The Weekly PowerBreak – “The Now Factor”

Ever notice how many things we put off until “someday?”  “Someday, I’ll get in shape.”  “Someday, I’ll organize the garage.”  “Someday, I’ll spend more time with the kids.”  And the list goes on…

If we aren’t careful we live our lives in the SOMEDAY mode and never enjoy the present. The Bible speaks of living with an eye on the future, which is called hope, while making the most of living in the NOW.

There is a hope or an expectation for the followers of Jesus Christ of a better tomorrow. In fact, we are told that no matter how bad things get in the “now” it can’t even be compared with the good that shall be experienced in the future. Therefore, there is a sense of groaning within as we long for the fulfillment of the promised day.

Romans 8:18-25 (ESV) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Meanwhile, as we wait patiently for the things that are positive or SURE but just not yet, we are to live in the NOW mode, making the most of every opportunity. Living in the PRESENT means we are not focused on the past as regrets, or so much on the future that we get out of touch with the here and now.

2 Corinthians 6:2 (ESV) For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Hebrews 3:15 (ESV) As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

It’s real easy to put off things into the “someday” file or to live in the past “good old days” and never enjoy today. It’s easy to get our eyes off the moment and always think of where we should have been or how things could be different, etc. In other words, it’s easy to miss the moment, thereby missing life.

Ecclesiastes 7:10 (ESV) Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

We are even told that procrastination will rob us and we should be aware of the robbing potential of procrastination as we are of a thief prowling around our house.

Proverbs 24:33-34 (ESV) 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

As we put it all together in the NOW FACTOR we can see it’s a matter of being focused enough on NOW to make the most of it. Knowing the past, recognizing mistakes, and the lesson learned along the way is of great value. Being thankful to God for past blessings is also an essential part of making the most of today. Knowing that God has future plans that are “OUT OF THIS WORLD” is easy to dream about and think about so much we lose touch with the moments of life that God gives us NOW. Remember, of course as Jesus taught, a view of today is to live today and not worry about the future.

Matthew 6:34 (ESV) “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Although we are not to think about tomorrow as to worry about what will happen and how our needs will be provided, we are to be mindful of God created opportunities and keep the hope of a glorious future ever before our eyes.

Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV) 18 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Let the NOW FACTOR help you make the most of living today and seizing the moments of life that God gives you each day, instead of focusing on the burdens of past failures or hurts, or being held in the bondage of procrastination or the chains of worry, think about NOW and make the most of where you are, with what you have, and the opportunities that God has laid in your lap.

By the way, that is exactly the basis upon which we are judged by Him as to how faithful we have been as stewards of what He has given us to use. (See Matthew 25)

Godspeed,

Bob Brubaker

The Weekly PowerBreak – “Think about this…”

It’s never easy. If it were easy, then the motivation, the effort, nor the reward would be minimal.  But that is not the case in serving the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 2:1–7 (ESV) — 1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

The apostle Paul gives us three illustrations of those who engage in hard labor, who do not turn to the “easy way out,” rather, do whatever it takes to get the job done. Before he unfolds the trio of metaphors he rehearses the motivation behind the discipline of Christian living namely the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the principle of discipleship.

When you consider the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ you have opened a plethora of motivation from the plan of your redemption centered around the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ resulting in eternal riches in Christ, to the promise of never ending grace for all the circumstances you’ll ever face in life, the extra help that He gives in doing whatever He calls you to do, to the fact that He gives more grace upon grace.

2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV) — 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

1 Corinthians 15:10 (ESV) — 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV) — 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

James 4:6 (ESV) — 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Does the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ motivate you to do whatever it takes to serve Him, not matter how hard it seems? If it doesn’t you have not understood grace.

Secondly, Paul brings up the fact that young Timothy has been discipled by Paul and he has been instructed to disciple others. What a great key to motivate us to never give up. Consider those who have gone before, not only those who have directly mentored you in the faith but those whose church fathers who have demonstrated what it means to follow Christ. Not only that but consider those whom you have discipled and how they need a guide to which they can look up and see how to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Being mentored or discipled and mentoring or discipling others are built-in motivations to hold the line no matter how tough it gets.

