Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Keeping Anger Under Control

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.  –Proverbs 29:11 
I have come to a definite conclusion: I could not cook a meal with Chef Ramsey watching me.  In case you don’t know who he is, Chef Gordon Ramsey is the host of a popular TV program called, “Hell’s Kitchen.” The premise of the show involves a group of chefs who have to compete against one another in cooking various dishes with Chef Ramsey screaming profanities at them the entire time.  I have tried to watch this program a time or two, partly because I like to cook, and partly out of morbid curiosity.  However, each time I have to turn it off because I can’t bear to watch the contestants, some of them seemingly nice folks, being berated, humiliated, insulted, and cursed.  Chef Ramsey obviously has no problem with bringing all his rage to the surface and letting it explode.  It’s a wonder someone hasn’t hurled a skillet at him. 

Now, about my own cooking skills; they are perhaps meager, but I try.  Over the years I have dabbled in cooking with some of the basics: pancakes, waffles, bacon, eggs, and of course I like to cook on the grill.  However, in the last couple of years I have expanded my culinary interests to include casseroles, chili, some Mexican dishes, and lately I am trying my hand at Chinese food.  My family observes all of this with patient interest as I rattle pots and pans and fling ingredients about the kitchen.  Usually they eat what I prepare and even show amazement that ol’ Dad can prepare a meal that passes for edible.  Regardless, when I put on my apron and begin cooking I am enjoying myself, those around me are blessed, and that’s always positive. 

I am learning a lot about cooking, but I am no Chef Ramsey.  And you know something?  I don’t ever want to be.  Here is a man who presents a persona of constant venting of all his anger.  The Word of God teaches that this is most unbecoming a follower of Christ.  Jesus taught that we are to reach out to those around us with love, patience, compassion, and understanding.  We also would apply these powerful Old Testament principles of self-control, personal discipline, and spirituality.  The wise person takes to heart the teaching of God’s Word which calls us to practice temperance and wisdom at all times. 

Been having trouble with your temper?  Try spending time each day in prayer and in God’s Word.  The result will be wisdom, self-control, and personal growth.  These blessed qualities facilitate the light of Jesus Christ shining forth from our lives. 

The troubled soul grows through daily time with God.  Why not start today?  Blessings and personal benefits are waiting.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Honoring God by Living out His Commands

Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.  -Psalm 112:1

So often in today’s world our integrity will be tested in the area of how we handle finances.  Consider the case of a Utah man named Jerry Mika.  According to a news source, he received in the mail a check from the Utah Department of Commerce that should have been for around 15.00.  But someone at the department had made a mistake and the amount on the check was actually $ 2,245,342.00.  Mika said, “I did keep thinking about all the things I could have done with the money.  Who wouldn’t?” Mika contacted the commerce department and returned the check.  Francine Giani from the commerce department said, “Clearly we have an honest citizen.  I wish I could do something more than say thanks.”   I don’t know of Mr. Mika is a Christian or not, the article didn’t say, but clearly this is a biblical principle at work.  The one who seeks to walk with God lives a life characterized by honesty and integrity and there is never any question about those qualities.  Why is that?  It’s because we understand that the blessings of God reside upon us when we delight in God's commands and do what is right – all of the time and without exception.

The one who delights in God's commands might do something like this: We find a wallet by the side of the road and it contains several hundred dollars and an ID.  The godly man or woman, the person who is seeking to honor God, goes and finds the rightful owner and returns the money.  Those who reject God's Word and God's commands might take another approach: simply keep the money – finder’s keepers right?  The Scripture teaches that such thinking is rejected outright by those seeking to honor God and live in His blessings.

Followers of Jesus Christ will strive to live lives that reject the evil that exists in the world.  This goes beyond a simple obeying of the rules.  We will do that, but we will also take it a step further.  We will demonstrate godliness and integrity in all areas of life, when others are watching and even when we are all alone.  Seeking to walk with God means that we will help those in need, we will be honest at all times, and we will shine forth the light of Jesus Christ to a world that is longing for hope.

The troubled soul finds comfort, strength, and encouragement by living a life that honors God - in all aspects.  Let the light of Jesus Christ shine forth from your life today, and delight in God's Word, way, and commands. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

How to Make Sense of a Troubled World

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  –John 14:6 

Occasionally I have people ask me how they can get to heaven, and of course I gladly tell them.  But these days it seems that people are also concerned about how they can make it through another day, another week, another problem, another crisis, heartache, and another disappointment.  The answer is the same to both questions: Put your faith in Jesus Christ.  The Lord not only grants salvation and eternal life, but He also willingly provides help, strength, and hope for tomorrow.  God is not in the business of making us a part of His family and then leaving us to fend for ourselves.  Instead, the Lord is willing to provide us with the strength and spiritual power to face the problems we encounter as a part of life.

How is it possible to make sense of this crazy and troubled world in which we live?  And we do live in a troubled world, don’t we?  Every time we turn on the news we hear more and more bad news: war, natural disasters, crime, and misery.  The only way to make sense of it all is to put our trust in the Lord and stand upon His promise that He is with us, and He will never leave nor forsake us.  The entire world may be turn away, but as Christ’s followers we are called to be faithful – at all times and no matter what. 

Will we hold fast to our faith in Christ based upon how well the condition of the world is going?  Shall we base our faith upon whether or not the world and our lives are going in a positive direction?  The answer is of course not.  Regardless of what is happening around us, our calling in Christ Jesus is to hold fast to Him, rely upon His strength, and keep on trusting in Him.  I read a quote once that said, “The whole world is going crazy except me and you; and I have my doubts about you!”   

We are called by Christ to let His light shine forth from us to a world that for too long has been enshrouded by the darkness of sin.  In Jesus Christ there is hope.  Jesus remains the best answer to whatever trials and dark times we are facing.  He also remains the hope, the only hope, of eternal life. 

The troubled soul finds salvation through Jesus Christ, but also strength and peace through life’s struggles.  Trust in the Lord today and look to Him.  He will not turn you away.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Doing the Work of the Gospel

If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. -Galatians 6:3-5

Here we see that we must be on guard against at all times, especially in regards to how we view ourselves and those around us: we must seek after and maintain an attitude of humility.  The Bible says that if we start thinking we are something when actually we are nothing then we deceive ourselves.  As followers of Christ all we are is found in the Lord Jesus.  The Scripture teaches that the Lord is to be our all in all.  As Jesus' followers, we are not defined in who we are, but rather who Christ is in us.  When we begin to look at life from that perspective we will be better equipped for keeping this attitude of humility which is vital for our Christian growth.  The above passage carries this concept a step further: We are to prove our own work based upon our own gifts, talents, abilities, and our own unique personalities.  This as opposed to comparing ourselves with everyone else.   

