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Where Art Thou, Romeo?

I’ve never been a Shakespeare fan.  He is listed as one of the greatest writers of all time, and I just don’t understand anything he says – or what the characters are saying.  We were supposed to read his works in High School, and I say “supposed” because I didn’t.  I just came to class the next day, sat through a lecture spoken in modern English, and I had all I needed.  I get it – Juliet’s lines sound more poetic as written:

How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
The orchard walls are high and hard to climb,
And the place death, considering who thou art,
If any of my kinsmen find thee here.

But people like me just wish she said, “Romeo, I don’t know how you got in here, but if my Dad finds out, you’re dead!”  See how easy that was?  In all sincerity, people get caught up with Romeo and Juliet because of the tension between their families, their forbidden love and what could have been.  The joy they shared in loving one another was so fleeting, and we read it with regret – wishing they had more time.

Joy is one of those Fruits of the Spirit we can’t seem to hold onto.  We have it and then we lose it.  We get married and have great joy, and then we lose it at our first fight.  We wish we had more of it, but it seems the tighter we try to hold onto it the less likely we can contain it.  Something is always stealing it away from us.  Or is it?

We all have experienced natural joy, but it comes and goes because things in this life just don’t last no matter how much we want them to.  Vacations are great, but you eventually have to come back home and face real life.  If we want lasting joy, we have to experience a joy which does not originate in what this world can give us.  Hmmmmmm – where can we find such a joy?

One place is your salvation!  Matthew 13:44 tells us we’ve found a great treasure in Christ.  You can find temporary joy in your own personal pursuits and choosing your own way, but you’ll find lasting joy following His ways and pursuing the passions of God.  Salvation reminds us how much our LORD loves us.  He gave His life for ours, so we can find forgiveness when we repent of our sins.  If you want joy, find it in knowing and experiencing what God has done for you!  Knowing you don’t have to pay for your sins with eternal separation from your Creator should spark a joy in you which cannot be snuffed out because it isn’t dependent on anything except for what has already been accomplished and cannot be changed.

Another place you’ll find lasting joy is in God, Himself!  We lack joy because we found it in other people who failed us, left us or maybe are no longer with us.  No wonder you’re so depressed, and we know you’re depressed because you post about how lonely, sad, confused and bewildered you are on Facebook every 15 minutes!  Just realize, you’re choosing to live that way, but you don’t have to.  Get to know the God you serve, how He loves you and how He is more than enough for you in all seasons of life.

Psalm 43:5

Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Misplaced hope is a joy killer, so find joy in the One who never lets anyone down – God!

It’s time you experienced real joy in the work of Christ in your life and the God you serve!  Stop crying about Romeo and Juliet – it’s just a book!

 

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I Love You like a Headache!

Headaches are the worst – all the throbbing pulsating agony within your head.  There are times nothing you do can make it better.  You take a few Tylenol, rub your temples, or drink some water, but nothing helps.  You can’t concentrate enough to think straight and everything in your life comes grinding to a halt as your head just aches.

It’s amazing how easily we can be taken out of the action.  We may be able to push through other types of pain and stay somewhat productive and functional, but there is always something which pushes the “off” button in our lives.  When that happens, we can’t do what needs to be done.

Here’s a case in point: your ability to love others.  There are some people you love no matter what, but there are other people you won’t love until some condition is met.  Who are these people you have selectively chosen not to love?  They are the ones who have hurt you, let you down, and couldn’t be counted on when you thought you could.  It’s the people who have stabbed you in the back when you thought they were covering it.  The very people who said they would love you, be devoted to you, and be by your side and they weren’t.  There’s something about some people which gets in the way of loving them, and you are turned “off” by them.  You don’t love them, and can’t; or maybe you just won’t!

Do you struggle with this?  If so, your problem is thinking the fruit of the Spirit type love is a natural love, and it isn’t.  Natural love is selective, and available when someone meets your conditions.  The type of love spoken of in Galatians 5:22 is the same love which puts others before yourself, loves your neighbor, and especially……your enemy.  That type of love is not natural. If you want to love as the Bible commands, you will have to strive for a love above and beyond what you are capable of.  The love of Galatians 5:22 is not attainable through your own personal power to love.

