Archive for Spiritual Growth

True or False?

by Rev. Rick Robinson

In this information age we live in, social media groups like Facebook, Twitter, and so many others, are used daily by millions. Sometimes I see some pretty off the wall statements on these networks. In fact, if you do a Google search on a particular subject, it is likely you can turn up multiple answers for your subject. Where do you get your information today? How can you know if something is true or false? I could write about government, automobile history, or any number of other subjects that interest me here at length. The subject I choose to present here is relevant to all. It is of the spiritual nature. No, not just religion, but a genuine relationship with God. Religion is man’s attempt to reach out to God. That’s why there are so many different ones. Jesus Christ is God’s attempt to reach out to man through a meaningful relationship–and there is only one way to have a relationship with God.

John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

When people think of religion or spiritual life, they most often relate the subject to a church. There is a major false concept of what the church is and what the role the church in your life is. Most Americans (even Christians) really don’t understand what the relationship between the organized church and the members (the real church) should be. Six out of ten people drop out of church for at least two years of their life. Why does church become so “not relevant” to so many? One of the top reasons people drop out of church is because they have unmet expectations. Even people who attend church weekly, and get involved in the ministries, can get so wrapped up in church programs or producing ministry results that they lose sight of living in a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.

43% of Americans say it doesn’t matter what religious faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons. Where did all these experts come from, and where did they learn that? 50% of Americans believe that God loves everyone and all people will go to heaven no matter what they do. I talk to a lot of people door to door, and most people think to get to heaven, your good works must out weigh your sinful acts. When I ask them where the line you cross to tip the scale in your favor is, they don’t know, yet they think they are going to make it to heaven because they never did anything that bad. For those who don’t know where the line is, it takes just one sin to tip the scale against you.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There are those who think to get to heaven, you have to live by the Ten Commandments, yet most of them cannot name the Ten Commandments, or even tell me where they are in the Bible, so we can look them up together. You are betting all of eternity that you are right about what happens to you when you die, don’t you think it’s time to stop taking opinion as fact, and discover the truth for yourself?

1 John 5:13

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

We must look to the original source to discover what is true. Do not take the word of a pastor (including me) over looking to the Bible for yourself.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

In a 2011 survey, 26% of people who have been to a church before said that their life had been changed or affected “greatly” by attending church. Another 25% described it as “somewhat” life changing. 46% said their life had not changed at all as a result of going to church. Not going to church is not the obstacle to having a genuine relationship with God. Attending church is just religious activity by itself.

Out of the Americans that claim to be a Christian, 78% strongly agreed that spirituality is very important to them. On the other hand, only 18% of those same people claim to be totally committed to investing in their own spiritual development. This is the first real obstacle to Jesus Christ becoming real in your life. Be honest with yourself. Do you have a genuine commitment to investing in your spiritual life, or do you just attend church?

The next real obstacle I will list here is sin. This is second on the list not because it is not as important, but because if you do not have a commitment to developing a relationship with Christ, you will not take sin serious.

Out of those in America who consider themselves to be a Christian, 56% say they have not experienced the life God wants them to have. Only about 3% of these people say they have surrendered control of their life to God, submitted to His will for their life, and devoted themselves to loving and serving God and other people. Are there areas in your life that need to be surrendered to God? Are there areas where you need to trust Him more? The word repent does not mean to quit sinning; it means to have a change of heart. Simply showing up at church will not deal with these matters of the heart. You must have that commitment previously discussed when it comes to sin.

This brings us back to the obstacle of religious activity. 39% of people who claim to be a Christian have participated in a combination of three religious activities in the past week such as, attending church services, praying, and reading the Bible.

I am not saying that these are not important, but when it comes to the deeper expressions of a walk with Christ, participants are far and few between.  Less than 10% of these same people have talked about their faith with a non-Christian, fasted for religious purposes, or had an extended time of spiritual reflection during the past week.

Hebrews 10:25

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 Most people who claim to be a Christian say that they feel comfortable and connected within their church. 80% of people first attended church because someone personally invited them. Over 70% say the reason they stay in church is because of the relationships. Only 21% of those who attend church on a regular basis believe that spiritual maturity requires a vital connection to a community of faith. Only 35% claim to have confessed their sins verbally to another believer at some point during the three months. They are just there for the fellowship. If you go to church, why are you there? If you do not, what keeps you away? Isn’t it time to look to the source for real answers for your life instead of opinions formed by experience, or taking another persons word for it?

