinks about you.

Jeremiah 29:11 (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.

The Hebrew word translated “plans” is machashabah. It means “a thought, a plan, or an invention or design”.

Have you ever accused anyone of not ever having an original thought? Well, God has nothing but original thoughts. And He has original thoughts about you! He invents things for you. He invents your future. And his inventions are good, and prosperous, and filled with hope!

The word translated “prosper” is the word shalom. It means completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace. No reason for pessimism in that definition.

The word translated “hope” is tiqvah. It literally means “a cord”; i.e. something to hold on to. It refers to an expectation of a desired outcome; something you long for.

God spoke these words to a group of people whose situation was the exact opposite of prosperity, peace, and hope. They were in captivity, with no apparent hope for freedom.

The Jews had no thoughts of peace and prosperity for themselves. They had no hope of a blessed future. But God gave them hope.

You’ve got to have hope. Hope is essential for life. You’ve got to have hope to cope.

When inevitable tough times come into your life who are you going to turn to? Where is your source of hope? Where is your rock?

What are your spiritual anchors? Do you have them? Do you have a relationship to God? Have you made that kind of commitment to Him?

Psalms 125:1 (NIV)
Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.

Where do you get the source of hope when things are going wrong? One thing you can know for sure is that no matter what happens, God’s never going to stop loving you.

Isaiah 54:10 (NIV)
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Maybe you’ve felt unworthy. Maybe you felt, “I can’t come to God because of all the stuff I’ve done in my life.” You’re wrong. God has a gift for you through Jesus Christ. It is freedom—freedom from yesterday pain, the today’s pressures, and the pessimism about your future: all the worry, doubt, and fear.

But a gift is worthless if you never receive it. You’ve got to take it.

Illustration: I have here a twenty-dollar bill. Would anybody like this twenty-dollar bill? If I crumple it, does anybody still want it? If I step on it, stomp on it, does anybody still want it? No matter what I did to it, it did not lose its value. I could even tear it in two, and you would all still want it because it still hasn’t lost its value.

You’ve had some hard knocks in life. You’ve made some really bad decisions in life. You’ve turned your back on God at times but you have not lost your value to God. You may have some scars, some hurts. You have not lost your value to God. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. What matters is what decision you make today.

I know all of us are careful to clean our houses when we’re expecting company, if it’s not already clean. Some people would rather hire someone to do the cleaning. But what’s funny is when you hire someone to clean your house, and you decide you need to clean up first so it’ll be ready for the person you hired to clean up. Where’s the logic in that?

Here’s the good news. When Jesus Christ comes into your life, you don’t have to clean up your house first. He doesn’t say, “Get your act together and then come to God.” He doesn’t say, “Clean up your act and be perfect and then come to God.” No, He says, “Let me into your life and I’ll help you clean it up. I’ll help you get it together. In fact there are areas of your life you’re never going to get together on your own. You’ve tried but you’ve failed. You need God’s power in your life and He says, “Just let me in.”

What do you have to lose? Yesterday’s pain, today’s pressures, and tomorrow’s pessimism.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Free from Today's Pressures

Life is getting more complex; it seems to be is speeding up. It certainly isn’t as simple as it used to be. Steve Farrar says that we no longer have alarm clocks; now we have starter pistols.

We’ve even come up with a whole new vocabulary of terms to describe our stress and the pressures of today’s living. We say, “I'm worn out, stressed out, burned out, run down, used up, bushed, exhausted, frazzled, bone weary and dead tired. I'm on my last leg, at the end of my rope. I'm about to come unglued. I'm ready to throw in the towel.”

Sometimes the stress gets so heavy you feel like you’re at a breaking point. You feel like you’re going to go under for the last time. And you wonder, “How can I handle this pressure?”

When you’re under pressure you need two things. You need strength and you need stability. God offers them both to you.

Isaiah 40:28-29 (NIV)
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

God gives you power when you’re worn out.

The reason you’re so tired all the time is because you were never meant to live life simply on your own power. God meant for you to have a relationship with Him, to be plugged in to Him, to gain power from God

Illustration: a power strip connected to itself makes no sense

Isaiah 40:30 (NIV)
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

The young men God is talking about in this verse are young men who were picked for their youthful strength and vigor; but even they get tired and weary. You’re not designed to be plugged in to yourself!

Jesus has all the power you need. He proved it at the resurrection. But the best news is that the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead can raise you up from your problems. It’s available to you.

If God can raise a dead person, He can raise a dead marriage. He can raise a dead career. He can raise a dead relationship. He can do anything. He’s got all the power you need.

Illustration: Julio Franco set many records for longevity in professional baseball.

· Oldest player to hit a Grand Slam (47, 2005, breaking his own record set in 2004 at 45)

· Oldest regularly-playing non-pitcher player in MLB history (48)

· Second-oldest player to appear in MLB postseason play (48, during the 2006 postseason)

· Oldest player in Major League history to hit a home run (48)

· Second-oldest player to steal a base (48, during the 2007 season)

He played for such a long time that Billy Wagner, one of his team mates called him Moses. But also, because of his longevity, a retired baseball player, Andy Van Slyke, accused him publicly of taking steroids. Here was Franco’s response:

Tell Andy Van Slyke he's right—I'm on the best juice there is. I'm juiced up every day, and the name of my juice is Jesus. I'm on his power, his wisdom, his understanding. Andy Van Slyke is right, but the thing he didn't mention was what kind of steroids I'm on. Next time you talk to him, tell him the steroid I'm on is Jesus of Nazareth.