Preachers can easily get caught up in this. What preacher among us is Billy Graham?  I’m not him and he isn’t me.  We are both called to our own unique ministries based upon our own unique personalities.  No two of us are alike are we?  So why do we tend to compare ourselves with others?  This same truth holds with individual congregations also.  We are who we are in Christ Jesus, we have a unique ministry in the community, and while we can learn from other congregations, we are not some other congregation – we are a vital part of the body of Christ.  Rather than wish we were someone else or wish we were like this or that congregation, what does the Scripture tell us to do?  It says to take godly pride in ourselves; rejoice in who we are in Christ Jesus, not in who we wish we were.

When we take on such godly, humble, and Christ-like attitudes we are better equipped to be about the ministry of reaching out to those around us.  And are there sinners out there?  Oh yes; they are like a prime fishing spot that has been stocked.  The sinners, backsliders, and those who need restored to the fold are everywhere.  We are called to reach out to them, not in judgment but in love that they might be restored to the fellowship of the church.  

Let us be about the ministry of the Gospel; preaching the Word, reaching the lost, building up the church, and restoring those who have wandered away.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bearing With One Another in Love and Support

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  -Colossians 3:13

The Word of God says that we are called to bear one another’s burdens and forgive any grievances we might have against each other.  Such an attitude is in perfect agreement with what the Lord Jesus has told us to do: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Matthew 6:14).  We are to be so forgiving and supportive that we truly feel each other's pain when we face trials and difficulties. Such empathy and compassion extends to a wide variety of experiences and shared problems.

Many years ago I had a friend who served on staff at another church, and this man had never married.  He would often call me and want to talk about his problems; how lonely he was, and how much he wanted to find a wife.  I almost told him once that maybe if he stopped calling me so much he’d have more time to be out looking for a wife.  I truly felt bad for him because he was terribly lonely.  When he would call me, and I would think, “Oh no, not again; I don’t want to hear him talk about his troubles,” I recalled the words of Scripture about bearing with each other.  It seems I have dispensed a lot of advice over the years to lonely young men who wanted to get married.  Usually what I tell them is, wait on the Lord.  Keep looking, but be sure to wait on the Lord.  

There will be times when friendships, relationships, family situations, those we know at church, and neighbors, will test the limits of our patience.  We may at times find ourselves feeling the actual stress of those we are trying to support, comfort, and help bear their burdens.  When we feel that way, recall that this is what the Bible says is natural for believers.  Who knows when the time will come that we need the support and comfort of someone?  During that time a trusted friend or brother in Christ may be the one bearing our burdens and sharing our pain.  

Who among us perfect?  Who among us has no problems, faults, or flaws?  What person around us never makes mistakes of any kind?  I certainly make  mistakes and I have more than my share of weaknesses.  I am confident that you do as well.  How comforting to know that the Lord Jesus loves us, cares for us, and nurtures us through all of life's struggles.  As He cares for us we can in turn care for one another.

Some troubled soul is nearby and in need of a kind word, a healing embrace, or a warm, smile.  Might you be that troubled soul today?  Don't forget that the Lord loves us more that we can imagine.  Having experienced that love, go forth and share it with another.

Love, support, and forgive one another.  This is our high calling in Christ.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Restoring the Sinner

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  -Galatians 6:1, 2

This passage in Galatians deals with the subject of church discipline.  This was not intended to be used to put someone out of the church as much as it was to put the offending person back into the fellowship of the church.  Truly there are times when someone gets out of the will of God to the point that the church must step in and make an attempt to set the person straight – get him or her back into the fellowship of the church.  But as the Scripture says there is a right way and a wrong way to do that.

The wording of verse one refers to any kind of sin: theft, adultery, idolatry, lying, or apostasy.  As followers of Christ we must be on our guard lest we be the one taken in a fault or sin.  Let us never become arrogant thinking that it could never happen to one of us.  Such an attitude could cause us to let our guard down, and that’s just what the devil is waiting for.  Once we let our guard down he moves in to attack.  We who are spiritual, mature believers are the ones who should seek to restore the person who has gotten out of God's will.  And we are called to do so in a spirit of meekness.  Were we to have to confront a brother or sister in Christ who had become involved in some sin, we would not want to beat the person over the heard, but rather seek to restore him or her gently.  Now, that restoration depends on the person’s willingness to repent, doesn’t it?  What if the person refuses to repent?  There is really only so much that the church can do in a case like that.  But we are called in Christ to make an effort to restore the person to the fellowship.  

The warning is given: The mature believers must be the ones to take this on lest they fall into the same sin.  Those doing the restoration must be persons of prayer, faith, maturity, godliness, and patience.  If they are not, then they may run the risk of falling into the same sin.  I have for a long time been amazed at how vulnerable people are to not only falling into sin, but falling away from the truth.  I read once about a man who left an established, Bible believing church to join a cult.  Some representatives went to see him to try and get him to come back to the truth, and before it was over those men had joined the cult.  This is why Paul the Apostle gave the warning that only those who are spiritual should go to the person, and then in a spirit of meekness, recognizing that they are treading on some serious and potentially dangerous ground.

We restore the sinners by first letting them know that we love them.  We then pray for them, reach out to them, and seek to make contact with them.  These situations have to always be entered into with the greatest of care and caution.

Never give up on the sinner.  Reach out to them, pray for them, and pray in faith that God will bring them back.  God can and will work miracles in peoples' lives; miracles of faith, healing, and restoration.     

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thank God for the Blessings of Family

He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.  –Proverbs 11:29 

I watched a program on TV a few years ago that dealt with family problems.  The emphasis was on one family that was extremely dysfunctional.  One problem centered on the use of the kitchen.  After a certain time each night, the kitchen was effectively closed.  That meant that no one was allowed to cook anything, fix a sandwich, or even have a snack once that cut-off time had expired.  When one of the teenagers of the home would then get hungry and defy the rule, a fight would take place with the parents – a physical brawl.  All this dysfunctional behavior was caught on tape and reviewed by professional counselors who then tried to help the family with conflict management.

I don’t know how all that turned out for that family, but the strict rules regarding kitchen use got my attention.  I realize that such a rule wouldn’t work in our home.  Frankly, I feel I would miss out on some blessings if I did institute such strict rules regarding kitchen use.  Okay; I concede that if the kids make a mess in the kitchen they should have to clean it up, and if they are eating unhealthy foods all hours of the night then that would have to be addressed.  What I was thinking about was all the nice talks and quiet moments that have taken place between me and our sons in the kitchen.  And I confess it’s sometimes late at night perhaps at a time when the kitchen could have been “closed.” 

