SIMPLE FAITH

You must be born again.  John 3:7TLB

When Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again,” Nicodemus didn’t get it: “Can a man … enter into his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” (Jn 3:4 NKJV). Sometimes bright people can be their own worst enemy. They think, Unless I can explain it I can’t accept it.” Jesus told Nicodemus, “Look at the wind. You can’t see it or control it. So is everyone who is reborn through God’s Spirit” (See In 3:8). In other words, “You didn’t have anything to do with your first

birth, so you’ve nothing to do with your second one. God prepared your heart by sending the right people, the right circumstances, and the right word at just the right time to show you your need of Him.”

In the belly of the fish Jonah prayed: “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jnh 2:9). Jonah realized, “If I’m to get out of this mess it’ll have to be God’s doing. I can’t work my way out or reason my way out.” So he prayed: “Out of the belly of hell cried I” (Jnh 2:2). Sometimes we have to go to hell and back before we’re willing to do it God’s way. “Without faith [trust without analysis or reconditions] it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6 NIV). The things of God cannot be explained, only revealed. Anything less would be unfair for then the sharp folks would get it and the slow ones wouldn’t. Jesus said unless we become as little children we won’t even be aware of His kingdom. Our biggest struggles come from wanting a reason for everything. All God asks is that we trust Him. When we do, life works the way it’s supposed to.



SAVED TO SERVE

When it comes to finding and fulfilling your role in God’s kingdom, notice 3 things: (1) Every believer has a ministry. Less than 10 percent of Christians are involved in any form of service. They go to church “for what they can get out of it.” Service in Christ’s body isn’t optional. In God’s army there are no volunteers-He’s drafted us all into service. (2) Every

ministry is important. There are no insignificant ministries. Listen: “God has arranged the parts in the body, everyone of

them, just as he wanted them to be … The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘1 don’t need you!'” (lCo 12:18-21 NIV). (3) We are dependent on each other. No single ministry can accomplish all we’ve been called to do. Like a jigsaw puzzle, each piece is required to complete the picture. You always notice the missing piece first, right? When one part of your body malfunctions, the other parts don’t work as well. Our preoccupation with individualism must be replaced with the biblical truth that we need each other, that we’ve been called to work together. That doesn’t mean you should try to be like somebody else; what God made you to be, determines what He intends for you to do. Your ministry is determined by your make up. When your gifts don’t match the role you play, you feel like a square peg in a round hole. Not only does this produce poor results, it’s also a waste of your talents, time and energy. So find your place, then make up your mind to excel in it.



KODAK CHRISTIANS

You will receive power … and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8 NIV

It’s possible to be so committed to preserving what’s good from the past and enjoying what’s good in the present-that we’re blind to, or resistant to what God has for us next. Jerusalem was an exciting place to be: “All the believers met together constantly and shared everything with each other, selling their possessions and dividing with those in need. They worshiped together regularly … met in small groups in homes for Communion, and shared their meals with great joy … The whole city was favorable to them” (Ac 2:44-47 TLB). Now there’s just one problem: nobody wants to leave Jerusalem and carry the message to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Life’s too good. So how does God get us out of our comfort zone to fulfill His purposes? Clearly, just telling us won’t do it. The answer is persecution! And it’s an idea we don’t like because we tend to be Kodak Christians. Remember the famous Kodak Camera ad? “Freeze the moment!” Here’s how God deals with Kodak Christians: “There was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria … Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (See Ac 8:1&4). Here’s a thought: God could be permitting the tough time you’re going through to: (a) dig you out of your rut; (b) get you out of neutral and moving toward what He has for you next. Bottom line: staying in Jerusalem too long is bad for you.



