Sunday, April 25, 2010

Selfish Time

Am I selfish? Yes! With my time. Even though nothing is more fulfilling or satisfying than reaching out, sharing, giving myself to those in need, or spending quality time with my loved ones, I am such an individual of routine! There is so much to do and see, that I don't want to miss out on even one moment or event. I start out my day thinking of the goals that need to be met, and planning accordingly. I create my own agenda, and can easily get caught up in myself. I am so preoccupied and concerned with my "to-do" list that I either find myself grumbling about or simply closing any doors to unplanned opportunities. Am I avoiding a calling from God, and submitting to His plan?

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interest of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:3-5)

The bible considers selfish ambition as evil and one of the works of the flesh. We are to consider others interests as more important than ours, and to lay aside selfishness. I never really considered myself selfish until I started thinking about how it applies to me sharing my time with others even when it is an unknown or unseen event. Over the course of the last few years juggling marriage, raising a family, building on my career, and finding the time to spend in praise, worship, and fellowship, I have fallen into a trap of self sufficiency. I need to learn to "go with the flow" with a genuine heartfelt attitude, and listen to His calling bearing the gifts He has entrusted to me so that I don't taste the bitterness of selfish ambition. "True fulfillment, true rest, true refreshment, and true satisfaction will come to us when we abide in the place where God has called us." (Unknown)  

"God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." (Hebrews 6:10-12)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Judgmental World

"Judge a tree from it's fruit, not from it's leaves." (Unknown)

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:3,5)

We live in a very diverse world that is ever changing. There are so many rare and unique individuals who have different gifts and talents, so why is it so easy to fall into a trap of judging and criticizing our friends, family, co-workers, and others that cross our paths? How easy it is to focus on other peoples faults while excusing our own! We are all flawed people, and people with flaws have no right to judge other people's flaws. I am certainly remorseful of having attacked people's differences and failures, and work very hard to focus on their values and genuineness. Rather than having a holier-than-thou attitude, we need to examine our own conduct and judge ourselves first. Criticism can be unfair and unjust, and it is just the opposite of being gracious. By illustrating our character with integrity, reaching out with love, generosity, and kindness to others, we can build our loved ones up rather than tearing them down.

"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." (Roman's 14:13)

I strive to constantly monitor the effects that my behavior has on others, and to be sensitive to their needs. The right way to interact with others is to be aware of one another; aware and considerate of their flaws and mistakes. Because even when people make mistakes, we can still see the best in them, love them, and care for them. It is not in our Christian "job description" to pass judgment on others, that's God's territory! "It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord." (Romans 12:19) Only God truly knows a persons heart, and He is the only judge! God's justice is always fair and He has perfect timing. His judgment is unique to the individual, not based on a formula.

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them." Mother Teresa

"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." (Romans 12:16)

We should offer ourselves and be quick to respond to the diverse environment we live in. We don't know what challenges God has given someone, so how can anyone judge someone else unless they've arrived in the same place and life circumstances as they have? Judging is selfish and a sign of our self-righteousness; it is self serving and shows no taste. And God isn't so easily fooled; He sees right through us! And I'm pretty sure that God is judging us too!

Friday, April 9, 2010

He Groans With Us

Many people are challenged and want to know why God would allow pointless evil and suffering to exist; who are angry and distrusting in Him, because they have experienced heartache, tragedy, and illness. And I see for many of them, this destroys their faith, and they reject God because of the cruelty, sorrow, and pain they have endured. They groan through all of the turmoil they have encountered, and are pessimistic of the days to come. But when life is going our way, and when it is carefree and great, we often forget about God which is not pleasing to Him! He wants us to worship Him, with thanksgiving, in the good times and the bad. When we suffer is when we should turn to Him and trust faithfully. 

"Jesus promised His followers that another being would come to be with them in their struggles-a comforter, a teacher, and advocate. He promised His Holy Spirit. Not only does the spirit convict us of sin and teach truth, He endures our suffering with us. He has been "called alongside" to help us endure." (Swindoll)
"I believe that all suffering is at least potential good; an opportunity for good. It's up to our free will to actualize that potential. Not all of us benefit from suffering and learn from it because that's up to us; it's up to our free will. And not only can we make the decision about how we are going to react to the suffering but God says I will help you in the process." (Unknown)

We have probably all felt that God has let us down at one time or another, but I don't believe that God rejoices about the bad things that have happened. It becomes much too easy to blame and abandon God during these times of conflict. However, with every disappointment, give it time and trust that God will sanctify you in your deepest distress. God disciplines us just as we discipline our own children (for our own good!), so that we might learn and take the right path in life, and place our trust and faith in Him.

