Monday, October 10, 2011

Be Strong, Be Courageous

Joshua 1:9 - Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

We are often frozen by our own fears.  Yet the Lord commands us to be strong and courageous.  This morning as I spent time in the word, I was drawn to the book of Joshua where it states to be strong and courageous three times in the span of three verses and ten times in the Old Testament.  What is God trying to say to us?  We often look for the hidden meaning in the bible, but this time can it just be that simple?


We know that this life will bring struggles.  We see indications of this at all times around us.  Jesus says in John 10:10 - The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  The thief comes to steal joy, love, and life.

In the second part of John 10:10 Jesus goes on to state "I have come so that they may have life and life to the full". Joy that is found in Jesus. An abundant life that is found through him. Love that is found in him.  The thief comes to steal all of it.

The thief is sneaky.  He not only steals, kills and destroys our joy, he tries to make us believe that it is actually our fault.  He tries to convince us that the things we believe are false.  He tries to remind us of our faults through memories of our failures.  Yet we find in the word: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24).  Through the sacrifice of Jesus and our acceptance of that sacrifice, our sins are blotted out and remembered no more.

Be Strong - The Lord is with you.


How does one define courage?  Is it doing right when the world wants you to do wrong?  Is it sticking to the high road when the narrow road is so much easier?  What does it mean to be courageous?

The dictionary defines courageous as "possessing or characterized by courage; brave, bold".

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Deuteronomy 31:6.

The enemy strikes at us through fear.  God wants us to be brave.  God wants us to be bold.  And he gave us an example of how we can do that...Jesus.  But if you look around, you can see other examples that God has put in your life to try to draw out that boldness in you.

Can you spot those examples or are you too busy being scared?  When you truly embrace the life that God has planned for you, you cannot worry about how others look at you.  Remember that Jesus came so that we could live life to the fullest.

Be Courageous - The Lord is with you

In our daily lives we cross paths with people who may just briefly land and then leave.  One such person for me was Tim.  Twenty years ago, he tried to lead me from how I was living my life to a life with the Lord.  He put a building block into what would become my faith over time even though I did not know it at the time.  He was bold and alive when talking about Jesus.  He was brave and took a chance with someone who had no interest in listening to him at the time.  But he counted every moment in life as a blessing and a gift.  He touched the lives of many.  This past weekend he lost his life.  And he is remembered as a man who said everyday that he was blessed and was open about telling others about it.




Many blessings to each of you this day.  Please pray for the family of my friend, Tim.  God loves you and so do I.

Pastor Jim

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Starting the Race

Acts 20:24 - However, I consider my life nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

Paul viewed that his life was worth absolutely nothing unless he was using it for God's work. It did not matter if any accolades were put upon him, if he gained wealth, had friends, etc.  Nothing mattered unless he was using his life for God's work.

What we don't see at times when random scriptures are discussed is what was occurring before and after a particular verse.  When we expand our view to include verse 23 of Acts, I take away an even greater respect for Paul than I usually have.  In verse 23, we find that Paul knew that every town that he was going into he ran the risk (likelihood) of being imprisoned and that he would experience suffering.

He knew this.  And yet he still went on traveling from town to town prepared for pain and suffering with the belief and understanding that his life was worth nothing unless he was using it for God's work.

Paul was single-minded in his task to share the gospel with everyone he came into contact with.

What has God laid on your heart as your purpose?

When we discuss doing God's work make no mistake, God has bestowed upon everyone spiritual gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4:10,11 for scripture related to spiritual gifts).  There are many gifts, people have different gifts, some have more than one and one gift is not superior to another.  But whatever God has led you to in life - whether that be to a particular job, a particular place, a particular circumstance - you are to do it for the glory of God.  We are to use the bestowed gifts for the His glory and to build the body of Christ.

In verse 24, Paul talks about finishing the race.  In order to finish the race...

We have to start the race. 

We have to choose to be actively involved in that race.

We have to know what the goal is.  

We have to be willing to accept that there will be struggles along the way, that we will fall down and fail at times.  