Acts 17:11

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

God has more for all of us all to enjoy, no matter where we are in our walk with Him today. Going to church is a good start, but working on these obstacles will put you in a position for Christ to become more real and personal in your life every day.

If you want to know how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, click here.

Copyright 2012 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

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When All is Lost, Not All is Lost!

by Rev. Rick Robinson 

Did you ever feel like all hope was gone? Even when all is lost, all is not lost! Sometimes we fall short of what God expects of us, as believers. God knew we would fall short, before we even thought about it. Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times before the rooster crows and Peter argued with him about it. 

Luke 22:34

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” 

Luke 22:54-62

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”  But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.  A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”  Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

There are several reasons we come to a state of feeling hopeless. One of those reasons is our sin. Jesus didn’t love Peter any less in his failure, and He still loves you and me, no matter what we have (or have not) done. This is not an excuse for sin, but the enemy likes to beat you up with your sin. There is a difference between conviction and condemnation. When God brings your sin up, he always offers a solution. Repentance, and restitution when necessary, is all that is required for you to walk in freedom from the hopelessness that sin brings. The enemy always brings your sin up as a hopeless situation—one that has caused God to hate you. God hates our sin, but He always loves us. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

It is not always an intentional act of sin that causes our self inflicted pain. Just like Peter, our fear can get the best of us. God is always there for us, even when we are not thinking about it.

Our circumstances are another reason we may feel hopeless. You may be in a certain predicament because of your own foolish decisions or someone else’s decisions beyond your control. That does not mean it is beyond God’s control. I love this character study found in the book of Acts. As you read this excerpt, think about which of the characters you most relate to.

Acts 27:9-22

Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest. When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the “northeaster,” swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.

Are you seeking first your own desires? Have you given up all hope? Are you accepting the loss of things you thought were important, with thanksgiving to God for His mercy with the things that matter most? The enemy will always get you to focus on what could have, would have, and should have been. The only way Satan can defeat you, is to break your will to fight. Once you loose hope, everything bad that happens is traumatic, everything good that happens is too little too late, and your relationship with God (and others) will suffer along with you.

All these years after that shipwreck, the ship that was destroyed is lost and worthless in itself. The story of Paul has become part of the greatest book ever published, for all generations until Christ returns. The lives that were saved have untold stories of another opportunity for salvation before death. Only God knows the rest of the stories about the 276 passengers on board.

Storms are part of life. Sometimes we bring them upon ourselves, and sometimes they are beyond our control. Just as Jesus watched Peter deny him and just as God saw Paul in his distress, so is God watching you. Keep up your courage. Call out to Him in your distress, and realize that when all is lost, all is not lost.

Have you come to the place in your spiritual life, where you know for certain if you died today, you would go to heaven? For information about the ultimate hope, follow this link. 

Copyright 2012 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

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Creature of Habit

by Rev. Rick Robinson

When I was a boy growing up in rural Marion county Florida, my dog Stubby took up a sport that many rural dogs enjoyed. He chased cars. That was not a habit cats would participate in, because animals really are creatures of habit. Dogs like to chase cars and hang out the window when they go for a ride in a car. I have never seen a cat do that either, what they must think of dogs.

Are you a creature of habit? We all are, to a point. When I need to buy something for a home repair, I go to the same Lowe’s store. No, they did not pay me to mention that, I am a creature of habit. We shop in the same stores, buy the same products (although pricing these days may drive business more than convenience or loyalty) and go to the same places.

Not all habits are convenience or market driven. When we go to church we tend to sit in the same area and even sit in the same seat if it is available. A few years ago, my wife and I walked into a church with a capacity about 1000. We were the only ones there, so my wife selected a seat by placing her Bible and purse on the pew. She then went to find the ladies room. While I was waiting for the pastor in the sanctuary, an elderly lady came in and discovered the purse and Bible sitting on the pew where my wife had left them. “Oh!” the lady exclaimed. “Somebody is sitting in my seat! What shall I do?” Keep in mind there are still close to 1000 available seats. Instead of sitting in one of those available seats, she picked up my wife’s belongings and moved them back a pew. That is a perfect example of a creature of habit.

Habits become such a part of our life that we don’t even have to think about them, they place us on sort of an auto pilot. There are good habits; we call discipline, and bad habits that cause detrimental things in our lives to happen. Although every habit is not sin, bad habits are encouraged by bad thoughts.