But how do you get God’s power in your life?

Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Hope, trust, rely…that’s what it takes to gain strength. Place all your trust in the God who never grows weak or weary.

How do we do that? Are you spending time seeking him? Are you spending time in His presence daily? Are you praying? Do you interact with His Word, allowing it to do its work in your life?

The first step today is to admit, “I’m plugged in to myself. I’m trying to do it all by myself, without even acknowledging God, much less seeking Him.”

Another thing God gives us is stability.

In the Bible, God is compared 42 times to a rock. He’s called the Rock of Ages. He’s called our Eternal Rock. He’s called the Rock of our salvation and many other terms. Why would God compare Himself to a rock?

Rocks are steady and strong. Rocks don’t give into pressure. They don’t crumble easily. That’s the kind of stability and strength God can put in your life if you’ll let Him be the rock of your life.

If you build your life on Jesus, the Solid Rock, and you make Him the cornerstone of your life, you can handle anything.

If we could do an X-Ray of everybody’s heart today, we would probably see that many of you are running on empty. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually empty.

Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus says, “Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me for real rest and you’ll recover your life and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” He will set you free from today's pressures.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Free from Yesterday's Pain

This past week, two American journalists were set free from captivity in North Korea. I can only imagine their joy and relief at being released from their imprisonment. It was truly a moment to celebrate, not just this week but for the rest of their lives.

Can there be anything scarier than to be imprisoned? Yet, that describes our lives without Jesus. But Jesus came to set us free!

In John 8, Jesus made an incredibly profound statement. He said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. And if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:32, 36)

You’ll be really free. What was He talking about? What does He set me free from?

Today, we will talk about how Jesus sets us free from yesterday’s pain.

For the most part, we like to remember the past. We remember difficult days, but what we really like to do is celebrate past victories.

This summer, my family and I went back to Corpus Christi, and did a lot of reminiscing. What we didn’t do was remember the failures. We don’t generally like to do that.

Yesterday’s pain has a way of crippling us. That’s why David prayed in Psalm 25:7:

Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.

There were aspects of David’s past that brought him pain.

Peter recalled an immediate past, when he denied Jesus three times, and he wept bitterly at this thought.

Some of you today might be in the same boat. There is a part of your past that is painful. You don’t want to think about it, but it’s crippling you. It’s keeping you from enjoying God’s goodness and love. It might even be keeping you from enjoying your family, and your job, and other blessings that God has given you.

But Jesus came to set you free from yesterday’s pain!

First, He wants to set you free from the pain of resentment. Everyone has been hurt by other people. You’ve been hurt many, many times. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. What you do with that hurt will determine whether you live freely or whether you live in a prison of pain.

Jesus Christ wants to set you free from the pain of resentment so you can get on with your life. So you can get unstuck and get going forward.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the desert

and streams in the wasteland.

God says don’t dwell on the past. Let it go. Give up your grudges. Let God settle the score.

Why don’t you just let God handle the people who’ve hurt you and you get on with your life? God says “Don’t think about the past. Don’t dwell on it. Let it go.” Give up your grudges and let Him handle it.

You say, “I’d like to but I can’t. You don’t know how they hurt me. I can’t just let it go. It hurts too bad. I can’t forgive and forget.” And you know what? You’re right. That’s why you need Jesus.

Humanly it is impossible to forget the past. You need supernatural power. You need God’s love in your heart. You’re never going to get free from your past until God’s in your life. You’ll just keep reacting to things in the past that keep you from moving on in the future. You need Jesus Christ.

I don’t know how you’ve been hurt but God does. God knows how you’ve been hurt and He’s aware of it. And He can help, if you’ll give it to Him.

Psalm 34:18

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Has your spirit been crushed? He’s close to you. You say, “I don't feel close to God.” It’s because you’re not plugged in. It’s not because He’s distant. You’re not aware. God is close to the brokenhearted. He wants to comfort you.

He also wants to help you get over the pain of regret. Not only have people hurt you in life, you’ve done some dumb stuff too. You’ve blown it. You’ve hurt other people. And as a result of that, because nobody’s perfect and we’ve all made mistakes, we all carry regret.

And guilt is a terrible thing to carry around. It leaves you miserable. It saps your energy. You end up punishing yourself.

God specializes in new beginnings. If you don’t get anything else, get this. God does not want you walking around with a load of guilt. That’s why He came up with a plan to relieve it.

He sent Jesus Christ to earth to die for all the dumb things you’ve done, all your stupid decisions, all the bad things. To die for that and pay for all my sin and yours so you don't have to pay for it. What a deal!

Romans 3:23-24

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

What a deal! If we trust in Christ, He pays for all our mistakes and we get away free. That’s called freedom from the pain of your past. What a deal!

Would you like to be free from resentment and regret? Here’s what you do.

Job 11:13-16

Yet if you devote your heart to him

and stretch out your hands to him,

if you put away the sin that is in your hand

and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,

then you will lift up your face without shame;

you will stand firm and without fear.

You will surely forget your trouble,

recalling it only as waters gone by.

Are you still punishing yourself for your past? Jesus Christ was hung on the cross so you could stop hanging yourself on the cross. He’s already paid for all your wrongs. Don’t you think you’ve been in misery long enough? Don’t you think it’s time for a little relief from the past, the resentments and regrets? Jesus Christ wants to set you free from yesterday's pain.