For many of you, when I say the name Job you immediately think of a man in the Bible that lost everything and eventually was blessed because he wouldn't forsake God.  The book of Job in the Bible is a fascinating story.  But if all we ever knew about Job was what we read in the very first verse of the very first chapter, we would know enough to admire this man.  

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job.  This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1).  Notice he was blameless.  He was honest.  He had a holy and healthy fear and respect for Almighty God.  He stayed away from things connected to evil.  In other words, Job had integrity.  

Oh how we lack integrity in our culture today.  We've renamed sin so that a lie is no longer a lie but a slight fudging of details in order to preserve feelings or gain acceptance.  Adultery is no longer adultery but an innocent little fling on the side.  Stealing is no longer stealing but rather a taking of what was rightfully mine in the first place.  However, when we have steadfast integrity, we begin to affect people for Jesus and we build a Godly legacy to leave for our children and our children's children.

Some truths about integrity:

  1. Integrity is maintaining a Godly perspective on everything that happens in our life.  It's easy to get self-absorbed and lose sight of what matters in life.  When tough times come it's easy to feel sorry for ourselves and sulk instead of seeing the potential for our situation to strengthen our faith, teach us more about God and ourselves, and see the greater purpose and plan that God has for us.  Integrity demands that we abide in Jesus and not doubt God's Holy Word.  Integrity avoids arrogance and pride and keeps a healthy perspective on who God is and who we are. 
  2. Integrity is not about perfection; it's about character.  In other words it's not about living a sinless life.  It's about recognizing one's own sin, turning from that sin, and facing the consequences of sin in a way that is honorable and open to God's will.  Many times when we mess up, we simply want to confess our sin, seek forgiveness and move on as if nothing happened.  I was once counseling someone who had broken the law.  He was arrested and issued a court date.  In the mean time, he recognized his need for Jesus and got saved.  Several months later in court he was sentenced: a hefty fine, community service and mandatory rehab.  Initially my friend was upset.  He thought once he became a Christian all of his problems would magically disappear.  Not so.  Eventually he faced his sentence with integrity and God began to teach this young man valuable life lessons.  Today that man in influencing many for Jesus Christ and helping those who struggle with the same things he struggled with.  
  3. Integrity opens the door for us to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  When others see us walking in truth and having integrity, they respect us and will be much more apt to listen to us.  We have awesome opportunities to influence those around us when we walk with integrity.  

In this day when steadfast integrity is so rare, will you walk with integrity?  Will you hold steadfast to living a life that others see Christ in you?  For more on this, watch the full message.

 

As a nation, we are coming out of another heated political season.  The Democrats have their agenda and ideas on how our nation should function.  The Republicans, likewise, have their agenda and ideas.  Other political parties and independents all have what they believe to be solutions to

challenges that face our nation.  In a season where the focus seems to be on man's solution to domestic and world problems, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that as Christians we don't have to worry about what may or may not happen.  Our faith lies not in man, but in God who has proven His character, His love, His goodness, His grace, and His mercy.  

If we're not careful, when we face tough situations, we will create, orchestrate, and then manipulate our plans without ever consulting God.  There's nothing wrong with hard work and creativity, but those should never be a substitute for prayer.  And because God's plan is tailor-made for each person, each family, and each church family, and not a one-size-fits-all, it only makes spiritual sense to pray and seek God in all things (Jeremiah 29:13).

In Luke 11:1 we read where Jesus' disciples witnessed Him praying.  Afterwards one of the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray!  Indeed they had witnessed the miracles and teachings of Jesus.  They were there when He fed the thousands with a few fish and loaves of bread.  They were there when He raised dead people back to life.  They saw Jesus heal sick people and turn water to wine.  No doubt the disciples connected the dots between Jesus' prayers and His displayed power.  The Bible says in James 5:16 that the prayers of a righteous person is powerful and effective!  Because of this realization, the disciples wanted to learn to pray!  As Christ followers, we should desire the same.  Let me give you some truths about prayer:

  1. Prayer is an invitation for God to get involved in your life!  It brings God-solutions to man's impossibilities.  God won't force His way into your life, but by praying you are asking the God of the universe to step into your world and work for your good.  
  2. Prayer is an invincible weapon in spiritual warfare.  In Ephesians 6 we are told that we are in a spiritual battle against the forces of evil.  Therefore, we are to put on the full armor of God, which is salvation through Jesus Christ, and then pray!  Remember, when you pray, not only does God hear, but the forces of hell hear you praying to the One True Power, the Living God of the Universe!  
  3. Prayer is an act of humility.  When we pray and seek God's will, we are admitting that we are limited in our knowledge, power, and abilities.  We're not big enough, smart enough, or capable enough to handle things on our own.
  4. Prayer is an act of faith.  When we pray we are also believing God will hear us and answer us according to His will.  When we submit to His plans we are putting our total faith and trust in Him.  
  5. Prayer may not always change your circumstances, but it always changes you!  Prayer keeps our hearts positioned to receive God's answers.  Prayer keeps our hearts free from hate and our spirits free from pride.  When Jesus told us to pray for those who persecute us, He knew that it was spiritual impossible to hate someone and pray for them at the same time.  The more we pray, the better we are positioned to accept God's will for our life.  

So how do we pray?  Jesus gave us the formula in Matthew 6:9-13.  When we pray we should:

  1. Recognize God's sovereignty and praise Him for who He is.
  2. Pray for His will to be done above all else.
  3. Pray for daily provision.
  4. Pray for forgiveness of your sin and for the strength to forgive others.
  5. Pray for protection from the evil one.  

There is power in prayer!  In prayer we learn to trust God more and more!  For more on this, watch the full message!  

Right now you are in a battle!  And while you may quickly agree, let me assure you that your battle is not with another person.  According to the Bible, your fight is with the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12).  Yet so many people waste time fighting with others while ignoring how to have victory over the real enemy.  

Jesus called our enemy a thief who comes only to steal, to kill, and to destroy human life (John 10:10).  The good news is we don't have to be victims of this enemy.  Because of the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross, you and I can experience victory in our fight against evil.  In James 4:7 we're given the formula for success in spiritual warfare.  

James 4:7, "Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you."  Look closely.  There is an order given.  Submission comes before resisting.  We must first submit to God.  In other words, we must live with a desire to do His will over our own.  We must die to selfishness.  We must forgive others and relinquish our perceived right to hate others or seek revenge.  Submitting to God also means we have to acknowledge that the Bible is correct and that we are, indeed, in a spiritual battle.  Acknowledging the battle prepares us to take action to secure victory.  If we ignore the reality of this battle, our ignorance will lead us to defeat.  

Resisting the devil comes after submitting to God!  Resisting means we identify the "footholds" or "gates" we've given the enemy into our life.  Once we identify the attitude, the habit, the sin, we can resist it.  Resisting the enemy means forsaking our own will at times we'd like to indulge our flesh.  Resisting means forgiving others when we'd like to seek revenge.  Resisting means holding our tongue when we'd like to blast someone with our words.  Resisting means getting help in conquering the addiction that has stolen from us.

In addition, if you want victory over evil in your life, you must pray.  The Bible tells us in Ephesians 6:13-18 to put on the full armor of God which is wrapping yourself in the person of Jesus Christ.  With the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shoes of the Gospel, the shield of faith, and the sword of the spirit, you are covered in Christ.  When the enemy looks at you, he doesn't see you.  When you are fully dressed in God's armor, the enemy is forced to see Jesus, the One who defeated the him on the cross!  After suiting up, we are to pray.  Pray for yourself.  Pray for others.  Pray for wisdom.  Pray for God's protection. Pray for people who you perceive as your enemy.  You'll be amazed how prayer changes YOU!  

Don't walk around in defeat!  You can be victorious through Jesus Christ.  For more on this, watch the full message.  

Did you know one of the most recorded songs in history is Amazing Grace?  And while it's a great song, have you ever stopped to ponder what is so amazing about grace?  Grace is a concept that we can partially understand, but to fully understand it, we have to look at our sinful self and a righteous King Jesus.