Raising teenage sons is an adventure in food service; they are perpetually hungry.  Honestly, we have never gotten too bent out of shape if the boys gather in the kitchen, after normal mealtime hours, and start cooking something.  In fact, I have been known to join in and sample the food they prepared.  I have watched with much amusement as the boys have baked cakes, made brownies, fried up some bacon and sausage with pancakes, prepared Asian noodles, or simply popped popcorn late into the evening.  Yes, I could have pitched a fit and railed at them with all sorts of threats about groundings and “You slobs had better clean up this mess or I’m gonna knock you into next week” kind of talk.  Instead, I have many times seized these moments to get to know my teenage sons better.  As pots and pans are rattling, goodies are baking in the oven, and recipes are being discussed, an air of openness and camaraderie permeates our little kitchen. 
      “Hey Dad; you’ll never believe what happened today!” 
      “Tell me about it,” I laugh. 
      “I was in football practice and my friend John says to me…”  An insight is then shared that might not have happened any other time. 

Did they always clean up the kitchen the way I would have liked it done?  Not always.  Did these late evening cooking excursions create a problem worth getting upset about?  Usually not.    

Look for any avenue possible to connect with your kids, whatever their age.  Childhood and teenage years are for a season.  Family is for life. 

Thank the Lord today for the blessings of family. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Let go of Your Balloon

The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior!  -II Samuel 22:47

I read a story about a church that handed out helium filled balloons before a worship service with the following instructions: When you feel like praising the Lord, let go of your balloon.  All through the service balloons lifted up and floated toward the ceiling of the sanctuary.  But when the service ended, about one third of the people still held onto their balloons.  The challenge for us today is to let go of your balloon.  Praise be to my rock!  Exalted be God my Savior.  Discover the praise that can flow from your heart when Jesus Christ resides there.  Trust in Him and praise Him.

When we praise the Lord with all of our hearts the blessed power of God is released and made real in us.  Praising the Lord lifts up above simply talking about praise and going through the motions to genuine thanksgiving to God.  Why settle for a hollow and lifeless faith when there is joyful and vibrant faith awaiting?  God empowers us when we praise Him, and our Lord delights in the praise of His people.

The next time you find yourself facing some struggle or trial, and that situation is either upon you now or waiting just around the corner, stop and thank the Lord for His presence and His guiding hand.  I received an email recently that offered these words: The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.  I do not know who stated these words, but they are certainly true.  When we face some new trial we can move forward praising the Lord in the full confidence that He is with us and helping us every step of the way.

So, are you still holding onto that symbolic balloon of praise?  Go ahead and let go.  Praise the Lord and give thanks to Him right now.  

Praise the Lord - my Rock and my Savior!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Smaller Battles Prepare us for the Larger Ones

David said to Saul, "Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him." Saul replied, "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth." But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.  The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul said to David, "Go, and the Lord be with you."  -I Samuel 17:32-37

The Scripture shows us how a young shepherd boy named David was able to bring down a giant by the name of Goliath, and he did so with the power of God and a slingshot.  When David inquired of the king about facing the giant, Saul tried to dissuade him on the grounds that David was not ready for such a battle.  David pointed out that God had long been preparing him for that very conflict.  As David stood guard over his father’s flocks, sometimes a lion or a bear would come and try to attack the sheep.  David would then courageously confront the animal and kill it with a club.  Can you imagine such daring?  This young man would literally grasp the wild animal by the scruff of the neck and then beat it to death with a club.  Animal rights activists might find this disturbing, but remember that it was done purely in defense of the flock and not for sport.  I cannot help but admire such courage.  Personally, the only way I want to confront a lion or a bear in the wild is with a high-powered rifle.  Otherwise I would be running for my life! 

What David was trying to get the king to understand was that those smaller battles had prepared him for this much larger one.  In the end, David’s preparation paid off; he defeated a giant that no one else would dare confront.  When we trust the Lord every day and stand firm in the faith, God will ever be preparing us for the greater battles that lie ahead.  Each spiritual battle we face makes us stronger and better prepared for whatever temptation, frustration, problem, or challenge that awaits us.  Often it’s those smaller spiritual battles that grow us over the long haul. 

Each day we are challenged by our faith in Christ to do what is right and God-honoring.  Did the clerk at the store give you too much change?  The godly response is to give it back.  Did a friend or co-worker say something unkind?  The Christ-like response is to take the high ground of faith and offer forgiveness.  Are you being tempted to do something that compromises your principles or morals?  Christ compels us to stand firm and not surrender to temptation. 
We have no way of knowing when we will confront our Goliath.  But know this: when we are faithful every day and standing firm in the smaller spiritual battles, then we will be prepared for when that day comes.  Afterward, you will marvel at the miracle of faith and resolve the Lord has brought about in your life. 

Stand firm.  Do not surrender.  Resist the devil.  Trust the Lord at all times and no matter what.  The troubled soul will find spiritual strength and power to stand firm which was previously unimaginable.  Truly, the power of Christ in us is amazing. 
Thanks you, Lord, for your blessed power made real in us through Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Contrast Between Comedians of Today and Another Era

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.  The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.  The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.  –Proverbs 15:2-4 

I am amazed these days at what passes for humor.  I had the misfortune one evening of hearing a few minutes of a comedy routine by a well-known comedian.  It was quickly apparent that his entire approach to comedy was to use nearly constant profanity.  A few minutes was enough; not only was he not funny, but his use of the worst kind of profanity rendered the routine hollow and dull.  Like me, you may wonder why today’s comedians, songwriters, and movie makers have the bizarre idea that the general public longs to be bombarded with the “f” word.  Call me crazy or old-fashioned, but you don’t have to curse to be funny.  Honest; you don’t.

Okay, here I go, and at the risk of truly sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, let me tell you about some comedians of another era.  I recall when I was a boy sitting in front of the TV on Saturday nights with my family and watching a comedian named Red Skelton.  Anyone reading this under the age of 40 probably never heard of him, but he was a popular comedian in the 1940’s through the 1960’s.  He was genuinely funny and he never, not once, used profanity of any kind.  The same can be said of the Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello, Groucho Marx, and Laurel and Hardy.  Again, any younger readers will not recognize these names, but believe me when I say that these comedians understood that being comical was possible in a manner that appealed to people of all ages.  And they were so creative with their comedy that they didn’t need to shock audiences with gross profanity.  Their humor left people gasping for breath. 