But in the end, it will be worth it.

Have you started the race?  Have you embraced what God has placed on your heart as His will for you?  Personally, I have run away from God's plan more times that I have run towards his plan.  He knows and expects this as well.  And each time I run away and come back, He welcomes me with open arms and love and we move forward in the race.

Please know that God loves you at all times, when you are following his will and when you are struggling to.  His love is all powerful and his forgiveness covers all if you will let him in.

God has great plans for you (see Jeremiah 29:11).  Will you join Him?

Many blessings to you this day.  God loves you and so do I.

Pastor Jim

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

What a powerful verse, yet one that is so rarely understood or followed through on.  On the surface it says commit whatever you are doing and you will be successful.

Yet where we miss the boat is that when we commit what we are doing to the Lord, we should have already had a conversation that puts us in partnership with Him.  Most times, the visions that we have of where we are headed and what we should be doing are given to us as a blessing from God.  These are glimpses into the plans that God has for us.

Remember Jeremiah 29:11 "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."

These dreams or glimpses give us an opportunity to talk with God and to listen for his guidance in how to move forward.

Some of our issues include
1. Commitment phobias - we do not want to commit to God or to others.  We want to think that all the blessings that we find are because of our hard work, not because God had steered us there.  For many people, commitment means a loss of control versus going into a partnership where fears and triumphs are shared.
2. Control issues - yes we will commit to you Lord, but the moment this starts not going right, I am going to take it back and try to force my will upon it to make it go the way I want.
3. Entitlement - If I committed to God, then He makes it happen and I just reap the benefits.

All of these lead to a lack of success and ultimately anger for why the relationship, work, or project did not succeed.  Anger directed most often at the wrong person - God.

We have to strike a delicate balance where we are trusting God as if everything depended on Him, while working as if everything depended on us.  James 2:26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

  • Seek God's counsel on how/what you should be doing.
  • Commit to God in what you are doing.  
  • Praise Him in the good and the bad, the ups and the downs.
  • You will succeed.  Success may not look like what you envision it to be, but it will be a success in God's plan for you.

Many blessings to each of you this day.  God loves you and so do I.
Pastor Jim

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Facing Fears Part 2


Now, how do you take risks in faith rather than caving in to fear?

Whether we’re talking about that first step of faith of becoming a Christian, or perhaps you’re already a believer ready to step out in another area of faith, we all need to learn how to move on to the next level. 

There are five principles that God teaches us in His word. 

1.         Information: GET THE FACTS

If you're going to take risks, God wants you to get the facts.  Anything that requires faith is going to have some element of risk in it, but God says, "There's a right way and there's a wrong way." 

God doesn't want you taking foolish risks, that's not faith. 

So He says, "First off, get the facts. Find out all you can first. 

(Prov 13:16) Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly.
(Prov 23:23) Get the facts at any price, and hold on tightly to all the good sense you can get.

When you're going to make a major decision that involves a risk in your life, talk to people who've already done it. 

Get the facts at any price – Read a book – Attend a seminar – Listen to a tape. 

Find out who's already been there and get the facts at any price.        

Now, once you've got the facts, you have to go to step two.

2.         Evaluation: COUNT THE COST

Find out why you're doing what you're doing and what the risk is involved in it.  You find out what the costs are – What it's going to cost in time – What it's going to cost in money – What it's going to cost in reputation and emotional energy.

Once Jesus was talking to a crowd and He was telling them that if they were going to become one of His followers they needed to count the cost before they took that step of faith.

He illustrated His point with the following words from Luke 14:28, 31 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?…"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?"

He says, if you're going to build a building, you better go out and plan a budget first – and evaluate the cost.  If you're going to go to war, you'd better figure out what the strength of your army compared to the strength of the enemy's. If you’re going to step out on faith and believe in Jesus Christ for your deliverance from bondage, you need to evaluate, count the cost, analyze the risk.

It is not a lack of faith to evaluate, it is an encouragement to faith.

