Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Complete Through Christ IN Us

Read: Galatians 2: 20-21

“God wanted his people throughout the world to know the glorious riches of this mystery – the mystery, which is Christ living in you, giving you the hope of glory.” - Colossians 1:27

In the perfect balance of the Trinity, God is three separate entities – the Father, Son and Spirit - who all dwell within each other in a spiritual union. God sits on His throne and Jesus sits at His right hand; however, we forget that by the Spirit, the fullness of the Godhead also dwells within us (1 Corinthians 6:17).  When we repent and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, we connect in a spiritual union with the entire Trinity (Galatians 2: 20-21). Even when we realize this fact, however, for some reason, we continue to view God as “up in Heaven” and separated from us down here on the earth.

If we view our lives as separate from Christ, we feel forsaken when we endure our trials. However, our whole attitude and outlook about life change, when we come to realize that Christ is in us (Colossians 1:17). We no longer face adversity unaided. We are now assisted by all the power of the Godhead, which dwells within us (Galatians 2:20). Therefore, we no longer live alone, but Christ lives His life in us and through us. This means that we can do all things through Christ who empowers us from the inside out (Philippians 4:13).

John explained, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (I John 5:12). This is what Christians mean when we say we are “Born Again”. A person without the Spirit of God has a spirit, which is dead in trespasses and sins. It is only when we are born again of the Spirit of God that He breathes His life into our spirit and regenerates us (John 3:6). We are then "born from above" (John 3:3,7). The full power of the Godhead dwells in us from that moment of Salvation.

God does not visit us occasionally, nor does He listen to our prayers from His throne in heaven. He took up permanent residence in us the second we asked Him to forgive our sins. He possesses us - body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). God does not only reveal His Son to us, but in us as well, because Christ “is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11).

How does this transforming manifestation occur? Christ converts our natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14) into a spiritual being (1 Corinthians 3:1). He changes us from "children of the devil" (1 John 3:10) and "sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2; 5:6), to "children of God" (Romans 8:14,17; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 3:26; 4:6,7; Hebrews 2:10; John 1:12; Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:1,2,10). The Trinity’s presence and function within us now identifies us as Christ followers (Acts 11:26; I Pet. 4:16).

We are in Christ and He is in us. Biblical evidence reveals that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). This means that the unregenerated “old man” (Ephesians. 4:22; Col. 3:9), who is worthy of eternal death, has been crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). Now, with Christ living in us, we become a "new man" (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10).

From this point on, when we perform the good works, which God prepared for us before time began (Ephesians 2:10), this is actually the Trinity working in us and through us. We are now pleasing in His sight (Hebrews 13:21). Our life manifests as a living letter of Christ, not written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, on the tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3). Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Him (John 17:23). Born Again Christians are in Him as well, and He is in us (John 14:20). This means that the Father and the Spirit are also in us.

Within each of us is God’s Divine power, which delivers and defends us. We do not need to feel fearful when a friend turns against us, when a mate leaves us, when a child rejects us, when our boss dismisses us, when our transportation breaks down on us, when our body gets sick, when the pantry is empty and when there is no more money in the bank.

We only need to dwell in the shelter of the Most High and to rest in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1). We have a mighty fortress deep within our spirit, in which we can hide and feel safe, until we connect with His Spirit and gain the strength to face our trials. Then the Trinity, dwelling within us, triumphs over every negative circumstance in our life.

Lord Jesus, we are complete in every facet of human existence because You dwell within us (John 14:17; 2 Timothy 1:14; James 4:5). We will never be worthy of your sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. However, Your power and might manifest in our lives, which make it possible for You to dwell within each of us. Now, we ask You to use us, body and soul and spirit, for Your glory on the earth.

Thought for the Day:
The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, dwells in every Born Again Christian.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Trouble with Self-reliance

Read: Joshua 7:3-4

“There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” - Joshua 1:5

Moses faithfully led the children of Israel through every step of their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. This included the forty years of aimless wandering in the wilderness, when God doomed the twelve tribes because of their sin of unbelief and their failure to obey His directive. Every person, who relied on their own understanding of the situation ahead of them, rather than trusting in God’s direction, died in the wilderness. From that entire generation, only Moses, Joshua and Caleb survived.

In the end, even Moses failed to obey. In his anger over the constant complaining of the Israelites, he struck the rock twice, instead of speaking to it as God commanded him to do (Numbers 20:8-11). After this, God anointed Joshua to assume the leadership of Israel. God also restrained Moses from reaping the reward of his work. He was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:12).

