Thursday, October 30, 2014

It is a universal fact:  Every person faces hard times, obstacles, disappointments and some degree of emotional pain throughout his or her life.  Such things simply cannot be avoided.

I don’t know about you but it helps me to know that I am not alone in such circumstances.  King David, the Apostle Paul and Jesus all had moments of despair, anguish, suffering and heartache. (Read Psalm 38:6; II Corinthians 1:8; Matthew 26:38)

Just as it was feasible for them to find victory through such things, so it can be for you.  Let me share with you how to triumph through hard times and the emotional agony you experience in those hard times.
  1. Examine your mind (Psalm 26:2-3).  If the messages you play repeatedly in your mind do not line up with God’s Word, they are false and must be replaced.  You can’t control emotions; however, you can control thinking.  Controlled thinking enables you to choose a healthy response.
  2. Engage the Holy Spirit.  He exposes the false messages that drive us in the midst of hardship.  When He unearths the falseness of those false beliefs, He then replaces them with truth and makes us whole.
  3. Envelope yourself in God’s Word.  This will enable you to change the way you see things and gives you His perspective of your situation.  The Word will reveal the conditions that trigger your damaged emotions and how to respond in a manner that builds you up.
  4. Exercise the power of prayer.  Ask for His help.  Listen to Him as you cry out.  He will help you and lift you up if you seek His help. (I Peter 5:5-6)

Victory over hardships is possible.  God wants to restore you.  He desires that you trust Him.  He promises to give us victory over the damaged emotions we have because of hardship.  Trust Him to do what He said.  (Exodus 15:26; II Kings 20:5; Psalm 34:18-19; Psalm 107:19-20; Psalm 147:2-3; Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 57:18-19; Jeremiah 30:17; John 14:27).


P.S. Is life hard for you right now?  Are you overwhelmed with how difficult it is? Do you need a boost of hope or a reminder that God has not deserted you? Join us Sunday as we begin a new series Bittersweet: The Story of Ruth.  A story of redemption, hope, faith and love.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Let it go

I am not a trained counselor nor do I claim to be.  However, because I am a pastor I have had plenty of opportunity to function in the role of a counselor.

It has been my observation that people with certain problems (we all have problems and issues), never move forward because they cling to the past.  Now, I don’t have a problem delving into the past for understanding.  It’s when we are stuck to the past and are unwilling to create change to move forward and into the future.

Understanding the past is perfectly admissible if your issue is accepting the past.  But if your issue is changing the future, understanding the past alone will not take you there.  Some people when you say, “If you want to change, do this,” are simply unwilling.

They often choose the path of least resistance and thus stay stuck where they are.  Like a perfectionist who says, “My parents never said I was good enough.”  This is why I am the way I am.  Or the person who believes he can operate above the rules and feels he can do no wrong, because his parents doted on him and inflated his importance.

Or you freeze around authority figures because you had a controlling mother, and so on.

We can’t do anything about the past.  We can’t change it, rewrite it or make excuses for it.  All we really can do is accept it and move on.  When we cling to the past it is also easy to blame someone else for anything that’s gone wrong in our lives.  This stems from the result of the fall of Adam and Eve (read Genesis 3:12-19)

When we make excuses, or blame someone else, or something else beyond our control as the reason for the issues we have, we will not move forward in a healthy positive way.

If you no longer want to cling to the past, why not try this: 1) Stop blaming others for the way you are. 2) Own the necessary changes you need to make to move forward. 3) Accept the outcome of the choices you have made in the past to equip you for better changes in the future.  Remember what Paul said, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child, when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”  Don’t cling to the past, move forward.

P.S. How can your lifestyle: behaviors, actions, reactions, decisions, speech, etc. reflect Jesus in the world we live in?  We will look at this question in our Worship Services this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30 a.m.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Is there someone in your life you need to forgive?  Someone who hurt you deeply? Abused you? Gossiped about you?  Tried to destroy your reputation?  Tried to make your life a living hell?  Disappointed you?

If there is such a person, have you forgiven them?  You might think I could never do that.  They hurt me so much it has left deep scars.  I’m not ready for that – to forgive them.

If that is what you are thinking, may I remind you of a couple of things.  First, forgiveness is not an option. It is a requirement for the Christ follower.  In what is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer (not a magic prayer to recite but a pattern to follow) it says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us (Matthew 6:12).  But if you read verses 14-15, it says, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you don’t forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” OUCH!

Forgiveness always starts with a look in the mirror (Read Matthew 18:21-35).  God tells us forgiving others is a very big deal.

What does it mean to forgive?  Eternally it means we have a clean slate?  But in the earthly realm it is a little different.  Forgiveness is not pretending that nothing happened.  You can’t forget it.  What it does mean is you don’t hold it against the person.

When we sin against God the Bible says, “He remembers them no more.” (Hebrews 8:12).  That doesn't mean God has Alzheimer’s.  It means He doesn't respond to you in light of it.  He remembers what you did – He simply doesn't hold it against you.  And He wants us to do the same with those who have wronged us.