(Prov 20:25) It is foolish and rash to make a promise to the Lord before counting the cost.

Every decision has a price tag and you'd better know what the price is before you take the risk. 

3.         Preparation: PLAN YOUR STEPS 
Prov. 14:15 The prudent carefully consider their steps.

The prudent person of faith thinks about where they’re going. This person understands that you don't go charging into battle without a plan. Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with faith, with taking risks.

Consider Proverbs 16:9 We should make plans--counting on God to direct us.

Notice there are two parts to this verse:  man's part and God's part. 

We should make our plans That's our partCounting on God to direct us That's God's partAnd they both go together. 

As you plan, you pray and you ask God to direct you.

What am I saying?  I'm saying that prayer and preparation go together. 

When you prepare without prayer, you're going to have problems. 

When you have prayer without preparing, you're going to have problems. 

One without the other is insufficient – You need them both. 

The Bible says to plan out your life, to think where you're going, to be intelligent in the direction of your life.

Now I've heard people say, "Well Jim, you know, I don't make any plans.  I don't organize.  I don't set any goals.  Because I just live by faith.  Who needs any plans?  I just live by faith." 

Folks, that's not faith, that's presumption – and there's a big difference. 

The bible says we should make our plans, counting on God to direct us. 

4.         Declaration: ANNOUNCE YOUR GOAL

You need to tell the world about your intention – You need to make a public statement – Announce where you're going. 

Why should I make an announcement?  Why can't I just go out there and take the risk and not tell anybody about it, and then if I fail it doesn't look bad? 

Goals are statements of faith – they're saying, "I believe God wants to do this in my life, by such and such a date." 

And here's how you do it – the Bible's very clear about this. 

(James 4:15-16)  What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans and all such boasting is evil.

That's how you make the goal statement – If the Lord's willing, we'll do this or that. 

You don't do it presumptuously, you don't say, "It's going to happen no matter what."  If it's the Lord's will, God willing, we're going to do this by this time.

Now, why should I announce the risk that I'm about to take? – Why should I tell other people about the thing that I'm about to do, my dream, my goal, my ambition? 

In the first place, it builds your faith when you announce it publicly. 

The very act of saying it gives us the faith to start out. 

And on top of that, it attracts support. 

When you say, "This is what I think God wants me to do."  Other people say, "Well, I want to go along too.  I'm going to get on board with that." 

And so publicly announcing your decision, your goal, your ambition, the risk you're about to take, will attract other support.

Now these are the four steps that get you right up to what I call the moment of truth, which is point five. 

5.         Initiation: LET GO AND LAUNCH OUT

You've got to let go and launch out if you're going to be a person of faith. 

You've heard the saying, "Turtles only make progress when they stick their necks out." Well, it's true about human beings, too.  Have you ever watched a circus trapeze artist? The trapeze artist is a hundred feet high in the air, they swing out on one bar, and the other one's coming out the other way for them to grab. But those things are spaced apart so that they have to let go of this one before they can grab onto that one, and kind of leap for it. And when they leap for it, there is a point in the trapeze act, that that person is suspended a hundred feet above the ground, holding on to thin air, for a split second. 

For the moment that they let go of this one, and before they actually are able to grab the other one, they're sailing there, a hundred feet above the ground, holding onto nothing. 

That's pretty scary isn’t it? It’s a good mental image of what it means to live by faith. 

God wants to work in your life, but you have to let go of the past before you can grab ahold of the future.

You've got to let go of security in order to grab opportunity. 

This is very important, because the most difficult part of taking the risk is the letting go of the old. 

  • We want to hold on to the old job, until the new job is secure. 
  • We want to make sure that everything's set up in our new home, before we move out of the old home. 
It's that letting go, letting go of the independence of being single in order to grab on to the intimate confines of being married.

What am I talking about?  I'm talking about throwing away the crutches – throwing away the crutches that you've been using. 

You've got to let go and launch out – and that's difficult.

In most decisions, there is a point of no return, where you have to face your fear. 

