Don’t Stop Short of Your Promise

6 Jan

Before Abraham and Sarah were the superstars of faith’s Hall of Fame, they were simply known as Abram and Sarai. Way back in Genesis, God made a powerful promise to a childless Abram saying, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have.” Quite the promise to a man who’s wife had tried to bear children and given up decades ago.

The cold hard facts were staring Abram and Sarai right in the face. They had hoped and prayed earnestly for children but came up empty. Now the window for bearing children had closed and thier only heir would be Eliezer, a servant in Abram’s household. Needless to say, that was not what Abram had signed on for. Had he made the mistake of his life? Leaving home and family, only to follow the voice of a God he’d never heard of — for this?

As tensions grew to fever pitch levels between Abram and Sarai, Sarai takes matters into her own hands and proceeds to give her servant girl Hagar to Abram. “Go and sleep with my servant.” Sarai tells Abram. “Perhaps I can have children through her.” Abram, wanting to appease his distraught wife, agrees to sleep with her Egyptian servant girl, and in time, gives birth to Ishmael. But was this the promised child God had spoken of?

Many times we take matters into our own hands regarding the promises of God that have been spoken over our lives, much like Abram and Sarai. God did in fact make a promise to them, but the promise lay unfufilled for many years. So what were Abram and Sarai to do? What would you do if you found yourself in their shoes?

Waiting patiently on the promise of God may be one of the hardest things a believer will ever have to experience. What’s the old saying? “God is never in a hurry, but he’s always on time.” Habakkuk 2:3 says, “if it (the vision) seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” God’s time is almost never our time, but his timing is always perfect.

In time, Sarai would give birth to her first and only son, Isaac, the promised child. The Bible says she was well past her child-bearing years when she bore Isaac, and actually laughed at the notion of having a child so late in life! Abram would eventually be known as Abraham, because he would become the father of many nations. Sarai would become Sarah, the mother of many nations.  So, the miraculous promise was indeed fufilled!

Countless believers have given up on God’s promises, thinking that God’s delays are his denials. But nothing could be farther from the truth! Many times God is waiting on us to take steps of faith in preparation for his promise to come to pass. So, if truth be told, he’s waiting on us!

Don’t stop short of your promise. Don’t settle for an Ishmael when God has promised you an Isaac! We must constantly remind ourselves that we are children of the king and heirs of the good promises of God. And all his promises are yes and amen in Christ!

As the children of Israel were preparing to enter into the promised land after 40 years of wandering  in the desert, there were 2 1/2 tribes who petitioned Joshua for special approval to stop short of the promised land and settle on this side of the Jordan. Gad, Asher and the 1/2 tribe of Mannasah told Joshua plainly, they were content to stay on the other side of the Jordan for the simple fact that it was good farm land, and excellent for raising flocks and herds. They couldn’t imagine finding anything more beautiful on the other side of the Jordan.

Reluctantly, Joshua and the elders allowed the 2 1/2 tribes to have their way, but warned them that they were vulnerable to the enemy, separated from the rest of Israel by the Jordan River. Secondly, there were no natural defenses from their enemies, such as a body of water, mountains or even rocky terrain. They were exposed and they new it. However, they chose to stop short of the promised land and happily settled into the land that lay before them.

This story is a picture if you will of many christians today who settle for less and stop short of God’s promise. If God wanted a few of the tribes to settle on this side of the Jordan, he would have said so! These 2 1/2 tribes were not interested in “pressing on” with the rest of Israel. They were content on this side of the promise. Not only that, they based their decision on their stuff, rather than the word of the Lord!  Hebrews 4:1 says, “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful not to fall short of it. Refuse to settle for second best! Good things are worth waiting for.

I recently heard the story of pastor Tommy Barnett, who for years had hoped to build a Dream Center; a place where broken and hurting people could find Christ, get a second chance to turn thier lives around, and live a life of freedom and purpose. When asked how long he carried the hope of a Dream Center in his heart, he said, “I held on to the vision of a Dream Center for 40 years before it became a reality! Today, there are more than 70 Dream Centers across the US and around the globe.

Don’t stop short of your promise! Someone has said, “if you can hold on to your dream for 5 years, and not give up, it will come to pass.