I want you to think about one person you are having a hard time forgiving.  Now, with their name in mind, answer this: did Jesus die for that person's sin?  Did His grace extend to them or stop with you?  Several weeks ago as I was reading I Timothy 1:12-17, God revealed an amazing concept to me and I want to share it with you.  But first, take a few moments to read the passage from I Timothy.  

In this passage the Apostle Paul is saying that he was the worst of all sinners, and yet Jesus poured out His grace on Paul's life.  Jesus saved Paul so that others could see that salvation is for all, even the worst of the worst sinners.  In Paul's early life he was named Saul.  He was so zealous for Judaism that he participated in killing Christians.  On his way to persecute Christians in Damascus, he was blinded and Jesus revealed Himself to Saul.  Because of that experience, Saul trusted Jesus, received a new heart, a new life's direction, and even a new name!  Reflecting on that experience, in this passage Paul is saying, "If grace was for me, it's for anybody!"

As I was soaking on this passage, this is what the Lord brought to me: unless I see myself as the worst of sinners, in need of God's grace, I will have a hard time advancing the Gospel and extending grace to others.  Don't miss that!  Unless I see myself as the worst of all, I will be tempted to have spiritual pride or somehow reason that there are those not worthy of God's forgiveness.  

So let me ask you again, who is the one person you are having a hard time forgiving?  Who is the one person you are having a difficult time extending grace to?  With that person in mind, let me give you some action steps on how you can successfully extend grace and find forgiveness in your heart:

  1. You have to surrender your life to Jesus Christ.  You and Him can't both fit on the throne of your life.  You're either calling the shots or you're letting Him.  But you can't have it both ways.  You have to surrender your will, your right to hold on to anger and bitterness, your hurt and your pain.  Surrender it to Jesus.  The easiest way to do this is to thank God for your own salvation.  Once you see yourself as the worst of sinners, you will see that the person you are having a hard time forgiving needs God's grace too.
  2. Turn your focus to the real enemy:  Satan and his evil legions of demons.  Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our fight is not against other people but against Satan.  Jesus called him a thief that comes only to steal, kill and destroy.  When we stop battling other people and turn our focus to the real enemy we are able to extend grace to others. 
  3. Do your fighting in prayer!  Ephesians 6 goes on to tell us that we are to put on the full armor of God to stand against our real enemy and to PRAY!  The Bible says in James that the prayer of a righteous person is effective!  Pray for that person you are having a hard time forgiving and you'll be amazed how much easier it will be to extend grace to them.

Grace is amazing!  And it is God's desire that you and I extend grace to others just as Christ did to us.   

In 1978 in Honolulu, Hawaii the Ironman event was born.  This is a grueling endurance race that includes a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run.  The elite who finish join the rank of those who call themselves an Ironman.  If you are a follower of Jesus, you are called to join such a rank. 

No, I don't mean competing in the Ironman event.  I'm talking about being willing to hold those you love accountable.  

Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."  In a day where tolerance is preached and "live and let live" is the motto, accountability seems to be lacking from many relationships.  One in the relationship has a difficult time putting boundaries in the relationship while the other finds it challenging, almost impossible, to respect such boundaries. Relationships without boundaries are destined to suffer and fail.  Relationships without accountability opens the door for that relationship to become toxic.  

I think the biggest reason we don't do a better job at holding those we love accountable is because we tend to associate accountability with negativity.  Biblical accountability is not about lording over someone, being a "goody-two-shoes", thinking you're better than anyone else, or having a license to put others down.  Biblical accountability:

