THANKSGIVING WITH GRATITUDE

It’s that time of year when an abundance of food is prepared and we stuff ourselves beyond our waistband.  Admit it, you unbutton that waistband or you wear elastic on Thanksgiving!  We enjoy our time with our families and friends, although this year may be different for us.  The name of the day isn’t “turkey day” but Thanksgiving day.  We need to get back to what this day should celebrate.  Not that I’m ready to give up my elastic band day at all.  I love to eat and enjoy food with others.  So what does it mean to get back to Thanksgiving?

I’m sure there have been times when you have gone around the table and asked everyone to share something for which they are thankful.  This is a great exercise and opportunity to discuss what God has done for you during the year.  Perhaps you’ve been at the table and someone takes what you were going to say.  You’re getting nervous trying to think of something else to say.  When it’s your turn you say the first thing that comes in your head.  It may not really be something for which you’ve considered being thankful.  Can you still be thankful for it?  Yes, you can, but this thankfulness doesn’t include gratitude.

Some of you may think I’m splitting hairs here and maybe I am.  I’ve been thinking about what the difference between thanks and gratitude really is.  Each of these words are used in the definition of the other, so they are closely related.  I think that gratitude has more to do with our attitude.  Gratitude is a warm deep appreciation that gives recognition to the value of the gift.  This sounds like an attitude of the heart to me.  I had to ask myself when the last time was that I spent time just really appreciating what God has done and continues to do in my life.  Thankfulness is part of my life but it’s not always accompanied by deep appreciation.  This takes thinking and time.  Most of us move from one thing to another and don’t take time to meditate on those things that give us cause to say thanks.  What am I suggesting?

David says in Psalm 143:5, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.”  To meditate on something means to think deeply and carefully about it.  The result of meditating on all God has done is gratitude.  This is an attitude of our heart.  When we take the time to meditate, what flows out of us is thankfulness motivated by deep gratitude. motivating it.  Our thankfulness becomes deeper than words on a page.  Listing things we are thankful for is both good and needful. The purpose of the list is to get our mind headed in the right direction toward giving thanks.  However, the list can’t change our attitude until we take time to really chew on what God has done for us.

As we are unbuttoning our waistband, digesting our turkey, and watching football, let’s remember one thing God has done for us this year.  Then let’s meditate on it.  As we do this, we will begin to fill a warm deep appreciation for our God.  He knows each of us intimately so he knows what we need and when we need it.  That truth should bring a deep appreciation to each of us as we meditate on it.

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” Psalm 145:3

IF ONLY I HAD…

The four words, “if only I had” are often said by me, and my guess is by you too.  If only we had $100.00 for every time we said those words.  Whoops, I said them again! J As we look back over our lives and the many interactions we’ve had with others, we can see how we should have responded.  We then tend to rehearse what happened and what could have happened, “if only I had…”  How does God’s sovereignty play into these words?  How do these words cause us to regret?   More importantly, how can God use our regrets for his purposes in our lives?  Let’s explore how looking back over our lives can be a good and bad exercise.

Exploring what’s good and bad about looking back

  1. Looking back can cause us to get stuck in a cycle of regret.  The idea is that of a carnival pony who goes around in the same circle over and over again.   Parents like this because they know their children will be safe.  The truth is these ponies put their feet in the same place as they continue to go around.  They don’t escape the circle until someone pulls the reins and directs them out of it.  That’s what happens to us.  We go over the same thing again and again. This is not really safety for us however, because the product it produces can be anger, worry, depression, or anxiety. For our safety, we need someone to pull on our reins and direct us.  Paul does this in Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”   We must take the reins of our thoughts and turn them upward, rehearsing who God is and what He’s done in our lives.  This will keep us from getting stuck in regret.
  2. Looking back can cause us to blame ourselves for the situation. This happens when we say things like “if only I hadn’t brought the subject up” or “if only I had said this or that” or “if only I had just let her have her way”, etc.  We replay conversations over and over until we think the resulting outcome lands fully in our laps.  But that’s not the truth in the situation.  There are always two sides to a story and we can’t carry someone else’s part.  We can only take care of our own.  “The soul who sins shall die.  The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son.  The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”  Ezekiel 18:20   The Lord makes it clear here that we carry our own sin.  We have to believe the truth of the situation.  The “if only I had” is not a true statement.  Belief in the truth will keep us from blaming ourselves.
  3. Looking back can cause us to live life as a victim. Our minds can be so absorbed with the circumstances of disappointment that we begin to see ourselves as a victim.  When this happens the victim mentality can become our identity.  Our life begins to run through that grid instead of God’s grid.  We are unhappy all the time, because if we’re a victim in this situation, we’ll probably be one in the next situation.  Life becomes about all the wrong that was ever done to us.  Our thinking may be “if only I had stood up for myself”, or “if only that person was not so mean”, or “if only I had told her how I really feel”, etc.  When we won’t let the hurt go but continue the blame game, the hurt is raw and will continue to be so.    “…This I know that God is for me.” Psalm 56:9b  Whatever has happened to us doesn’t take away from the fact that God is for me.  I’m not a victim of the things of this world but am victorious.  “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the word of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:57-58    As followers of Christ, we are in Christ and that’s our identity.  We need to live in belief of the victory we have in Christ.  Living and working for the Lord will keep us from living as a victim.

