How’s your Skin

I heard it said like this – we need to have baby skin and elephant skin at the same time. Baby skin to help those that are hurting, those that are new Christians and those who are searching for Jesus. In other words, we are to have baby skin to feel and empathize with those that are vulnerable. This will allow God to work in their lives so that He can be their strength.

At the same time, we also need to have elephant skin for those that hurt us un-intentionally, those that hurt us intentionally and those that want their way, regardless of the cost and sometimes at our expense. In other words, we need to be strong in the Lord so that we do not get upset or side tracked easily.

Having only one type can make us become bitter as there is no balance.

However, having both types of skin help us to get better and not bitter.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. – Matthew 10:16 (NIV)

God Size Goals

Have you had the opportunity to be part of a God size goal?

A God size goal is the kind of goal that you know that you cannot achieve unless God shows up. This was the case when David went to fight Goliath (See 1 Samuel 17:45)

One of Woodvale’s God size goal this year is to fill 4,000 shoeboxes through the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.

This is an opportunity to share Jesus with a child and also put a smile on their face. We heard some great testimonies last year of how these shoeboxes have been a blessing to so many. Looking forward to seeing what God has done and will do through these shoeboxes this year.

I know some savvy shoe box fillers who can fill their shoebox in an inexpensive and creative ways (some even buy things on sale from now in preparation). I’ve seen this also at my place of work where non-believers are filling these shoeboxes.

Join me in praying that God will show up and Woodvale will fill the 4,000 shoeboxes.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”– Matthew 17:20 (NIV)

A Plan

God has a plan for your life.

You may have done something in your past that you think will disqualify you from being used by God.

Peter is a great example here. He was brave enough to walk on water with the Lord, bold enough to declare that he would be with Jesus to the end, even if it meant going to prison or dying (See Luke 22:31-34). Peter ended up missing the mark a few times but was still used to bring glory to God.

God has a plan for your life and God’s plan for your life is made up of days including today.

You may feel as though you have messed up or missed the mark, you may even feel so about today but that does not change the fact that God has a plan for your life. Will you submit to His will today?

It does not matter what the circumstances are and what people think of you.

It’s obedience over opinion. Our obedience to God is what is needed as we will be doing His will as opposed to going with popular opinion.

Keep your eyes on Jesus. He is the one that matters most.

Would you allow Him and the Holy Spirit to lead you today?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

Hurt and Disappointment

Have you been hurt, disappointed, rejected or let down since you became a Christian? Sometimes we even experience these things in a Christian environment which can make us feel wounded or angry? The way we deal with this will affect us serving in God’s kingdom.

How can we serve God to our best ability when we are wounded or angry, especially when we are angry with a fellow Christian or someone or something from the church we attend? Being angry clouds our decision making and makes us irrational.

Some people can hold on to disappointment and hurt for a long time and sometimes they become bitter by doing this. Jesus taught us to pray “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” (emphasis added)

There are some people out there whose eyes are not open as yet; they haven’t met Jesus as yet. Some of them could be new Christians or Christians that are not mature enough to know that when we put our hurts and disappointments in God’s hands, it becomes useful to Him.

When Jesus was on the cross, the first thing He said was, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” I am thinking, of course they know what they are doing, they were the ones who were shouting “crucify him, crucify him,” yet, He said, “they don’t know what they are doing.” And we are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps (1 Peter 2:21). We should be able to ask God to forgive those that hurt us.

Doing God’s will is our role as a Christian and part of Christianity is sometimes going through trying times or a rough patch for the advancement of the kingdom. That’s for our benefit as we can share our testimony with others to encourage them.

The bible does not say that the basis of our happiness is in our spouse, parents, sibling or kids. Our happiness is in Jesus. He is the only one that will never leave us or disappoint us.

What would you like your testimony to say? (1) You gave your life to Jesus, waited and then went to heaven? Or (2) once you were saved, you submitted to God’s will for your life and served Him faithfully through all the setbacks, disappointment, hurts and let downs.

Taking one or two of these hurts for the advancement of His kingdom sometimes is the difference that leads someone to give their life to Jesus.

We need to make Jesus number one in our lives by keeping our eyes on Him. In this way, we will know that hurts and disappointments can be used by God for advancing His kingdom.

Being Thankful

Thankful is a feeling or showing gratitude. It is also when you are pleased and grateful for what you have. We have SALVATION, the priciest and greatest gift anyone can ever get and yet we paid nothing for it.

Humans are naturally beings of self-centeredness, even in prayer.

We are always looking for our own, looking for ways to acquire more- for self, family, business and so on. In the course of these we forget to acknowledge that God gave us life and the ability to do things.

We’re no longer natural men as it were.