That's where the children of Israel were at the Red Sea . God had backed them into a corner. There were mountains on either side, there's an ocean in front of them, and the Egyptians and Pharaoh were hot in pursuit, waiting to slaughter them all. They have an opportunity to believe, to have faith, but instead, they responded in fear. 

And they became skeptical and stubborn and short-sighted. And when all this happened, they said, "Hey!  Moses!  We should have just stayed in Egypt .  Why don't we go back to Egypt ? The good old days." 

Now, remember, they've just spent four hundred years in slavery, they've been beaten, they've been mistreated, they've been abused, they've been killed, they've been starved, they've had no rights, they've been overworked for four hundred years and now they're saying, "Let's go back."

Fear always does that – It causes you to retreat, to turn around, to go back. 

They were preferring slavery to uncertainty. They said, "We know it was bad, but at least we knew what was happening there, and we don't know what's going to happen here.  So let's just go back."

Now let's apply that today.  Why do we stay in destructive situations?  Why do we not step forward in faith? Why do we hold back when God says to launch out?

It’s because of the same reason the Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt . 

The point is, we are afraid of freedom. 

Now, what is the solution to that?  How do you get the courage to let go and launch out and face your fears? 

Psalm 56:3-4 When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid…

Where do I get my courage to face my fears and launch out? I put my confidence in God.

Notice that the Psalmist admits that he is afraid, but when he puts his trust in God, the fear subsides.

Courage is not the absence of fear – Courage is moving ahead in spite of your fear. 

So what am I saying?  I'm saying that when you come to this step, the moment of truth, you not only have to let go, and you not only have to launch out, you have to look up. 

The key to living by faith, the key to overcoming the fears that keep you bound up, and the key to being liberated in life is to move against your fear. 

Don't pray about it.  Don't think about it.  Don't talk about it.  Take action! 

Move against the fear – Do the thing you fear the most. 

You notice when the Israelites were at the Red Sea , God didn't take them around the Red Sea , He didn't build a bridge over the Red Sea , He took them through it. 
And they could have stood on the sidelines for the rest of their lives, saying, "We believe God's going to save us." But it wasn't until they stepped into the water that it started happening. 

Now look at this verse, (Exodus 14:15) Then the Lord said to Moses, "Quit praying and get the people moving! Forward, march!

Now let's just get real personal.  What is your personal Red Sea this morning?  What is it that scares you to death, that frightens you?  What is it that's got you worried?  That seems an impossible barrier?  That looks unpredictable?  That seems overwhelming? 

That's your Red Sea . 

What is God saying to you today?  He's saying, "Quit running and face the issue.  Face it in faith. Move against your fear.  Do the thing you fear the most." 

God told Moses, "Quit praying and get the people moving!"  What is it you need to stop praying about and start doing?

You say, “I’ll get around to it one of these days.”  But you and I both know, that "one of these days" is none of these days. You say, "One of these days, I'm really going to get serious for God.  And really put Him number one in every area of my life." 

When are you going to do it?  Move against the fear that says, "You'll be a fanatic.  It won't work. You'll regret it."  Move against the fear. 

"One of these days, I'm going to find a church family I'm going to join."  When are you going to do it?  What are you waiting on? Move against your fear. 

One of these days I'm going to develop my talents that God's given me and I'm going to go after the dream I know He's put in my heart."  Why not now?  Move against your fear. 

Quit waiting – Start acting. 

I have a friend who recently left everything behind because he felt God calling him to help the homeless.  He felt so called, yet he felt great fear.  Even though it took a little while he moved against his fear.  I see him now, out there, preaching, helping people get to resources, doing what God wanted him to do.  He quit waiting and started acting.  He moved against his fear.

Please, that thing that's out there, that has you most afraid, in Christ's name, go for it. 

You’ll never want to turn back again.

Many blessings to each of you this day.  God loves you and so do I.

Pastor Jim

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Facing Fears

An Arab chief told the story of a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army.  This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and the big, black door.  As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian general, who asked the question, 

"What will it be: the firing squad or the big, black door?"

