Monday, March 27, 2017

Gladness

Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.    Joel 2:23
 
The follower of Jesus cannot remain sad. Yes, there are seasons of sadness, but you are not meant to stay there as you walk with the Lord through gloomy times. Instead, be grateful to God for little things such as rain, the warmth of the sun, and the cool of the night. God is the author of all of these and He is forever creating good things for His children: relationships, laughter, a full stomach, a good night’s rest, healthy children, a free nation, and the opportunity to share all of our gifts from God. His blessings elicit smiles on the face of His children. Giving gladness is a vital role of our Heavenly Father; even in the middle of severe sadness, He dispenses gladness.
 
The gladness of God is uncanny in its ability to keep you poised with a peaceful perspective. People and circumstances can shell out sadness, while Christ’s compassion brings gladness. Therefore, go to God often for the gift of gladness. Receive His roaring laughter (see Job 8:21) as a reminder not to take ourselves, others, or situations too seriously. Fight sadness with gladness so that when you are tempted to torture your mind with sad thoughts, you will choose instead to fill it with glad memories of good things.
 
Yes, pain is ever-present. Emotional pain may emerge often, your physical pain may be perpetual, and financial pain could be flirting with your peace of mind. Relational pain may be assaulting you with rejection. Pain is a part of life, but do not allow pain to pin you to the mat of victimized living. Pain will try to steal your gladness and replace it with sadness. It will show up on your face as a scowl or a jutting jaw. Be glad instead, and allow the calm of Christ to caress your countenance. Slow down and let your trust in the Lord massage your mind. Trust in Christ brings you glad tidings.
 
This is why we worship God in place of the things of this world. Anything outside of the Lord has the potential to let you down. Money will fall short and even contribute to sadness. Children can break your heart, and your spouse will make you sad. Friends will fail you, and circumstances can crush your motivation to care. But Christ-followers have a heavenly Father who gives gladness in the middle of sadness. Abandoning yourself to the Lord is like tilling fertile ground for a growing faith and a glad face. You cannot remain sad if you are fully abandoned.
 
Unconditional surrender to the Savior elicits gladness, and a triumphal spirit comes from being in Christ. Peace and contentment are first cousins and fruits of a glad attitude. Anybody can live a chronically sad life, but those who look to their Savior, cannot help but be glad. He is the giver of all good things that satisfy. Therefore, be glad for the grace of God that gushes from heaven like a generous geyser. See gladness as a result of your resting in the presence of God and engaging with a community of Christ-followers. Allow grace to govern your thinking, because gladness grows in a heart overflowing with gratitude for God’s grace and all His good gifts.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Simplicity

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.  Mark 10:15
 
Simple faith does not mean simplistic faith. Christianity can be complex; for example, our full understanding of the Godhead three in one, will not happen this side of heaven. There will always be a mysterious shroud around the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why simple faith in Him is necessary to receive the revelation of His truth found in the Holy Bible.
 
Jesus made it simple when He described becoming like a little child in order to enter into His Kingdom. Small children can clearly see simple truths because they are unencumbered by the complexities of adult living. Because of their humility and honesty they are able to listen to the Lord’s teachings about sinful man and our need for a Savior. For a child, loving Jesus is an opportunity to be loved. They can easily accept God’s gift of His only son, Jesus, for their salvation. Thus, childlike faith in Christ is your bridge to God.
 
Don’t miss meeting the Lord in simple faith because of the pain or problems you have encountered in this world. There is no lasting peace to be found on earth. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
 
Your part is to confess faith in Jesus Christ and His part is to forgive you of your sin and give you eternal life in heaven. The Bible teaches, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Vocational fulfilment

When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. Genesis 39:3-4
 
What brings you fulfillment in your work? Is it the sense of accomplishment? Is it the opportunity to encourage someone? Is it the satisfaction of caring for your family? Is it the sense of security from a steady income stream? Your vocational fulfillment flows from a combination of these characteristics and more. When you are fulfilled in your job you are able to filter through the negatives on the way to the positives.
 
Be careful not to equate feeling passionate about your position with being fulfilled in your work. Passions ebb and flow around the excitement of a situation, like a start-up when everyone is thinking and working 24/7. But this breakneck passionate pace is not sustainable. Your career is a marathon not a sprint. Indeed, if you are absorbed in your work, and not constantly glancing at the clock, then perhaps you are in a place of fulfillment.
 