The Scripture says that a wise person speaks in ways that demonstrate wisdom, but a fool will gush forth folly.  We can rest assured that the Lord is aware of this, and God blesses us when we use our mouths for the spreading of good news and good tidings of the love of Jesus Christ.  Consider that when we open our mouths to speak, someone is listening.  What are they hearing?  Let’s be sure that what comes out of our mouths honors the Lord and is not anything that would bring shame upon us as followers of Jesus Christ. 

Everyone needs a good laugh; as frequently as possible, in fact.  All we need to do is look around us and we find wonderful humor everywhere; humor that honors God and doesn’t profane His holy Word or tarnish our witness for Christ. 

The troubled soul can find laughter to be a soothing balm to the spirit.  Be sure that the Lord blesses us when we honor Him in all areas of life – even what we find to be funny.    

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father’s Day!

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  –Ephesians 6:4 

The Word of God provides us with plenty of clear pictures of what a godly man looks like.  On Father’s Day we would emphasize that these traits are suited to the man who desires to be a good father.  And perhaps not just a good father, but a great father – the best he can possibly be.  We know what a rotten dad looks like, don’t we?  This is the guy who takes money intended for groceries to feed his family and then uses it for drugs and alcohol.  Or this terrible excuse for a father might be the type that causes his wife and kids to live in utter fear of him lest he physically harm them in some way.  The only hope for such a man is to repent and give his heart to Jesus Christ.  Only then will he find the power to rise up and become the husband, father, and man that the Lord would have him to be.

So, we know what constitutes a bad father, but what makes a good one?  A good father is one who invests of his time, talents, resources, and affection into the lives of his children.  He is willing to devote as much time as possible in the pursuit of raising them to become responsible and productive adults.  In the process, he allows them to be children as well.  He is willing to play ball with them, take them fishing, throw some Frisbee, attend their ballgames and school performances, and be there when they need him.  Furthermore, he is open enough to let his kids see that he is human; prone to mistakes and failures just like anyone else.  He is not above going back and apologizing to one of his children if he said something unkind or wasn’t there when they needed him.  If he has sons, he models for them how a man is supposed to treat a woman.  He demonstrates to his sons that he loves his wife, their mother, with the sacrificial kind of love taught in Scripture.    

To the fathers reading this, I would offer the challenge of continuing to be godly men, good dads, and devoted husbands.  I can say from personal experience that our kids will grow up very quickly.  The best legacy we can leave them is a godly example of what a man is supposed to be.  Our efforts will not have been in vain.  God honors the prayerful and earnest desire of His servants to become the men he has called us to be. 

So, my brothers, keep working.  Our jobs are nowhere near finished.  Happy Father’s Day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Thankful for the Blessings God has Provided

Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.  –Proverbs 30:7-9 

Throughout our married lives together, nearly 28 years, Andrea and I have been what could easily be termed frugal.  You probably know that this refers to a tendency towards being thrifty and practical.  For example, I will often use only one half a packet of artificial sweetener in my coffee.  The remaining half a packet is then carefully placed in a designated spot in the kitchen window sill until my next cup of coffee – sometimes the next day.  Andrea and I save birthday candles and we re-use them from year to year; especially the larger number candles.  We have on many occasions washed and re-used plastic forks, spoons, and cups for use at the next picnic or family gathering.  I don’t feel that I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of a car until I have driven it for at least ten years.  As someone has said, I will drive my car “until the wheels fall off.” 

I could go on and on, but suffice to say I hate being wasteful and I try and to get as much use as possible out of whatever I purchase.  Someone might argue that this is simply being a good steward of what the Lord has provided.  Others, however, might say that I am just being cheap.  To those on that side I would pose this scenario: If the Lord provides me with a loaf of bread, and we only eat three quarters of it for supper, would it not honor God to save the rest for the next meal?  Hopefully, anyone could see the stewardship principle at work here.  Being good stewards of what God has given us applies not just to our finances, but to all areas of life: time, talents, resources, spiritual gifts, and possessions. 

Solomon said in the book of Proverbs that his desire was that the Lord provide him with what he needed.  He wasn’t concerned with being a billionaire, but he didn’t want to be poor either.  Instead, he desired to make the best use of the daily provision given to him by God.  The Lord then took such a humble attitude and blessed Solomon beyond anything he could have imagined.  The Lord still blesses us today when we make the best of the spiritual blessings He has so graciously showered upon us. 

As we seek to let the light of the Lord Jesus Christ shine from our lives we are greatly blessed when we see all that we have as blessings from the Lord.  When we live in an attitude of gratitude to the Lord, even for the most basic of necessities, the Lord will honor such humility and will bless us ten-fold.  The blessings will come, often from the most unexpected places, but remember that the Lord is the one who brings it about.
The troubled soul can trust the Lord and be thankful in any and all circumstances.  God will work His will in our lives as we trust in Him, and He will do so to His glory and our benefit.  Praise the Lord and thank Him today. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Let all That has Breath Praise the Lord

Praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord.  -Psalm 150: 5, 6

Here again is the call to praise the Lord using all sorts of instruments.  If you can make a joyful noise then by all means do so.  But notice also the call for everyone to praise the Lord.  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  As long as we have breath in our bodies we are expected to praise the Lord.  So the only excuse I would have for not praising the Lord is if I am not breathing – which means that I will have crossed over and I can praise the Lord in person – up close and personal.  Here we see that it is a given that we will praise the Lord.  God gives us spiritual power to do just that – to lift up and exalt His name in any and all circumstances.

Another consideration with this verse is that we are to praise the Lord in the company and fellowship of other believers.  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  When we are together in worship we are to lift up our voices in praise to God.  If we can go to a sporting event and cheer for our team then surely we can exalt the Lord together.  Lifting up our voices to God is not done out of obligation, but from glad and thankful hearts.   

A story is told of John Wesley and how that when he was a young man he was, sad to say, a little snobbish and sarcastic.  When he was a student at Oxford University he met a porter who was an extremely poor man, but always kept a vibrant and positive attitude.  Wesley noted that the man only had one coat and was so impoverished that the small home he lived in did not even have a bed.  And yet the man was always happy and giving praise to God.  One day Wesley asked the man, rather sarcastically, “And what else do you thank God for?”  The man replied, “I thank Him that He has given me my life and being, a heart to love Him, and above all a constant desire to serve Him!"  Those who knew John Wesley said that this encounter was the beginning of a new outlook in the preacher’s life, and that from then on he strove to be more thankful to God and more humble.  He stayed with that conviction, because many years later, in 1791, as he lay on his deathbed at the age of 88, he began to sing, “I’ll Praise my Maker While I’ve Breath.”  There is an attitude of praise that keeps on thanking God and seeking to be like Christ no matter what the circumstances of our lives.

