Satisfied in Jesus

SatisfySeveral people told me they appreciated the song that was played during our response time this past Sunday.  Our worship team did a great job and the song brought encouragement to many.   Music has a way of speaking to the heart and enabling us to experience God in the totality of our being.

The song we played was Satisified and it was written by Clara T. Williams in 1875.   In her early days she ministered as a circuit-riding preacher, visiting small and remote communities.  She married a Reverend Williams in 1895 and continued to work as an evangelist and a co-pastor with her husband until 1920.

The hymn Satisfied  was written in 1875 as Clara was helping in evangelistic meetings and the song leader asked her to compose a hymn.  That evening she penned the words to the hymn below:

All my life long I had panted for a drink from some cool spring
That I hoped would quench the burning of the thirst I felt within
Hallelujah! He has found me, the One my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies all my longings, through his blood I now am saved

 

Feeding on the filth around me, ‘till my strength was almost gone
Longed my soul for something better, only still to hunger on
Hallelujah! He has found me, the One my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies all my longings, through his blood I now am saved

Poor I was and sought for riches, something that would satisfy
But the dust I gathered ‘round me only mocked my soul’s sad cry
Hallelujah! He has found me, the One my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies all my longings, through his blood I now am saved

Well of water ever springing, Bread of Life so rich and free
Untold wealth that never faileth, my Redeemer is to me
Hallelujah! He has found me, the One my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies all my longings, through his blood I now am saved

Words: Clara T. Williams, 1875
Music: Karl Digerness, 1997
©1997 Karl Digerness Music

This song is filled with a number of Scriptural allusions and reveals the joy we experience when the longing of our souls is filled with Jesus.  Have your deepest longings been satisfied in Jesus? 

Don’t settle for less than God’s best.  The Rolling Stones couldn’t get find satisfaction but you can through Jesus,

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”  (John 7:38)

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

The Church as the Hope of the World

PrayingWe were honored to have Bill Hybels speak at the five year anniversary at The Church at LifePark.   (Hybels is the founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, one of the most attended churches in North America.  He is the founder of the Willow Creek Association and the Global Leadership Summit.  Hybels is also the author of a number of  books, especially on the subject of Christian leadership.)

Bill shared his vision for the local church and for the first 18 years of his life, the one word he used to describe the church was “hopeless.”  One of his college professors, however gave him a vision of what the church could be as he painted a picture of an Acts 2 church and his perspective changed from “hopeless” to “hopeful.”  His professor challenged them, “why can’t someone in this classroom lay aside their life plan and give their life to building a local church like this?”

Bill was seized by a vision of what the church could be.  He moved to Chicago to help a friend build a youth group and started to create an Acts 2 community as depicted in Acts 2:42-47.  As he saw God at work he moved from “hopeful” to the conviction that “the local church is the hope of the world.”   What are some of the characteristics of an effective church?   One factor is the devotion of the people as depicted in Acts 2:42,

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The Greek word translated “continually devoting” is προσκαρτερέω (proskartereō) and it literally means “to be strong towards” (pros, “towards” and kartereo, “to be strong”).  It is often translated to endure in, or persevere in, to be continually steadfast, or to be devoted to a person or a practice.

Although this word only occurs ten times in the New Testament it is commonly used to refer to prayer:

These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.  (Acts 1:14)

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”  (Acts 6:4)

rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, (Romans 12:12)

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; (Colossians 4:2)

 What are you strongly devoted to?  The hope of the world is not government, academia, business, but the church because it is to the church that God has entrusted the message of salvation, which truly changes people’s lives and hearts.

Bill gave up his Friday evening to fly down to Mt. Pleasant because he has a passion to see every church reach its full redemptive potential.   What gives us confidence that the church will endure to the end of history?  Many empires and massive companies that seemed durable have evaporated.  Why will it be different for the church?  The reason is because Jesus is building the church,

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.  (Matthew 16:18)

What is the vital role Jesus has for you as in building His church in this world?  He’s been preparing you all of your whole life for this mission.  How do you say no to an offer like that from God?

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Take Courage!

John 16.33What are your thoughts when you face adversity?  Are you surprised or is it a “why me” response?   Admittedly, none of  us like to face difficulties but they are a fact of life.  How does Jesus advise us to respond?

In the upper-room, Jesus’ disciples were apprehensive because He told them that they would be scattered (John 16:32).   Perhaps you’re in the midst of a difficult situation.  You can take courage by following the advice Jesus gave to His disciples,

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.  (John 16:33)

Notice that Jesus provides consolation, He says that in Jesus you can have peace.  There are situations you face that can cause you to lose your peace.

