Friday, September 30, 2011

Don't Understand? Trust God

You may be facing a dead end right now- financial, emotional, relational – but if you will trust God and keep on moving in faith, even when you don’t see a way, He will make a way.

It will become more understandable as you head down the path He sets before you, but understanding is not a requirement for you to start down the path. Proverbs 4:18 says, “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shinning brighter till the full light of day.” (NIV) One day you will stand in the full light of eternity and view the big picture. You’ll see God’s purpose behind the path He specifically chose for you.

In the meantime, do what Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Be patient. God knows what He’s doing. God knows what is best for you. He can see the end result. You can’t. All those problems, heartaches, difficulties and delays—all the things that make you ask “why”—one day it will all be clear in the light of God’s love.

Taken from Rick Warren’s Daily Devotional

Monday, September 19, 2011

Roof Top Faith

The other day I was listening to New Life Live on the radio with Dr. John Townsend, Steve Arterburn, and Milan Yerkovich. A woman was talking about some trials that she was facing in her life. One of the radio counselors spoke about surrounding her self with some friends that have roof top faith. The radio host spoke on Mark 2. Where they talk about four men who carried a paralytic man to a house where Jesus was preaching. When they arrived it was over crowded by people who gathered to hear Jesus speak. They took the paralytic man onto the roof, tore open a section of the roof and lowered the paralytic man down to where Jesus was. It says in Mark 2:5- When Jesus saw their faith; He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

Jesus just didn’t say he was forgiven, but he mentions the faith of the four men. It says when Jesus saw the faith of the four men the paralytic man was healed. Not saying the paralytic man didn’t have faith that Jesus could heal him. I really don’t know, but it was the faith of the other’s. They could have very easily looked at the crowd and got discouraged. They could have said we can do it another day or chalk it up as a nice try or said it wasn’t meant to be.

They also could have told the paralytic man that they were just too busy to help. But they didn’t, they not only carried the man, but the large crowd of people didn’t discourage them. They went to the roof, tore it open and lowered him.

We all know people in our lives, in our church, in our families that are facing trials in their lives right now. Some minor, some major. We all know marriages that are ending in divorce or considering divorce as I write this. And we all know that in those situations there can be one or both of the spouses who have no hope or a lack of faith that God can breath new life into their marriages or into their circumstances. There are times when we all need roof top friends that have faith for them that God is the God of the impossible. Even though we know the word that God promises to never leave us or forsake us. There are times where our circumstances can over whelm us to the point where we can lose faith. I know I have been there in my own life and in my marriage. As hopeless as I was, God restored my marriage.

Don’t think that you have to have everything in your life in order. God can use you in the midst of your own circumstances. You need to just have the faith like the four men who lowered the paralytic man. Our faith in God, believing that He can change someone else’s situation can bring healing to that person, to that marriage, or to their circumstance. It also increases our faith as we allow God to work in us and through us. Through that increased faith we become a testimony that reveals the glory of God.

Who in your life do you know who needs you to be a roof top friend? 1 Corinthians 12:26- “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” I have spoken on it before, that we need to go out of our way for others. We need to show the love of Christ. 1 John 3:16- “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

I have seen God come through time and time again in someone else’s life when they have friends who walk with them and encourage them in the lowest points of their lives. We all need real friends who have roof top faith; a faith that they know God will change situations or circumstances. No matter how big the circumstance may look.

Mark & Raquel Soto

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Plan to Stay in LOVE!

by Andy Stanley

Falling in love is easy.

It involves butterflies and long walks on moonlit beaches. You hear wedding bells, see fireworks and fall into something that feels perfect.

Staying in love, however, is not so easy.

Once the initial shine of new love has worn off, obstacles and hurdles appear seemingly out of nowhere. There are warts; there are regrets — there is baggage.

Sometimes, staying in love feels impossible.

Though divorce statistics jump all over the place, there is little denying that we are a culture prone to giving up on love. We are a culture that believes when the going gets tough, the tough just go. We run from the pain and challenges in our relationships and wonder how we could ever feel so far from someone we once felt so close to.

But what if staying in love is possible? What if working hard, instead of giving up, is the key to passionate, long-lasting, true love? What if real relationship starts when we get real about staying in love?

