Thursday, April 30, 2015

Oh to Have a Mind Like His!

     Some people are slow in making decisions and others jump right in without checking all the facts. We see this every day in our world.  In either extreme, mistakes can be made.  The person who is slow to decide may miss the opportunity set before them.  On the other hand, the person who jumps in may find he/she made a serious error in judgment which may result in loss of some sort.  So how do we find balance?  How can we have a mind like Christ?
     In his letter to the believers at Philippi, the Apostle Paul penned these words:  "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:5-11).  This is our starting place for examining the mind of Christ.  Lets break it down.
     Within the first verse of this passage, we come to understand that Jesus did not cling to His privileges.  While He was, indeed, God, He was also fully man.  He purposely laid aside any advantages He had in order to humble Himself and become like a servant.  In conversation with His disciples, Jesus frequently reminded them that if any one of them truly wanted to be great, he must be a servant to all.   Jesus never ceased to be God, but He emptied Himself relinquishing heavenly status so that He might come and bring us salvation along with an example of how to live.  For us to have the mind of Christ, we must be willing to do the same.  Serving others, putting aside our comforts so that we might help others and reaching out to help the less fortunate are ways we can have the mind of Christ.  It takes practice because we often have too great an opinion of ourselves and our abilities.  Our Lord was decisive but studied in all He attempted to do.  He took time to humble Himself in prayer before taking any action so He could honestly say He only did what the Father had told Him to do.  Can we say that of our activities?  Our decisions?
     A second characteristic of the mind of Christ is obedience.  Not only was Christ lowly in heart, He also followed the Father's commandments perfectly.  There was never a time when  Jesus sinned (2 Cor. 5:21).  His submission to the Father's will had no flaws.  Even in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus knew He would face unbearable agony of body and soul, He told His heavenly Father "...if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42).  This is what submission looks like.  Here is the mind of Christ.  He laid aside His equality with the Father to be a completely obedient Son.  He restored what the first Adam lost in terms of His unqualified surrender to the Almighty Father.  What an example of love for us.
     In closing his thoughts about the mind of Christ, Paul writes that God was pleased to exalt Him and give Him the name above all names.  Why?  Because Jesus fulfilled His mission as our perfect sacrifice having no spot wrinkle or blemish in His thinking or actions.  Unlike those of us who are indecisive because we have either a) not asked God for wisdom or b) never looked into the Word of Truth;  or those of us who make decisions on the fly like Peter drawing a sword to lop off the ear of the high priest's servant, Jesus kept His perspective.  He fulfilled humbly the call of God and let nothing sway Him or get Him off track.  Likewise, He remained fully obedient to His Father.
      Here is the truth, though, dear friends.  We cannot have the mind of Christ unless we have the power of the Holy Spirit living within us moment by moment.  This should come as no surprise to us.  We have a mind often guided by the flesh rather than the Spirit of God.  While we may have good intentions, we often get off the track.  However, God is at work in us to conform us to His dear Son by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).  We are to test things so we can discern God's will for our lives.  If we are faithful, He will direct our steps.  The first place to begin is in prayer so that we might hear from the Lord what He wants for our lives.  Additionally, the Bible is like a road map for us to follow in decision making.  We need both of these elements to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, but the important thing is to begin this process.  Let us strive to have the mind of Christ daily so our decisions will bring glory to our Lord.  Selah!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Saying Good-Bye to a Remarkable Friend