I had a challenging situation that caused me to momentarily lose my peace.  I was attempting to make some airline reservations and my computer kept shutting down before I could complete the transaction. Computers can be a great test of our saynctification.  I finally entered the data and hit enter before my computer shut down.  Have you ever hit the enter key and realized you’ve made an error?  I hit the enter key and suddenly realized the arrival time was 11:00 p.m. rather than a.m.!  It was so frustrating!  I called the booking agency and begged for mercy and they took pity on me and cancelled the reservation.

Where do people often look for peace?  Many look for peace in financial security until their investment portfolio plummets.  People are looking in many places except the true source of peace which is Jesus.  In John 14:27 Jesus says,

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

Where are you looking for peace?  Are you looking to Jesus or to the world?   Jesus encourages us to come to Him,

Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.  (Matthew 11:28)

Realize that Jesus offers you consolation but the world brings you tribulation.  The reality is that life is difficult.  We must realize that life doesn’t always go as planned.  Several years ago I was flying back from India.  I started in Chennai then went to Mumbai then Frankfurt, cleared customs in Newark, then flew to Charlotte,  I had been flying for two days and had one flight left before I returned home but the I didn’t see my flight listed.  The ticket agent said they cancelled that flight two weeks ago.  I was tired and ready to get home but I had to wait.

What is your response to tribulation?  The Apostle Paul gives us a healthy perspective when facing problems,

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Following the teaching of Jesus provides you inspiration.  The word “take courage” occurs seven times in the New Testament.  It is  always used in the imperative mood and it is a command that inspires confidence.  Jesus has overcome the world and if you are in Him you too shall overcome!

Are you experiencing peace in your current situation?  Long ago a man sought the perfect picture of peace. He announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. The challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere, and paintings arrived from far and wide. Finally the great day of revelation arrived. The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another, while the viewers clapped and cheered. The tension grew. Only two pictures remained veiled. As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd. A mirror-smooth lake reflected lacy, green birches under the soft blush of the evening sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Surely this was the winner.

The man who offered the contest unveiled then unveiled the winner and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace? A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky precipice; the crowd could almost feel its cold, penetrating spray. Stormy-gray clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind and rain. In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a spindly tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls. One of its branches reached out in front of the torrential waters as if foolishly seeking to experience its full power. A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. Content and undisturbed in her stormy surroundings, she rested on her eggs. With her eyes closed and her wings ready to cover her little ones, she manifested peace that transcends all earthly turmoil.

Are you taking courage?  You can have peace in the midst of tribulation. When the devil comes knocking send Jesus to answer the door. You can take courage because Jesus has overcome the world.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Beyond Willpower

Beyond WillpowerBeyond Willpower by Alex Loyd challenges the standard success blueprint that focuses on these three principles:

1. Focus on what you want
2. Figure out a plan to get there
3. Put the plan into action

On the surface that sounds like a helpful strategy; however, he cites that approach has a 97% failure rate (p. 3).   The reason for the high failure rate is that type of approach depends upon your willpower which is a finite resource and is difficult to maintain for an extended period of time.

Rather than relying upon sheer willpower, he advocates what he refers to as “the Greatest Principle”.  He describes it as follows, “Virtually every problem or lack of happiness and success comes from an internal state of fear in some form – even physical problems.  And every internal state of fear results from a deficit of love in relation to that particular issue” (p. 9).

He points out the underlying motive for our failure, “The presence of our pain/pleasure programming not only explains why willpower is so ineffective, but it also explains why pursuing an external circumstance should never be our primary goal if we’re seeking success in our lives (p. 43).

Loyd’s approach is syncretistic in nature combining various counseling methodologies.  He reveals his antipathy toward religion, “I run from religion.  In fact, it took me decades to recover from my religious upbringing.”  He adds, “However, I try very hard to be a spiritual person, prioritizing live, joy, peace, forgiveness, kindness, and belief” (p. 17).

His eclectic approach merges different philosophies, new age practices, cognitive restructuring, and counseling philosophies such as Larry Crabb’s teaching on significance and security.  His approach may be summarized as he advocates three tools to deprogram and reprogram an individual for success, “. . . the Energy Medicine tool (for the physical), the Reprogramming Statements tool (for the mental), and the Heart Screen tool (for the spiritual) (p. 101).