As a young man, untried in the realm of full command in leadership, Joshua relied heavily on God’s direction and wisdom. God gave him repeated victories and Joshua’s confidence grew with each success. When they finally arrived at the tiny city of Ai, the scouts reported that the city had few men. Joshua felt confident that his army would come away with another victory; therefore, he failed to consult the Lord’s direction for this battle.

God did not let Joshua down, nor did He go back on His promise to give them the Promised Land, but He did not honor Joshua’s attempt at self-reliance. The army lost the battle, and the survivors came home disheveled, discouraged and defeated. We can learn lessons from the lives of both Moses and Joshua.

Success is ours, only as we rely on God for His guidance and as we walk in His ways. The key to victory is to remember the importance of trusting God and obeying His directions. God gave us His Spirit to guide our every step. No matter how insignificant the task, we can seek His counsel, walk in His strength and enjoy His success in everything we say and do. Self-reliance leads to ruin; reliance on God’s Spirit leads to success.

Lord Jesus, seeking Your direction gives us the confidence to accomplish Your will with our lives. Remind us to rely on You every step of the way, and not to lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Thought for the Day:
Failure is not a necessary ingredient when learning to succeed.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Lord Will Repay You!

Read: Matthew 6:31-34

“Remember, the Lord will pay you for each good thing you do, whether you are slave or free.”-Eph 6:8 (TLB)
“I wonder if I should get a job! We could really use the income, but I do not have any more time in my day!” Have you ever had this conversation? I have, and God answered me!

He reminded me that He is the source of our income. Sure, we may work for a company, but God gave us that job. That company may fire you or reduce your salary at any moment, therefore, we cannot trust in people to supply our needs. God tells us not to worry one bit about having enough to eat or clothes for our body. He will supply our needs.

If we concern ourselves with earthly matters like having a bigger, newer home or a fancier car or the newest electronic gadget, we are no better than carnal people, who take pride in their possessions (Psalm 49:16-17, Proverbs 23:4-5). God knows exactly what we need and is very capable of supplying them for us as we put His Kingdom’s work on the top of our priority list.

Are you stuck in a dead-end job? Is monotony stripping your soul of its joy? Do you feel like your work is but a tiny drop in the giant scheme of life? If we follow the will of God for each of the moments of our day, we can be assured that He has a purpose for us in it all. Although we may not see the difference we are making now, in eternity we will reap the rewards, as long as we do not get discouraged and give up now (Matthew 6:19-21).

Many people work for a boss and do as little as possible after they clock into the job. However, God exhorts us not to work hard only when the boss is watching and then goof off the rest of the time. God wants us to cheerfully work hard all the time, because He is our real employer. The Bible promises, “A workman is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7). If we are faithful to labor as unto the Lord, we can trust that He will provide for all our needs.

Lord, help me to trust You to supply all my needs. Remind me that You know where or even if I should work. Help me to do my best at whatever You give me to do.

Thought for the Day:
Do not be anxious, God will take care of all of your tomorrows too. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Entering God's Rest

Read: Proverbs 3:5-8

"The one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.”
- Hebrews 4:10

The theme of "rest" occurs all throughout the Bible. Leviticus 23:7-36 and Numbers 29:1-35 are detailed and picturesque images of what it means to rest in the Lord. In the beginning, God demonstrated for us how to rest, by ceasing from His own labors on the seventh day (Gen 2:1-25).

Rest is a beautiful word. This state of peace invokes a multitude of mental images, such as serene lakes, babbling brooks, graceful swans, a hammock on a spring day, fluffy pillows and a comforter, or an overstuffed chair and a good book. These ideas denote serenity, tranquility, relaxation, repose and sleep.

Rest is freedom from activity or labor, a state of motionlessness, a serene place of lodging, peace that passes all comprehension, a rhythmic silence in music and a bodily state characterized by minimal function and slowed metabolic activities. There is no striving in rest. Rest is more than all of this, however. Most importantly it includes peace of mind and spirit.

Rest is quiescent, motionless, supportive, quiet, rejuvenating and free from anxiety and stress. Examples of rest are to decompress, relax at ease, leisure time, catnapping, dozing, lazing, napping, slumbering, snoozing, stillness, calm, placidity, respite and restfulness. I don’t know about you, but after reading that list, I am ready for a nap!

