Monthly Archives: September 2013

Small Beginnings

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By:  L. Stewart

Zech 4:10 says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”

I’m so glad that God gets excited when I start something new. He knows that trusting Him will cost me something.

I recently started a new life adventure. God directed me, an almost 40-year-old school teacher, to move from California to Virginia to go back to school. As a wife and mother of three, you can imagine the tremendous leap of faith this was for my husband and children. But the Word of God is full of such stories.

When the exiles returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, they faced one obstacle after another.  First, the Jewish exiles had no place of worship since Solomon’s temple had been destroyed. Zerubbabel and Jeshua were priests in charge of building a new temple. But before they could build the temple, an altar of sacrifice was built.

Ezra 3:3 says, “Even though the people were afraid of the local residents, they rebuilt the altar.”

Have you ever been afraid to start something for God? God almost always calls us to the very thing that terrifies us. Fear is the opposite of faith. He must kill the fear that lies within us, in order to make us people who solely rely on Him and His Word. Faith is what pleases God.

When God spoke to me in 2005 He said, “Major in Communications and prepare for television.”  My first thought was, “I’m afraid to speak! And I don’t know the first thing about television!”

God probably smiled right about then. I love what Joyce Meyer says. If God asks you to do something that makes you afraid, just “do it afraid!”

Have you ever started something new for God and nobody seemed to care or offer to help? Jeshua and  Zerubbabel believed God wanted them to rebuild the temple. Unlike today, the men had no building program launch celebration. They couldn’t even pay the workers real wages; the Bible says the Jewish exiles paid the workers with food, wine, and olive oil.

When we moved to Virginia, my husband and I had no jobs waiting for us. No one welcomed us when we arrived, because nobody knew we existed yet! We only knew that if God provided for all the obedient men and women in the Bible and in history, then God would do it for us too.

Have you ever wanted to start something new and all you hear is negative voices? Zerubbabel and Jeshua faced discouragement from the older generation. Ezra 3:12-13records that while most of the people were rejoicing when the foundation was laid, another sound was heard–weeping!  The older priests remembered Solomon’s glorious temple and they wept when they realized the new temple would not be as grand.

When God tells you to start something, count on a few things:

Small beginnings

Real risk

Financial need

Fear

Discouragement , even from some believers

Not a very appealing list, is it? Now do you see why God rejoices when we begin a new work for Him? Our faith and obedience attract His favor and His supernatural power.

God will give you favor from unexpected people when you dare to obey Him. King Cyrus fully supported the exiles return and the building project. The next Persian kings, Darius and Artaxerxes also encouraged construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Maybe the local people opposed the rebuilding, but the exiles had the favor of the most powerful people of their time.

As you step out in faith, God will not only meet your needs, but will bless you with abundance. Over time, financial provision arrived for the builders, accompanied by reinforcements. God sent a second wave of exiles led by Ezra.  Artaxerxes loaded Ezra with gifts and provisions (Ezra 7) to take back and even wrote to his treasurers, “You are to give Ezra whatever he requests of you.”

Can you guess how the story ends? The temple is rebuilt and that inspires another man, Nehemiah, to return to build the city wall. See, your obedience to start small may ultimately lead to more people starting small, and the cycle continues.

My story is still in the “small beginning” stage. But I can tell you that God provided an incredible job for my husband, and I successfully completed my first semester in grad school. May God rejoice over you as you are faithful to start small.

DIFFICULT PEOPLE

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By:  GST

 

What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men (Daniel 2:11).

 

G.K. Chesterton, the British author and critic wrote, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies, probably because they are generally the same people” (Mark Rosen, Thank You For Being Such A Pain, (New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1999), p. 13.)

 

Difficult people are all around you.  In the office the difficult person tells you your faults. At home he or she has the frankness to tell you your lipstick isn’t the right shade, that you are wearing the wrong clothes, that your fried chicken isn’t as good as Colonel Sanders’.  Your difficult neighbor tells you that your house isn’t painted the right color, or that you should have more sense than to vote the way you do, or that your tree is on his property.  A difficult teacher picks at your work, accuses you of plagiarism when you wrote your own essay, and reminds you that she has the power to keep you from graduating.

 

A difficult person makes you miserable, refuses to give you your due recognition, ignores your good work, and minimizes your contribution to the cause, thinks that your business is his business and feels compelled to point out your flaws.

 

The Bible is a 3000-year record of difficult people who made other people feel uncomfortable.  Cain, Adam’s son, made life difficult for his brother Abel, so difficult that he found him in the field and took his life, and from that moment to the present there have been difficult people with whom you have to contend.  They won’t go away.  There’s no escaping them.  In his book, Thank You For Being Such a Pain, Mark Rosen says, “A difficult person is someone who causes us to feel things we’d rather not be feeling.” (Rosen, p. 13.)

 

Today, however, some have elevated the task to an art form-they are the ones who bedevil you and irritate you and make you wish that a bolt of lightning would take them out of your life.

 

That’s why difficult people offer a great challenge or an opportunity.  They can be as abrasive as an axe that cuts to the root, or else their acerbic deeds, words, and personalities can serve as a grinding stone, sharpening the edge of your axe.  Instead of allowing them to get to you, you learn from them, profit from their critiques, and gain an inner strength which makes you a better person.

