Encouraging Journey – Episode 6 – Dealing With Closed Doors

(You May Listen To Youtube Audio Below)

I have a question for you:

What are you doing with the closed doors in your life?  How are you responding?  If you spend all of your time mourning the doors that are closed, you may well miss the coming door that opens up.

I was recently visiting a man in the hospital.  There was a lot of renovation taking place in the building.  After the visit, as I was making my way back to the exit to the parking garage, my attention was fixed on what I thought was the only exit.  It was freezing, and windy outside and I didn’t want to spend much time in the frigid conditions.  Staring at the door that had been blocked, I was upset.  Why would the renovation crew block the exit that led directly to the protected parking lot tunnel?!

Suddenly I realized that if I stopped obsessing over the blocked exit, and shifted my attention a few feet to the right, there was actually another exit door…and it was not blocked.  Happily (and feeling a little foolish for my bad frame of mind) I made it to my car all inside the tunnel and out of the freezing wind.

Where is your attention right now?  On the closed door, or on the belief that God is fully capable of opening another door…an even better door.

Don’t be angry over what you may actually be loosing.  Instead, choose to hope in what God will be providing!

Gary

How Can I Help Make Things Better?

EFIG Ad IncompleteThere are lots of changes we would make to improve our situations in life – spiritually, physically, and emotionally…if we just knew how.  Here’s how I intend to help you:

My blog, “Encouraging Words” has been the tool I’ve used for the past couple of years.  I now intend to upgrade it to remain encouraging, but add a fresh focus.

From this date forward, this blog will be a written supplement for “Everyday Faith Internet Gathering” (or iGathering).  The encouragement you read here will be tracking with the topics being discussed on the FREE YouTube video series by the same name.

The online “experience” will be what is know as a Magazine Format.  It will include faith building testimonials, Q&A (via email contact), prayer, and a lesson series.

The Premiere Lesson Series:  “Confidence with Skeptics.”

There are many forms of skepticism in the world, today.  They are normally wrapped in a box called “Atheism or Agnosticism.”  The more aggressive “Skeptics” want Christians to believe they are taking over.  You may have actually seen billboards like this one:

billboard_sacramentocor_2450x273Freedom of speech is fine.  An atheist can advertise anything they want.  Although, it’s rather humorous that they criticize Christians for proselytizing (evangelizing) when the sudden surge indicates that they are also, now, becoming “evangelists.”

For me, the concern is that too many Christians are intimidated.  Not by thinking that maybe the atheist ideology is actually true.  But, that they believe they don’t have any good answers but…”Yeh…well…I believe because I have faith.”

However the Scriptures clearly say, “Be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within you…(I Peter 3:15)…and it adds to do it “with gentleness.”  Aggressive responses are usually based on a lack of personal confidence in an answer.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  The greatest commandment also instructs us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and MIND…”

Here’s the good news:  We can have an intelligent response.

Even if you never venture into an actual discussion with a Skeptic, you can develop your own base of confidence that includes your MIND, and that without all of the “Christianese.”

I have personally discovered there are great logical foundations that your faith can be rooted in.  And that, without having to learn a ton of mental gymnastics that overcomes their “blabber gab.”

The truth is:  The more I have exercised practical mental as well as spiritual truth on thoughts that include creation, evolution, attacks on the bible, etc., the stronger my everyday faith has become.

In the weeks and months ahead, “Everday Faith Internet Gathering” (and Blog) will delve into many spiritual development classes, from how to get more out of the bible to how to increase the clarity of God’s voice within your own heart.  If it has to to with practical spiritual life that “re-presents” Jesus, we’ll be covering it.

At the present time, the first class will go on line via YouTube on January 6, 2015.  Each new session will be uploaded every two weeks.  Blog entries will be much more frequent.

The Advantages of This Kind of Class Gathering:

  1. Go at your own pace.
  2. In the convenience of your own home
  3. On you best availability
  4. Re-watch sections for better learning.
  5. It’s FREE 🙂

Each video gathering will be 30 to 45 minutes in length.

If you’d like to be reminded of new Everyday Faith iGathering Videos, please send an email with your name and email address to garyellis1244@gmail.com

YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WILL NOT BE USED FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE THAN “EVERYDAY FAITH INTERNET GATHERING” INFORMATION.

