Paul didn’t need performance enhancing drugs

1 Timothy 1:12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him.

pedsThere’s a lot of talk these days about performance enhancing drugs.  Baseball and football players alike are being handed suspensions for using drugs that are supposed to help them get stronger, faster, and generally better.  Apparently it isn’t helping them get any smarter.  The very fact that the NFL is currently reworking it’s drug policy shows how big the problem is.  But at some level, I get it.  These are competitive sports and these guys feel the pressure to have the competitive edge.  More strength.  More power. More everything.  That’s the mantra.  Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t think it’s right. But I do see how easy that trap is.

Paul, however, didn’t need any performance enhancing drugs. He told Timothy: “I thank Jesus, who has given me strength to do his work.”  Paul did a lot of work for Jesus. He was the MVP of the team. If there was an apostle Pro-Bowl, he’d be selected.  And despite massive hardship, he felt he had the strength to continue on.  This didn’t come from a balanced breakfast or plenty of sleep; it came from Jesus. Because Jesus is faithful.  When He calls us to do His work, He gives us what we need to do it.

Let me say that again: When He calls us to do His work, He gives us what we need to do it.  We don’t need drugs, we need Jesus.  He is the giver of strength. He is the giver of the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit who builds us, equips us, comforts us, and beckons us to press on toward the prize. So take heart today, He who has called you is faithful.  If it is HIS work you are doing, He will provide you the strength to do it. Don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged. Instead, thank Jesus that He gives you the strength to carry on.

*Have you become weary? Begin to thank Jesus for the strength that He provides and see what happens.

 

Get your Rocky on!

Genesis 48:1-2 Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.

rockyRemember the Rocky movies?  Good old Rocky Balboa was the comeback king.  He just about lost every fight, it seems, but would come in at the last minute for the knockout punch.  There he was bloody and bruised, beaten to a pulp.  He could hardly stand and he certainly couldn’t see well.  The match was essentially over; he was to be the loser.  But wait… what’s this!? Rocky is getting up on his feet. Against all odds, he musters up the strength to rally.  He hits his opponent with a jab, then another. Here comes the 8 punch combo – knockout!

Rocky is a movie.  Rocky is an unrealistic movie. But we all loved it! We love the come from behind victory. We love the bad acting and cries for Adrian.  Over and over again, Rocky rallied and we cheered.  When I read Genesis 48 today, I cheered a little on the inside, too.  You see, Jacob was sick; he had no strength. He was weak, tired, and all together not well. But when his son came by with his sons, he rallied. He mustered up enough strength to sit up and bless his grandchildren. Why? Because it was worth working up the strength for. This moment mattered and regardless of how he felt, he was going to make it happen.

I’ve come to realize that even though we are weak and tired sometimes, God has given us the ability to rally. He has put within us that same champion “Rocky” spirit.  When we find a cause worth fighting for, we fight… regardless of how tired we may be. But so often we default to losing hope, being depressed, and giving up. We have got to rally! There is a strength within us that God wants us to activate. So get your Rocky on today. Rally your strength and fight!

*Where are the places you are giving up?  Ask God to give you the strength to get up like Jacob did.

Parts hurt

Genesis 47:31b …and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

sore-backConfession: sometimes my body hurts for no reason whatsoever. I’m 39 years old – not sure how that crept up on me.  My kids think I’m old. I think I’m young, and by most accounts I am.  But some days I wake up and regardless of what my mind thinks, my body is pretty sure it is old. My shoulder hurts, my knee hurts, my back hurts.  As my father-in-law says, “parts hurt.”  My wife inquires as to what I did to strain these aching parts. “I slept” is my only logical explanation.  Pretty pathetic, don’t you think?