BECOME A BETTER LISTENER

Be quick to listen, slow to speak. James 1:19 NIV

Want to become a good leader? Become a good listener! Here are two stories of what happens when we don’t

take time to listen. The first is from a young woman hurt by a manager who constantly cut her off: “We expected he would wait and give us answers to serious questions about our work. Many times he walked off when we were in mid-sentence, having heard nothing.” The next is from a church youth director who was fired: “After serving the Lord there for two years, I was called into an elders’ meeting. They took out a list of all the things I’d done wrong in the past two years. Most of what they said. was true, for I was brand new in. this work. Then they called for my resignation. What did I learn? (a) Not once did anyone care enough to coach or shepherd me. (b) I’d no idea or warning that I was doing anything wrong. (c) The church leaders never built a relationship with their staff,”

Why is it so hard for leaders to listen? Because leaders love to talk, and as they gain more authority they think they have

less reason to listen. Leaders by their very nature tend to be removed from the frontlines of battle. To win, they must constantly listen to those who are in the trenches and rely on that information to make wise decisions. Before Ezekiel was qualified to prophesy or lead God’s people, he wrote: “I sat among them for seven days-overwhelmed. At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me” (Ez 3:15-16 NIV).



IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

 The eye of the storm is the most peaceful place on earth. While wind and rain wreak havoc all around, pilots who fly storm-tracker planes say that all is perfectly still in that special place. In Psalm 91, David speaks about. .. terror. .. plagues … ten thousand falling at your right hand “but it will not come near you.” Why? Listen: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver [me]” (Ps 91:1-3).

There are two ways to go through a storm: in panic or in peace. When a storm suddenly threatened their boat the

disciples cried, “Carest thou not that we perish?” (Mk 4:38). And where was Jesus? Sleeping peacefully in the back of the boat. That’s because He understood: (a) to get to where God wants to take you, you must go through certain storms. It’s not optional; (b) when you’re in the center of God’s will the storm can’t take you under; it’s in the storm, not the calm that you discover this; (c) when it’s over you come out knowing God better and more equipped to help others! “So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the rock of ages]” (Isa 26:4 AMP). That’s what it means to live in the eye of the storm!



INVEST IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

Love the Lord … Love your neighbor. Matthew 22:37-39 NIV

Think back to your best moments: your highest highs, your greatest victories, your most daunting obstacles overcome. How many happened to you alone? Very few, right? When you understand that being connected to others is one of life’s greatest joys, you realize that life’s best comes when we invest in solid relationships. Of the people you know, who seems to enjoy life more-the negative, suspicious and antisocial? Hardly! The Scrooges of life don’t enjoy much of anything. Jesus summed life up like this: “Love the Lord … with all your heart. .. Love your neighbor as yourself’ (See

Mt 22:37-39 NIV). On the other hand, people who love God and love people, live joyfully. If you love God and people

you’ll find friends wherever you go. And you’ll get further in life too! John Luther says, “Natural talent, intelligence, a wonderful education-none of these guarantees success. Something else is needed: the sensitivity to understand what other people want, and a willingness to give it to them. You don’t win fame, recognition or advancement just because you think you deserve it. Someone else has to think so too.”

There’s no substitute for a loving attitude when it comes to getting ahead. People who alienate others have a hard time.

Here’s why: (a) When others don’t like you they’ll try to hurt you. (b) If they can’t hurt you they won’t help you. (c) If they’re forced to help you, they’ll hope you don’t succeed. (d) When they hope you don’t succeed, life’s victories are empty. So if you want more out of life, start investing in solid relationships!



WHEN THE WALL GIVES WAY

Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness. Jeremiah 22:13

You can only hide your lack of integrity for so long. Eventually you’ll experience failure, and whatever influence you’ve temporarily gained will be swept away. Hurricane Katrina taught us that. When the storm came the levee walls in New

Orleans broke and the city went under. You see, integrity is like a wall–erected one brick at a time. That’s why it’s crucial to take care of the little things. A lot of us don’t understand that. We think we can do whatever we want when it comes to small things; we believe so long as we don’t have any major lapses we’re doing well. But that’s not the way it works. Webster’s New International Unabridged Dictionary describes integrity as adherence to moral and ethical principles, soundness of character, honesty. Ethical principles are not flexible. A little white lie is still a lie. Theft is still theft, whether it’s one dollar or one million. The truth is, if you can’t be trusted at all points you probably can’t be trusted at any point. Each time you break a moral principle you create a crack in the wall of your character, and when times get tough it becomes harder to act with integrity- not easier. You see, character isn’t created in a crisis; it just comes to light. Everything you’ve done in the past, including the things you’ve neglected to do, come to a head when you’re under pressure. One Christian leader writes, “Integrity commits itself to character over personal gain, people over things, service over power, discipline over impulse, commitment over convenience, and the long view over the immediate.”



