Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Who Is The Greatest?

As I watched the finals of the NBA playoffs, I couldn't help but admire the skill level of some of those on the court.  These guys were a collection of amazing athletes.  Some of the best in the game today.  As it is in our world, players like these always give fuel to the debate of who is the greatest to every play the game.  Naturally, every year one team is crowned as the best in the league.  However, that status as the best becomes a bit more difficult to determine on an individual basis.  It is really a moot argument because every great athlete has his own strengths in weaknesses.  They all have different skill sets, physical attributes, and mental abilities.  One may have better court vision or speed.  Another may be a better shooter or rebounder.  One may be a better closer or clutch player.  It is impossible to definitively crown one man as the greatest.  We can all have our opinions but in the end, it is just that - an opinion.

Still, that debate will go on for all of time regardless of how futile the debate is.  Humanity is obsessed with the comparison game.  We learn it at an early age and we carry it to our grave.  It is a trap and we will all do good to recognize it as such. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we shouldn't work to improve our skills, talents, and abilities.  I'm just indicating that when we assess our value based on how we measure up to others, we are approaching life in a way we were never meant to approach life.

Comparing ourself to others can indeed lead to a perverted value system. We will often end up seeing ourself as not measuring up to some while at the same time looking down at others.  That can lead to a inflated opinion of ourself or a feeling of inadequacy.  The basis for judgment will always be based on our values.  If we value education, we'll view those who have less than us as less than us.  If we value athletics, we'll value ourselves as better than those who aren't as athletic.  If we value money, then our basis of judgment will be the car we drive, the house we live in, and the clothes we wear.  If we value career, we'll compare ourselves to others based on our paycheck and benefit package.  If we value physical appearance we'll judge ourselves and others based on looks and amount of body fat.  If we value popularity, we'll become obsessed with how many Facebook friends we have compared to others.

So, who wins in those comparison games?  I can tell you this, that the one who loses is us.  Why is it not enough to simply be who we were created to be?  Why isn't it enough to live our lives determined to be the best at being who God created us to be?  When it all comes down to it, we were all created from the dust of the ground.  From the dust we came and from the dust we will go.  The thing that sets us apart from the dirt that lies below our feet is the breath of God that flows through our lungs.  Apart from that, we are nothing.  Apart from the life of God that was breathed into us, we all are nothing but a pathetic pile of dirt.  To think of ourselves as anything beyond that is to have an elevated opinion of ourselves.

Scripture declares that "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). There is no such thing as a "self-made" man.  We are "His workmanship!"  We were created by a Master Designer.  II Corinthians 4:7, tells us that "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." Don't miss this!  The treasure is not the earthen vessel.  The treasure is what God has put inside of this earthen vessel.  We are all vessels created by Him.  Vessels with imperfections and inabilities.  We are vessels with different weaknesses and strengths.  Vessels with frailties and shortcomings.  We are vessels with chips and brokenness. Unfortunately, we spend our lives comparing this vessel, which is us, with those around us.  In doing so, we have failed to realize that our value is not determined in how we measure up to others.  Our true value is determined by the One who created us and by the treasure He has placed in us.  He has placed a treasure inside of us.  God, has poured Himself inside of these imperfect vessels.  So, instead of comparing the imperfections of our individual vessels, we would all do good to focus on the treasure that God has placed inside of us.

It is this "treasure" that took a man named Abraham from an idolatrous culture, who was incapable of having a son, and made him the "father of many nations."  It is this treasure that took an insecure, stuttering murderer named Moses and made him a deliver of a nation.  It is this treasure that took an insignificant shepherd boy named David and empowered him to be a king.  It is this treasure that took an orphaned girl named Esther and made her queen over a foreign nation.  It is this treasure that took an ordinary young lady named Mary and made her capable of giving birth to the Messiah.  It is this treasure that took a simple carpenter named Joseph and entrusted him the raise God's only Son.  It is this treasure that empowered Peter, a man who always stuck his foot in his mouth, to speak one day and thousands were added to the family of God.  It is this treasure that took a man possessed by a legion of demons and transformed him into an evangelist.  It is this treasure that empowered a persecutor of the church named Paul to become one of the greatest leaders of the early church.

I don't know who the greatest player to ever play in the NBA is.  Was it Jordan?  Is it LeBron?  Is it now Durant? I have my opinion, but in the end it is completely irrelevant.  What I do know is that while they can run, jump, shoot and dunk a basketball, they can't make a pile of dirt breath. They can't speak and a universe come into being.  They can't pull off their own resurrection.  So, while the world sits around debating who the greatest player in the NBA is, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt who the "Greatest" truly is.  We know Who it is that has been given the "Name above all Names."  So, since we've established that, perhaps we can turn our attention to something more important.  Something like trying desperately to discover the treasure that God has hidden inside of these earthen vessels.  A treasure that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.