I’ve got nothing on Israel, however. The guy was 147 years old when he died. His eyesight probably wasn’t all that good and most definitely, “parts hurt.”  And as I read Genesis 47, there’s something remarkable that takes place with this 147 year old man.  It’s a simple thing, so simple you might even miss it. But it’s also profound, so you can’t pass it up.  It comes on the heels of a conversation with his son, Joseph. His heart is full like his life was.  So he stood there leaning against his staff.  Held up by a stick, he worshiped. There’s no lying around, no moping, no whining, no mention of aching body parts. Just an old man held up by a staff… worshiping.

Do we worship when our bodies are sore and our flesh is weak? Do we lay down, check out, and give up? Or do we stand in the strength that we have, hold ourselves up by a stick if necessary, and worship?  There’s a story in Judges about a guy named Gideon. He was weak and afraid. But the angel of the Lord told him, “go in the strength that you have.” I can just see Israel on this day worshiping in the strength that he had.  So like Israel, we have a choice to make. Will we worship in the strength that we have? Will we grab a stick if we need to and hold ourselves up, just so we can declare the greatness of God?  I hope so.  For that’s the kind of person I want to be.

*What inspires you about a 147 year old man worshiping?

 

You’re no strongman

Zechariah 4:6 So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.

strongmanHave you ever watched a strongman competition?  Those guys are amazing!  They lift huge logs, pull cars down the road, bend stuff, break stuff, and much more.  I’m talking some serious muscles.  And they aren’t just weightlifters who have big muscles to show off.  They are the real deal; they genuinely have some serious strength.  But all those muscles don’t help them with many of life’s challenges.  Like everyone else, they have to navigate relationships, trials, disappointment, and loss.  There’s no amount of muscle that can help with those things.

We all would like to think that we are strong enough to handle life’s biggest challenges.  We toughen up when things get hard and power through them.  We flex our emotional muscles at hardship and hope it’s enough to overcome.  The reality is: it isn’t.  I hate to break it to you, but you are no strongman.

In Zechariah 4, the Lord says these words: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.”  You see, if you are going to overcome, you need more than might; you need more than power.  You need the Spirit of the Lord alive in you.  And it is by His Spirit that I overcome temptation and sin.  It is by His spirit that I can go on after disappointment or loss.  It is by His Spirit that I can live this life to the fullest.  So if you think you are strong enough today… you aren’t.  Only He is and only He can give you the true strength to carry on.

*Are you relying on your strength or His Spirit to navigate life?

Stop freakin’

Haggai 2:4-5  But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’

freakinThere are a lot of good company slogans out there and among my favorites is Beacon Plumbing.  “Stop freakin. Call Beacon.”  It’s clever, funny, and catchy.  The point is – when you are having a plumbing catastrophe, don’t freak out, just call in the pros.  They have successfully imprinted their company name onto my mind.  When I think of plumbing emergencies, I think of Beacon.

Do you ever find yourself freaking out in life?  Maybe it’s the overwhelming circumstances you are facing.  You are frustrated and scared and unsure of what will be around the next turn.  Maybe you are feeling stuck.  Stuck in your sin, stuck in your present situation, stuck in general.  Or maybe you are feeling out of control.  You used to be able to control what was happening around you, but you just can’t do it anymore.  And you are about to freak out.  Fear starts to knock at your door and you feel weak.  Frustration is mounting and tension is high.

Stop freakin’!  Call…. well….. on the Lord.  In Haggai 2, God is speaking to His people, telling them to be strong.  Be strong because I am with you.  Be strong because I have made a promise to you.  Be strong because my Spirit is with you.  And do not fear!  Because just as much as Beacon can handle plumbing catastrophes, God can handle ALL of life’s catastrophes.  He’s the pro that you need to call.  He’s the strength that you need to rely on.  He’s the truth that stands strong in the face of the lie.  He’s God.  So stop freakin’ today.  Call on the name of the Lord!

*Is there an area of your life that causes you to freak out?  Call the professional today and stop freakin’.

Forecast calls for thunder

Joel 2:11a The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command.