  1. Has no selfish agenda.  Holding someone accountable is making others take responsibility for their actions.  In the long run, holding someone accountable may actually save their life!  A friend of mine who is a police officer arrested someone one time for DUI (Driving Under the Influence).  As he was handcuffing the drunk person and putting them into the backseat of his patrol car he said, "I know you don't realize this now, but I'm saving your life."  My sober friend knew the drunk man was safer in the backseat of the patrol car than in the driver's seat.  Holding others accountable is not driven by selfish motives. 
  2. Seeks the other's best interest.  Since accountability is not driven by selfish motives, it seeks what is best for the other person.  Sure it's vulnerable to hold another accountable.  They may get mad.  They may reject you.  They may refuse to remain your friend.  That's the risk we take when we love others enough to hold them accountable.  
  3. Speaks the truth.  We have a saying in our home: say what you mean and mean what you say!  There's no room for "beating around the bush."  Be direct and to the point.  Speak the truth in love and with respect, but speak the truth!  Those you love deserve nothing less.  
  4. Always points the other person to God and His Word.  Accountability is not about imposing your opinion on someone else.  Accountability is about seeing something in another person you love that could bring harm or devastation to him or her and challenging that person to allow God's Word to intersect that behavior.  Not long ago I was counseling someone who was in a dilemma.  She said to me, "My coworkers think I ought to do this, and my family tells me I ought to do that...what do you think Pastor?"  I answered her, "It doesn't matter what I think.  My opinion is not really important.  What's more important is what does God think?  Let's see what the Bible says..."  If we really love others, we will point them past our opinions and to the truth of God's Word.

Do you want to be an Ironman?  Are you willing to hold others accountable and to be held accountable?  For more on this, please watch the full message.  

I love coffee!  Every day begins with a fresh, piping hot cup of the delicious beverage.  I've had it cold and I've had it hot, but never once have I desired to have it lukewarm.  Not too long ago I poured me a cup of coffee at work and set it on my desk.  Moments later I was interrupted and left my office for 30 minutes or so.

Upon returning to my desk, I flipped open my computer and still staring at the screen without looking at the cup of coffee, instinctively picked it up to take a sip.  As it touched my lips, I spit it out!  The coffee had become lukewarm.

In Revelation 3 we read where Jesus told a church that they were lukewarm.  He longed for them to be either hot or cold, but because they were lukewarm He was about to spit them out of His mouth!  Hot water kills bacteria and is useful for bathing.  Cold water is refreshing to drink.  Lukewarm water is useless.  Spiritual lukewarmness is just as useless.  Let's look at some dangers of being lukewarm:

  1. You lose connection with Jesus and others.  This doesn't mean Jesus doesn't love you.  But it does mean that the relationship suffers.  Lukewarmness allows you to be spiritual and shallow at the same time.  Lukewarmness allows you to be non-commital in your relationship with God and God's people without ever desiring to go deeper.  
  2. You lose credibility.  Lukewarmness offers you comfort when the potential for having to sacrifice is on the horizon.  Lukewarmness points you to the path of least resistance and aids you in bailing out when the going gets tough.  Lukewarmness allows you to go back on your word and never allows you to call that a lie.  Because of this, others begin to lose trust in you and your word begins to mean little to nothing.  
  3. You lose battles in spiritual warfare.  Let me be clear:  our enemy is not our spouse, our friend we've had a fallen-out with, an unfair boss or a grumpy person working behind the counter at our favorite store.  Our real enemy is Satan.  Jesus calls him a thief that comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  Lukewarmness handicaps us in our efforts to pray and seek God's wisdom, strength, power, and plan.  Lukewarmness convinces us that spiritual warfare is not real.  Therefore, we fall victim to Satan's tricks and suffer devastating consequences.  
  4. You lose safe ground.  Walking with Jesus may not be easy but one thing is sure: He carries us so we don't step on land mines.  But lukewarmness focuses on convenience instead of commitment.  Therefore, we go the way we think we should go without ever consulting the One who can carry us safely around land mines such as: addiction, apathy, a joyless life, passionless pursuits, unrepentant sin, lack of forgiving others, unwholesome talk, rote prayers, pride, worry, fear, hypocrisy and half-hearted worship just to name a few!