Hope to have you join us!

Pastor Gary Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

Words That Actually Make A Difference

praying-child1If you’re looking for positive change, you first have to decide what you ACTUALLY believe.  I saw this quote recently by Jim Palmer, “Sometimes when I come across people who are blurting out some Scripture verse, or some other external reference to support their stance, I want to say, “Hey! What do YOU truly feel? YOU tell me the truth!”

Don’t blame your fearful “feelings” on an attack of the devil. 

It may be (in fact it’s likely) that feelings of fear are “devil darts.”  But the more you know what YOU believe, in your own daily “non-spiritual sounding” words, the less effective those darts will become.

Fears unveil that a person has greater inner confidence in the circumstances and voices that surround them than in the Eternal One who gave them life and deeply cares for them. 

It’s really important to note that most imagined fears never materialize…except in one’s imagination. 

Often time, fears make the “fear-er” miserable and neutralize their actions to do what wisdom is telling them to do.  So, the negative (whatever) keeps getting the upper hand because the person has not taken the action that will solve the issue.

Take The Time…

Take the time to re-word the truth of God’s counsel into your own life story.  It doesn’t have to be profound sounding.  It certainly doesn’t have to sound “spiritual.”  And it definitely can’t simply be a repeating of someone else’s words.  It has to be your own “deep inside” words.

Then Along With That…

Take the time to let your imagination paint an inner picture of what it would look like if God got involved with you and gave you the wisdom to respond to your negative circumstances.

What would it look like, eh?  Then…let your imagination look at that.

This Isn’t Magic…

Some folks will say, I’m not going to imagine something that hasn’t actually happened!

Spoiler Alert:

You do it all the time with your fears!  All I’m saying is to let the imagination God gave you to work for you instead of against you. 

The only counsel I would add to that, is imagine the potentials of God’s Words;  Not just any old thing that pops to your mind.

In Conclusion:

Partner with God.  Cooperate with Him in making His Words very practical in your own life.  You will begin seeing the positive change you desire!

Does this help?  Or do you disagree?  Just respond with your own comments.  Thanks!

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

More Faith Please

Vintage_10_More_PleaseIt’s pretty common to hear people say – one way or another – that they need more faith.

Been there.  Done that.  Bought the T-shirt.

Those that have fairly strong opinions about what faith is or isn’t will chime into the subject with their own (“scripturally proven and supported” (sound of throat clearing) positions.

However, my suggestion for your consideration is not that more faith is needed, but more wisdom.  Here is what a rich stew of God, His Word, time, people and their experiences, and me and my experiences have taught me.  Well…at least a fraction of it.  The total would fill at least a book or two.

The Mustard Seed

Luke 17:6, “The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Because this is a verse in the Word of God, this one illustration has many rich lessons.  One of them is that the amount of faith is not at issue in experiencing spectacular results.

Sometimes I’ve waited till I “sensed” I had enough faith before I would put what I had into action.  Of course “sensing” enough faith is flawed reasoning to begin with because the very search for sensing something often takes a person the opposite direction of faith.  Although emotions are God created qualities of the soul, how we use them, in the decision making process, is often more like walking by a kind of sight than it is by faith.

Add to that:  I’ve found that many faith steps challenge what I’m feeling.  It doesn’t support what I’m feeling.  More often than not, what I’m feeling is based on my comfort zone and circumstances.

Imperfect Action

Another decision for waiting longer before taking action is often based on the flawed reasoning that great results have to have great starts.  That’s.  Just.  Not.  True.

G.K. Chesterton (a great success in his own fields of endeavor) said, “If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”  He was not lobbying for mediocrity.  He was stating the obvious.  We won’t go anywhere or develop anything if we don’t s.t.a.r.t. somewhere.  Act on what you have.  However…

Here’s The Turn In The Road

A man of faith that I highly admired, Dr. Claire Hutchins, spoke at my church back in the day.  Since we were considered a Word of Faith church, I asked him questions about his faith.  You see Dr. Claire Hutchins had done many mighty works with God throughout his ministry and I wanted to glean from his experiences.