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Facing Your Giants

5 Jan

At one time or another, we’ve all heard the story of David and Goliath. David, the youngest son of Jesse, dashes to the battle line with only a sling and a few stones to face Goliath — the Phillistine giant with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. Standing some 9 feet tall, he seemed more like a freakish monster than a man.

Goliath, the Phillistine champion, had been fighting battles since his youth and by all accounts was a seasoned professional. He was so intimidating, he would challenge the Israelite army each day, taunting Saul and his men to send out someone who dare challenge him to a one on one duel to the death — winner take all. The only problem was, no one had the guts to face the giant!

David had been back at home watching his father’s sheep while his older brothers were encamped with the rest of Saul’s army at Elah. Jesse, wanting an update from the battle lines, sent David with some fresh bread and cheese to be delivered to his brothers and their officers. He was to inquire of their disposition and return immediately home. But that’s where the story takes a dramatic turn.

When David reaches the Israelite camp, he finds his brothers, drops off the bread and cheese, and views Goliath for the very first time. Hearing his defiant words, mocking Israel’s army and the God of heaven, David asks, “Who is this pagan Phillistine anyway, that he’s aloud to defy the armies of the living God?” And after finding out there was a handsome reward for defeating the giant, David tells King Saul. “Don’t worry about this Phillistine, I’ll go fight him.”

Now, one would think young David had completely lost his mind. How could he — a young shepherd boy with no battle experience — even consider facing Goliath, a champion fighter, in the open field. So bold was David, that he not only agreed to the Phillistines’ challenge, the Bible says he “ran toward the battle line.”

Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, and sneered in contempt at the ruddy faced boy. “Am I a dog” he roared at David ” that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the name of his gods. David replied to the Phillistine, “You come to me with sword, spear and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today I will conquer you and I will kill you and cut off your head. And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people.”

And we know the rest of the story. David conquered the giant by striking a fatal blow to the head with his own sling and stone. Then David finished the job, taking Goliath’s own sword and cutting off the giants head. When the Israelite army realized Goliath was dead, they immediately pursued the Phillistine army and the Phillistines ran for thier lives!

Looking back on the story, one would wonder how David ever mustered up the courage to face the giant in the first place. Did he really think he could defeat the Phillistine’s champion with just his sling and a few smooth rocks? Or did he know something we don’t know?

When it comes to facing our giants (and we all will face them at one time or another), what can we glean from this well known Bible story? I believe there are a few clues that help tilt the favor toward David defeating the giant. Here are a two of them. One practical and the other spiritual in nature. Let’s start with the practical.

This was not David’s first fight. Serving his father as a shepherd helped prepare David for the bigger stage. David had already fought predators such as bears and lions,  protecting his father’s sheep. If the animal turned on David, he would grab it by it’s jaw and club it to death. If he could do that to a lion or bear, why should he be intimidated by Goliath?

David didn’t fear death because God had already promised that he would be the next king of Israel. This speaks of David’s amazing faith in the prophetic word of God. He believed so strongly in God’s promise of kingship through the prophetic words of Samuel, that he was ready to risk his life for the glory of God and for his people Israel.

David faced his giant head on. He didn’t run away. He didn’t cave. He fufilled the calling God had placed on his life. Every calling God places on people has an element of risk to it. Better said, it is the element of faith that enables us to face our giants.

Fear and intimidation are too of the biggest giants we’ll ever face. They seem to stand against us at every turn like Goliath; mocking us and defying the word of the Lord spoken over our lives. Instead of shrinking back in fear, may we stand strong in faith, trusting that the battles we’ve already won have positioned us for such a time as this! And may we never forget, our God will bring us ultimate victory over our enemies. For we are more than overcomers through Christ!

Wounds and Arrows

29 Dec

The story is told of a rebel soldier who’s leg was severely wounded while fighting at the bloody battle of Bull Run; one of the Civil War’s most infamous battles. Following the conflict, the young soldier walked nearly 200 miles to his homestead in North Carolina, only to die a few weeks later from his untreated leg wound. Sadly, many of our brave soldiers lost thier lives, not from the wound itself, but from the complications that followed. What lesson can we learn from this 150 year old civil war story? Wounds left untreated can take your life.