When Stephen is stoned in Acts 7:59-60, he prays for God to forgive those who are hurling rocks at him with the intent to kill him.  What kind of extraordinary man prays for those who are putting him to death instead of praying for himself or for the judgment of God on his attackers?  Jesus did the same thing, and since He is our model, it would be wise to follow the model.

I know, I know.  You want to tell me how I don’t understand what people have done to you, and how you just can’t love them.  Here’s your problem, Christian – your model endured far worse than you will ever know and loved enough to die for the sins of those who unjustly accused Him, called for His death, and even those who loved Him but left Him at His darkest hour……….think about it!

The type of love the fruit of the Spirit speaks about can love anyone, no matter what.  If you have people in your life you need to forgive, then do it.  When you can forgive someone, you are freed to love them instead of harboring bitterness, regret, and the pain of the past.  If you want freedom, then ask your LORD to help you forgive them and love them like He does.  You may be amazed at what THAT type of love can do in others and in your own life.

 

What is the Perfect Present?

Woman Opening Red Gift BoxWell, there’s not many more shopping days left until Christmas and people all over are feeling the stress which comes with the self-inflicted demands of finding the right gift.  How much should I spend?  Should I get something practical or merely gratifying?  Does a gift exist which keeps on giving?  This site gives 31 gifts which keep on giving… 31 Gift Ideas – Enjoy! and I have to say that #20 is a real memory maker!

We have to admit, we get caught up during this time of year with buying gifts for so many people who fill our lives.  It’s not something we struggle with all year long, just at this time.  What is the perfect gift?  Really, what we want to know is how to give the best gift ever which eclipses all other gifts that person will get….c’mon, just be honest…it’s true!

As you’re looking for that perfect gift for that special someone, don’t forget the greatest gift you can give all year long but especially at this time of the year – Jesus.

What if we were as determined each day to resemble Jesus to those around us as we are obsessed with finding the right gifts at Christmas?  What if we were so committed to recognizing opportunities to relate who Jesus is?  How about becoming intentional about sharing not only our faith, but our reason for it?  (1 Peter 3:15)

We have devoted so much time to making sure we give the best gift we can give, but it is a temporary gift.  We all know…..nothing lasts forever, let alone its expected lifetime.  Things break, get lost, lose their allure, and they may even be……wait for it……re-gifted!  Yet, the Jesus we each serve never fails, never forsakes, and He is always relevant to what lives need most – salvation.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, and we have the opportunity to share with others our generosity and love which comes in the form of many different types of gifts.  Yet, let’s not forget to give what matters most – Jesus.  He’s a gift which can change a person’s eternity.  He’s a gift which can change the life and outlook of someone today.   More than any temporary gift I can give, Jesus will be a gift which keeps giving again and again to those who receive it – hope, joy, love, salvation – He can give what is needed most!

 

 

The Overcomer

overcomerYet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us – Romans 8:37.

With reading that passage, I can just imagine the mass of believers saying, “Amen!” to this passage and thinking how true it is, but possibly never really experiencing the valid truth of it all.  If I haven’t experienced the overcoming nature, is it because of my circumstances, some person standing in my way, my upbringing, culture, or maybe its not my gift!?!  No matter what the excuse, you’d be wrong whichever way.  To be an overcomer isn’t a matter of what is hindering me as much as it is about who’s enabling me to live in the reality of this passage?

Make a critical decision…..

…..to be an overcomer.  I know, you’re thinking, “Seriously?”  Yes, I’m serious.  To overcome begins with a decision to be what God’s Word says, and in addition to this, you have to make a decision on how you are going to view circumstances.  You can look at all the successful people around you and say they have it easy, or something worked in their favor which is not available to you, but you would be mistaken.  All people face circumstances and those who overcome have chosen, at first, to overcome the issue.  Those who haven’t made a decision to overcome at some point decide to lay down and die…RIP!  Are you a believer who is struggling with living the overcoming life?  If so, you need a new way of thinking through your challenges.  You need to see them not as issues to discourage you, but they can be your greatest motivator.  Maybe you’re not following completely yet, but just keep reading!