James 1:13-15
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

That is a good reason we should take every thought captive.

2 Corinthians 10:5-6
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

For every 100 people that watch a television commercial only a certain percentage will pay attention to it. A smaller percentage will understand what the message was, and an even smaller percentage will relate to it. The percentage of people who will act on the ad by making a purchase will be determined by the repetition of presenting a relative message to the audience. That’s why the chewing gum ad says it will last longer, you will kiss longer, and have whiter teeth, instead of saying it taste good for a while then you spit it out. It has to look relevant and good.

The devil is a pro at making sin look relevant and good. When God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, the sales pitch began and became very persuasive. What Eve was thinking when she made a decision to sin is something we can all relate to. We are often tempted that a certain sin would be to our benefit or enjoyment.

Genisis 3:6
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

If we fail to take our thoughts captive, our thoughts will take us captive. When your thought process comes in obedience to Jesus Christ, it will cut off your bad habits. This is not a complex issue, it just requires one to keep the habit (or the discipline) of staying in God’s word, and thinking about what you are thinking about. You are either a servant of Jesus Christ, or a prisoner of the devil. There are only two choices; the category of “neither” does not exist, except in the minds of those who lack knowledge of the truth.

2 Timothy 2:24-26
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

We must make it a habit to have fellowship with God and walk in His word. This does not mean you will never sin again. It is a matter of becoming a creature of habit when it comes to taking thoughts captive and bringing them into obedience to Him.

1 John 1:5-9
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The word walk used here is the Greek word peripateo (per-ee-pat-eh’-o) and it means to make one’s way, progress; to make due use of opportunities. Has that become your habit yet? The good news is when we fall, there is forgiveness and hope. Are you walking in the freedom of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, or living as a captive to sin? Allow Christ to rule in your heart and bring you into the fullness of life that no bad habit or sin can provide.

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How’s Your Vision?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

How is your vision? Are you seeing things clearly? Even if you have perfect vision, there may be a whole world out there you are missing. When I was a Mormon, I met a man named Charles Roesel. This man put his arm around me and said these words I will never forget. He said, “God loves you. One day I am going to baptize you and you’re going to join my church because I am going to be praying for you to get saved. Not only that… God is going to use you in ways you can’t even think or imagine right now.” How is that for vision? Charles had a vision for me before I could have one for myself. He used to make me so angry when he said things like that to me–yet every word of his vision came true.

Does your vision come from God, or is it something you dreamed up yourself? God has a perfect plan for your life, but you can miss out on some of it if you don’t have a clear vision. Your heart is the largest factor that will determine how great your vision is. Jesus often spoke in parables to his audience. A parable is like the skin of the Florida orange that keeps the flavor protected for the diligent, but keeps its delight from the lazy. Jesus explained to the disciples when they questioned him about it.

Matthew 13:13-16
“…I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.

I know many people have vision for the future. They operate businesses, invest for the future, and make diligent plans enabled by their vision. If you have plans for the future that don’t include God’s plan for you, then you do not have eyes to see. There is a vast difference between earthly vision and godly vision.

Proverbs 2:6
For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Do you have vision for others in your life or do you just want to survive? Do you desire to prepare for the eternal future or just the temporal future? God has given us a “corrective lens” to improve our vision. The Bible is a light that gives direction for those who are willing to seek, but it is simply a distraction of life to the lazy who will not open it for the sweet delight inside.

2 Peter 1:19
So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

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Who’s Hungry?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the Bible story of Daniel in the lion’s den. The story takes place in a land full of hungry men and beast where all these hungers will meet. A group of wicked men were hungry to see the prophet Daniel dead. He was an outsider, being promoted above them by the king. Since these men could find no wrong with Daniel in deed or even neglect that would require him to be executed, they cooked up a scheme they thought would satisfy their appetite. The constitution of their land provided that if the king made a decree, it must be followed without compromise or exception. These men knew Daniel prayed to his God three times a day, so they convinced Darius the king to sign a decree that for the next thirty days, anyone praying to any god or man except the king would be fed to the hungry lions. Once the decree was signed, they knew Daniel’s hunger for his God would not fail. When Daniel prayed, they ran to the king and turned him in.

Daniel 6:10-13
Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king’s injunction, “Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?” The king replied, “The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” Then they answered and spoke before the king, Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.

The king was not happy about the whole situation. His hunger was to find a way to let Daniel off the hook. He realized how foolish his decree was now, but there was nothing he could do but to send Daniel to the hungry lions. The king recognized the hunger Daniel had for his God.