"In short, the problem of tragedy, suffering, and injustice is a problem for everyone. It is at least as big a problem for non-belief in God as for belief. It is therefore a mistake, though an understandable one, to think that if you abandon belief it somehow makes the problem of evil easier to handle." (Keller) 

Nothing we suffer can compare to the great price that Jesus paid to save us. I trust He has a plan for each and every one of us, and that we can't possibly come up with a better idea than the one already conceived in God's heart and mind! His plan may take more time than we expect...we need to have confidence in God's perfect timing and wisdom. I look forward to and wait for God to free the world from evil, sickness, and suffering to the new heaven and earth that God has promised. There is hope for future glory!

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. In the same way the spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." (Romans 8:18,26)

"God can use pain and suffering to attract us to the greatest joy in life, which is an intimate relationship with God that will continue in heaven where we'll spend eternity with Him. And the truth is, it's worth any price if it means coming to know God in that way. (Strobel) 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eternal Life

He came. He taught. He healed. He saved. He forgave. He was crucified. He was resurrected. It is complete!!

Through His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, and for those who believe in Him, gave us eternal life in Christ Jesus. This eternal life is not an extension of our life on earth, but a promise that we will live life forever in eternity! For those of us who believe, what wonderful assurance we have! Christ died for us and as we pursue an intimate relationship with Him; we experience a love unlike any other.

The Life Application Bible says in Ephesians: "The presence of the Holy Spirit in us demonstrates the genuineness of our faith, proves that we are God's children, and secures eternal life for us. His power works in us to transform us now, and what we experience now is a taste of the total change we will experience in eternity."

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11:25)

As Christians we still sin, but because God gave us new birth, we know exactly where we stand. Eternal life begins when we trust Christ and join God's family; Jesus is the truth we have been seeking all along. Regardless of the trials we face in this life, we can live with the expectation of eternal life, and living with Christ forever.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (l Peter 1:3)

How blessed we are! We have been given a brand new life with a future in heaven. We must choose to be all that Christ Jesus saved us for and wants us to be. With our trust in Him we can walk in newness of life and let go of our past. Because our hope is in Christ we can look forward to a fuller and more meaningful life, and move into a life of faith and obedience. 

"I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:10-12)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Internal Struggle

"I do not understand myself at all. For I really want to do what is right, but I don't do it! Instead I do everything I hate! I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good. But I can't help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things." (Romans 7:14-17-Life Application) 

Swindoll writes "Once someone has received God's grace through faith, the holy spirit takes up residence in that believer. And so begins the internal struggle. The flesh continues to serve sin, while the spirit serves righteousness."

Although I challenge myself on a daily basis to get through an entire day without doing, thinking, or saying something in which I know is not pleasing to God, I realize the battle is real! I am however aware that sin is not my master, and it isn't a lifestyle I chose. Jesus promises to forgive me, and I know His promise is true. We are all trapped in flesh, and even though we have been saved, our new nature is in constant conflict with our old nature in search of pleasing God.

"You know how it works. You constantly vow, "I'm gonna break the habit this time," but in your own power, you can't do it. You fail again and again. Then you get in a cycle of guilt and shame-beating yourself up over it, vowing to try harder next time, and when you fail again, you sink even lower, feeling a great weight of condemnation heaped upon you. (John Burke) 

"For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." (Gal 5:17-NIV)

The Life Application Bible explains that "This describes the experience of all Christians struggling against sin or trying to please God by keeping rules and laws without the Spirit's help. We must never underestimate the power of sin and attempt to fight it in our own strength. Satan is a crafty tempter, and we have an amazing ability to make excuses instead of trying to overcome sin with our own human willpower. We must take hold of God's provision for victory over sin; the Holy Spirit who lives within us and gives us power. And when we fall He lovingly reaches out to help us."

"Spiritual character is developed by responding to God, which is influenced by habits, which get formed by practices, which emerge from beliefs. So the key to deep character development is to interrupt those autopilot responses with new beliefs and practices, so we can respond to the spirit and allow God to grow us up in that area" (John Burke)  

We all live in a constant state of conflict, and I know that God doesn't approve of all that He sees in me, but He stays with me right or wrong until I get things sorted out. I have discovered that the more I struggle, the more I become stronger spiritually. I'm determined to continue to hang on and fully rely on God's grace and mercies, and praise Him for this temporary internal struggle. Sin is stronger than I am, and without God's help I am unable to defend myself against it's attack!