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God's truth for today's world

Every person faces discouragement in their life from time to come. The dictionary defines discouragement as the condition of being deprived of confidence, hope or spirit. Discouragement raises it’s ugly head when things seem to go wrong in our lives. A plan that we’ve had seems to be going no where. We may have work problems, or relational problems or health problems. The way we think our lives should go does not seem to be happening. So, our confidence, hope and spirits are dampened. If not checked, discouragement can lead to depression. Someone who is discouraged or depressed usually finds it difficult to know how to make the changes in their lives that will lead to increased confidence, hope and spirit. God’s Word gives us the principles, that with God’s help, can guide you to finding courage and hope for your life.

A discouraged person tends to live in the past, either a past of failures or a past of glory days, never to be repeated. God designed us as people to look to the future not the past. Take your eyes off the past, it’s history, and place them on the future. NIV Isaiah 43:18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” God wants to do a new thing in your life. No matter what has gone down in the past, God has a good plan for you, a plan that no one can thwart except you. If your life seems like a desert and wasteland, God wants to show you a roadway through that desert and lead you to streams of living water. Look to the future.

A discouraged person tends to withdraw from other people and hide away from relationships. The way out of discouragement is to draw strength from others. First and most importantly, God is there to give you strength and courage. God spoke to Joshua and He speaks to you: NLT Joshua 1:5 For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. God will not force Himself upon you, but He is there, if you will but reach out to Him. He is always as close as your breath. He is never more than a whisper away. Ask Him for strength, submit your life to Him.

A discouraged person doesn’t want to do anything. Sometimes they don’t even want to get out of bed in the morning. If God has a good plan for your future and He is there to give you strength, then you’ve got to get up and take action to follow that plan. Draw courage and strength from God and God’s family, the church, to take action in your life. If you do nothing, nothing will change in your life. God spoke to Joshua and He speaks to you: NLT Joshua 1:9 I command you– be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” God never commands someone to do something that He does not empower them to do. So when God commands you to be strong and courageous, you can do it! When God commands you to not be afraid or discouraged, you can do it! Why? Because He will be with you wherever you go.

God will show you His plan for your life as you study, meditate on and obey God’s Word written down in the Bible. The only path to success in life is through a relationship with Jesus Christ and obedience to God’s Word. NLT Joshua 1:8 Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed.

For a more indepth treatment of this topic, listen to my February 6, 2005 message entitled Bringing Out The Best In Others
https://s3.amazonaws.com/lifechurchstlouis/mp3s/2005%20Messages/2005%2002%20Building%20Stronger%20Relationships/020605%20Bringing%20Out%20The%20Best%20In%20Others.mp3 If you don’t yet have a relationship with God, these principles will be impossible to put into practice fully. To find out about starting a relationship with God, read my blog How To Have A Relationship With God.

People were created by God to have a relationship with Him. Every person was designed by God with a special plan and purpose in mind for their life. That special plan and purpose for your life can only be fulfilled when you have a relationship with God. Success in life is defined by fulfilling your God-given purpose.

How can a person have a relationship with God? Although, most people in America call themselves Christians, very few actually have a relationship with God. You can call yourself anything you like, but that doesn’t make your label accurate. In this blog, I will lay out the succinct basics of entering into a relationship with God, based on the Bible. There is no other way. It is profound, but yet as simple as ABC.

A, you must ADMIT that you have done wrong things, you have sinned, every human being has. NLT Romans 3:23 For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. God’s glorious standard was exemplified in the perfect life of Jesus Christ, who never sinned. We all fall short of that standard. That sin separates you, a sinful human being, from having a relationship with a holy God. You need to simply admit it.

B, you must BELIEVE that Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive your sins and release you from the penalty of the wrong you have done. Your sin separates you from having relationship with a holy God and condemns you to an eternity without God in a place called hell. Jesus having no sin of His own, took your sin upon Himself on the cross and paid your penalty, so that you could be released from eternal death and enter into enternal life. NLT Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. The free gift of God, eternal life, is received through faith, through believing that Jesus’ death is sufficient to forgive your sins and place you into a relationship with God. NLT John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Finally, C, you must COMMIT your life to following Jesus, all your days. That means that you make a firm and irrevocable decision to make Jesus the leader, the CEO, the president, the Lord of your life. From now on, you don’t call the shots anymore, He does. He has a plan for your life, and you are making a decision to follow it, no ifs, ands or buts about it. NLT Romans 10:9 For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. It’s as simple and profound as that. ABC.

So, what are you waiting for? You don’t know how long you have on this earth. You’ve got a plan from God for your life to get started on. Don’t put it off. Simply go through the ABCs above and talk it through with God. He’s right there with you and He’s listening. Do it now!

