Sunday, January 31, 2010

In around 600 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar exiled the Jews from Jerusalem and held them captive on the outskirts of Babylon. They lived a meager existence longing to return to their home in Israel. False prophets were encouraging them to rise up and rebel against the captors. These prophets gave the Jews the false hope that the power of Babylon would be broken and the captives would soon return to Jerusalem.

God had other plans. He used the prophet Jeremiah to deliver a message to the Jews telling them they would need to rely on their faith in God to see them through. In summary, God’s words may have sound like this, “Face the facts. You’ll be in exile for a long time so make the best of it. Get out of the tents, build homes, plant gardens, have children, and encourage them to marry. Go forward in the midst of your hard times.” Then he asked them to do something very difficult – pray for their captors.

God had a greater purpose for the Jews and he was using their challenges as a time to teach them to trust him.

“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 upon 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 our heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

God’s plan was to give them a hope and a future greater than they could ever have imagined, but they had to trust him and seek him with all their heart.

The Jews were in exile, removed from the familiar, away from their homeland. The Jews were stuck, afraid to move forward with their lives, afraid to turn back. Like the Israelites, we’re often in exile too. We get stuck. Sometimes catastrophes come into our lives that remove us from the familiar. Sometimes we find ourselves in “exile” because of our own bad choices, the bad choices of others, or because of circumstances over which we have no control.

Often there are people, like the False Prophets, that discourage us or give us bad advice. The message that God gave the Jews 2,500 years ago is the message he gives us today. God has plans for us, plans to give us a hope and future far greater than we could ever imagine. He wants us to seek him with all our hearts. He wants us to become “unstuck” by making the best of our situations. He wants us to move forward with faith, hope, and purpose.

This week let’s think about where we may be stuck in exile and search our hearts for the plan that God may have in store for us.

On Bended Knee

Sunday, January 24, 2010

When is the last time you fell on your knees in prayer before God? How long were you able to bend down before him? One of the most heartwarming stories from the Haiti earthquake survivors comes from Mierielle Dittmer. Lying in a hospital bed in Boca Raton, Florida, Mierielle shared that when the earthquake struck, she was in a Haiti market. As concrete and rubble came tumbling down upon her, all she could do was fall on her knees to protect herself. And there she stayed for five days – 108 hours!
When asked by a TV reporter what kept her from going crazy, she responded without hesitation, “My faith in Jesus Christ. My faith in the Lord. I have a very strong faith.” With both legs scarred, bruised, and bandaged, she shared that she started reciting scripture from the Psalms to give her comfort. In front of a national viewing audience Mierielle proudly proclaimed, “I read my Bible everyday.” When those in the rubble with her gave in to despair, she encouraged, “Our faith will save us. Don’t give up!” She was the confident image of hope as she concluded, “Nothing is impossible.”
In biblical times to bend one’s knee before God was an act of worship. It was an act of humility and pure submission to fall on bended knee before God. Catholics genuflect or go down on one knee as a sign of genuine respect to God. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents at their bedside on bended knee in prayer. What a beautiful act of submission. Bending our knees in prayer is a sign that we are in humble service to the God we worship. When we bow before God, we acknowledge him as Lord and seek his guidance and wisdom.
The beautiful Christian song, “Bow the Knee,” reminds us to trust God even when there doesn’t seem to be an answer to our problems.
“And when you don’t understand the purpose of his plan,
In the presence of the King, bow the knee.”
(To view a dramatic music video of “Bow the Knee” by Paula Orr, go to

When we find ourselves in a crisis, do we, like Mierielle, fall on bended knee? Do we have a firm conviction that God is in control? Can we proclaim with boldness that we have faith in Jesus Christ?

When we are surrounded by the rubble of a life in ruins, let’s remember to bow the knee. When we are in the depths of depression, let’s remember to bow the knee. When we suffer a financial setback, let’s remember to bow the knee. When we deal with a family crisis, let’s remember to bow the knee. When we face an uncertain future, let’s remember to bow the knee.

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

Battle Gear

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I saw a picture in the newspaper recently of the world’s tallest man towering over the world’s shortest man. The 2’5” Chinese man stands just above the knee cap of the 8’1” man from Turkey. Looking at these extremes, I’m reminded of the way the 9’1” Philistine giant Goliath must have dwarfed Israel’s David. To make matters worse, Goliath was armed in full battle gear giving him the intimidating outward show of a fierce warrior, in contrast with David’s simple shepherd’s frock and slingshot. But David held a weapon far greater than any outward show. He held on to his faith in God.

Saul tried to dress David up in his own coat of armor, bronze helmet, and sword. I guess he tried to empower the young, seemingly defenseless shepherd boy by outfitting him with the implements of war. After walking around in his new garb, David realized that someone else’s tools just don’t work. In order to slay the giant, he would need to rely on what he was familiar with, the skills and faith that God had empowered him with instead of what man thought he needed. Have you ever tried to use someone else’s gear to get a task done? Have you ever tried to slay your spiritual giant with someone else’s weapons? Like David, we need to look to God for our strength in dealing with our obstacles.

