Success through failure

In the movie “Chocolat,” set in a traditional catholic French village in which everything and everybody is under the mayor’s control, a lady “Chocolatier” arrives in town.  She opens a chocolate shop but the Mayor sets up a crusade against the evils of chocolate.  He tells the priest she is the enemy and instructs him to preach against her.  He was fighting to control his repressed but “perfect” town, but many of the town’s people actually find the chocolatier a friendly confident.   Finally one day the Mayor in desperation to rid his town of the evil decides he will break into the shop and destroy the chocolate. In his mad flurry of destruction, he accidentally tastes a small piece of chocolate. As soon as he tastes it, he falls into eating as much chocolate as he could. In the morning he was caught, embarrassed, humbled and changed!   The mayor was over his denial and self-righteous efforts to control and now free to explore a new exciting life.

The turning point was the Mayors fall into temptation, where it seems that his failure became his salvation.  How often has the failure of someone worked a work of grace in a person’s life to such a degree, that their usefulness to man and God is taken to levels which could never have been possible before the fall.

God plans for the failure of our self-efforts as much as He plans for our success in Christ. God put Adam into the Garden knowing he would fail. Sometimes more is accomplished by our failure than our victory. Pride and self-confidence can be dealt with by God and failures often open a person up to the possibility of help from others. Failure worked in Peter life after his three denials, to rid him of his self-confidence and thrust him upon the Lord.

Friend, we all hate to fail, but our failures can give us a better perspective of our weakness and our dependence upon Him and that’s the greatest lesson.

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 The Finger of God

As the Pharisees waited for Jesus’ answer of judgment on the adulterous women, Jesus stooped over and wrote with his finger on the ground.

This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground”( John 8:6-8). 

He did so to separate the sinner from those that would condemn her and to deliver the sinner into freedom. He stilled the voice of her accuser and provided mercy that had the power to change her.

The Pharisees brought the women to the right person but for the wrong reason. They brought her to Jesus for judgement for sin, instead of help for her sins. There is nothing wrong with the law in its ability to condemn us but it can’t help us live up to its standard.  The law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.  The purpose of the law was not meant to bring death to people but death to sin.  The purpose of the law is life and righteousness.  In His life, Jesus fulfilled the law not destroyed it and through His love, forgiveness and empowering grace, Jesus can fulfil the law in us.

The only one without sin, cast no stones but instead said: “Go and sin no more.”  Grace doesn’t free us to continue sinning but it tells us what type of life, is now possible.  Grace releases empowering gratitude and life-changing self-worth and value.

Friend, the best thing that happened to the woman and to us, was that we are caught by the law and brought to Jesus and His powerful grace.

I want to know what love is

Years ago there was a haunting song that became quite popular, “I want to know what love is … I want to you show me..”  That is the cry of every man and women, and even every Christian.   Even people that know the Lord, can still be desperate to feel love.  Bono from the band U2 sung “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” yet he was a believer.   There are many believers who know the Lord but have a problem with the church.  Many times it is because they never found what they were looking for in the church, among Gods people.   Deep down in their heart, they know the body is meant to far more than it is.  Everyone is looking for Love; children receive it from their parents. Believers come to church expecting to find it not just from God, but from His people too.  We are built together by the joints or the bonds between us. Bonding is something that happens in families and it is a powerful bond that usually lasts for a lifetime. If a child is able to attach to others and begin to trust others like parents, they develop normally. Every emotional problem from addiction to depression has alienation or isolation as its root.   Not even church-going will fix it.  If all you get is religious exercises and not life, you don’t get better.   Life comes from relationship to God and with God and life-giving relationships with people.

What is not found in natural families is meant to be experienced in our new family the church.  The bible calls it, the bond of perfection.  (Col 3.14)  It is a special kind of love; its Gods love found in and among Gods family.

Friend, no alcoholic recovers on his own and if you allow your heart to be cut off from people and from relationships where there is real love, it will develop a hunger for a deceitful lust or desire in your life. Maybe for substances, sex, food or other addictions.  The empty-ness must be filled and it is designed to be filled with a relationship with God and others who are filled with God.

Just Great

“The whole extent of hell, the present suffering, the bitter recollection of the past, the hopeless prospect of the future, will never be thoroughly known except by those who go there.”- J. C. Ryle

Because we have never visited hell we don’t know how great a death we have been saved from.  But Paul said “Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” ( 2 Corinthians 1:10) To deliver us from such great death, God provided a great, chain snapping, bondage breaking, and sin cleansing salvation.  The Bible calls it a great salvation. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (Hebrews 2:3)

In this great salvation, Jesus has saved us, delivered us from death and hell but that’s not all. We are saved from the devil, from shame, hopelessness, and fear.  Yes!  We are saved from sins power, from the flesh, from bitterness and hatred but greater than the things He saved us from, are the things He saved us for.