Daniel 6:16
Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.

Even though the king told Daniel his God would deliver him, he spent a restless night worrying about Daniel. He rushed to the lions’ den early in the morning to see if Daniel was alive.

Daniel 6:18-20
Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him. Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den. When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?”

Once Darius saw that Daniel did not even have a mark on him, he declared the God of Daniel was to be feared and recognized as the living God. There were accounts of this incident recorded in other ancient writings as well. Although it is not scripture, the famous and well-respected historian Flavius Josephus wrote the following in his account.

Now when his enemies saw that Daniel had suffered nothing which was terrible, they would not own that he was preserved by God, and by his providence; but they said, that the lions had been filled full with food, and on that account it was, as they supposed, that the lions would not touch Daniel, nor come to him; and this they alleged to the king; but the king, out of an abhorrence of their wickedness, gave order that they should throw in a great deal of flesh to the lions; and when they had filled themselves, he gave farther order that Daniel’s enemies should be cast into the den that he might learn whether the lions, now they were full, would touch them or not; and it appeared plain to Darius, after the princes had been cast to the wild beasts, that it was God who preserved Daniel, for the lions spared none of them, but tore them all to pieces, as if they had been very hungry and wanted food.  I suppose, therefore, it was not their hunger, which had been a little before satisfied with abundance of flesh, but the wickedness of these men that provoked them [to destroy the princes]: for if it so please God, that wickedness might, by even those irrational creatures, be esteemed a plain foundation for their punishment.

The Bible is clear about the clash of all these hungry men and beast, and it is clear about what our hunger should be. Are you as hungry as the lions that wanted their needs met? Are you hungry for answers to the things you worry about like the king was? Are you hungry to make things happen for yourself like the men who schemed against Daniel? Are you hungry to have fellowship with God like Daniel was? A quick self-exam of your actions will reveal where your heart is in this matter. Would the king have seen in you the evidence that your God may protect you? Would the wicked need to build a scheme to trap you, or would you hand them enough to get you in trouble just by looking at the truth? Spend time with God on a regular basis and cast all your trouble on Him. He is the one who can shut that hungry lion’s mouth.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

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Want To Lose The Wait?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Many people would like to lose weight, but many more may want to lose “wait”, although they may not think about it in those terms. Waiting on God can be a frustrating thing. Imagine with me for a moment of a world without waiting. No smells of the fine cooking coming from the kitchen as you wait in anticipation of the flavors dancing in your mouth. No waiting in anticipation as a child waiting to open the Christmas gifts. Perhaps no one wants to wait in line to buy the anticipated gifts anyway. Don’t bother enjoying that movie night, the ending is now instant. No waiting seems like such a loss of treasured memories. You have accepted the fact that next Tuesday cannot arrive until then. All of history would need be condensed into the now without this thing called waiting.

Would all the prophecies of the Bible be erased (since there was no waiting) and be updated by telling a historic perspective? The vision came immediately and you most certainly have heard about it by this time. The promise came without delay, and if there was such a thing as waiting–but there is not, I would then look forward to the anticipation of the next thing in line for me.

When it comes to waiting on God, we think we know best about the timing of it all. If we never had to wait on something from God, would it void this thing we know as faith? Faith is not a lonely thing you use to get what you want; it is an interactive thing that is rewarded by waiting on God’s perfect time to deliver His promise.

Habakkuk 2:3
For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.

We should be able to be at peace with the wait, since it is God himself that is delivering us through the situation. The battles you face are won or lost in the wait time first, long before they become part of our physical world.

Isaiah 40:31
Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

When our expectations and desires are counted all lost, it is most often because we failed to manage the wait. Inspiration to wait on God is the spiritual truth that has not yet been experienced in the natural–nevertheless it is just as real. Do you really want to lose wait? Can you see what an impossible thing that is and how interactive waiting on God is meant to be? Enjoy the anticipation of what God will do next as you wait—knowing it will be in His time–the way you wait on the natural events in your life.

James 5:7
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

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Are Looks Everything?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Many people would say that looks are not important. Most people spend more time evaluating looks than they might think, but is it important? Have you ever wondered how a certain guy ended up with a certain beautiful woman? On the other hand, companies spend millions of dollars each year to research how to make packaging for their products more attractive. So are looks really important, or not? Before you judge your looks, not including grooming and hygiene, let me say God created you just as you look, unless you didn’t like His taste and changed something. I want to give you three ways God says you can change the way you look.