     Yesterday was a hard day for me.  I had to take our 14 and 1/2 year old basset hound to the vet for the last time.  We knew the day would come when it was clear that we should take action to keep him from suffering.  However, such a decision is painful to say the least.
     Our basset hound Roscoe P. Coltrane came to our family as a gift to our youngest son Nathan at Christmas.  What an adorable long eared pup who tripped as he ran over those huge ears.  When our son moved away, we took over caring for Roscoe and so he became a fixture of our household and during the course of all these years, he taught us many lessons.
Roscoe P. Coltrane
     First, he taught us about unconditional love.  No matter what happened during the course of the day, Roscoe was always glad to see us, loved to be around us and never seemed to tire of following us around the house.  Isn't that what our Lord and Savior wants to see in our lives?  If only we could love unreservedly those who are hard to deal with just like Roscoe loved us.  Are we glad to greet people whether at work or in our own family at home?  We should be.  After all our Lord reminds us to "love our neighbor as ourselves".  He also said in John 13:35:  "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  In some cases, I believe Roscoe had me beat in this area.  He faithfully followed us around and gave us love even when we were grumpy.  Oh that we humans can learn this lesson that Christ might be glorified!
      Second, Roscoe taught me about perseverance.  How many animals could survive the extreme things he did?  He nearly died from bloat (a twisted stomach that cuts off circulation), a cancerous tumor in his spleen resulting in surgery to remove it and finally nearly drowning in our pool.  All were close calls, but Roscoe soldiered through each challenge to come back strong.  Those of us found in Christ are also called to persevere.  It is no surprise that life is hard on this fallen planet on which we live.  We face trials, sickness, loss and heartache, but when we are in Christ, we are more than conquerors.  Jesus spoke these words of encouragement (John 16:33):  "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  Like Roscoe, we can persevere through hardship and the difficulties we face each day not in our own power but with the help of the Holy Spirit.
     Finally, Roscoe knew how to relax, rest and sleep.  Nothing seemed to disturb him.  He was the consummate connoisseur of nap time.  In the same way, we can walk in perfect peace knowing that we are safe in the Father's hands.  Because He keeps us, we need not fear.  We can rest like Roscoe in sweet peace.
     I miss our basset hound so much as he brought us joy and laughter.   More than this, though, he reminded us of the important qualities of our faith like unconditional love, perseverance in the face of hard times and  how to have peace.  Each one of these qualities is a means of identifying those who love our Savior.   Let us practice these qualities and put them to good use for the glory of Christ!  If a dog can do it,  I KNOW that in Christ

we can too.  Selah!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Fire Scare

      Today, we had a big scare at our house.  As we were returning from a walk, I thought I heard our smoke detectors going off.  The closer I got to the front door the louder the sound became.  Sure enough,  when I opened the door, smoke poured out of our house.  I ran inside to find that I had a pan with burned chicken on the stove which was making all the smoke.  Fortunately, our house did not catch fire as a result of this oversight on my part.  Having turned down the chicken to a simmer, I thought I would be fine until we returned.  However, I was wrong.  Normally,  I would laughingly say that its my "burnt offering" unto the Lord!  But today was different.   We all know how dangerous fire can be and how badly we can be burned both physically and spiritually.
     In Scripture, we also learn about a very real, hot fire and some young men who experienced it
.  Read Daniel 3:19-28.  I know we have all read this story before, but it bears repeating.
Our son Nathan a firefighter with his niece Rilyn.
     King Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego because they would not bow down to worship his statue.  Since they defied him, he heated up the fire seven times hotter than before in the furnace where he would throw them.  He bound these men and had his soldiers send them into the flames.  The men who threw them in were even killed by the fire.  Now that's hot!  When the king looked in to see them, he saw four men walking about in the fiery furnace.  "Look! he answered, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."  When the king released these men, he was a believer that their God could deliver them.

     This story illustrates something very practical in our lives as well.  Who was with these three in the fire? Jesus.  Who will be with us in our fiery trials of life?  Jesus.  Were these men doing something wrong that they deserved to be burned?  No.  In fact, they were serving the Most High God and honoring Him...yet, God allowed them to go into the fiery furnace.
     Sometimes, in our lives, we face some pretty difficult circumstances, heartaches and trials.  But who is there with us through them all?  Jesus.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  Furthermore, just because we go through the fire does not mean that we are being punished...rather we often are being refined in our trust.
     When Nebuchadnezzar asked the three young men who will deliver them from this furnace, I love the answer given by them:  "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O King.  But if not, let it be known to you, O King, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up."  I don't know about you but that gives me goosebumps just reading this reply.  What faith in these men!  May our faith be as strong and determined.
     So today, if you are facing any trials, remember that Jesus is there beside you all the way.  If you belong to Him, you are in good hands and He is able to deliver you!  Selah!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Laying Aside "Self"