Praising God keeps us humble when we might otherwise have grown arrogant.  Praising the Lord keeps us thankful when we might otherwise have grown bitter.  Lifting up our voices in praise to God keeps love in our hearts when we might have begun to grow hateful.  Praising the Lord keeps us looking up and trusting the Lord when we might have thought about giving up.  Praising the Lord will empower us on those dark and gloomy days when our spirits are downcast. 

God commanded us to praise Him for a definite purpose – that He would be glorified and we would reap a blessed benefit.  Praise the Lord.  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. That includes you and me.  Praise the Lord!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Praise the Lord With all our Hearts

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute...  -Psalm 150: 3, 4

Here the Scripture begins to outline the kind of ways that we can praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord with all sorts of musical instruments: harps, trumpets, cymbals, flutes, and stringed instruments.  According to the Word of God, we praise the Lord with all that we have and all that we are.  When it comes to lifting up our praise to God we are to hold nothing back, but we are called to praise Him with all of our hearts.  However believers choose to worship, be it in quiet reverence or more exuberant expressions of praise, the main point is to worship the Lord with all of our hearts – in sincerity and with an emphasis upon the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Worship of the Lord is not about going through the motions, but rather worship is about exalting the Lord.  There is a difference, isn’t there?  Going through the motions means that we are doing something, but we don’t have to think about it.  God forbid that we enter into a time of worship with that attitude.  Every time we worship the Lord the Scripture says that we are to do so in holiness, reverence, and awe.  What that will involve is centering our minds, our thoughts, and our hearts on the Lord as we lift up and exalt His holy name.

Have you ever found yourself in a time of worship, maybe during a hymn, the special music, a time of prayer, or the preaching, and you realized that your mind was about a hundred miles away?  When that happens to us it should always be completely unintentional.  As followers of Christ, we are called to set our hearts on the Lord and worship Him with all of our hearts.  That may involve singing, shouting, praying, or just listening, but we must do so with great focus and intention.

Praising the Lord with all that we have means also keeping that spirit of praise long after we leave the worship service on Sunday.  As we go through each day there is an attitude in our hearts that says, I will praise the Lord at all times – His praise shall continually be on my lips (Psalms 34: 1).  Such an attitude does not change with our circumstances, but rather it remains constant and unending.  I will praise the Lord and I will continue to do so – at all times; in the quiet of my heart, out loud, alone, and with other believers.

A wonderful remedy for a troubled soul is to lift up and exalt the name of Jesus Christ.  Praise Him - and you will be on your way to a brighter day. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Learning and Gaining Godly Wisdom

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  –Psalms 90:12

I woke up yesterday morning contemplating how that 49 years ago that very day my dear mother gave birth to me.  As I began my day I had that image in my mind; my mother and father holding me and seeing me for the first time.  What a humbling thought.  I was born into a home where I was loved, cared for, nurtured, and wanted.  Not everyone has that blessing to be sure.  I don’t know the exact time I was born, but I recall my mom telling me that I came into the world in the wee hours of the morning.  She said that the doctor who delivered me joked good-naturedly about how that so many of his patients seem to want to be born in the middle of the night.  The blessings of my life began that very day when God saw fit to allow me to be born into such a loving and caring home.  I do not take that for granted and I thank the Lord often for His grace and mercy shown to me.

Throughout the day as I received numerous well-wishes from friends and family, I stopped and thanked the Lord that He has seen fit to give me 49 years here in the world.  My sincerest prayer is that I will use my days wisely in service to Him.  I can honestly say that I have found my place in the world, but that was not done through my power; that discovery for me came about through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Without the Lord I would surely be drifting my way through life as opposed to having some godly direction. 

When we think about it, we realize that our time here in the world is short.  The Scripture teaches that we are to make the best use of our time here as possible.  The Psalmist asked the Lord to help him to number his days that he might gain a heart of wisdom.  What a noble and awesome pursuit; praying that God will give us insight into the brevity of life that we would gain godly wisdom while here. 

Our best pursuits in life will center on letting others see Christ in us.  From this witness we can lead others to the reality that the Lord has a plan for us, and that plan is actualized through faith in the Lord.  Whether we are here for another day or another 50 years, our earnest prayer can be that we will gain this wisdom espoused in Scripture.    

Through faith in Jesus Christ we make the best use of our days.  Christ is glorified and we gain the blessing of a life well lived.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Praising God During Any and All Circumstances

Praise the Lord.  Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.  Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. -Psalm 150: 1, 2

The Word of God provides us with powerful insight as to how believers are to approach life with all its joys, blessings, problems, and trials: we praise the Lord and trust in Him no matter what.  David said in Psalm 34, “I will bless the Lord at all times.  His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”  For King David of the Old Testament, a man familiar with trials, pain, grief, and blessings, he understood the importance of praising the Lord and exalting His mighty name at all times and no matter what.  He found in God the power to praise God even in the midst of the worst kind of adversity.  

Like David, we too can find the power to praise the Lord, trust in Him, and be thankful even in the midst of difficult and trying days.  I’m not kidding around when I say that life is hard and will probably get harder for countless people.  All of us will face trials of every kind.  But even in the middle of the problems and trials we face we can still trust the Lord, find His strength, and experience His blessings.  The Lord is with us and as He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  The Bible teaches that we are to praise God in any and every way possible regardless of whatever circumstances we are facing.  When all is well, praise the Lord.  And when it appears that life is falling apart right before our eyes we are called to praise the Lord then as well.  

That can be a real challenge can’t it?  Praising God can be difficult when our hearts are filled with anything but gratitude.  The challenge in God’s Word is to praise God right where we are no matter the circumstances of our lives.  Now, the Lord did not tell us to do this for nothing, but rather the command carries with it a definite aim.  When we praise the Lord despite our circumstances we are empowered to look beyond our problems to God’s greater power.   God is far greater than any problem we will ever face.  No problem is too big for God to handle and no problem is too small for God to handle.  When we focus upon the problem we get discouraged.  When we focus upon the Lord we find spiritual power and victory.  This is an attitude that doesn’t give into defeat and discouragement.  It’s an attitude that keeps us on our feet and moving the direction that the Lord intends.  

By trusting the Lord at all times we are able to witness to those around us of the power of Christ working in us.  We can show a lost and hurting world that we have problems as well, but by the power of Christ we will not surrender to them.   We will then be faithful to what Jesus said about His light shining forth from our lives (Matthew 5:16).  

