Living in the now!

If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

Ecclesiastes 11:4 (LB)

Worrying about your past won’t change it anymore than worrying about the future will control it.  It just messes you up in the present.  Worry causes a paralysis of analysis!  It forfeits us from living life in the now!  Because God is not limited by time and space, He is already in our future as well as our present, and He says, “Don’t worry!”  Jesus said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  (Matt. 6:27 NIV) Let’s go back to Israel for an example, when Jeremiah wrote them that prophetic letter he was letting them in on what God had planned for their future.  They were living in exile to an enemy in the foreign land of Babylon.  The future didn’t look good.  False prophets were sending mixed messages that this was the end of their nation, while others suggested things would turn around soon and that they would go home.  They were stuck and didn’t know what to do or who to believe.  In his letter, Jeremiah gives them – and us – wise insight on living in the now.  He said, This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.’” Jeremiah 29:4-6 (NIV) God’s message to His people was that they would be there for some time. It would be a time of discipline and would last for 70 years.  It wasn’t the end.  God was saying, “Don’t let your fears about the future keep you from living in the present.”  What about you?  Fear and worry about the future can’t control it.  This is where trust comes into play.  We trust the God who is already in our future so we can live in the now with peace and confidence.  The problem with Israel is that they wanted their way in their time, not God’s way in His time.  We often want the same.  As a result, we fail to enjoy the moment.  All we have is now.  Like Jeremiah to Israel, Jesus told us that there would be trouble and sorrow in this world.  This isn’t heaven.  But He didn’t tell us this to instill fear.  In fact, He said, “Let not your heart be troubled.”  In other words, don’t be surprised when troubles come, and don’t be alarmed by them.  Put your trust today in God, and don’t let fears about the future keep you from living in the present.  I love the way the Living Bible paraphrases Christ’s words in Matt. 6:34, “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow.  God will take care of your tomorrow too.  Live one day at a time.”  (Matt. 6:34 LB)

Who to believe?

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.  They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 29:8-9 (NIV)

Prognosticators forecast everything from the stock market to the end of the world.  Will the future bring a bear market or a bullish one?  Does the Ebola crisis spell the end? What about my personal future? Who do you listen to?  What do you believe?  Only one person knows the future.  He is the one who has been there.  God is the one who was, and is, and is to come!  He is the God of your past, present, and future! You can trust your future to the God who is already there!  When Israel was in captivity to Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem, prognosticators were calling themselves prophets, and they sent mixed messages to the people.  One group of false prophets offered a doomsday message with no hope.  Another group offered false hope that Israel’s captivity in Babylon would be brief and that they would soon find deliverance.  Jeremiah was a prophet of God and his counsel gave them true hope.  He spoke on behalf of the Lord Almighty.  In a letter to those exiled, he warned them in Jeremiah 29:8-9, “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.  They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD.”   When you are worried about the future and don’t know what to do, trust God’s Word over man’s opinion.  God alone knows the future, and it is a hope-filled future because God is already there!  You can listen to the world and be filled with panic and fear, or you can listen to God’s Word and find peace and confidence.  One of the most unique and colorful prophets of the Old Testament was a man named Amos.  In Amos 3:7 he said, Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.”  Just as Jeremiah recorded his prophecy in a letter to the exiled, God has recorded His Word for us today!  His word will guide us into the future with hope and confidence as we follow Him.  Seek His counsel in His Word.  That’s what the Psalmist did in Psalm 56:3.  He said, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”

Future Tense

I am God, and there is none like Me,  declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”

Isaiah 46:9-11 (ESV)

A recent survey showed how people generally view the future of our world today.  Over 60% said that they thought it was going to hell in a handbag.  Only 35% agreed with Bob Marley – “Everything’s Gonna to be Alright!”  Whatever is your view, I’m sure you’re asking as many others are today, “What in the world is going on?”  Between the Ebola crisis and ISIS threatening the Middle East with sites on the rest of the free, or should I say “sane” world, it leaves one wondering what in the world is going on?  There are extremists at both ends of the spectrum, and it’s hard to know who to trust, what to believe, and who to listen to.  The CDC says that Ebola is not a threat to the US and, yet, there are cases just up the road now.  Then, there are the conspiracy groups that claim Ebola is a government plot to end the world.  It all leaves people frightened and worried about the future of a world that seems to be spinning out of control.

