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!

 

Yeah, but is He any good?

good-or-badI’m Italian, and I let everyone know wherever I go (just ask anyone who has met me).  Naturally, I love Italian food, and is it because I’m Italian?  Sure – whatever, but it’s also because Italians do everything the best (did I mention we have serious pride issues??).  So, whenever someone says to me that an Italian restaurant is good,and as I’m nodding, smiling, and seem moved by such a glowing review, I’m thinking deep down, “Yeah, but is it any good?”  In this case, I know this person, and I know what they think is good, and their standard may not be my standard for authentic Italian food.  I know what my tastes are and what my standards are, so is this place going to meet my expectations?  Hmmmm, I’m not so sure.  Never mind that my standard of expectations may be completely flawed, and the food is actually good.

People are such skeptics even when they think they are very open-minded. Many times we aren’t.  We seem to be easily driven to decision by what others say.  Sometimes its based on what I know about you because I know what you like, and it isn’t what I like, so a decision is made to reject what you just said.  Other times, we place so much value in the position of those we don’t even know.

For instance, there is a famous app on most people’s phones where they can leave reviews about basically any registered business.  Generally, people leave negative reviews.  We  are eager to complain while keeping praise to ourselves.  So, a new Italian restaurant opens up, and I look them up and there are a few bad reviews, and I decide to pass.  Based on what?!?  The statements of people I don’t even know.  The next time someone looks at you puzzled, its because you, me, them, someone…..just doesn’t make a lot of sense sometimes.  Well, maybe a lot of times!

Jesus is surrounded by skeptical thoughts and notions too.  People have formulated their opinions about who Jesus is, what He did, and even where He is right now based on the thoughts or ‘educated’ opinions of those they know or don’t know.  They’ve heard positive things about Him and they wonder, “Yeah, but is He any good?”  Basically, will He fit my definition of good?  They’ve heard negative statements about Him, and they’ve rushed to a judgment of, “Yep….that’s what I thought!”  Either way, they haven’t taken the time to know Him themselves, and that’s a problem.

Psalm 34:8 states an important truth – “Taste and see that the LORD is good.”  When it comes to everything in life, you can’t have an opinion on what you haven’t experienced.  If you have a non-experiential opinion, its merely based on the tastes of someone else.  If you want to know what Jesus is all about then you have to come experience Him for yourself.  This verse tells us we will discover He is good when we experience Him.

I know, I know, I know….you’re thinking…”But, there are people who went to church all their life and now they don’t.  What does that say about Jesus?”  Did I also mention how particular Italians are?  Something can be good, but we will nitpick on this or that and what could have been done better when in all reality, it is good just how it is.  So, what a statement like that says about Jesus is this: it means Jesus didn’t suit their tastes, but that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong, or false, or misstated about Jesus as God’s Word has stated.

Here’s something to think about – just because someone says something is wrong doesn’t mean anything is actually wrong, it just may be wrong in their own mind according to their own personal preference.  Let’s be freed from giving greater place to the words of short-term human beings and listen to what the infinite, eternal God who sent His Son to die for our sins and be raised to life is saying to us.  People need to receive His Word, live by it and they will see their personal preferences are misleading, but He is good and worth following after.

The facts are the facts – people reject Jesus for the same reason they do good Italian food – personal preference, but that is never a good reason to reject what is good!

 

Is my love bound to fail?

heart treeI recently was scrolling through the internet and came across a post stating this, “Love (God’s love) never fails.”  Of course, this is based on 1 Corinthians 13:8, and I was not in disagreement with the statement, but did not think it spoke of the entirety of the case.  For me, you can say something and imply something else whether you’ve meant to or not.  In this case, I felt it would leave people with this conclusion:  God’s love is the only love which cannot fail.  The problem with this thinking is love has been reduced to something God does better than anyone else rather than understanding love is a quality of God’s nature (1 John 4:8).  It becomes a matter then to what capacity can I take on the nature of God in regards to love.

