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Take My Fish & Bread!

The story of an un-named boy during one of Jesus’ sermons.  The disciples told Jesus that the people were hungry.  The disciples responded by telling Jesus that it would take a fortune to feed the crowd!  Two of the disciples failed this simple test.  Then a boy stepped up and told Jesus that he had a few small fish and some loaves of barley bread.

The fact that it was barley bread seems unimportant in the story, but there’s actually an important note.  Barley bread in those times was the most innexpensive bread that was made, it was insignificant as far as bread goes.  The boy had the beginnings of the right answer.  Although he didn’t know how, he somehow understood that Jesus could do something with his lunch.

The lesson for me is that my life is insignificant in my estimation.  But in the hands of my Lord, He is in the business of taking the insignificant and turning it into something worthwhile.

John 6:1-13

God Is For Me!

If God is for me, who can possibly be against me? (Romans 8:31)

David knew adversity. In fact, for over 10 years he was the object of Saul's hatred. Saul was the current King of Israel, but got wind that Samuel had anointed David as his successor. Knowing this fed Saul's anger, so he wanted David dead. But David was patient and followed the Lord's plan. When God finally delivered David from Saul's wrath, this is what he wrote:

Psalm 18:1-3; 25-29 "I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies... To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the wicked you show yourself hostile. You rescue the humble, but you humiliate the proud. You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall."

Trying Times

Trying times can sometimes bring out the worst in me. But they can also bring out the best in me if I remember why I experience difficult times. I try to remind myself that trying times are an opportunity for growth. I can practice being more patient. I can practice being more generous. If I am in a down mood, a sure-fire way to get back up is to encourage someone around me. Most importantly, I need to remind myself that God doesn't allow anything in my life that he hasn't already given me the strength to endure. Even more than endure, with God's help I can overcome!

James 1:2-4 "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."

Perspective

I heard a story about an older Christian woman. Being a God fearing soul, she prayed aloud every day. In fact, she prayed so loud that her neighbor could hear her. Her neighbor happened to be an atheist, who hearing her prayers thought she was crazy. "This woman is crazy," he would say to himself, "there is no God and no one to answer her prayers!"

One day, the atheist heard the woman praying. This time she was praying for food because her cupboards were bare, "Father, please provide some food." The atheist said to himself, "Aha! now is my chance to prove to her there is no God!" So the atheist went to the grocery store and purchased a couple bags of groceries. He put the groceries on her doorstep, then hid in the bushes and waited for her to come out.

It didn't take long for the woman to come out her front door. Seeing the groceries, she burst out in praise to God for providing! Just then, the atheist jumped out from behind the bushes and shouted, "I told you there is no God, I payed for those groceries and put them on your doorstep - not God!" To the atheist's surprise, the woman started shouting even louder "Thank you Lord, hallelujah! You have provided!" as she ran around with her hands in the air. The atheist stopped her and asked, "What are you so happy about? I told you I paid for those groceries, not God!" The woman answered the atheist, "I knew God was going to provide food, I just didn't know he was going to make the Devil pay for it!"

Psalm 65:5-8 "You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas. You formed the mountains by your power and armed yourself with mighty strength. You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves and silenced the shouting of the nations. Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy."

Faith

Faith is the confidence that what I hope for will actually happen. Faith gives me assurance about the things I cannot see. I cannot see the wind, yet I have no doubt that it exists. So by faith I let my kite go, believing that it will be carried by the wind. By faith I understand that the whole universe was formed at God's command. That what I see now did not come from anything that can be seen. By faith my children would jump from the edge of the couch, knowing that I would catch them. What kind of father would I be if they jumped, only to have me pull back and watch them fall? I would never do that, and neither would my Heavenly Father ask me to jump without being there to catch me! By faith I know that anything I do in accordance with God's plan, will succeed.

Hebrews 11:32-35 "How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death."

