My Portion

Lamentations 3:22-24 (NASB) The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”

This was my memory passage for this week.  As I recited this over and over, really meditating on the power in this passage, I was hit with a revelation.  God was telling me that I rely on myself far more than I rely on Him.

That, my friends, is a frightening realization.  I, and I’m betting a great many of you, tend to count more on God’s gifts than God Himself.  An person gifted with high intellect will tend to lean on that.  A person of wealth, will count on His money, gifts, blessings from God.  When I struggle, I most often think and act on what I can do rather than first call on God.  Pridefully, I believe that I can handle this and work my way over, around, under or through the obstacle.  Why?  I’m gifted!  In these instances, our strengths, His gifts become extraordinary weaknesses.  Our pride and illusioned self determination and self reliance becomes an immense stumbling block to our discipleship and oneness with Christ.

Often times struggles fall upon us after a time of peace, plenty and closeness with Christ.  When we ask something of God, and He doesn’t provide in the manner we believe He should, subconsciously, if not consciously, we abandon Him.  We push ahead under our “own” power, determining that it is up to us.  Instead, we should be thanking and praising Him in these times.

Faith is not a bargain that we’ve made with God… “give me this, do that for me and I’ll trust You, I’ll follow You.  If you don’t, well I think I’ll do it my way.” 

Our faith MUST be firmly rooted in Him, not His gifts.  Who do you go to first, Him or you?  What to you lean on, the gifts or the Giver?  Have a blessed weekend.

Proverbs 16:19-20 It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly Than to divide the spoil with the proud. 20 He who gives attention to the word will find good, And blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace

Clouded Vision

A few weeks back, I had filled up my old 86 pickup truck with a load for the dump the night before, and planned to head out when they opened at 7 am, so I could still get to work on time.  It was cold that night and the windows had frosted over, yet it was also quite foggy out.  After scraping the windows and heading South of town, the fog began getting thicker, and the defrost on the truck was also not working.  I was peering out a small space at the bottom of the windshield and along the way I commented ‘this is probably not a good idea.’  I could barely see out the windshield and what I could see was not clear.  I nearly missed the sign for the dump turnoff and slid to a gravelly halt, got unloaded and then back on the road.  Pulling out on a 4 lane in the fog was probably the most questionable thing, as I hoped others were not speeding and would see me.  Fortunately the heater started working and I made it the 6 miles home without incident, but was maybe a bit wiser through the experience.  Do you keep pushing forward with things in life, whether or not you can see clearly?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.  Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.  Psalm 13:3

If I kept driving they way I did that day, I would likely be in an accident sooner than later, but fortunately conditions improved.  I am also thankful for the vision that I have to help me see clearly when conditions are not well.  I often wonder how others with limited vision are able to do as well as they do.  My grandfather had only one eye for most of his life and he was still driving a car into his 90’s.  Sometimes we persist despite obstacles before us and continue to push forward.  We even have challenges to our faith and continue to persevere.  Other times we encounter obstacles and decide to ‘play it safe’ and not risk our health or the lives of our family to move ahead in poor conditions.  The key to deciding what to do in any given situation calls for good discernment. 

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.John 3:3

The longer we live, the more we realize that we never know what may happen next in life.  People we know and love may be here one day and gone the next.  Opportunities to have meaningful conversations rarely ‘just happen’ and we eventually lose touch with others.  Many things in life do not always go how we plan or expect, but that may also bring about unexpected blessings as well.  If you were able to ask God anything and get a definite answer, what would it be?  Have you asked?  I believe that God may not give us the ability to perfectly see the road ahead of us, because we would then take all the credit for the trip, ignoring Him again.  But I believe He often gives us glimpses of what lies ahead, even in the world to come.  If you could know when your last day in this life would be, how would it change the way you live now? 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  1 Corinthians 13:12

May you be able to make wise choices even when the road ahead looks clouded or questionable.  Seek the guidance of God and his Holy Spirit in day to day decisions and especially in major life decisions and you will be able to hear more clearly from Him as you do.  Using the guiding principles God gave us in Scripture does not promise us a trouble free life, but in fact, helps us persevere through these difficulties, even beyond the point of death, to the Kingdom ahead.  Take comfort in that as so many have done through centuries before us.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Hebrews 12:1

Seeing Clearly in Christ,
Clark

Have Grits

My wife and I have been working on instilling a core value into our kids. Of all our values, this is the hardest one to explain.  The value is “Have Grit.”  My seven year old daughter heard this was a family values she heard… “have grits”  She tells me that she does not like grits but would like our value to be “have pancakes.”  So my family values according to my seven year old would be…

Follow Jesus
Take Courage
Choose Joy
Have Pancakes

I agree pancakes are good but not quite family value level.  So then I started working on how do you explain grit to a child.  I want my kids to grow up to be adults with grit.  I wrote down ideas of how to explain this.  I came up with “Sereg’s don’t quit” or “We like a challenge”  Then it hit me… “we do hard things and we finish them.”