There’s a fascinating Bible story tucked away in 1 Kings about a faulty alliance between good King Jehoshaphat of Judah and the notorious Ahab, King of Israel. The story line is so outlandish, you would think this can’t be true — but it is. And it’s legendary.

King Ahab has been up to no good for some time now. He and his impish wife, Jezebel, have led the people of Israel away from God to idol worship, put hits out on the prophets of God, and murdered an innocent man for the sole purpose of obtaining his valuable real estate.

One day when King Jehoshaphat is visiting King Ahab, the two discuss partnering together to attack Aram and win back the border town of Ramoth Gilead. “Will you join me in battle?” asks King Ahab. “Why of course!” King Jehoshaphat responds. “My horses are your horses and my troops your troops. But first let’s find out what the Lord says.”

King Ahab wants nothing to do with the prophets of God and says “yes, there is a man who prophesies for the Lord, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me.” Jehoshaphat, not wanting to embarrass the king of Israel in front of his court replies, “That is not the way a king should talk! Let’s find out what he says.”

The prophet, unwilling to risk life or limb, says to Ahab, “Go ahead king. Lead your men to battle. You will surely be victorious.” Then King Ahab, realizing that the prophet was telling him what he wanted to hear, responds with an edge to his words.”How many times must I tell you to speak only the truth to me? What does the Lord really say?”

Then the prophet speaks boldly the word of the Lord. “King Ahab, you will not return from this battle”. You are going to die. If you return from this battle alive, the Lord has not spoken through me”. And that is precisely what happened to King Ahab.

Circumventing the word of the Lord, King Ahab dresses himself in a disguise to hide his identity, while King Jehoshaphat entered the battle in his royal robes. As the chariots of Aram were closing in on King Jehoshophat, the commanders realize that they’re going after the wrong man! “This is not the King of Israel — this is Jehoshaphat. We have no quarrel with him.”

Then, as fate would have it, an Aramean soldier randomly shoots an arrow at the Israelite troops, hitting the disguised King of Israel right between the joints of his armor. “Turn the horses and get me out of here” says King Ahab. “I’m badly wounded.”

Needless to say, the prophets words came to pass. A random arrow mortally wounded the wicked king. The story goes on to say that Ahab propped himself up the remainder of that day, but his untreated wound did him in.

There’s a lot we can learn from this Old testament story, but let’s focus on one simple truth. Unattended wounds will take you out. Like the rebel soldier returning from the front lines, battle wounds need to be attended too. They must be cleaned and dressed. It’s a fact that more men died from infection in the Civil War than any other injury.

The word of God speaks continually of the spiritual battle that rages between the forces of good and evil. Unfortunately, some very good people are wounded in battle. Even the best of soldiers can be taken out. That is why it is so crucial to stay connected to your brothers and sisters in Christ. We were never meant to battle the enemy alone. We are to dress the wounds of those we fight shoulder to shoulder with.

The Bible says our words hold the power of life and death.  Words can cleanse and words can heal. Words can also destroy and dismantle relationships. Random words can be as lethal as a random arrow, and find the unprotected joints in our spiritual armor. Words spoken in a fit of rage can wound people for a lifetime.

Let’s ask the Lord to give us understanding in these simple truths. Yes, wounds may come and arrows may fly, but here is God’s promise:

Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. ( Psalm 91: 5-7)

The Tebow Effect

20 Dec

Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, without access to a tv screen, radio or any connection with the outside world, you’ve no doubt heard about Tim Tebow. Timmy, as his family and friends affectionately call him, is an amazing young man and one talented football player, who almost never was.

The story goes that Tim’s mother had serious complications during her pregnancy, and was asked by her doctors to consider the option of terminating the pregnancy. After prayer and obtaining counsel, she decided to let the pregnancy run its natural course–and low and behold–Tim Tebow was born; a happy and totally healthy baby, and wonderful addition to this missionary family.

Though Timmy was home schooled, he was always actively involved in the local sports scene. After growing to the height of 6ft. 4 inches and starring at quarterback for Neece High School, Tim was recruited by the University of Florida, where he helped lead the Gators to two national championships and received the Heisman Trophy as the most outstanding football player in the nation.

