Resolutions

It’s that time of year again – when we resolve to do things differently. This year’s resolutions are much the same as every other year: save more money, eat healthier, exercise more, stress less. And the year started out well. At least for the first week or so, then the wagon ride started to get a little bumpy. And by now I have not only fallen off of the wagon, but gotten run over by it as well. You would think I would learn. Every year I do the same thing, and every year I fail.

Each year I resolve to change something about myself or my life and I plan and I prepare and I do what I can to solidify my willpower to make these changes. But isn’t it this same will of mine that doesn’t want to cook supper, so I go out and buy it instead? Isn’t it this same will that wants to eat the cupcakes and sleep just a little longer instead of exercise? How can I expect to be successful when I am empowering the very thing that causes me to do the actions in the first place? Didn’t Jesus Himself say that a house divided can not stand (Mark 3:25)? It makes no sense to ask my will to go against itself to affect change. I can no more change my will than I can change my skin color. So do I just give up then?

I may not be able to change myself, but there is One who can. He has already miraculously changed many parts of my life. I know that. He has saved me from destruction and set my feet on a straight path. He has given me access to His mighty power. And He has instructed me that if I am faithful in the little things, then I will be faithful with much (Luke 16:10). Is it possible that God has given me access to His resurrection power and asked me to use it in these little things? Wouldn’t we all like to see someone raised from the dead? God has given us this power, but we must practice using it. In every other area of my life I am trying to become less so that Christ can become greater (John 3:30). I surrender my will to Him. But here in this part of my life I am still holding on tightly to my will. My way. I have not surrendered it to Him. It is still dead in sin. It is like this part of my life is Lazarus, buried in the tomb, and I can hear the voice of Jesus calling me out, but instead of heading to the light I am stuffing the cracks at the door with cupcakes. I am happy here in the dark, with my cupcakes. But while I may be afraid of leaving my cupcakes behind, I must remember that God has never taken me from something that He hasn’t replaced with something so much better.

And isn’t it just like the enemy to keep us down in these little areas? After all, he makes us think that they don’t matter. God didn’t really say that I could never eat a cupcake did He? But perhaps he works so hard at keeping us from accessing God’s power to see miracles in these areas of our lives because he knows that if we would be faithful here, he wouldn’t be able to stop us when we access God’s power in the bigger things!

Perhaps then I must change my resolutions. I resolve to know Christ and the power of His resurrection (Phil 3:10a). I will press on because He has so much more ahead for me. I will surrender to Him in this area too and experience His power changing my life again. I will meditate on His word for encouragement:

Phil 3:7-14: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

 

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Do we really want God to show up?

Do we really want God to show up? Our automatic answer would be yes… but is that true? When God moves with power, people generally become afraid. When God met the Isrealites at Mt. Sinai, the mountain shook and the people were terrified. When Jesus cast the demons out of the men in Gergesenes, the townspeople asked Him to leave. In her book, Desperate for His Presence, Rhonda Hughey describes a night when she was present in a service where God showed up, and she became afraid. She says, “His presence was almost suffocating in its power and strength. I had mixed feelings – should I run away from it or toward it?” While we were in prayer this week for the church and asking God for His presence and power to move in our church, my husband felt God tell him that the church was not ready to experience His power. We would run away. Why?

When Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples “marveled saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”” (Matt 8:27). Until the disciples got to know Jesus and His love for them, they were afraid of the manifestation of His power. Once they travelled with Him for three years, witnessed Him die for them and rise from the dead, they finally understood. Then they were ready for the presence of God to fall on them and for His power to flow through them. They were no longer afraid – they were bold. Is our fearfulness related to the fact that we really do not know Him? Do we understand God’s intentions? Do we know His love? Are we confident in our ability to stand before Him and not be consumed?

A year ago my family was being terrorized. We begged God to intervene. And He did – powerfully. My first reaction was great relief for our trial to be over. That was followed by a sobering thought, who am I that I should live? I became afraid. I had to remember who God is and how much He loves me. He reminded me of the verses in Lamentations (3:22-23): “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” As a church, do we know God? Are we confident in our position before Him? What do we need to do to become ready to experience His power? Will God pass us by when He is ready to move because we are not prepared? Are we content to simply know God as a nice thought? Or are we ready to seek Him out and ask that His glory fill our church? God wants to come – which way will we run?

Power

Have you ever felt powerless? I know I have – many times. Just think of the last time you had the flu! Wouldn’t you have given anything to have it stop? Power is important. We need it. Rely on it. You wouldn’t buy a toaster or a vacuum that doesn’t work. Nor would you buy a car that only moved if you pushed it. We only want these things if they have power.

What about church/religion/God? The world offers so many options to those seeking. You can find a church to suit any interest or genre. So what makes Christianity so special? Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians wrote, “for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance” (1:5). Christianity is not a religion that is made up of nice thoughts and empty words. God has power – and He will use it! Just as Elijah went altar to altar with the prophets of Baal and God showed up with undeniable power; just as Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified so that He could prove He was God by rising from the dead three days later; God still wants to move with power today. Can we say of our church or our own ministry that “our gospel [is not] in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit?” (1 Thess 1:5). I am not sure we can, or at least not consistently – but why would that be? God has the power available to us and He clearly desires to use it.

So why is our gospel so powerless? One of the questions that I have had the evil one plague me with at my lowest times is, “what has God done for you lately?” Outside of, well I am still breathing… sometimes, it can be hard to think of an answer. Has God lost His mojo? Am I just not important to Him anymore? No, that is not it. God’s word tells us: if we ask, it will be given (Matt 7:7); whatever we ask in [Jesus] name will be done (John 14:13); and we do not have, because we do not ask (or we ask amiss) (James 4:2-3). I am not asking. We as a corporate church are not asking. We need to be asking – begging – for God’s power and Holy Spirit to be present!

People want things that work. That have power. If our church or ministry has power, they will come. They will want it. They will want God! God’s power does not end when He saves us. He has so much more to do! It is time to humble ourselves before the Living God and sincerely ask for His will to be done, for His Spirit to anoint, and for His hand to move!

I know I need Him. Our church needs Him. Our city needs Him. Let’s open the door and invite Him in….