In the future when you and I say the words, “if only I had”, I hope we will remember these things and look to the Lord for help.  So what’s the good about looking back?  It gives us the opportunity to trust God with our past and our hurt.  We can learn from our past to practice a greater trust in the future.  All life is about God and his glory.  This is very important for us to remember so that we don’t say, “if only I had been more aware of God.”  Let’s change now– looking forward without regret!

WHEN OUR DREAMS GO UP IN SMOKE!

Don’t you just love how God has given each one of us a brain!  The brain is a magnificent creation.  Learned doctors can’t figure it out.  The more they study it, the more amazed they are at the capacity of it.  The following definition for the brain is from the mayfairclinic.com.

“The brain is an amazing three-pound organ that controls all functions of the body, interprets information from the outside world, and embodies the essence of the mind and soul. Intelligence, creativity, emotion, and memory are a few of the many things governed by the brain.”

Our brains have a lot to do each and every day to keep us alive and functioning in this world.  God created them to do just that, but that’s not all.  Notice that the definition includes creativity.  I’ve never been one to claim I’m creative.  In fact, my first homemade Christmas cards were made of construction paper!  Who does that?  But I digress.  Anyway, this creativity, along with our intellect is used to dream about our futures.  We can go over and over in our minds where we would like to be in five, ten, or twenty years.  However, these dreams don’t always become reality.

David writes in Psalm 37:25a, “I have been young, and now am old,”

When we are young, we dream about the future.  Some of our dreams may include college, career, husband, children, a home, finances, etc.  Of course, every category we dream about has sub-categories within it.  Dreaming and planning for our future is not a bad thing.  In fact, to plan is a good gift God has given us to use our brains to do.  But, the problem comes in when those dreams don’t become a reality.  If we have idolized our dreams and they don’t come to fruition, how do we handle it?

Notice that David tells us that now he is old.  It’s when we get older that we have a tendency to look back at our dreams and see how many of them failed.  There are many of us who can look back and marvel at the things the Lord did in spite of us.  I consider my position at the church to be a gift of God that I never dreamed would happen.  There are personal dreams for me that have missed the mark, some of my own choosing, and others are the results of someone else’s choice.  But in all of these shattered dreams, there is hope because God is at work.  As we take the time to look back, we need to consider the other things David says here.

“I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.  He is ever lending generously and his children become a blessing.” Psalm 37:25-26

In these verses we see how we are to look back and observe God’s care of us regardless of our dreams.  God is faithful and true; our dreams are not.  Our perspective needs to have God at the center, not our dreams.  There can be a tendency to regret and mourn over what we’ve missed in life or didn’t accomplish.  Honestly, we can’t spend too much time doing this because our focus needs to be on what God has done in spite of everything else accomplished or not accomplished.

As we grow older and watch another dream go up in smoke, what will help us?  “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:17 These verses were the inspiration for a poem by C.T. Studd.  He wrote, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”  Our accomplishments of fulfilled dreams in this life will not be placed in our grave with us.  However, all that we do for the cause of Christ and the gospel will go on and on.  My dreams are normally about what I can do or what I would like to have happen for me!  I need to change my dreams to have more to do with the gospel than with me!  That’s the challenge for all of us, isn’t it?

Planning and dreaming are not a bad thing, but we can’t put all our hope in them.  Our plans and dreams will fade but the gospel never will!

