Archive for November, 2010

30
Nov
10

just take a deep breath

Ok, everybody take a deep breath and relax. Now one more. Inhale, hold it, hold it, now exhale. It’s about to get really crazy around here. Thanksgiving is over (we survived another one) and the decorating is in process. The Christmas party schedule is kicking into gear and shopping… Oh no, shopping! And then the travel arrangements… How are we going to be everywhere we need to be all at once?

Isn’t it amazing how something designed to give us time off, enjoy our families and friends, reflect on all we have to be thankful for and celebrate our faith produces busier schedules, tension in our homes and extended families, ingratitude over what we don’t have and less attention to the precious faith we share?

Maybe the best thing we can do after we take that deep breath is remember the invitation we are given by our Father to “be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) In verse one, the Psalmist reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength.” So how do we take advantage of that promise?

First, and this is foundational to all that follows, we must make the time to acknowledge God and draw strength from him through regular worship, both public and private.

Next, there must be a deliberate plan on our part not to give in to the lust of consumerism/commercialism. Hebrews 13:5 is clear: “Be content with what you have.”

Then, we must remember we are called to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2) – even Uncle George!

Finally, we have to keep our eyes fixed “on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) Did you know that more people suffer from depression during the holidays than any other time of the year? You know why? Unrealistic expectations. We are looking for human relationships, past or present, or some event to satisfy that empty place in our hearts only Jesus can fill.

So, take one more deep breath and, while you’re doing it, ask Jesus to be Lord of your holiday.

23
Nov
10

thankful

Have you ever noticed how people tend to gravitate towards being negative? Try this sometime. Stand in front of a group of people and begin to write mathematic equations on a white board – “2+2=4, 4+3=7, 5+3=9”. Inevitably, someone will stop you there. “5+3 does not equal 9, it equals 8,” they will “helpfully” point out. Why is it that no one will praise you for the ones you got right, but they will immediately point out your mistakes? It is because we tend to gravitate towards negative feelings and emotions. We see it in how quickly we allow our attitude to be affected by negative circumstances or bad news. We’re kind of like the pessimist who commented that being a pessimist means he’s always right or pleasantly surprised.

Maybe that’s why the Scripture is so adamant about us being thankful. Paul doesn’t pull any punches when he writes, “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, emphasis added) That kind of attitude does not just happen. It is a predetermined course of action on our part. It must be planned for and executed with resolute tenacity if we are to maintain this posture of thankfulness in every situation of life. It requires not just one day a year dedicated to this theme, but a lifestyle in which we are constantly rehearsing the blessings of God upon our life, going over them again and again in our mind if necessary. We cannot dwell on the setbacks but, instead, we must simply acknowledge that God is at work in our life and he will take those setbacks and supernaturally turn them into significant moments of spiritual growth and blessing in our life every time.

So go ahead and have a great Thanksgiving Day/Life!

16
Nov
10

let me prove it to you

I love it when God proves himself in my life. I am usually totally surprised when he does, like he has never done it before or something, but he just continues to lavish his love upon me anyway.

He said he would. In Malachi 3:10 God lays down the challenge by daring us to “Test (him)”, and then he adds, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” The New Living Translation renders it this way: “Try it! Let me prove it to you!”

All of this is based on our response to his direction in our life, but anything he asks us to do is for our benefit (i.e., our spiritual and emotional development). Which is why David could emphatically declare, “Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!” (Psalm 34:8)

So where is God challenging you to “test him”? What act of obedience is he continuing to prod you toward in your life? What is keeping you from responding? Is it unwillingness to submit and obey? If so, then you need to repent and stop resisting the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.

For most people reading this blog the hang up is fear. What are we afraid of, that God is not big enough to handle the problem? Oh, I know, God doesn’t love you enough to take care of your need – right? Or is it that he just doesn’t understand all the pressure you’re faced with, is that it?

Of course I’m being facetious, but hopefully I am causing you to stop and think about how debilitating irrational fear can be and how utterly foolish it is to not trust God completely with our lives. So why not let God “prove it to you!”

10
Nov
10

better

Life is easy when the choices are black and white. When it’s a matter of simple right versus wrong we seldom have to give any extra thought to what our choice is going to be.

But what about when it’s a matter of good versus best? That’s where we tend to agonize in our decision-making process.

An example is found in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. King Saul, the first king of Israel, is given a choice between what God told him to do through the prophet Samuel, or doing what he thought was best. It seemed like a no-brainer. The prophet spoke very clearly with specific instructions that left no doubt what Saul was to do. Saul, however, began to rationalize rather than simply obeying what he had been told to do and, as a result, God removed his blessing from Saul’s life and eventually replaced him as king. The choice Saul made seemed like a good one to him and some of those around him. On the surface it even appeared to be very spiritual. In reality it was very religious but not spiritual at all, and there is a big difference. Religion can best be defined as humankind’s attempts to get to God. It is based upon our effort and limited understanding. We see this in Saul’s response to Samuel’s rebuke. Basically Saul said, “I know what you said God told me to do, but I came up with a better plan. What you told me to do didn’t make as much sense as my plan.” Samuel’s response can be found in 1 Samuel 15:22: “Obedience is far better than sacrifice.”

I don’t know about you, but I have to relearn this principle regularly in my life. God speaks to me through his word, through one of his servants or through his still small voice in my heart and I think, “Well, that’s a good idea, but if I did this instead…” and immediately I miss out on the blessing God has for me that comes from simply doing what he said. However, every time I simply obey I sense his pleasure and enjoy his favor as a result of following the instruction he has given me.

So what’s God saying to you?

03
Nov
10

training wheels

What was the scariest day of your life? For most of us it wasn’t a real life threatening situation like being dropped into a combat zone or being told that, due to some illness, we only had a few weeks to live.

For most of us it was more along the lines of the first day of kindergarten or having the training wheels taken off our bike. Remember that? Seems inconsequential now, but then… a whole different story! The thought of “graduating” to a new level of freedom was tempered by emotion that ranged somewhere between mild anxiety and sheer terror. All of the emotion revolved around the uncertainty of how bad the wreck was actually going to be. Some of us embraced the challenge, albeit, reluctantly, while others of us had to be “coerced” into this “new experience” by whatever means available.

Regardless of our level of enthusiasm for this new phase of life, when it was all over and the scrapes and bruises were healed, we were glad we had accepted the challenge and pressed through the adversity because our whole paradigm for life changed. We were now “big kids”, ready for the next adventure and challenge that life would present. We learned a valuable lesson about facing our fears and pressing through our anxiety in order to gain the reward waiting for us on the other side of the obstacle to be overcome.

I wonder how often God smiles reassuringly upon us, the same way our earthly father did when we were learning to ride our bikes, when we are anxious about some life experience? I wonder what our response is going to be like in Heaven when someone asks us about some “traumatic” life experience we had here on earth? It might go something like, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.” That must have been what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)