Thursday, February 22, 2007

Contentment Meter

WNBS Recap
February 21, 2007
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Can you tell what people are thinking or how they are feeling by their facial expressions? You can usually easily see anger, worry, confusion, disgust, excitement, surprise, sadness and boredom written all over someone's face. But, what about contentment? What does contentment look like, where does it come from, and how do we get there?

Last week Paul reminded us what our life focus should be: things that are far greater than personal accomplishments, namely visions and revelations of the Lord. Has your focus changed at all over the past week? What is your focus on today? What is going to have to happen to get your focus in the right place?

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:7 what got his focus in the right place:

"And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations; for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in teh flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me--to keep me from exalting myself!"

Paul was given a "thorn in the flesh", by Satan, and it kept him from being prideful. But, don't you think Satan would want Paul to have his focus in the wrong place (in a prideful place)? So, apparently, Paul sees how God can use what Satan wants to use to hinder Paul, to instead refocus him on what is better and greater. The result of this eternal higher focus is contentment.

2 Corithians 12:10:
"Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Chrsit's sake; for when I am weak then I am strong."

The American way of life is a daily lesson in discontentment. Biggie size, all you can eat buffets, 800 TV channels, bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger TV's, more technology, more money, prettier women, skinnier bodies and faster internet are just a few examples of the result of discontentment in America. And discontentment shows. How do you act when you are discontent? Depressed, angry, impulsive, tired, restless? Discontentment is not healthy, so we need something better: contentment. But, how do we get there?

Paul has already shown us the first step in verse 7: Recognize weakness in your life. This can be a physical ailment or sickness, a monetar desire, a spiritual struggle, or any number of things. Paul does not tell us what exaclty his thorn is, and maybe we don't really need to know what the thorn is. We all recognize where the thorns are in our life that make us uncomfortable and make us struggle sometimes. The fact that we don't know with what Paul was actually dealing with 100% certainty helps us to apply the wisdom of verses 7-10 to our lives and our situations.

In verse 8, Paul says that he talked to God about his thorn. That's something we should do, but we have to be prepared to accept God's answer. After 3 times talking to God about his thorn, God tells Paul, "No, I'm not going to take it away from you." Check out verse 9:

"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient foryou, for power is perfected in weakness.'" How does Paul respond to that? "I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Chrsit may dwell in me." Paul accepts it! Why? Because he truly believes that Christ's grace and strenght are sufficient! That is step two towards contentment: Trusting in the sufficient grace of God.

Jesus also told Paul that "power is perfected in weakness". Who's power? Christ's power will work in people who recognize and cry out to God about their weaknesses, but only if that person is willing to trust in the sufficient grace of Christ for that situation. That is step three toward contentment: Allowing the Perfect Power of Christ to work in you.

Paul accepts the presence of his weakness, trusts that Christ's grace is sufficient, and recognizes the perfect power of Christ that goes beyond his own power to handle the thorn. Because of that, he says he is well content. And this is not the only time he speaks of contentment. Check out Philippians 4:11-13:

"Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I now how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumtance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all thing through Him who strengthens me."

There's the power of Christ at work in his life again!

So, we come back to focus. How do you know when your focus is right? When you are well content in Christ with WHATEVER circumstance you are in. And that brings one more question: Is Christ enough for you? When your focus is in the right place, then Christ will be enough!

Weakness-->Sufficient Grace-->Perfect Power-->Contentment

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What's Your Plan?

Flood Zone Recap
February 18, 2007

What are you doing Friday? What about next week? What about this summer? Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

These are all common questions that we ask each other, especially as teenagers. But, are these questions OK for Christians to ask each other, especially when we know that God is in control and we don't know what he already has planned?

This questions comes from a couple of verses in James. Check out James 4:13-17:

13 Come now you who say, "Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit."

14 Yet yo do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

15 Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that."

16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin!

Let's take a minute and look at 2 things: What IS James saying and what is James NOT saying.

What IS James Saying:

1. You don't know what your life will be like tomorrow. (v13)
2. Life is short. (v14)
3. We need to focus on what God wants for our lives-there is a specific plan! (v15)
4. Pride can easily creep into our plans. (v16)
5. When we know we are leaving God out of the picture, and we don't change it, we are sinning. (v17)

What is James NOT Saying:
There is a lot that James is not saying here relating to planning, business and profit. Sometimes, however, we might misinterpret what he is saying, so we need to reference other parts of scripture to see where we have gone wrong. Here are a few things to get the ball rolling.