Let’s start today to prepare to make every day count for Christ!

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

 

CHURCH FAMILY – PART THREE – PRESSING ON TOWARD MATURITY

Paul to the Philippian church: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Philippians 3:14-16

As the smoke clears, the battlefield comes into view.  It’s littered with shell casings, rifles, barbed wire, and dead bodies.  As we walk around this battlefield, we see two men who died together.  We know this because the one is holding the other’s head to his chest.  They fought together and died together.  These men were brothers in arms, fighting side by side for a common cause.  Their goal was not to die together but to celebrate a victory together.  It’s a sad thing to see, but it gives us a glimpse into the seriousness of war.  The other thing we see is the devotion these soldiers had for each other.  My mind now wanders to the church family and the devotion we are to have for one another. I’m reminded that we are in a battle daily against the devil’s schemes and our own evil desires.  The third verse of “Onward Christian Soldiers” addresses the church. This verse puts into perspective the devotion we are to have for one another.

Like a mighty army, moves the Church of God:

Brothers, we are treading, where the saints have trod;

We are not divided, all one Body we—

One in faith and Spirit, One eternally.

Onward, Christian soldiers!  Marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus, going on before.

(Lyrics:  Sabine Baring-Gould  Music:  Arthur Seymour Sullivan)

As Paul writes to the Philippian church and to us, he calls us to press on together.  In thinking about the battle we are in on a daily basis, we need to come to an understanding of what exactly it means to “press on” toward the goal.  Let’s look at some synonyms of “press on.”

  1. To proceed – As followers of Christ, we are to move forward in our lives toward Christ-likeness. We can’t allow the circumstances of life to stop us from moving on toward the calling God has given us.  This means we are to continue to be faithful in obedience to God’s Word by keeping our eye on the finish line, eternity.  The church family is called to help one another to move forward in their lives.  This means we have to enter into the life of another to encourage them when it’s hard for them to “press on.”
  2. To endure – There’s probably not one person who wants to have to endure the suffering this life has to offer. However, we are called to endure in suffering.  Sometimes we think it may be better to suffer alone, but that’s not church.  We are to share in the sufferings of others by weeping with them, comforting them, and providing practical needs.  Once again, it’s about entering into someone else’s suffering.
  3. To hold on – The ups and downs of this life and the relationships that come with it are hard to face. If we are to “press on” then we have to face them by proceeding and enduring, but how?  We hold on to our God and what we know about him.  Understanding God’s promises and his character needs to be what we grab onto when life is hard.  If we don’t know where to turn, we can remind ourselves of the truth we know about God.  Church, we are to help others to remember the truth about God.  The one who is suffering may need to hold on to you as you point her to the truth.  What a wonderful thing that God gave us the church, the body of Christ, to hold on to.  Be willing to be held by someone or even to carry someone in the effort to “press on.”
  4. To stand firm – Paul reminds us that we are to stand firm in what is the truth. As we “press on” in this life, we are to stand firm in the truth knowing that the truth doesn’t falter.  An important thing we need to do is to be sure of what we believe and walk in that belief.  We can stand firm because Jesus went before us and gave an example of standing in the midst of suffering and conflict.  We can look to his life for help to stand firm.  Remember the church is also a place to look for examples of those who are standing firm in the truth.  We can learn from them by watching how they stand firm and “press on” in the midst of adversity.

Church, we are a mighty army fighting the devil’s schemes and our own evil desires.  We need to be united in the battle.  One day the battle will be over, and we will enter eternity together.  Picture this:  as we leave this life, our head will be held by Jesus close to his chest.  We won’t die alone.  Then when we enter eternity, Jesus welcomes us with open arms.

PRESS ON, DEAR CHURCH—ETERNITY IS COMING!

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” Revelation 21:3-4

 

CHURCH FAMILY – PART TWO – ABOUNDING IN LOVE

Paul to the Philippian church: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11

The holiday movie begins with the small dog bounding through the snow as his owner watches from the picture window, drinking a cup of coffee.  The dog disappears in the deep snow and doesn’t come out.  The owner runs out to save her dog, and, at the same time a man who was walking down the street, saw the dog disappear.  They both ran to save the dog and ran into each other, falling in the snow with the dog licking both their faces.  The plot then thickens as these two both love the dog, but dislike each other.  By the end of the movie, they are getting married and living happily ever after with the dog.  This is not what Paul is praying for the Philippian church to experience.  What does it look like for the church to abound in love?