He saved us for a new life – He saved us for peace and for purpose. He saved us for heaven for His family and for the kingdom of God. He saved us for divine power and for works of ministry but mostly He saved us for Himself.  Jesus purchased us at a great price we are worth so much to God. He paid the same price for you as he paid for Billy Graham and the Queen. He died to save Englishman and Indians.  He saved tinkers, tailors, soldiers, and sailors; rich men, poor men, beggar men, and thieves.  It is a great salvation! When Jewish Peter was on a roof wondering if God could love gentiles like us, he saw a sheet came down from heaven holding unclean animals. It was not a handkerchief and it was not a size that could fit inside his lounge. No, it spread out over the earth.  “He saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. (Act 10:11)  Every unclean thing was inside this great sheet. God said, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” Act 10:11) 

Friend, He has cleansed you. You are not common or unclean. God gave Peter a great picture to say that no person is too unclean nor is their sin so great, that God cannot save them by His great Grace.

 

God of the Valleys

Many years ago I was in Nepal, when I heard the news that my wife had almost died from a hemorrhage, due to an ectopic pregnancy. It was hard for me being overseas and even harder for my wife. As leaders, we’d like to think that God would keep us from the valleys of trouble and pain, but one thing God wants to do is to teach us that he is God of the mountain and the valleys.
He does not lead us there but he doesn’t keep us from the valleys either. He may not lead us there but he will be there with you. If you like – God doesn’t prevent every trouble – He doesn’t step in and stop every challenge and difficult time coming our way, but He will help us out of the troubles or through those troubles. The Bible says “Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers us from them all”
What God wants to do, is to be part of your life; to be in your life. He wants to be the wind beneath your wings and to have involvement in your challenges and simply keeping you from every trial and trouble would inevitably keep Him locked outside your life.
God does not always control circumstances on the front end but he always gets involved and delivers on the back end. This is how we grow. As His children we don’t just go through trouble; a believer always grows through troubles. David was convinced that God never left him nor forsook him. That conviction changes everything
Friend, heaven is no place to grow kids. There has to be some resistance; some things to overcome some trouble to bear in order to grow up strong and capable. A strong faith cannot be achieved by weak or small challenges

Honor your self

David was small compared to Goliath but not to other men. The idea that David was some kind of small, puny guy is not true. David was a shepherd, he was a tough man, and he was a man’s man. He killed a lion and a bear with his bare hands!  Saul was a head & shoulders taller than anyone else in the land and Saul must have sized David up before he offered David his armor.  So it is likely that David was a big and strong man like his bother Eliab “So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off  (1Sam 17:38-39) 

David couldn’t use the armor, not because it didn’t fit but because he hadn’t tested it.  Because he wasn’t used to it – it wasn’t his tools.  David was anointed to be king, but it wasn’t his time, his calling was still a shepherd. So he goes down to the stream picks us five smooth stones and puts them in his shepherd’s bag. When Goliath who was over nine feet tall, looks down at David, he doesn’t see a small man he sees a shepherd. David still has his staff, and his shepherd’s bag, containing the sling, and the five rocks.   He wasn’t trying to be a soldier; he had no proof of any other calling.  The Bible says, “and Goliath was enraged, and he said am: I a dog that you are coming at me with a stick (which is a staff)?” Goliath dishonored David’s calling but God honored it. David knew that God will prosper you in your calling.  One of the most destructive things we can do is always wish we were somebody else. To be the best Bob that Ted can be.

Friends, honor the strengths and callings of other people and live within your own.  Go through a process to find your talents and calling.  Work out what God has gifted you to be and live in the centre of that.  That is your sweet spot. Don’t live your whole life and never become who you are meant to be.

 

 

 

Emmanuel

The prophet said He shall be called Emmanuel (God with us) but the angel told Mary to call His name Jesus.  (God our Savior) These are effectively the same. God saves us by being with us.  Within us and with us, He is our righteousness, our Life, and our mighty Helper.   When Jesus left the planet He said “Go and lo, I will be with you always, until the end of the age. Or I will always be Emmanuel as you go.

Jesus was born to be with us and continues to be with us as we execute His mission. When the apostles cried out to God for help, God shook the place where they were praying. God answered with His power not just because they asked but because they were going to continue the mission; they went out and kept preaching.

He has a fresh anointing for you on His mission. You don’t need a fresh anointing to heal the sick, till you actually start to pray for those who are ill. You don’t need a fresh anointing to prophesy until you stand up to prophesy. You don’t need a fresh anointing to witness till you begin to do it and only when you actually stand up to face the enemy or confront your stronghold, is the Holy Spirits powerfully released through you.