Is it your sense of control over the outcomes that draws you to serve where you work? You feel empowered, you are able to expand your skills and you can make a meaningful contribution in your community as a parent or an employee. Vocational fulfillment flows from a heart engaged in a mission that means something to you and to the Lord.
 
If Christ has placed you where you are, can you be content to serve Him wholeheartedly? The Lord’s vocational assignment carries its own sense of satisfaction. Joseph found favor because God placed him in his leadership role. In the same way use your workplace platform as a launching pad for the Lord. Your ability to support others, offer promotions and create a caring culture facilitates fulfillment for everyone. Vocational fulfillment is a faith journey that brings out the best in you and those around you. God blesses the work He assigns. Have you accepted the Lord’s assignment?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Power of the tongue

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21  
 
Our words can get us into trouble or they can dissolve trouble, like warm breath on a lit candle, apologetic words can easily extinguish a heart simmering with anger. “Please forgive me, I was emotionally spent and did not mean to hurt you with my disrespectful tone.” Language brings life when a life is immersed in Christ, or it brings death when a life is indifferent to the resurrected life of Christ. Only when our words are first baptized in the waters of worship to God will we be able to bring a proper sacrifice of speech to the Lord’s altar of healing.  
 
The power of the tongue must be tamed under the power of the Holy Spirit or else it becomes a weapon of mass destruction. Not in the manner of a nuclear explosion, but in a similar way, as sinister speech poisons the atmosphere, so what’s inhaled into the heart shuts down the spirit. So, what does it mean to eat the fruit of measured conversations? Love of language that gives life,  receives from its recipient, God, or both, a reciprocal life-giving hydration to a thirsty soul. “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (See Proverbs 11:25).
 
If my heart is full of pride, my words are laced with a verbal arsenic of judgment and snobbish superiority. If my heart is full of humility, my speech is seasoned with grace and mercy. If my heart is consumed with fear, I communicate worry and dread. If my heart is captivated by hope in Christ, I experience peace and the courage to speak expectantly of God’s faithfulness. If my heart hurts from neglect, I shamelessly shame another. But if my heart is comforted by the Lord’s love, I have the capacity to give words of comfort. The fruit of healthy words is healing.
 
What is the condition of your heart? Are you capable of caring conversations, because your conscious is clear? Or, are you set up for self centered speech, since your soul is cluttered with unresolved issues? Empty self and Christ will fill your heart with forgiveness, love and kindness. He will fill your mouth with fruitful words of encouragement, correction and compassion. By God’s grace be a Jesus follower whose words bring life to the soul and death to sin.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Quality Life

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.  Proverbs 13:20
 
What does it mean to have quality of life? Good health? Harmony at home? A happy heart? Financial security? Freedom of speech and worship? A fulfilling career? Grateful and content children? A meaningful marriage? A life of significance? Peace with God? Probably some of these elements and more make up a life worth living, a quality life.
 
Moreover, the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our relationships. Who we spend time with is who we become. If we spend time with those wise in their finances, and if we pay attention, we can become wise in our own finances. If we are intentional in our faith, we will worship with those of great faith. Our life is a reflection of our relationships.
 
So, how is your relational portfolio? Are you diversified with people who bring value to all aspects of your life? Conversely, are you intentional to invest time and interest in those who look to you for guidance? Quality of life flows not from just receiving wisdom, but from giving wisdom. Wisdom works in both directions for the good of the relationship.
 
Dear friend, be careful not to excuse bad behavior because you are trying to relate to questionable company. Draw a line far away from eroding your character’s credibility. You can influence others for good, without being bad. In some situations, what you don’t do defines you more than what you do. Use business trips and vacations to model faithfulness, not foolishness. Stand for what’s right—when others agree to what’s wrong.
 
Above all, quality of life results from your relationship with Christ. He is life itself and everything good in life flows from Him. When you grow in your personal relationship with Jesus—it affects the growth of your other relationships. Relationship building in heaven builds relationships on earth. Ultimately, Jesus is the life to model and follow. The resurrected life of Christ gives you the spiritual stamina to experience a quality life.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Good rep

Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. Ruth 2:11
 
It’s no secret that in our culture, we care a great deal about how we are perceived and what people think of us. If there was any lingering doubt, a quick glance at social media will confirm this statement. In our profiles, we go to great lengths to create a image of who we want to be and how we want to be perceived in some cases. Yet the inherent challenge here is, of course, our public personas and our private lives don’t always line up. If we are honest, the more time we spend crafting a public image, the less time we have to give to the pursuit of true wisdom and character.
 