He said something that, at the time, surprised me.  He said, “I’ve discovered that I need less faith now and more wisdom.”  He added that wisdom had directed him in what faith steps to take and how to take them.

Faith Without Works Is Dead.  Faith Without Wisdom Gives God A Bad Name.

I’m not referring to what the Bible calls, worldly wisdom.  I’m speaking of seeking God for His wisdom as much as you are His faith.  And pleeeeeeeeease pleeeeeeeeease.  Do not interject, “Brother Gary, read your bible.  Those are the words of wisdom right there in front of your face.  If it says it in black and white, speak it and act on it.”

I’ve watched too many folks take – what they called – faith steps – that did not produce faith results.  I’ve been there.  I’ve done that.  I’ve bought a whole bunch of the t-shirts.  What (we’ve) too often actually done is had a huge idea that would take God to pull off, and launched forward in faith because ask whatever you will…right?  Nothin.  Nothin happened.  Or, the opposite happened that we were acting in faith for.

Then We Say…

  1. Faith doesn’t always see results
  2. The devil hindered

When God’s Truth Was…

He didn’t give you the marching orders you acted on.  He didn’t order the sandwich you made for Him.

Thank God For His Mercy

He bales us out of our errors.  Remember, we do need to start somewhere.  But…we also need to be humbly teachable and learn instead of defending ourselves and doing the same dumb thing over and over and over and over and over again…..and….call it acting in faith in God’s Word.

There Is More Than One Way “To Skin A Cat”

My Dad used to say that.  And, it’s true.  In life and in a life of faith.  Jesus said that He only did what He saw His Father doing and said only what He heard His Father saying.

There are many facets on the faith diamond.  God’s wisdom shows us what facet He knows needs to be applied to each and every faith situation. 

How Do I Get The Wisdom

  1. Ask God for it.  James says, “If any man lack wisdom, let Him ask of God.”
  2. Then, don’t ignore the nudges of what I call, “Sanctified common sense.”

In other words, a six foot hole should be dug six feet deep unless God specifically, and clearly confirms the fact that you should only dig it 4 feet deep.  If it should take 3 months to do justice to a project, don’t attempt it in 10 days unless you have a very clear, confirmed word from God.  I know people who I think God has given a mercy ministry of bailing people out of foolish decisions.  How do I figure any decision is foolish?  When it doesn’t work as advertised.

Luke 14:8 advises us to count the cost of building a tower lest we start and aren’t able to finish.  Counting the cost is far more than “great big ideas,” “faith confessions,” and people manipulations.

The mustard seed of faith contains many elements in it’s dna.  Elements such as wisdom, patience, and love.

May your walk of faith be filled with wisdom, patience, and love.  May you see many more God results than ever.

If you’ve found this personally helpful, please Share It on Facebook, Twitter, or your other favorite social medias.

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith and Caterpillars

CaterpillarWhat do faith and caterpillars have in common?  Let me tell you.  Caterpillars hold an important key to the quality of a persons life of faith-walking. 

Caterpillar Factoid:  Some caterpillars are born in the spring and some are born in the summer. The spring bunch eat oak catkins. That’s the dangling flowers on an oak tree. And within days, guess what? They look as fuzzy as their meal was that they ate just a few days ago.

Let’s take the summer bunch now. They eat smooth leaves because that’s what’s out then. Would you believe it? They become smooth caterpillars. It’s amazing! Caterpillars exemplify that old adage, “You are what you eat.”

Paul’s Dietary Instructions:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.”

What’s This Got To Do With Faith?

Living a life of faith (walking by faith) is far more than doing faith formulas or specific confessions of words in hopes of attaining a certain personal objective.

A life of faith is a quantity and quality of daily actions and attitudes that re-present the character of the Kingdom of God in the earth.

What Did Jesus Do?

Acts 10:38 says that Jesus went about doing good and healing all those who were pressed down by the devil.  This is a very rich verse.  I encourage you to ponder it for yourself.  Let it simmer in your mind and heart.  However, for now, I’m going to make a couple of observations that speak to this blog post:

  1. Jesus went about doing good
  2. Jesus healed all those under a demonic oppression of one kind or another

He did good stuff.  He did power stuff.  Although we sometimes think the power stuff is more important and spiritual, it’s the life of doing the good stuff that opens doors to do the power stuff.  The good stuff life is as much of the faith life as the power stuff life.