Have you ever felt like you don’t have the strength to succeed?  The task seems too big, the enemy is too strong, your resolve is too weak. I know that we can all “feel” that way at times, but when will we start aligning ourselves with the truth rather than our feelings?  We read in the New Testament that God actually helps us with our weaknesses.  He has given us the Holy Spirit to fight alongside us on our behalf.  He has given us Christ, who intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father.  He is with us and that should give us strength.

In fact, Joel 2 says that this God who fights for us THUNDERS at the head of His army.  The enemy starts fleeing before the battle begins when you bring the Lord into it.  His forces are beyond number!  Yet we try so hard to fight our own battles, to do things in our own strength.  Listen, we don’t thunder.  God does.  And because He thunders, we are mighty.  Because we live in Him we have strength.  Because He is on our side, we can have confidence and assurance that no weapon formed against us shall prosper.

It’s time to stop being victims and time to start being victors!  Realize who it is that is on your side and don’t go to battle without him.  Stop trying to solve your own problems and start working them out on your knees.  Stop believing what the world says about you and start receiving His vision for your life.  It’s time to get in line behind “The Thunder” and learn what it means to be a mighty warrior of the Most High God!  I don’t know about you, but the forecast for my life today calls for thunder.

Who needs a battle cry when you’ve got a victory chant?

1 Samuel 30:8 and David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?” “Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”

We can all relate to David and his men in 1 Samuel 30.  They arrive home and find that they have been plundered.  All that was theirs has been stolen from them, plundered.  It was senseless, too.  They stole their belongs, their animals, their children and their wives.  Not cool.

They were torn up, angry, and distraught.  It brought them to their knees, to the brink of weakness.  But David found strength in the Lord.  The strength he found wasn’t just adrenaline.  He found peace and hope and renewed confidence.  He asks the Lord, “can we take ‘em?”  God says, “oh yeah, baby!  All that and more!”  So off they march to reclaim all that had been lost with the confidence that victory will soon be at hand.

“Who needs a battle cry when you’ve got a victory chant?!” My friend Aaron Ruff made this statement recently and it has stuck with me.  We get ourselves all worked up about the enemy and his plans to impale us.  But guess what?  Jesus already won.  The victory is ours for the taking.  We don’t need to get all worked up and wonder if we can win.  In Christ, we have already won.  So let’s start singing the victory song – do a little victory dance if you want.  Because now is the time for you to start living a reclaimed life.  Now is the time to go after all that has been stolen from you.  Don’t settle for less.  You serve a big God who has the power to redeem it all… and even more.

My rights or God’s plans?

I Samuel 23:15-18  15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. 16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” 18 The two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.

Jonathan is a remarkable man.  What he did in 1 Samuel 23 is amazing.  It was brave and it was selfless.  Jonathan knew that his father was trying to kill David.  He knew that going to see David was not a safe move.  But he did it anyway because he was dedicated to his friend.  His friend was on the run and he wanted to encourage him.  I love that it says Jonathan helped David find strength in God.  I imagine he reminded him of God’s promises and prayed with him.   That is a good friend!

What is even more remarkable to me is that Jonathan had more to lose than just being seen with David.  As the son of the king, he had rights to the throne; he was next in line to be king.  But he knew that God had already anointed David, so he was willing to get out of the way.  A lesser man would have fought for his place on the throne, but not Jonathan.   Instead, he re-affirmed his covenant with David that he would serve in second command someday and David would be king.  He would personally see to it if he had to.  He was willing to give up his rights for God’s greater plan. 

So often we struggle with God over what we believe is our right.  We tell God, “I deserve this” or “this is my right.”  While that may be true, God may have something different in mind, something greater.  And there are times when God will ask us to lay down our rights.  If you recall, Jesus laid down His at the cross.  He asks us to do the same.  You might feel like you have something coming to you.  You might think you’ve got the whole thing figured out.  You might have your heart so set on a direction that you are unable to see anything else.  That’s when God comes along and says, “would you like to hear MY plan?”  It is in that place that we come to the crossroad like Jonathan did.  Will I fight for my rights or will I lay them down for God’s greater plans?  I have been to that crossroad and I am so glad I chose His plan.  Because His ways are higher than my ways and I have found that His ways are always the best.

