Thursday, January 7, 2016

Have You Become Bitter? Overcome it With a Thankful Heart

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  –Philippians 4:11

We are finally experiencing the first truly cold weather of winter, and like it or not, we are bound to have to deal with it for the next few months. I was outside yesterday breathing the cold air and considering how it felt.  This air has an arctic feel to it, which makes sense, because according to the people who are weather experts, the freezing air is blowing down from out of the north and we are indeed feeling it. 

I was sitting on my couch the other night, looking at my two dogs, one curled up beside me on the couch (she isn’t supposed to be on the furniture), and the other snoozing comfortably on the floor.  We are the type of dog people who allow our dogs to reside indoors, much to their delight, especially on cold nights like that one.  I know there are many of my friends who have dogs and while they may not allow them inside the house, they make sure they have a place to sleep outside to escape this harsh weather.  I admit there are times when I feel a little guilty about how comfortable my dogs live when there are countless people in the world, many in my own community, who go without proper food, clothing, and shelter.  Assisting those in need is an ongoing challenge and Jesus said we are to reach out to those needs however possible (Matthew 25:35-40).  Jesus also said the poor we will always have with us (Matthew 26:11), so the needs will always be there.  Christ calls us to be aware of the needs around us and seek to reach out to others in any way possible.  We can all be involved by assisting local charities, food drives, and volunteering at homeless shelters.  Compared with millions of people in the world who go daily without basic life necessities, I live like a king.  Therefore my dogs, who reside with me, do as well.

I write often of how we all go through life struggles, and in the midst of them we easily become discouraged.  Never forget there is hope in the Lord; He brought you through and He will do so again.  Unless we are careful, we become bitter, and bitterness is an ugly condition, especially for anyone desiring to walk by faith and live victoriously.  Recognize the signs of bitterness:

  •       Negativity
  •     Cynicism
  •     Unwillingness to forgive
  •     Misdirected anger towards those we love
  •     Disrupted sleep patterns
  •     Loss of appetite or seeking comfort in food
  •     Anger at God

All of these are warning signs that bitterness has taken hold of us.  God’s Word warns us of ever being on our guard lest a bitter root take hold in our hearts (Hebrews 12:15).  By faith, we rise up and with God’s help overcome bitterness and all its ugly characteristics.  When you feel bitterness setting in, stop and take a look at what you have.  Like me, most of you reading this have much to be thankful for.  Stop and count your many blessings.  Learn daily to develop a thankful heart, which leads to a positive outlook.  I am striving to learn, as did Paul the Apostle, that with God’s help, I can be contented in any and all circumstances.  

Look up, be thankful, and trust the Lord each day.

God bless you.

Monday, January 4, 2016

God Brought you Through, He Will do so Again

Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."  Luke 9:62

One of the blessings of living in the neighborhood in which we reside is having quiet streets to walk our dogs, Ada and Leon.  I have a common route I follow for nearly every walk, call me a creature of habit, and the dogs and I can cover it in about thirty minutes of brisk walking.  Midway through the walk is Green Hill Road, part of which traverses a steep upgrade.  By the time we reach the top, I am usually winded, but my walking companions trudge playfully up the hill as if they had hardly walked at all.  It’s a great walk and I always feel a sense of accomplishment every time I make it to the top of that hill.  I will sometimes glance back over my shoulder to see what was accomplished.  A feeling of gratitude follows.  “Thank you, Lord, for helping me up this hill, and thank you I’m alive and healthy to experience it!”  Our walk continues with renewed strength.

Jesus spoke of ever moving forward in faith, summarized in the verse about those who put their hands to the plow and look back are not worthy of God’s Kingdom.  What about the farmer who plows a row and then looks back over what he has done?  Why might this be a problem?  The act of looking back only becomes problematic when our attitude becomes one of regret and longing for what used to be.  As Jesus’ followers, we abandon old attitudes, bad habits, and self-centeredness.  We move forward daily growing in Christ’s love, grace, and mercy.  We become keenly aware of the people around us and their hurts, pain, and personal anguish.  The focus is off of us and instead we look to how we can make a positive difference in the world.

All the while we are of course going through our own unique struggles.  We all have trials, frustrations, family problems, financial pressures, and challenges at our places of employment.  Yet, despite our own struggles, Christ empowers us to new hope, renewed strength, and peace that passes all human understanding (Philippians 4:7).  Problems do not disappear when we receive Christ.  Instead, we have spiritual power for rising up, confronting our trials, and going forward in victory and power.  Thus, God empowers us to shine Jesus’ light to a lost and hurting world that desperately needs hope.

I often look back, but not in longing for the man I was before I knew Christ.  i do not long for the sins of my youth.  Rather, I look back and rejoice over the battles, struggles, and difficulties the Lord brought me through.  You can do likewise.  No doubt, you have been through all sorts of difficulties.  Have faith, for God will bring you through whatever problems you are facing right now. 

God brought you through before; He will do it again.  Look ahead and trust the Lord, for He has a plan for your life.

God bless you.