All posts by Doug Suvino

Lead pastor of Valparaiso First Assembly of God.

Are You Lying to Yourself?

liesHave you ever told a lie?  I know; what a ridiculous question because you have.  Have you noticed what happens the more you tell it?  You begin to believe it too.  Many times our own lies begin to convince us and our perception of reality is changed because what we say happened, actually never did.  Yet, its how we’ve begun to remember it and somehow the lie we tell becomes the truth we believe in.  Unfortunately, there’s no truth to be found at all.

Luke 13:24-30 is one of those passages which disturbs me the most because it reveals how the truth we believe can actually be based on a self-manufactured lie.  If you have this concern too after reading this passage, let me give you one clear directive which will guarantee you won’t live in a false reality where your relationship with the LORD is concerned.

One phrase Jesus says which stands out to me in vs. 24 is to “Make every effort….”…. What a game-changer.  I think many of us would have to admit there have been too many times where we did not make every effort and we expected an impossible outcome.  It was impossible because we gave an effort which can be stated as “good enough.”  The “good enough” mentality somehow lulls me into expecting more while giving less effort.  For instance, we may settle for a marriage which is not ideal because it is “good enough” and so we never work to make it stronger.  Our lack of effort is realized when it crumbles under the weight of the pressure of life because in reality, it wasn’t “good enough.”

We will sacrifice eternity if we think we can live some sort of “good enough” in relation to the LORD.  First, the problem with this thinking is no one is “good enough,” so how could you even think such a ridiculous thought.  Actually, it is easy when the lie becomes the truth.  See, I look at myself and think what is good about me outweighs what is wrong with me, so I’m now “good enough.”

When you dedicate yourself to “make every effort” there is little room to miss the mark.  Jesus knew the most important goal for any of our lives was to find salvation in Him through our repentance of sins within His forgiveness for those sins.  Nothing less will move us to the other side of the threshold except for His grace.

The reality is this….if your life were to end now and you were on the wrong side of that threshold, you would be desperate to get through this door called salvation, but it will be too late.  The decision has to be made in this life.  Rather than be desperate later, make every effort now to ensure you are saved.

Don’t shut out God’s voice to your life, and His direction.  Find joy in His Word of life rather than in things or even people which only last or stay for a time.  Trust in Him, so you will not allow the worries of life or the temptation to gain great riches draw you from His presence.  In other words, keep your priorities straight by making sure He is your first priority…your first love….the One you serve first…….your All in All!

There’s no sense in gaining the world and losing your soul.  If you will make every effort, you will undoubtedly enjoy a fullness in your life which only comes from Him and cannot be duplicated by anything or anyone else.

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Why I Worship Him

worshipI’ve enjoyed singing all of my life.  When I was only three my Dad was a car salesman at a dealership in Paramus, NJ, and his demo car didn’t come equipped with a radio.  Undeterred, I would sit in the back seat and sing all the songs we would have heard on the radio if we had one.  Throughout my life, I’ve always enjoyed music even though my music choice and tastes changed over the years mainly because of my love for the LORD.

I don’t listen to secular music anymore.  To be honest, it doesn’t fit the focus of my life, and it does not serve a purpose.  Maybe that statement seems foreign to some people, but I believe everything, including the music I listen to, should serve the purpose of my life.

I grew up in a Catholic church until I was 8 years old, and we eventually attended an Assemblies of God church where I made a genuine commitment to Jesus, and was filled with the Holy Spirit when I was twelve.  I failed to understand, at that age, how my decision for Him affected my purpose.  Before that decision, all of my present and future plans revolved around what I desired to be or become, and what I would do to make that happen.  That all changed when I made a commitment to Him.  It was no longer I who lived, but Christ living in me (Galatians 2:20).

For the believer, our lives revolve around His existence much like the earth circles the sun.  Apart from many reasons for the existence of life on our planet, nothing could exist without the warmth and light of the sun.  What the earth needs most for life to exist is what it revolves around; the sun is at the center of its existence.  In the same way I view the existence of the believer, and my own life.  I know the Creator who breathed life into me, and the Savior who died and rose for me, and the Holy Spirit who fills me with the ability to serve God, so He is the center of my existence.  Whatever does not serve the purpose of deepening my dependence on Him, extending my reverence for Him, or portraying my devoted love for Him is waste (Philippians 3:7-12).