David approached this battle with more experience and confidence than his outer shell might have indicated. You see God had already provided David protection when he fended off a lion and bear that were attacking his flock. David knew that the God who delivered him from the lion and the bear would deliver him from the giant. Notice his reasoning skills. He makes a parallel connection between the lion and bear and the Philistine. David must have reasoned, “I will act in the same manner of faith in God with this giant as I did with the lion and the bear. Since God is the same, the result will be the same. God was faithful to me then; he will be faithful to me now.” Oh, that we would adopt the same logic by reasoning, “I have had problems in the past; God was faithful. I have problems in the present; God will be faithful.”

While it’s helpful to seek wise counsel when we’re trying to overcome obstacles and slay our spiritual hindrances, in the end we must be the one to go face to face with our giants. We must do as David and divest ourselves of anything that hampers our movement toward the giant. Then we can freely and with confidence place our trust in God to deliver us.
All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands. I Samuel 17:47

Slaying Giants

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Most of us deal with obstacles or “spiritual giants” that serve as hindrances to our spiritual growth. These problems can come from something within us like worry, stress, procrastination, control issues, or bitterness. They can be caused by something outside of us like abuse, cultural pressures, unhealthy relationships, or materialism. Or they could be centered on personal distractions such as busyness, addictions, hurriedness, or laziness. Why are these obstacles associated with giants? Consider the characteristics of giants. They’re unhappy, sinister, grumpy, huge, unloving, and mean. Their strength and stature indicate the power of spiritual forces that oppose us.

Our problems or obstacles are referred to as giants because they overpower us, control us, take away our freedom, stunt our growth, intimidate us, wreak havoc on us, and devour us. They eat us up!

How do we fight these forces and overcome these strongholds?

1. Identify your obstacles or strongholds and trace how this obstacle affects you. When does it rear its ugly head? When did it start? What fears, questions, and concerns does it raise? Who are the people associated with this obstacle? In what areas of my life does it affect?

2. Realize you’re not alone. We all fight spiritual battles, even our most well-known Christians.

Apostle Paul - “ 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:19 & 20
Billy Graham – “The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears I my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.’”
Helen Keller – “The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome

3. Understand the battle begins in your mind. Get control of your thought power because every action begins with a thought.

The sequence of how strongholds develop in an individual is as follows:

1. Satan-inspired thoughts enter your mind.
2. You entertain these thoughts, which bring out emotions.
3. You give in to these emotions and that leads to some sort of action.
4. Continual participation in the action causes you to develop a habit.
5. As the habit develops, a stronghold is built.

4. Use your spiritual arsenal – the armor of God. By daily putting on the armor of truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, and the Holy Spirit, we will defeat our spiritual giants.

Ephesians 6:10-20 (New International Version)

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Use these strategies to slay your giants!

Purpose-Driven Thinking

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Did you know that each of your thoughts sends electrical and chemical signals to your brain that can affect every area of your body? Thoughts influence our emotions, sleep, heart rate, and many bodily functions. Just about everything that happens to us begins with a single thought. Research shows that we have 50,000 – 60,000 thoughts per day and most of these are repeats from yesterday. With so many daily thoughts affecting our bodies, it is really important to find a way to control them. Paul encourages us to “take every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Proverbs 23:7 tells us, “as a person thinks in his heart, so is he.” Since God created us with unique and powerful minds and gave us the choice of how to use them, it is our responsibility to practice discipline in what we think. How different would our lives be if we practiced purpose-driven thinking?

For the last month I have participated in The 4:8 Project designed by Christian inspirational writer and Life Coach, Tommy Newberry. Each day for 8 days, I received an encouraging e-mail that focused on strategies to let go of thinking patterns that are not productive or God pleasing. The 8 Day Challenge was so inspiring that I read Newberry’s bestselling book The 4:8 Principle – The Secret to a Joy-Filled Life. The basis for the project and book is the advice the apostle Paul gives in Philippians 4:8, where he provides a “to think” list.

“…whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things.” Philippians 4:8

A long time believer in the power of positive thinking, I enjoyed using this opportunity to focus on the blessings in my life and to adopt new practices for becoming more intentional with the quality of my thoughts. Let me share 3 of the strategies Newberry suggests for replacing random or negative thinking with purpose-driven thinking.

1. Focus 4:8: Write the scripture passage from Philippians 4:8 on 4 separate note cards and post them in your high traffic areas: night stand, car console, mirror, computer area, refrigerator, etc. Read the card throughout the day as a reminder of your “to think” list.

2. First Fifteen: Start your day with 15 minutes of that includes prayer, scripture reading, and meditation. Follow-up with 4:8 questions, which extract positive answers. Place these questions where you will see them easily each morning. Consider these: What am I grateful for this morning? What are my strengths, and how can I use them today? What relationships can I affect positively today? What am I excited about experiencing in the next 12 hours?

3. Final Fifteen: Seal your day with 15 minutes of joy by surrendering your subconscious to God. In your prayer ask him to remove any self-defeating or impure thoughts and replace them with God pleasing thoughts. Consider reading something inspirational, reviewing your victories and blessings of the day, or pondering positive 4:8 questions. Just imagine all the positive messages you can send to your brain before drifting off to peaceful rest.

You are what you think you are. I hope you’ll join me this year in becoming more aware of your thought life and find these strategies as life affirming as I have.

For more information about participating in The 8 Day Challenge, visit

Please share your 4:8 experience with me!

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