Frustration is Coming!

Frustration! It’s defined as the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something. Man, do I get that feeling – often! Too often.

We all get frustrated. If you aren’t frustrated today you will be another day. Frustration is Coming!

So how are Christians supposed to handle feelings of frustration?

I don’t know all the answers but here are some things, in no particular order, that you might want to work through.

A. Ask yourself if your feelings are legitimate. It might be that you are upset or annoyed over something that you shouldn’t be. Your feelings of frustration may have more to do with you than with whatever is stopping you. Feelings are tricky things.

Read Jeremiah 17:9.

B. Ask yourself if this is what you should be doing. It may be that God doesn’t want you to change whatever you’re trying to change. Or achieve whatever it is that you are trying to achieve. This will involve prayer – perhaps a lot of prayer to determine if God is stopping your efforts.

Read Psalm 73:24.

C. Ask yourself if whatever is frustrating you is in line with the Word of God. This relates to #2 but is slightly different. Too many times Christians want to do things that are not in agreement with God’s Word and they are frustrated when God stops them. He’s doing it for your own good.

Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

D. Ask yourself if this is something that you need to put on hold and come back to at a later time. Today may not be the right time. Tomorrow (figuratively) may be the right time. You might not be ready yet, whereas with more spiritual growth you might be.

Read 2 Peter 3:1-8.

E. Ask yourself if you have included God in your plans. Many times in life we strike out on our own to achieve something without consulting God. Have you searched the Bible to make sure your plans are not contradictory to what the Scriptures teach? Have you spent time in prayer asking God to direct your steps?

Read James 4:13-17.

F. Ask yourself if you are Trusting God or if you are Trusting yourself (or someone else, or your plans). The book of Proverbs makes it clear that we are to walk in trust and when we do, God will guide us.

Read Proverbs 3:5-6

G. Ask yourself if it’s really that important. Sometimes we are frustrated over things that are really not that important in life. Don’t burn up valuable time and energy on things that are not worth it. Be discerning.

Read Philippians 1:9-10.

Frustration may be a good and necessary sign that we need to step back and reexamine our desires, decisions, and plans.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

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Fragile: Handle With Care

We’ve all seen the stamp on the box: Fragile: Handle With Care. It’s a warning that the contents of the box can easily be broken and you need to be careful.

I remember sitting on an airplane several years ago, watching out of the window as they were loading the last suitcases into the cargo hold. At that exact moment one of the baggage handlers took a suitcase by the handle, swung it 180 degrees and launched it through the air and onto the conveyor.

Guess whose suitcase it was. Yep, mine. I’m sure that he was unaware that the owner of that suitcase was sitting thirty feet directly above him watching his every move. Or maybe he just didn’t care.

I think that all suitcases should be marked with a Fragile: Handle With Care sticker before they are turned over to the baggage handlers!

In quick defense of baggage handlers everywhere – I’ve also witnesses hundreds of suitcases being transferred from the baggage cart to the conveyor with great care.

Those guys don’t get enough credit.

Here’s what’s true (with apology to Forrest Gump): Life is like a suitcase.

Picture yourself as a suitcase on the baggage cart of life. Only this time you are also the baggage handler. Are you handling your suitcase carefully or are you slinging it around by its handles?

The Bible gives us some fascinating descriptions of life including a shadow (Job 8:9), a vapor (James 4:14), a fast runner (Job 9:25), a fading flower (Job 14:2), the wind (Psalm 78:39, Isaiah 64:6) and the wild grass in the field (Psalm 103:15, Isaiah 40:6, 1 Peter 1:24).

What all of these descriptions have in common is brevity. They are here one minute and gone the next. That’s life.

The biblical writer James makes this exact point when he says, What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (James 4:14).

In the greater scheme of the universe you’re only here for a moment. Not even enough time to appear as a blimp on the radar screen.

Which means you have to be careful how you handle your life. You haven’t got much time to make the maximum impact. In fact, you don’t have much time to make any kind of significant impact.

The strange thing is that it only takes a blink in time to make a negative impact with your life, but it often takes a lifetime to make a positive impact. But that’s a discussion for another day.

The point that I want to make today is that life is fragile because life is short. You need to handle your life with care. Everyone should be born with a sticker that says Fragile: Handle With Care.

What kind of impact are you making with your life? Who have you influenced today? What kind of influence did you leave behind? Whose life will you touch tomorrow?

As a pastor I’ve conducted a lot of funerals. There has been a trend lately to have an open mic at funerals and allow everyone an opportunity to say how their life was touched by the deceased. The saddest funerals are those where few people speak.

Live your life so when it comes time for people to speak at your funeral the line will be long.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

What if I Don’t Feel God?

I remember talking to a young, recent Bible College graduate, who related that as he preached a sermon he could feel the power of the Holy Spirit come over him. It was obviously a moving experience for him.

I’ve preached hundreds of sermons in multiple churches and in several different countries and I’ve never had that feeling.

Is there something wrong with me?

The subject of feeling God or feeling the presence or power of God is not an easy one to address. It is compounded by our personal experiences and emotions. No one wants to deny what another person says they experienced.

