Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Power of Influence

"Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."  Colossians 3:12

"Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus."Colossians 3:17

"Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." Colossians 3:23-24

"For the Lord is good; His loving kindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations."  Psalm 100:5

       Influence is kind of like a super-power, yet most of us don't realize the magnitude of it's power.  Our influence can be used for good or destruction, so we must be aware and mindful of its use.  Our influence is projected onto others in all the roles of our lives; parent, friend, co-worker, neighbor, sibling, and even as a stranger.  People are watching, so that you can use your influence to point them to Christ.  As believers, we are called to be people of influence—the Lord’s servants who point others to the One whose touch can change their lives.  Are you an influence of Christ's love and action?

      "God has entrusted each of us with influence in the lives of others. We have a deep responsibility in those relationships, not only to spouses and children, but to friends, employees, and customers. The temptation to press too hard, to demand too much, to force progress, or to orchestrate success can lead us to harm others even when we don’t realize it. For this very reason, followers of Christ are urged to be patient and gentle with one another."  []
     "Perhaps you serve in some unnoticed place, doing nothing more than ordinary deeds. Others might think that’s a waste. But God wastes nothing. Every act of love rendered for His sake is noted and has eternal rewards. Every place, no matter how small, is holy ground. Influence is more than lofty acts and words. It can be a simple matter of human helpfulness: being present, listening, understanding the need, loving, and praying. This is what turns daily duty into worship and service."  []
       What's a good example of how to use our influence when dealing with another and sin?  "The best example in the Bible of our approach to sin is Jesus’s interaction with the adulteress woman. He didn’t humiliate her (he waited until the crowd had gone away to even confront her personally). He didn’t shame her (she knew what she had done was wrong). He didn’t yell at her about right and wrong.  But he also didn’t tell her she was “OK just as you are.” He didn’t tell her love trumps everything, even sin, so she was welcome to continue living as an adulteress, as long as her heart was in the right place and she loved God. (Which is a contradiction.)  He extended grace to her because of His love, and He offered her the power to be changed. She had the choice to “go and stop sinning” after her encounter with the living Savior. Jesus offered her the ONLY thing that would heal her: repentance and forgiveness, made possible by grace.  To excuse sin and exchange the standard of truth (God’s Word) for being in the popular crowd of acceptance, is unloving. How hateful is it to lie to them for temporary gratification, only to find out, when we stand before the Judge, that we are both condemned–us for having led others astray, and them for believing our lie?" []
      Elisabeth Elliot said, "If we demand perfect role models, we will have, except for the Son of Man Himself, none at all.”  We may not set out to be a 'role model' because we've all made mistakes and fall short of the glory of God.  We can use those opportunities to be an influence with an intentional purpose of pointing others to God's grace and mercy.
Influence requires:
  1.  Authenticity
  2.  Trust in God's grace
  3.  Fruits of the Spirit, not being overbearing
  4.  Prayer, before and after witnessing

     "Your words have the power of life or death. You are going to have the opportunity to use your words to hurt, demean, slander and wound others. You are also going to have the opportunity to use your words to heal, encourage, inspire and love others. You will occasionally make the wrong choice.  Once the words leave your mouth, you can't take them back. Use your words carefully. When others are misusing their words, guard your words. Make the choice every morning that life-giving words will come out of your mouth. Be known for your gentleness and compassion. Use your life to give life to a world that so desperately needs it. You will never, ever regret choosing kindness."  [A. B. Gardner]

May your influence in life always point others to Jesus.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Rest in the Lord Guest-writer Jim Ehrhard

Jim Ehrhard is a missionary who is currently serving in the Ukraine with his wife and two young daughters.  He is a former pastor at Bible Church of Cabot and Cornerstone Bible Fellowship.  He is a professor at the Kyiv Theological Seminary and teaching others in the way of the Lord.  He is a blessing to many.

The following is from his latest update and I wanted to share it because I know it is applicable to my life and probably to yours as well.  Thanks Jim!