First off, Paul has begun this section speaking of the need to possess love or else tongues, prophecy, knowledge and even having great faith or giving to the poor will have little value.  The problem in Corinth was the believers there placed more emphasis on the gifts than on love.  If Paul is exhorting them to love then surely he isn’t encouraging them to love within the capacity of normal fallen human love!  It would be difficult to make the point that Paul was encouraging them to love in a way which was anything but how God has loved each of us.

A quality of real, authentic love is its unfailing nature.  It is not a quality of godly love to fail although it is a quality of earthly love to fail.  Just because the believer is in the world, he is not of the world, and since his love must follow a pattern…..it should be the pattern of God’s love.  What this means is I may be here on earth, but my love does not have to be reduced to the limited love demonstrated here.  Ask yourself this….earthly fathers will not withhold anything from their children.  If their child has a need, or they have something in their possession which would benefit their children then a good father will give it.  If we are God’s children, will He not also give to us what we need, and even more than this, as children, we begin to take on His character.  If His character is the basis of love, my character can also change to resemble His.  (Matt. 7:11; Romans 12:2)  If we are having difficulty understanding this concept then we have overlooked the transformative power salvation has within the lives of those who are truly saved.

But isn’t it impossible for us to love the way God loves because we are human and fallen?  If this was even remotely true then why would Jesus say to His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:34)  It seems unlikely that  Jesus, who loved perfectly since He is God in the flesh, would command error-prone men to love as He loves them if it were not possible for them to actually succeed.  After all, if they did not love one another as Christ loved them (and this applies to the present church) the world would have a difficult time knowing they were His disciples.  Love would characterize them as His disciples.

We do have the capacity, as the children of God who have been transformed by salvation, to love as God loves, and we are commanded to do it.  Our thinking that we have no ability to love as God has loved us probably stems from a misunderstanding of what genuine love is.  We can make excuses for why we don’t, won’t, or can’t possibly love certain people or decide to obey the LORD’s command, and love one another as He has first loved us.  If He told us to do it, then it isn’t impossible, but we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

I love you…..sometimes

sometimesWhen was the last time you looked deep into the eyes of that someone special and said to them, “I love you,” followed by a confident, “….sometimes?”  That may sound strange, but I’ve often heard people say they don’t feel ‘in love’ with someone all the time.  I think its easy to miss the idea of love when we think we of it in terms of feelings.  Love is more than a feeling, and it must become part of who we are.  This is the case to be made – If God is love then His character establishes love and since God can never change His mind then He is always love.  Since this is the truth, and we are His children, then shouldn’t love become a quality characterizing our lives?  I believe it should.

Bearing the image of love….

…..is an idea Paul speaks about in Colossians 3.  He says in vs. 14 that we are to ‘put on love.’  Have you ever noticed whatever someone puts on is clearly visible to everyone around them?  That’s obvious enough!  It’s impossible to wear an outfit and then keep it hidden from everyone…..unless you cover it up with something else.

Not to make love sound superficial, but it must be something we wear so others take notice of its appearance on us.  It shouldn’t be something which is hard to spot about us….it should be clearly evident we know love (God (1 John 4:8), the salvation of Jesus               (1 John 4:9)) and we express love (obedience to Him (1 John 1:3), service in His Name (1 John 1:6)).   There’s a way love acts, and the previous verses (Colossians 3:12-13) illustrate the expressions love binds together, or in other words, those expressions which show a person is wearing love.  If God is love then His people must be like Him.

If we have to debate with someone that we are, in fact, loving, then we may not be wearing it, but covering it up and masking it.   It is not possible for us to satisfy our consciences by wearing love with some people and not wearing it with others who we feel don’t deserve it.  1 John 2:9 contradicts this thought that we can love one person and not another while still being obedient to resemble God’s likeness.  Think of it this way, it is easy to love those who do good things for you but where is the reward in loving those who are so kind?  (Matthew 5:43-48)  Loving the people who are nice to you comes natural to anyone.  You may even love those closest to you, but who doesn’t do that?  If we are able to justify loving those who are good to us, or those we find agreeable then love has been reduced to mere feelings.  We have not understood the concept from Paul of wearing love.  Love isn’t a matter or reciprocation.  It isn’t just reserved for those we find deserving.  The love of a believer has to stand out from the same-old, same-old love we find in the world, and this was the point Jesus was trying to make here.  Our love has to exceed the worldly form of love because God’s love is not expressed merely to those who love Him.  We know God loved all, even those who hated Him, and He sent Jesus so those who rejected Him could have the opportunity to receive Him.  This is not a love which only loves those who have shown some kind of benefit first so as to deserve love back.