Paul prays here that the love of the church would abound with knowledge and discernment.  He is wanting more for the church than just a “feel good, mushy feeling” for others.  The love he is praying for is one that is deep and wise.  What part do we have in fulfilling the answer to this prayer?  As the church of Jesus Christ, we need to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus.  We can’t just think that all things will fall into place for us because we believe in Christ.  There is work we need to do in the gaining of knowledge and discernment.  As followers of Christ, we may look at the following list and say, “yeah, yeah, yeah!”  But let’s take some time and really look at it because what we know to do and what we actually do are two different things.

  1. Read God’s Word regularly. We are in a much different place than the Philippian church.  We have the complete Word of God to help us to grow in Christ-likeness.  This reading is one that can be done as a matter of habit with a mind occupied by other things, or as a time to learn.  So many times we treat the Word of God as a check on our list for the day.  God’s Word doesn’t work that way!  It is alive and active!  The Words of God are powerful!  If we truly believe these things, then the words will make a difference to us.  Do we pray before we read?  Do we read enough to learn but not so much that our mind wanders to other things?  It’s important for us to gain knowledge so that we can love well.
  2. Pray for others and yourself. This is a funny thing to have to write down, but so often, we pray for other people but not ourselves.  We need to pray for God’s leading in our lives and bring before him all our feelings and concerns.  He can handle it!  Our dependence on God is shown in our prayers to him for our next step.  Why is it that we are hesitant to pray for our own lives?  It’s because we’re prideful and think we can handle our lives without any help from God.  Maybe we feel our situation is not such a big deal to bring before the throne of grace.  The truth is God cares for every part of our lives, and he wants us to depend on him.  As we seek him to help us understand our own lives through the knowledge of him, our discernment will grow.  Decisions will be easier to make when we put ourselves before God and rely on him to help us.  As we pray for ourselves, our goal is for God to change our hearts, drawing us closer to himself.  As we live closer to God, we will be freer to love others well.
  3. Be a part of a church body. The purpose of the body of Christ is for the proclamation of the gospel and the encouragement of one another to grow in Christ.  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-25  We are here for one another.  The church body is one way our love will abound more and more in knowledge because we will be challenged to learn from others.  Our fellow believers will also challenge us to love each other well.  Our existence in Christ is not a solo thing.  We need each other.

The bottom line is that when we grow in our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus, we will be able to discern excellence and be obedient to God with joy.  Paul reminds us that Christ is coming back, and we are living for that day.  Let’s face it, we want to be found pure, blameless, and filled with righteous fruit when Christ returns.

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!”  Revelation 22:20

 

 

CHURCH FAMILY – PART ONE – PARTNERSHIP IN THE GOSPEL

Paul to the Philippian church, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3-5

Our world loves partnerships, whether good or bad. We’ve been exposed to many different partners over the years through television, movies, books, and people.  Remember these:  Holmes and Watson, Calvin and Hobbs, Bert and Ernie, Frodo and Sam, Scooby-Do and Shaggy, Mickey and Minnie, Pinky and the Brain, Lucy and Ethel, Pricilla and Aquila, Paul and Barnabas, and many more.  All of these partners share together in a joint interest.  They work together toward a common goal.  Actually, partners are a great support in our lives.

We all would like to have a Dr. Watson or a Tonto to help us in our endeavors in this life.  Think about the Lone Ranger.  He is called Lone but he isn’t alone; he has Tonto.  He doesn’t operate alone at all.  He’s also not the last ranger.  There were other Texas Rangers who came after him.  We often feel like the last Christian, but are we?  No; we have a family.  We aren’t meant to be alone, but in the partnership of believers for the gospel’s sake.  Paul considered the entire church at Philippi as his partners in the gospel.  That’s definitely more than a two-some!

There are many benefits to the church family.  The greatest ones are the unity in our pursuit and proclamation of the gospel.  By pursuing the gospel, we mean to proceed in accordance with the gospel’s teachings.  In other words, we are to live like followers of Christ.  That is definitely a pursuit because it doesn’t come naturally to us.  Then we are to, with unity, proclaim the gospel which means to make it known.  We are all partners in this.  As a partner for the gospel we are to support one another, encourage one another, and carry one another if necessary.

