Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Joy of the Lord

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”    Nehemiah 8:10
God’s joy is free and available for all who will receive. The joy of the Lord is limitless. It is like a wellspring of living water that flows forever. You cannot pump it dry. No thirsty soul who has ever tasted God’s joy has been dissatisfied or found their thirst unquenched. The weak soul is rejuvenated under the influence of heavenly joy.  An athletic victory is fleeting, to be enjoyed only so briefly; but the joy of the Lord penetrates the depths of who you are. God’s joy wells up to provide resilience during times of testing. This is the result of tapping into His divine resource. Natural resources deplete over time but the joy of the Lord is infinite. The joy of the Lord also travels way beyond happiness. Happiness is based on your circumstances; joy is based on your faith and relationship with God. Your circumstances will change, and with every change comes the possibility of losing your happiness.
God never changes not. Therefore, the chances of losing your joy are null and void, if you are focused on the Joy-Giver. Just as you depend on the local power company to provide your home with electricity, so the wise follower of Christ looks to God for his provision of joy. God’s joy is ready and waiting to be deployed into your heart. He is not stingy. Go to the eternal dispenser of joy and receive what the world cannot sustain and money cannot buy: the joy of the Lord; it is your strength. So, how can His joy be retained?
The joy of the Lord comes through the channel of faith. This is the coupon you need in exchange for this wonderful prize. Your faith is bolstered and made alive through the word of God. This joyful energy does not come from a cursory reading of God’s word, but rather a reading for understanding, application, and transformation. Joy explodes from the pages of Scripture as we understand our utter dependence on God and His tender compassion and mercy. Your mind is washed of the sin-stained lies of the world, and you begin to believe the truth that you have great significance in God’s eyes. Your exposure to the repetition and teaching of the Bible garners understanding. Your understanding of whom God is and what He has done, and is doing,for you, will cause joy to explode in your heart.
Furthermore, His strength created by His joy will sustain you even in the most difficult of circumstances. Holy Spirit-initiated life-change spews joy over you and everyone around you. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth”(3 John 4). When a more mature Christian witnesses a young believer growing in the faith as a result of their discipleship time, it brings joy. When a spouse experiences unconditional love from their life mate as a result of a divine encounter, it brings joy. Application of God’s word elicits joy.
Lastly, joy comes from celebrating God’s faithfulness. Regularly recall the goodness of God. Once you were blind, but now you see. Your family, your health, your friends, your career, your opportunities, your joy, and countless other blessings are all gifts from God. These precious memories are cause for celebration. This is reason to be joyful. This is the joy of the Lord. This is the source of your strength. Be joyful in Jesus, so you can be strong in your Savior.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My thinking His mind

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8
God’s will does not always make sense. It may not make sense because we factor in our own understanding. If left to our understanding, we would be miserable. There is a greater pool of knowledge reserved for us in Christ. Do not underestimate its value and availability. It is valuable because of the divine direction that can save us from running down paths that waste our time and the time of others. God’s way may not make sense now, but it will later. His thoughts and ways are easily accessible by faith.
Faith is our constant connection to God-thinking, but we struggle with this because we have been programmed differently. Some of us wrongly think we don’t deserve God’s grace, so we don’t feel the need to receive it. We cannot, however, live the Christian life without the grace of God. God’s way is the grace way. We give Him glory and He gives us grace. We give Him praise and He gives us peace. We give Him worship and He gives us confidence. This is the way of God. He created the original “road less traveled.” Avoid the mindless masses and follow God. His ways may not be the most popular, but they are the most productive. His thoughts transcend our thoughts.
God-thinking takes discipline. This temporal world does not necessarily reward eternal thinking. In fact, it may punish you for thinking God-thoughts. You think people outside of Christ are lost in their sins and hell-bound; the world thinks you are narrow in your thinking. Yet these are Jesus’ thoughts. This is not popular thinking, and may be not practical, but it is true. As a follower of Christ, you can think God-thoughts. You can think like God because you have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16).
Your conversion experience infused you with a new worldview. No longer are you limited by what you can do, but by faith, you anticipate what God can do through you. Instead of thinking self-centered thoughts, you focus on God-centric thinking. When you think like Jesus, you do not have to be in control. You trust Him to handle people and circumstances in His timing. This is tapping into the mind of Christ to renew your thinking on a moment-by-moment basis. God-thinking is only a faith-step away.
The mind of Christ gives you an advantage. You do not have to think inaccurate thoughts. Zealous ignorance tears down, while passionate truth-thinking builds up. Test what you believe and see if it withstands the scrutiny of critical thinking (Acts 17:11), that is, critical thinking based on the Word of God. You may currently believe something that is untrue. You may believe God does not love you and He will not forgive you. This is not true. He loves you right where you are, and wants His very best for you. God’s best is best. Why settle for anything less?
Think God-sized thoughts, and expect God-sized results. Make His ways your ways, and incorporate His thinking into your thinking. It may seem peculiar at first, and others may label you as strange, but you know better. This is right-thinking. And when your thinking is right, you can’t go wrong.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Spiritual Amnesia

Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 2 Peter 1:12-15
As human beings, we are forgetful people. We’re prone to forget important events like birthdays and anniversaries, and I’m sure we’ve all, at one time or another, turned the house upside down looking for a lost wallet or set of keys. While these kinds of mistakes may be embarrassing or frustrating, the consequences are relatively small. What’s far more costly and significant is spiritual amnesia.
Spiritual amnesia is something that every single person is vulnerable to and must learn to defend against. If, as the old hymn says, we are “prone to wander,” in our spiritual lives we are also “prone to forget.” This is why in just a few short verses Peter three times encourages his readers to remember the ways of the Lord and the hope that we have in Christ. He is fully aware of the fact that, though our intentions may be good and sincere, without a consistent rhythm of prayer, worship, and study, our thoughts and lives turn away from the things of God and turn instead to the countless things that vie for our attention.
Did you notice how Peter prays that they would “be able at any time to recall these things?” There is a profound lesson for us in this phrase. We must learn to be people who trust in God and live lives that look like Jesus at all times and in all places. Following Jesus isn’t just for Sunday services, small group studies, or early morning devotions. It is also for office break rooms, soccer fields, and grocery stores. This is the heart of Peter’s prayer: his desire is that we would be so deeply formed in the ways of Jesus that in life’s greatest joys and darkest fears, in the most sacred of moments and those that seem unbearably mundane, we would recall in our minds and know deep in our bones that God is good, faithful, and true.
The Lord is knocking at the door of your heart, today, right here and right now. He desires deeply to fill you with his joy and peace. Do you hear him?
Protect yourself today from spiritual amnesia and learn to encounter the Lord afresh in every area of your life

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Bridge building

Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.     2 Samuel 14:14
Sometimes, people do dumb, stupid, and even shameful things. Their unwise choices may have inflicted great harm and even compounded into calamity and crisis. They are foolish because they chose to inflict pain when they knew better. Sin has caused them to suspend their good sense and Biblical worldview for a season. It is a season of misery and messiness. They are confused, alone, and humiliated.
However, they may not be at a point where they’re ready to admit their mistakes, but deep down in their soul there is a wondering of how much they have disappointed God and those who love them the most. They feel confused, for sin does complicate matters. And now they are caught in a web of deceit that will not let them go. They have lost perspective and seem to be swirling down into a spiritual and a relational vortex. Not only are they estranged from their loved ones; they are estranged from their heavenly Father.
Separation from God is a lonely place. You can know for certain that your estranged loved one is conflicted, confused, and bitter. It is the love of God and your love that will bring them back to their senses. Sin has confused them and they have lost their bearings, but you know the way. It may take a third party to counsel you and coach you through this process of reaching out, but do not underestimate the effectiveness of your ability to build a relational bridge.
Relational bridge-building is not easy, and it takes time. But it can become necessary to woo the wandering one back home. Yes, they have made their bed, and now they are sleeping between its twin sheets of fear and insecurity. However, the bridge you are building leads to a bed of acceptance and peace. This current war of words is in need of a cease-fire. No one wins in a vicious and venomous volley of blame. Instead, a bridge-builder prays; he prays to first be changed. They accept blame and replace perceived rejection with action-oriented acceptance. A bridge-builder calls, writes, and sends gifts of encouragement and even takes the initiative to over-communicate. A bridge-builder seeks to understand and then love the estranged one at their point of need.
Maybe your child is living with an undesirable roommate. Reach out and get to know this person who is negatively influencing your son or daughter. By God’s grace, become the influencer of the influencer. Invite them into your home and love them to God. Let your home become a magnet of grace that draws them into a reminder of what’s good and right.  The bridge you build may not be crossed immediately. But just its presence speaks volumes to your availability, care, and compassion. One day, circumstances will unravel for your estranged loved one. When it does, you want your bridge of love and acceptance staring them right in the face. Stay faithful as a relational bridge-builder, just as the cross of Christ is God’s bridge to you. The cross you bear is your bridge to broken people. So, continue to pray and pursue this Christ-honoring outcome.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Simple prayer