The spy hesitated for a long time – It was a difficult decision – He chose the firing squad. Moments later shots rang out confirming his execution.  The general turned to his aide and said,  "They always prefer the known way to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet, we gave him a choice."

The aide said, "What lies beyond the big, black door?"

"Freedom," replied the general. "I've known only a few brave enough to take it."

How Brave Do You Feel?

Today God brings to each of us a choice – we can live by fear or by faith.  If we choose fear we will live our entire lives never fully experiencing the great satisfaction of taking a risk for God.  If we choose to walk in faith we will experience a new found freedom that will lead to a personal assurance that we are living life to its fullest.  Now I know that some of us are still living by fear even though we want to live by faith.

Together we can turn our fear into faith.

To begin with it will be helpful for us to understand that:


In my next post I want to give you five steps on how to take risks in faith. But, first, I want us to look at an example of people that should have been living by faith, but instead they gave into fear.

The book of Exodus tells us about the Israelite people leaving the bondage of Egypt for the freedom God had planned for them.  They have just seen God’s hand work in a mighty way 
  • they have witnessed the ten plagues  
  • they have experienced the first Passover  
  • they have just been released by Pharaoh after 400 years of bondage.

You would think that they will be filled with faith, but instead they are crippled by fear.  I think you will remember when Moses was leading the people away from Egypt and to get away from Pharaoh’s army they would have to cross the Red Sea – that’s where we’re going to pick up the story.

We’re going to let the Israelites stand as an example to show us what fear can do to us if we let it replace faith in our lives.

1.         It makes us SKEPTICAL

Then they turned against Moses and complained, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?" -- Exodus 14:11 (NIV)
  • When we are afraid, we begin to doubt
  • We doubt ourselves, we doubt God, we doubt other people, we become skeptical.
  • Studies have shown that cynics, at the root, have basically a problem with fear.
  • We often ridicule what we're afraid of.

2.         It makes us SELFISH

When I'm afraid, the only thing I can think of is myself. 

I don't think about you, I don’t think about God, I don't think about anybody else, I'm just focusing in on me. 

Let’s look at the rest of v. 11 Then they turned against Moses and complained, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?"    

This says to me - Why did you make us leave?  Look what you've done to us!" 

When we're afraid, 
  • we accuse others, 
  • we excuse ourselves, 
  • we pass the buck, 
  • we blame other people, 
  • we run from responsibility. 

3.         It makes us STUBBORN

We resist change when we're afraid. 

In verse 12, they said, Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'?”

In other words, they were saying to Moses, "Don't rock the boat.  Don't upset the status quo.  We've always done it this way before." 

And fear keeps people from growing, it keeps businesses from growing, it keeps churches from growing, because it causes us to be stubborn. 

God is ready to set them free from 400 years of slavery and the Israelites say, “Leave us alone!”

4.         It makes us SHORTSIGHTED

When the Israelites were confronted with the Red Sea , they said, (verse 12) “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

They wanted to go back to the "good old days" in Egypt – They wanted to return, they wanted to retreat, they wanted to go back.

They had so little faith that God would come through for them and grant them freedom that they preferred to return to bondage in Egypt .

And you know what? Many people today are living the exact same way.

They would rather live in the bondage of their own sin, rebellion, and guilt, than be set free by risking it all for Jesus Christ.

Actually, I don’t think that they really prefer living in bondage, they are just so afraid to let go and let God that they really don’t know what else to do.

Perhaps some of you have been living in fear for so long that you really don’t know what it means to live by faith.

I want us to just think on these things for the next few days.  Then I will post about replacing FEAR with Faith.  In order to make change, we have to acknowledge that change needs to take place.  It would be easier to give the second part of the post right now, but that does not encourage us to take a stark look at ourselves to find those areas in our lives where we know that we are walking in fear rather than experiencing freedom.

My prayers go out to each of you today.  May many blessing be bestowed upon you.  God loves you and so do I.

Pastor Jim