Monday, January 24, 2011

Assurance For The New Year

“You laid earth’s foundations a long time ago, and handcrafted the very heavens; You’ll still be around when they’re gone, threadbare and discarded like an old suit of clothes. You’ll throw them away like a worn-out coat, but YEAR AFTER YEAR YOU’RE AS GOOD AS NEW.” (The Message – Psalms 102:26-27)

I saw one of those magnetic notes stuck to the side of a refrigerator in a kitchen that sticks out at me like a sore thumb. It reads like this. “I will not make the same of mistakes this coming year. I will make some new ones.”

New year. New mistakes. That’s life in the fast lane. The person who launches into the new year assuming that they will not make any mistakes during the next 365 days has already made one. They will. That’s about as positive as I know how to be.

No one is going to bat 1000. In baseball, not failing 3 out of 10 times in going to bat is a good average. GMP Institute of Cincinnati suggests this philosophy for helping companies deal with employee or employer mistakes, and it can be good advice for all of us as we enter a new year.

  • All people make mistakes. Expect mistakes.
  • People don’t intend to make mistakes.
  • People don’t like to make mistakes.
  • People want to “make up” for mistakes made.
  • People want to learn from their mistakes.
  • People are hurt more by self-regarding feelings than criticism from other when they make mistakes.
  • People improve performance after working out corrections of mistakes.

Get over it! Making ordinary mistakes is not committing hara-kiri. The writer of the Book of Hebrews records it like this in Hebrews 6:1. “Let us go on unto perfection…” If we must “go on”, that means we are not there yet, but we are on the way. Again Paul speaks of perfection like this in Philippians 3:12.”Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect…”

This may shock a lot of people, but let me remind you---you are not perfect yet. You don’t see angel wings bulging to break out underneath my shirt or a halo wobbling around just above my head. I am human enough to make mistakes and spiritual enough to run to the Father for forgiveness when I make them.

This is the assurance I have for the New Year: GOD IS AS GOOD AS NEW! I have not worn Him out with all my faults and failures nor is He repulsed by my humanity. The words of the Psalmist are so encouraging to those of us who mess up even when we don’t really mean to. He said, “SURELY goodness and mercy shall FOLLOW ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE.” (Psalms 23:6) That’s the good news for the coming year. He will be there to clean up my messes, resolve my confusion, restore my confidence and reassure me of His endless love.

I urge you to press forward into the New Year remembering that your God is as good as new and that it is His desire to do new things in your life.

  • God’s patience is not exhausted.
  • I Peter 3:20 – the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah…
  • II Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning his promise….but is longsuffering…

  • God’s pardon is not short in supply.
  • Nehemiah 9:17 – God is ready to pardon…
  • Isaiah 55:7 – He will abundantly pardon…
  • God’s provisions have not been canceled.
  • Philippians 4:19 – But my God shall supply all of your needs…
  • Matthew 6:32 – But seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
  • God’s potential has not been reached.
  • Ephesians 3:20 – (He) is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think…
  • Job 42:2 – I know that you can do everything…
  • God’s preeminence has not been equaled or surpassed.
  • John 3:31 – He that cometh from above is above all…
  • Romans 14:9 – For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.
  • Ephesians 1:22 And has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church.
  • God’s promises are still in place.
  • Matthew 5:18 – For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law till it be fulfilled.
  • I Kings 8:56 – There hath not failed one word of all his good promises…

The year before us is filled with uncertainties, but our God is just as good as new. He is the ever present I AM, present tense God. He has been impervious to the passing of days, years and millenniums. He is the same. Wars can not cause Him to waste away to nothing. Economic busts can not erode the abundance of His supply.

Empires rise and fall. Seasons come and go, but He is the same. As we enter this new year, enter it with full assurance that God is as good as new.

Growing Together,

Pastor Jimmy & Bob

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

When Things Go From Bad to Worse

The terminally ill lady in Mark 5:25-28 had to discover that the first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.

She was broke. She was betrayed. She was literally bleeding to death and befuddled by countless failures.

The text tells us that the harder she tried the worse off she became and no relief or turnaround was in sight. It was not until she hit bottom that she begin to look up. Several things added to her grief.

