Learning to Stop. It sounds easier than it is. It’s just one more cookie. It’s just another minute or two on social media that turns into thirty. Learning to stop takes time and experiences. Time and experience create wisdom, it’s life experiences, yours and what we learn from others and wisdom is God’s navigational tool that helps us to make right decisions and helps us to stop making or repeating wrong choices. Have a major decision in front of you? Here are three processes to help. First, stop! Use wisdom from your experiences or glean wisdom from others who already walked through your situation. Often the best thing we can do is take a time out. Hit the pause button. Sleep on it. Next, ask yourself these questions. “Where will this end up? Is this the story I want to write? Is this God’s story for me?” Finally, visualize the outcome long-term. Visualizing can help us connect the dots from where we are too where we want to be rather than where we are and how did we get here. Taking time to implement these three techniques can help us to stop and start us in a new direction. What is God asking you to abort, abandon, to stop, so you can live to tell a better story and have a better life? Hebrews 12:1says, “Lay aside every weight and sin.” What is the one thing that is really hindering you? Seek God’s help, pray, read your bible and fast and I believe you can begin a stop today.
In the first session of our new Wednesday night series, Divine Direction, we learned that regardless of our past, the future and the number of chapters still to be written, is unknown. Because we have no idea of how many chapters are left to be written, we can choose to start writing a new chapter today. We also discovered that just because we’ve been handed one blueprint does not mean we have to build on it, we can ask God for another blueprint and build something new. Regardless of where we’ve came from, what we’ve walked through or what we’ve experienced, we have the choice to build a different kind of life, family and home. Rahab is a beautiful example. Her early chapters were about being a harlot. Simply by having faith in God and putting a scarlet scarf out her window, she changed her story. She started a new chapter and changed her family’s heritage forever. From a harlot to the bloodline of Jesus! That’s an amazing transformation. Want to start building something new, start a new chapter? Here’s five principles to implement. 1. Pray, ask for God to give you strength and wisdom. 2. Assess, do an honest assessment of who you are and who God wants you to be. 3. Focus, on one single change for this year. 4. Daily, work on that one change and remember it’s a process, not a moment. 5. Start! Simply start doing one new thing today!
Super Bowl 53. 110 Million people will watch. Some watch to see the game, many tune in to see the commercials and a few are there for the halftime show. With such a large audience, companies are willing to hand over $170,000 per second to gain your attention and sell their product. At the end, a team will walk away with the title of champion and their town will celebrate like it is New Year’s Day. The next day people will gather around cubicles and water coolers to talk about their favorite commercial and maybe a great play or controversial call. But the reality is that within a few days the game and the commercials will be history, life will go on until the next “big” event. And so it goes, we live from one event to another. Solomon put it well in Ecclesiastes 1:2 “…vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” If we live for the Big Game, the next event or gadget, then life quickly becomes empty. It really has no purpose. What gives your life purpose is not your social life, education or job, but God. If we live with a God purpose then life has purpose. No longer are we living for the next great thing, we are living to see Him, living for Heaven. A simple question today. Where’s your life focus, your priorities? Is it on the earthly or the eternal? The answer makes all the difference to how you view and live life.
The lines were drawn. We will eat vegetables and drink water and your servants will eat the king’s food. After ten days you observe and see who is in better condition. The ten days passed, the meals ate and as the king observed both groups, it was evident that the four young Hebrew men were stronger. Not only that, but scripture says that God had given them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom. While we cannot comprehend how, we cannot deny the fact that God honored their fast, their commitment and faith in God. In the New Testament, after fasting, the powerful and influential church in Antioch was inspired to send Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey. That period of submission brought about an explosion of the gospel that changed the world. It all started with a church that prayed and fasted. Again, how it works we don’t understand, but that it works we cannot deny. As we step into a new year I am encouraging every person to get involved in Life Fast 2019. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a contract between God and His people. It’s a simple contract. If we will humble ourselves, pray and seek His face and turn from sin then we will hear from Heaven, He will forgive and He will heal. 2019 can be a year of incredible change and blessing. It starts with making a commitment, staying the course and keeping the faith. Want to see something different happen in your life? Then do something different. Get on board, fast, pray and seek God like never before.