As Christ followers, we may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future!  The very God who is with you today is already in your tomorrow!  The good news is that we can trust our future to the God who is already there!  Jesus said, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,’ says the Lord God. ‘I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.’” (Revelation 1:8 NLT) God knows the future, and He wants us to live in peace by trusting Him.  Even when Israel was in captivity to Babylon, exiled from their land of promise and wondering if this was the end, God assured them that their future was in His hands and that it was a hope-filled future!  He said, I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”  In fact, one of the most amazing prophecies in the Old Testament was recorded by the Prophet Isaiah over a century before it ever came true.  Isaiah called King Cyrus of Persia by name over a century before he was born and predicted that he would be used by God to deliver Israel from Babylonian captivity.  He would release them to return to their land and restore their Temple!  Wow!  God is in your future as well!  He is in control!  Put your trust in Him!

The Greatest Evidence for the Existence of God

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!”

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

The world has no explanation for a life transformed by the power of Christ.  A changed life is proof that God is alive!  Life change is the greatest evidence for the existence of God.  There are three characteristics of a Christ-filled life that will utterly confound the world around you:  truth, love and grace.  One of the greatest joys of my ministry has been to witness life change that can only be explained by the supernatural grace of God when the presence of the Creator has been restored in the hearts of His people, making them new creations in Christ!  I’ve witnessed men, women, and young people of all walks of life become transformed by the power of the Gospel.  Marriages have been restored, relationships reconciled, and lives recovered from destructive addictions!  These are nothing short of miraculous!  It’s the miracle of the new birth!  The truth of your life turned around becomes the power of your life message, the message of truth that the world never really expects.  Even skeptics are at a loss when they see a life message there is no earthly explanation for – a life full of truth, love, and grace!    The church is full of such people today. They are Christ followers.  People in whom Christ lives who are being the message at home, at work or wherever they are, no matter what the circumstance.  They exhibit grace, a grace that offers the world a true portrait of Jesus.  They love like Jesus.  They forgive like Jesus.  You can’t do this on your own or with your own strength.  It’s impossible.  But you can do it with Christ’s power!  Does your life exhibit truth, love, and grace?  These are not qualities that you and I can produce.  They are reproduced by the life of Christ indwelling us.  Only then can we be the message!  Here’s how Paul explained it – “When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside.  He is not the same anymore.  A new life has begun!”  Share His life by inviting someone to church this weekend.  Be the message!

One Step of Faith Makes a World of Difference, Part 4

You will not need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory.”  

2 Chronicles 20: 17 (NLT)

 If you’re tired of living in the Valley of Overwhelmed and ready to move into the Valley of Blessing, stop fighting and position yourself for a miracle.  That’s what God told King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles when he was outnumbered and overwhelmed by three armies that allied themselves against him.  The crisis was beyond his ability.  When we face crises like that, we often feel so helpless that we think there is nothing that we can do, so we do nothing. We become convinced that the problems are too big for us to make a difference.  But God never asks us to do something big and great.  He just asks us to take a small step of faith.  That’s when the miracle happens!  One step of faith makes a world of difference, and it led Jehoshaphat out of the Valley of Overwhelmed and into the Valley of Blessing! God told him to do three things:

  1. Stop fretting and remember God is for you.
  2. Stop fearing and give the battle over to God.
  3. Stop fighting and position yourself for a miracle.

How do you do that?  If you look at his story closely, you will find two practical ways to position your life for a miracle.  First, respond with an attitude of prayer rather than worry.  In verse 3 the Bible says, “Jehoshaphat was alarmed by the news and sought the Lord for guidance.  He also gave orders that everyone throughout Judah should observe a fast.”  This is consistent with everyone in scripture who faced overwhelming odds and experienced miraculous breakthroughs!  In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul says, 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.” Philippians 4:6-7(MSG) Turn your problems into opportunities to pray.  Second, choose to rejoice with an attitude of thanksgiving rather than complaining.  Thanksgiving opens our lives to receive blessings.  Complaining blocks blessings.  In 2 Chronicles 20:21, 22 the Bible tells us how Jehoshaphat did this. After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising Him for His holy splendor. This is what they sang: ‘Give thanks to the Lord; His faithful love endures forever!’At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.”  Notice the phrase “…at the very moment…”  They chose to praise the Lord and sing before they won the victory!  They didn’t wait to see what the outcome would be before they gave thanks!  As a result, God began to act on their behalf.  Verses 25 and 26 wrap it up like this. King Jehoshaphat and his men went out to gather the plunder. They found vast amounts of equipment, clothing, and other valuables—more than they could carry. There was so much plunder that it took them three days just to collect it all!  On the fourth day they gathered in the Valley of Blessing, which got its name that day because the people praised and thanked the Lord there. It is still called the Valley of Blessing today.”  If you’re in the Valley of Overwhelmed, take heart my friend.  One step of faith can move you into the Valley of Blessing.  One step of faith can make a world of difference!