1. Look Forward
Change the way you look forward. Are you worried about something in the future? Do you have anything to look forward to? When you have lost hope it may seem useless to look forward. God has wonderful plans for you even when you don’t have them for yourself.

Jeremiah 29:11
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

Proverbs 23:18
Surely there is a future, And your hope will not be cut off.

Proverbs 23:17-18
Don’t envy evil men but continue to reverence the Lord all the time, for surely you have a wonderful future ahead of you. There is hope for you yet!

When the past seems irreparable, the future does not appear irresistible. The sense of failure seems always to corrupt perception of the future. If allowed, the past will constrain your actions until failure repeats itself.

2. Look Back
For this reason it is important to change the way we look back. Some may think if only things were the way they used to be, if only I could go back. Things are not generally as great as we romanticize them. The people of Israel wanted to go back to the past, and it was foolish.

Numbers 14:1-5
Then all the people began weeping aloud, and they carried on all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of complaint against Moses and Aaron. We wish we had died in Egypt,” they wailed, “or even here in the wilderness, rather than be taken into this country ahead of us. Jehovah will kill us there, and our wives and little ones will become slaves. Let’s get out of here and return to Egypt!” The idea swept the camp. “Let’s elect a leader to take us back to Egypt!” they shouted.

The Bible is full of contrasting stories about how people looked at the past. There are also stories where people gained encouragement from looking to the past. Isaiah wrote that we should remember all the good things God has done in the past and not doubt Him for the future.

Isaiah 46:9-10
Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.

3. Look up
The only way we can keep the future and the past in proper perspective is to look up. Looking around at the things in this earth will never bring lasting peace. We have to keep our focus on Jesus Christ who is our fortress and our deliverer.

John 14:27
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

When it comes to finding peace in troubled times, looks are everything. Where are you looking for this peace?

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

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Getting the “I’M” out of Impossible

By Rev. Rick Robinson

I don’t discount the value in hard work and strategic planning but there comes a time when no matter how hard you try, some things still seem impossible. You wonder if a thing will ever be complete to your satisfaction. Will God ever help me to accomplish this or that, or is it impossible for me? The “im” in impossible stands for I’m—or “I am” in the way of what God can do. We must learn to be partners with God instead of working against Him.

Matthew 19:26
And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Luke 1:37
“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Satan wants to steal from you and keep the “im” on the front of possible. It is only through Jesus Christ that you will be able to get the im out of impossible.

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

I am going to show you four ways that are effective in Satan’s mission to steal from you. The methods used to steal kill and destroy are usually subtle enough to go un-noticed or even seem attractive to us.

1. Ignorance

The lie is the first method ever used to steal from man. It was effective then, and it is equally dangerous today. The lie is used to keep you ignorant of God’s will and direction for your life. Even when you get a clear directive from God, it is the lie that is used to steal it from you and keep you in ignorance.

Genesis 3:1-6
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

2. Impatience

You may be thinking God needs a little help delivering his promise or expects you to figure it out on your own. Satan wants to keep the im in front of possible by making you impatient with God. (Get the im out of impatient too!) We can see a great example of this when Abram was promised a son and then he and Sarai decided God could use some help.

Genesis 16:1-2
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

The weapon of suffering is also used to keep you impatient with God. Your suffering may be real, like pain in your body, or it may not be as bad as all that, but you are convinced how bad you must suffer while others live carefree.

1 Peter 5:10
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

3. Independence

Pride is a tool Satan will use to keep the im in impossible. When you are filled with pride you become independent of God. You don’t care if He says you must forgive, or anything else for that matter, because your circumstances justify your actions. You are independent of His will and pride has shown you a way to elevate yourself from victim to judge. You have come up with a brilliant strategy to hold the door open for Satan while he steals from you.

Proverbs 16:18-19
Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling. It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

4. Indictment

The last weapon I will remind you about is the indictment Satan brings against you. Satan will accuse you and tell how much trouble you are in. This directly opposes faith, by causing you to focus on yourself. Why would God give you a miracle when you are so not worth it? The Holy Spirit will convict you of sin and compel you to get things right. He does not want you to live in guilt. You need to focus on God and the power He gives you to walk in freedom from the sin that binds. This story is a great example of Satan bringing accusations while God brings hope.

Zechariah 3:1-4
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.”

If you have accepted the work of Jesus to forgive you of your sin, then you too have festal robes as opposed to filthy garments.

