Friday, September 1, 2017

The presence of our past

"The realities of how our past affects our present"

fashion, girl, person
Philippians 3:13 - 
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before"
I'm sure many of you, like me, have heard the popular phrase, "Your past doesn't define you." or "Your past is in the past." But the truth is, that up to this point in your life, it does define you. All your past feelings, emotions, successes, failures, and choices have made you who you are today. Your decisions yesterday pushed you towards where you are today. Now obviously, I believe we need to move on from our past and embrace the future. I'm going to talk about that, but we can also look at our past as defining moments of our history that God has allowed to create an incredible future for us...if we let Him. Many Christians today like to make excuses for people's past. We live in a culture that's all about "second chances" and "creating the new you." The problem is that we have two extremes when it comes to our past - either we choose to completely ignore it and hide it or we constantly rehash on it and blame our current status on what "used to be." I know I've been on both ends of the spectrum. The truth is that we should look at our whole life - past, present, and future as a gift from God. Something we can use to further glorify Him. But unfortunately, many of us do not. 
There are two main thoughts I want to communicate with you today. First is this-
Are you allowing your past successes to excuse your present shortcomings?
Are you allowing your past failures to affect your present faithfulness?

The things that hold us in the past are not usually positive things. The top feelings and emotions that chain us back from fully living our life today are:
  1. Guilt
- often we can't get past a wrong we've done in the past. This is often because we have failed to get things right or because we are not claiming the grace and forgiveness found in Christ. (Jeremiah 33:8-And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.)

  2. Regret
- Many have long been chained to the overwhelming feeling of regret. They constantly relive their mistakes over and over in their mind, never truly moving on. We must learn to accept the things that we can not change and realize that God can still use us, no matter what regrets we may have. We serve a Saviour who can transform impossible circumstances into unfathomable blessings. (Romans 8:28-  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

  3. Bitterness
-I know personally that this is one that can literally eat us alive. Holding grudges against those who have hurt us can take over every single day of our life. Until we learn to let go of past hurts, we will never be able to move on. Bitterness is a disease that will destroy all of our future, if we refuse to give it over to the Lord. Just because your bitterness is understandable does not make it acceptable. We must learn to love and forgive people - even when they have done us wrong. God cannot fix our broken relationships, if we are unwilling to give them to Him! When we are bitter towards another, we are literally sinning against God. (Ephesians 4:31 - Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:)

  4. Discontentment/Not wanting to accept things 
- It is so easy to constantly ask ourselves the question - "What if?" We can always find ways that we feel like we could have done a better job, made better decisions, or said something differently. Instead of asking ourselves the question, "what if?" we should be asking ourselves, "what now?" God wants to use you RIGHT NOW. Don't get caught up wishing things were different. (Jeremiah 29:11-For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.)

5. Loss
- one of the hardest things in life is loosing someone you truly love.  Many of us have had to go through some very trying experiences and losses. Some of us have lost those we love by death, and others by the end of a relationship.We must learn to grow through what we go through. Healing can only be found in the Lord, and if we keep resurfacing old wounds we will never heal. Loosing someone is a pain that you will always carry with you, but God says that He will carry our burdens for us. And when we learn to find comfort in His presence, we will learn to be content and happy in the present state of our lives. Don't dwell on your past losses, but on your present blessings! (Jeremiah 29:11-For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.)

If you are struggling with any of the things I mentioned above, you must come to realize that these past mistakes and faulty mindsets are hindering you from fully serving the Lord today!

 Now that we've talked about past mistakes I just want to write a little bit about past successes. In the Bible we read about king David-he was a man who was known throughout the nations as a true man of God. He was greatly favored and had lived a life well-pleasing unto the Lord. But eventually his clear and perfect record was destroyed. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, and to make it even worse, successfully plotted the death of a man. David allowed his past successes to build a wall of pride in his life, and because of this, he allowed himself to slip up. Don't ever get to a place where you feel like you're "good enough." David had found too much security in his well-doing. 
  As you continue reading David's story, you will see that David had to relive his past, but in the context of this story it wasn't wrong. David needed to revisit his past to get right with the Lord in the present! Nathan brought up David's past to him-not to judge him or to ridicule him, but to make him aware of his wrong doing. David had to make things right. Although David repented and made things right with the Lord, he still had consequences for his wrong doing! 

Here are just a few things we can learn from this story pertaining to our past:

1. We MUST make things right in our past to move on to the future. IGNORING our past is NOT the answer- although that may seem to be the new popular belief.
2. When David tried to continue on in his life, without repenting of his sins, he was miserable
3. David allowed his past successes to cloud his present judgement
4. God judges David for his wrong-doing. We will not get away with past sins, BUT God has promised to forgive us of those sins, if we go before him with a spirit of repentance.
5. God used David AFTER he confessed his wrong doing to do amazing things for Him. David was now more cautious of his wicked human heart and learned to fully depend on God.