Throughout the book there are a number of references to the importance of the spiritual dimension.  The following citation for example, emphasizes the importance of prayer, “In their book How God Changes Your Brain, neuroscientist Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman share extensive scientific evidence that the number one factor that improves brain function and health – even more than exercise – is prayer and a corresponding belief in God or spiritual source” (p. 89).   Loyd advocates prayer, however he maintains the source of your prayer is at your discretion, “I believe that the most important thing is to plug into God/source/love, every hour of every day . . .” (p. 166).

This book is not written from a Christian perspective; however there are a number of Christian truths throughout the book.  The author emphasizes the importance of agape love, “Agape is the spontaneous and unconditional love whose source is the divine” (p. 15).  He quotes Proverbs 4:23, “Above all, guard your heart, for from it flows all the issues of life” (p. 74) as well as a number of other Bible verses.  The chart on reprogramming on page 117 is essentially a listing of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23.

The author observes, “. . . the problem isn’t that we don’t know what to do.  The problem is that over 99 percent of people cannot do it, based on the typical success blueprint we’ve all heard, namely (1) focus on the end result you want; (2) create a plan to get that end result; (3) use your willpower and personal effort to work that plan until you receive what you want” (p. 189).  Charles Duhigg points out in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business the limitations of our willpower.

This book provides an alternative to reliance on willpower to make long-lasting changes in your life.  By putting off harmful ways of thinking (deprogramming) and adopting new habits (reprogramming) the author asserts you can move from stress to success.  (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Believing is Seeing

open the eyesIf the Apostle Paul were to pray for you, what do you think he would pray?  He reveals the answer in the book of Ephesians.   He prays that you will see with spiritual eyes,

 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  (Ephesians 1:18-21)

Do you know  the hope of His calling?  But what if you do not feel the hope of His calling?  Think of some of the people that God has called:  Gideon responded that his family was the least in Manasseh and he was the youngest.  David who was one of the greatest kings of Israel,  was not even considered when Samuel came to anoint him.  Perhaps you may wonder how God could use you.  God delights in lifting up the unlikely to show His transforming power.

Next, Paul prays that you would know the riches of the glory of His inheritance.  Far too many Christians are living in spiritual poverty when God has promised his children an amazing inheritance.  As Paul addressed the Ephesians elders, he reminded them,

And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.  (Acts 20:32)

You have an incredible spiritual inheritance in Christ and when it comes to an inheritance my motto is where there’s a will, I want to be in one!

Finally, he prays that you realize the surpassing greatness of His power in your life.  He is referring to the resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead.  That same resurrection power is available to you if you realize your weaknesses and yield to His power,

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

God wants you to see with spiritual eyes.  The Old Testament records a story of the king of Israel  who was informed by a prophet of the plans of the king of Aram’s plans to harm him.  The king of Aram was enraged and demanded to know who was the informant.   One of his servants said to him that it was the prophet  Elisha.  So the king of Aram sent horses and chariots and a great army to capture Elisha and they came and surrounded the city.

When Elisha’s attendant went out of the house he was fearful as he saw a great army with horses and chariots circling the city.   Elisha  answered,

“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  (2 Kings 6:16-17)

As you face the difficult circumstances in your life may you see with spiritual eyes!

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

A Life-Changing Encounter

encounterWhat is a life-changing encounter that you’ve experienced?  How did it change your life?  What emotions did you experience?

Think of the range of emotions the disciples experienced  during the last week of Jesus’ life.  His triumphal entry into Jerusalem was met with a welcoming crowd,

The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”  (Matthew 21:9)

His followers were filled with a great sense of anticipation!  The long awaited Messiah had come,  now their hopes and dreams would be fulfilled.  Within one week however, their expectations would be turned into devastation as their Messiah was placed in a tomb,

And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.  (Matthew 27:66)

How do you respond when your dreams have been shattered?  The story of Easter is a story of hope.  We see on that first Easter morning several of the women went to the tomb,

And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.  (Matthew 28:2)

It is significant to realize that the stone was not rolled away to let Christ out, but to enable the disciples to go in.  The angel told the women to go and tell the other disciples and as they were going they met Jesus,

Then Jesus *said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”  (Matthew 28:10)

Notice the instructions Jesus gave to the women:

1. Do not be afraid - Fear is an emotion based upon our perception of an event.  It can be thought of False Evidence Appearing Real.  Bill Hull notes that there are 366 commands in the Bible for you to not  be afraid.  What are some fears you face?  Sometimes the Lord calms the storm and sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child.