When we remember the life of Ruth, we are given an example of someone who had an incredible reputation, yet was entirely unaware and unconcerned with her image or status.
 
Ruth was a woman who knew great pain and difficulty in her life. Though she was a widow without any promise of protection or provision, she had so fully encountered the goodness of God and received a new identity as a daughter in the family of God, that she knew there was nowhere else for her to go, even if the road was painful. 
 
This radical dependence upon God in the midst of trial is the foundation of Ruth’s true identity and character, and it was impossible for others not to take notice and marvel with wonder. Yet, the heart of our reflection today is this: though the reputation of her faithfulness and her character had spread far and wide, she was so busy living out that character that she didn’t even notice.
 
Ruth never took time to “read her own headlines,” or make sure others had heard of her trust in God or faithfulness in a time of trial, and neither should we.
 
In an age when disciples are unfortunately known for corruption, abuse, financial scandal, or the quest for political power, how we should instead long to live lives like our sister Ruth, where we have a reputation that precedes us in which we are first and foremost known for our trust in God and our faithfulness to his Word, even in dark and difficult times. Most importantly, let us be so busy doing the work the Lord has given us to do, that we don’t even take the time to notice or celebrate that reputation.
 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Making a list checking it twice

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:27
 
God keeps a record in the Lamb’s book of life of those who have trusted His son as their Lord and Savior. Salvation from hell to heaven begs the question, “Is my name written in the book of life?” “Am I on the list?” Yes, if you believe Jesus died for your sins and rose from the grave to give you life in Him; you are known in heaven. There is a required transaction of faith in Jesus before you can enjoy fellowship with Jesus. God’s good list offers eternal security.
 
Believers in Jesus do not receive a final judgment of separation from God. The option of exclusion from the Lord’s presence in eternity is removed when His presence is invited on earth. However, there is a judgment after death for disciples regarding how they behaved in this life. Did we store up treasures in heaven or did we waste our time with the trivial and trinkets of earth? Joyous will be followers of Jesus who bow before their Lord and hear from Him, “Well done.”
 
By God’s grace we seek to be righteous in this brief life for this is the caliber of our eternal life. Assurance of being on the good list is not a ticket to live for the flesh, rather it is freedom and motivation to live for the spirit. Our corruptible flesh will perish, but our incorruptible spirit will live. An individual who chooses heaven over hell desires its quality of life. The Holy Spirit within yearns for holiness without. Love wins when our name is in His Book.
 
Rejoice, since our Savior never ever employs an eraser. He writes our name in stone on the pages of His book. Just as the government records your physical birthday, so heaven records your spiritual date of birth. It is well with your soul, since your salvation is sealed by the Holy Spirit. You are on the list, so do good with God.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Promises

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:10-12
 
In recent years, my children have come to realize that promises are a big deal. I can tell them directly and explicitly all sorts of things, such as “I’ll be home early today,” “We’ll go to the zoo, or the store this Saturday,” or “You can have a bedtime snack as long as you eat all your food.” Yet these statements never seem to give them the confidence and assurance that they are seeking. To each of these questions and countless more, I’m confronted with a familiar question, “Do you promise, Daddy?”
 
I think my children’s desire for a promise is rooted in their deep desire for assurance that what I’ve said will, in fact, come true.
 
Throughout the Bible we encounter the promises of God, words that have offered comfort, hope, and peace to countless people throughout all of human history. We are told that the Lord will bless His people and through them bring His blessings to the entire world (see Gen. 12:2). We are reminded that the Lord is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble (see Psalm 46:1). And we know that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us (see Deut. 31:6).
 
Yet what we often find in Scripture, such as this passage from Isaiah, is our need for the Lord to reassure us of His faithfulness to the promises He has made. Especially in a world that so often suffers under the crippling weight of injustice, at times it is hard to see the hand of God at work in our midst. We, like my young children, look around us and say, “Lord, do you promise?”
 
