You Have to Know It to Use It

One of Satan’s master strokes against a follower of Christ is to get them to believe they don’t need to read the bible, or that it is boring, or that it doesn’t apply, or that they can’t understand it, etc.  Because don’t know it, we struggle being able to use it when it is needed most.

Satan is not afraid of you repeating the words of someone like me, but he is terrified of the Word of God that you choose to believe.

Scripture is alive and active! (Heb 4:12)  Reading it, knowing it, and understanding how to apply it, WILL transform your life!

The Difference Between a Civil War Reenactment and the Local Church

Every year, thousands of people gather to re-enact scenes from the Civil War. They go all out. Every button is genuine. Every gun is polished. Every strategy is authentic. Every flag handmade. It is the kind of event where if you were to stumble out of the woods into one of these battles, you would think you had teleported back in time 150 years.

It looks real. It sounds real. It feels real. The canons are loud; the smoke is thick. The generals on horseback yell orders. The sweaty soldiers dive into ditches and wade through creeks. The flash of gunfire sparkles across the front lines. The canons, guns, and yelling create such a racket your ears ring.

It seems real. But it’s not. Nothing real is actually happening. Strategies are being enacted, but no ground is actually being won or lost. Soldiers are falling to the ground, but no one is actually dying or being hurt. It feels like a war; but it’s actually just a routine. They are play-acting. It’s all make-believe.

I wonder if the same could be said of our churches. If you were to stumble into one of our Sunday morning services, you would be impressed. Every aisle is vacuumed, every instrument tuned. Our clothes are pressed, and our smiles are wide. We preach, we sing, we shake hands. And it looks and feels exactly like church. But is anything real actually happening?

Is any spiritual ground being won or lost? Are any souls being saved? Are lives being touched and changed? If we are not careful, we can become so familiar with the routine of ministry that we find ourselves simply reenacting routines. Another service, another message, another song.

My guess is that far too many churches are merely play-acting week after week. Just going through the motions, getting through the list of duties and responsibilities. I think that is the sad reality for so many churches. Consider of the evidence found in the lack of growth or even decline, conflict issues, unhealthy structures, a lack of vision, loss of hope, little to no momentum, and lack of spiritual power.

But there is a huge difference between a Civil War re-enactment and the local church; the stakes are real, the battle is real, and our enemy is real. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Many who are reading this article are discouraged and feel hopeless. It’s okay to admit it. So to every weary pastor, every tired Sunday school teacher, and every faithful church member, I say; keep fighting the good fight of faith. Don’t give up. Not now. Not ever. “Don’t get weary in doing what is right, for you will receive the harvest at the proper time”  (Gal 6:9).

Dream with me about “the church” for a moment. What would a local church be like if its people were radically devoted to Christ….irrevocably committed to each other….and relentlessly dedicated to reaching those outside God’s family with the gospel of Christ?

Surviving the Storms of Life

Life is full of figurative storms. Some of the storms we face are financial, some are relational, and some storms regard our health, and so on. We each realize that we have either just weathered a storm, are currently in a storm, or are about to endure a storm. Storms are simply a normal part of our reality. In light of that allow me to make nine observations about the storms of life using the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water found in Matt. 14:22-33.

  1. Storms may come into the lives of Christians even though they are obeying Jesus (v.22). Life happens! God always wants to “give you life to the fullest”, and the enemy always “wants to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). Everything life and the enemy want to use to destroy you, God will use to make you exactly who He wants you to be; the testing of our faith develops perseverance. And “perseverance must finish its work so that we become mature and complete and lack nothing” (James 1:2-4).
  1. Sometimes what starts to be a routine journey can become a real battle (v.24). Have I mentioned that life happens yet?! No matter how perfect our planning process may be, we really have no idea what a day may have in store for us. Sometimes we see the storm coming…sometimes it catches us unaware and unprepared. The good news is that God is never caught off guard. He is already in your tomorrow.
  1. Times of crisis are merely opportunities for God’s intervention (v.27). God specializes in things once thought impossible! Miracles only happen in a place I call Miracle Territory. Peter could walk on the water until he got out of the boat. Get out of the boat of your comfort zone… God’s got everything under control.
  1. Sometimes God calms the storm, other times God chooses to calm the person (v.29-30). Trust Him! He knows you better than you know yourself. Good day or tough day… God always has a plan.
  1. Fear and doubt will cause a Christ-follower to sink into their circumstances (v.30). As true Christ-followers develop spiritually they learn to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Fear and doubt always paralyzes God’s redemptive potential in and through you!
  1. Jesus will respond immediately when a believer calls (v.31). When you can’t see God’s hand working on your behalf, you can always trust His heart. God will never leave you or forsake you. In your darkest moment He is there.
  1. How we respond to life’s lessons showcases our spiritual maturity (v.31). When you squeeze a lemon you get lemon juice because that is what is inside the lemon. We can present ourselves to be sweet on the good days but when we are squeezed by the storms of life what comes out is what is really inside of us.
  1. When the lesson is over, Jesus will calm the storm (v.32). What a truth!!! By the way, the lesson is over when the lesson has been learned.
  1. The level of trust you have in Jesus depends greatly on whether you see his deeds or you know His ways (v.33). God is always faith and true! His grace will always be sufficient and His power will always be immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine! You can trust Him!