Many people I know that talk about walking by faith are referring to having “miracle moments” that more often than not equate primarily to healings and finances.  Don’t miss my point.  I absolutely activate my heart for healing and financial needs.  I believe strongly in God’s provision in those two areas.  But daily life on the street occupies much, much, more.  The faith life is being conscious of conducting the affairs of one’s life on both levels.  Little good things and big power things.

The Holy Spirit Empowers Little Good Things

The first part of Acts 10:38 says that Jesus was empowered to do what He did by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  And, the anointing of the Holy Spirit for the little things and the power things was a result, in large part, to the fact that Jesus followed the counsel of Paul.

[Okay…hold on skippy!  I KNOW Paul was inspired by the Spirit of Christ.  Take a deep breath and allow your shorts to unbunch.  Follow my meaning.]

You Are What You Eat

The best way I know to hinder an authentic walk of faith is to allow your mind to be occupied with things that are not true, not noble, not right, not pure, not lovely, not admirable, not excellent.  

Many times a person will say, “Well, it is true.  They did me dirt and that’s the truth.”  Sorry, but that’s not the truth.  The truth that Paul was speaking of [actual definition] is “uncovering and making plain a reality that leads one to a higher place.”  Paul’s descriptive words are all building on the same reality of thoughts of excellence.

It matters very little how many confessions of faith one makes if those declarations are isolated from an overall mental habit.   A person will be, in a life and practice of faith, what they eat mentally and emotionally. 

The Solution:

I believe that Scriptural truth is a paramount foundation, but also work diligently at denying the entrance of garbage thoughts and emotions by indulging yourself on all sources of thoughts that  are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

Many people work in an environment that is anything but those things.  So, let me conclude with the analogy:

“You can’t stop birds from flying over your head, but you don’t have to let them build a nest in your hair.”

Has this helped?  It’s your turn to add to the conversation by commenting below: 

If this helped you, share with others on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or your favorite Social Media.

Gary

 

 

 

 

Faith Needs Hope

Hope

You may be thinking right now that you had so much faith yesterday.  Today, you seem empty. You feel like your faith has evaporated.  You’re fearful, stressful, and struggling. You wonder,   “How did I loose my faith?”  That’s what I want to look at today.

If you’re like me, I used to think of faith as having confidence in something, someone…God…His Word.  Then I discovered that confidence is not really the same thing as faith.  In fact, more often than not, we lump the words faith, trust, and believe all together as the same thing.  They aren’t.

Confidence is “Hope”

The Greek word translated hope is ejlpivß (elpis).  The definition of elpis (hope) is “onfident expectation or anticipation.”  The problem is that that’s what people normally mean when they use the word, faith.  Without hope there is nothing that faith will act upon. Faith is a course of action based on the hope that a person has.

Abraham Hoped

I used to be a bit confused by the words that Paul wrote in Romans 4:19, that Abraham didn’t weaken in faith when he considered his own body.  What about going in to Hagar?  It certainly looks to me like there was some fluctuation of faith when he did that. Not to mention other things. Yea, but not so!  Read one verse earlier (v.18), “In hope he believed against hope…”

Faith Needs Hope

Weakening not in faith = He and Sarah kept on doing what you do to have children. Yuh get my drift??  Abraham and Sarah’s continued in sexual relations.  That’s called faith.  It was based on the fact that Abraham had hope beyond hope in God’s promise.  Nothing mystical here.  And, faith is always a practical action that naturally comes from having confidence in God and His Word.

Lack of Faith is Not Our Problem

Hope is not wishful thinking.  That’s what it’s often been reduced to in contemporary Western civilization..  We hear, “Don’t get your hopes up.”  The truth is…that’s EXACTLY what we need to do.  Have our hopes as high and strong as possible.  The lack of faith is not our problem.  Our dilemma is a lack of sufficient hope.

Hope Evaporates

I don’t know if “evaporation” is the most accurate way to describe it.  But, practically speaking, the heat of daily cares, and a thousand and one other things is a drain on hope…or…that’s the way it affects the emotional part of our beings.

