HOW TO HANDLE OPPOSITION

This morning while in prayer I was re-reading the book of Nehemiah. It’s such an encouraging portion of Gods word to me. Over the last month we as a church family have been studying this amazing story. It’s a story about the rebuilding of the City of God.

Nehemiah was a trusted aide and advisor to the King of Persia. While serving in the palace one day, he received a visit from his brother, Hanani, who brought news from Jerusalem. The report was not good. Hanani told him that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.

Nehemiah sat down and wept, mourning and fasting and praying for several months. In a turn of events Nehemiah was able to share his burden with the King who gave him permission to go to Jerusalem to lead the effort to rebuild the wall.

The king gave him full blessing, plus access to vast resources of timber for the project. He even provided for Nehemiah to be accompanied by army officers on 100 mile journey.

The long and short of it. The people of God came together to do God’s work according to Gods will, they committed their resources, their time and their energies to the task. And there was no shortage of challenges, for God’s will did not allow for the wall to be rebuilt without a struggle.

Before the work was half-done the builders were bombarded with sarcasm, criticism and naysayer. Two of these opponents were Sanballat and Tobiah. They were upset and angry because the walls were being rebuilt.

The criticism was prompted by progress, which often occurs when God’s people start to make things happen. The devotion and determination of this small band of Jews ought to have evoked admiration, but it was the opposite. The opponents simply couldn’t bear to see anything-positive happening.

To them, any change in the status quo was a threat; and, even though Sanballat and Tobiah weren’t the best of friends, they were drawn together by a mutual hatred of God’s servants. Critics usually run with critics; and while not all criticism is of the devil, this sure was.

In the pursuit of fulfilling the call of God the people of God faced numerous problems. Anger, Ridicule, Questioning, Criticism. Sarcasm. Treachery. Threats. The enemies called the rebuilding project the Jews’ walls, when in fact it was God’s wall. In reality, they were criticizing God.

Nehemiah recognized this, and he took decisive action to counteract the opposition by taking this most important matter to God in prayer. He resisted the temptation to strike back, because he knew that God was in control.

Here are three steps that we find modeled by Nehemiah to take when we are up against the problems of Life. See how the Holy Spirit would relate this to your life.

01. INTENSIFY YOUR PERSISTENCE IN PRAYER. The waves of persecution never let up while the rebuilding went on, but God’s people had a stronger weapon: “We prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. Exercising common sense, they set up a defense. They did what was necessary to complement their prayers. If you want to counteract your home being burglarized, don’t just pray, put in an alarm system.

02. EXPECT DIFFICULTLY WHEN YOU DO WHAT’S RIGHT. Great opportunity is often accompanied by great opposition. The Apostle Paul said of the work in Ephesus, “A great door for effective ministry has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” He chose to think primarily about the great open door, not the daunting opponents.

The easiest thing to do when confronted by difficulty is to give up, and nothing pleases Satan or the critics more than for the negative to cancel neutralize the positive. It’s critical to keep going, no matter what is in the way, no matter what threatens to prevent you from doing God’s will.

03. DON’T GIVE UP OR GIVE IN. Nehemiah and the workers were invincible because they were in the very center of God’s will. They would not give up or give in. Faced with deceit, distraction and discouragement on all sides, they kept relying on God’s power and He gave them the victory. God’s promise to us is no different from the one those believers carried in their hearts. John’s first epistle reminds us: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

NAVIGATING TOWARDS PURPOSE

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Do you remember that defining moment, when you stopped and asked yourself with urgency “what do I want to be when I grow up? Well, you may not have known it then, but you started treading down the long road of purpose.

An intense desire to discover purpose started for most, at the end of high school, right? When the fear of graduating on to what we would become, caused some restless nights, filled with worry.

Then, just like that your graduating college, saying “I do” and think to yourself “I finally got this figured out” – but then purpose and significance  demands your attention once again. I know this was the case for me, and I found I was always left with a common question “What is my PURPOSE?”

