Taking on the Giants

giant 2Imagine the scene: a scrawny sixteen year old shepherd boy takes out a 9’9” tall giant with one rock and a sling.

You may not have a gigantic giant taunting you to come out and fight. But you are probably facing a few giants of your own. Giants like the stack of past-due bills glaring at you. Like the divorce papers waiting on your signature. Or the depression that looms over you like the Hulk. It could be low self-esteem or insecurity or child abuse in your past. But you have your giants. And so do I. And we would do well to learn from David.

He could face his “giant” because he had spent time in the quiet with God. When he arrived at the place of the standoff between the Israelites and the Philistines, he talked about God. He told Saul that “The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1Sam.17:37). He did not hesitate to confront Goliath, saying he came “in the name of the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel.”

David was God-focused instead of giant-focused. He mentions Goliath two times and God nine times. He knew the giant was there and recognized his presence. But his thoughts were twice as much on God.

That focus led him to confront his giant rather than run away. For forty days Goliath continued to challengedepression Israel’s army. And for forty days everyone hoped he would just go away. But giants don’t typically go away until we face them. So David stepped into the gap and slung one well-aimed stone at him.

It helps to have someone in your corner that believes in you. David had his Jonathan. You need yours. You need at least one person who believes in you and that also believes in God. Someone who can encourage your faith—give you courage—when you most need it.

And you will need it. Because after you slay one giant, there will be more. You may wonder why David picked up five stones from the river bed. Was he afraid he might miss? Not likely. He was skilled in his use of the sling.

2 Samuel 21:18-22 hints that Goliath may have had four brothers. David was ready. He could take on one giant. You might say he knew how to get a head of his giant. And then he was ready for more.

And you can too. Just follow the shepherd from Bethlehem

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Face Your Battles With Strength and Courage

strong kidWhen someone keeps telling you to “be strong and courageous,” you might suspect you are up against something big. And the Israelites were.

About to enter the land that had been promised them 600 years before, they had a giant-sized task awaiting them. Literally. Forty years earlier ten spies had come back and told the Israelites that the inhabitants of the land were so big they felt like they were the size of a grasshopper in comparison. Fear took them captive without a battle and sent them off as a group to wander around in a wilderness where they took their chances against wild animals rather than face their giants.

They wandered so long that those who had grasshopper-sized faith died out. Forty years later their children were ready to take the land. They were physically no taller than their parents had been. The enemies in the land were no smaller than before. But the Israelites’ faith muscles had grown.

There were two spies who had reported the land was theirs for the taking. One of them, Joshua, is now the Israelites’ leader. He was courageous. And God wanted to keep him that way. So God tells him three times in the first nine verses of the first chapter of Joshua: “Be strong and courageous.” He also reminds him “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

My guess is you have a few giants in your life too. Some uphill battles that appear insurmountable. A task demanding more than you think strong kid wrestleryou have to give. One too many things on your “to do” list than you have the time or energy to do. Unemployment is staring you down. Depression has a grip on you. Bills have raided your bank account and left it empty. An illness hovers in your life like a threatening storm. You’d rather just run and wander.

Instead, be strong and courageous. You have a Joshua that will lead the way. The New Testament equivalent of the name “Joshua” is “Jesus.” And he has promised to be with you always (Matthew 28:20).

Jesus knows how to lead you through battles. He had a few of his own while he was on this earth. Enemies attacking him with accusations (Mark 3:22). No home and no bed (Luke 9:58). Crowds and expectations pressing in on him (Luke 8:45). The religious establishment eventually insuring he was sentenced to a brutal death. (Mark 15:14).

When the last in line gets chosen for the team

old couple 2The casting agent enters the room with her top picks for the show’s leading man and lady. The new series will follow the spellbinding story of a clan that builds a powerful, world-impacting family tree. This is the pilot, and it is crucial to make the right call on the individuals who will fall in love and launch this Kennedy-like family of influence and fame.

Producers and writers alike have waited breathlessly for this moment, the moment when who they have envisioned as the leading characters will be finally realized in an actor and actress. But when they turn to see who has been tapped for these most special of roles, the thud of their collective jaws hitting the majestic mahogany conference table muffles their mutual groans.

There before their wide eyes, instead of the expected vibrant, young couple with gleaming white teeth and tanned and toned bodies, stand a 75-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman. Not what they had pictured for their production.