Get a Transformed Mind…

…..if you want to start succeeding in faith.  Romans 12:2 tells us this, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  What does this mean?  Well, it’s as simple as being disciplined enough to think……Godly!  If you are praying and wanting God to just drop the overcoming life, or a transformed mind on you then you’re missing your responsibility to have your mind transformed by Him.   You’re going to have to get into God’s Word and spend some time with your LORD in the pages of your Bible and allow that living Word to find a place in your thoughts, heart, and your life.  It will take more than just a five minute prayer life, and you need to start spending some quality time talking and also listening to your Father.  Yes, you need to spend some time communicating with Him, and you’re going to need to draw near to Him, so He can draw near to you.  I can’t imagine hoping a complete stranger who has the keys for my life is actually going to help me if I never develop a relationship with that person, but we do this with God.  We think we are close to Him just because we attend church, or follow some basic Christian disciplines, but we’ve failed to know Him.  Even so, we’ve failed to become known by Him as His child, and His servant.  The more time you spend with God and experience who He is, what He thinks about you and His love for  you, and what His plan is for you…..this will increasingly transform your mind from, “I can’t ever….”, to “With God, all things are possible.”

My Response should be like…

…..King David’s.  He had to come face to face with the champion of the Philistines, Goliath of Gath.  (1 Samuel 17:23-27)  David shows us what the response of an overcomer is and how it is practiced or lived out in our lives.

1.  Overcomers respond to the challenge, not the problem.

How many times has someone said something about someone else and that person, to stand up to what was said, chooses to say something derogatory about that other person?  It’s a real low blow and pretty immature.  David was better than that because the situation wasn’t really about him.  He didn’t respond to Goliath as if he were his problem but as if his words were a challenge to the God of Israel and he was right!  Goliath was challenging God and David knew his God was up for the challenge.  It’s critical how you perceive the problems in your life and how you perceive God.  If all you can do is focus on problems then it’s hard to focus on your God who is up for the challenge.  When obstacles come, the challenge for you is this…..how much do you know God and trust Him to be faithful and able?

2.  Overcomers don’t allow themselves to be shaped by circumstances, criticism, or the opinions of others.

In 1 Samuel 17:28-33 we see David’s older brother, Eliab trying to deflate David’s champion attitude into some kind of defeatist attitude.  He was embarrassing and belittling David and even went as far as questioning his integrity.  In the same way, the enemy is always trying to tear you down, insert doubt, and give you reason to focus on your own powerlessness.  The enemy may be right that you can’t do it on your own, but you aren’t on your own!  We allow others to overly influence us, and we focus on their words rather than God’s Word about us.  When the circumstance or opinions say, “YOU CAN’T!” is when you have to know what God has said and go with that instead.

3.  Overcomers live by what God’s Word says, not by what they see, hear or imagine to be true.

Before David even took up his sling there was a battle of words and Goliath was shouting at the top of his lungs and intimidating the armies of Israel with his boasting.  It was Goliath’s word against God’s Word!  David responded with a word from God…”I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied….”  David didn’t get in a shouting match, He spoke what God put in his mouth to say and then he let the stone fly and God did the rest!  Speak God’s Word over your situation, call on your God to come to your aid, ask Him for insight, help, and strength, and you will see God’s hand move in your life.

4.  Overcomers respond with courage to seemingly impossible challenges.

We each face incredible opportunities that are camouflaged as impossible situations.  Your problems are not unsolvable, impossible, or unfair.  It’s here where your thoughts have the ability to guide you….your thoughts about situations, your thoughts about your God and His love for you, and even God’s availability to you and His ability.  We all have Goliaths, but how are you going to respond?  Each of us can be like David, draw on God’s courage within our spirits and rise to the challenge because God is with us and we never stand alone!