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’  (Isaiah 41:10)

Plato wisely observed that we can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark but the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

2.  Go and tell others – The word to tell others is a compound word literally meaning to “announce from”.  It was used of a messenger who brings news or reports of information.  Its basic meaning is to report or proclaim.  The women went from a feeling of devastation to an act of mobilization as they went with a mixture of fear and great joy to tell the other disciples.

Have you had an encounter with Jesus?  Consider the disciples, they had spent three years with Jesus.  But after His death they were scattered and forlorn.  Knowing about Jesus and seeing Jesus as God are not the same.  It seems there are many people who know about Jesus but have never seen Him for who He really is.  But once you have had an encounter with the resurrected Christ and seen Him for who He is, you will never be the same.   God’s goal for you is a total life transformation,

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.  (Acts 4:13)

Jesus has given His life so that you may have life in abundance.  May people recognize you as one who has been with Jesus.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Journey to the Cross

1-peter-4-19Have you ever been disappointed by your expectations?  The hardest situation is when you have high expectations but a poor experience and we often emerge disappointed or deeply discouraged.

The disciples experienced this emotion during passion week.  Jesus entered Jerusalem with great fanfare, however their hopes and dreams were short lived as Jesus was brutally crucified in less than a week.  Jesus prepared His disciples them for the challenges they would encounter,

These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling.  (John 16:1)

We derive the English word “scandal” from the word “stumbling”.  Etymologically, this word refers to the stick in a trap and metaphorically it refers to that which trips us up or lures us into sin.  Jesus doesn’t sugar coat the truth.  In Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about a conversation he had with James Stockdale regarding his coping strategy during his eight years in a Vietnamese POW camp.  Collins refers to this as the Stockdale Paradox.   His shoulders had been wrenched from their sockets, his leg shattered by angry villagers and a torturer, and his back broken, but he refused to capitulate.  Stockdale describes his experiences,

I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.  This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

In the spirit of James Stockdale, Navy SEAL Jay Redman was shot seven times in the face and arms with a machine gun during an operation in Iraq. Having endured numerous surgeries, Redman’s treatment has included about 1,200 stitches, 200 staples, 15 skin grafts and one tracheotomy that he wore for over seven months.  He lost over 50 pounds and spent 143 hours in surgery under anesthesia.  This is what he wrote at the entrance to his hospital room,

Attention to all who enter here. If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds I received I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery. What is full? That is the absolute utmost physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20 percent further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism, and intense rapid regrowth. If you are not prepared for that, go elsewhere.

The true mark of a man is not found in his past, but how he overcomes adversity and builds his future.  Redman states, “Quitting is never an option. I used to sweat the small stuff too much. There is nothing like a life-altering event to change your outlook.”

What causes you to stumble?  The Apostle Peter gives us this advice,

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;  (1 Peter 4:12)

Don’t succumb to self-pity.  You will encounter suffering but you are not alone.  Oswald Chambers gives us a helpful perspective,

Does it really matter that our circumstances are difficult?  Why shouldn’t they be!  If we give way to self-pity and indulge in the luxury of misery, we remove God’s riches from our lives and hinder others from entering into His provision.  No sin is worse than the sin of self-pity, because it removes God from the throne of our lives, replacing Him with our own self-interests.  It causes us to open our mouths only to complain, and we simply become spiritual sponges— always absorbing, never giving, and never being satisfied.  (My Utmost for His Highest 5/16)

 Charles Sykes, author of Dumbing Down Our Kids, speaks at high school and college graduations sharing principles graduates often did not learn in school.  He writes about the ongoing feel good, politically correct atmosphere that has created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and sets them up for failure in the real world.  Here are his rules:

Rule 1:  Life is not fair, get used to it.

Rule 2:  The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3:  You will not make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4:  If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.

Rule 5:  Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they called it opportunity.

Rule 6:  If you screw up, it’s not your parents’ fault so don’t whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.

Rule 7:  Before you were born your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way paying bills, cleaning your room, and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. So before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8:  Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades, they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 9:  Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10:  Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11:  Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one…

The paradoxical truth is that when you realize that life is difficult it ceases to be so difficult.

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.  (Hebrews 12:11)

You may be going through a difficult time right now.  May you be encouraged by the words of the Apostle Peter,

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.  (1 Peter 4:19)

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Chosen!

ChosenIt’s nice to be chosen!  Remember when you were young and the kids were choosing up sides for kickball – what was your greatest fear?  You did not want to be the last person chosen, or worse yet, not chosen at all.  We like to be chosen.