When we are invited to have a childlike faith, part of that invitation is to trust in the goodness and love of God just as a child trusts the love and care of their parents. When God promises to lead His children into joy and peace, He does so as a loving father who delights to give good gifts to His children (see Mt. 7:11). As our creator and sustainer, the one in whom we live and move and have our being (see Acts 17:28), we trust that He is strong enough and powerful enough to bring about that which He commands. Even when we don’t understand, even if we aren’t sure how He is going to bring good out of so much pain and tragedy, we must take heart and remember that the word of the Lord never returns empty and always achieves its purpose.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Eternal reward

The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. Revelation 20:12
 
Those saved by grace and faith in Jesus are eternally secure. But, eternal rewards are based on a disciple’s efforts on earth. Disciples who ignore their spiritual opportunities and obligations will miss out on their Lord’s affirmation and remuneration. Those sober saints who take seriously their Savior’s expectations will enter into the joy of the Lord. Christ rewards obedience to Him and faith in Him.
 
Rewards in heaven are meant to be godly motivation. Yes, our first response is to serve Jesus out of love and our overflowing gratitude for His goodness and grace. And it is wise to fear the Lord and allow our holy awe of the Lord to be foundational for our life of faith and works. But there is an end in mind: Jesus wants His children to be devoted and compelled by anticipating His generous gifts.
 
It is a process of renewing your mind with an eternal decision-making filter that facilitates biblical thinking and doing. Ask the Lord in prayer how He wants you to invest your life in others. How does God want you to use your experience, your assets, your time, your money, and your influence for His purposes? In other words, how can you make eternal investments on earth that bear fruit for God’s glory?
 
What you do does not get you to heaven, this comes only by faith in Christ and God’s amazing grace. But what you do after becoming a disciple of Jesus does determine the quality of your eternal experience. The persecuted and martyred in this life have a great reward waiting in the next life. Those who initiate resources and influence on behalf of the poor and needy bring great satisfaction to Jesus which He expresses in bountiful blessings. Indeed, He rewards all those who diligently seek Him by faith.
 
Love God and your reward will be great. Be a faithful witness who plants or waters the gospel of Jesus Christ and you will be rewarded by spending forever with eternally grateful souls. Send your investments ahead to heaven, by aggressively giving it away on earth. Resist; even reject rewards from the culture, so you are positioned to receive Christ’s rewards. Remain faithful to God’s call and look forward to His reward.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

These are my confessions

The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.     Numbers 21:7
 
Confessional prayer is coming clean with God. There is sensitivity to the Spirit that abhors sin and its consequences. It knows it is in need of repentance and forgiveness. Oddly enough, our sin may come on the heels of a great act from the Lord. God may have previously worked mightily in our midst, but we forget to thank Him for His recent past provisions and we rush to judge whether He or others will see us through our uncertain future.
   
We grow impatient when God does not give us immediate results, though we have seen Him work things out beautifully before. Unless we catch ourselves, we spiral down into fearful living. We know in our head that He is faithful, but our heart is drawn away by fear. So, confessional prayer comes full circle and comes clean with Christ. We get honest about our own frustrations, murmuring, and complaining. We take responsibility for our own bad attitudes. We can’t change the other person with whom we have conflict, but by God’s grace, we can change ourselves as the .
   
We may not be able to improve our circumstance for the better, but we can become better by acting as if Almighty God is in control. We can throw ourselves on the need for His mercy and forgiveness. He listens to our contrite prayer of confession. Our sincere pleas to sovereign God solicit Him to forgive our sin, so confession matters. It moves the heart of heaven when He hears your cries. Your prayer of repentance engages God. Your teachable heart is how the Spirit is able to bring about life transformation. There is no need to stay on the treadmill of temptation and tentative obedience. Step off with the Spirit’s help, and run by faith. Lastly, use your confession of sin as an invitation for others to intercede on your behalf.
   
Your prayer of repentance is not reserved for God alone. Accountability grows when we ask for prayer over our awful attitudes. Yes, it is humbling and sometimes humiliating, but the prayers of godly people are levers for the Lord and a surge of the Spirit’s support. Sin loses its grip when you involve praying people over your process of repentance. We do much better when we ask a friend to pray that our lustful looks at an attractive person become glances of admiration and respect. Specific prayers for a marriage that models unselfishness reinforce our role as a faithful husband or a loving wife. Ongoing prayer reinforces our confession. We succeed at resisting sin when we know others are praying for us. We have a much higher probability for change when we confess our sin to God and to the saints who love us too much not to pray for us and hold us accountable.
   
Therefore, pulverize any preoccupation with sin by confessing your need for prayer and accountability. Sin slithers back into its dark corner when exposed by the light of confession and prayer. Reveal your secret sin to somebody you trust. Ask them to pray for you, it facilitates freedom and healing.