We've all wondered what it's like to be truly treasured by someone. To be needed and missed and loved. Not just for a long weekend or even a decade, but for 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, and more.

I believe it is possible to experience a love that goes the distance. It's a gift God longs to give us, and there are four things we can do to accept that gift:

Make love a verb.

For many of us, the concept of love is difficult because we never learned the right form of love. We focus on the external qualities of love and ignore the internal. We treat love like a noun. It's an experience that happened. A moment. A thing.

But in John 13:34, we see a different side of love. John says, simply and honestly, "Love one another." It is not a one-time event. It is not a fireworks feeling or a field of flowers. It's an action. A verb. It's not just about choosing the right person; it's about becoming the right person, the type of person who loves the way Christ loved us.

Put your spouse first.

For years, I waged steady opposition to my wife's plan to add a garden to our yard. I reasoned that when you consider all the time and money invested in a garden, you're no better off than if you'd bought your veggies at the grocery store. Besides, the crop I care about (coffee beans) grows on trees, not in gardens.

For a long time, I had a good case going ... until I read Philippians 2:3 again: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." I wish that were a complicated verse with multiple Hebrew variations. But it's pretty simple: Value others (in this case, your spouse) above yourself.

Don't try to prove you're smarter or better at the family budget. Plant your wife a garden. In order to stay in love, we need to change our approach to determining what is valuable. We have to demonstrate an interest in things because they are interesting to the people we are interested in. By doing this, we learn to put our spouse first.

(Watch Andy Stanley talk more about putting your spouse first in a video clip from his Staying in Love DVD.)

Pay attention to your heart.

Imagine you are a mug with thousands of tiny beads inside. Each bead represents a negative feeling or painful experience or unfulfilled expectation. You are careful to keep them inside. Then you meet someone and think she just might be the future Mrs. Mug. So, you are gentle and thoughtful around her. You make certain that as few beads as possible spill out on the road to the altar.

But a month or a year later, suddenly there's an issue: She gets upset for no apparent reason; or you don't call, though you said you would; or she feels ignored. Your mugs bump into each other, jostling your beads. Jealousy spills out. Anger overflows. All the stuff that was hidden during the courtship is on display.

This is the type of situation the Bible anticipates when it implores us to guard our hearts. When your emotional "beads" get bumped, stop and think about what you are feeling before you speak. Name what you are feeling with specific words: "I feel jealous" or "I feel angry." When you name your feelings, they lose their power. If appropriate, tell your spouse what's going on in your heart. Healthy people stop doing hurtful things when they learn what the issues are. And they stay in love by paying attention to their hearts.

Fill the gaps.

In every relationship, there are gaps between what is expected and what actually happens. We have fairytale views of how marriage will be, and they fail to materialize. We have expectations of how a spouse should act at a dinner party, and that doesn't go as planned. We have ideas about when our partner should come home at night, and the reality is different. Gaps open up all around us.

When that happens, we have two choices: We can believe the best, trusting that there is a reasonable explanation for our spouse's behavior. Or we can assume the worst, reading disrespect, hurt and a thousand other things into those situations.

Into those gaps, 1 Corinthians 13 walks boldly. Long used in weddings, these popular verses describe the nature of love. Beyond the verses about love's patience and kindness, we find a plea for the gaps. We find help for the holes. Verse 7 says love "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

In a marriage, that means when you have a chance to doubt or trust, you trust. When you have a chance to give up or hope, you hope. When you have a chance to quit or persevere, you persevere.

One of the most powerful ways to fill the gaps is to believe the best about your spouse. Such an attitude communicates, "I trust you. Even before I hear your explanation, I trust you."

It is possible to stay in love, but it does take more than fireworks and moonlit beaches. Falling in love only requires a pulse. Staying in love? That requires a plan.

Watch Andy Stanley talk about putting your spouse first in a video clip from his Staying in Love DVD.

Andy Stanley is a pastor, author and founder of North Point Ministries.

This article first appeared in the November/December, 2010 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2010 by Andy Stanley. Used by permission.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Nails

Posted: 05 Sep 2011 05:01 AM PDT

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper.

His Father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all.

He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.

You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won't matter how many times you say "I'm sorry", the wound is still there.

A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.

Friends, let us all be wise and careful about the words that we share.