1 Corinthians 9:24–27 (ESV) — 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

So, we turn to Paul’s illustrations of those who do not take the easy way out, rather discipline themselves to do whatever it takes or as he says in verse 3, “share in the suffering of Christ.” There’s the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. Do any of these three minimally do what is required or take the easy way out? Absolutely not. A soldier would be relieved of his duty, the athlete would fail in competition, and the farmer would go broke.

Let’s face it. People are generally very soft today, focusing upon their comfort rather than upon a life of discipline. Jesus never promised an easy life. He promised a life of grace and the power of His presence in every situation, but this life is not paradise. Paradise is beyond comfort, way beyond to the place of eternal bliss that we have not even the slightest inclination of how good it will be.

1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV) — 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

In the meantime, Jesus calls us to take up our cross daily and deny ourselves, to be willing to suffer persecution and tribulation, and to persevere no matter how difficult things are because He has promised to be with us. So, think about this next time you begin to complain, hold back, or turn soft toward the difficulties you face in serving the Lord Jesus Christ: It’s never easy. If it were easy, then the motivation, the effort, nor the reward would be minimal.

Godspeed,

Bob Brubaker

The Weekly PowerBreak – “To Blame Is To Be Lame”

It’s an old adage but as true today as it ever has been. So much so, that it’s appropriate to begin the year with a quip to encourage you not to play the “blame game.”

Ever notice how everyone is quick to blame? Politicians blame the other party. Batters strike out and blame the umpire. Kickers miss a field goal and blame the holder. Children bring home poor grades and blame the teacher. Or grownups have a bad day at work and blame the supervisor. Well, we are all guilty of playing the blame game, and we must admit that it comes naturally, after all our first parents blamed instead of taking responsibility. Notice what happened in the garden after Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit.

Genesis 3:8–13 (ESV) — 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

See how lame it is to blame?

“It’s that woman you gave me.”

“The serpent deceived me.”

Who have you blamed recently or over the past year for something you messed up? If there was a resounding resolution that is needed by all of us for the coming year, it is to resolve to take responsibility for our actions and the outcomes of our negligence, procrastination, or failures and not try to lay the blame on someone else. That is called integrity.

Proverbs 20:7 (ESV) — 7 The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!

Just as Adam became lame in his laying blame to his wife, so a man who takes responsibility, and even admits his errors, thereby blesses his children and those around him. Interesting, the very thing that drives us to blame is the feeling it will make us look weak to admit our faults, but the reality is that the admission of wrong or failure is a sign of strength and pays dividends in the long run.

Step up and take responsibility or be lame – the choice is yours.

Godspeed,

Bob Brubaker

The Weekly PowerBreak – “What’s The Big Deal?”

Many times, we seem to get pulled in a thousand directions at this time of the year and want to just stop and say, “What’s the big deal about everything?” and maybe we say that about Christmas.  It needs to be noted that when the emphasis is all about consumerism, snowflakes, and anything but God incarnate, it is really ‘much ado about nothing.’  So maybe a little cynicism is appropriate, but let’s remember the incarnation IS a big deal.  In fact, it’s bigger than big.  It’s enormous.

Galatians 4:4–5 (ESV) — 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Philippians 2:5–8 (ESV) — 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

John 1:1–4 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 1:14–18 (ESV) — 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

1 Timothy 2:5 (ESV) — 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

OK, you say, it’s a big deal.  Yes it is!  God sent His Son, the eternal Son of God, into His own creation and Jesus stepped into our world to become our mediator. As a mediator, He had to be fully God and fully man to be able as Job said of old, “to put his hand upon us both and bring us together.”

Job 9:32–33 (ESV) — 32 For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. 33 There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.

