Betrayed By Those Nearby

Posted in Choice, Forgiveness, Love, Offense, Pursuing Jesus by PCraig on February 9, 2017

We will soon be coming into the season of Lent on the church calendar. It begins on March 1, 2017 and celebrates the 40 days leading up to Easter, often with prayer and fasting.

As I was reading today’s daily portion of the One Year Bible, one portion was on the last supper, Jesus praying in the garden, betrayal and arrest. No matter who you are, each of us will be let down by those around us. Even one of Jesus’ closest companions betrayed Him for just 30 pieces of silver.

When we are betrayed by those closest to us, we have a choice to make. We can either get bitter or we can get better. We can get over it, or let it get all over us. The choice is up to us. Too often, we use other’s shortcomings and failures to be our excuse for bitterness, resentment and revenge.

Jesus shows us a more excellent way. Rather than allowing ourselves to be reactionary in our response toward how we have been treated, we can respond with forgiveness, kindness and love. I know you may say, “But, you don’t know how many times they’ve let me down!” That may be true, but Jesus was betrayed in as hurtful of a way as anyone before or since. But, He chose to forgive and set the example for us.

Too often we fail to see that the person being hurt most by our unforgiving heart is us. So, if there’s someone you need to forgive, let go of and quit harboring resentment toward – today would be a great day to do it. No better way to get ready for Lent season, than following Jesus’ example of forgiving those nearby.

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God Will Provide

Posted in Encouragement, Faith, Miracle, Pursuing Jesus by PCraig on February 2, 2017

In today’s Old Testament reading of the One Year Bible plan, I was struck by the way God provides for His people. In Exodus 15 He turns “bitter” water into drinkable H2O by a miracle. He also declares, “I am the Lord, who heals you.” I love that!

Then, in Exodus 16 God makes bread to appear each day. He warns them not to hoard it, for they must trust Him for “daily bread,” just as Jesus would one day teach us to pray. Quail even came in the evening, as God sent dinner long before drones were ever created. God can airlift provision to His people no matter where they may be located. Don’t even think that you are unnoticed or unable to receive from God. He knows your address and can get what you need faster than Amazon Prime can deliver it.

In Exodus 17 we find that God can even bring water from a rock for His people. We learn later that this is a foreshadowing of Jesus. That just like water came from the rock to quench the thirst of the Israelites; God would send the solid Rock, Christ Jesus, to satisfy the thirsting of every person’s soul. What drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, money and things cannot satisfy, we find filled in Christ alone.

I don’t know what you may be going through today. You may feel like you are in a desert place that is dry, desolate and discouraging. But, just as God proved Himself faithful and took care of the Israelites, He still cares for His people today. Stop trying to find satisfaction in things that cannot bring lasting contentment. Instead, trust the One who can bring water from a rock, airlift provision or drop it in overnight. God knows what you really need and is able to provide.

 

 

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Seeking The Good Life

Posted in Finances, Generosity, Happiness, Pursuing Jesus by PCraig on November 17, 2016

Everyone I know wants to live the good life. But, for many, the good life is something we think will happen later. In other words, we haven’t gotten there yet. This translates into what I call, “when and then thinking.” The thought process is that “when” this happens, “then” I’ll be happy. The “when” can be making more money, hitting the lottery, marrying the right person, moving to a desired place. What folks are missing is that the good life is not something that happens to you, but something God does in and through you. It’s not based on the world around (that’s beyond our control), but rather has a foundation in a rich relationship with God.

Jesus warns us that money can actually try to be our master (Matt. 6:24). This is so crazy, because many of us think that if we had more money we would be freer. Yet, we know from talking to people with more money than us, that they still don’t feel they have enough. Somehow having more is not a sign of living the good life Jesus came to bring.

The remedy is found when we put our treasure in God’s kingdom. Jesus says that our heart always follows our money (Matt 6:21), therefore, to have a heart of peace, we need to invest in the things of God.

Here’s the guarantee, Jesus said if we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then “all these things will be added unto you.” In other words, when we put God’s kingdom first, our hearts are aligned, and He provides our needs. Both of which lead to a very good life.