Did you notice lukewarmness makes you a LOSER?  But Jesus wants you to be VICTORIOUS!  And you can be:

  1. Heed conviction from the Holy Spirit.  If you are a Christ follower, you have the Spirit of God living within you to give you wisdom, direction, and to gently remind you of His Word when you step out of living within its boundaries.  Don't resist taking the right action when you know in your spirit you need to make necessary changes.
  2. Be honest about your sin.  Don't make excuses, blame others or call your sin by a cute name so you don't have to deal with it.  Gossip is gossip, not sharing.  Lying is lying, not "just protecting their feelings."  Addiction is addiction, not "just having a good time" or "indulging once and awhile."  Until your honest about your sin, you will do nothing about it.
  3. Step off the mine field!  Determine today to trust in Jesus and let Him carry through the things that have been "blowing" you up.
  4. Engage in prayer.  The Bible says in James 5:16 that the prayers of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  Prayer should never be a "go to" when all else fails.  Prayer should be our first response to situations that arise.  Prayer is seeking God.  While prayer may not change our situation we're in, it always changes our heart and positions us to accept God's will.

For more on this, please watch the full message

I live in the Sunshine State, but it's not always sunny!  Along with the beaches and beautiful sunsets, we also have to endure our fair share of storms and even hurricanes.  From June to November we live with an awareness that one could strike any time.

Part of being a Floridian is being prepared for storms.  To not be prepared would simply be foolish.  In life there will be storms.  We need to be prepared so we can not only survive but thrive.  Let me give you 4 keys to getting through adversity:

  1. Prosperity is temporary, so be thankful.  Many times friends in other states will ask me, "Living in Florida, aren't you afraid of hurricanes?"  To be fair, if we dealt with hurricanes everyday of the year, I'd be moving!  But thankfully we enjoy great weather most of the year.  Hurricanes are interrupted by months of sunshine, warm days, water sports, beach walks, seashell collecting, and fresh sea food!  I never take those incredible moments for granted.  I'm very thankful for the abundant sunshine.  So when storms do happen, I simply reflect on the advantages of living here.  
  2. Adversity is inevitable, so be prepared.  Hurricanes will happen.  Every June we're reminded to be prepared: have plenty of water, non-perishable goods, batteries, a generator, and when all else fails, a good evacuation plan!  When I mentally prepare for a storm, I remove the surprise element from it and am able to use good and sound judgement.  I don't react out of panic, but simply put my plan in motion when appropriate.   This alleviates stress and anxieties and allows me to function in a healthy manner without obsessing that I may blow away with the storm!
  3. Failure is not always failure.  When we look at our failures through the eyes of our enemy, the devil and his legion of demons, we see nothing but our own inadequacies.  Our focus is on ourself and we wrestle with self-condemnation.  However, when we look at our failures through the eyes of Jesus, we experience grace and mercy and we see our need to abide in Him.  When we look at failure through His eyes, we see an opportunity to grow, learn and mature in our faith.  True failure would be not learning from our failure.  
  4. God is faithful, so you be faithful and DON'T GIVE UP!  II Corinthians 4:16 says in light of our adversity, we do not lose heart!  Jesus said in John 16:33 that we can expect adversity, but not to lose heart because He has overcome all adversity!  

You need help getting through adversity.  Psalm 121 reminds us that our help comes from God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.  We're not meant to do life alone.  We need God and we need God's people.  If your in a storm right now, I hope you'll take a few minutes and watch the full message!  

Recently I was in Wal-Mart and was paying for my goods with cash.  I handed the cashier a $50 bill.  She looked at me strangely for a moment as if to say, "Where did YOU get THIS?" and then held the bill up to the light glaring at it with her X-Ray vision.  She then proceeded to take out a marker of

some sort and draw a line on it.  After enduring her scrutiny, she placed the bill in the cash drawer.  I had just come from the bank so I wasn't too concerned with the authenticity of the bill, but apparently Wal-Mart was!  And who can blame them?  Counterfeit money is no good and neither is counterfeit humility! 