Throughout the course of history, mankind spent countless hours of time and a tidy sum of money searching for serenity. However, it is not until we find peace with God that we fully enter into our eternal rest. Entering God’s rest means to no longer strive to please God, or to worry about meeting our needs or to rely on our self-efforts (Hebrews 4:1-11). It means to fully trust in our Heavenly Father's love and care, and to allow His Spirit to lead us every step of the way.

Christ’s work upon the cross and God's promises to meet all of our needs sustain us with joy in our hearts (Hebrews 4:3). God advises us not to stress over the evil person, who prospers, because He encourages us to be still before Him and to wait patiently for Him to exact His revenge (Psalm 37:7). Do not even be impressed with your own wisdom (Psalm 127:2). Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones (Proverbs 3:7).

If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior (Matthew 11:28-30). If you already trusted in Christ for Salvation, then rely on Him for every other area of your life as well, and enter into His rest (Exodus 33:14). Take some time to sit in God’s presence and come away renewed and refreshed (Mark 6:31).

Lord Jesus, I vow to serve You with all of my heart. I will no longer depend upon my own understanding, but I will put all of my trust in You. I will seek Your will in all that I do, and wait on You to show me which path to take. I will enter into Your rest and find complete solace in Your waiting arms (Isaiah 50:10).

Thought for the Day:
One of the most healing states of being is that of resting.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Incorruptible Beauty!

Read: 1 Peter 3:3-6

When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule for everything she says.”- Prov 31:26 (TLB)

Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. I love the “old world” charm of her characters, as well as the Victorian styles and picturesque settings of her stories. Her heroes are either heart-stopping cavaliers or stalwart gentry. As she weaves her plot, it turns out that both of these type of gentlemen are more attracted to the allurement of the kind, generous and sweet spirit of her heroines than to the flashy women with outer beauty and adornment.

In the Bible, the apostle Peter tried to tell the women of his day not to be overly concerned about their outward beauty. He counsels them not to use exquisite jewelry, expensive clothes, or elaborate hair arrangements to attract attention (1 Peter 3:3). Instead, he advised them, and us, to concentrate on exhibiting beautiful character in our hearts. He recommends, from the male perspective, that lasting charm radiates more from a sweet character than from matching outfits, worldly success or precious gems.

Similar to Louisa May Alcott’s characters, this deep inner beauty is also evident in many of the saintly women of Biblical renown. They trusted God and fit in with their husbands' plans (1 Peter 3:1). “Fitting in with our husband’s plans” is a foreign concept in today’s society. However, true fulfillment for a woman does not necessarily come from a successful career, or from amassing worldly goods, or from traveling the earth or even from going to the moon in a spacecraft, but from fulfilling God’s destiny for our life.

For some it is as a wife and mother, and for others it is as a single woman who is free to follow the Lord to the ends of the earth or to stay right here at home and to serve Him with all of their hearts. The key to contentment and accomplishment  for both single and married women is to have a soul filled with Godly character and to follow His Spirit’s leading in our lives.

Lord, help me to value Godly character more than silver and gold. Put a guard on my tongue, so that I do not ever speak from frustration or anger, but always with humility and kindness. Help me to let go of my own agenda for my life and to find my fulfillment by following Your Spirit moment by moment throughout the day. For I know from experience that true joy comes from serving You with all of my heart.

The incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is very precious in the sight of God. - 1 Peter 3:4

Friday, February 24, 2012

Used Teabags

Read: Nehemiah 10:35-39

And we made ordinances to bring the first fruits … to the house of the LORD;”

My girlfriend grew up with her missionary parents in Brazil. She dwelt most of the year safely ensconced in boarding school. But summers brought carefree days in the remote, native village where her parents toiled to share the Gospel of Christ. Supporters often sent them gift boxes from the USA, and the missionary family eagerly anticipated the arrival of these coveted items. Sugar, coffee, American ethnic goodies, candy for the children, popcorn and staples and other treats often peered at them from the brimming gift boxes.

The family always put the unopened box on the coffee table in the center of the room. They made a ceremony out of opening the container, giving thanks to God before they ever removed the tape, which sealed the box. The children knelt around the table, leaning up in order to view the desirable objects at the soonest possible second. Their parents, grown up - but still children within, held the same enthusiastic expectancy. The whole family always smiled with delight as they examined the carefully chosen gifts from their loyal supporters.