But what if I don’t feel God?

What if I’ve never felt God?

Does that mean that I’m not walking in fellowship with God? Or that I have a sub par faith? Or worse yet, I have no faith at all?

One writer put it this way: When I had expected to feel His warmth, I felt cold. When I had expected to feel peace, I felt fear and anger. When I had expected to feel His presence, I felt emptiness.

Has that been your experience?

I think that it has been the experience of more Christians than want to admit it. After all who wants to admit that they don’t feel God, when everyone else is saying just the opposite?

I don’t know that I have the final answer to this discussion, but there are several things that we need to remember about feelings.

While Scripture talks about feelings, and you’ll see this in relationship to feelings about God in places like Psalm 22:1, our feelings don’t occupy a major place in God’s revelation. Doing is emphasized far more than feeling.

In fact, we’re told that our feelings aren’t always trustworthy (Proverbs 14:12, Jeremiah 17:9, 1 John 3:20). With actions you either do or you don’t, but with feelings you can never be sure.

Another problem with feelings is that something fallible becomes our spiritual guide. While we are on a journey toward ultimate sanctification, we are not there yet. Our feelings or emotions have not yet been fully sanctified. So, what is less than sanctified (feelings) becomes our guide to spiritual reality, decisions and actions. That’s a dangerous place to be.

Instead of focusing on our feelings we need to concentrate on those things that the Word of God holds out to us as reliable guides. Things like faith (1 Peter 1:20-21), hope (1 Peter 1:13), and love (1 Corinthians 13).

When it comes to your feelings it’s best to keep in mind what one writer said; your emotions are gauges not guides.

So, if you don’t feel God, don’t worry. It’s more important to obey God than to feel Him.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

And Life Goes On

Most problems/hardships that those of us in the Western world struggle with on a daily basis are really not that important. Not to those of us living far from the squalid slums of Mexico City, the oppressive poverty of the Congo, the ravages of war, or the hundreds of thousands of hopeless children that roam the streets of the major cities of the world.

If we can put those pesky, unpleasant images out of our minds – we live well. Nothing much to worry about.

And life goes on.

I’m not disparaging people who are struggling with legitimate and life crushing issues. But that’s not most of us. Most of us are just fine. We have a roof over our heads, food on our tables, and money to pay the bills. We live in the land of the 3 S’s: Security, Satisfaction and Surplus.

Yet we live so much of our lives uptight about the little things. The things that are not that consequential in the grander scheme.

Think about the last thing that made you uptight. Was it really that important? Probably not. No matter which way it went, life would probably go on. You’d still have a warm bed to sleep in, more than enough food to eat, more clothes in your closet than some third world villages combined, and people who still loved you.

That’s more than most people in the world have.

The reason that we in the prosperous West get so uptight about the little things is because we’ve made life all about us. In our minds a good life is dependent on two things – our comfort and our enjoyment.

And what we’ve forgotten is the transient nature of life.

The Bible addresses this issue in several places, like James chapter 4.

You should know better than to say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to the city. We will do business there for a year and make a lot of money!” What do you know about tomorrow? How can you be so sure about your life? It is nothing more than mist that appears for only a little while before it disappears (James 4:13-14).

 In the eternal scheme your life isn’t even a blimp on the radar screen. It’s a puff of smoke – here one moment and gone the next.

There has to be something more than our comfort and enjoyment that gives meaning and significance to our lives.

And there is.

James goes on to say, You should say, “If the Lord lets us live, we will do these things.”  (James 4:15).

What James recognizes is the importance of bringing God into the decisions of our lives. We do what we do dependent on Him.

In reality life is about Him. He is the focal point of life. He is what gives life meaning and significance.

Acting as if we are autonomous and there is nothing greater than us is what leads us to place so much significance on the insignificant things of life. When we eliminate the most significant (God) we will elevate the less significant to heights far above what they deserve.

It’s in keeping God in His rightful place that we will find balance in life. When He is the focal point everything else will fall into its proper place.

Jesus put it this way: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment (Matthew 22:37-38).

That’s keeping God in the right place. It will also keep the problems/hardships of life where they belong.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Crushed Hopes

The Cleveland Cavaliers – Crushed Hopes. Phil Mickelson – Crushed Hopes (again!). Argentina, Spain, Germany (especially Germany!), and Brazil – Crushed Hopes.

I know, all examples from the world of sports, in which you may not have any interest. But you don’t have to be a sports fan to understand Crushed Hopes. It happens every day and in far more significant ways then the outcome of a game.

We all have hopes and sometimes they get crushed.

Hope is important in life. Can you imagine a world without the possibility for hope? No hope in a better tomorrow? No hope that life holds a brighter future? No hope that you can be healed?

I wouldn’t want to live in a hopeless world. So very dark.

But sometimes we feel like hope has passed us by. That even though we hope, the reality of the end result is far different from the hope we had.

The truth is that hope is an elusive thing. It often depends on people or events over which you have no control. You cannot always dictate the path that life will take and that makes hope a dangerous thing. Lose hope too often and you’ll give up. It’s not worth getting Crushed again.