We’re in this world but not of the world.

We’re supernatural beings, we are born again and no longer living like the world. (John 15:19)

In God’s kingdom which we belong to, things are done differently

There’s a need to always pause and ponder on our many blessings:

-waking up every morning

-having breathe in our lungs

-being able to eat, talk, see and the list goes on instead of focussing our many troubles

Jesus’ template on how to pray (The Lord’s Prayer) starts by honouring and praising God. It’s only a thankful heart that can truly worship.

1 Thes. 5:18 says “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”.

This then mandates us to find a reason to give thanks while we are IN or GOING THROUGH any situation and NOT FOR the situation.

If it is not possible to do so He would not ask us to do this because His commandments are not impossible.

Some examples of being thankful:

1) Paul in prison- at the darkest moment of his life was thankful & praising God

2) The same goes for Daniel in Daniel 6:10 NIV

“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, GIVING THANKS to his God, just as he had done before.”

3) Only one leper out of the ten (10%) that was healed came back to Christ to give thanks. (Luke 17:11-19)

In all of all of the above examples, (the thankful guys), God delivered and gave them miracles that we still refer to today.

Brothers, God inhabits the praise of His people. Praise (being thankful) is the only thing we can offer Him.

....let’s do it!

Let’s practice THANKFULNESS in our everyday life until God calls us “THANKFUL servants.”

Challenges with Money?

The topic of money makes an interesting conversation around church circles. To make a long story short, this can sometimes be an uncomfortable subject for some people.

How about you? What are your views on money, particularly, whose money is it anyway? This is the million-dollar question. Our perspective and answer to this question says a lot about us.

Luke 16:13 has an interesting take on money. It says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” NIV

The love of money could lead to the hatred of God. We should be careful to use money as the tool that it is and not get too caught up with loving it.

I discovered that Jesus spoke more about money (and possessions) than any other subject in His parables.

The love of money could lead us to use people to make more money for us. Don’t love money and use people. We should love people and use money. Money is a good servant but a bad master.

Billy Graham observed, “if a person gets his attitude towards money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in their life.”

Bitter or Better

Do you get bitter or better when you get hurt or disappointed by loved ones? The church? Friends?

Getting bitter would be you saying:

·I will not let that happen again

·If you experienced what I did, you would understand why I am doing this

Getting better would be you saying:

·God, use this situation for Your Glory

·I’m not where I should be but I am on my way

Getting bitter or better depends on whether you love the world or love God. In other words, are you living for this world or for the world to come?

Jesus will never disappoint us. We will never be alone because the Lord will stand with us.

Jesus came to this world to save us and we crucified Him. He did not get bitter with us as He was doing His Father’s will.

In the same way, we can be in the middle of God’s will and He permits someone to hurt us. Should we get bitter? Absolutely not! God knows what He’s doing. And His ways are much, much better than ours.

I want to challenge you to get better when you get hurt or disappointed by someone or something.

Questions on Faith

Have you ever questioned faith, what it is, how you might gain more faith, is it in tandem with our spiritual lives?  What is the cost of your faith and what is faith actually? Hebrews 11 gives us one point of view. Does faith grow according to the trials and experiences we have encountered?

·Faith is also understood as a system of worship;

·Faith can be trust in someone/something – you have faith in your mechanic; (or not!!??);

·Faith can be a measure of one's spiritual growth - (Oh, ye of little faith); 

·Jesus said if we had faith as a grain of mustard seed – we could move mountains. (Moved any mountains lately?);

·Faith and healing are often linked in the Bible (the touch of his garment by the woman); and as when the Centurion who asked Jesus just to speak and his son would be healed;

·How about the woman at the well who understood who Jesus was and went to bring others?

Is our faith inextricably linked to our usefulness within the will of God? How much blessing do we miss or cause others to miss by our lack of faith? Do we hinder in some way our own spiritual growth by our lack of faith; by not going as did Abraham, where God wanted him to be, even though he was called to go where he had never been before? That is called stretching our faith!

How do we grow our faith?  at what cost? Is it necessary for spiritual growth? Trials and hardship increase our faith but they can also destroy us if we don't rely on His promises. We might give up on God because we feel He really doesn’t care – how could He allow this to happen! (He will not cause us to be tempted beyond ...)  When you head through a very tough situation, can you say without reserve …. He’s got this!

What are the stages of faith?  When does faithevolve into experiential knowledge (been there, done that) and is that detrimental to the strength of our faith?  (In both senses of the word faith).  Is what we process as faith really fatalistic thinking as in .. "What will be will be".

Unshakable faith allows for anything coming our way to be sanctioned by our belief that God will always lead us where we need to be and look out for our best interests. His master plan for our lives far out-weighs our near sightedness.