DEALING WITH OUR GUILT

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out. Acts 3:19 NIV

Whether by thought, word or deed, we all sin more than we care to admit. And there are 3 ways of dealing with it:

(1) Blow it off. Don’t think about it; don’t ask what damage lies back there; don’t ask if there is mopping up to do. Bury yesterday in a flood of distracting experiences. Just keep on running. Perhaps the past won’t have time to catch up with us.

(2) Accept the burden and get used to it. This means living with an increasing weight of guilt, recognizing that life will get slower and slower as the burden gets greater and greater. That’s a recipe for depression.

3) Deal with it. A lot of us spend our lives apologizing and feeling bad about our habits and hang-ups-but we never do anything about them! Repentance literally means “a change of direction.” Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son who squandered half of his father’s wealth before making a total mess of his life. When he reached a point at which the pigs he tended were eating better than he was, he finally acknowledged that he was lost: “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here r am starving to death! I will … go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you'” (Lk 15:17-18 NIV). The moment he uttered those words his father opened his heart and his arms and welcomed him back home. And God will do that for you too, if you’ll just repent.



LEARN TO PACE YOURSELF!

The vision is yet for an appointed time … Though it tarry, wait for it … it will surely come. Habakkuk 2:3

 We’re multi-tasking today to the point of never focusing clearly on anyone thing. If you don’t take time to see the big picture, you’ll get lost in the details. Ask yourself, “What is it that only I can do?” Then give yourself to that, and delegate

the rest or drop it! Multi-tasking is good, but you must learn to focus without distraction on your God-ordained priorities. When we’re anxious about our goals we’re not being fueled by them-we’re being stressed by them! You can be a great visionary, yet be out of balance and end up neglecting what’s important. You can only pick what’s ripe. Don’t let what God’s given you spoil on the vine while you chase what tomorrow may bring. Start to manage your time better. In order to be ready for the future you must learn to pace yourself so you’re able to reap the harvest God has promised you. Failure to do this will cause you to ruin great opportunities because you underestimated what it would take to get you to your destination.

Don’t overlook the basics like food, sleep, exercise and time with God. Some of us take better care of our dogs and cats

than we do of ourselves. Too often we view sleep and exercise as luxuries and not necessities. Yes, there’s a time to work late or pull an all-nighter, but this must not be a lifestyle. If you want to reach your destiny you must plan accordingly and learn to pace yourself.



CALLED TO A HIGHER STANDARD

From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48 NIV

Christians can be some of the most sour and selective people on earth. Many times we feel obligated to show our

faith by criticizing people with whom we work rather than loving them and seeking a chance to say something encour-

aging. We ruin our testimony because others know that while we talk about Christ, we don’t act Christ-like. Often our testimony suffers because of our poor work ethic, long breaks, reading the Bible on company time, talking on the phone for hours with our friends, etc. But the worst thing is, we alienate ourselves as an elite group and leave others feeling “less than.” Not Jesus! He rubbed elbows with everybody. He was adept at reaching out to those society looked down upon-the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the lepers. We like to put people into two boxes: the ones we like and the ones we don’t. Jesus said, “From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Hey, you’ve been called to a higher standard; one that requires exercising wisdom, humility, and grace in the midst of tension. When King Saul threw javelins at David, he ducked and kept on serving. While he was innocent of any wrongdoing, David handled the situation without becoming “defensive.” If your fellow workers don’t go to church the only chance they have of seeing the fruits of the Spirit in operation, is in your life. By responding with patience, love and professionalism you’ll make a lasting impact on them–one that could attract them to the Christ you claim to serve.




 

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