Trust in the Lord and praise Him continually.  Let the light of Jesus Christ shine forth. Victory is ours in Jesus!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Sure Hope That is Ours in Christ

There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  –Proverbs 23:18 

I have long been intrigued by the power of hope in our lives.  If we lose hope we lose the will to go on.  If we lose the will to go on we run the risk of losing the desire to live, and if that happens the results can be a disaster.  Hope is that overpowering force that keeps us going forward when we might otherwise have given up.  Those who find themselves in the pit of despair can only climb up and out of that state if they believe that there is still hope in doing do.  Lose the hope to climb out of the pit and a person is liable to just lie there and wait for someone to come along and fill in the hole.

The Word of God says that there is a future hope for you and that blessed hope will not be cut off.  This promise is not scattered aimlessly abroad, but rather is directed at those who will by faith put their trust in the Lord.  Christ will empower us to move forward even in the midst of the most dark and desperate times and He does so when we put our faith in him.  You see, the promise comes to those who trust the Lord, and that promise is as certain as the Word of God is trustworthy.  Were we to believe that we have lost hope we have the assurance that there is indeed a future hope for us in the Lord.  He will not leave us, forget about us, nor forsake us, and He will ever be our hope in the most difficult times of life. 

In Jesus Christ we need not be hope-less, but we can daily remain hope-full.  Imagine the human heart resembling a gallon pitcher and hope as clear, cool water.  Every day the Lord will fill our pitchers with refreshing water – the hope that is surely ours.  The hope that is found in Jesus Christ is ours to claim each and every day.
Do not despair and do not fret.  There is a hope for you in Jesus Christ.  And that hope will not be taken away.  The Lord has promised and He is faithful.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Standing Together in Unity

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  -Ephesians 4:2, 3

Some years ago when I was a student in Louisville, Kentucky there was a water main break not far from the seminary.  For a day or two we had no running water at the school, but we got by with bottled water that was distributed to the students.  Later I remember hearing that somehow a link between two main pipes had weakened and the pressure had caused it to break.  The pressure on the link between the pipes was compromised, and the link broke.  When the link was compromised by pressure, the result was a break.  How applicable that is to the human experience.  Anytime we are compromised we are prone to break.  That is why we are called to stay faithful, stay in the Word, pray without ceasing, and walk humbly before God, as the Scripture teaches.

We are called by Christ to take on an attitude of lowliness and meekness.  Recall what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount about meekness: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).  Meekness should not be confused with weakness.  Meekness refers to a strength that is always under the control of the Holy Spirit.  Meekness is always seeking to put the needs of others before our own.  We seek not to be first, but rather to put Christ first in our lives.  What that means is that we love and support one another even in those times when we are spiritually weak.  When a brother or sister in Christ has a problem or even stumbles, we don’t kick them, but rather we seek to gently restore them.  Who among us has not made some mistakes or had some failings in our lives?  We have all done that haven’t we?  We have all said and done things in a moment of weakness that we wish we had never said or done.  It’s then that we confess to God, sometimes to each other, and we claim God’s forgiveness.

Understand also that taking on such an attitude requires tremendous energy, faith, and patience.  Listening, helping, and being supportive of others when they are going through some difficulty can be spiritually and mentally draining.  But remember: there may be a time when it’s us who are in need of a helping hand or a listening ear.

The continuing challenge of the church will always be the ongoing effort to keep and maintain the unity of the Spirit within the Body of Christ.  We are all different persons with differing perspectives and outlooks, but what binds us together is our shared faith in the Lord Jesus.  He is the one who we look to for unity, never ourselves.  As we trust Him and serve Him, He will bind us together with those strong cords of faith that cannot be broken.  Believe me when I say that the devil will try to break that bond we share in Christ, but we must stand together and not let that happen.  We know that God is more powerful that evil and He will empower us to stand firm against anything that might break us apart.   

We will then serve the Lord, going the distance, and serving Christ for life.   

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Praise the Lord at all Times – Whether we Feel Like it or Not

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.  –Psalm 34:1-3

I recall many years ago hearing in a sermon what I thought was extremely sound advice.  The pastor of my home church stated that there will be times when we won’t feel like praying, studying the Scriptures, or serving the Lord.  Here was his advice: do them anyway.  We will have days when we don’t feel like praying; pray anyway.  There will be times when we do not feel like spending time in the Word; read the Bible anyway.  Some Sundays we may not feel like going to church; go anyway.  Some days we won’t feel like witnessing for Christ; share Christ anyway.  Because we are human and prone to human emotions, faults, and frailties; we will indeed have those instances where we simply do not feel up to doing that which the Lord has called and commanded us to do.  However, not feeling like doing what God has told us to will not cancel out His command.

Consider how long we would keep our jobs if we only went to work when we felt like doing so.  We all have days when we would much rather stay at home or do something else – anything else, rather than go to work.  But because we want to keep our jobs we find the strength to rise up and go to work.  When we take on this attitude in service to God, an attitude that says, “I will serve the Lord at all times regardless of how I feel,” then the Lord will most certainly empower us to accomplish His will for our lives.  And He will grant us tremendous joy in the process. 

No doubt there were times when David of the Old Testament did not feel like praising the Lord and exalting His name.  But he chose to do so anyway – not just when he felt like it, but all of the time and every day.  Such an attitude lifts us up spiritually, mentally, and emotionally and keeps us moving forward even during those times when we feel we lack the strength to serve the Lord.    

So, how are you feeling today?  Do you feel that you may not have the strength to praise the Lord and serve Him today?  By faith, rise up and resolve to do so anyway.  You may be surprised at the strength and power you will find through the Lord. 
Praise His holy name!  Praise Him today, tomorrow, and every day – no matter what.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Life Worthy of the Gospel of Christ

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. -Philippians 1:27, 28

The challenge given in God’s Word is to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.  Let’s be careful not to squander the fortune of grace that has been poured out upon us.  I read once about a young man who came from an extremely wealthy family, and the tradition of this family was that everyone born into the family was given a great sum of money on their twenty-first birthday.  The idea was that they could then put the money to work to add to the family fortune.  The young man received his inheritance and unfortunately squandered it.  He did not put the fortune he had inherited to good use.  The challenge given to us in God’s Word is to put what we have been given to good use.  We begin by living lives worthy of the Lord Jesus.  Now, what does that mean in practical terms?