If you are living in ignorance because you believed a lie, then study God’s word.

If you are impatient with God while you’re waiting on answers or results then accept God’s grace and peace.

If you are living independent of God, trusting in yourself (or anyone else) for anything, then turn your life and emotions over to God for restoration.

If you feel accused about your sin and failures in the past, Make certain you are trusting in Christ alone for your salvation. If Jesus Christ is your Lord then remember there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

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Do I Really Need An Education?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

We have become discontent with so many things in life. Preparing dinner took too long, so frozen TV dinners were introduced. When I was a kid in the 1960’s it was exciting news to hear the traditional family meal at the table would be replaced with a TV dinner for the evening. Yes, we ate them on TV trays, in the living room in front of the TV set. If we were lucky, we had something called a fizzy to drink with it. If you don’t know what a fizzy was, it can perhaps be best described as sweet flavored alka seltzer that fizzed when you dropped it into a glass of water, dispensing the purest of artificial flavors science could deliver.

The discontent we experience today can lead to such a troubled heart. The pressure sometimes seems like it is just too much. We are not only discontent with our situation; we are discontent with the time required to change our circumstances. When a person decides to place their trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, that re-birth takes place in an instant. Learning to trust in Christ for the future is moment by moment with a little here and a little more there. Don’t expect to become mature instantly, you must study.

Philippians 2:12-13
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Working out your salvation should not be confused with working for your salvation. The word used for work as in “work out your salvation” is katergazomai, which means to perform. The word used for work as in “God who is at work” is energeo, which means put forth power. All your work can have the power of the Holy Spirit working according to His good pleasure. You are not alone; the power to help you through any situation is available to all that trust Christ.

Galatians 3:24-26
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Greek word for tutor here, is paidagogos (pahee-dag-o-gos’). Among the Greeks and the Romans, a tutor was a guardian and guide of boys. They were trustworthy slaves with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The tutor would take the boys to school everyday. (School did not become mandatory for all boys until A.D.65) In this illustration, Paul is saying the law was the slave (tutor), and Christ is the teacher. God is able to teach us how to have a better life, but He will educate us only as much as we will allow. Bring all your cares to Him, and work out your salvation with His power.

2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

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Run as if Your Life Depends on It!

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Have you ever worked on something as if your life depended on it? That expression is used when someone puts his or her whole heart into something. The Apostle Paul used the analogy of running a race to succeed in life. Paul is telling us how important it is to place your focus and attitude—that is your whole heart, into winning. (Not whining!)

1 Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.

Like running a race, living life to win requires a healthy heart. God warns us to watch over our hearts. We must be cautious of anything toxic that leads to heartbreak or a hardened heart. Your faith grows and your heart strengthens only when you are stretched to live in a situation like your life depends on it. That is when you have the opportunity to grow toward God or to allow the stress to shift your focus from mission to survival mode.

Proverbs 4:23
Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.

When you find yourself in survival mode, you are accepting what life gives you instead of what God wants you to have. God wants your trust to be in him with your whole heart, not just part of it. A halfhearted trust in God will give you more stress than living for Him like your life depends on it. There are believers in Christ that are stressed out because they refuse to give their hearts and trust over to God.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

There are times we need to stop whining, making excuses or playing the blame game, and run our race with endurance and perseverance. Is there something you need to let go of so you can live like your life depends on it? Are you making excuses to protect an attitude that needs to go–so you can win the race?

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

If you want to run this race to win, you are going to have to agree that blaming someone else, or your circumstances, are not going to be enough. You are still the one who is going to lose. In the story of the fig tree, Jesus cursed the tree with no fruit, despite the circumstances of it not being fig season. The disciples were being told to bring fruit, not excuses to the Lord.

Mark 11:12-14
Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.

The Prophet Ezekiel was asked to work as though his life depended on it. Could you stand up to this pressure?

Ezekiel 3:18-19
“When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. “Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

Running to win the race is not only about you. While you are trying to just survive, Satan has a better chance to get you to minimize the fruit you bring to God. Your life may not depend on you sharing Christ with someone, but theirs does. Forty percent of the people who share their faith say they are worried they will not do a good job explaining their faith. A third of those who share their faith enter the conversation with fear they will not be able to answer questions the person has about Christianity. Do you have excuses not to share your faith?

Winning the race requires a healthy heart, but even that is a gift from God. Share the gift.

Isaiah 61:1
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

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