     One of the greatest needs we all have in our lives is acceptance.  We want to be loved for who we are as a person..not what we do for someone.  This became clear to me a long time ago when I was in grade school here in Florida.  My parents used to come to Florida for about three months every winter as my father was a farmer and had time off during this season.  Of course, since I would be missing school, I had to take classes at a local school.
     In the grade school I attended on year, I met a Jewish girl who was so sweet.  Yet, many of the other students would not even talk to her because of her religion.  Each day, we began our lunch period with the Lord's Prayer (yes, at this time it was allowed in the schools).  This girl would bow her head too even though she did not recite the prayer.  She told me she had a Hebrew blessing for her food.
     While our friendship was brief and only lasted that one winter season, she told me that I was one of the few people who had accepted her as she was and did not shun her.  I felt good about that.  I also thought it was sad that others missed getting to know her as a person.
     Within the Christian community, it is even more discouraging to find some who do not accept one another but often act out of selfishness.  Paul admonished us that we are to put aside "self" as Christ did in order to minister to the needs and weaknesses of others.  Read Romans 15:1-7:  "Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good to his edification.  For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, 'The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell upon me.'  For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God."  Paul's plea here is for unity.  We are strong when we can accept and love one another in Christ.
     Acceptance is like medicine for the soul.  In Christ, we are fully loved and accepted by God the Father.  Why then, can't we, in the Body of Christ, learn to love and accept one another?  Often we act out of an attitude of pleasing ourselves over pleasing the Lord by helping a weaker brother/sister.  We cannot show unity and bring glory to God when selfishness rules in our homes and churches.
     Human nature without Christ is basically selfish and demanding.  If Christians act in the same manner without putting aside the flesh, what difference will the world see?  Why should they desire to follow Christ when we act the same way?
     Instead of putting ourselves first in every situation, let us ask how we can help one another.  The question "What would the Lord have us do?" is a good one for us to consider as we approach every situation.  To love and accept others only when it is convenient to us is human but to love and accept when it is hard comes from a changed heart by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Selah!

Friday, April 17, 2015

His Joy Is Our Strength

     One of the greatest needs we all have is to experience joy in our lives.  Too often, I believe people equate joy with happiness, but there is a difference between the two.  Happiness is a momentary emotion that can come and go.  Joy, however, is a deep abiding confidence that God will see us through whatever storms we may face.  I have mentioned it before in my writing but it bears repeating.  I used to have a little sticker that said:  "Joy is not the absence of sorrow but the presence of God."  I like that definition because we face a life here in a broken world that is difficult to walk through.  There are disappointments and losses as we journey each day, but as Nehemiah says:  "For the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10b).  Why did he say this?
     Nehemiah was used of God to bring the people back to Jerusalem out of captivity to rebuild the walls of the city.  When the work was done after much opposition to this endeavor, the Lord called upon Nehemiah the Governor and Ezra the priest to set aside a holy day in which the Law would be read to the people.  As the people listened they wept because they saw how they had disobeyed the Lord.  Their repentance was genuine, and when the reading was completed, Nehemiah sent them out to eat and drink and celebrate their new found relationship with the Living God.  This is why he told them that the joy of the Lord is their strength.  True repentance leads to joy that enables us to face whatever life throws our way.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
     Even our Lord Jesus Christ knew this kind of joy that enabled Him to face death on the cross for our salvation.  Hebrews 12:1-2 says:  "1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  We must fix our eyes on Jesus just as He fixed His eyes on the goal of our salvation through the cross.  Our Lord was able to endure the agony of flogging and death by crucifixion because His eyes were set on the goal of finishing His work and sitting down at the right hand of God the Father.  This joy gave Him strength.  When we focus on the Lord rather than our circumstances, we are doing the same thing.
     Honestly, I do not know how in the world I could have ever faced some of the heartaches that life has brought me without God's inner joy which has helped me through it all.  Losing my mother after a ten year battle with Alzheimer's, losing my father to a rare brain disease much before his time and then, losing our first born grandson suddenly two years ago are not easy things to face.  Yet, God's joy has undergirded me with strength.  I do not know how anyone can face the hardship and pain of loss without Jesus Christ.
     Jesus Christ made known to His disciples what He was passing on to them in John 15:11:  "These things have I spoken to you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."  This same joy is what we find as we open the pages of the Bible.  Reading the Word fills us with a joy and peace that the world cannot know outside of Christ.
     Like the people of Israel after hearing the Word of God went out to rejoice in His strength, so we also can do the same thing when we put Christ first.  Psalm 30:5 tells us:  "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."  Let us trust in God whose joy can walk us through the deepest valley and over the highest mountain top.  Selah!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Better Than I Deserve