 

Everyone is difficult to someone.  Most of the time, however, people are not trying to be difficult.  Their personality simply runs against the grain of yours.  Their insecurities produce flaws in their relationships which they don’t know even exist, and, at the time, they actually think they are doing you a favor to point out the fact that your lipstick isn’t the right shade for your complexion.

 

Since we lived across the street from a golf course, I began playing golf as a kid. With my brother and several of my friends I would whack the ball around the old Overland Golf Course.  It was great fun because we enjoyed each other; however, it was when I began playing with guys who were much better than I that my game improved.  They made the difficult shots that I missed and it was the pressure to do better which made my game improve.

 

The same thing occurred in college and graduate school.  Hazel Potts was brilliant.  She knew English literature as did no other professor I ever had, but she was also difficult, at times very difficult.  She had a cold look that could turn your blood to ice water and a mannerism which reminded me of a matron in a woman’s prison.  But I can tell you one thing for sure, I learned more from her than from the teachers who had pleasant personalities and big smiles.

 

You can profit from those difficult people in your life.

 

Resource reading: Daniel 2

Long Enough on the Mountain

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By:  Blackaby

The LORD our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: “‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain.” (Deuteronomy 1:6)

If God allowed us to live on the “mountaintop,” we would not experience trials, but neither would we achieve any victories. The Israelites had gathered at the foot of Mount Horeb while God spoke to them and gave them His law. It was a breathtaking experience! Fire and smoke covered that awesome mountain; lightning flashed, and loud trumpet sounds pierced the air in a deafening crescendo! The ground at the foot of the mountain shook, and the people trembled in fear (Exod. 19:16–25).

As important as it was for God’s people to have this inspiring encounter with Him, their Lord had not rescued them from Egypt in order for them to settle around a mountain in the wilderness. God delivered them so that they could conquer the Promised Land. God wanted to demonstrate His power to the Israelites so that they would trust Him in their conquest of Canaan. Finally, God announced that they had been long enough at the mountain; it was time to go to battle.

The mountain is an enticing place to set up camp. Peter, James, and John were prepared to reside on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, but their Lord knew that a demon-possessed boy needed their assistance down below (Matt. 17:4, 14–18).

At times God will graciously provide you a mountaintop experience. These times come in many settings: during your time alone with Him, at a Christian conference, by reading a Christian book, or at a prayer meeting. You may wish you could spend the rest of your life basking in the glow of your encounter with God. But remember, these mountaintop encounters are God’s way of preparing you for the battles that await you.

Fail Your Way Forward

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By:  E. Jones

 

Some months ago I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with best selling author Bruce Wilkinson. Bruce stood behind an accordion partition, waiting to go on stage. I stood beside him, examining the subtleties of God’s promises. Neither of us spoke to the other, but we both shared a common bond that evening: we’d both followed God’s voice and found failure at the end of the journey.

 

When Bruce took the platform he explained how years earlier his first publication folded after just five issues. “When that first magazine ceased publication, I was certain of only one thing – I’d never produce another magazine.” Soon afterwards, Bruce explained, he did produce another periodical, albeit reluctantly. In 1978 Bruce launched Daily Walk and his Walk Thru the Bible publishing ministry began. “Had that first magazine succeeded, I might have been tempted to take credit for its success and that of Daily Walk. But that failure left no doubt in my mind as to who deserved the glory.”

 

I, too, have launched and lost money in publishing ventures. I, too, have felt certain of God’s voice and found myself lost in a wasteland of debt and doubt. What does it mean to create and fail in the thing God has called you to? What does it mean to begot and not have success?

 

This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers. – Matthew 1:1-2(NLT)

 

Abraham became a father, as God promised, but the pause between God’s pledge and the fulfillment of that promise, spanned decades, causing Abraham to question the accuracy of God’s vision. Like us, Abraham sought to reshape God’s promise into an idol he could touch, see and understand. “Compromise is the answer,” we say. “I will sleep with the maidservant for this is what God meant.”

 

God’s plan, in God’s time, with God’s people always produces fruit, but that doesn’t mean we won’t stumble and fail our way forward. Our time in the desert is both necessary and ordained by God for it prepares us for His vision. The testing of our faith transforms us into a servant worthy of big dreams with bold outcomes. The trials demand we answer this question: “Will I trust God enough to see me through to the other side even when I can’t see the edge?” Isn’t that the question that haunts us as we breathe our final breath?

 

I lost $30,000 on a boating magazine and swore I’d never publish another book or periodical. And yet, here I am thirty years later publishing Christian books.

 

At the close of the conference, I walked to the summit of Chimney Rock and stood on the mesa overlooking the terracotta stratus of New Mexico’s brown and tan mountains. A cold westerly wind pushed against me, driving me away from the edge. This is the thing we fear: falling, failure, and defeat in all its finality. We reach for the dream and recoil when our fingers find nothing but emptiness.

 

“The problem with the Church,” Bruce said, “is too many Christians are afraid of failure. But God rarely makes our fear disappear. Instead, He asks us to be strong and take courage.”

 

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” – Matthew 14:27 (NLT)

 

Take courage, create, and claim the promises God has planted in your heart. Hold God’s hand and give birth to your dream. You can’t find the edge if you don’t lean over. So lean on Him and look across the wasteland.