Monday, February 9, 2009

Simple Words – You can make a difference!

I must confess, I think I have the ‘FB’ bug. I really enjoy the connections I’m making with people and getting reacquainted with old friends through – dare I say it - Facebook. I’m finding FB a great way to touch people, even if it is only a cyber-touch. I know there is concern by many that people can begin living in a fantasy world through this but I plan watch myself carefully.

The other day I sent several simple notes of encouragement to friends and church members via FB. I was very surprised by the responses. One young man from our church who is normally very quiet and reserved responded with something that showed me the power of this form of communication. He wrote, “You're a great Pastor and thank you for teaching the word of God to me!”

When I read those words I realized how powerful FB and other Social CyberNetworks can be. As I’ve grown older (and I hope wiser) I think I’m past the need to hear praise from people about my service as a Pastor. In order for Pastors to be healthy and secure they need to learn early in their ministries not to count on a lot of praise, so that’s something I don’t look for. But when a simple sentence like that is expressed by a quiet teenager, it is powerful. I’m considering framing it to always remind me that a quiet teenager is possibly listening and watching.

The book of Proverbs gives us a glimpse into the power of words. Solomon wrote, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits”.(1) He also wrote, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body”(2) and “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver”.(3)

When the right words role off of our tongues or are typed onto our message boards, they can release a wellspring of life! We can make someone’s day, week, year or even life. Each one of us has that awesome capability and we need to use it more often. We need to carve out time from our hectic lifestyles to send people simple messages of encouragement that can revive fresh life in them.

(1) Proverbs 18:21
(2) Proverbs 16:24
(3) Proverbs 25:11

Monday, February 2, 2009

Position Yourself for Victory - Part 2: Where are you looking?

This is the second part of a series of blogs I’m writing based on the Bible story of King Jehoshaphat found in 2 Chronicles Chapter 20. In part one I pointed out that even though King Jehoshaphat was right with God his nation faced the possibility of destruction from an overwhelmingly superior foreign army.(1) Through this we realize people should not automatically think something is wrong with their relationship with God when they face great challenges in life.

The next thing that stands out is the response of King Jehoshaphat to this tremendous challenge. Without hesitation the King looked to God for help.(2) Not only did he begin to pray but he also rallied the nation to also call on God through both prayer and fasting. This was not a lighthearted action. The King acted with a resolve that reflected the seriousness of the situation, it was a matter life or death.

Too often we try to handle the challenges of life on our own, which is how most of us were raised. Our thinking is something like, “If I don’t make it happen it won’t happen.” While I’m a great believer in hard work and self initiative, I’m also a great believer in dependence upon God. There are things we can do and that we should be doing about our challenges. At the same time, we need to invite God to work in every situation we face. God’s power can accomplish things we can never accomplish on our own.

King Jehoshaphat’s heart is unveiled in his public prayer which I believe reveals some powerful truths. He began by acknowledging God as the ruler of all things and there is no power greater than God’s power.(3) Since God doesn’t need anyone to remind Him that He is God, I believe we need to be reminded of that fact. When we pray like Jehoshaphat prayed, our hearts begin to fill with fresh faith. We realize God IS on the throne and He IS all-powerful.

With a heart filled with faith in God’s power, Jehoshaphat then presented the specific situation to God. (4) While doing so he also confessed his weakness.(5) For a King to publicly confess such utter inability was humiliating, but he didn’t let pride hold him back from doing what was right and necessary. People often don’t ask for help or confess their weakness because of pride. As a result of their pride, they open the door to defeat and destruction.

The last part of the Kings prayer is powerful. While continuing his confession of utter helplessness he said to God, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”(6) The King decided to focus on God, not the enemy. When we are challenged in life it’s easy to let the problems we face captivate our minds and hearts causing us to loose true perspective.

The truth is - God is greater and more powerful than any enemy, challenge or difficulty. When we focus on that truth, our hearts can be at peace during the darkest and most difficult times. When we fill our minds with the never-failing love and grace of God – we have hope even when there seems to be no reason for hope. When we let our minds and hearts focus on the challenge we open the door to despair and hopelessness.

As we will continue to discover from this story, ultimately King Jehoshaphat defeated the enemy. Let’s learn from his example. When we have challenges, let’s immediately turn to God for help. Let’s praise Him and see Him as He truly is – the all-powerful ruler of heaven and earth who can do all things. Let’s be willing to humble ourselves through acknowledging our weakness. And finally, like a hawk, let’s keep our focus zeroed in on how great God is, not on how big the challenges are we face.

(1) 2 Chronicles 20:1-2
(2) 2 Chronicles 20:3
(3) 2 Chronicles 20:6-11
(4) 2 Chronicles 20:12
(5) 2 Chronicles 20:12
(6) 2 Chronicles 20:12