For more on how God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary, watch "Out of the Ordinary" below:

You can also join us live on Facebook, this Sunday at 10:30am.

If you live in or near Montgomery, TX, we would love to have you join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30. Westlake Fellowship is located at 19786 Suite 120, Hwy 105 in Montgomery. (beside Magnolia Diner)


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Need A Miracle?

She was a lady who was in dire straits.  She needed a miracle and she needed it quick.  This was a matter of life and death.  If she does not get her miracle, death is certain.  She, along with her son, will die.  Other than her desperate need for heavenly intervention, we do not know a great deal about this woman.  As a matter of fact, we do not even know her name.  She is known only as the widow from Zarephath.

This woman is just an ordinary woman with a massive need.  There has been a drought in the land resulting in famine.  Her current condition is such that she has enough food for one more meal.  Her plan is to fix this final meal for her son and herself.  After which they will simply wait for the inevitable - death by starvation.

While her story, found in I Kings 17, does not go into much detail regarding her relationship with God, we are told that God commanded her to provide for Elijah the prophet of God (v. 9).  Now, I'm not sure how all of this played out exactly, but I've got to believe that this woman is praying and hoping that God will perform a miracle for her and her son.  However, the answer she gets from heaven is not the miracle she is expecting.  Rather than God sending someone to her front door with bags of groceries, a hungry man shows up. She's hoping for provision but instead she's got another mouth to feed.

I'm not sure about you, but if I'm in this widow's shoes, I might be just a little miffed at this point.  Her need is real.  It's as real as Elijah's.  She needs somebody to provide for her just as bad as Elijah needs somebody to provide for him.  Yet, in the middle of her need, God has instructed her to meet somebody else's need.  She seems to be struggling a bit with God on this matter.  From the text, we see that prior to God sending Elijah to her, God has already commanded her to provide for him.  That's important to note because when Elijah arrives, she's had a few days to ponder this request of the Lord.  Their initial conversation seems to indicate she has a bit of an attitude concerning the idea of providing him with food.  

So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”  (I Kings 17:10-12 NKJV)

I'm thinking her response sounds much like mine would have been.  "I've been praying for a miracle of provision and instead of a miracle, you show up asking me for provision! I thought you were a mighty man of God!  Is it just me, or is this backwards???  Shouldn't you, as a might man of God, be supernaturally providing for me?"  

One of the biggest issues when it comes to our needs is that we often can't see past them.  We become oblivious to the world around us.  We become self absorbed.  Our needs become paramount, while the needs of others become trivial. While we want the world to know how desperate our needs are, we do not really care to know about the plight of others.   

Much of our prayer life is little more than a one-sided conversation.  A monologue if you will.  While we are quick to present God with our petitions, we aren't always willing to hear what His are for the day. We are great talkers, but not so great at listening.  God was well aware of this widow's need and was willing to perform a miracle on her behalf.  The process was not a practical one though. And therein lies the problem.

God doesn't always do things the way we want Him to do them.  Much of the time our miracle lies on the the other side of obedience.  Naaman the leper wasn't healed until he dipped in the Jordan 7 times.  Healing didn't come after the 3rd dip, or the 5th dip.  It came after the 7th dip.  The Red Sea did not split open until Moses stretched his hands out over it.  The flood didn't come until Noah built the ark.  The walls of Jericho did not fall until Joshua and the people marched around the city and shouted.  Peter did not walk on water until he stepped out of the boat.  Lazarus was not raised from the dead until they rolled the stone away.  There was no resurrection until Jesus was "obedient" to death on a cross.  

This widow's miracle was dependent on her obedience.  Obedience that made no sense.  Obedience to something that would stretch her.  She and her son would be provided for supernaturally only when she was willing to provide for someone else.  When assured by the prophet that God would provide for her, she stepped out and obeyed.  She took of the little she had and gave to Elijah as the Lord had instructed her to.  As a result, a miracle came to her house.  For the entire duration of the drought/famine, her household had plenty of food. Not only would her obedience provide a miracle of provision for her and her son, but Elijah would be provided for as well as he stayed there for an extended period of time.  

Perhaps you are in need of a miracle.  Perhaps you have prayed and prayed and prayed and it seems like God is not listening.  Perhaps the reason your miracle isn't coming is because you aren't listening to Him.  I want to challenge you to take some time and listen to what God is saying.  When you hear from Him, then determine to obey.  Who knows, maybe your miracle is waiting on your obedience.   

For more on how God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary, watch "Out of the Ordinary - Part Three" below:

You can also join us live on Facebook, this Sunday at 10:30am.

If you live in or near Montgomery, TX, we would love to have you join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30. Westlake Fellowship is located at 19786 Suite 120, Hwy 105 in Montgomery. (beside Magnolia Diner)