In Colossians 2:18-23 we find that there were those who had a counterfeit humility: they appeared as a humble follower of Jesus but their following Jesus stopped at appearances.  According to this passage of Scripture, people with counterfeit humility claim supernatural experiences apart from Jesus, have lost connection with Christ and His Body, the Church, and cling to human ordinances and ceremonialism for redemption while nullifying the atoning work of Jesus.  Unfortunately, there are those today who fill churches every Sunday that have counterfeit humility.  Let me give you 10 signs of a person with counterfeit humility:

  1. Uses religious terms to justify cruel or inappropriate behavior.  One example of this would be "sharing a prayer concern for someone" when in reality you're gossiping about that person.  
  2. Participates in good works to promote one's own agenda.  Here the motivation for doing good is not for the simple pleasure of serving, but for gaining leverage to promote selfish agenda.  When I was in younger, I agreed to cut my neighbor's yard because I wanted to date his daughter.  I didn't care about helping him, I only cared about impressing him.  He allowed me to cut his grass but denied my request to date his daughter!
  3. Listens to others only in order to speak into their life.  Counterfeit humility has no genuine concern for what the person is going through; it seeks only the opportunity to impress with its knowledge and experience.  
  4. Admits small sins but ignores major sins.  Counterfeit humility blinds the person to the reality that all sin breaks fellowship with God.  We are accountable for all of our sin.  Redemption from all sin requires confession (agreeing with God you've messed up!) and asking for forgiveness through the atoning work of Jesus.  
  5. Publicizes one's own sacrifices to impress others.  Counterfeit humility fuels one to brag about amount of time or money spent to help others.  
  6. Uses himself as the standard for others' performance.  While we can encourage others to follow our example as we follow Christ, true humility understands that Jesus is our standard for how we live our life! 
  7. Affects a humble tone of voice while saying proud things.  Counterfeit humility loves to "softly brag."  
  8. Professes love for God and neighbor but acts in a cruel manner.  True humility sees value in others and responds accordingly with words used and actions taken.
  9. Delights in debate rather than dialogue.  While counterfeit humility enjoys a good fight, true humility seeks to learn from others even from others with a different point of view.  
  10. Is easily offended!  When we operate in counterfeit humility, we exalt ourself.  Therefore, we take everything personally.  When we operate in true humility, we die to self and are hidden in Jesus.  Therefore, we take nothing personally.  

So, is your humility counterfeit or the read deal?  When we operate in true humility, it will enable you to desire and follow God's will for your life, it will enable you to love and serve your family and others, and it will position you to receive God's greatest blessings!  

For more on this, watch the full message!

A couple of weeks ago my family and I were eating at our favorite pizza joint.  When our server took our drink order I asked for water with lemon.  A few minutes later she returned with a glass of water and several little packages of lemon powder.   I didn't receive a real lemon, but an artificial one!

When Kristin and I first married we would keep two jugs of tea in our refrigerator.  Because she grew up on unsweet tea and I grew up on sweet tea, we would keep a jug of each.  After several months I decided to wean myself off of sweet tea, so I would add artificial sweetener to unsweet tea.  I'll admit while the sweetener added a "sweetness" to the tea, it wasn't like drinking sweet tea made with sugar.  There was a bitter aftertaste that I couldn't get used to.  Finally I gave up and relented to drinking unsweet tea.  If I couldn't have the real thing, I didn't want a cheap imitation.  

Righteousness can be like the lemon powder or the artificial sweetener: it looks like the real thing but it's not.  Artificial righteousness can fool some, but after awhile it becomes apparent that it's simply a cheap imitation of the real thing.  

In Matthew 7:15-27 Jesus spoke of those who had artificial righteousness.  They appeared to be holy, but it was just that: an appearance.  In addition to Jesus calling these fakes ferocious wolves, he said their artificial righteousness would be obvious by simply looking at the "fruit" of their life.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.  A righteous life bears good fruit.  Jesus said there are many who have artificial righteousness and base their goodness on their deeds, but in the end they will die and slip into a Christless eternity.  

5 takeaways from this passage:

  1. There ARE people who have an artificial righteousness, so be on guard.  We must avoid being impressed by someone's words and instead observe their actions.
  2. What's on the inside will eventually come out.  Jesus said what is bound up in one's heart will eventually proceed from their mouth.  How true, how true.  Anyone can put on an act, but over time the true person begins to emerge.  
  3. Artificial righteousness is ME-focused.  In verse 22 "many people" were showing off to Jesus:  look what we've done! they exclaimed.  Look how good we are!  Hey Jesus, you should be impressed!  
  4. Authentic righteousness is Christ-focused.  Any righteous deeds done are for the glory of Christ and not for self-gloating. 
  5. Authentic righteousness is reading, hearing and doing God's Word.  Jesus said anyone who hears His words and obeys them are true believers.  Authentic righteousness is accompanied by humility that points others to Jesus.  