The year, and especially the past nine months, had seen more twist, turns, ups and downs than a roller-coaster. It was more than they could have ever imagined. The announcement of their engagement had filled their lives with celebration, travel, gifts and preparation for marriage. Nowhere in their engagement script was a pregnancy. They were virtuous and God-fearing people. Their family had taught them the law with passion and they loved God with all their heart. But a visit of an angel to Mary brought news beyond comprehension. She was stunned and speechless, filled with joy but at the same time feeling the sting of the overwhelming challenges. To be the one chosen to be overshadowed by the Spirit and bring God to earth was the greatest of honor. To explain it to her family and soon to be groom was nearly an impossible task. Joseph’s angelic dream brings some strength and hope to the moment, but still there are doubts. Those doubts would visit often; the thought of divorce would surface in his mind almost daily. Resolve moves into both of their hearts and they decide they will believe in the words from Heaven. That the pregnancy was supernatural and that God was truly growing inside of a teenager from Nazareth. Though they believed, others didn’t. There were endless questions from their parents. Friends strayed and foes judged. There are whispers, innuendo and downright rude gazes. That an angel visited a young couple from Nazareth with a prophetic word, and teenagers at that, was just too much. May we suggest that there was even mockery. There is an incredible moment when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth; her baby leaps with joy inside her womb. There came flashes of hope when Joseph and Mary were alone and realized, it’s God in her womb. The end of the pregnancy brings yet another challenge. Herod has called for a tax, one that required families to return to the home of their birth. So, nine months pregnant, they begin a pilgrimage. It too is filled with challenges. Dangerous travel, poor weather and challenging terrain are all a part of the journey. Mary, days from birthing a child, must keep up with the caravan. For nearly two weeks, through rain, cold and wind they walk. Down mountain paths, across deserts and then a fifteen-mile ascent through rocky cliffs. When it seems as though it can’t get any more overbearing, it does. Bethlehem, a wide gap in the road on the journey to Jerusalem is their destination. They arrive in the small village only to find the family house already filled with relatives. No room in the house, they are relegated to the stable behind the house. Cold, damp, smelly; what place could be lowlier for the birth of any child, much less God in flesh. A stable, a place for animals now houses God. In the midst of all the hardship and difficulty, when no one could see the possibility, Joseph and Mary likely feeling hurt, lost and forgotten have no idea that the world changed. That night would be end of so much and the beginning of so much more. No one knew that in that moment the dateline would change from B.C. to A.D. No one knew that night that the sheep He laid among would never again have to die for the sins of a man. It was just a rough nine months for two obscure teenagers who believed the impossible could happen through them. Who could have imagined? Probably not Joseph and Mary. Whatever this year has held, whether hills and valleys, twist and turns you’ve walked through, know three things. First, the journey can be hard but you will make it. Second, regardless of how it looks in the moment, the impossible may be taking place in the midst of the most difficult situation. Finally, like Joseph and Mary, God has been with you, is with you and will always be with you. Christmas. The celebration of change!
The unexpected. It brings a myriad of emotions from screams to tears. Sometimes people faint while others dance. The unexpected, when the impossibility becomes a reality. One year we surprised our kids with a puppy. It was so far off their radar that when they opened the box they literally froze in shock. They were so stunned that they set in silence for what felt like five minutes. We nearly had to shake them back to reality, but when we did, the pandemonium was unbelievable. Dancing, shouting and screaming all ensued as the reality of the moment sunk in. The story of Christmas is about God doing the stunningly unexpected. An angel shows up in a forgotten little burg to a young teenager, calls her highly favored, and announces she will be the mother of Emmanuel, God with us. Unexpected. Simple and unassuming shepherds sitting on a quiet hillside tending sheep when suddenly there is an explosion of light and sound as the skies are filled with angels singing, Hosanna. Unexpected. I wonder how many people in the tiny town of Bethlehem were asking, “who is this teenage couple,” as lowly shepherds show up to honor Him and Magi come with mountains of gifts. Who could have imagined that God in flesh in the form of a baby had come to their town? Unexpected. Christmas and the gifts under the tree. They fill us with imagination, wonder and maybe the unexpected. They are to remind us of what Jesus did and can still do. The unexpected.
A raindrop, pebble, rock or stone; no matter the object or size, it creates a ripple that the diameter, effect and end, no one knows. The impact of our lives, are much like a ripple. We serve God, share the Gospel, give money and tell our story, yet often leave this life not knowing the impact of our existence. Stephen is an example of such a life. The Bible simply says that Stephen was a man full of faith, full of grace and power and full of the Spirit. His life ends tragically with a stoning by wicked men. Those who witnessed his life likely talked about his potential and all that he could have done if God had spared his life. Yet, that day was just the splashing of a stone. The impact of his life had not ended, but just began. That day a young Saul watched his stoning and a ripple started in his heart. A ripple that would takes years to see its effect, but on a road to Damascus, everything changed. Saul becomes Paul, is converted, and the rest is history. Countless messages preached, missionary journeys, many churches established and twelve epistles written. All a ripple effect from a life that seemed to end so senselessly. When we get to Heaven I imagine Stephen will be shocked by the impact of his life. I have a feeling it will be the same for many today who read this story. Live a life that leaves a ripple.