You don’t act as if it never happened – you no longer hold onto it.  Forgiveness doesn't mean the removing of all consequences.  King David had all kinds of consequences following his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:13-14).

When you forgive that person for whatever they did, it doesn't mean you pick up where you left off.  They have to earn the right to be trusted.  They may be given a second chance, but everything is not always back where it once was.

Mark, I don’t think I ever can forgive this person.  I’m not ready.  When will you be ready?  Ask God to help you want to be ready to forgive.  Until you do, you live your life in the world’s worse prison – unforgiveness.


P.S.  Do you want more joy, more fulfillment, more blessing, more value, more significance added to your life?  Come this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30 and discover the answer.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

When someone makes you angry

All of us have people in our lives who drive us crazy, whom we dislike with a passion.  Come on – be honest!  You have at least one of these people in your life!  You probably have spent countless hours reliving the moments when this person was unfair, unappreciative, or inconsiderate of you.  Even when you think of that person it bumps up your blood pressure.

The best course of action when dealing with this kind of person is to not let them make you angry.  Getting angry doesn't improve the situation, and as I have discovered the hard way, life’s too short to waste getting angry.

Getting angry at someone for being who they are makes as much sense as getting mad at your desk for being a desk.  If we had that persons genes, background, experience, we would be that person. More often than not, we might as well be him because we really are angry at ourselves.

Now, anger is a God-given emotion.  But it also is a secondary emotion.  Something else triggers it: hurt, embarrassment, a blocked goal, being misunderstood, etc.  Anger is an emotion that can take control of you if you don’t let the Holy Spirit control it.

The Bible says it over and over: Be slow to anger (James 1:18).  The anger of a man cannot achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:19).  Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.  If you do, it overcomes you (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Nothing will destroy your reputation more than being a hothead.  Bobby Knight won three NCAA titles while at Indiana University and is only one of two coaches in college history with 800 or more victories.  By any measure, he’s one of the greatest coaches of all time.  But when people think of Bobby Knight, their first thought is his volcanic temper, not his win-loss record.

So, how does one stop getting angry? Let me suggest a couple of things. (1) Stop speaking when angry.  Just stop it: (Proverbs 26:4; Proverbs 10:19; Proverbs 29:20; Proverbs 18:2; Proverbs 21:23; Proverbs 13:3). (2) Keep an anger log: When did you get angry? Why? What were the triggers? Then you can address triggers and deal with them. (3) Pray that the Spirit of God be in control of your emotions, thoughts, words and actions (Ephesians 5:18). (4) Memorize James 1:18-19 and apply it to your life.  These things will help you with anger.  I know. I am a recovering hot head.

P.S.  What’s the big deal about the church? Do I really need it? Does the church need me? Join me for worship this Sunday at 9:00 or 10:30 to discover the Bible’s answer to these questions.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Is anybody listening?

I have a confession to make: I am not a good listener.  I find myself mentally (more so than literally) drumming my fingers while someone else is talking.  I find myself becoming bored, distracted and busy composing what I want to say.  Not listening is really a silent, invisible activity.  People rarely notice you doing it.  They don’t necessarily know if you’re bored, distracted or as my wife likes to say “In La La Land.”

You may be thinking, ‘Mark, thanks for the confession but what’s your point?’  My point is that the Bible puts a great deal of importance on the subject of listening.  Learning to listen has relational benefits both vertically and horizontally.  And if I’m not listening or striving to be a listener, I’m not obeying what the Scripture says. (Proverbs 2; James 1:18-19; Psalm 119 and Deuteronomy 6).  When you fail to listen to someone you are sending out an army of negative messages.  You really are saying; ‘I don’t care about you – I don’t understand you – I think you are wrong – You’re stupid – You’re wasting my time.’  It’s no wonder people never talk to you if that’s the attitude that comes across in your listening.

People will tolerate all sorts of rudeness, but the inability to pay attention to them holds a special place in their hearts.

If you are not listening, displaying extreme impatience, wanting people to hurry up and get to the point, displaying body language and facial expressions contrary to being interested in what they are saying, they will notice that and rarely think better of you for it.

All of us should be able to listen.  After all, what’s it take to keep our eyes open, our eyes looking at whoever is talking, and our mouths shut?  Sounds easy doesn’t it?

My challenge to myself and to those out there like me who are not listening, 'STOP IT!'  Stop interrupting or thinking ‘boring,’ and invest with those you communicate with.  To borrow the words of Scripture, ‘Be quick to hear (listen) slow to speak and slow to anger.’


P.S. Do you believe you’re growing spiritually?  How do you know?  What is your measurement of spiritual growth?  Do you feel you’re at a standstill spiritually?  That you are not as close to God as you once were?  Join us Sunday at 9:00 & 10:30 to probe these questions.