Now…..back to music.

What do I listen to most?  Worship music.  Why? Because my life is dependent on Him.  See, I have a testimony for why I am the person I am today, and it revolves around the faithfulness of God.  Worship is my opportunity to praise Him for who He is, thank Him for what He’s done, and draw closer to Him.  It is a time for me to get in God’s presence and be reminded how necessary He is and how incredibly generous He has been to me.  Worship is an opportunity for me to simply pour out my love and gratitude to God.  In worship, my focus is completely on Him.  I’m not focused on what others are doing, or if someone is singing in key or not, or how someone else is responding to Him.  It just becomes Him and me, and I’m relating my love to Him in worship.  I understand worship is a matter of obedience to God in how I live daily, but it is very much the act of singing and praising Him, as well.

In the midst of my seemingly impossible issues, I can worship and enter His presence and remember He is greater and more able to direct my life than anything which stands opposed to me.  Worship isn’t about asking Him for anything, but it reminds me what I already know….God loves me and He who is in me is greater.

This past Sunday night, our church had a night of worship where we just came together and lifted up His Name.  It was an incredible experience for me, and I believe for many who came that night.  It is definitely the first of many worship nights to come!  I also believe, God not only desires to develop a culture of worship in our church, but His people desire it too.  When our desires align with His desires, we can be sure we have finally figured out He is the center of our existence.

For your listening pleasure, here are some of my recent fav’s for worship…..

Only Wanna Sing – Hillsong Young and Free

Holy Spirit – Kari Jobe

Yahweh – Elevation Worship  (Song starts at 3:00 mark)

Spirit Break Out – Kim Walker

 

Commit or Quit?

quitWe all have some projects, ambitions, dreams which we’ve not completed.  For everything you have ever thrown up your hands and said, “ENOUGH!,” you have your reasons for giving up.  That’s right…..you gave up.  You quit!  You said it wasn’t worth your time anymore, so you decided to invest your time somewhere else.  You didn’t see value and whatever you don’t value you throw in the trash.

What’s interesting is why you even started in the first place.  Chances are you decided to quit when you were in a state of mind which did not consider why you even were involved to start with.  What was the reason behind starting that project, committing to marriage, choosing a college major or career, or taking that job?  I believe if you remembered the reasons why you started you would be more committed to what you started.  Why?  Because there were good reasons, well thought out reasons, for starting, committing and investing at the start.  Let’s be honest, when we want to quit, our reasoning is lame at best.  We’ve reached a point where we’ve had enough, and we want out so badly that we will justify our exit plan.

What have you recently given up on because it isn’t what you thought it would be?  Did you consider how it can’t be what you thought it would be if you haven’t finished it yet?  Honestly, you don’t start building a house and halfway through walk in and get discouraged because its so incomplete.  The walls and roof have been framed, but there’s no sheetrock, and you can’t easily distinguish from one room to the other.  You wouldn’t say, “This isn’t what I imagined it would be, so let’s forget it.”  Well, of course it isn’t what you expected because its still in the process of being.  It isn’t yet, but it will be if you will see it through.  One of the reasons we quit so easily is we aren’t committed.  When you’re committed, you are determined to see it through.  You are determined to overcome.  You are determined to finish and finish well.  Much in life is a process, and there’s no sense quitting when the work, your work, isn’t even finished.

What have you recently given up on because its harder than you thought it would be or should be?  The problem here is you didn’t count the cost.  There’s nothing like getting excited, ambitious, even full of faith and not taking the time to consider the cost.  You can’t go into everything in life and think it should be easy, predictable, and follow your pre-defined plan.  In everything there will be struggles and difficulties which need to be overcome, and those same hurdles don’t necessarily mean you’re in the wrong line of work, the wrong marriage, chose the wrong major, or that you’re going the wrong direction in life.  Did you really think the person you married was going to be perfect and it was all going to be for the better and never worse?  Marriage is a challenge; are you going to commit or quit? Did you think just because you were voted ‘Most likely to succeed’ in your High School yearbook that your life would be full of continual greatness?  You’ll have to work hard like anyone else, so are you going to commit or quit?  When something becomes more of a challenge than you anticipated; do you commit or quit?  Do you think your life should be so much easier because you are a child of God?  In everything, we have a choice to make – commit or quit.