Fan the Flames of Hope Daily

Draw daily on positive God stories and promises.  Acknowledge your confidence in Him – on purpose with your voice and with your heart.  Start each day choosing Hope in Him.  Actions (small, medium, and large) will logically and practically result as the fruit of hope.  That’s called faith.

Hope Thou In God

David said in Psalms 42 and 44, “Why are you cast down, my soul, HOPE THOU IN GOD…”

Invest More In Hope

Now, it’s your turn.  Let us hear from you in the comments.

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things To Doubt

PowerPoint-Template-Doubting-Thomas-Touch_slide1_390x294

It may be good to doubt what you think you know about Doubting Thomas.  In fact it may also be good to doubt what you think you know about doubt, itself.

Thomas has been the subject of thousands of sermons and illustrations over the years.  The focus of those stories has been less than flattering.  In fact – what I consider – a misinterpretation of the scene as a whole has led many sincere followers of Christ down the slippery slope of shame and discouragement.  When they could be discovering important lessons in their own school of faith, they point to Thomas and the words that Jesus spoke to him.  They often feel hopeless.

May I suggest a few thoughts for your consideration:

  • Jesus wasn’t shaming Thomas.  The only way you can get that out of the exchange in John 20 is to read it into Jesus’ words.  I’d like to suggest that Jesus was simply making a statement of fact.  Instead of shame, I would claim that he’s encouraging Thomas and those listening to a higher level of faith experience.  Emotions that preachers include in their interpretations are not necessarily inspired by the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus knew the quality of Thomas’ character.  Just a short time earlier, Thomas was with Jesus and the other disciples.  It was at the occasion of Lazarus’ death.  The times were extremely dangerous, politically and religiously.  When Jesus said he was going to go to Lazarus, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  (John 11)  That’s extreme dedication.
  • Jesus would have known Thomas’ disappointment and discouragement.   I would have been.  You would have been.  The dashed hopes would have filled us with deep sorrow and perplexity.  It’s been suggested that Thomas was simply an honorable critical thinker.  That would be another way of saying that Thomas was someone who relied on their own powers of reason.  I “doubt” that.  It was more sorrow and perplexity than a show of academic prowess.
  • Jesus wasn’t comparing Thomas with the other disciples.  “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29).  Jesus reference to those who have not seen but believed were not the other disciples standing there with him.  Read back a few verses.  Jesus had already been with them, earlier.  They had already seen (and possibly touched) Jesus.
  • Doubt and lack of faith are not the same thing.  It’s been preached that way for so long that people automatically assume that to be true.  But, in the New Testament, the Greek words for doubt are entirely different than Jesus used with Thomas.  In fact, the Apostle Paul indicated in 2 Corinthians 4:8 that he was often in perplexities.  The word for perplexity that Paul used is also translated as doubt in other places.  It’s a word that means, “not knowing what to do or think.”
    That’s where Thomas found himself.  Like Paul at times, He was bewildered.  He was in the state of questioning and wondering “what’s up?”
  • He said, “My Lord and My God.”  Yes, his senses helped him, but when He recognized Jesus, you might say, “he came to his senses.”  He revealed where his heart had been all along.  In fact, Thomas became the disciple who established the church of India.

If I might suggest an alternate understanding to what has become religious conventional thinking, Jesus was being very kind and compassionate to Thomas.  He was using this occasion to also teach he and the others.  He was also warning him, “Don’t let your sorrow take you to places where you don’t come back.”

In the times we live, faith is our most valuable resource.  We all need to be pressing toward the mark of the highest kind of faith, that which keeps acting on God’s word, even when there’s no natural, touchable, see-able evidence to warrant it.  But Jesus knows the cry of your heart.  He’s not threatened by honest perplexity.  Question with an open heart.  But, keep trusting from your own experience with Him.  

The journey of faith is a walk of grit and glory.  Miracles and heartbreak.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You’ll win, because In Christ you’re one with the Winner.

Thomas was much more than a doubter.  That’s become an unfortunate mark of shame.  You, too…I’ll just betcha…are much more than a doubter, God’s man/woman of faith and power.

Gary