And yet, this is what God has chosen. His screenplay called for a couple to launch a new nation, one that would impact the entire world. As he would say, a nation through whom “all the nations of the earth would be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Abram and Sarai stand there, adorned perhaps by dusty old robes and crowned with wispy white hair and loosely fitting skin and as befuddled as anyone else. God chose them to begin a nation. An unlikely pair, especially after factoring in the fact that Sarai was barren. How could God expect to start a nation with a woman who could not bear children?

To complicate the story line, it will be 25 more years before they actually have their child of promise. By that time Abram and Saraiold couple will be 100 years old and 90 years old, respectively (and their names will be changed to Abraham and Sarah). Perhaps Social Security checks will help this special couple decorate the baby’s tent and they’ll be able take naps when the baby does. And the rest, as they say, is history. His story.

God picks people you and I wouldn’t necessarily select to take part in his story. In fact sometimes we are shocked who plays the starring roles in his stories. Unlike the way we do business, he taps people, not merely because of their abilities, but for their availability. God searches for people who are open to be used by him. Since he uses only those who are willing to be used for his purposes, there is no doubt that it is he who is doing the the wonder- working. Let there be no doubt, throughout history he is the one making things happen.

That’s good news, isn’t it? In the business world, you may not have a great pedigree. In academics, you may not be a Rhodes Scholar. You may not have a lot of money and you may have average looks. But you may be sitting in a pretty good position to be a top pick for God’s work.

A Quarter of a Million Dollars

Before you go any farther take a minute and watch this video clip of the revealing of the Capital Campaign totals on Sunday, May 26.

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Thanks be to God, NVCC has had $245,581given or committed to date to our capital campaign. What a tremendous response we have seen.  Though this is short of our overall goal it is enough to continue with the plan to purchase the 5.9 acres of land and begin the process of developing our own ministry campus.

 

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you to everyone who has given or committed to this faith venture. You are so appreciated.  

 

Gifts are still being sought and are still coming in. Since this morning the total has increased to $250,011. We especially need gifts toward our down payment due in by July 31. Anyone who would like to help us push on to the overall goal of $300,000 is greatly appreciated. Gifts can be sent to NVCC, PO Box 73311, Richmond VA 23235.

 

Thank-you again. Please continue to pray for us as we use what God has provided for HIS glory.

 

Overjoyed!!!

Far more than we would ever dare to ask

amazing thingsCheck this out. “God, who by his mighty power at work within us, is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of-infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” Eph 3:20 (TLB) Doesn’t that just blow you away? Doesn’t that stir something within you that wants to see that kind of thing happen? Doesn’t that make you want to know how to see that happen?

Well, here’s the key that unlocks the door to God doing far more than we would ever dare to ask. Are you ready? Hold on! It’s PRAYER. That’s right, prayer. I know, you thought it was going to be some new and profound discovery. No, it’s the same as it has always been, PRAYER.

If that is true, then why don’t we see God doing far more things than we would dare to ask, all the time? Are you ready for that answer? It is because we don’t ask. What do you suppose the most talked about subject in the church setting today is? Prayer! And what is the most talked about issue with Christians? Usually prayer.  Do you have any idea what is the least practiced? You guessed it, prayer. The kingdom of God will not be advanced in our own power. Your spiritual life will not experience any real, long term growth without lots and lots of prayer. God will never do more than we would dare to ask without a vital connection with him in prayer.

So I would say to you, PRAY FIRST.

Make that your approach to life. The first thing I will do is pray. Before I try to come up with a solution, before I seek advice, before I worry or fret or lay awake at night or throw up my hands and quit, I will pray.

What this does is bring the supernatural presence and power of God into every circumstance you face. I don’t know if you have figured this out yet, but God knows a lot more than you do and God can accomplish a lot more than you can. In fact, God can do more and do it better in an instant than I can in my entire life. So why would I not include him first in whatever I am dealing with? It just doesn’t make sense.

When Peter was arrested, in the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 12,  and thrown into prison facing death by execution, what do you think the first thing the other Christians did? They prayed, and prayed and kept on praying. So pray first and then…

Then PRAY OFTEN.

How often? As often as you think about the challenge, need, problem or opportunity. Now, I am not talking about stopping everything you are doing, assume a certain position on your prayer mat and devote lengthy time to praying, kind of prayer. I am talking about wherever you are, whatever you are doing speak it to God.

God thank you for this challenge I am facing. Help me to grow from it.