In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Paul says this:  “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

There’s a truth in this passage and its this:  The troubles faced are working God’s purpose in His children.  That’s not to say your struggle isn’t real, but it is saying you need to set your eyes on the One who is unseen rather than what you can physically see.  If you make decisions based on mere feelings, emotions, and expectations then you will never commit your life to Him as He commands.  Nothing worthwhile will be attained.  God’s faithfulness will never be witnessed.  The power of faith will be a testimony for someone else.  Yet, if you will fix your eyes on God and commit to what He has told you to commit to, and follow His Will in your life, you will find there is little to quit when God has called you to it.  It will be worth it because God said so.  Your marriage will be worth fighting for because God said He hates divorce.  Your commitments will be worth your effort because God gave you the burden, and you’re accountable to Him.  Let’s be as committed to all God has entrusted to us as He has been so committed to us.

 

The Most Powerful Prayer

prayerEveryone wants to pray well, and pray powerfully, but what if I told you the most powerful prayers have never been heard by your ears.  Maybe you don’t believe that, but it is true.

Luke 22:31 says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”

Focus on that word, ‘fail.’   Don’t you just hate that word?  I bet you can think in a moment of some of the words fails you ever had.  It’s not hard to do because failure seems haunt us.  Maybe you’ve failed, but have you failed like Peter?  I mean, its hard to beat a guy who pledges his life to Jesus, whom he said was the Messiah, and that he will die with Him, but within a matter of hours after Jesus is arrested, Peter has denied him three times, the rooster has crowed, and Jesus has looked him dead in the eyes across the courtyard.  Now……that’s failure of Biblical proportions.  I’ve often tried to empathize with Peter’s humiliation, and I can’t imagine the shame and guilt he felt at that moment.  I’m sure when he heard Jesus had died on the cross, believing he would never be able to redeem himself to this man he love, Peter probably wanted to go into hiding and never be found.

Peter could’ve let that be the end of him as a disciple but there was something which preserved him.  We never read how Peter prayed for himself to be bold and courageous, but we do know someone prayed for Peter, and it was Jesus.  Jesus had prayed for him knowing the sifting was coming.  Why is Peter even present with Jesus and the other disciples in John 21?  Is it because of Peter’s prayers?  Not at all, but it is because Jesus prayed for him.

Romans 8 speaks some important reminders for believers.  In so many words it says my present sufferings do not compare to the future glory to be revealed in me.  It mentions there is a hope in me for what I do not have but the Spirit helps me in my weaknesses.  It reminds me how God is working in all things for me because I love Him, and He’s not only called me but justified me.  I see here how there can be no one against me because God is for me, and I am more than a conqueror in Him.  All this is made possible because of what verse 34 mentions, “Christ is at God’s right hand interceding for me.”  Jesus didn’t just pray for Peter, He is praying for you and me continually.

Can you relate to how I’ve failed Him because you’ve done it too?  I’ve said words I should’ve never said because I couldn’t control my tongue.  I’ve thought the worst about others when I should’ve given them the benefit of the doubt.  I’ve been bitter against those who’ve hurt me when I was supposed to forgive.

But there is hope for me because Jesus was praying for me.

I’ve trusted in myself rather than Him and even put my faith in myself or other people rather than Him.  I’ve been puffed up with pride when humility would have been the right decision.  I’ve desired and even given payback instead of grace.

But, you know what?  Jesus was praying for me.

I know that He is still praying for me, and I’m thankful for the prayers I’ve never heard from the lips of Jesus yet have a profound impact on  my life.

Apart from repenting of my sins, I’ve never been able to change myself, and I’m sure you’ve found out this truth too!  I focus on loving Him, and He corrects my living.

If you’re wondering what you can pray to overcome your failings, you may be missing the most powerful truths about prayer that I have been comforted by most……

My ability to push through the difficulties in life, to overcome the flesh, temptation, and even the enemy is not so dependent on the power of my prayers, but on His.

What are you doing in a place like this?