     We all pick up phrases that we have heard during our lifetime.  Some are very familiar like:  "God willing and the creek don't rise"; "that is a piece of cake"; "this cost me an arm and a leg" or "don't cry over spilled milk".  Most of them are just a manner of speaking or expression; however, one phrase which my husband has adopted has a lot of meaning behind it.  When greeted by someone and asked how he is doing, my husband replies "I am better than I deserve."  Now, he did not originate this phrase but picked it up from a brother in Christ who often replied in this manner.  Who began saying this I cannot tell you, but it does make people stop and think.  Some will ask why he said that which, then, gives him the opportunity to share some good news with these people about his salvation in Jesus Christ.  Based on Scripture (Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23), we all deserve eternal punishment for sinning against a holy God.  Yet, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins, we have been saved, delivered, bought with a price and redeemed both from sin and death.  This is why we are "better than we deserve".  Paul knew this as he faced some very difficult situations.
     During one of his many imprisonments for preaching the Gospel, Paul wrote to the Philippians these words:  "I want you to know brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.  And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear" (Philippians 1:12-14).  Now Paul has just put a very positive outlook on something which might be considered a hard place to be.  He is not saying, "I don't deserve this" but in effect, he is saying "I am better than I deserve".  Plus he points out all the good that has come as a result of his circumstances.
     Later in the same letter, Paul gives us the key to his ability to see the how God is working all things together for our good.  In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul declares that he has learned to be content in whatever situation he finds himself.  Then, he boldly states:  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13).  Indeed, Paul is better than he deserves isn't he?  After all, he persecuted Christians and ordered them put to death.  But God in His mercy and for His glory, awakened Paul to life in Christ.  Therefore, no matter what man attempted to do to Paul he was able to see God's almighty hand behind every circumstance.
     There are times when we face life's battles, and we might feel as though we are losing at every turn.  Family conflict, business problems, financial hardships or health problems can make us only look at the negative side of things.  Ah, but the Bible tells us that we are more than conquerors in Christ because He has overcome this world.  He has fought the good fight for us, and now we can say with Paul, we are "better than we deserve".  The Apostle Paul also wrote in his letter to the Corinthians these words of encouragement:  "17For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."  We must remember to keep this perspective because the earth is not our home.  We are citizens of heaven.
     God will use the trials and setbacks of life to help us grow in His grace and to reach out to others with the Good News of salvation.  Let us keep in mind that all things do work together for good for those that love the Lord.  Selah!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The First and Greatest Commandment