How big is our partnership?  It’s big!  As followers of Christ, we are partners with our local body of believers and with all other believers around the world.  That’s a huge number with which to partner.  We have to remember that God is a big God and he’ll give us grace in this partnership.  So what can we do to remind ourselves of this big partnership?  The same thing that Paul does, pray.  We can take the time to pray for the believers around the city, state, country, and the world.  When we pray for others, we are connected to them.  There are those around the world who are suffering for the gospel and need our prayers.  Others may be meeting in a small house church with the lights out and need our prayers.  Life is hard in many ways for many of those who are in partnership with us and they need our prayers.  What about the partners within your own church body?  Are you praying for them?  Regardless of where we are or what we are doing, we can pray for God to move within the church family for the furtherance of the gospel.

Are you grateful for your church family?

How often do you pray for the universal church?

When was the last time you prayed for those who are suffering around the world for the gospel?

As a follower of Christ, you are a partner in the gospel.  Pursue and proclaim the gospel today, tomorrow, and until eternity.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7:9-10

 

 

SINGING AND REMEMBERING

My mom loved country music. She used to listen to the radio and sing along with every song they played. I loved my mom so I loved what she loved when I was young. Some of my favorite memories are of us singing together. There were three songs in particular we would sing often. They were “Hello Walls” by Faron Young, “He’ll have to go” by Jim Reeves, and “Sad movies make me cry” by Sue Thompson. I knew every word of these three songs because my mom sang them often. She knew all the words because she was going through a time in her life beyond my understanding. As I think back on it now, my mom was singing these sad songs because she was sad.
These songs were an outlet for my mom to express how she was feeling about her marriage. It was failing and she couldn’t save it. I knew something was going on but I didn’t experience the pain she did. What did I experience? Actually, I thought we were having fun singing together. It felt like bonding to me. I believe it was that for my mom in a way. She was losing her husband and at the same time bonding with her daughter. These songs, though sad, were glue in our relationship at the time. Singing together brought relief for my mom and joy for me.
Today we can sing together in worship to the Lord and find relief and joy in our circumstances. In the family of God, we have many mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters who will sing with us in our time of need. Is singing really helpful when life is falling apart? “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 Luke reports that singing is helpful in times of need. Paul and Silas were in prison singing. It’s interesting how the Lord used their singing for the benefit of the other prisoners. Do you see that? They may not have felt the joy Paul and Silas did but they certainly felt some relief during their time of imprisonment. God uses singing.
More incredible than that, God sings.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
This verse was written to Israel and is calling for them to turn back to God. We can see God’s character displayed in this verse. He is present, mighty, rejoicing over those who seek him, loving, and singing very loud. He sings in celebration over those who turn to him. God finds a personal delight in singing over his children. This is truth that is hard to comprehend. It cannot only bring us great joy in knowing the depth of God’s love, but also relief in any suffering we may be experiencing. God uses singing, God sings, and God is praised by our singing.
We are called to praise God by singing for who he is and what he has done. “Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!…Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.” Psalm 98:1, 4
As we can see from this text, we don’t have to sing well in order to praise God. We are letting who God is and what he’s done carry us away in song. We need to be overcome by God. Can you imagine, if on the new earth, we sing with God? What a joyous song that will be! We’ll have only praise to bestow on him for eternity. That will be glory!
Until then, we have a life to live here on this sin-cursed earth, in our own sinful skin, and with many other sinners. What can singing do for us? It can bring us relief, joy, and a focus on the only one who deserves praise. I’m thankful for the memories I have of my mom. She brought me into her world by singing with me. However, she protected me from the suffering she was experiencing. Mom didn’t withhold her love from me at a time when she felt unloved. Instead, she made me feel very special. The truth is she reflected her Savior well at that time in her life. I’m forever grateful to God for memories of her. My greater joy is that she is now singing before her Savior and Lord! One day, we’ll sing together again!

AIMLESS…GIVE ME COFFEE

What does it mean to be aimless?  Well, it all starts with a target.  If you are shooting arrows, you AIM to hit the middle of the target or the bullseye.  The same is true if you are shooting a gun.  Aimless comes in when there’s no target.  There are days when I can’t seem to get a grip on what the target is or where it’s located.  I can walk around in circles and sigh as I seek to find a target worthy of my time and energy.  In general, I’m a person who plans and prepares for things in the future; but on aimless days I just look for coffee.  Coffee becomes the target of my aimless ramble.  But what good does that do me, you ask?  Believe me, I don’t really have an answer about the good it does, but it certainly gives me a boost in my rambling.  