Embracing the Spirit while rejecting the flesh.  The follower of Christ must be committed to embracing the Spirit and rejecting the flesh.  People have some wrong ideas as to what the Christian life is all about.  They mistakenly think that following Jesus involves some sort of legalistic, solitary, stone-faced, almost monastic existence where we never laugh and never do anything that appears to be enjoyable.  Isn’t that ridiculous?  Embracing the Spirit means a shunning of the ungodly attitudes and practices of those who have rejected the Lord.  We rid ourselves of evil, hatred, envy, strife, jealousy, lust, and ungodliness (See Galatians 5:19-23).  At the same time we seek to take on the attitudes of the Lord Jesus.  We love, forgive, witness, serve, and reach out to a lost and dying world.  In Jesus the mind is transformed from carnal to spiritual.  Only Christ Jesus can do that in us; we cannot accomplish that on our own.

Heeding God’s Word and putting it into practice.  It’s one thing to read God's Word, but we must then heed it – do what it says.  Recall what James 1:22 says about being doers of the Word and not hearers only.  If we are simply hearers then we deceive ourselves. When we begin to examine the teachings of the Lord Jesus we find that we are to love God and love one another in a sacrificial sort of way.  Let’s not just hear the Word, but let’s put it into practice by doing what it says.  

Standing firm and refusing to back down.  When we are serious about following Jesus we make that commitment to serve Him with such integrity that we will never, for any reason allow ourselves to be compromised.   

We are called by the Lord to stay faithful, stay in the Word, pray without ceasing, and walk humbly before God, as the Scripture teaches.  Even the most troubled soul can, by the power of God, rise up and and begin living a life worthy of Christ.  Therein is life, joy, peace, and spiritual victory.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Firmly Established in the Faith

If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.  -Colossians 1:23

The Bible says that Paul’s desire was for the believers to become established and firm.  The question is, established and firm in what?  And the answer is, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Just as Paul desired help them to stand firm in the faith, we too desire that followers of Christ stand firm and become solidly grounded in the faith.  Folks in the church ought to be encouraged to seek and put to use their spiritual gifts given to them by the Lord. The more we serve Christ, and the more we explore and put to use our spiritual gifts, the more established we become in the faith.  We are meant to become established in the faith; that is an ever-present safeguard that keeps us from falling away.

Someone may read this and think, "What kind of weak Christian does he think I am?  I won’t fall away!  I won’t stop following Christ!  I would never deny the Lord Jesus!  Not me – never!"  My response to all of that is, really?  I believe a disciple named Simon Peter said pretty much the same thing; he swore that he would never deny or abandon the Lord (Matthew 26:31-25).  “"Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." he said.  And yet, when the time came, Peter not only abandoned Jesus, but he also denied Him three times.  Let’s not grow smug or overconfident.  By the grace of God we stand firm in the faith.  Anytime I hear of someone who has fallen away from God or gotten their lives off track I think, “But by the grace of God go I.” 

Understand that having questions and maybe even having some doubts is not necessarily falling away.  Many followers of Christ have questions and they have doubts; that does not make you an apostate.  The power of God in our lives doesn’t push us away, but the power of God brings us in and holds us close –  even in those times when we are having doubts and questions.  I don’t mean to sound glib, but let me put it this way; you’ve got questions, God has answers.  You have doubts, God can bring assurance.  I was reading an article recently, and the writer, an unbeliever, said that the reason he didn’t believe in God was because you can’t prove the existence of God.  And I thought, well for Heaven’s sake!  That’s it?!  That is what is keeping you from accepting Christ?!  Believing and trusting in the Lord is all about faith.  The Bible says that the righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:17, Hebrews 11:1).  I can’t prove to an atheist that God exists.  All I can do is let him see Jesus in me.  

As we become more firmly established in the faith, and my sincere prayer is that you are, let others see Jesus in you - each day, every day, without fail.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Not Ashamed of the Gospel

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness  that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."  -Romans 1:16, 17

Think about a time when you had the experience of being ashamed.  It could have been of yourself, another person, a situation, or something you said or did.  In the end you had that feeling of shame.  We think to ourselves, “I should not have done that,” or “I should not have said that, and I am ashamed of myself.”  I would say that we all know that feeling.  Shame comes when we say or do that which goes against what we know to be right, and it then comes back to us in a negative way.  We are embarrassed over what we did, we feel remorse, and with that remorse comes that shame.  That is such a powerful emotion that we might think that people alter their behavior, but we know that doesn’t always happen, does it?  In fact, even the most ungodly behavior, that which would bring great shame upon us, can be done so much that people no longer feel any shame about it whatsoever.  A hardening of the heart and the conscience takes place, and the only power that can break such a condition is the power of Jesus Christ.  When Christ removes our sin He also removes the after affects of sin, shame, and grief.

When we think about all that for which we are ashamed, we know that according to the Word of God the one area of our lives we ought never to be ashamed is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Yes, I am ashamed of some foolish and reckless things I did in my youth, but with Paul the Apostle I can say that I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And we share those reasons that he gave as to why he was not ashamed.  The Gospel makes real is us the power of God that brings salvation, and we should not be ashamed of something so positive and real.  

The world is filled with people are looking for the truth and in the process they are wandering aimlessly.  The power of God that brings salvation can anchor a person in life and give power for victorious living.  You don’t have too look far to find folks whose lives are falling apart.  Jesus Christ brings hope, stability, and spiritual power unlike anything the world has to offer.

The troubled soul can look to Christ and find salvation.  Having found the Lord Jesus, never be ashamed of having made the decision to follow Him.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Seeking Peace and Happiness

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.  –Proverbs 15:13 

The other day I was reading an article on and the subject was on ways to be happier.  This subject is close to my heart because I have experienced depression in my life and I often encounter in my ministry people who are also battling this affliction.  The Lord has taught me some wonderful strategies for maintaining a positive outlook and avoiding the trap of falling back into depression.  So anytime I see an article about how to be happier and cope with depression I am immediately interested. The article I read was called, “6 Natural Ways to Feel Happier,” by Lucy DanzigerYou can find the article at this link: 

Ms. Danziger stated that some of the ways we can be happier and manage depression, or just a case of the blues, is to try the following: 

-Exercise.  I agree with this whole-heartedly.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy: a daily walk, aerobics, or some basic calisthenics.  The results will astound you.
-Eat healthy.  Some years ago when I was struggling with depression, someone suggested that I pay more careful attention to my diet.  I eventually took that advice and the results were remarkable.  I try to eat a more well-balanced diet and I have more energy throughout the day. 
-Get better sleep.  Alas, this is a great suggestion, but I am often guilty of not getting enough sleep.  Countless studies have shown that getting 7-8 hours of good sleep a night on a consistent basis will work wonders for our overall health.
-Get out in the light.  This is another wonderful suggestion.  Spending time in the sunlight, even for a little while each day, can work wonders for our frame of mind.  Anytime I find myself spending s period of hours at my desk studying or working inside, I make a point to get outside for a while and just walk around in the sun.  It truly does make a difference. 
-Pick up the phone and call a friend.  When I feel the blues creeping in, I will often pick up the phone and call a trusted friend for no other reason than to just say “hi.” Even a 15 minute conversation, a few laughs, and some gentle banter can remind us that we are connected and we are not alone.
-Set aside some quiet time.  Allow me to add to what Ms. Danziger said about this.  She suggests meditation or 10 minutes or so of deep breathing each morning.  I would change this to a period of time in God’s Word and prayer.  That is ever the best way to begin each day and fortify ourselves for whatever is waiting for us that day. 