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Shrink Your Challenges

I can spend way too much time, energy and effort on the problems in front of me. This consists of conversations with others and myself, Google about it, reading concerning it and such. How about you? Human nature is to focus on the problem and many of us are wired to fix things, so we attempt to do it on our own.

And while I want to be careful not appear to be minimizing your problem, because I know it can be enormous. But, think about what it would look like if we put that same time, energy and thought toward God? Would the size of God outsize your problem? Would the radiance of God outshine your problem? Would the power of God overpower your problem?

Are you ready to focus more on God and less on your problem? When you do, if you’re like me, your vision of God will increase and your view of your problem will shrink.

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Stop Eating Junk Food

I’m not writing about the poor eating habits many practice (though that would be a great idea). My concern today is more about the people you and I can choose to hang around.

Just like any dieter knows, if you get around people with poor eating habits, chances are, you’ll eat more like them as well. I know when my wife Rachelle is dieting, I tend to lose some weight also. Why is that? Because when she is eating less, I do too!

Whoever you hang with can influence what you eat or take in, such as movies you watch, books you read, or music you listen to.

So, it just makes sense that if you want to increase your appetite for godly things then you need to get around godly people. Spiritual hunger is contagious. As you get around people who love God, love to worship God, love to read the Bible, love to attend church, and love to serve – your loves are going to change.

Whether it’s losing weight or getting closer to God, you need to watch who you hang around, they are probably affecting you more than you know or admit.

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No Substitute For The Right Piece

Posted in Happiness, Pursuing Jesus, Weekend Reflections by PCraig on June 30, 2016

I loved sitting and putting puzzles together as a kid.  I started with the big wooden pieces and worked my way up to the small, intricate and difficult puzzles with hundreds of pieces.  The frustrating thing that came with the more challenging puzzles was the way it seemed there were similar shaped pieces that looked a lot alike.  Invariably there would be an empty spot that would form with a odd shape, then I would joyously find a piece that appeared to be an identical match, only to have it not quite fit.  It was at this point; I would push, remove and repeat for numerous times.  My hope was that somehow it would turn into the missing piece that would exactly fit the hole.  But, in the end, it was the wrong piece.

It was not until I gave up and looked for another piece that I was able to fill the spot.  Much the same, many of us are living this puzzle called life and all of us want to be happy.  Yet, we find ourselves pushing and pushing the wrong pieces into the holes of our lives.  We think, “If I can just get married, obtain a new job, move to a new city, or reach a new high, then I’ll be happy.”  The reality is that we are trying to force something into a hole that only God can fill.

Each of us are made by a Creator that loves us and wants good things for us, but He is the missing piece for many.  We try to cram relationships, careers, money, things money can buy, positions, and other things and it leads to frustration, hurt, anguish and pain.

Just like getting the right shape in the right place can only complete the puzzle on a card table, we cannot find happiness until we get Jesus in the God-shaped hole in our lives.  Once we do, then we begin to experience life to the full that Jesus came to bring.

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Time For Spring Cleaning

Posted in Attitude, Change, Perspective, Pursuing Jesus by PCraig on April 14, 2016

Have you ever noticed how someone else’s sin seems so much worse than yours?  Let’s be honest, it’s much easier, and enjoyable, to look down on people who appear to be the “bad” people.  The problem is, God classifies all of us the same – bad people who need a good Savior.

Nowhere in the Bible does God reveal a sliding scale of sin.  To Him, all sin is equally bad, and all sinners are equally loveable.  In Luke 19:1-10 we find the story of a guy I sang about in Sunday School as a “wee little man.”  Yikes!  Can you even do that today without someone yelling, “intolerant!”  Maybe we should call this guy “vertically challenged?”

Anyway, he’s a hated, notorious, cheating chief tax collector that was seen as a traitor to his people.  But, when he climbs up in a tree to get a better view of Jesus, the Messiah actually invites Himself over to the guy’s house.  The religious people are appalled that Jesus would associate with this guy, but He does it anyway (all the mavericks love that!).

What happens is that this, perhaps, brief encounter with Jesus in his home, radically transforms the guy.  We see him say out loud that he is willing to repay anyone he’s ever cheated up to four times more – is that crazy?  Jesus doesn’t think so.  He thinks it’s simply evidence of a heart change and this man putting his trust in God over money.

So, today, even though it’s tempting to find some “notorious” sinner to gaze upon with judgment, let’s allow Jesus to come and clean up our house.  Your sin, my sin, and no one else’s sin is a problem for God.  And, so let’s show the same grace Jesus shows to us unto others and watch what powerful life change He still brings today.  No one is beyond the reach of grace!

 

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Fixated

Posted in Distractions, Fasting, Mind, Pursuing Jesus by PCraig on January 28, 2016

The other day I was holding our Student Ministries Pastor’s son, and he was just locked in on something nearby to the point where it was like nothing else existed.  Have you ever been like that?  Maybe your husband loses all sight of everything around when the playoffs are on the TV.  Perhaps your teenager doesn’t know you exist when they are texting with one of their friends.

We’ve been studying the book of Hebrews from the Bible this month, and the word “better,” which occurs there more than any place else in God’s Word.  But, there is a phrase that appears toward the beginning of this ancient writing and then a similar version near the end.  Anytime something is repeated in the Scriptures, I pay attention.

In Hebrews 3:1 the writer challenges, “fix your thoughts on Jesus,” then in Hebrews 12:2 he says, “let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”  Since there is the redundancy of emphasis, it made me think of getting fixated on something.  How many of us get fixated on sports, money, careers, bad relationships, our past, habits, addictions, hurts, toys, and plenty of other things rather than Jesus?

Would people look at you with accusation that you are fixated on Jesus?  Let’s accept the challenge of the author of Hebrews and get our minds and eyes fixed on Jesus.  After all, He has more to give than anything the world has to offer.

I hope our 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer has helped with this.  If it has, let someone know.

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What’s In You?

Posted in Change, Deliverance, Pursuing Jesus, Victorious Living by PCraig on June 19, 2014

How do you break the power of bad habits and hang-ups in your life, especially those that you have dealt with for years and have tried to overcome to no avail?  Maybe you’ve used various methods that worked for others but they didn’t work for you.  Is there anything else you can do?

I was reading in Colossians chapter one yesterday and was reminded of how God’s power can work in us.  Paul writes about “Christ IN you, the hope of glory” and how HIS (Christ’s) energy…so powerfully works IN me.”  Many people try will power, positive thinking and meditation to attempt to win the internal battle for control.  I think all of those things can be effective, but what if they aren’t?  Is there anything else you can do?  I believe this is where Christ’s power working IN us can help us do what we could not do before.

I’ve known people who had alcohol, drug and sexual addictions that they could not break on their own.  But, one day, they tapped into God’s power and won a victory that could not be sustained before.

So, what are you battling today?  Addiction, habits, anxiety, disorders, lust….?  Whatever it is, why not tap into Christ’s power and let it powerfully work in YOU?  People who have battled these things for years have found freedom and deliverance through the power of Christ.  I believe the same can happen for you.

Get your Bible, read Colossians 1 & 2, confess verses 27-29 of chapter 1 over yourself this week.  You CAN be free!  You CAN lay down that addiction, habit or hang-up!  What Christ’s power has done in others, HE can do in YOU!

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It’s Never Too Late

Posted in Attitude, Change, Pursuing Jesus, Relationships by PCraig on May 1, 2014

Some people would rather be right than kind.  Which are you?  This is important to know for at least a few reasons:

  • It might explain why you don’t have long-term relationships
  • It could be the reason your business never seems to get ahead
  • You keep having less friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter

Aggressively advocating your position is wonderful in a debate, it might even win you an award.  But, in the realm of relationships, it will no doubt leave you lonely.  Do you look at many conversations as an opportunity to show your debating skills?  Do you see people as an adversary, when they may not be adversarial at all?  Turning debate into a contact sport can prove costly in the long run.

It’s easy to find tweets full of hurtful words and poisonous remarks.  Their humor is mocking, acidic and unkind.  Some are more concerned with being clever than with being kind.  To affirm this behavior they look to those nearby who will laugh at their slander and giggle at their jabs.

This is all well and good as long as you’re not trying to win friends and influence people; grow a church, business or ministry; expand your friendships and look more like Jesus.

It’s never too late to be more kind.  (Colossians 3:12-14)

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