Living My Convictions

What I'm thinking about this morning is living out my convictions.  (Key verse, be prepared with an answer when questioned about our faith 1 Peter 3:15-16).  We live in a world where we are dealing with social and political issues that are unparalleled in American history.  What do I mean?  Marriage, divorce, homosexuality, abortion.  these are big issues that we are grappling with that my parents - 20-30 years ago - didn't have to deal with on the scale we are today.  Were these issues out there during these times?  Yes.  But not like it is today, when we have legalized gay/lesbian marriage and abortion.  It's easier to get a divorce today than it was 20-30 years ago.  Abortion wasn't in the news like it is today where we have government funded abortion clinics.  Marriage has always been under attack - even back in Biblical times!  Arguably not at the scale it is today.  Now what if we look even further back to when my grandparents were alive; 30-50 years ago.  My grandparents did't have to deal with these issues like we do today.  Again, were these things happening?  Yes, but not on the scale they are today.  Did my grandparents have to deal with homosexuality?  Yes, but it was not an accepted social practice like it is today.  Today it is accepted; you're even called a hero!

So, how do I as a Christian deal with these things?  How do I, as someone who believes God Word is exactly that - God's Word - deal with these social pressures?  I feel that I have to restrict myself.  I feel as though I have to exercise caution, that I don't want to say anything.  Why?  Because I'm afraid that I might offend someone.  I'm worried that if I comment then I am subjecting myself, and my family, to angry backlash.  Because either the person I'm talking to is impassioned toward the homosexual community or may even be homosexual or may know someone who is homosexual.  Or had an abortion.  Or has been through a divorce.  Has been raised in a broken, troubled family.  And yes - I even fear the legal retaliation.  This is a very real situation today, when you have legalized gay/lesbian marriage, abortion, divorce.  I read in the news of businesses that are refusing to sell goods and services to gay/lesbian couples and are being sued.  And the gay/lesbian couples are winning!  So there is a very real fear of legal ramification.  So how do I reconcile my conviction with these fears?

We put too much faith, trust and hope in our political leaders, government leaders, even our religious leaders.  The challenges that we're facing today in America - even the world - won't be solved by a democrat or republican.  These problems won't be solved by a police officer.  They won't be solved even by our religious leaders.  We as a congregation can look to our leaders to solve these issues for us.  "What should I do, Pastor?"  I'm not trying to be sarcastic here.  But what happened to seeking guidance from God?  What about asking God, "What should I do?"  Grab your Bible and look at it.  Repeat after me, "The truth is not out there.  The truth is in here!"

Now, back to living out my convictions.  How do I reconcile my convictions without doing it in fear or even anger?  I think back to the key verse, when asked...  So first, that carries the connotation that I am not to ram-rod my convictions onto someone else. Instead, I should be prepared to give a response when I am asked about my Christian hope.  I am troubled by people who pound their fist, or stand on the street corner, or use social media to push their convictions - their beliefs.  Don't misunderstand me. These are often well intentioned, Christian people who are trying to make a difference but they are often spawning anger.  Sometimes they themselves are even angry at the issues we are facing today and the people who are driving these issues.  This isn't the way to respond either.  The key verse goes on to say that when I respond I should  do this in a gentle and respectful way.

Often when I am challenged about my faith and convictions I can get defensive, frustrated and even angry.  Because the person I'm talking to is not listening.  But I shouldn't be fearful.  Because I do believe that God offers protection when we respond in the right way.  So, when I am asked about my faith I need to be prepared with an answer.  This is what's been on my mind this morning, How do I respond in a loving way?  Should I respond when asked?  Yes, I think I should as long I can respond in a loving way.  And if I can't respond in a loving way, maybe I need to wait until a better time.  A time when I'm not defensive and not prone to pounding my fist.

I see on the internet the recent debacle of Cecil the lion.  A popular, free-range lion with a rare black mane was recently poached by an American dentist.  Is this wrong?  Of course it's wrong to kill an animal only for sport - for the pure self gratification of sport.  This is a completely different discussion.  But can we kill an animal for food, or protection?  Of course!  My point is that this topic has gained momentum on social media so quickly because they say, "It's not right!  We shouldn't be killing animals for sport!"  Jimmy Kimmel, a popular late night talk show host, breaks out into tears over Cecil the lion being poached.  What about all these other issues we are struggling with?  Why aren't we breaking out into tears over these social and political issues we are facing?  Why are we not as animated over these issues as we are over Cecil the lion?  Maybe because being vocal over a poached lion is safe to talk about.  We don't have to fear the backlash.

I pray that God will help me put this topic into words that are kind and loving.  That God will help me to voice my convictions in love.

© HangNailed 2017