How is your past defining your present? Don't let your past steal your present! You cannot erase your past, but your future is a clean slate. Your past will always be a part of who you are, but God can use it in amazing ways. Give him your past, your present, and your future, and you will see how God can make your life truly beautiful.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Burned yet not Consumed

Lessons from the burning bush

burning, fire, flame 
Exodus 3:1-4 -Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

   I think that it can be safe to say that almost every Christian has heard or read the story of the "burning bush."  That bush was the beginning of Moses' journey to free His people and change their lives forever. When we talk about this story we usually focus on Moses. We talk about his response- we talk about what amazing things he did. But it all started with the burning bush. God used the bush to change Moses' life forever. And God can use you to change other people's lives forever. 
    Now, I want you to picture yourself as that bush. The bush, in and of itself, was nothing important or different. It was what was in it that made it special. It was on fire-yet it was not destroyed. As a Christian we have the opportunity to be a light for the Lord. We have the ability to be used of God.

1. It was just a bush
    We need to be humble tools in the hands of our master. We're like that lonely bush on the mountain-alone, small, and worthless. But when God sets us on fire-when he dwells within us-we become something of value. A bush didn't change Moses' life-the fire within it did.  As a Christian we should be different from the world. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. That sets us apart. Romans 12:2- And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. God was able to use Moses in amazing ways, but first he had to grab his attention. God wants to use you to reach others. He wants you to have contagious faith. Something that spreads from yourself to another. Be willing to stand out for the cause of Christ. God can't use you if you blend in with everyone else. Be willing to stand alone for Him. There wasn't really any thing significant or important about the bush, and there isn't of us either. It's when we let God use us that makes the difference. 
2. It was burning 
     The Christian life is not an easy life. It has its challenges. Many of them. God didn't promise us an easy life- he just promised to help us through life. Often, God sends fire our way. He sends us tribulations and sometimes suffering. But He doesn't send it to consume us, but to grow us. In order for us to shine we have to take the flame. 
Pain is inevitable-growth is optional. 
    In order for us to be used of God we must be willing to be "used up." It's not easy, sometimes it's painful. But if it brings glory to God in the end it's all worth it. The burning bush was on fire-it was under the heat-but it was not consumed. God protects His people. If we willingly pour out our lives for Him he will always provide safety.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 - We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
    The only way that we can succeed in the Christian life is to be willing to sacrifice all for the cause of Christ. Would you be willing to give up your earthly riches? Would you be willing to give up your freedom in this great country to reach a lost people group? In order for us to fully please the Lord we must sacrifice things for Him. True love is sacrificial love. Be willing to be used up by God. It might hurt sometimes but God will always bring us through the fire.

3. It was not consumed
   The markings of a great Christian is an individual who overcame great obstacles in their life by having consistent faith in the Lord.
become consumed with God instead of the cares of this world
 God gives us the strength to overcome the trials in our life. Instead of being knocked over by the flames of difficulty in your life get on fire for God. Instead of being consumed by fear and anxiety be consumed with the Saviour who delivers you from all suffering. Be like the burning bush. Be an example for other's to follow. The only way you can rise above your suffering is to be consumed with the creator of all things. Be willing to be used up  for the Lord. Be consumed with Him. Trials will come. The flames will come. But God is near. And if we turn to Him in our times of need he will make sure we are not consumed.

Get on fire for God and He will consume your life. He'll quench the flames and use your trials to influence others for His glory. Be a burning bush. Shine God's light.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Overthrow to Overcome

"Giving God the Throne to our life"
adult, blur, boy 
Galatians 2:20 - I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

     Each and everyone of us have a driving force in our life-something that motivates us to live our life to its fullest. Usually, our greatest motivation is our own pride. We want to succeed, we want to be noticed. We need to feel satisfaction from overcoming difficulties in our lives. But yet so often we don't seem to be able to overcome anything. We mess up and we fail. Instead of overcoming our struggles it seems as if our struggles are overcoming us. Unfortunately, we can't overcome the circumstances in our lives alone. Although our pride tells us we have to take control and that we must be the problem solver we still fall short. The problem is simple-in order for us to overcome the world we must overthrow our own will.

     Our way, our will, and our pride must be overthrown for us to be able to overcome. God must be on the throne in our lives. When we are motivated to succeed by self-satisfaction and self-worth we will always be overcome instead of overcoming. As humans we always want to control the things going on around us. We feel like the only way to solve problems is by taking control ourselves. But this is not the case. In the Bible we learn about King Saul.  He was a smart man, a good man, and a seemingly godly man but he made a tragic mistake that ruined his rule forever. He placed himself on the throne of his life instead of God. He was overcome by the world because he let pride rule his life.

     To overcome we must overthrow. We must take ourselves off the throne seat and give God the lead. He's the only one worthy to lead our lives- and His way is always better than our ways. Isaiah 55:9-"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."  So often we say to others, "Don't worry, God's in control." But have we ever turned to ourselves and truly asked "Is God in control of my life?"
We seem to think that we have faith because we believe God is in control of the circumstances around us. But true faith is giving God control of our very being. 
    Who is on the throne of your life? Are you willing to overthrow your will for God's? The only way to overcome is to sacrifice our ways for God's ways. He deserves the throne! And he is much better acquitted to be on the throne. Although giving God the throne over our lives is hard it is the wisest decision we'll ever make. "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the World." With God on the throne in our life we can overcome anything! Give God the throne. Overthrow your Will.

"God doesn't want something from us. He simply wants us."
-C.S. Lewis