One day, however, instead of the fulfillment of their joy, disappointment resulted when they opened the box. Inside was a large, heavy glass jar, full to the brim with USED tea bags. The donors inscribed and enclosed a note, which explained their gift, obviously proud of their sacrifice. “Since several cups of tea come from one bag, we just used these bags once and then dried them out, saving them in this jar until it was full. We impatiently predicted sharing each of these bags with our beloved missionary family. Enjoy the second use from them and pray for us each time you use one.”

Since my missionary friend shared this story, I often wondered about the mentality behind such a crass and selfish gesture. Why didn’t they purchase them a box of new bags instead? The money saved in postage alone could have sent the missionaries a dozen boxes of new tea bags. Then, I realized that Christians all over the world exhibit this same attitude. They take the first fruits of their earnings and the blessings God provides for them, and they consume it upon their own lusts. Then they give God their used leftovers or simply put a tip in the offering basket as it comes by their seat in the pew.

How many of us are also guilty of giving God our used teabags, trying to pass them off as our reasonable service? Do we give Him the leftovers of our time, our talents and our money; using them first for our own benefit and glory, and then giving Him our scraps? God gives us a mandate to give ten percent of our first fruits to Him. The Word of God declares that giving anything less than ten percent is actually robbing from God. Do we really want to steal from the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Ruler of the Universe?

I vowed on that day to give God the first fruits of all of my increase, including my gross salary and also all of the financial gifts that others share with us for birthdays and other celebrations. I also determined to give sacrificially, above and beyond the tithe, when the need arises.

Lord Jesus, do not allow me to be satisfied in selfishly giving You my leftovers. Help me to put You first in my life. Multiply to me the fruit of my labors, so that I have even more to give to You and Your Saints.

Thought for the Day:
On which would you rather be blessed by God, on your net income or on your gross?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Spiritual Toothbrushes

Read: Psalm 112:4-8

“But, O my soul, don't be discouraged. Don't be upset. Expect God to act! For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise him for all that he will do. He is my help! He is my God!” - Ps 42:11 (TLB)

Sometimes, I just cannot help but to grumble about the circumstances in my life. I get hurt or frustrated by them, and I want to take out my giant eraser and expunge them from existence. Oh, if it were only that simple!

At times, when trials and stress overwhelm me, I forget that I am more than a conqueror. I overlook the fact that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. My soul is grieved: my thoughts grow discouraged and my emotions are upset. I do not have the faith to expect God to act on my behalf.

In the midst of one of my gigantic pity parties, I begged God to bring about a change in my particular state of affairs. He made it clear that He could not do that, because He allowed this trial for my particular benefit. God illuminated to me the fact that He actually uses these irritations, wounds and trials in our lives as spiritual toothbrushes, removing the worldly plaque, which would otherwise cause spiritual decay to erode His protective covering over our spiritual life.

God then drew my attention to the Psalms. So many of them chronicle David’s dilemmas, which built Godly character in him. In fact, God used the situations in David’s life so often that David eventually developed into a man after God’s own heart. Paul also learned, through the events in his life, that nothing, not even death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing could ever separate him or us from God’s love (Romans 8:38).

I concluded from this study, that our lifeline throughout our negative circumstances is to remember our enemies will never triumph over us (Psalm 54:7). Jesus told us, He is the vine and we are the branches. He encourages us to abide in Him and He promises He will always abide in us (John 15:4). He reminds us that we are not sufficient by ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God (2 Corinthians 9:8). As we listen to His Spirit moment by moment throughout the day, we have His assurance that all of our circumstances will most definitely work together for our good (Romans 8:28). 

Lord, help me to trust You in my circumstances and to be a vessel of honor for Your use. You are able to do immeasurably more than all I could ever ask or imagine, according to Your power that is at work within me and all around me. Thank You for making all of Your grace abound to me. Help me to follow the leading of Your Spirit in all that I do and say.

Thought for the Day:
“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" Mark 9:24

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It Doesn't Always Take Two to Tango!

Read: Romans 12:17-21

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:32

The Lord had such a great idea when He designed forgiveness to be a one-way street! He did not make it dependent on the Offender in any way. I can forgive someone whether they ask for it, or whether they know I absolve them, or even whether they receive it or not. Forgiveness has nothing to do with other people, and everything to do with me alone. This is one dance that does not need a partner. We only need to give a command performance for our King.

Rather than condemn, I can bless. Rather than harass in return, I can walk away. Rather than spreading gossip, I can speak kindly. We do not need to repay evil with evil (Romans 12:17). Instead we pardon the contempt another shows us by realizing who we are in Christ. We patiently bear with another’s meager attempts to relate to us, even if they injure us from their own wounded soul. Instead, we can pray that God will give us His words to speak the truth to them in love at the appropriate time (Ephesians 4: 15).