Yes, Tim Tebow is a one talented football player. But maybe his best attribute is his ability to light a fire in the hearts and minds of those who play the game alongside him. His love for God is undeniable. His passion for football seems unquenchable. But I believe it’s his enthusiasm that sets him apart from the rest of the NFL. Some call it the “Tebow effect”.

The word enthusiasm comes from the latin word meaning “having God within” . (En) meaning ” in”, thus ( derived from the word theos meaning God ) and (ism) denoting action to the word. All in all you have the word enthusiasm meaning: The God within promoting action on the outside for all to see.

Yes, there are quarterbacks with more skill than Tim Tebow. No doubt, he has a long way to go before he becomes a super star quarterback in the NFL like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or a Drew Brees. But no one is more enthusiastic than Timmy Tebow. And that is why he and his Denver Broncos will continue to succeed in the years to come.

 

A Thankful Heart This Christmas

7 Dec

Christmas OrnamentBefore I say another word, I want to tell each and every one of you reading this blog note —God is faithful to those who put thier confidence and complete trust in him! I am more convinced than ever before–our God is intimately acquainted with every single detail of our lives. He knows where we are and where we’re headed. He knows what we need, when we need it, and he longs to hear the faith-filled prayers of those who cry out to him day and night. Sorry Mr. Trump–but our God is simply the best!

This past year has been an amazing year of personal growth for Janet and I. In January of this year, after nearly 27 years, we stepped down from our position as Sr. Pastor of Raleigh Christian Community ( RCC ) Church , in order to begin the next phase of life and ministry, encouraging and equipping  pastors and church planters across the state of North Carolina and beyond. Was it tough leaving close friends and family behind? Sure. Was it the right move looking back? Absolutely. We are now working directly with over 40 church planters in North Carolina, from the mountains to the coast. We love what we do and have committed ourselves to help train this next generation of  pastors and church planters for the expansion of God’s kingdom right here in NC!

I want to take these last few lines to say thank you to all of our friends and family, who love us and have supported us over this last year. We couldn’t have made it without your prayer support and gifts of love toward this ministry!

Janet and I also want to say thank you to all of the pastors and  churches who believe in this unique, but much needed ministry we call ” Pastor’s Friend”. With nearly 1700 pastors per month dropping out of ministry, someone needs to step in the gap and tell them…” its gonna be alright”…and stand with them when they go through tests and trials that only a seasoned pastor can understand and appreciate.

So , in this Christmas season , Janet and I want to simply say…THANK YOU! May you be touched by the Spirit of God this Christmas season and truly know the joy and peace that comes from knowing Jesus Christ–the Savior King!

Much love from our house to yours this Christmas Season ,

Jim and Janet Kelly

Pastor’s Friend Ministries/ P.O. Box 1091/ Wendell NC 27591

Is New always Better?

8 Nov

Lately, I’ve been contemplating about this digital life we’ve all been living for a while now. It’s not that I detest all the newest high tech gadgets or my DVR ( which I must admit is quite awesome), it just seems to me, we are losing touch, slowly but surely with present reality.
Breathing outside air for more than 10 minutes is now something strangely unique for many. Children playing hide and go seek in the yard after school is now a sight to see. Grandparents spending time with their grandkids is now relegated to a once a year roadtrip, most likely fueled by guilt rather than a longing to see those who actually brought us into this world!
Those things are always a concern, but what really troubles me is what I hear happening within local churches. Today, I was speaking to a pastor over coffee, and he told me that a local church just down the road had pushed the word of God aside, in order to teach and preach thier own new doctrine.
New doctrine? What new doctrine? Since when do we push the word of God aside for some new doctrine? No doubt, there are seasons when we learn something new or have fresh revelation about a scripture or truth. But there is never a time to push away from the word of God. Didn’t Jesus and the apostle Paul warn us about these days? Is new always better? Are we being deceived?
1Corinthians 4:6 says “do not go beyond what is written”. This is Paul’s admonition to the church in Corinth, who were known to be a pretty wild and undisciplined bunch of baby believers. These are the very ones that need the unfiltered, unadulterated word of God.
The prophet Jeremiah did his very best to warn Israel of impending doom. God, in his infinite mercy spoke these words through the young prophet when he said in Jeremiah 6:16 ” Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, an you will find rest for your souls.
So…the question is: What is the good way? What are the ancient paths? I believe they are the foundational truths that repeat time and again throughout the word of God. Here are just a few of those ancient paths.
Love God first and foremost. This has been and always will be a foundation stone in the word. Believe his word. This is what our forefathers like Abraham, Moses and the Prophets were challenged to do. Seek his face. We are promised that if we seek him we will find him, if we search for him with all our hearts. Love others as you are loved by God himself. You can find that truth peppered throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
These are just a few of the ancient paths and good ways God has always taught and will continue to teach his people from now through eternity. In reality, there is no new truth; only old truths that are being revealed to a new generation of hungry believers and seekers.
Is the new way better? Not always. Especially when people try to replace or improve on the word of God. If it’s perfect–and the word says it is… don’t mess with it. Live it. Walk in it. Breath it in.