· This was not a 3 day virus or even the 7 year itch. This had been going on without interruption for 12 years. She was not only worried sick, but weary to the bone. Being sick that long will not only cost you an arm and a leg, but deplete you of energy to keep fighting and trying.

· Her nest egg of savings and assets had dwindled down to little if any at all. Her future was dismal with few dollars to brighten her hopes. You have heard of going from rags to riches….well her predicament was the opposite. She went from riches to rags. That is indeed going from bad to worse.

· If she were living today, she would probably be placed under Hospice care to comfort her in her last days.

Things were so bad that she would have agreed with Henry Kessinger who once told his staff, “There can not be a crisis next week. My schedule is full.”

Job’s schedule was full of crisis also. He lamented, “Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.”(Job 14:1)

The problem is not what will trouble do to me, but what will I do to trouble? Ralph Waldo Emerson put troubles and difficulties in proper perspective when he declared, “Difficulties exist to be surmounted.”

You can’t run fast enough to get away from trouble, but you can stand and fight to overcome it. I am inspired by what Ann Landers had to say about those times when things go from bad to worse. She wrote, “If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity it would be this: expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in eye and say, I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.”

That’s the spirit. That’s the courage. That’s the motivation that the woman in our text had, but look at it as progression in each step that she took that led to turning her life completely around….and being made whole.

Step one: she reached a point of desperation in the life she was enduring.

(Mark 5:26 – “(she) had spent all that she had, and was nothing better, but rather grew worse…”)

Before she could go from bad to better, she had to become consumed with desperation to have the better things in life. William S. Burroughs made the following statement. “Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.”

Wanting out of a bad situation is the mother of the invention for finding ways to get out. Her problems did not cause her to go to pieces. They actually drove her to her senses and in desperation she found a way out.

Step 2: she was fueled by inspiration.

(Mark 5:27 – “When she heard of Jesus…”)

Desperation led her to inspiration. That is step number 2. She got fired up about a possibility that she may or may not have ever heard about before. She heard of Jesus. I don’t know what she heard. Did she hear that he was born of a virgin? Did she hear that he turned water into wine? Did she hear that he raised the dead, open blinded eyes and gave hearing to the deaf? Did she hear that he befriended sinners?

Did she hear that nothing is impossible to him? Did she hear that he is the Fountain of life that never runs dry? Did she hear that he is hope for the hurting, deliverer for those in despair?

Did she hear that nature forms us, sin deforms us, school informs us but only Christ transforms us?

I don’t know what she heard, but what ever she heard about Christ inspired her to try again, take a plunge of faith and fan the fire that was ignited in her soul. La Fontaine summarized what happens in such a moment in these immortal words. “Man is so made that whenever anything fires his soul, impossibilities disappear.”

Impossibilities melt in the fire of the inspiration of a God who can do all things and knows no limits.

Step 3: she then moved from desperation to inspiration to determination.

(Mark 5:27 – “(she) came in the press behind, and touched his garment.”)

You get enough desperation fired by inspiration and nothing can stop you. Goethe was even more positive. He said, “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.” It consists of fortitude that will fight to the finish, focus that will not fade and faith that never frets.

She had it. General George Patton, Jr. challenged his troops to “overcome the tug of people against you as you reach for high goals.” The Bible says that the hemorrhaging woman in our Scripture reading came in the mob of people who were swarming around Christ. She could have given up and gone home, but she didn’t. She pushed and shoved until she got to the miracle worker. Determination like that wins.

Step 4: She had instant realization and gratification.

(Mark 5:29 – “And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed…”)

What a mighty God we serve. He was able to fix a12 years of nagging problems in the snap of your finger. She just touched Christ by faith, and He did the rest.

There is an old chorus that is so meaningful to me now that goes like this. Sing it with me and I will believe with you that things will get better not worse.

“Reach out and touch the Lord has He goes by,

you will find He’s not to busy to hear your cry,

He’s passing by this moment your needs to supply.

Reach out and touch the Lord as He goes by.”

Touching Him,

Pastor Jimmy & Bob