What gives me the boost of energy to ramble aimlessly?  Let’s talk about the smell of coffee.  Even before you bring that relaxing and enjoyable cup of  coffee to your lips, your nose is already enjoying it.  Others enjoy it too as they smell it in your home or office.  The smell can cause your eyes to close and your whole body to relax.  Even though the smell is great, let’s not forget the taste.  Pumpkin spice is what tickles my taste buds in the Fall.  It’s just the right combination to bring pleasure to my mouth.  Then, there’s the smile.  Yes, coffee gives me the ability to smile as I’m aimless.  As I think of it, there’s a bullseye of smell and taste.  The coffee has hit that bullseye for me.  The problem?  After about 30 minutes, I’m aimless again.  You see, the coffee is only a temporary boost to the problem.  I need a permanent solution to being aimless.

The world offers many solutions to being aimless.  If you look on the internet for organizational help, you’ll find many advertisements of those who would want to take your money to give you an aim for your life.  Remember, their aim is your money!  If you write the check or swipe the card, you’ve helped them meet their aim.  Money can disappear quickly just like my coffee.  So money can’t be our aim in life.  What is an aim in life that will never disappoint and will never end? 

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”   2 Corinthians 5:9

What is Paul talking about here?  He’s telling us as followers of Christ our aim, every day and in every way, should be to please God.  This aim doesn’t disappoint or fade away.  This aim has eternal life attached to it.  The act of pleasing God is the bullseye on which is written, “well done good and faithful servant.”  Life is hard and sometimes feels like it’s totally aimless, but in those moments we still have a bullseye.  How can we please God when we feel aimless and have already had our coffee? 

  1.  We can pray for God’s direction in our lives and seek his wisdom.  Paul writes to the people in Colossae, “…we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  Colossians 1:9-10
  2. We can look for someone to love either by praying or contacting her.  Paul writes to the church at Philippi, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others.”       Philippians 2:3-4

When we are aimless, we have a tendency to think of ourselves.  We can focus on what we lack rather than on our gains.  The idea of stopping our rambling and replacing it with thoughts of God and others will give us an aim.   This aim is pleasing to God.  The truth is we are never aimless, there’s always a choice to choose the aim.

So in conclusion, enjoy your coffee but remember there’s a more important bullseye to hit.

ANOTHER BUMP IN THE ROAD!

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” Hebrews 12:1b

The life to which God has called us is a race he’s prepared for us.  When we think of a race we think of a winner receiving their prize.  As followers of Christ, our prize is eternity with him.  Eternity will be glorious!  We’ll realize how the race was well worth the effort.  Until then, this race of life can feel like a slow boat to China.  There are days when it’s hard to pick up our foot to take the next step.  Other days we may be running at a good pace when all of the sudden, we trip over a bump in the way.  There are many bumps we may encounter in our race of life.  Let’s look at a few of those bumps and see how to navigate them for God’s glory and our good.

  1. BUMPS OF MY OWN CREATION

It’s hard to believe that what has tripped us up could actually have been caused by us!  When we sin, we create a bump in our road.  This bump is not only the sin that diverts us from the way we should go, but contains the consequences of that sin.  This bump can make our lives stall as it prevents us from going forward.  “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” Psalm 51:3 This is David’s confession after the sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the arranging of the murder of her husband.  This caused a huge bump in David’s forward movement, preventing him from following God.  Even when he repented, he still suffered the consequences of his sin. (2 Samuel 12:1-23) Repentance was the way around the bump in his road.  It’s our way too.  When we repent, God forgives and helps us get back on track.

  1. BUMPS THROWN IN MY WAY

We live with others who are involved in our lives.  These people may be relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or church members.  All people are sinners.  There are times when we are sinned against.  When this happens it as if the person has thrown a large rock in front of us which prevents us from moving.  At times like this, it’s easy to lose our way and become angry or bitter.  However, God has given us an example in Joseph.  His brothers sinned against him by selling him to a caravan on their way to Egypt.  During his time in Egypt, he was a slave, wrongly accused, put in prison, and eventually Pharaoh’s right hand man. (Genesis 37, 39-43) This bump in the road took Joseph in a totally different direction from what he had planned for his life.  What we learn from this is that the bump thrown in front of us by someone’s sin against us doesn’t stop God from his purposes.  “As for you, you meant evil against me, but god meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20  This was Joseph’s testimony to his brothers.