If you’ve just prayed the ABC prayer, congratulations, you now have a relationship with God. If you are in the St Louis area, come to Life Church St Louis next Sunday, mark your Connect Card that you have committed your life, and we will get you a free New Believer’s New Testament to read and start figuring out God’s plan for you. You also need to get involved in a good, Bible-believing church. If you’re in St Louis, Life Church St Louis is the place to be. See you next Sunday!

In the past week, we have been overwhelmed with pictures and videos of the destruction and loss of life that has occurred as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Some people blame God for what has happened. Others say that God had nothing to do with it, it was just random chance. Both opinions are wrong. The Bible clearly teaches that nothing happens by chance. NLT Proverbs 16:33 We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall. Nothing happens outside of God’s control, even natural disasters. Chance is simply a word that humans use for something for which they cannot determine cause and effect.

However, to say that nothing happens outside of God’s control, does not mean that God caused the death and destruction. Death and destruction are a result of Satan’s activity and sin in a fallen world. Death and destruction entered our world as a result of Adam’s original sin and are here to stay until the end of history. Yet, God in His awesome power, is able to use events such as these to further His purposes in the world.

Since God is in control of everything, God is in control of history. History is not a random set of events leading nowhere. History is linear, it had a beginning and it has an ending at the return of Jesus Christ to this planet. What is God doing in history? First, let’s look at one line of the Lord’s prayer. NIV Matthew 6:10 Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. History is about God’s kingdom coming to earth, it is about His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. The end of history awaits more people becoming followers of Jesus Christ, that is Christians. NLT 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise to return, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so He is giving more time for everyone to repent.

So now that we understand in the broadest sense what is going on in history, let’s look at how God may be using the tsunami and what our response should be. The biggest barrier to the advance of Christianity around the world is the religion of Islam, with 1 billion adherents. Islam is violently opposed to Christianity in every state in which it has come to power. Conversion to Christianity is often grounds for capital punishment. Christians and missionaries are heavily persecuted. Islamic lands are almost untouched by the Christian message. God’s purposes in history will not let this situation stand and so we are beginning to see tremendous upheaval in these lands to open them up to Christianity.

Afghanistan was 99% Muslim. Now after the war, it is democratic and more open to Christian influence than ever before. Iraq was 95% Muslim and now despite the ongoing violence has a far greater Christian presence than ever before. I am not giving an opinion on whether these wars were just or not, I am simply saying that God is using them to open up closed Islamic lands to Christianity. Indonesia, the country most affected by the tsunami is the largest Muslim country in the world (87%). It has a record of increasing persecution of Christians. Now Indonesia is receiving aid from many Christian organizations around the world. Sri Lanka (70% Buddhist) and India (82% Hindu) were also impacted by the tsunami. God is and will be using these tragic events, not to punish Muslims, but to open their lands to the good news of Jesus Christ.

What should the response of Christians be to these disasters? The Word of God is clear. NLT Isaiah 58:10 Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as day. God wants believers to extend a helping hand to those who are in deep distress, to show the love of Jesus to them in every possible way. If you are a believer, I encourage you to support Christian aid agencies, such as AG Relief, that can supply both physical and spiritual help. Pray that these terrible events will open up people’s eyes to the only one who can ensure their eternity, Jesus Christ.

We look forward to the end of history. One day, there will be no more pain, no more tears, no more death. But until that day, we work with God, extending His kingdom to the hungry and those in trouble, wherever they may be.

NIV Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

The general election of 2004 is just a few weeks away and the media of full of debates, polls and politics. How should a person decide who to vote for? Some people will vote for who they thought “won” the debates. Others will vote for who they think appears more presidential. Yet others will vote for the challenger because they want to see change. Still others will vote for the incumbent because they do not want to see change. I think that the Bible gives a better way on how to decide who to vote for.

If we look at how God says a leader should be chosen, it will show us the characteristics to look for in a leader, whether a President, a Senator or some other official. The classic example is found in 1 Samuel 16, where God chooses a leader for Israel through the prophet Samuel. The instructions that God gave to Samuel are found in verse 7, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Bottom line, pick a leader based on heart characteristics, like character and values, rather than external factors.

Let’s move right to 2004 and ask how we are to determine the character, the heart characteristics of a candidate. The character of a man will determine his future effectiveness as a leader, not his good intentions or promises. Character is best judged by past experiences. 1 Timothy 3:10 says that “They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.” I have taken courses on best practices for job interviews and they agree. The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Don’t ask the applicants about what they plan to do, ask them about what they have done in the past. And so, we should judge presidential candidates the same way. Their past record gives the best indication of what they will do in the future, it shows the direction of their hearts. Therefore, choose the candidate whose plans are simply an extension of their past experience. If the candidate makes promises, but does not root them in his past performance or voting record, he has no credibility.

Leadership is to be based on principle and values, not on simply doing what the poll of the day indicates. A leader leads, he molds public opinion, rather than simply following public opinion.