You see, we strive for greatness, success, love, something by which stimulates the feeling of value or importance. Yet, we often settle far beneath the purpose GOD has for our lives. We become content with education, houses, routines, and American culture – that we never pursue GOD’S purpose.

Discovering God’s purpose is attainable, when you take the time to know His Heart. See here is the twist – we identify a purpose by what we do, in reality it’s not what do – But the purpose behind what we are doing.

We must ask the question, is this God’s desire? Maybe you have the gifting of a business man, but if through it you only profit yourself, perhaps your needing God’s purpose for that business, rather than your own. It’s not about us. This life is not about what we do, what we drive, or who we are with. By knowing the heart of God, you may find your plans are great, but without true purpose they don’t sustain you.

Or Maybe you just feel small, hidden by everyone else’s dominant talent, position and looks. Feeling like you have no purpose. Well, regardless of what you think or feel – GOD SEES YOU! HE HAS A PURPOSE FOR YOU, FOR YOUR DREAMS, GIFTING, AND TALENTS.

I’ll Prove it:

“God had a purpose for David to become king, but he went through a season when he was a lowly shepherd boy.”

“Esther was a jewish girl, from a simple family, but God purposed her to be queen and save a generation. And the list goes on…”

Take these 3 things, and start discovering God’s purpose in your life!

01. Live for Him – Direct your talents and gifting towards God.
02. Seek His Heart – Through prayer, His word, and worship.
03. Be patient – Though you may get weary, keep your eyes on him.

God has a purpose for you!

THAT WAS WEAK

I hate moments of weakness. And I especially can’t stand it when I get that helpless feeling because I’m in over my head. Maybe you’re like me and the last characteristic you want to define you is “weak”.

It’s probably not new information to you that America is filled with people who feel feeble. In fact, many feel so weak and beat down that they find themselves living in depression. And in America alone depression affects nearly 18.8 million people a year. No matter who you are or what your occupation is, you are going to face days where you feel weak. Days where you feel helpless and alone. Days that you wish didn’t consist of 24 hours like the rest.

But thankfully, I believe there’s a piece of Scripture where God addresses the very nature of humanities weakness. And it’s in these few verses that God helps bring light to a deep and dark issue that affects so many.

Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.


In verse 31 we see that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength”. The original Hebrew word for hope here is “qavah”. And it describes an expectancy for God to come through. If you are tired and weak then begin to look for God to give you strength. Don’t focus on your limitations, but instead focus on His power. Let your faith arise and begin to ask God to strengthen you. As Christians we aren’t guaranteed constant strength, but we are guaranteed access to the One who gives freely.

We are all weak, but in Him we are made strong. Never forget the words of 1 John 4:4; “greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.”

TO SPEAK OR NOT TO SPEAK?

James 3:9-12 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

I do believer without doubt, we have all yielded to the power of the tongue. You have been there I am sure when emotions, bitterness, or frustration completely cause your tongue to express regretful speech. Then, just like that; everything in which you didn’t want to say, comes spilling out with ease. Yet why is it, that our tongues are so hard to control?

In the “Book of James” it talks about taming the tongue. That our tongues are simply uncontrollable and need to be bridled. Or in other words monitored, with consistency. Yet we have all experienced that situation, when we should have spoke love but instead spoke hate. When we should have kept quiet but relentlessly spoke, or when we needed to give blessing but instead spoke curses.

People say constantly through the act of being bitter, speak you’re mind don’t let anyone have the upper hand when introduced to a verbal battle. Yet I find, there is no point – if it’s only to cut at another’s character out of hurtful speech and competitive pride. We must not use the word “blunt” as an excuse to act out in wrong doing, as we escape from being loving.. There is always a time and place when the truth must be told, yet there is also a time to hold back from lashing words and piercing daggers we throw in anger.

3 Simple Things : to help you restrain your tongue from unwanted exposers.

THINK: Take a moment and replay your message back to yourself, and in a sense edit the information which is false, bitter, etc. And more than half of the time we will save ourselves from regretful situations, by simply choosing not to speak.

SPEAK WITH LOVE : “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” we must ignore this false statement and defeat the lie which says words have little meaning. Remember some things spoken in anger or foolishness are often the words we hold onto the tightest.