The abundant life in Christ is waiting for all who will seek it.  However, that blessed abundant life will not happen automatically.  We are called to rise up, move forward, and by faith and take hold of the victories the Lord has in store for us.  Christ has not called us to defeat, but to victory in Him and through Him.  Even the most troubled and hopeless soul can find this blessed abundant life.  Never give up on seeking what the Lord has in store for us.  Christ’s riches of spiritual blessings are available to all.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Comforted in the Power of Christ

For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.  -Romans 1:11, 12

Here we see a powerful and wonderful truth in God’s Word: the power of God brings comfort and stability to our lives.  The world is filled with people who are unstable, have no peace, no direction, and their lives are in a shambles.  If we have some stability, some direction, and the Lord is giving us His guidance, then that is nothing to feel ashamed about.  We don’t have to broadcast it or brag about it, but neither is it something to be ashamed of.  Never make an apology for being a follower of Jesus Christ.  That is the most positive and productive lifestyles a person could ever choose.  Following Christ is always preferable to following the ways of the world.

We can only comfort one another in what we know is right and what we feel most positive about.  If I am filled with hatred, bitterness, and anger then I am not going to be much comfort to anyone.  But if the love of Jesus reigns in our hearts then God can and will use that to comfort others.  Back-handed comfort is no comfort at all.  If someone is miserable I don’t think he wants to hear about how miserable I am.  I know that’s contrary to the old adage of "misery loves company," but honestly, what I think that person wants is the re-assurance of some hope.  What we communicate to others is that there is hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.  
All is not lost, and though the situation looks bleak, there is hope in Jesus Christ.  This is what Jesus referred to as the blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:14).  One of those two has to have sight, or they will both stumble and fall.  

When we have the power of Christ in us, we will be capable of showing others that there is hope in the Lord.  Those who place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ will not be disappointed.  Christ can take the most troubled life and make it peaceful.  He is able to take shattered lives and make them whole again.  The Lord can put ruined lives back on the right track.  Comfort, hope, and stability are waiting in Christ.  The troubled soul finds hope and refuge in the Lord.  He is more than willing to forgive and empower us to overcome whatever trials we are facing.  

Christ is willing and ready to save.  Open your heart and let Him do that perfect work in your life today.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Spiritual Healing: Readily Available

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!"  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. –Mark 1:40-42 

The Scriptures show us that Jesus was always willing to go beyond the social norms of the day in order to minister to peoples’ needs.  Jesus consistently placed human need over and above following the letter of the law.  When the Lord reached out and touched the leper’s hand he broke a number of social norms and customs.  First, people simply didn’t touch lepers; that would be inviting the disease upon themselves.  Secondly, for the Jewish man of Jesus’ day, coming into contact with someone who was unclean (such as a leper), would make the man ceremonially unclean for the rest of the day and he would be unable to enter the temple to worship.  There is also the consideration that the leper broke a rule of society as well; he was supposed to cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” However, in his desire to find healing he disregarded this custom and sought the Lord.  The leper possessed the faith that Christ could heal, and Jesus was perfectly willing to heal the man of his affliction.  What a blessed outcome; faith that Jesus could heal followed by the Lord’s healing touch.

When we look around us we see that there are countless people in need of the Lord’s healing touch.  While we won’t see many lepers around us, we will see those whose lives have been ravaged by addiction, poor choices, bad judgment, sickness, crises, and painful life circumstances.  Like the leper seeking the Lord, they can find spiritual healing through Jesus Christ.  The leper walked away cleansed from his illness.  Those today who seek the Lord can also be delivered from that which is destroying their peace and joy.  Christ has the power to overcome anything that sets itself up against us.  No circumstance is too big or too great for the Lord to handle.  Those who seek Christ will find Him, and those who desire the Lord’s healing touch will experience a wonderful spiritual redemption. 

Don’t stand on the outside wondering if there is hope for you.  In Christ there is hope.  The Lord stands ready to heal, cleanse, and forgive.  He will not abandon you in your time of need.    

When you come to Him in simple faith and say, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean,”  the Lord will respond in kindness and grace: “I am willing; be clean.”

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Un-cluttering and Renewing the Mind

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  –Romans 12:2 

I watched a program recently that chronicled the lives of people who can’t throw anything away.  And you’re thinking, “Hey, he’s talking about me.” No, these are people who so keep and hoard everything that their homes become almost uninhabitable.  Most of what they pile up in their homes would be considered worthless junk, but these people refuse to throw it out.  Eventually their homes become filled to the point that every room is piled to the ceiling with this clutter.  The result is a dangerous and unhealthy environment that can damage their quality of life.

As I consider this I realize that the human mind can also be filled with all sorts of clutter that can hinder our peace of mind and spiritual growth.  We can become so overwhelmed with problems, bad memories, guilt, worry, and fear that our forward progress is stymied; we become stalled out in terms of growing in our faith.  Do you have a bad memory from the past that seems to creep up on you when you least expect it and it causes you problems and grief?  If you struggle with such painful memories then you are not alone.  Countless people wrestle with such issues on a regular basis.  By the power of the Holy Spirit these thoughts that clutter our minds can be dealt with and overcome. 

The Scripture teaches that we are transformed into the image of Christ through the renewing of our minds.  The mind can be daily renewed through prayer, spending time in the Word, and walking through the day in an attitude of prayer and openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  When we feel our minds being cluttered with bad thoughts, vengeful feelings, unresolved guilt, or unforgiving attitudes, then we know that it is time for a de-cluttering of the mind.  This is always done through prayer and the Word of God. 

Don’t allow your mind to be cluttered.  Clean it out; renew it daily through prayer and God’s Holy Word.  The results will astound you and bring about a wonderful peace.  The troubled soul is comforted and the cluttered mind is renewed by the power of the Word and Prayer.  Don’t delay, but begin seeking the Lord today.  He can and will remove that which hinders.