When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Matthew 6:7-8

I believe the Lord teaches us profound truths about life and faith through our children, especially when they are young. If you are a parent or have spent any time around children, you know this to be true. At times, without even knowing it, in a single sentence they can speak a deeper truth about God than an entire sermon or book on the same topic.

In my own life, my children have taught me a great deal about how to approach God in prayer. Prayer for them is never a display of the sincerity of their piety or the depths of their Biblical knowledge. Prayer is instead the simple request from the heart of a child, offered to a heavenly Father that they believe and know hears them, loves them, and desires a relationship with them. They also remind me of the profound truth of Jesus’s words in Matthew 6: God knows the needs and desires of our hearts before we ever speak a single word.

The Lord knows us and loves us more than we even know and love ourselves. The concerns, burdens, bruises, and hurts that we carry with us are already known by a God who deeply desires to wash our wounds and heal us from the inside out. Your connection to God in prayer is never based upon the eloquence or length of your prayers but upon the fact that God is a loving Father who has called you His son or His daughter.

Prayer is never a transactional agreement but is always an exchange of love where we encounter the goodness and faithfulness of God and we in turn respond with a renewed, childlike faith.

When you pray, remember that you are first and foremost entering into a relationship in which you are loved and learn to love in return. This will forever free you from the pressure to impress the Lord with persuasive, articulate, or extensive prayers. Come instead with a simple faith that always remembers that the Lord knows your needs before you even ask.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you. 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Every new year, we find ourselves filled with ambitions and dreams for the year ahead. During this first week each year countless individuals set goals for themselves in hopes of improving and bettering their lives. Common resolutions include eating healthy, exercising more, getting out of debt, or taking up a new hobby. 

If you’re anything like me, your ambition for these resolutions/goals greatly exceeds what you’re actually able to accomplish. I’ll set a dozen highly ambitious goals and faithfully pursue them for a few weeks, but by the time March rolls around I can barely remember what those goals even were or I have given up on them cause my hear got bigger than my ability. Perhaps you can relate.

As we look to the Scripture today, we’re confronted with a rather unusual resolution. We’re told to be ambitious, yet our ambition is to pursue a peaceful and quiet life. What a paradox On the one hand, we’re told to have great ambition, to strive and seek after the goal set before us. Yet unlike virtually all other resolutions, our ambition is directed towards a calm and gentle spirit that finds peace in the simple and the ordinary.

At the root of our ambition we often find discontent. We are unhappy with our lives, our health, or our jobs, so we seek new ways to expand our identities or enhance our lifestyle. Yet so often this striving fails to deliver what it promises, and instead of finding contentment and peace, we find ourselves stuck in a vicious cycle of unrest and anxiety.

This year, I challenge each of us to make one very simple yet profoundly radical resolution: be content to live a quiet life.

Look for ways to find peace and joy in who God has made you to be. Encounter His blessings in small and simple ways, finding satisfaction in His presence and in time spent with those you love. Free yourself from the pressure to perform, to land your dream job, or to have a perfect body. Instead, take time this year to ambitiously pursue the peace and contentment that comes from leading a quiet and simple life with God and others.