The key to realizing your hope is to make sure that it has a solid foundation.

Hope is only as good as that upon which you build. Put your hope in a fragile structure during a hurricane and it really won’t matter how hard you hope or how sincere your hope is – you’ll probably end up in Kansas with Toto.

That’s why it’s important to handle hope wisely. Crushed Hope is the result of putting your faith in the wrong thing. Too many people put their hope in hope and that will never work.

And that’s why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is such good news. It gives us a solid Hope. Not just in this life but for eternity (1 Corinthians 15:19-22). As Christians our hope is in Jesus and His return to take us to a place where hope won’t be necessary because the expectation will be realized. (Titus 2:13).

Jesus is the solid foundation of our hope.

And so we wait. But we wait in the firm hope, the certain expectation, the reality of His coming (Galatians 5:5).

And while we might experience Crushed Hopes in this life, the hope that anchors our souls is firm, it is solid, it will last the storms of life (Hebrews 6:10).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

We Can Be So Unlike Christ

It was the followers of Christ in the city of Antioch who were first labeled Christians (Acts 11:26). It wasn’t a name that they took for themselves – it was given to them, and we’re not even sure if it was in respect or in derision. I suspect the latter.

However it happened, people who follow Jesus have been called by that name since those early days of our faith. Today we wear it with justifiable pride. We belong to Christ. We follow Christ. We live for Christ. At least that is the goal.

Whatever Christians do – we are to reflect Christ.

That’s what’s so distressing in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. By a 7-2 decision, the court found that Christian businessman and bakery owner, Jack Phillips could not be forced to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding. It was an act that went against his religious convictions.

While I’m happy for Mr. Phillips and personally agree with the court’s decision, the reaction of some Christians has been less than Christ-like. And for that I am ashamed.

According to news reports A Tennessee hardware store owner is celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of a bakery that refused to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding by placing a “No Gays Allowed” sign in front of his store. 

The article goes on to quote owner Jeff Amyx, as saying “Christianity is under attack,” “This is a great win, don’t get me wrong, but this is not the end, this is just the beginning. Right now, we’re seeing a ray of sunshine. This is ‘happy days’ for Christians all over America, but dark days will come.”

You can read the entire article here.

Jeff Amyx doesn’t have to wait – dark days are already here and it’s not just because of sin. It’s because Christians are not bringing the light into the darkness (Matthew 5:14-16).

In what universe does a sign, rejecting the very people who need the light of the gospel the most (Mark 2:17), reflect Christ?

I can’t imagine Jesus posting the same sign in the window of his carpenter shop in Nazareth.

Where did Christians ever get the idea that it’s better to alienate people than to love them?

We certainly didn’t get if from Jesus (Mark 2:13-16, Luke 7:36-39). In fact, Jesus gave us a compelling example of how we are to relate to sinful people. While not endorsing their sin, neither did he avoid (or insult) them.

His purpose was not to keep them out of his store. His purpose was to get them into his heavenly home.

It seems to me that you can’t do both at the same time.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Where Is The Glory?

One of the most tragic stories in the Bible is found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel. Israel had been captive in Babylon for approximately five years when God revealed to Ezekiel through a vision, the extreme sinfulness of the small group of people who had been left in Jerusalem.

They had turned the temple of God into a center of pagan worship. There had been a complete rejection of God. Instead of learning from their sin, which resulted in the captivity, they said God does not see us, God has forsaken us (Ezekiel 8:12).

The irony is that God was still there, it was the people who had forsaken Him.

But He wasn’t there for long.

Because of their callus sinfulness, the Glory of God that had resided in the Holiest place in the temple departed from Israel (Ezekiel 8-11).

God removed His presence from His people.

He will not share His space with sin.

The good news is that one day God will change Israel and will give them a new heart and He will put a new spirit in them (Ezekiel 11:19). And once again Israel will be His people and He will live among them. And the Glory will Return.

It’s worth asking – Where is the Glory of God today?

In the Old Testament the Israelites knew where to find the Glory. At least until the time of Ezekiel. But where can people today find the Glory of God? Where does His Glory shine so intensely that they can’t miss it – even if they’re not looking for it?

It’s true that God has displayed His Glory in nature. The Bible says that the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). But that is not the only place where God has revealed His Glory.

And for us – it may not be the most significant place.

Today the Glory of God does not reside in any one place like a temple. It resides in a hundred million places around the world – today the Glory of God resides in the life of every Child of God; in every person who claims the name of Jesus; in every Christian.

People should be able to see His Glory in every one of us. Every. One.

When people look at us they should see all of His magnificence; all of His purity; all of His holiness; all of His splendor; all of His perfection; and all of His love.

They should see all of His Glory.

The Glory of God should be on display for the world to see – in us.

So the Question is: Where is the Glory?

Where is His Glory? Where are people going to see Who God Is?

Let me paraphrase a key text. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, eating, drinking, or whatever, do it so people can see His Glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

If people are going to see the Glory of God they must see it in us.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve