Archive | September 2012

Experience Lasting Confidence, Part 5 of 5 – Be Complete in Christ

The term masterpiece was coined in the Middle Ages as a way to uphold standards of craftsmanship. Today, the art world doesn’t really have a definition of a masterpiece, and it permits freedom with interpretations and even contradictions in identifying masterpieces.

Personal preference certainly comes into play with regard to artwork, and many would say that the worth of a work of art comes through the value others assign and even what they are willing to pay for it. Yet, preference for art changes from one person to another as well as with individual mood, tastes and trends.

For sure, what endures is that a masterpiece still represents an artist’s greatest work regardless of the value others give it. A masterpiece still indicates a one-of-a-kind work to the artist. Even if no one else defines it as so, a masterpiece exists as such because of the value and definition the artist gives it. A masterpiece displays the artist’s best, and that best indicates what he believes to be complete and beautiful.

Do you realize that YOU are a masterpiece? Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” We are God’s best work, and He created each one of us to be displayed in a different way.

The worth and value God gives us completes and defines us. Yet, we too often to let what others think and value based on their own preferences, mood and tastes define our worth. Value assigned by man and coming through the world’s system of thinking will always be incomplete.

Colossians 2:9-10 says, “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. The word complete in this portion of scripture means “filled up” or “filled full.” In other words, Christ fills us to overflowing.

Not only that, but the type of “complete” talked about here is not what WILL BE. It’s not an exhortation to perfection as in other parts of scripture that encourage us to grow toward perfection. This “complete” is WHAT WE ALREADY ARE because of Christ. We don’t have to do anything more in order to be accepted by God. 

Experience Lasting Confidence, Part 4 of 5 – Focus on Small Changes

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Big events are really just a bunch of small events added together. Let’s take that to another level. Following Jesus is not just a one-time event. It’s an ongoing, daily, moment-by-moment experience.

The Bible echoes this sentiment in a variety of ways, including the following:

In other words, we the process of sanctification happens gradually, over time in the moments of living life and through persisting and enduring when times get tough.

Let’s consider some earthly examples to more fully understand this concept. Sustained weight loss happens gradually, over time. Running a marathon happens as we gradually work up to that distance in our training. Overcoming an injury of any sort generally takes lots of rest and gradual building up again of strength and endurance.

Growth of any type happens gradually over time. The problem is that this applies to bad habits too. Another related principle to consider is that others can often see our growth, or lack of growth, when we cannot. This is one reason we to be accountable to one another.

Fortunately, right now is the best time to start a path toward continual growth. God does great things with the little we have to offer, and He wants to do those great things too.

How can you focus on the necessary small changes in your life?

  1. Let go of pride and ask for help. (Proverbs 26:12)
  2. Spend time with Jesus. (Psalm 116:1-2)
  3. Search scriptures daily. (Acts 17:11)
  4. Operate as a party of the body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-31)
  5. Forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13)
  6. Be intentional. (James 1:25)
  7. Be kind. (Proverbs 19:22)
  8. Allow yourself to be persuaded. (Romans 8:38-39)

Sometimes, growth seems slow and even non-existent when it’s actually happening. Hindsight often provides the vision needed to see the growth in our lives. We must cling to the knowledge that what the Bible says is true and that following those truths will result in growth toward sanctification in our lives that happens mostly in the everyday, small moments of living our lives. Our journey with Christ in this adds tremendously to lasting confidence that only comes from Him.

This entry was posted on September 20, 2012. 1 Comment

Experience Lasting Confidence, Part 3 of 5 – Going from Overwhelmed to Overflowing

Ever feel overwhelmed by life? Does feeling overwhelmed lead you to feeling trapped? Do you lose your confidence when you feel overwhelmed?

Psalm 40:12 says, “For troubles surround me – too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage.” Sound familiar?

We can all relate to what the Psalmist says. But let’s take a minute to observe what David did before and after expressing feelings of being overwhelmed.

Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me. (v. 11)

Please, Lord, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me. (v. 13)

Both before and after pouring out his feelings to God, David cried out to Him for help. This point is key to understanding how to go from overwhelmed to overflowing.

The Old Testament overflows with examples of God’s faithfulness, and relying on that faithfulness presents yet another key to stepping out of being overwhelmed with life.

As we venture into the New Testament, we find yet another key to moving into overflowing in Romans 15:13, which says, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

So the path that goes from overwhelmed to overflowing includes crying out to God, relying on His faithfulness, and placing confident hope in the Holy Spirit. In other words, our confidence for a life that overflows with His goodness comes from Him not from us.

David understood this and expressed the idea of experiencing an overflowing life in Psalm 23. Most people associate this familiar Psalm with funerals and death. Yet, David meant so much more than that, and to receive this we must for a moment push that funeral mindset aside.

First, let’s take a minute to understand the benefit of valleys for sheep. Typically, valleys provided the best path or route through which a shepherd could lead his sheep to where they needed to go. Valleys are also well-watered and contained the best forage and richest feed. Isn’t this principle also true of the valleys in our own lives as well?

Next, consider that David says, “my cup overflows,” and why he can say this considering the trials he was going through at the time. Look through Psalm 23 and highlight the reasons that David gives for his cup overflowing.

David’s reasons include guidance and direction, having all his needs met, rest and peace, renewed strength, and God’s presence. David also mentions receiving comfort, sustenance and unfailing love before he ends with claiming the promise to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Wow! No wonder David could say that his cup was overflowing. But how did he get to that point? The answer lies again in the habits of sheep and their shepherds.

Shepherds CONSTATNLY spent time with their sheep. They were together A LOT. Likewise, spending constant time with Christ is the only way I’ve found to genuinely go from overwhelmed to overflowing and to, like a sheep, have lasting confidence to follow the Shepherd through the valleys.

Just as a shepherd constantly meets every need of his sheep, protecting them and making them feel safe, secure and confident, so too is Christ offering that for each of us.

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Experience Lasting Confidence, Part 2 of 5 – Stay Strong When You Feel Weak

When you read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, you automatically feel confident in your weaknesses, right? You want to shout them to the world, don’t you? Not!

This idea of being content with our weaknesses and feeling strong when we are weak goes against our fleshly nature.  Yet, we can’t help but sense the truths that bubble up when we read Paul’s words.

Let’s explore weaknesses for a few minutes in hopes of gaining understanding as to how we can gain victory over and find strength in them.

First, what causes us to feel weak? Lack of sleep and proper nourishment certainly make all of our weaknesses seem worse and even insurmountable. Discouragement, from others working against us or simply just from our circumstances, can also cause us to feel weak (Nehemiah 6:9; Jeremiah 38:4). Sin certainly opens the door to unnecessary weaknes (1 Corinthians 11:26-30), and our own thoughts can absolutely exacerbate any feelings of weakness (James 1:8; 1 John 1:8).

Second, what forms do weaknesses take? Because we are human, we all have physical weaknesses (Judges 16:7, 17; 2 Corinthians 11:30). Political weaknesses certainly exist (2 Samuel 3:1), leaving most of us feeling helpless with regard to state, national and world events. We can feel weak spiritually (Isaiah 35:3) and morally as well (2 Samuel 3:39).

What can we do when we feel weak? We can bear them together (Galatians 6:2), but we need to realize that others need to know about our struggles in order to be obedient to this scripture. We can also support each other by finding common ground in our weaknesses (Acts 20:35; 1 Corinthians 9:22) and by helping the afflicted (Romans 15:1). Finally, we can take pleasure in our weaknesses knowing that God uses them to teach us to rely on Him (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Now that we have a better understanding of weaknesses, how do we gain victory regardless of our weaknesses? We begin by refusing to use our weaknesses as excuses but rather look at them as opportunities to grow closer to and to be used by Christ. Most importantly, we realize that any victory comes only through Christ (2 Corinthians 13:3-4) by grace (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) through faith (Hebrews 11:33-34).

Notice that the word “feel” comes before weak in most instances. This is important to note because weakness is a feeling we have when we realize that we can’t do something because of some sort of perceived limitation. What we need to realize is that God has no limitations. When we rely on Him regardless of how we feel, we tap into a source of power that is truly limitless.

In addition to recognizing the role of feelings, we also need to recognize that we too often take on weaknesses not meant for us. Sometimes, we’re not just spinning our own plates, but we’ve taken on other’s plates as well. Not only that, but we keep spinning plates that God has meant for us to give away or to even break.

The point being that we need to make sure we’re not feeling weak where we’re meant to be strong and trying to be strong where we’re meant to be weak. God both created your gifts, abilities and strengths and allowed for your weaknesses to exist. Living in either extreme goes against God’s intention for your life.

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