When I wear something, everyone sees it.  Even people I don’t know on the street are seeing what I’m wearing.  People I don’t readily agree with see what I’m wearing.  Those who have hurt me see what I’m wearing.  People who don’t deserve to see such a great outfit will see what I’m wearing.  This is what happens when I put on love and wear it.  Those who have hurt me, forsaken me, cursed me, ridiculed me, embarrassed me, showed kindness towards me, helped me, and those who encouraged me —- everyone gets the same treatment….LOVE!  This may be hard for us to get deep within ourselves, but it has to be in us and on us.

If you are having a difficult time loving others then I would remind you of Jesus who loved deeply those who ridiculed Him while He was on the cross.  He loved them so much, He stayed on the cross, died for their sins, and rose three days later.  If Jesus, our Savior and model, could put on love as God is love, then we can too!  For those of you who cover love up with something else and put on unforgiveness, bitterness, argumentativeness, and resentment, take some time today to ask God to forgive you for covering up the love you’re supposed to put on  and display to all.  Ask Him to help you to love as He loves, and if you are sincere, God will help you become like Him!

I May Be Down, but I’m Not Out!

sickBeing sick is never convenient.  It slows us down and can knock us out of our daily routine.  We get sick, but we have deadlines to meet, problems to solve, and a life to live….we don’t have time for being sick!  I don’t get sick often, and I won’t allow it to knock me out of my routine completely.  It’s rare for me to confine myself to bed for rest since it’s impossible to rest while thinking about all I need to do.  I’ll do whatever I have to do to fight through it and stay productive.

Sickness never comes at an opportune time, right?  I mean, no matter what stage life is at, or what there is to do, being sick is a big inconvenience whose occurrence some other time wouldn’t be any better except that it wouldn’t be happening now.

Our struggle with difficulties is much like struggling with sickness.  It has the ability to knock us down, but it doesn’t have to knock us out.  So, how do we ensure we can stay standing when life hits us hard and unexpectedly?

Keep following the doctor’s orders…

We generally only go to the doctor when we do get sick, and he will tell us what we need to do, and we will do that for a time but then begin to slack off.  For instance, I’ve been told to take Vitamin D, especially during winter months, because we generally aren’t exposed to the sun as much as we are in the summer.  Being in the sun helps produce vitamin D in the body….or something like that I’ve been told.  So, if I would take Vitamin D all year long, my immune system would be stronger, and I wouldn’t get sick as often.  That makes sense.  Rather than take something only when I’m sick, I can follow the doctor’s orders and take some preemptive steps to combat sickness.

Ephesians 6:10 says ‘Be strong in the LORD.’  It basically means to follow the doctor’s orders by staying connected with Him.  Our lives easily start to spin out of control, and we begin to feel beaten down and ready to give up due to a coming knock out when we fail to remain in His presence, under His influence, and following His ways.  If you’re not following me, what I’m trying to say is this – the believer is capable when he is connected with God because God is able.  Don’t wait for your life to get difficult before crying out to God and then when all is well to settle into your old ways until you need Him to bring health back to your life because you’re spiritually sick.  If we would stay connected to Him and abide in Him, we would still face difficulties which may get us down but would be unable to knock us out because He is close and always available to strengthen us.

A daily dose of what you need the most….

Your body is able to stay healthier when it has the proper amount of vitamins, nutrition, and water in your system.  Even drinking 8 glasses of water a day boosts your immune system.  If we want to keep our spiritual lives boosted, so we can stand up under the most incredible pressures in life, we understand what Paul says next in verse 10, ‘and in his mighty power.’

Your not able to live the life of a believer without the strength of God.  Compared to God, we have little strength and life stretches us beyond our limits.  It’s here where are limits are reached that God shows He is limitless by giving us the strength to get up and keep pressing on…..we may go down momentarily, but we aren’t out by any stretch of the imagination.  When I can’t, He can.  When I come to the end of myself, I have found the beginning of Him.  When I feel as if the way ahead is too difficult, He bears the burden as I give it to Him.