Confusion

  Have you ever just wondered if you belonged somewhere?  I mean, have you ever felt out of place?  It’s probably one of the worst feelings in the world…not knowing if you should be where you are.  Sometimes we can even feel this way about ourselves in church….do I belong?

We may struggle with belonging in the church because we see what everyone else is doing and examine ourselves and think what we do pales in comparison.  We may even think to ourselves, “No one would miss me if I wasn’t here.”  Is that true?  Is anyone…….useless?

It never ceases to amaze me how little we can think of ourselves.  We have a in-born habit of inflating the importance of anyone else and undermining our own.  I’m not talented enough, godly enough, praying enough, victorious enough………well, enough with all that.  Can we be clear on one thing…..if you are saved and have accepted Jesus as your LORD and Savior, then you are part of the church.  That’s that!

I love diversity,  and God does too.  After all, He’s the One who has made people so unique and different.  That’s a good thing.  1 Corinthians 12:12-20 speaks of this diversity that isn’t merely ethnic, but specific to how God has created each one of us when it says, “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to part of the body…..”

Let’s be clear on what Paul means here: Just because you’re not what someone else is doesn’t make you any lesser of a part.  Are you saved?  Do you love Jesus?  Have you made a decision to follow Him and obey?  I could keep asking questions, but if you are giving a “YES” on each of these then you must be part of the body of Christ.  Realize, when you are part of a body,  you inherently serve a specific function.  You can think others who serve in ‘more important’ capacities are more valuable than you, but you would be completely wrong for thinking such a thing.  A body, being made up of many different parts, relies on each part, no matter how seemingly insignificant, to function properly. 

Paul continues in verse 17, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?”

Maybe you’ve wanted to be someone else, so you could be more important, more useful, or possess a greater function.  Here’s the bad news for such unrealistic expectations…….you can’t!  Here’s the good news……God doesn’t expect you to. 

We can’t all be the same, and I, for one, don’t want to be like someone else.  I like being me and doing what God made me to do because it is important and everyone in the body of Christ can make that same statement.  For those who have a hard time accepting themselves, it is impossible for you to be what God hasn’t created you to be!  As the church, the body of Christ, He has arranged us in our parts just as He wanted.  If He wanted you to have a great singing voice, He would’ve given you one.  If He wanted you to be a great communicator, He would have suppressed your fear of being on stage and enabled you to do it.  Whether you are a good encourager, speaker, teacher, pastor, helper, organizer, administrator, evangelist (we could go on and on)…..this is who God has made you to be in the body of Christ.

So, serve your function whether you’re a hand, a foot, an ear or an eye and so on.  Be who God  created you to be in the church.  Do what He has made you able to do remembering that your function is exactly as God intended; so do it well!

Save

Save

A Promise that could change your life!

life-change-aheadWhat could happen right now which could change your life forever?  Win a million dollars…..get married…..have a child…..or maybe meeting an extremely important person you admire?  I’m sure there’s many moments or opportunities we could list which seem like game changers for our life’s path.

What about trusting God?  Sure, we don’t think of this one because we’re generally oblivious to it.  Trusting in God is something we think we do subconsciously, second nature, or even in our sleep.  Think about this seriously…..wouldn’t learning to trust God, especially His promises change your life completely?  Let me challenge you briefly to learn to trust God completely, or you could continue to live the way you do.  “What’s wrong with how I’m living?”  Glad you asked, so let’s address two main issues.

When I fail to trust God and won’t live with faith in His promises…..

……Insecurity

governs my living.  We all make bad decisions; some more than others.  I’ve not met a person who was insecure and made good decisions.  Insecurity stems from a desire to do, or be, or attain something which you are not able to.  No matter what you do, you won’t be able and this doesn’t merely annoy you, but it makes you insecure.  The last thing we want anyone to know about us is we have limits, and yet we all know each of us is limited…how odd!  If you were to make a list right now of everything you’d like to do or be or have, that list would reveal where your heart is and where you put your confidence.  Where is your confidence?  It’s probably in yourself.  People put their confidence in the same person they know is limited and insecure about.  What you’ve found out even more so is your faith in God is lacking.  Faith in the promises of God guards you against insecurity.  What I have is given by God; whether that is my material possessions, my attributes, or my abilities, and whatever I do not have I can trust God to make up the difference.  What do we call this?  Faith in God, and with faith always comes trust.