If I throw a party when my adversaries fall and if my heart turns summersaults when they stumble, I do not have the mind of Christ. It is only when I have compassion and mercy for my antagonist, in spite of and regardless of the way they treat me, that I show God’s unfailing love to them. 

Lord Jesus, Help me to remember what Your enemies did to You; and that, in the end, You requested that Your Father would forgive them for their ignorance (Luke 23:34). Remind me that vengeance is Yours to repay (Hebrews 10:30).

Thought for the Day:
Maturity makes a person slow to anger; overlooking a transgression is to his/her credit. - Proverbs 19:11

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Who Shall Deliver Us?

Read: Romans 7:14-25

"O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" –Romans 7:24

Memories of my school days are not thoughts, which I cherish. With a melancholy personality and a quiet, almost withdrawn manner, I grew up lonely, unintelligent, unpopular, unattractive and a social misfit. I tried to fit in, but I was tall for my age, skinny and awkward, and I had long, stringy hair. I was also unwilling to compromise the values, which my Catholic parents instilled in me, just for the sake of being popular.

In high school, I decided to make friends with people who shared my principles and my life turned around. I fit in with this group, and they actually enjoyed my company. I started using make-up, obtained a great hairdo that flattered my face, and stopped hiding in the corner. My self-confidence increased and I came out of my shell. I had more dates than I could accept, I wrote for the school newspaper, I went to the Senior Prom at two different schools and I accepted the marriage proposal from my twelfth grade sweetheart.

From there, he went into the Green Beret and served in Viet Nam, and I went to our local junior college. At the Baptist Student Union on the college campus, I met the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior. Over the next few months, my fiancé and I grew apart and eventually broke up. Then, I met a young man at the BSU; and a year later, we married, started a family, and initiated a twenty-year union in service to the Lord.

As a young bride and mother, as well as a toddler in the Christian faith, I was unhappy. Something was wrong with me and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I searched the scriptures; and I came to realize that, like the Pharisees, I lived with sinful behavior and I harbored disappointment and bitterness in my heart. My soul was full of dead men’s bones (Matthew 23: 27).

In Romans 7:14-16, Paul describes the same problem that I had in my life. He also struggled with trying to be good. What he wanted to do, he could not seem to do. What he did not want to do, he did. Then, in verses 17-18, he has a revelation from God. He realizes that it is actually his carnal nature that is sinning, in spite of his spiritual nature wanting to do what is right.

So, in verses 19-23, he admits that no matter how hard he tried, he just could not be good enough. Then in verse 24, the poor man just breaks down and cries out in anguish, “What a wretched man I am!” Then he shouts in desperation, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Paul is a person who does everything with all of his might. He repeatedly explains in his epistles that he excelled in whatever he tried to do throughout all of his life (Philippians 3: 4-6). Now, he wants desperately to live righteously for the Lord, but he cannot accomplish this feat, no matter how hard he tries.

In these verses, he finally comes to the realization that he cannot change his behavior by self-effort. He felt forsaken, alone, desperate, anxious, worried and afraid. He wracked his brain trying to come up with a solution to the vicious cycle of sin in his life.

This is when God stepped in and gave our brother Paul a divine revelation, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature (of the flesh) a slave to the law of sin.”

God loves it when His people come to the realization that "being good" is not the way to heaven (Ephesians 2:8-10). When we come to the end of our rope and comprehend that the next step is certain death, we too cry out to God in desperation, just like Paul did. Then, when we cast our life on Jesus, He graciously receives us with all of the love and mercy He demonstrated for us by suffering His horrifying death on the cross.

Paul wrote an interesting tidbit of information to the Galatians, when he shared his great revelation about self-effort with them (Galatians 3:1-5). He could relate to their experiences and he tells them (paraphrased), “Oh, you foolish Galatians! You did not receive the Spirit for salvation by keeping the law, but by believing in Christ. So, why do you think you will reach the state of holiness and receive sanctification by keeping the law? God worked miracles in you, because you believed, not because you earned them.”

We do the same thing Paul and the Galatians did. We think that if we read the Bible more, pray harder, fast longer, serve in a multitude of church ministries and witness to more people, we will earn God’s favor. However, Paul learned to trust for his righteousness, not in his good deeds, but in the person of Jesus Christ. He realized that Jesus is the only one who can deliver us from the works of the flesh. He no longer trusted in himself, but in Christ who is our Deliverer.