1. Business is bad (v13). (see 1 Thess 4:11)
2. Profits and Riches are Bad (v13). (see the Prable of the Talents, Abraham, and Job)
3. Life is Meaningless (v14). (Luke 12:22)
4. God is a God of Disorder (v14). (Jeremiah 31:35-36)
5. Don't make ANY Plans (v15). (Is 25:1)
6. Plans are Evil (v16). (Proverbs 31:10 ff)
7. If you have Goals you are Sinning (v17). (Proverbs 31:10 ff)

Knowing more about what James is and is not saying helps us apply these verses to our own lives better. We can ask ourselves the question: "How do I make sure that my plans and goals are not sinful and prideful?" I have 2 answers for you!

1. Make sure that you are willing to be interrupted. Allow God the freedom to change your plans when necessary. This involves the big things (college, career, spouse, etc.) and the little things (taking time to see how your teacher is doing, sitting with a different person at lunch, not watching your favorite tv show because someone needs to talk, delaying your daily plans for something God has for you.)

2. Make sure you have a God-centered focus instead of a self-centered focus. Don't base your pllans on what YOU or others want for your life, but on what God wants for your life. God may want to ruin your plans becuase he has something FAR GREATER in store that will lead to a much more powerful overflow of grace, joy, hope, peace and life from you to those around you.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Stop Looking at Me!

WNBS Recap

February 14, 2007
2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Happy Valentine's Day!

Have you ever seen a picture that's out of focus? Sometimes it's hard to even tell what the picture is. For instance:

Other times, details from the image are just lost. Like, what's the name of this puppy?

So, when things are out of focus, you can lose sight of reality and also lose important detail. Another thing that often happens (and is quite artisitic in the world of photography) is when one thing is out of focus, another thing is in focus.The question that we have to ask is: "Is the right thing in focus?"

Paul has just spent half of chapter 11 giving the people of Corinth what they want: a laundry list of reasons he's better than the other "preachers and teachers" that have been coming to the church. The corinthian church is focused on Paul's immediate earthly success and his accomplishments. Now, Paul wants them to refocus. But how?

Everyone has "good things" they can brag about or give personal praise about. For instance, I have 2 degrees (a Bachelors in Computer Science and Math and a Masters in Christian Ed), came in 2nd on my team at the 1999 NCAA Cross Country Regional, once ran the last mile of a race in 5:00 flag, single handedly eliminated 4 opponents in a paintball game while wearing a white jacket in the woods, won 3 service awards in college, can sing and play guitar, write original songs, can change my own oil, can successfully complete sudokus and photo mosaic puzzles, have been to Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, the Netherlands, England, and Panama, and can eath a triple order of hash browns a waffle and a BEC sandwich in one sitting.

The fact that you now know these things about me is nice, and it may actually give me credibility in some cases, but does any of it really matter? With regard to eternity, are these things really that important? Don't get me wrong. I think it is good to strive for personal success in everything that you do, but if your purpose is earthly success and personal praise, then your focus is wrong!

2 Corinthians 12:1 says: Boasting is necessary, but it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

While boasting may be necessary to some extent, because it satisfies this need of ours to know that someone is credible and worth listening to, it is not worth much. Why? Because the fact that I can (or could) run fast or can (or could) eat a lot at the Waffle House will do NOTHING to make you or anybody else more like Jesus! It is not wrong to have earthly success, or for people to know about those successes, but if that is the goal of your life, then your focus is WRONG! These are good things, but there are "better things" that we need to focus on, namely visions and revelations of the Lord.

Remember back to 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Paul encourages the church to focus on the things that are unseen (things that are eternally significant) instead of the things that are seen (things that are only temporarily significant). He is now taking the church back to that focus: from good things to BETTER things!

Verses 2-5 of chapter 12 give a picture of what is better. Eternity is inexpressible with words. It is better that anything experienced here on earth, and as we live here temporarily our efforts need to be geared toward this better thing: eternity!

Again, in verses 6-7, Paul says he will refrain from boasting anymore so that people don't just see him and his success, but the "surpassing greatness of the revelations." There is something far greater!

Revelations of the Lord far> Personal Accomplishment

But, is it easy to keep the focus in the right place? Sometimes it takes a little work, and sometimes it takes a little encouragement. Paul describes the "encouragement" he received from God in verses 7-9: "a thorn in the flesh".