Probably nothing is more difficult for me than learning to rest. Even when I take a vacation,
it takes me a few days to slow down and stop thinking about the things I need to get done!
This is doubly true spiritually. If you ask me, “What is the hardest thing for you spiritually?”
I would answer, “Learning to rest in the Lord.” I think most other believers would say the
same. While the Bible is full of admonitions to rest in the Lord, it is the one area we struggle
the most with. So, I’m learning to rest – but it is the hardest thing for me to do!
Rest in the Lord! …
Well, how can we rest in the Lord?
First, rest comes when we have done all that the Lord asks of us. Rest is not merely passive;
it comes when we know we have done all the Father asks. Jesus had this perfect rest
(John 8:29). We must first do all He has commanded us to do and then we can enter into
His rest. Psalm 37:3 reminds us, “Rest in the Lord and do good.” Not merely rest – but do
good. This is true even for spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:13 says, “after you have done
everything, stand.” In other words, we can only truly rest in the Lord, standing against the
enemy, when we have done all He asks of us. A disobedient spirit keeps us from rest as well
as from spiritual protection. Proverbs 19:23 says, “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one
rests content, untouched by trouble.” True rest begins when we have done all the Lord
commands. There is no peace or rest for the disobedient soul!
Second, “cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you!” (1 Peter 5:7). Also, Psalm 46:10 tells
us to “cease striving and know that I am God.” Rest comes when we do all He has called us to
do, and then we put everything in His hands and trust Him for the outcome. We cease
Third, to rest, we must trust the sovereignty of God. On the Sabbath day, the Israelites were
told not to gather any manna. They were to gather a double portion on Friday and to trust
that God’s provision would be enough. We cannot rest unless we learn the secret of
contentment (Philippians 4:12). We learn to be contented with what a sovereign God has
provided for us.
But God’s desire for us in not only spiritual rest, but physical rest. Jesus told His disciples,
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:30-32).
Even in creation, God rested on the seventh day as a pattern for man (Genesis 2:2-3;
Exodus 20:8-11). Jesus corrected the Pharisees when he reminded them, “The Sabbath was
made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Rest refreshes us so that we are able
to be ready to serve the Lord another day.
Resting in the Lord is definitely the hardest part of the Christian life! It is far easier to be
active in ministry than to take time to rest. I’m learning, and I’m trying to learn to rest in the
Lord, not just for my physical health, but for everything in life. It’s a lesson easier to teach
than to live! I’m learning ….

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

God is THE Chainbreaker

     What do you think of as a 'prison'?  Is it the physical facility that holds convicted criminals?  Or is it the strongholds in our lives that keep us from being who we may want to be or that God wants us to be?  The strongholds in our lives can be physical limitations, emotional hurts, addictions to different vices, spiritual setbacks, or a many variety of chains that bind us down.
       God is the 'chainbreaker' that is available to all of us.  "Life’s circumstances change and sometimes we are humbled. Yet we can be hopeful and content knowing that there is One who has promised to never leave or forsake us. We can trust Him fully." []
       We must turn our eyes and hearts upon Jesus, rather than relying on our own strength.  "I am prone to take action, in other words, not because I am a confident man of God, but because too often I have no confidence in God. I’m worse than someone who thinks “God helps those who help themselves” is an actual Bible verse. Part of my worry, of course, is not that God will abandon me, but that His purposes are different from my own.  It seems that quite often what God expects from us is not bold speech or decisive action, but the very opposite: waiting, quiet endurance, and a persevering love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7)."  []
     We all need the Lord’s courage. A courage that relies on Him to guide us where He would have us go, to give us words to speak and silence when our words aren’t needed. A courage that loses this life in order that He would save it.  While we may experience physical or other kinds of limitations, what really matters is that we continue doing what we can for the Lord until He calls us Home.
       "In our society, we tend to make choices based on what will bring us the most happiness. But in the Bible, God’s concept of happiness is much better defined by the word contentment. Remember Paul saying, in essence, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11)?"  []

 Two weapons for being content when circumstances make us feel miserable:

 1] Remember God is in control; keep your eyes on heaven and the things of this world will go strangely dim

2] Turn our obsession to satisfy ourselves into a love for others; God doesn’t tell us to live for our own convenience. 

      I wrote this blog over the past two weeks through my thoughts and devotionals I've read.  It may sound selfish, but I have needed this blog as an encouragement to myself to get through this month of trials.  I'll share one of my fears that acted as a stronghold against me and made me doubt God's plan for me.  When I was in the hospital for 4 days, my IV was in my good arm-the left one.  During those 4 long days, I could not move my arm on my own at all.  The what-if's of fear set in.  I prayed between my moments of fear to trust in God's will no matter what the outcome.  God had mercy and I was able to move my arm as soon as the IV was removed.  God freed me from that simple, yet powerful chain.

     If you put your trust in God, He can free you too from whatever is holding you back from being the child of God that He created you to be.  May God have the strongest hold on you!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Doing Your Part In Your Relationships

''We are truly rich when we know just a few people in a way in which we know no others.''

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy…  Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel” (Proverbs 27:5-6, 9).

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

     Luke 10:30-37  "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands? " And he said, The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, Go and do the same.""

        Godly friendships are such an important part of life.  They encourage us, confront us, strengthen us, love us, pray for us, convict us, serve us, bear patience with us, humble us, spur us on to good deeds, sympathize with us, show compassion towards us and share the truth with us--even when it hurts.  I thank God for all the people He has put in my life to do all these things listed and for me to return the love, as best I can.

        How can we show Samaritan-like love in our relationships with others? []

See with eyes of compassion. If we’re busy and preoccupied with our own schedules and plans, we probably won’t see the needs around us. There could be a coworker who’s discouraged, a struggling neighbor, or even a family member who needs our help.

Have compassion and seize the opportunity to help. It wasn’t simply a matter of feeling bad for another person; the wounded man’s helpless condition moved the Samaritan to action. This is the point at which we often retreat, because stopping to help someone costs us time and effort.

      Let us also remember that, no matter how consistent, honest, and sensitive a friend we may be, we are all still sinful humans who may eventually hurt, disappoint, or even change. Christ is our ultimate Friend, the greatest Lover of our soul!