On the cross, Christ’s last words were, “It is finished” (John 19:30). He accomplished everything we need for justification, sanctification and glorification at that very moment, when He sacrificed His life for us all. Now, we walk in this truth: “Who dares to accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one - for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself” (Romans 8:33). In this way, God gets all of the glory and we live in the power of His might (Ephesians 1: 19-21).

Lord Jesus, help me to remember that without you, I can do nothing (John 5:30); but with You, all things are possible (Philippians 4:13). Set us free from the bondage to the flesh and remind us that sin is no longer our master. We no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, we live under the freedom of Your grace to walk in righteousness and to pursue holiness.

Thought for the Day:
“For in him we live and move and have our being.” - Acts 17:28a

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pleasures Forevermore

Read: Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun;
all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” - Ecclesiastes 1:14

KinKKing Solomon spent his time, wealth
and efforts attempting to discover the missing piece in his life.
He sought for true satisfaction in worldly pursuits.
As the King, he had all the resources he needed to ascertain
whatever pleasures he desired.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us the story of his quest. He attempted to gain
 satisfaction in his soul by pursuing
addictions of every kind.

Even with all of his God given wisdom, it took Solomon years to concluded that what the world offers is fun for a season, but eventually every one of his acquisitions turned out the same way. They were all vain and empty. Solomon repeatedly described his investigation as chasing after the wind. He traveled the world to find out what the Psalmist discovered on the hills watching his sheep, “God makes known to us the true path of life; in His presence there is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

When we seek God first, He brings fulfillment to our life in a multitude of areas. He opens doors for us that no one else can open and He closes those that no one else can close. He knows exactly what we need in our life to feel fulfilled. Therefore, our initial pursuit in life is to first become whole in Christ. Then we get grounded in His Word, filled with His Spirit and lost in His love. We need nothing and no one to make us happy apart from Him.

Single people are not "half" a person, nor are they deficient in any way. They do not need another person in their life to fulfill them. They are capable of meeting most of their needs and going to God to supply the rest. Oh the other hand,
when two people who are replete in Christ (Colossians 2: 10) come together in marriage, they
compliment and edify each other
because Christ resides in both of them. They serve Him together and they fulfill His will for their lives. Our relationship with Christ is what really bring us true pleasures forevermore.

Lord Jesus, earthly pursuits are vain and fleeting. Teach us to value eternal treasures and to seek Your will for our lives each and every day. Help us to make You the focus of our life and to enhance all of our relationships through your wisdom and love.

Thought for the Day:
Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow. – Psalm 144:4

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Process

Read: Romans 12: 1-2

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." - Ephesians 2:8

A whole new world opens up to us once we ask Jesus Christ to forgive our sins and to be our Savior. We were formerly unbalanced, self-centered and myopic in our thinking. Now, however, He sets us free from the bondage to self (Romans 6:22). This is called Justification. It is a free gift, which we do not earn, and which happens the instant we surrender our life to Christ. Glorification is also a free gift. We receive an immortal body the moment we see Jesus (1 John 3:2). In between these two significant milestones, we walk out the life-long process of Holiness.

In this progression of Sanctification, Jesus conforms us to His image (Romans 8:29).  All He asks of us is that we live a life worthy of this calling we receive from Him (Ephesians 4:1). We accomplish this by reading the Bible every day, by attending Bible studies at our local church, by worshipping with other Christians on Sunday morning, by talking to God all day long, by consulting Him about His will for us moment by moment, by telling other people about Him and by loving Him with all of our heart.

As we draw nearer to God and give Him our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), He fills our life with peace that surpasses anything we have ever experienced before in our life (Philippians 4:7). His joy supplies our strength. His love flows over us like a waterfall and infiltrates all of our human relationships. Most importantly, He opens the door for us to enjoy eternity in His presence.

Lord Jesus, You set us free and gave us Your new life. We are now a new creation. Help us not to be double-minded by continuing an unbalanced walk of having one foot still chasing worldly pursuits (James 1:8). Give us singleness of purpose and help us to surrender to Your will in everything we say and do.