Many theologians consider the incarnation a greater miracle than that of creation. So yes, it is a big deal.  Granted, there is no mention of “Christmas or Christ’s mass” in the Bible but you cannot deny the fact that the angels sang out at the birth of Christ as God manifest His presence in the man, Christ Jesus.  Simeon held the Christ child and praised God because he was blessed to recognize Jesus as the source of salvation.  God took on our flesh and blood to save us from our sins.  The incarnation is a big deal.  Of course, every other aspect of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ is a big deal too.  His perfect sinless life qualified Him to be the Lamb of God, the once and for all sacrifice for sin.  His death on the cross was the focal point of His time on earth where He would suffer vicariously for our sin.  His resurrection was God the Father’s seal of the acceptance of Christ’s work on the cross.  His ascension means He went away to prepare for us a place and in the meantime, make intercession for us before the throne of grace.  His coming again for us culminates His work as He brings us home and declares us one with God, forever and ever.

Wow!  What a big deal!  It sure is and may we never forget it.  It’s not the activities that promote the “Christmas spirit” (whatever that is), but it’s the fact that down deep within all the big deals going on is the biggest deal of all – the fact that some recognition, no matter how small by the world, but the very fact that they use the word Christmas does in some sense point to God’s big deal – the incarnation of Christ.

So, when someone says, “what’s the big deal of Christmas?” the appropriate answer is simply, “the incarnation.”  Then take a moment to explain why that is a big deal and you will have shared the Gospel.

Godspeed,

Bob Brubaker

The Weekly PowerBreak – “Excuses, Excuses”

Have you ever noticed how quick people are to make excuses for their failures today, and if you question their excuse you seem to be unfair?

Recently, I was stood up by a person who had a standing appointment with me for the purpose of discipleship. When I questioned him on his failure to show up or at least contact me, he began to make one excuse after another. When I turned the table on his excuse making, he turned on me to make me feel unjust for questioning his excuse. Sound familiar? Consider the following lesson on excuse making?

1 Samuel 15:13–23 (ESV) — 13 And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” 14 And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” 15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.” 16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me this night.” And he said to him, “Speak.” 17 And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” 20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” 22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”

Notice three things about Saul’s excuse making. First Samuel pointed out that his failure which brought the reason for making an excuse was his ego. The Lord made him king when he was “little in his own eyes.” Whenever we fail to finish what we are committed to doing too often the reason we feel justified or want to justify ourselves with excuses is our ego. When we stand up someone we think our schedule is more important than theirs. Whenever we fail to do what God has commanded we feel ourselves more important than God and His word. Secondly, Saul began to blame the people for his failure which is taking excuse making to another level by tossing someone else under the bus – much like Adam did to Eve in the garden when confronted by God. Thirdly, God calls Saul’s excuse making idolatry. Whoa! He is saying that to make excuses means you are setting up your reasoning above God, therefore it’s an idol.

There’s another example of excuse making in God’s word where the Lord Jesus Christ described enjoying His Kingdom like being invited to a great banquet and when the guests were called to the banquet, they all began to make excuses. Look at how lame the excuses are!

Luke 14:18–20 (ESV) — 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’

Really! You couldn’t have waited to check out the field? You couldn’t have waited to examine the oxen? You couldn’t leave your wife for the banquet or better yet, bring her? How many people make excuses and miss out on the enjoyment of God and His Kingdom. “I don’t have time to pray. I can’t get up in time to make it to church on time. I can’t make it to prayer meeting on Wednesday.” And the list goes on where multiple excuses are made.

But wait! There is one excuse we cannot make which should lead us to making a check on all excuses. God says that His power, nature, and invisible attributes are clearly seen in His creation. Therefore, we are all without excuse and are accountable to God.

Romans 1:20 (ESV) — 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 3:19 (ESV) — 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

What does this mean? Next time you fail to keep an appointment, fail to do what you are bound to do, or make a mess of something – own up to it instead of making an excuse. God knows all about it and He, along with others, will be more apt to forgive you than to hear yet another lame excuse. For to make an excuse is only an attempt to cover your transgression and that will never lead to success.

Proverbs 28:13 (ESV) — 13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Godspeed,

Bob Brubaker