So, do you have an authentic relationship with Jesus or are you settling for artificial sweeteners and lemon powder?  

For more on this, watch the full message!

Who are what do you run to when you are really scared?  In those crucial moments of your life, when you experience an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety, who or what do you run to?   Whatever your answer, that's where your faith is.  God wants us to run to Him, but we don't always do that.

Sometimes we find it easier to run to another person, vice or habit to comfort us.  Some "lose themselves" in their work or hobby.  At any rate, when we are gripped by fear, we need to run to God.  However, when we run TO Him, we need to have faith IN Him!  

The disciples were on a boat with Jesus when a storm blew up.  Fear begin to grip the disciples as the waves grew bigger.  Jesus was sleeping.  The Creator is never threatened by His creation.  In a panic, the disciples woke Jesus!  Indeed they ran to Him, but they were gripped with fear and had lack of faith.  In their fear, they began to question Jesus' character!  "Don't you care that we are drowning?" they cried out!  In this moment, Jesus demonstrated His sovereignty: he commanded His creation to be still, and it obeyed.  Then, turning to His disciples He asked, "Where is your faith?"  

Friend, where is YOUR faith?  Who or what you run to first when you are afraid is where your faith lies.  God wants us to run to Him, but many choose to run to addictions, careers, people, and the list goes on.  While it would be easy to focus on "bad things" one should not put their faith in, I want to focus on something even more challenging: resisting putting faith in "good things" instead of God.  What do I mean?  Let's look at some GOOD THINGS that compete for our focus and faith in God:

  1. Religion.  We can be religious without having faith in God.  When our faith is in "keeping the rules" in order to gain favor with God instead of responding to God out of an authentic heart of love for Him, we can miss Jesus, not by a mile, but by an eternity!  When I was in elementary school there was a section of my report card that had a place for the teacher to comment on my character and conduct.  When I received good marks, I would be so excited to show my parents!  I just knew they would be so proud of me for "being good."  Indeed, I would gain favor and they would love me more.  However, they loved me just as much when I didn't receive good marks.  I learned that my parent's love was unconditional.  God is not impressed with our "good marks."  He loves us unconditionally and proved that love that while we were in sin, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  If your faith is in "doing good" and "keeping the rules" instead of Jesus, you will miss Him by an eternity!
  2. Religious symbols representing God.  God commanded us not to worship idols.  An idol is anything we esteem more than God.  In the Old Testament, King Hezekiah destroyed Moses' bronze snake because people looked to it for healing instead of God.  In I Samuel 4 we read where the Israelites lost 4,000 men in a battle.  Afterwards they reasoned, "we need to bring the Ark of God here so it will save us from future defeat."  The next battle they lost 30,000 men!  They looked to an object representing God for their salvation instead of putting their faith in God.  Do you have a "lucky cross" you carry in your pocket?  How about an angel hanging from your rear view mirror to protect you while you drive?  God wants you to look to Him for your protection, not symbols representing Him.  When our faith is in religious objects and not God, we miss Him by an eternity!
  3. Good deeds.  In Ephesians 2:8-9 we are told that we are saved by God's grace through faith and that salvation is a gift from God and not a result of anything we can do.  In Ephesians 2:10 we are told that as a result of our salvation our good works come from an overflow of a changed heart.  When our faith is in our works, we negate the work of Christ on the cross and we miss Him by an eternity!

When our faith is in Jesus, we gain a true perspective of God, ourself, and everything around us. Like a snow globe shaken, circumstances in our life can block our view from reality.  But like a snow globe that is still long enough, when we learn to be still and trust God (Psalm 46:10), we begin to see more clearly how God is sovereign over our life and working for our good (Romans 8:28).  

For more on this, watch the full message.