ANALYZE YOUR FEELINGS : Before exaggerating or criticizing others out of raw emotion, choose to refrain. Gossiping and cursing others we know bring no glory to God, so we must choose the hard road of silence.

“Living a lifestyle where we restrain our tongues tightly, will bring healing and peace to a situation or conflict.” For God’s will is that our tongues speak of truth, goodness, and love.

UNEXPECTED LOVE

Luke 6:32-34 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full”

If we are to follow Christ fully and completely, then we need to love unexpectedly. Are you willing to do something UNEXPECTED? Are you willing to love your enemies? I can only imagine the reaction of the disciples and crowd of people when they heard Jesus say the statement: “Love your enemies.” Maybe they were shocked or stunned. How could Jesus ask them to love someone who had robbed them, taken their food, etc?

Luke 6:27-28 says, “But to you who are listening I say:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

How do we love our enemies? It goes against what our flesh wants to do.  Loving our enemies does not mean we become a doormat. It doesn’t mean that consequences to one’s actions are ignored. Loving our enemies is our response to others; to let God’s love be seen first and foremost.

Be honest in your dealings. The timeless cliché applies: Treat others how you want to be treated. Be generous. Give to those that are not able to help themselves. Be willing to forgive. Forgiveness may not erase the evil done to us; however, it clears the desire to retaliate evil for evil. Be good to those who are evil. Though they may spite us, speak ill of us, we should learn to pray for them, to speak well of them the best we can. Be a lender.  Lend to the poor without thought of what will be returned to you.

To love those that love us has nothing uncommon in it. How do you represent Christ when even sinners can love others who love them back? It is no thanks to us; however, when we love unexpectedly, we represent the fullness of Christ.

Jesus ends his teaching on Loving Your Enemies with this: “Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High.”


YOU HAVE A NEW FRIEND REQUEST | CONFIRM OR IGNORE BY PASTOR CHRIS

Lets face it; I’m just like you. I know it’s hard to believe but developing new relationships doesn’t come easy for any of us, including me. It takes work, trust, time, finances, an opening of our hearts. In fact, it’s easy to get into ruts in regards to our relationships on the job, in our neighborhoods and especially in “Church”.

What I mean by that is every week when we come to church we often times sit in the same seat, we naturally hang out and talk with the same people and quite possibly attend the same small group. And though that is fine and dandy, it can become a recipe for us to become oblivious to new folks, or others who are not in our circle of influence.

You may be asking, “What wrong with that?” Chances are pretty good if you stick in this unhealthy rut for any period of time you will one day look up and see a church full of people and say to yourself, “I don’t know any of these people.” Or you’ll say “I don’t feel connected anymore.” The fact is you and me are both responsible to God to cultivate God given relationships.

Here’s the community equation many people have in church:

“I come to church and it’s someone else’s job to make me feel included. Someone needs to say “Hi” to me and help me make new friends or I may not be coming back.”

Solomon the wisest man to ever live said it this way.

Proverbs 18:24 (NKJV) A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

HERE ARE 4 SIMPLE WAYS TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS AND CREATE COMMUNITY AT LIFE FELLOWSHIP.

01. Get “fellowship” right.

The Greek word for fellowship is actually “contribution”. Which means getting involved, volunteering becoming a part of the team. You’ll be surprised at how many new relationships you’ll forge simply by getting involved. Teamwork makes the dream work.

02. Look out for “loners.”

Develop a community minded vision. Every week there are many new visitors and guests that walk through our doors looking for relationship. It’s been said that people don’t want a friendly church, they simply want friends. You can be that friend. Some of them God has spent years working on to get them to walk through the doors of a church.

03. Don’t wait for the church to connect you.

Stop and think about it. When was the last time YOU invited someone new out for coffee or lunch after a service. Someone you’ve never met before. I know you might feel a little nervous doing it but you will be surprised how many new friends you’ll make following this simple step.