Thought for the Day:
Live a life worthy of God’s calling by surrendering to His will and accessing His power to live according to His purpose for our individual lives (Philippians 2:12-13).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Unholy Gains

Read: Genesis 13:5-11

"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." - 1 John 2:16 (KJV)

Sometimes, God blesses us because of the company we keep. He did this for Lot when this young man accompanied his Uncle Abram to a land far away from their home. Lot reaped the blessings of his saintly uncle's relationship with God. Yet, even with the abundance God gave him, in his greed Lot wanted more. When given a choice, Lot chose the best land for himself, because it was pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately, it was also void of spirituality. In the end, he lost his friends, home, resources, land and even his wife.

The lust for material gain, the pride of worldly status and the pursuit of creature comforts all instigate many conflicts in our lives, and needlessly part friends and family members for the silliest of reasons. Haggling over an inheritance, jealousy over unearned advantages, miscommunication and misconceptions break up relationships. Pride always causes destruction and goes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18). How much better it is when brethren dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Lord Jesus, teach us as you taught Paul, to learn to be content (Philippians 4:11). Help us to appreciate the multitude of blessings You bestow on us each and every day. Cause us to hear Your loving kindness in the morning and to put our trust in You (Psalm 143:8).

Thought for the Day:
If you are looking for contentment, turn to Jesus. – 1 Timothy 6:6-10

Friday, February 17, 2012

Strained Relationships

Read: Matthew 5:43-48

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” – Matthew 18:15

In today’s society, our daily endeavors and distresses affect our walk with the Lord. Our strained relationships, lack of financial assets and/or our poor physical health may cause us uncertainty, giving rise to fear and insecurity. Maybe we made a poor financial decision or our health took a turn for the worse. These issues may require that we spend inordinate amounts of time, which we do not have to spare, in order to bring resolution to them and to restore equanimity to our life.

Strained relationships also affect every other area of our life. If we have a confrontation with a friend or family member that blows up out of proportion, it may shade how we look at things - mentally, emotionally and spiritually. When there is an offense between us and another person, God requires that we lay our gift at the altar (Matthew 5:24), and go to this person in an effort to clarify the issues and to make reparation for any harm done on our part.

God knows that we humans do not communicate clearly and some of us are harder to communicate with than others. We leave out important information in what we say. We misinterpret a look or the meaning of a word, and then we adopt a negative attitude toward one another. We exchange unkind words and actions that wound one another, which we cannot take back or erase their effects. In addition, people who do not really know us, or who knew us long ago, may forget what we are really like or they may misunderstand us and make false accusations against us.

When we comprehend life from an eternal perspective, however, it is easier to adopt a humble attitude and to offer friendship in place of their anger or despiteful use of us (Matthew 5:44). We may need to make the first effort at reconciliation, reaching out to the bitter one who closed off his/her heart against us.

When we try to make amends, some people may continue to throw insults at us and make threats. They may even ignore us and refuse to resolve the issues. What concerns God, however, is that we make an effort. Then the ball is in God’s court. If they are truly His children, God will bring circumstances to bear in their life to humble them and to cause them to be more conciliatory. If they are not truly born again, they will continue in their misguided thinking and your relationship may never be restored.

Once we attempt to reconcile, however, we can then go back to the altar, regardless of how the other person responds to our efforts. We are free to enjoy each precious moment of life in worshipping our God and Creator. We can offer every breath, every action, every thought and every word as an expression of our gratitude for what He did for us on Calvary’s cross and for what He continues to do in our daily lives. We can also trust Him to provide for all of our needs and to lead us on our path of life and fill us with the joy of His presence (Acts 2:28).

When we really understand the glory we will one day see in heaven, and how soon all else will fade away when we do, we will be much less concerned about how things appear in the eyes of other people. We will conclude that God alone is our judge and that eternity will tell the truth about the matter.

Lord Jesus, You called us to enjoy a fulfilling and personal relationship with You through Your Holy Spirit. We may not have much time left before Your return. Help us to reconcile with our fellow humans, and to enjoy the freedom to worship You with clean hands and a pure heart until You come again.

Thought for the Day:
In considering human nature, the moments during which reason and reconciliation prevail are sometimes few and far between.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Surrendered Soul

Read: Matthew 23: 26-28

“Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother's milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” - Psalm 131:2

People the world over search for significance from sources that do not satisfy the longing in their soul. Some read volumes of tomes in dusty libraries, seeking for truth. Others travel the world, looking for their soul mate. Fame, fortune and success sidetrack some. Secular philosophies and worldly religions attract many others. But, those who truly desire to find the ultimate Truth realize that their only salvation is found in Jesus Christ. At this moment of revelation, we enter into a union with Christ that is spiritual, intimate and divine.