Picture the young girl looking forward to going to the senior prom.  She knows who she wants to go with but he has not asked her yet.  There is a guy in her science class who is hinting that he would like to take her, but she wants to go with the other guy.  What should she do?   She thinks it’s better to at least attend then not go at all (who knows, the guy in her science class might turn out to be the next Bill Gates).  It’s nice to be chosen.

Jesus says in John 15:16 that He has chosen you,

You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

Think about that, even though He knows everything about you, He has chosen you.  Not only did He choose you but He appointed you.  He chose you for a purpose, that you would go and bear fruit, fruit that will remain.  God wants you to have a fruitful life.

What comes to your mind when you think of fruit?

1.  Fruit may be good works – “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; (Colossians 1:10)

2.  Fruit may be represented by our character  – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

3.  Fruit may be considered those who hear and respond to God – “And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”  (Mark 4:20)

4.  Fruit is our response of worship to God  – “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.’  (Hebrews 13:5)

What a great truth – God wants you to be fruitful for Him!  What is the key that enables you to bear fruit?  Jesus gives us the answer – prayer – whatever you the Father in His name He will give to you.  What great work are you asking of God?

Believe that His promises are for you,

Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.  (Jeremiah 33:3)

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

The Gift of Joy

JoyJesus has a special gift for you.   He made the offer to His disciples as they were about to face one of their greatest challenges and the gift is available to you today.

These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.  (John 15:11)

We often use the concepts of joy and happiness synonymously; however, there is a fundamental difference.  Happiness is often based upon our circumstances whereas joy is based on our internal attitude.  Joy is not the absence of problems but it is the presence of God.

The words joy or rejoice occur over 300 times in the New American Standard Bible.   Since this is such an important concept it’s essential that we understand the importance of joy in our lives.  It’s my experience that too many people are living under their circumstances rather than experiencing God’s joy.

We see that joy comes from a intimate relationship with God,

. . . In Your presence is fullness of joy; . . . (Psalm 16:11)

Joy gives us strength to overcome the challenges of life,

. . . Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.  (Nehemiah 8:10)

God’s joy is available to you as you come to Him in prayer,

Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.  (John 16:24)

If you’re wondering about God’s will for your life, Jesus gives us the answer,

But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.  (John 17:13)

Don’t let your circumstances dictate your emotions.   Viktor  Frankl wrote in  Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Jesus gives you His joy to enable you to live above your circumstances.  My mentor, Stephen Olford, liked to remark, “Joy is the flag that flies at the mast when King Jesus is in residence.”  May the joy of the Lord be your strength!

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Hope Springs Eternal

Church hope of the worldWhat comes to mind when you think of the word hope?  We often use hope to express a wish such as, “I hope it won’t rain today?”   It is used to express a desire when there is a degree of uncertainty.

When the word hope is used in the Bible it conveys the idea of an expectation with confidence.  Theologian John Calvin  describes hope as an expression of faith, “For the word hope I take for faith; and indeed hope is nothing else but the constancy of faith.”

Faith and hope are closely aligned.  Faith often describes a rational sense of certitude whereas hope conveys an emotional sense of a confident expectation.  This is evident as we look at hope in the Bible.  Psalm 42:5 is such an example,

Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.

Faith is our confidence in the Word of God and hope is that aspect of faith that focuses on the future.  In biblical usage, when faith is directed to the future, it is often described as hope.   Hope may be thought of faith in the future tense.  Faith is a rational component that looks includes the past and the present whereas hope is a desire directed toward the future.

Is your life characterized by hope?   The Apostle Peter exhorts the recipients of his letter to give a reason for the hope that is in them,

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;  (1 Peter 3:15)

The church is to demonstrate hope to the world around us.  I heard Bill Hybels describe a chilling scene as he saw a brutal fight between two young boys as he was waiting to board an airplane.  As he thought about the future of these two young boys he wondered what would change the trajectory of their lives to keep them from a life of destruction?

Education does not solve the problem, eradicating poverty does not end violence, and even government cannot touch the problem because it’s a matter of the heart.  Only a local church that is a healing community can make a difference.  Hybels states,  “The local church is the hope of the world, and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders.”

morning_prayer_card

If the local church is the means through which Jesus is proclaiming His salvation to the world, then we need to reach our full redemptive potential to mobilize our people to take the message of life to a hurting world.  Each of us must see the vital role we play in the church.  Do you really believe that the church is the hope of the world?

Don’t miss your part as we bring the message of hope through Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

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