     The other day on Facebook, my dear daughter in law posted a wonderful reminder to us of what Jesus spoke in the Word.  He was confronted by the Pharisees and one of them, a lawyer (expert in the Law of God), asked Him this:  "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets'" (Matthew 22:36-40).  Jesus summarized in this statement the intent of "The Ten Commandments".  We are to love God first and foremost with all of our being and secondly, we are to love our neighbor in the
Rilyn and Bennett loving one another
same way we want to be loved.  The first four commandments deal with our relationship to God and the last six deal with our responsibility to one another.  This forms the moral foundation and character for the believer and for society.  It is an impossible task to do this without the help of the Holy Spirit. So what are the implications of this statement?
     As I was considering this the other day, an example came to my mind through a very ordinary activity.  I was peeling potatoes for dinner when I accidentally nicked my finger.  It  did not bleed so I paid no attention to it until I added a pinch of salt to my recipe.  Then, the nick in my finger screamed for mercy as the salt entered the wound.  It burned!  If I had forgotten about my cut, I remembered it then.  In the same way, Jesus calls us to be salt and light in our world, society and culture (Matthew 5:13-16, The Sermon on the Mount to believers).  Salt is a preservative and a flavor enhancer.  It kills bacteria harmful to the human body.  So when our mothers told us to gargle with salt water for a sore throat, they were right!  However, when we act as salt in our society, there may come occasions when the Lord, whom we represent, will bring a sense of conviction to those caught in sin.  This is similar to having salt go into a cut.
      Presently our society is dealing with many issues that fly in the face of God and His Word.  One in particular, Gay marriage, is a predominant concern for some.  If we are to love God with all our heart and mind and soul, then how do we respond to this as a believer?  First, we must turn to God's Word and see what the Lord says.  In Leviticus 18:22, the Lord says:  "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination."  Then in the New Testament, Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:9-10:  "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. "  Other verses pertaining to this sin include:  Romans 1:26-28; Leviticus 20:13; Jude 1:7 to name a few.  We know that God's design for marriage from the beginning of all creation was one man and one woman (Genesis 2: 18-25).   We also know that God hates sin and calls upon us to be holy as He is holy.  Psalm 97:10 reads:  "Hate evil, you who love the LORD, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked."  When we, as believers, consider what God says about sin and this act in particular, how can we approve what God calls an abomination?  Yet, today, there are some churches who condone this and applaud it saying "This is how we love our neighbor as ourself."
     Dear Ones, if we love our neighbor as ourself, then we will show them the truth of God's Word by living it out in front them and confronting sin when we find it.  Hating the sin is far different from hating the sinner.  We are all sinners (Romans 3:23) as the Bible tells us.  God sent His Son to die for our sins because of His great love for us (John 3:16).  However, when we become a believer, we are not to continue in our sin or condone the sin of others.  We are to be holy as God is holy and live according to His Laws.  Jesus never came to abolish the moral Laws of God as given in The Ten Commandments.  He came to fulfill the Law by making a way for sinful man to come to God through Him.  Paul said it well in his letter to the Romans 6:1-4:  "What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  We are buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."
     Unfortunately, our society is not just calling for Gay marriage to take place.  The culture in which we live also wants us to accept it, respect it and praise it as being a normal part of our society.  This is where the Christian has to act as salt.  If we love God with all our heart, soul and mind, we must think as He thinks about sin as revealed in His Word which is truth.  We must obey God rather than caving to the pressure of society.  Sinners want society to approve of their sins and say it's okay, but God calls us to a different walk which will always put us at odds with this world because this is not our home.  We are citizens of heaven.
      What about loving our neighbors?  We are to love them where they are at, but also, not leave them there.  We must tell them the truth of God's Word and share the wonderful news of redemption through Christ.  The results are in God's hands.  We cannot change others for only the Holy Spirit can do that, but if we love others, we will want them to know about the Savior.  It is far more loving to tell our neighbor the truth then to condone a life without Christ at the center.
      Do we love God?  Then, we must obey Him and love what He loves and hate what He hates.  We must be transformed into a new life ourselves and then reach out to our neighbors to share this news with them.  We must remember that Jesus called us to be salt and light in this world.  We may sting like salt in a wound when we share the truth, but salt is meant to kill bacteria and preserve things.  If we lose our saltiness in an effort to go along with society, we may end up like this:  "...but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet" (Matthew 5:13b,c).  Compromise with the world and its ideas means losing our saltiness.  Believers let us love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbors as ourselves not giving in to the way of this world.  Selah!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