04. Thick skin – Tender heart.

I have been in the church for 35 years and here is one thing I have discovered…. You will at one time or another be hurt. It’s just a fact. None of us are perfect, not you, not me. My encouragement to you is when this happens don’t be offended easily, and don’t let immature believers harden your heart. Instead walk in love, walk in forgiveness.

HOW TO KILL A GIANT

Most of us know the story of David and Goliath. David, a shepherd boy slays a huge warrior with a stone and then chops off his head with the giant’s own sword.

But what strikes me most about this story, is not as much the ending but instead the amount of confidence that this young man had. He didn’t have war experience and he wasn’t even able to wear armor because he was so scrawny, but for some reason he had confidence to take on this giant in his life without reservation.

So how in the world did David have the courage and strength to take on a nine foot tall warrior?

I believe it’s because he had already killed a lion and a bear.

King Saul and David’s brothers believed with everything inside of them that David could not kill this Philistine. And this was logical and made sense! How could this little boy, kill a giant warrior that even the best fighters weren’t willing to face?

But despite there doubting, David’s confidence didn’t waver and I believe in 1 Samuel 17:36 we see how David killed the giant.

36 “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them…”

David knew he could take down the giant before him because he had already taken down 2 enormous beasts in his way. He had confidence that the same God that helped him defeat the lion and a bear would help him defeat this giant.

So how do we kill the giant that is standing before us? There are 2 points I want to highlight from this legendary story.

01. Have Confidence in God

God is on your side and he will see you through any and every situation that you face. Whenever you face a tough obstacle keep your eye on God instead of the problem. Everyday continually give over the situation to God and He will be sure to step beside you and bring victory.

02. Look to Past Triumphs to Propel You to Victory

Each of us have different moments in our life where God came through in a big way. Maybe it was when your baby was born 100% healthy or maybe when you finally received that raise or maybe when your cousin you were praying for was finally saved. No matter where God has shown Himself faithful in your life, begin to look to those victories to stir your faith and propel you to victory over the giant before you.

Champion the words of David, “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them…”

FOCUS – NOT FEAR

It is much better to try and fail than it is to shrink back in fear and live far below the level God has for you to live. – Charles F. Stanley

Fear can encompass our entire being, and leave us stranded at the starting line weighed down by all the numerous ‘what-ifs.’ When we are afraid we are unable to take risks and to step out in faith to achieve what God has for our lives. ‘What if I fail?’ ‘What will people think?’ ‘You aren’t good enough.’ ‘What if this goes wrong?’ These are all questions and statements that hinder us from moving beyond the starting line and entering our race at full speed. Paul was a man who could have allowed fear to hinder him from finishing his race. He had been beaten, exposed to death, stoned, shipwrecked, hungry, thirsty, gone without sleep, and cold. If there was anyone who suffered, it was Paul. Instead of fear controlling his next steps, or being afraid what else would happen to him, he remained focused on God and his mission. His focus was this:

Acts 20:24, “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

“Focus on God and your faith will become stronger.”

“Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, but yet he remained focused.”

“David faced Goliath, deciding to not listen to his brothers and the Israel army who were afraid.”

“Daniel was in the lion’s den, facing his death. He turned to God in prayer for protection and shifted his focus from the lions to God.”

Isaiah 41:10 “So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.”

I have fears just like everyone else. Basic ones like a fear of spiders and snakes. And some if given power, would cause me to not move forward – which is the fear to make mistakes. Commonly for me, it’s conquering that fear to upset someone, or to be alone the rest of my life. Yet, If there is anything I have learned, it is that God is not the author of fear.

I decided that I would strive to be the best Children’s Pastor out there. Even though fear would say, “You didn’t go to Bible College,” “You don’t have an education degree,” “You aren’t a mom.” “Do you even know what you are doing” But trusting God says, “I have equipped you because I have called you.” “Love these children by loving me first.” “Complete the task I have given you.”

God has placed me in a great position to teach our children about Him. I am led by faith and motivation, not fear, to impart into our children the teachings of God – so that as they grow old, they will not depart from Him. I decided that messing up and making mistakes isn’t going to stop me from trying. I would rather try and fail, than to be disobedient to what God has asked me, by not trying at all. Mistakes are steps to learning and I use my mistakes to allow God to teach me, to correct me and to guide me.