The challenge is to leave absolutely everything in His hands. Go where He wants us to go. Do whatever He wants us to do. Be who He wants us to be. We might need to reach beyond our own feeble efforts, our self-restraining, self-abasement feelings and surrender our faith to the faith giving God. Great rewards follow!

Trials

I recently read the bible verse below and was pondering on it. The verse, to paraphrase is “Consider it a joy when you are faced with trials.”  I was thinking why would I consider it a joy when I am facing a trial?

Then God open my eyes of understanding and gave me a glimpse into the verse.

We should consider it a joy when we face trials because we get to see the awesome power of God as we allow Him to lead us through the trial. The closer we get to God, we realize that we cannot go through any trial (and life) without Him. As soon as we acknowledge and accept this, that’s when the joy shows up. Because even if He does not answer our prayer the way we want or expect Him to, He is still God and He is still there for us.

Whatever you are going through today, you do not need to do it alone. Let go and let God.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. – James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Annual Check-up

Do you have an annual physical check-up done? Most big companies pay for their senior management to get their annual physical check-up done so as to ensure that the company is not expose to any unforeseen health risk for their senior employees.

Should we practice doing an annual spiritual check-up? I think that we should so that we can assess how we are doing and whether we are growing. What gets measured can be improved as the results will tell you where you are compared to where you would like to or should be.

Some questions we can ask to test our spiritual health are:

1) Am I spending time in prayer daily?

2) Am I reading my Bible daily?

3) Am I actively and faithfully serving in my local church?

4) Am I forgiving people who have hurt me?

5) Am I actively and faithfully fighting sin in my life?

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?– 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)

Knowing the wiles of the Enemy

Knowing the wiles (tricks of strategies) of the Enemy.

We may be herded into a corner, bombarded with thoughts that are meant to convince us that we alone are in a very dire place, and are tempted in a most unusual manner and are beyond hope.

The Word of God counters such an evil strategy with light shed in I Cor. 10:13, which tells us that 'There is no temptation taken us but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted more than you are able...'

A good example here is to examine what a blessed life Job enjoyed before his testing - He declared that he was father to the fatherless, that he made the widow's heart sing, that his paths were so smooth that it was as if his steps were washed with butter...' Job 29:6

Be aware of traps that the enemy is using to try and get you. Keep your guard up, read God’s word and pray.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

Miracles

Do you still believe in miracles? You should!

Since the beginning of this year, especially during and after the 21 days with Jesus (prayer and fasting), we are seeing people being healed and hearing the testimonies of those that were healed.

It is such a blessing and faith builder when you hear what God has done for those that are earnestly seeking Him.

On Sunday, we heard from three people about the healing power of Almighty God in their life. Prayer resulted in God showing up and healing them! Praise His name.

Let your faith in God arise.

What are you believing God for today? Keep pressing in. You are closer today than when you started praying for your miracle.

Remember that God is never late or early, He is always on time. His will for us is perfect. Just trust Him and believe.

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. – Psalm 77:14 (NIV)

How do you Fight?

This is an interesting question.

Our battle position should be on our knees before God, seeking Him and His direction for the battle in front of us.

Sometimes when these things happen, we throw a fit, cry, mope and try to understand why this is happening to us. We do not need to always understand what God is doing. Whatever He is doing is for Him to get the glory and for His name to be glorified.

A few lyrics from the popular song “Surrounded”

This is how I fight my battles

It may look like I'm surrounded but I'm surrounded by You

When we are surrounded by God, we need not worry about how big the battle is or if we are going to win. God got this and when He got it, we never need to worry about anything. We should ensure that we give Him the glory when we are victorious and win the battle.

But Moses answered, “Don’t be afraid! Be brave, and you will see the Lord save you today. These Egyptians will never bother you again. The Lord will fight for you, and you won’t have to do a thing.

The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you keep calling out to me for help? Tell the Israelites to move forward. Then hold your walking stick over the sea. The water will open up and make a road where they can walk through on dry ground. I will make the Egyptians so stubborn that they will go after you. Then I will be praised because of what happens to the king and his chariots and cavalry. The Egyptians will know for sure that I am the Lord.” – Exodus 14:13-18 (CEV) (underline added for emphasis)

Do you need to re-open wells in your life?

In the days of Genesis 26, digging a well signified ownership of the land. The well provided water. The water represents for us: The Word of God, Salvation (eternal life) and the Holy Spirit.

Hearing about Isaac re-opening the wells that his father, Abraham, dug got me thinking about:

1) Are there any wells in my life that needs re-opening?

2) Was there any well that I’ve moved on from but should not have?