One Thing We Shouldn't Borrow

     Over the years of home educating our children, we must have borrowed hundreds of books from our local library.  Most of the time, we were good about remembering to get them back in time.  However, there were occasions when we would forget a book and run up a hefty fine.  Nevertheless, we were grateful to have access to many good books.  While borrowing from the library is a positive, the one thing we should not try to borrow is trouble!
     Allowing "vain imaginations", worry, or concern over things we cannot change leads us to borrowing trouble for ourselves.  I can honestly say that I have succumbed to this from time to time.  Clearly, God does not want us to spend our time or energy living in fear over things that may not even happen.  Jesus addressed this in "The Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew6:22-34).  The Lord
reminds us not to worry about what we should eat or wear.  Perhaps my favorite phrase in this passage states:  "And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?"  Now that is an excellent question.  In reality, there are many things in life over which we have little or no control, and that is the problem isn't it?
     Most of us want to control our circumstances.  We would like to have everything lined up each day so we could feel more secure;  But where is the need for faith in God if we have everything under our control?  As I recall, it was God who created the world and all of us who live in this world.  Therefore, it would seem reasonable to assume that we are not in charge.  Rather, God is the Sovereign Lord over all creation.  Jesus made this clear when He said that a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without God being aware of it.  Since we are more valuable than a sparrow, we should stop worrying over every issue of life.
     What is the end result of long term stress, worry and anxiety?  For one thing, it does not do our health any favors.  We often have trouble sleeping, and we can be tense or on edge with our loved ones and co-workers.  This is where Satan can grab us by building "vain imaginations" in our thinking.  If this is not stopped in time, we can have made a mountain out of an ant hill.  Life becomes harder to face each day.  This is not how God intended for us to live.  Paul points this out in his letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7):  "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."  This is the opposite from wallowing in self-pity and worry which does not glorify God or prove to be a good witness to our fellow man.
     Our lives are meant to be a faith walk, and an adventure of sorts.  We are to take one day at a time not living in the past or reaching ahead to grab an unknown future.  The only ting we can change with God's help is our own outlook.  We cannot change others and often we cannot change our circumstances.  Yet, we can roll our cares upon Him.  Through daily prayer, we can turn loose all the tension and fear we have, but we must leave it with God and not take it back again.
     Borrowing library books gives us access to many more resources than we own.   This is a good thing.  However, borrowing trouble is the last thing we need in our lives.  If there is something over which we are worried or in fear, we need to give it to God in prayer.  Then, we must believe that He who knows when a sparrow falls will certainly be able to carry our concerns far better than we can.  Let us remember this word from Hebrews and stand on it (Hebrews 11:1):  "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  Selah!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

All Things Become New

     Most of us have heard people say, "I sure wish I had a 'do over' today" or "Maybe I should just go home and start the day all over!"  However, even if we had a chance to do things all over again, there is no assurance that the results would be different.  Nevertheless, we can be different and see things from a new perspective every day.  How does this happen?  The answer is simple.
     We are fast approaching Easter.  For some, this is merely a sign of spring, and the rebirth of plants, warmer days with more outside activities.  The Christian, however, sees Easter from a different perspective.  Not only is it a day of celebration as we rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, but it is also about our own transformation that God has done in us.  God awakened us from
the death of sin so that we might be able to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit to put our faith in Jesus Christ and His completed sacrifice for our sins.  At that moment of humbling ourselves, confessing our sins and need for a Savior, God makes us new.  I love the description that Paul gives in his letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 5:17):  "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."  What an amazing statement!  We no longer are held in bondage to the sin, the habits and the chains that kept us from realizing who we are in Christ.
     While the change is instantaneous from the perspective of God, it takes us a while to realize that we are free.  The Enemy of our souls wants us to think we are still tied to the old way of living, but when we read the Word of God and think God's thoughts after Him, our minds become renewed.  Then, we understand that we are free in Christ to live according to His will for our lives.  What is His Will for us?  Jesus  tells us in John 10:10:  "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."  While satan, the thief, comes to bring us down, Jesus, our Lord, comes that we might have a full life.  In addition, the Lord desires for us to be fruit bearers as listed in Galatians 5:22 that others might see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.
     None of this is possible when we are living in the flesh.  We can do nothing in our own strength including saving ourselves.  We can never be good enough, holy enough or worthy enough to bring about the change in our life and thinking as Christ alone does.  He enables us to get up each day as a new creation with new dreams, ideas, and opportunities.  The old has passed away for us.  No more "Ground Hog Day" like the movie where the main character relieves a bad day over and over till he gets everything right.  No!  We are complete, whole and new in Christ.  With Him living in our hearts, each day is a new adventure full of promise no matter what our circumstances in life are at this time.  He makes all things new!
     Easter reminds us, as believers, of this new beginning.  Even as Christ rose from the dead, we shall also be raised up with Him.  Upon death, our souls will go into His presence for eternity.  What Good News!  And every morning brings new mercies!  Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us:  "22The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness."  If this is not encouraging, I do not know what is.
     If you have never experienced a new beginning in Christ, I pray that this Easter, you will ask Christ to give you a new heart and mind.  If we repent, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins!  On the other hand, if you are a believer, remember that every day is a new day with a fresh adventure in living awaiting us.  We must let go of the past and live to glorify our Lord.  May each one of us find new joy this Easter season!  Selah!

The photograph of the lily is provided by Matt Wade, photographer through creative commons copyright on Wiki commons  UpstateNYer