God Himself: Our Source of Hope

God Himself: Our Source of Hope

Experiencing God in the Midst of Fear
by Chip Ingram

God Himself: Our Source of Hope
(Psalm 46:1-3) God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

The psalmist is very clear right from the start: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” To underscore this fact, the psalmist talks about the destruction of the two most stable and seemingly indestructible things he can think of. Even if, he proposes, the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the sea and are swallowed up, we will have no reason to fear because God will be with us.

God Wants to Be Your Refuge Today
God is a refuge, a place of protection from external threats, a place we can run to, shut the door, and know we’ll be okay. He will be our refuge. Rather than fleeing to a big steel building or tunneling underground for safety, we can turn to the God of the universe who says, “I personally will be your refuge. You can come to Me, and I will wrap My arms around you and I won’t let anything touch you. I will be a place of absolute safety for you.”

God alone can provide the security we need when the foundations of our life get ripped out from under us. God is our refuge, but He won’t take the job unless we let Him. Is He your refuge today?

God Wants to Be Your Strength Today
God promises more than just protection from the externals. He also wants to be our internal strength. He wants to provide us with the power to endure life’s hard times. But He only gives us that power and strength minute-by-minute, moment by moment. We all tend to focus on future fears (what if I lose my job-tomorrow? What if this relationship goes south in a month? What if I get sick?), and when we do, we get anxious, uptight, and fearful.

That fear comes because God doesn’t give grace for tomorrow. (We can’t be sure tomorrow will even come!) He gives grace for today, and our responsibility is to trust Him for today. He says He will be our strength. If we need a certain amount of His grace to make it through this hour, that’s how much grace we’ll get. If in the next hour, the going gets tougher and we need that much more grace, that’s how much more grace He’ll give us. Moment by moment, the Lord says, “I am for you, and I will be your strength.”

God Wants to Help You Today
And, third, God gives us His grace whenever we find ourselves in any kind of trouble. He is “for us,” and he is an ever-present help. He is readily available to us in times of trouble no matter how great, no matter how hard.

Martin Luther realized this truth as he sat imprisoned in a castle tower waiting to die. Betrayed by the church and waiting for morning and his execution, Luther prayed over Psalm 46, and God met him. That was why, as he was about to lose his life for his God, Luther was able to confidently proclaim, “A mighty fortress is our God!”

When morning came, Luther’s captors put him on a wagon to take him from the tower to the place of execution. On the way, a band of his followers came by on horseback, swooped him up, and took him to a German castle. There Luther was protected and hid for a year, during which he translated the New Testament into German. For the first time in history, the Bible was available in the language of the common man. Clearly, God was for Martin Luther. God showed up for him — and He will show up for you.

In like manner, Stephen (Acts 7:55-60) didn’t face his enemies and executioners alone. Even as he was being stoned to death for the “crime” of believing in Jesus Christ, Stephen was given the ability to see into heaven, where Christ was standing at the right hand of God the Father, ready to receive Stephen’s spirit. What a comfort that must have been for him!

Now Martin Luther and Stephen were not extraordinary people living extraordinary lives. They were ordinary people like you and me who faced persecution for their faith. But God’s presence, His “ever-present help,” sustained them. For one His grace meant deliverance from his adverse circumstances; for the other, it meant deliverance unto His Lord.

So what does this truth about God mean for you and me? It means that we can draw near to God and experience His hope in our times of need. And it means that . . . You don’t have to be afraid because God is “for” you.

So, do you long to Experience God today? In the Audio CD series I Am with You Always, Chip Ingram explores pivotal chapters in the Psalms, revealing how you can meet God in the midst of your most difficult moments. Whether you’re struggling with a rocky relationship, an unexpected crisis, depression, or injustice, this series will remind you that the Lord is faithful to hear you heart’s cry and He will be there for you, time and again. Get this encouraging course today, contact Walk Thru the Bible at 011 782 4222 or email: info@wtb.co.za

Why the Resurrection Is Important

Why the Resurrection Is Important

As Easter approaches, I’d like to challenge you with a question: What does the resurrection of Jesus mean to you? Is it central to your faith? Perhaps you or someone you know claim to be a Christian, but you’re not quite sure about the evidence for the resurrection – could it be fact or could it be myth?

Regardless of where we stand on this issue, what I’ve learned is that both Christians and atheists agree that the resurrection is the central issue to Christianity. That’s because if the resurrection isn’t true then we’re still in our sins, and following Christ is meaningless! Both believers and non-believers agree that if Jesus rose from the dead then we have an intellectually feasible argument that the claims of Christianity are true. If he didn’t, then all of Christianity falls.