3) Do I need to dig new wells?

Having a well that works where the water is flowing signifies that the Holy Spirit and the Word of God is alive and working in our life. Does water flow smoothly through your well?

Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them. – Genesis 26:18 (NIV)

Are you fighting a Battle that’s already been won?

Listening to the song below made me ponder if I was fighting a battle that’s already been won. After we’ve received our blessing or breakthrough, something may happen and we question ourselves if we need to keep fighting and calling out to God for something He already did.

We need to remember that the battle is not ours, it’s the Lord’s, and He always win His battles. Our posture and position in this need to be one of prayer and submission to His will.

Extract from the song Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave.

Seems like all I can see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me "son
Stop fighting a fight that's already been won"

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off theses heavy chains
And wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be
I am redeemed
I'm redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, "Child lift up your head"
I remember oh God, You're not done with me yet

For the battle is not yours, but God’s… - 2 Chronicles 20: 15 (NIV)

How are you doing?

I learnt recently that we are either on auto answer or do not stop and really listen to the answer to the question, how are you?

Our auto answer goes something like “good and you?” Could it be that we are in a hurry or do not really want to answer the question? Think about it from your situation, when was the last time that someone was really honest of how they are doing when you asked them?

How about your answer to the question, how are you? Is it that we are too busy to properly reply or we’re not ready to share how we are really doing?

I heard some stories recently where people masked how they were really doing until it reached a tipping point. In the end, God showed up and changed their lives for the better. Now, they are encouraging others to be honest with themselves and their loved ones when asked how they’re doing.

The next time you ask someone how they are doing, stop, look them in the eye and really listen to their answer.

The next time you are asked, take your time and follow the Holy Spirit’s lead and be honest in answering how you are doing.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. - 1 Peter 5: 7-10 (NIV)

Your Comeback

Are you planning how you are going to use your comeback to Glorify God?

I recently was reading this book by Tony Evans - Your Comeback: Your Past Doesn't Have to Determine Your Future.

The book asks, “When God breaks the nets of your life and gives you the comeback you’ve long desired, will you take what He has given you and use it just for yourself? Or will you follow Him by helping others who need a comeback?”

A few years ago, employers would not hire you if you failed at anything. Today, employers are reluctant to hire you if you have not failed at something.

The book goes on to say, “This is because the road to success often passes through many different difficulties and failures. In fact, failure is often an ingredient of future success because in it we discover wisdom and self-discipline and we sharpen our vision for the future.”

This captures it:

The pages of history they tell me it’s true
That it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with the scars that You use

It’s the rebels and the prodigals; it’s the humble and the weak
All the misfit heroes You chose
Tell me there’s hope for sinners like me

[from the song Broken Things by Matthew West].

Whatever you are going through today, put it in God’s hands and let Him take care of it. The trials we face should draw us closer to Him. Plan how you are going to use your comeback to glorify Him.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. - James 1:12 (NIV)

Financial Fitness

Financial Fitness from the Fit 4 Life sermon series was a timely reminder of something dear to my heart – stewardship of God’s money.

In my career so far, both from a professional and volunteer perspective, I have experienced the attitude of managing finances from two perspectives, one being from the world perspective and the other being from God’s perspective.

Having been an Auditor and an Accountant for 20+ years, I have seen quite a few examples of how businesses and churches are blest when they put God first and trust Him with their finances.

This is an area where God challenges us to test Him and when we do, see if we will have room to contain His blessing (see verse below).

Let me encourage you, wherever you are in life to remember that everything belongs to God and we are to be good stewards of what He’s entrusted to us.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. - Malachi 3:10 (NIV)

Finding God

Are you doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result?  This is the definition of insanity.

Let me encourage you to try something different this year.

I heard it said this way “feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death.” We need to trust God at all times, not only when we do not have the answers or after we would have tried all other options.

Our strength grows through the troubles we face and the difficulties we go through trusting in God. Our faith grows every time we choose to bring our doubts to God in prayer.

Look for God in your everyday moments. God is there, if we pause and look with our eyes of faith, we will find Him.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)

Time

With the 21 days of prayer and fasting started, how are you doing for time?

Are you able to commit and spend time (or more time) in prayer and fasting?

I find that praying and fasting is the best way to start the New Year. Spending time with our Lord in prayer and fasting is very beneficial to us in that it draws us closer to Him.

As you fast and pray over the next few days, I pray that you feel God’s presence as a source of strength, encouragement and joy in your life.

Following up from last week, did you memorize a verse? I would like to share a verse with you that is good to memorize: “No weapon formed again you shall prosper…..” Isaiah 54:17. When you pray, you can customize it by saying “no weapon formed against me shall prosper.”