Activity that drops Divorce Rate to .1%?

21 Sep

We’ve all heard the statistics concerning the US Divorce rate. It hovers somewhere around 50%. But I’ve got good news for you. You can be part of a unique group that has dropped the divorce rate to less than 1 out of every 1105 marriages. Interested?

Lets begin by sharing some statistics. Some have said going to church makes no difference in the divorce rate among church goers. That simply not true! Couples who go to church regularly have a 1 out of 6 chance of making thier marriage work. That’s an 84% success rate. It’s good …but not amazing.

Here’s what’s amazing. Did you know that couples who pray daily together have a 99.9 % chance of staying together? Here’s the facts. Couples who pray together daily have a 1 out of 1105 chance of going through divorce. That’s right.

We may do alot of goofy things to wreak havoc on our marriages , but if we pray together regularly, we’ve got a really good chance of going the distance. That’s not just good news–that’s amazing news.

So then the question is : How do we incorporate regular prayer times with our spouses each day? Lets take an up close look at it– along with a few helpful suggestions from yours truly.

First off, let’s begin by putting a plan together! The two of you (together) can make a list of the things you can pray for each day. Things like:  protection over your home and family members, your local church and pastor, your finances, your health, your extended family, friends and neighbors, health and healing for those you love, salvation of loved ones, your employer/company, large purchases and investments, and of course–each other!

Secondly, agree on a time and place. Find a place that is comfortable and convenient for the both of you. Sitting, standing, kneeling. There’s no right way or wrong way to pray. I suggest holding hands. It’s a wonderful expression of love and commitment one to another.

Set a time limit. We are not suggesting a marathon prayer meeting each day. But each day has 96 fifteen minute segments, 144 ten minute segments and 288 five minute segments. Choose one of the above, set a time and just go for it. The way to begin something is simple: Begin.

Pray out loud. I realize that some couples are very shy. But we must remember that we are speaking to an audience of one–God himself. Your prayers don’t have to be memorized or written down. You can speak from your heart directly to God. He loves to hear his children pray. Also when you pray out loud, it makes it much easier for your spouse to agree with you and hear your heart as well.

Never force prayer upon your spouse. Try to be sensitive to his or her needs each and every day. Doing the right thing at the wrong time can actually be detrimental to your relationship. The Bible says their is a right time for everything! If your spouse is not feeling well or upset about a situation, let them cool down. You can pray when they are ready.

Never correct your spouse in prayer! Some have said prayers like ” Lord, help my spouse to be more patient and not loose their cool” or ” Lord , help my spouse not be a lazy bum and work as hard as I do.” Wrong move and wrong motive. Always be sure to build up your spouse in your prayers using encouraging words that can build them up –not tear them down.

Be sure to pray for each other. This may be the most important prayer of all. God sees us and our spouses as one unit. There is nothing more comforting than hearing your spouse pray for you and your needs. God has called us to live together in unity and harmony, and prayer is the key that keeps us bound together in love.

I would love to hear your comments! Let me know your thoughts on this matter of prayer in marriage. With 95% of ministers admitting they rarely pray with their spouse, its time for the church to wake up and pray like never before. Lord…may it begin with me and my household.