When I fail to trust God and won’t live with faith in His promises…..

……Jealousy

governs my living.  Have you ever thought, “Why them and not me?”  If so, its because you were jealous.  Have you ever noticed people have such a difficult time being happy for someone else who has what they lack?  We will compare ourselves to others constantly, and pick apart their personality and character to justify why they shouldn’t have and we should have what they possess.  There’s probably a term for this…….oh, what is it?…….Jealousy!  Why do we find it so difficult to rejoice with those who are rejoicing.  We may be jumping up and down, screaming in excitement with them but deep down in the darkest recesses of our hearts we wish it were us and not them…..jealousy………it just eats at us and devours us, so we can never be thankful for God’s blessing on someone’s life.  Jealousy, like insecurity, stems from a life lacking faith to trust in God’s Word.  Faith understands and accepts God gives and takes away, and it receives what God does in either case.  You know what else….faith is satisfied with what God has given and is blessed.  God could give you and another person a cookie.  Jealousy looks and says, “God gave them a bigger cookie!” but faith says, “Thank you God for my cookie!”

If you want a pivotal moment which could change your life then I hope you will ask God for greater faith to trust Him, to be content, and be satisfied with what God has brought into your life.  What you have may not be what others have, and who you are may not be who others are but praise God for what He has given you and who He’s made you to be.  Often our insecurity and jealousy merely stem from misunderstanding how uniquely blessed we are.  The promises of God….His Word, and the faith He willfully gives us to accept both can be a life-changing moment which sets our course for eternity.

What’s My Excuse this time?

no excusesHave you ever noticed the only time a person makes excuses when their behavior hasn’t measured up to their own expectations or even the expectations of those they respect.  Otherwise, we don’t have to make any excuses when we are operating at our peak and everyone around appears satisfied with us.  Excuses are made when there’s the need to try and remove blame from yourself.  To seek an excuse is to admit, as humans, we are not perfect, and we will not always do as needed or expected.

It’s easier to make an excuse than to come to resolution.  Sometimes people would rather have their behavior excused and overlooked by others rather than resolve what is causing the issue.  Resolve the issue, change behavior, and there is no longer a need to make excuses.

I’ll assume most who are reading this blog are Believers, Christians….Children of God.  So, are you living as His Word directs you to, and if not, why not?  What’s your excuse?

No, I’m not trying to be condemning or sarcastic but realistic….if you’re not being what He’s called you to be then what do you claim is the reason to excuse yourself from living as you should?  I doubt I’m alone on this, but I’d rather heal what’s broken, so I don’t have to be confined a crutch the rest of my life.

Let’s consider that Jesus came to release us from the excuses which keep us from living optimally for Him.  When the woman with adultery was brought before Jesus (John 8), it would be easy for her to justify her life.  There was nothing else she could do as she became a product of what others thought she was.  Maybe she could have excused her behavior saying everyone had faults and this just happened to be hers.  She could have even excused herself saying she didn’t have the opportunities others had, and she was doing the best she could with what was dealt to her.

Let’s not be so easily diluted because Jesus died and rose again, so we would no longer need to make excuses because He was all-sufficient to change us.  Jesus said He came so that ‘they may have life, and have it to the full.’ (John 10:10b)  So much for our excuses.  When I focus on Him, I become a product of His redemptive work in my life and not what others think.  When He is my goal, it matters little what others do because I desire to be like Him.  When I understand He is in control of my life, I praise Him for the opportunities He brings, and I won’t desire what He doesn’t present to me.  There is nothing lost if He has chosen to withhold it from me.

Be encouraged today how you, as a Child of God, don’t need to be stuck in the rut of making excuses.  Jesus has made a way for us to live for Him and because of Him, each of us is overcomers (Romans 8:28).  I may not be perfect, but He is perfecting me.  I may still fail, but I don’t have to be a failure.  I may sin, but I no longer have to be bound to it and can find freedom from it in Jesus.  Part of Jesus’ victory on the cross reminds me I can accept who I am, without excuses, as He is making me into who I am.  That’s good news!