I have been on a one year Bible reading plan, and God has really highlighted the men and women who had grit.  They were put in impossible situation where normal men and women would crumble or quit.  These heros of our faith are not heros or worthy of writing about without these great challenges.  The fact that it was hard and that they finished strong, causes us to tell our children their stories.  David kills the giant. Benaiah chases the lion. Esther challenges the law. Joseph forgives his brothers. Abram leaves everything he knows. Peter preaches Jesus after the crucifixion of Jesus. 

So then I thought, when did they find the courage to do this really hard thing?  Was it the courage in the moment, they found an internal strength they didn’t know they had?  Was it God’s grace that they obeyed to the point of risking their life?  I do think this was a defining moment and I certainly believe apart from grace they would not have done this… However I believe something more.  I think they decided ahead of time that they would hard things and finish them.  They developed grit before these epic moments.  Why did every person in the Bible face tragedy?  Is it because God is cruel and makes this life hard?  Is it the devil?  Or is it a loving father who knows when the struggle, meets His grace, meets “have grit” that the world will marvel by how great God is and that God’s greatness lives in men. 

In my life, marriage is hard, parenting is hard, ministry is hard, and love is hard.  I decided along time ago that I do hard things and I finish them.  It is the struggle that builds strength.  It is the perseverance that builds character.  It is the epic moment in our stories that reveal our grit.  We all want to be victorious and be known as an overcomer, but do we want to finish hard things.

So what is hard in your life?  How are you responding?  Are you trying get out of the hard thing?  Are you blaming someone for the problem?  Or do you “have grit” and finish hard things?  

Do hard things and finish them… Have Grit

Recklessly, obsessively following Jesus

Brandon Sereg

Getting Rid of Jesus

I had a surreal experience this week. I spent roughly 15 minutes getting rid of Jesus. Yep, you read that write. We recently purchased a truck that had a giant sticker of a crucified Jesus on the back window. While I’m not a sticker guy, and I was not the biggest fan of the looks of this particular sticker, I felt awkward getting rid of Jesus. When a friend told us some of the signals that having such a sticker sent I knew it was time to remove it (some cultural issues related to our Nicaraguan context). So, there I was, spending 15-minutes literally ripping Jesus off my truck. As I did this I had a few thoughts:

  1. Rejecting Jesus is easier then removing a sticker from your car. We reject Jesus so often, and we don’t even give it a second thought. We don’t follow scripture as we should, we don’t always love our neighbor, and we too often follow the world over Christ. Every time we sin we are rejecting the ways of Jesus.
  2. Receiving Jesus is easier then putting a sticker on your car. This was quite a large and intricate sticker, not simply a one-piece bumper sticker. It would have taken some time, effort, planning, and hard-work to put it on correctly. Yet, receiving eternal life in a perfect Heaven is perhaps even easier. I John 1:9 sums up the process perfectly: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. See, all the time, effort, planning, suffering, and “heavy lifting” for our salvation has already been done by Christ. The thing we most need, eternal life, we don’t have to earn, but are given as a gift because of Jesus’ love and grace. Its so amazing to me that something so great and eternal has been given to us at such a huge cost to Jesus.
  3. You can never truly get rid of Jesus. This is the best news! Regardless of our sinfulness Jesus can never be fully removed from our lives.                         I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:35-37                                                When we fall He is there to catch us. When we struggle He is there to support us. When we are lost He is there to guide us. Most importantly, He has already permanently paid the price for our sin. Sin and death have been conquered on the Cross for all those who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Searching for Hope

Matthew 2:1New International Version (NIV)

The Magi Visit the Messiah

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod,Magi from the east came to Jerusalem

Advent Season of Christmas has come once again. It is a time of reflection of how the Christ Child was born as a baby. We celebrate the season with anticipation of Christmas Day with family and friends.

I also think the holiday season brings a time that we look for hope. Where is the hope? The Wise Men were looking for the same thing. They had hopes in traveling from miles away to look upon the One Who was born King of the Jews.

The Wise Men hoped to find Jesus. Real hope is a reality and not a feeling. Biblical hope carries no doubt. It is a sure foundation upon which we base our lives, and in which we believe that God always keeps his promises.

One of my favorite verses on hope is found in Hebrews 11:1, ‘Now, faith is confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we do not see.’

I believe that is what the Wise Men held onto as they hoped to see Jesus as the traveled for miles as the followed the star in their hope.

What are you hoping for this Advent Season? What are you believing that God has promised you? For my hope lies in the promises that my children will know Jesus in a real and personal way, and that Jesus is their hope for the future, and that Jesus has a plan for each one of them.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

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