That doesn't sound too comfortable, does it? And when Paul begged God to take it away, what did God say? NO! He said "NO"! Why? Because He wanted to be enough for Paul! After Paul heard God's response, this is what he decided: "I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficluties, for Chrsit's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

WOW! What about you? Can you say that? Where is your focus? What are you content with? Is God's grace enough for you?

If our focus is wrong, then we will not be content with God's grace in our lives and we will live for what is insignificant rather than what is significant. Refocusing your life is not necessarily may take some work and some encouragement!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Virtual Jar

We need new questions in the jar, and the Virtual Jar is still Virtually Empty!!! :)

Submit your questions, the old way or the new way, so that all mysteries can be revealed to you!!!

Just send a comment to this post!

Here's my Infomercial:

Try the new Virtual Jar. It has half the fat and none of the glass that the regular jar has. Also, its virtual (which basically means it doesn't really exist...we just like to think it does.)

Thursday, February 1, 2007

On the Line

WNBS Recap
January 31, 2007
2 Corinthians 11:23-12:1

Have you ever heard the phrase "lay it all on the line"? What does this mean? What are some things you would be willing to lay it all on the line for? What would you be willing to sacrifice, go all out, put it out there for? Would you be willing to lay it on the line for...

-Your basketball team if you were down one with 3 seconds left and had the ball in your hands?
-Your buddy if he was attacked by a giant catfish in the lake this summer?
-Your brother or sister if they wanted your pillow because it was more comfortable?
-Your classmates if a giant spider came into the classroom that needed to be squashed?
-Your family pet if the house was on fire?
-Your cheeseburger if it has slid off the table and is heading to the floor?
-Your dad if he has had a long day and needs his feet rubbed?
-Your grandma or grandpa if they needed you to take their teeth out for them?

Some of us would lay it on the line for some things that other people would not. Last week, Paul was explaining in 2 Corinthians 11:1-22 some of the differences between true teachers and false teachers. Here's a quick recap:

False Teachers are:
deceitful, boasting, works focused, the ONLY authority, users of people, takers of resources, "better than you", and abusive (even physically).

True Teachers, on the other hand, are:
humble, caring, charitable, serving, truthful, bold, and loving.

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, Paul disusses another characteristic of True Teachers, giving examples from his own ministry. True Teachers will lay it all on the line!

Physically, Paul laid down his strength, freedom, safety, home, the easy road, sleep, food, drink, clothes, and shelter, all for the purpose of the growth of the Gospel. (You can see specifics about the dangers Paul faced on his missionary journeys all through the book of Acts. Acts 16:11-25; Acts 14:1-22; Acts 21:27-36) But that is not all he laid on the line. He also laid down his emotions. He was full of compassion, empathy, sympathy and accountability for the people throughout his areas of ministry. Every thing that they went through and everything that they did mattered to him.


Because they are part of the body! 1 Corinthians 12:26 shows us a mark of the TRUE church:
"And if one member suffers, all the members ssuffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it."

Are you, as part of the body of Christ, suffering and rejoicing with the other parts of the body?

The posted video from Voice of the Martyrs, "Faces of Persecution" can remind us of two things.

1. We have it great here in America. We can live out our faith in peace. The thing is, often we don't live out our faith with passion and sacrifice, laying what we have on the line for the sake of the Gospel. We have to ask ourselves...if I cannot lay it all on the line in the times of peace, willI be willing or able to lay it all on the line in the times of war, when my faith is being attacked?

2. These persecuted Christians around the world are part of the SAME BODY of Christ. They are our brothers and sisters. They are suffering and rejoicing. We MUST be suffering and rejoicing with the, praying for them, encouraging them, excited with them about what God is doing. One day we may be the persecuted arm of the church and need the same comfort and encouragment that they need today. It is a true mark of the Church, so let's be the church!

Do you think it was worth it to Paul to be beaten, whipped, stoned, shipwrecked, chased, naked, cold, hungry, thirsty and imprisoned in his life? Let's see what he has to say about it:

"Now I want you to know, brothers, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my impirsonment in teh cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brothers, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear." Philippians 1:12-14

I'm sure the persecuted arm of the church around the world feels the same way! May we have courage to speak the Word of god WITHOUT fear!!! Lay it all on the line, trusting in the Lord!

Faces of Persecution