God, I have a lot going today. Please lead me in everything I do.

God, please give me the divine wisdom to know what to do in this situation.

God, help me to be sensitive to your leading in solving this problem.

God, forgive me for that thought I just had that was totally wrong.

God, help me not to do something irrational with my kids.

Now, there are times when we need to just be still before the Lord and pour our soul out to Him and seek him at length. But there are many times throughout the day when we just need to include him. Talk to him, tell him, seek him, invite him, depend on him.

Well, doesn’t God already know what I need? Doesn’t the Bible say that he even knows my thought? Then why do I need to spend so much time talking to him and telling him? Because, do you know what prayer is? It is declaring your absolute dependence on God. He wants us to declare our dependence on him. We need to declare our dependence on him. So do it and do it often. And then…

And PRAY BELIEVING.

Practically speaking, what good is it to ask if we don’t believe we will get an answer? What good is it to asking if we don’t believe God wants what is best for us? What good is it to ask if we don’t believe God moves and works through the prayers of his people?

Here are the very words of Jesus. This is going to the top. Mark 11:24 “I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  Believe that it is already on its way.

Let’s wrap it up with some words from  John. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask , because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” 1 John 3:21

That means I am not just coming to God like a big Santa in the sky. I don’t look at him as just someone who gives me what I want. I am not bringing my shopping list. I do not believe in this health, wealth and prosperity gospel. “God, I am coming to you with a surrendered heart. I am coming to you with a willingness to back up my life with obedience, with living in a way that is sold out to pleasing you. That is what I want more than anything else in my life.” And, guess what, God honors and gives attention to those kinds of prayers.  God goes far beyond our asking when we come to him as that kind of surrendered, obedient follower.

What is your faith in God based on?

Let me ask you a question. I assume you believe in God. I assume you have faith in Him. But I still need to ask this question. What is your faith in God based on? Is it based on what God does or who God is?

A person with A Faith Based on What God Does lives by the unspoken motto: I believe God as long as He does what I ask. Your faith is built on how often and how well God answers prayers. Such “faith” depends on results and is fueled by sight.

Faith in what God does is your ticket to ride a roller coaster that ascends the hill during times when God’s activity is obvious and then barrels down the hill the moment God seems inactive. The process never stops.

What is wrong with basing your faith on the obvious works of God, on what He’s doing?

What about those times when God does not work according to your requests or expectations? What about those times when He obviously allows your loved one with cancer to glorify Him through restoration in heaven and not on earth? What happens to your faith when a child dies? If your faith is based on what God is doing, you are in for the scariest ride of your life. You are in for a constant up and down, manic depressive relationship with Him.

Genuine Faith is Based on Who God Is and it walks steadfastly with God for the pleasure of His company not for His results. God does not call upon us to seek His works. He calls upon us to seek His heart!

Why is faith based on who God is a faith not greatly moved? Because it focuses on a God who is not greatly moved! It increases our understanding of His ways. Understanding who He is will help us more accurately interpret what He does.

You see, what God appears to be doing changes constantly from our perspective. He may heal one person while He calls the other home. He may be glorified in the poverty of one and the riches of another. He will likely exalt you one year and humble you the next. Our entire lives are lent to change. But who He is will never change. As He reveals Himself to you, He remains the same. In the midst of a society where the only thing you can count on is that you can’t count on anything, God is your guarantee. His faithfulness flows from who He is. To please Him, our faithfulness must do the same.

Then you may be wondering, “So, Is it wrong to ever expect God to move in an obvious or miraculous way?”

Friend, if you could just comprehend that a faith based on who God is frees Him completely to show us what He can do! It’s all a matter of the focus of our faith. Right motives invite real miracles.

The Serenity Prayer—All of it

Millions of people pray the Serenity Prayer every day.  You’re familiar with this part:  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  That is a very famous prayer by a man named Reihold Neibor.  But it is edited.  There are eight more lines to the Serenity Prayer that you may never have heard.  That’s where all the power is.  The power of peace is not in the first part of the prayer.  It’s in the part that has been cut out. Here’s the whole prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time

Enjoying one moment at a time

Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is not as I would have it

Trusting that You, God, will make all things right if I surrender to Your will

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.  Amen.

It makes a little bit of difference, doesn’t it?  All of the power is in the second part of the prayer.  It’s through the acceptance, the trust, the surrender that you find the path to peace.