The Apostle Paul wrote about the importance of the resurrection in his letter to the Corinthians. He wrote, If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith… For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:13-14, 16-17)

Believing in Jesus’ resurrection is not optional for us as Christians. There is no other name under heaven by which one can be saved, and no other method of salvation other than belief in and identification with Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension.

So how can we know if Jesus really rose from the dead? This has been the question for the last two millennia and continues today, especially in the past few centuries with the advent of progressive historical, archeological and textual fields of study. The Bible and its claim of resurrection continue to be under intense criticism and attack, yet the evidence of the resurrection is convincing.

And here’s I want you to know: You don’t have throw your “brains in the trash” to be a Christ follower. The fact is, we can know the truth. The reality is we most likely have all the information we’ll ever have about Jesus’ life, death and the subsequent events, contained in the Scriptures.

Consider for a moment just some of the most compelling evidence for Jesus’ resurrection:

  • Old Testament prophets predicted it.
  • Jesus predicted it openly and numerously.
  • After Jesus rose from the dead he appeared 12 different times to over 500 eyewitnesses in multiple locations and times over a 40-day period.
  • The transformation of the disciples was radical. They went from being fearful cowards to confident followers who weren’t afraid to die for their faith.  People don’t knowingly die for a lie.
  • The explosion of the church started in Jerusalem, the same place where we could document that the resurrection happened. For 25 years, right where Jesus did his teaching, people could ask questions and get answers from hundreds of eyewitnesses.

So what does this mean to us?  Here are three implications for examining the evidence of the resurrection:

  1. It validates Jesus’ claim that He is “the way the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
  2. It gives us a hope for the future. Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:9)
  3. It offers spiritual life right now. “By the acceptance of this good news you are saved.” (1 Cor. 15:2)  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16-19)

In the end, rejecting or accepting the work of Jesus is not an intellectual issue – rather, it’s always a moral issue.  What matters, is not only what happened nearly 2,000 years ago, but also its implications for today. The good news is that those who are in Christ can expect their own resurrection from the dead and life with God for eternity.

Taken from the course Why I Believe by Chip Ingram.

Living with Certainty in Uncertain Times – Chip Ingram

Living with Certainty in Uncertain Times – Chip Ingram

As the dust settles after an uncertain time, a lot of questions rise to the surface—questions about our future. “What will be next?” “Could we be targets?” And closer to home, “Will my family be safe?”

The truth is that none of us knows exactly what our nation will face in the immediate future. But no matter how uncertain the future may seem, let me remind you that God’s people have been here before.

Remember Moses? To a generation of enslaved Jews, it seemed like there was no hope. Then God sent a child named Moses, who would lead them out of captivity. God took the worst of times and brought about a miraculous deliverance.

Remember Elijah? Oppressed by an evil dictatorship and a completely pagan environment, he thought he was the last believer left on earth. But God was in control. He had a game plan for revealing His glory to a nation submerged in wickedness.

Remember Daniel? Israel had been scattered to the four winds, and Daniel and his friends were abducted into a ruthless, godless culture. Babylon was as powerful as it was wicked, and vigorously opposed God’s remnant. But God acted, using a faithful few to dramatically influence an entire nation and accomplish His purposes in the midst of chaos.

And don’t forget Jesus. What about the state of the world when Christ was born? Moral decay and religious hypocrisy had relegated spirituality to a hollow, rotten husk of pretense and fear. But into that context, God brought eternal life to the entire world in the most improbable of packages: a baby boy.

The biblical record reminds us that the world has been on the brink of disaster on more than a few occasions. We may be inclined to worry or lose hope, but God reminds us that nothing can thwart His purposes. “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD” (Proverbs 21:30, NIV). An uncertain world stirs men from their complacency and provides tremendous opportunity for harvest. The question is, “How do we prepare to face the future with wisdom, boldness, and purpose?”

Confident Hearts
First, we can face the future with confidence when we trust that God knows all about our problems today and is in control of our tomorrows. We are not at the mercy of our culture. We serve a sovereign God who is never surprised by circumstances. And the wickedness of our day does not have Him up against a wall.

Isaiah 40 reminds us that “the nations are like a drop in a bucket . . . [God] sits enthroned above the circle of the earth . . . He reduces the rulers of this world to nothing . . . He is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.”

Transformed Minds
Even so, God’s sovereignty is not a license for us to do nothing. We can find comfort in His omnipotence even as we train for service. We need to be ready, prepared in mind, heart, and spirit for the part He will ask us to play.