I decided that being alone isn’t exactly reality. Though I am single, I have a great family, friends and church. How many times have I heard, “Why are you not married yet?” “If only you weren’t so picky.” Instead of walking in fear and compromising on a relationship just to be with someone, I would rather trust God in what He has and in whom He has. Being obedient to what God has asked of me is more important to me than simply being with someone. Are there are days that I have to dig my feet in a little deeper, study harder, or not beat myself up for making a mistake, and trust in God that He has a husband for me? Yes, absolutely. But, I made a decision that fear would not hinder me from doing what God tells me to do. How do you keep focus above fear? My eyes do not look to the right or to the left, but on God alone. His Word says:

2 Timothy 1:7 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid (fear), but gives us power, love, and self-disciplined.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”

Joshua 1:6-7 “I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous.”

What fear is keeping you from doing, what God has called you to? Allow God to complete His work in you, to complete the dreams He has given you, by abiding in him; keeping your eyes upwards.

DISCOVERING THE CURRENCY OF HEAVEN

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My guess is you have some money in your pocket right now. We all need money, for it’s the currency of our city and nation. With it we buy food, gasoline, clothes, etc. But here’s a question: What is the currency of heaven?

The answer to that question is
FAITH. Just as you need money to get things done in America, you need faith to get things done with God. The Bible says, “without faith, it’s not even possible to please God” (Hebrews 11.6).  Let’s think together about some faith-facts for 2011.

1. Faith is a gift from God (Romans 12:3). That means YOU as a born-again believer have some level of faith.  And since God gave this gift to you, why not unwrap it and use it, it’s good.

2. Faith attracts the attention of God (Matthew 8:10). I often see birds in my backyard.  You know why?  Because I put out birdseed to attract them.  When you put forth faith, you attract the attention of God.

3. Faith is one key to every miracle (Matthew 9:29). Please learn this principle: God does not send miracles where they are needed; He sends miracles where they are expected.

4. Faith is like a muscle (Philippians 3:14). We know our muscles grow as we use them, and shrink when we don’t.  The same is true with your faith.  And this I know for sure–God wants your faith to grow in 2011.  So let’s set a goal.  Let’s pray to God and do our part so our faith will grow.

5. Faith is invisible to the natural eye (Hebrews 11:27). Can you see electricity?  How about wind?  But you sure can see the results of both.  There may be times you need to stand alone in faith.  Others may not see your faith, but God does.  Don’t be discouraged; instead believe.

6. Faith works in all personality types (Hebrews 11:2). Certain blood types cannot mix with other blood types.  For example, if your blood is A+, blood type B or B- won’t work for you.  But I’m glad faith works in all personality types.  Let it work in you this year.

4 THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU’RE HAPPY

When you’re happy and life is bringing only the best, how do we keep the good vibes rolling? Here are 4 simple things to do when life is finally turning out the way you wanted.

01.  Be Thankful

It is so easy to forget to be thankful, but when things are going great there shouldn’t be a day that goes by where we don’t look to the Heavens and thank God for all we have. So take time everyday and thank God for His goodness, His blessing, and His protection

Colossians 2:6-7 6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

02. Be Aware

Enjoy this great time in your life! We all know what it’s like to be on the other side, so take time and smell the roses. Don’t let this great streak pass you by as you get caught up in the busyness of life. Life is a process, and you aren’t really living unless you enjoy that process.

03. Be Hungry

Don’t be completely satisfied with life even when it is good. Use this as an opportunity to propel you even further into what God has for you. A lot of times we pray only when life gets tough and when we’re desperate. Instead, why not choose this time to go after God even more and be hungrier for Him even in this time of blessing. You think your life may be good now, but why settle for good when you can have great?

04. Be Helpful

Don’t keep your smile and the skip in your step to yourself. Help someone else who is less fortunate. Use God’s blessing for you and bless someone else. God wants to use you to help others especially when you are prospering.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  -Winston Churchill