The Bible indicates that God has designed three major institutions in society: government, the church and the family. The best candidate will understand the balance between these three institutions and see how each has a role to play in society.

A candidate’s stand on the issues and past record must be analyzed with respect to biblical values and teaching. A claim to be a Christian or to have a relationship with God should not be deemed credible if the record does not indicate the candidate has a biblical worldview. The stand of national level candidates on many issues can be found on many news websites, as well as others like, www.ivotevalues.org.

Not all issues are of equal importance to those who desire to vote based on biblical values. As important as issues like the economy, taxes, health care or terroism are, the way to assess the best candidate to deal with them is to look at a small set of non-negotiable issues. These issues have crystal clear answers in the Bible and most candidates have clear positions on them. If a candidate’s stand on these issues is correct, the rest of their positions will tend to reflect a biblical worldview. If the candidate’s view on these issues is incorrect, the rest of their positions will tend to reflect a non-biblical worldview.

Here are the non-negotiable issues, agreed on by every believer who knows and lives by the Bible:

  1. Protection of human life is a responsibility of government. The Bible teaches that life begins at conception and so abortion must be opposed in every way possible. The choice to kill one’s own child is barbaric. Life continues until God takes it and so euthanasia, the active termination of life must be opposed in every way possible.
  2. Issues in bioethics are not difficult to understand if one is guided by biblical principles. Embryonic stem cell research results in the mutilation and death of unborn children and must be opposed. Adult and other stem cell sources pose no ethical problems. Human cloning is an attempt to play God by manipulating the creation of life and must be opposed.
  3. Marriage is held with high esteem in the Bible and provides the basic unit of society. From the beginning, marriage has been between one man and one woman. Society and government must encourage marriage and oppose anything destructive to it. Same-sex marriage must be opposed, in particular for the damage that it would do to future generations of children as well as society.

In the past, it may have been difficult to tell where candidates stood on these issues, but no more, especially at the national level. The major parties have taken stands on many of these issues and discussed them in their party platforms. Most candidates support their parties’ platforms on these issues, but there are exceptions, particularly at the state and local levels. Find out the candidates’ stances on these issues. Vote for the candidates who best support these non-negotiable values.

It doesn’t matter if your family has traditionally voted for one party for years, the times have changed, believers must do the right thing today. Don’t vote for the candidate that you think will put the most money in your pocket, vote for the candidate that follows godly values. When you do the right thing as a believer by voting according to biblical values, not your pocketbook, it will lead to blessing on your family and the nation. It is sad that in a day when the choice of president is a black and white issue for believers, the country is almost evenly divided. Either half of the country is completely ignorant of what is at stake or they are willingly choosing the wrong rather than the right. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, you and your family will be blessed if you vote your values as believers.

NLT Proverbs 14:34 Godliness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.

Do you think your life is more stressful today than it was a year ago? Many people do. Life is getting more complex and the pace of change continues to accelerate. Try as we might, we can’t avoid major stresses in life or the multiplication of minor stresses that add up to major stress. Actually stress is a mentally or emotionally upsetting condition that occurs in response to adverse external circumstances. There are many adverse external circumstances that we can’t do anything about. So, we must learn to handle our response to them.

I am going to give you a simple three step approach to handling stress for a believer. If you are not yet a believer, this won’t work for you until you become one. The first step is simply to know you are a child of God. What I mean is to know, really know, just not in your head, but deep down in the core of your being that you are first and foremost a child of God. God, our Father, takes care of His children. If you identify mainly with your job, what happens to your stress level when you lose that job? If you identify first and foremost with another person, what happens to your stress level when that relationship is strained or broken? Only a deep understanding of what it means to be a child of God will keep you going in stressful situations.

The second step is to live to please God. Live to please God first and foremost and find your ultimate fulfillment in pleasing Him. If you live to please people first, you will not be able to do it. None of us can please even one other person all the time, let alone all the people who are in our lives. Some people get stressed out because they can never please themselves. Living to please God does not mean being perfect, it simply means that you live in faith, seeking to do what God wants above what anyone else may be pressuring you to do. When you please Him, it doesn’t really matter if others are not pleased. This is a great stress reliever.

The third and final step is to know what God wants you to accomplish. In order to please God, you’ve got to know specifically what He wants you to do with your life. You can find the general principles of what God wants you to accomplish with your life in the Bible. We talk a lot about this at Life Church, God’s five purposes for every believer’s life. But even more than that, God wants you to discover specifically and uniquely what He created you to do with your life. God designed you with a purpose in mind. When you increasingly discover that purpose, it helps you focus and simplify your life. Knowing what you must accomplish frees you to say “No” to people who are pressuring you in the wrong direction and it helps you say “Yes” to what God wants.

Three simple but profound steps to handling stress in your life and making your life be everything that God intended for it to be.

NLT Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”