This means that we need to think accurately. Biblically! Consider the revolutions mentioned above; every time God used His people to dramatically influence their culture, He did it through the transformation of people’s thinking.

We need to educate ourselves about the issues and respond in times of “uncertainty” from a biblical framework. Think through what it will look like to share your faith, meet physical needs, and provide emotional support under the current circumstances.

A Strategic Plan
The issues on our horizon are daunting. If there ever was a time for Christians to step up and think clearly, it’s now.

We must remember that our goal is not to “glorify a country” or merely maintain and protect our own personal comfort and lifestyle. Rather, our goal is to understand what “dual citizenship” really means. Remember that we are strangers in this world (1 Peter 2:11), yet we are called to make a real difference in the world around us.

How can we seize this moment in history? By living our lives based on the firm foundation of God’s truth when everything else around us is unsure. You may not feel like a Moses, Elijah, or Daniel, but the lessons of their lives can provide you with biblical examples of how to fulfill God’s purpose in these uncertain times.

No one knows what the future holds in the coming months and years. War against terrorism threatens to linger, and we can only speculate the impact it will have on our daily lives. But if we look to God to develop in us confident hearts, transformed minds, and a strategic plan of action, we will stand firm as the Moseses, Elijahs, and Daniels of our time.

Excerpted from the message, How to Face the Future in Times of Uncertainty, by Chip Ingram.

Are You Getting God’s Best? – Chip Ingram

Are You Getting God’s Best? – Chip Ingram

Are You Getting God’s Best?

by: Chip Ingram

During my early years as a Christian, I felt torn between two worlds – Bible study and bars. I would have sacred moments with God in the morning and then indulge in sexual fantasies at night. I honestly wondered if I would ever escape from that “caught-in-the middle” season of my life. I promised God repeatedly that I would change, and I sincerely wanted to change. I just didn’t know how, so I’d quickly fall back into my old, sinful ways. I was miserable!

best

I wish my experience was atypical, but the truth is that about nine out of ten Christians have been “tripped up” somewhere along the way and this keeps them from experiencing God’s best for their lives. This means there are a whole lot of sincere Christians out there who claim they follow Jesus, yet they aren’t living lives that realistically reflect their faith.

Many of us have bought into believing the lies that keep us from really living “like Christians.” And many of us have even given up. As a result, we’ve succumbed to the influences of our culture – conforming to the world’s ways instead of God’s ways.

During my 25 years of being a pastor, I cannot tell you how much heartbreak I’ve witnessed at the sight of fellow Christians who are trapped in addictions and held captive by sinful lifestyle patterns. I watched as some even lost their jobs and fractured their families over it.

But here’s the good news: I’ve also seen God rescue drug addicts, heal broken families, and turn around seemingly impossible situations all because He longs to renew us.

God wants us to have His best! He even wants to use us to transform those around us.

So how do we start getting God’s best in our lives and stop believing the lies that get us trapped in our sinful behavior?

First, we give God what He wants the most – our whole selves. (Romans 12:1) When we receive Christ into our lives and become “born again,” we completely surrender and commit ourselves to Him. But surrendering is not just a one-time event. We need to daily declare Jesus as Lord of all we are and all that we have. This is the first step in the ongoing process of learning how to think and live like Jesus.

The Apostle Paul talks about the second step in this process in Romans 12:2. He instructs us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

God wants us to “test and approve” – to fully and completely experience – His good, pleasing and perfect will for our lives. He wants us to have His very best for our relationships, our jobs, and our future. And it’s all about renewing our minds.

This process doesn’t happen by doing religious activities or trying harder. It happens when we stop filling our mind with toxins (negative media and ungodly relationships) and instead we fill it with the truth of God’s Word and the encouragement of God’s people. As we shut down the supply of images and temptations and renew our minds with God’s truth, the Spirit of God will take the Word of God and make us more and more like Christ. Then we will have a desire to do what’s right, not because we ought or should, but because our desire to please God becomes our conviction!

When our mind is renewed, our paradigm shifts from “trying to be good’ by controlling our behavior to “expressing our love” by trusting in His promises. In the end, renewing our mind is God’s divine prescription for us getting the very best He has to offer.

chipChip Ingram’s passion is to help Christians really live like Christians. As a pastor, author, coach and teacher for more than twenty-five years, Chip has helped people around the world break out of spiritual ruts and live out God’s purpose for their lives.  Today Chip serves as senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, California, and president of Living on the Edge – an international teaching and discipleship ministry.