When you have received the fresh anointing it will change the way you live because Gods anointing enables the changes you have decided to make. The evidence of the anointing is not running, falling or shouting but being able to live in righteousness peace and joy. To live in righteousness rather than compromise; to live in peace in the midst of trouble and joy when required to live alongside difficult people.  Now that He is with us, we are changed and He changes the way we can live.

Friend, Jesus the Savior came to be with us. The presence of His Spirit means all of Heaven is with you in the battle. The anointing doesn’t mean there will be no enemies; it means that God can defeat your enemies.  It doesn’t mean there will be no troubles but it does mean that you can live for a purpose and a mission bigger than your troubles.   “Go and Lo I will be with you …”

Convictions

A man without convictions is as weak as a door on one hinge.  In a postmodern world where everything is “true ” or at least acceptable, convictions are becoming rarer.  But convictions give us a right perspective on life. Strangely people have strong convictions about unimportant things like football and politics, but no convictions about the important things like the killing of unborn people or other plainly ethical issues of right and wrong.

The people who make the greatest impact upon the world were and are those with convictions. There’s was Paul, Jesus, Gandhi, Luther, Hitler and MauSetung.  When Jesus said “I must …..”  it was evidence of a conviction.  People can hold wrong or even evil convictions.  Therefore convictions like conscience, need to be informed by a reliable guide.

The biblical definition of faith is an unshakable conviction that a thing is so.  So a person of true faith has convictions.

Without a conviction about spiritual growth, people that live through trials of faith could give up.  No one stays on a task unless they are convinced it is important.  Convictions enable us to endure suffering for Christ and to reject sin and soft choices.

Having convictions or true biblical faith helps us resist temptations.  We see the long-term consequences of sin are greater that any short-term pleasure it provides.  We have a conviction that we are in the world to make it more like heaven not to increase the culture and reach of hell.  We can see the long-term blessings of obedience are greater than any short term suffering we may experience as we obey now. These convictions come from understanding that all things work together for good to those who love God.

Friends, when we don’t have our own convictions we are at the mercy of everyone else’s convictions.  Your boyfriend who believes you belong to him or your boss who has a conviction that he has first claim on your life 24 hours a day!  If our convictions don’t determine how to live others will determine it for us.  Can you list 10 things about which you have a solid conviction?

Money Talks

You’ve heard that money talks; well it does!  Even more, money tells the truth. It tells the truth about what we love. Our money talks louder than our mouth. Jesus said, “where your treasure is your heart will be also.”   Because this is true, we put our money where our heart is not where our mouth is.

We husbands can say “I love you sweetheart” but never give our wives any money for shoes or things that delight them.  Or were a bit tight about her spending $90.00 on a dress but we have to have a $400 fishing rod or some other necessary equipment.   In fact, it’s funny when you walk down the street where we live, you can tell which the husband’s car is and which the wife’s car is.  The husband has the V8 commodore and the wife is the $3000 Toyota.  Money tells it like it is.

One day Mary came to Jesus and declared her love without words; her money spoke. Her money told the truth.  She came that day with a jar of spikenard to pour over his feet, worth $100,000 in today’s money. This was her lively hood. If she was previously a “lady of the night,” this would represent her life savings. She needed this for her future years as she would never be married. She gave it totally to Jesus. Her heart and her gifts said “You’re my greatest love. More than any wealthy man, who kept me, brought me or delighted in me. You are now more than everything in the world. You are now my future; all of my hopes are in you.” She told the truth of her love, out of her heart and her gift filled the house with the fragrance of that worship.

Friend, we have many opportunities to give to Jesus and if the truth is being told when we do, it will fill His house with that fragrance.

It’s working great

Wherever we face trouble or a great problem God steps in and meets that with His great power.   The disciples found a great stone lay over the grave, but God sent a great earthquake to shift it. The result was the disciples had great joy in their hearts!

“and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a great stone against the door of the tomb, and departed” “And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it”  “So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word (Mat 27:60, 28:8). 

God brings us through situations that seem closed and blocked by great stones; they seem impossible difficult or burdensome but when Jesus rises up and the stone is moved by His great power we see that Jesus is not dead and we experience great joy.

Once When Jesus was in a boat there is a great storm but after they woke Him up, He rebukes the wind and there was a great calm.  “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat so that it was already filling. Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm and they feared greatly and said to one another what manner of man is this that even the sea and the wind obey him ( Mark 4:37-41).

What is placed into heart of the disciples?  Great fear or great awe of God.

Friend, God means the great storms in our life, to eventually become a great calm, not so we carry on to the other side unchanged unaffected, but that’s something of God’s greatness is deposited in our heart and spirit’s.