  1. BUMPS OUT OF MY CONTROL

Our world has been cursed by sin.  “For the creation was subjected futility, no willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:20-21 When Adam sinned, the world was affected by sin.  As long as we live in this world, there will be things that come up which are out of our control.  Some examples of this kind of bump may be a cancer diagnosis, a job loss, or a prodigal child.  These things happen and they happen to us.  We need to not allow these bumps to set us off course.  Acceptance of these types of bumps are hard because we definitely want to be in control of every part of our lives.  However, we’re not and we have to give in to God’s control.  “…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 130:16b (NIV)  We can yield to God’s control because he has ordained the day, the problem, the time, the place, and the bump.  He knows; and our job is to trust him as we seek to go over, around, or walk through the bump he has allowed in our road.

Some days we’ll encounter many bumps in the road and others just a few.  As we encounter them, we can repent, forgive, trust God, and yield to God’s control.  This isn’t easy either but we’re not left to wonder how.

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

There’s our answer as we are stopped by a bump.  We are to look to Jesus.  He has run this race ahead of us and sat down next to God who is satisfied with him.  Jesus has completed the perfect race for us so that we can keep our eyes on him.  We need to keep in mind that no matter how hard this life’s race is, it’s easy in comparison to the life Jesus lived for us.  The prize is awaiting us. Eternity is coming!

 

ROOTED AND SECURE

Last week, I was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan doing a great deal of hiking and being reminded that the Lord is the perfect artist who creates beautiful scenery.  I had the privilege of eating lunch, sitting on a rock in the Porcupine Mountains, overlooking the Lake of the Clouds.  My almond butter sandwich tasted much better as I looked at my surroundings.  In the Lord’s artistry there are beautiful rocks, trees, lakes, rivers, creeks, and waterfalls.  What a joy to be able to walk the trails and enjoy his creation!  On occasion, there are unusual things that meet you on the trail.  The picture I’ve included in this blog is just that-an unusual thing.

As I looked at this, I began to think about what was being shown to me.  The life of a follower of Christ was being displayed right before my eyes.  Let me develop my thought process for you.  I hope that you will be encouraged.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2

The rock in the picture represents the Lord.  It’s large and not easily moved.  We are too weak to push it over or pick it up.  It’s secure in where it stands.  The Lord provides security for all who will trust in him.  We know that he always has our best interest in mind and is sovereign over all of life’s circumstances.  All growth can take place with confidence in the one to whom we are connected.  The Lord, our rock, provides the protection we need on a day to day basis.  We can rejoice in the fact that our life is built on the rock.

We are not always reaching for the sun as we grow.  There are times when life gets hard.  The circumstances that hit us are hard to bear.  We may be facing a physical ailment, financial problems, death in the family, car problems, disobedient children, or aging parents.  All of these are hard circumstances but the rock on which our life is built is harder.  We need to hang on to the rock in order to make it through.  Notice how the tree on top of the rock has wrapped a root around the rock and buried itself in the ground.  This is how we should hang on to our Lord, the rock, when times are hard.  We must reach around him and he’ll provide the strength we need in the same way the soil provides more nourishment for the tree.

“…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ…”  Ephesians 3:17b-19a

We need the nourishment of the love of Christ.  When our roots are deep in that love, it gives us the strength to love others.  Love should flow naturally from each and every follower of Christ.  We also receive nourishment from the love of our fellow believers as they come along side us to care for us.  Without love, our growth will be stunted!  We need to hang onto the rock, rooted in the love of Christ and the church.

If we were to just look at this picture, we might think the tree doesn’t have much of a chance to survive; but God made a way for its survival.  God always makes a way for each one of us to survive in this world.  His goal for us is that we seek to please him each day, seeking to look more like Christ.  We can’t give up in the face of discouragement, pain, or sorrow.  Remember our roots run deep in the love of Christ!  When times are hard, hang onto the rock.  We know that he is immovable, unshakeable, and unstoppable!

Keep your eyes open to see the Lord’s artistry!  You never know how he will use it to reveal to you more about himself.