Who’s your daddy now?

I Samuel 5:1-4  1 After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. 3 When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained.   

Oh yeah, baby.  I love this! The Philistines took the ark of God, which happens to be where the presence of the LORD hung out, and placed it next to their statue of Dagon.  Now Dagon was a strange little false god.  His lower half was that of a fish and his upper half like a man.  I guess a male mermaid is probably a good description.  Now who in their right mind is going to worship something silly looking like that.  I’ll tell you: the Philistines.  And this false god had no merit, no power.  He was a statue.

So when they placed the real God, the LORD, next to this statue, it had an unfortunate accident.  This powerful fish-man statue didn’t stand a chance in the presence of God.  And he fell down on his face before God.  The Philistines stood him up and he fell again, this time his head and hands broke off.  Booyah! Who’s your daddy now, Dagon? This poser didn’t stand a chance in the presence of God.  He represented sin and everything unholy.  Therefore, he must be destroyed.

I love this about our God.  Nothing evil stands a chance in His presence.  When sickness tries to stand up against Him it loses. When addiction tries to stand up against Him it loses.  When Satan tried to stand up against Him, he lost.  Do we believe this to be true?  Do we exercise His power in our lives?  Here’s what it looks like: When you lose your vision, set the Lord next to it.  When you get depressed, set Him next to it.  When you are stuck in addiction, set Him next  to it.  When you are being attacked, set Him next to it (or better yet, hide behind Him).  Heads are gonna roll, people!  For God is unmatchable.  He is unequivocal.  And most importantly, He is undefeated!

The Original Rambo

Judges 15:11-15  11Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?”    He answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me.”  12 They said to him, “We’ve come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.”  Samson said, “Swear to me that you won’t kill me yourselves.”

 13 “Agreed,” they answered. “We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock. 14 As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. 15 Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.

A few years ago, Sylvester Stallone came out with another Rambo film.  It’s pretty impressive that this lean, mean killing machine still had what it took 20 years after the last Rambo movie.  The film is about the former U.S. soldier, John Rambo, who is hired by a church pastor to help rescue a group of missionaries who were kidnapped by men from a brutal Burmese military regime.  The carnage was at an all time max in this film and holds the record with the most kills out of the entire Rambo series, with 236 kills. In the film, Rambo kills a group of pirates, an entire squad of Burmese soldiers, and then, at the climax of the film, a huge number of Burmese army soldiers whom he shoots with a jeep-mounted .50-caliber machine gun.  How in the world does a guy single-handedly kill 236 people?  That’s just crazy!

As impressive as that is, it doesn’t even come close to the original Rambo: Samson.  This guy was a total stud!  On this occurrence in Judges 15, he kills 1000 guys.  He didn’t even have a machine gun, either.  He did it with a jawbone!  All this happened shortly after he chased down 300 foxes and tied them together 2-by-2.  Who in the world catches 300 foxes?  This guy was a machine!  But his strength didn’t come from machine guns, hand grenades, helicopters, and missiles.  His strength came from the Lord.

The cool thing is that God has equipped us with the same capacity for spiritual strength.  It says here that the Spirit of the Lord came on him in power.   That’s the same Spirit of the Lord that came upon the believers in Acts chapter 2.  And it’s the same Spirit of the Lord that comes upon every believer today who asks for it.  So if your spiritual muscles are tired and you are feeling defeated, ask the Holy Spirit to renew your strength.  Ask Him to come into your life with power the way He did with Samson.  If you will embrace the Spirit of God in your life, you too will put 1000 enemies to flight!  Thank you Samson, for showing us how to get the job done.