Maybe the pressures, difficulties, and perceived impossibilities are slowing you down and you feel as if they are about to knock you out.  Right now, and every day from this point forward, seek the LORD and keep connected with Him and draw on His strength.  Be encouraged by His promises, and trust in Him.  Then, when life becomes more settled, stay connected and keep depending on Him and rather than get knocked out, you’ll be able to press on!

What Are You Running From?

runningPeople around you get comfortable with who you are.  They know what to expect out of you and whatever that is they find it acceptable because they call you their friend. People can handle small incremental changes to who you are.  They won’t sweat the small stuff like you deciding you’d rather have your eggs over easy instead of scrambled from now on, or when you decide to grow a beard (men) or get 3 inches cut off your long hair (ladies….well, maybe some guys too!).  See, no one is alarmed by these small incremental changes in preference.  What changes this delicate balance in a relationship is when you become saved which brings a radical change to who you are, how you live, and what is now your primary motivator in life – Jesus.

No doubt, salvation has the ability to cause those around us who are not saved to wonder what we are running from, but in reality we are also running towards something new, as well.

Salvation directs me to….

run from evil desires.  2 Timothy 2:22 specifically says, ‘Flee the evil desires of youth…’ Timothy is a somewhat young minister who has been trained by Paul, and I believe Paul is addressing the need for him to be aware of the trapping associated with being younger.  Yet, this can’t be all Paul means.  It seems just as clear that evil desires are for the immature, those who don’t want to grow up (come to grips with Jesus), and who want to do their own thing and be rebellious.  Sin is nothing to be proud of and as people who have been created by God, for God, it is just immature of us to continue living so willfully in it.  Those who allow sin to run rampant in their lives are like undisciplined children who think nothing of consequences or what tomorrow brings.  They have no mind for what is important or essential and everything, possibly including their own lives, is expendable because like children, they fail to see worth in life, or what is worthy in life.

The believer must be living a life that is running from sin (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:3-6; Revelation 22:12-16).  Colossians 2:21 says of the principles of this world (in other words….sinful practices) “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”  Believer….what are you running from?  Your answer should be from an immature desire to rebel against God and live in sin which will not only corrupt this life, but will destroy the next.

Salvation directs me to…

pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the LORD out of a pure heart.  (2 Timothy 2:22)  What this means is you must:

…….Run after what God applauds.

If we want our lives to please God then we must be saved, but the evidence of this salvation begins to manifest itself in where I seek approval.  Part of the reason people are caught up in sin is they seek the approval of those who do as they do.  As a child of God you should be seeking the approval of your Father – God Himself.  The way we do this is by having righteousness imparted to us through Christ, like Abraham we believe God’s Word to us and have faith in Him so He can declare us righteous, and our whole being is shaped by the right pursuits – faith, love peace.  We have faith in Him, we love what He loves (especially loving Him), and we live at peace with one another.  At peace with one another does not mean to accept sin in others lives, or to stand idly by as they run from the LORD (Ephesians 4:1a; Luke 17:1-4).

……..Run with the right crowd.

Paul tells Timothy in this verse to make this godly pursuit ‘along with those who call on the LORD out of a pure heart.’  What this means is you aren’t meant to pursue Him alone, but He’s given you brothers and sisters in the LORD to run with.

If you want to pursue the LORD, what better way to do this than around others with the same heartfelt pursuit?  I doubt those around you who don’t know Him are spurring you on to live for the LORD, quite the contrary as they have no mind for what He cares about.  I’m not saying you should spend time exclusively with other believers.  If we were all to do this, we would not be effective in our mission to touch the lost with the Truth of Christ.  Yet, we need others who are likeminded in their pursuit of God as we are to help us continue seeking what is right in His eyes.

What are you running from?  Sounds like you’re missing out on something…..doesn’t it?  The only thing the believer is missing out on is the destructive ability of sin in their lives.  Well, it doesn’t sound so bad now……does it?

Pursue Him…..you won’t be disappointed!

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