Through a simple prayer of repentance and dependence, we reach out to the Trinity. God moves in at that very moment and breathes new life into our spirit. We are born again by the Spirit of God. Jesus justifies us through salvation and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our spirit. Also at that moment, the Holy Spirit brings resurrection life to our soul – our mind, will and emotions; and He walks with us through the life-long journey of sanctifying our soul.

In the process of making us holy, Christ also heals the soul, which is wounded by past experiences. He pours out His unconditional love on the soul starving for affection. He nurtures the soul, which lacks self-worth. He changes the attitude of the soul, which is angry, bitter and unforgiving. Slowly, our doubts, fears, insecurities, self-centeredness, hurt feelings, bitterness and rage diminish as He replaces them with the His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, self-control and faith. He also protects the soul from the deceptions and illusions of counterfeit alternatives, which Satan uses to allure us away from God and back toward worldly values driven by satanic influences. 

As a man, Jesus also suffered great turmoil in His soul. This is exemplified on the day prior to His crucifixion. When Jesus faced the cross, He took His closest friends to the garden to pray. He revealed to them His need, “My soul is so deeply grieved that I feel like it is strangling the very life from me. Wait here and pray with me” (Matthew 26: 38, paraphrased).

As the passion of his soul-wrenching prayer intensified, his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44). He prayed for several hours, until He could surrender His desires to His Father’s will (Luke 22:42). Then as He focused on the joy set before him in heaven, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and eventually sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).

In laying down His life, Jesus raised our spirit, soul and body from the mire of sin. His ultimate desire is to possess us as a Bridegroom embracing His bride. Daily, He increases our spiritual awareness and our life blossoms from the inside out. The life and spirit of the Word become engrained in our soul (Jeremiah 15:16 and I Peter 2:2) and we walk in holiness as we follow His Spirit moment by moment throughout the day.

God is a peaceful Lord over our soul. He woos us as the Lover in the Song of Solomon. He calls us into a deeper personal relationship with Himself until we change our focus from worldly pursuits to His eternal quest. He transforms our natural mind with the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Eventually, carnality sickens us as much as it does the Lord. We no longer desire to do anything except what pleases Him. We yield our desires more and more to His will. We relinquish to Him all the power over our life. We do this, not in painful submission, but in the joy-filled surrender of our soul.

Lord Jesus, bring joy to Your servant, for to You, O Lord, do I lift up my soul (Psalm 86:4). Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way in which I should go, for to You I lift up my soul (Psalm 143:8). I shall love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with my entire mind, and with all my strength (Mark 12:30).

Thought for the Day:
The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam, Jesus, became a life-giving spirit. - 1 Corinthians 15: 45

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Curse of Perfectionism

Read: Philippians 3:1-11

As a child, I rarely, if ever measured up to the expected norm. I had undiagnosed dyslexia and did everything backwards. I tried my best, but usually ended up as a big disappointment to those whose opinion meant the most to me. Whenever I dared to help someone, if I did not do it their way, I received correction; and sometimes, even criticism for a job that was less than their idea of perfect. At other times, people actually negated my efforts by doing the task over again their way.

I always looked forward to gratitude for my acts of service; but instead, I walked away wounded and rejected by the attitude and negative reaction of those in authority over me. I used to wish on the first star that came out every night that I could be a good girl, so that my mommy and daddy would love me.

As I aged, I mirrored the expectations of my parents and teachers. I was rarely happy with the efforts I made to do something. Therefore, I shied away from straying outside of my normal activities and I refused to try anything new. If I wasn’t sure that I could do a chore or activity perfectly, I did not even try at all. When my parents encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, I tried reluctantly, full of fear and insecurity. However, I was never happy with my results and I attracted people who were equally disappointed in me and with me.

In my early years as a young wife and mother, I perpetuated the codependent curse of perfectionism. I had my own way of doing things and they worked for me. They procured the results that I desired; therefore, I wanted everyone else to do things my way. I was actually perpetuating the cycle that wounded me, which caused my children to feel exactly like I felt as a child.

After God pointed out this egocentric tendency in me, I was appalled! I acted like a megalomaniac suffering from a delusional mental disorder marked by feelings of personal omnipotence and exhibiting no leniency in regard to a job done differently than I expected. What a textbook definition of the addiction to Perfectionism! With this realization, I started to recognize that there are many legitimate ways to perform a task. My way is just one of these ways. Once God revealed to me the bondage created by perfectionism, I determined to change my expectations of others and of myself. It did not take me long to break free from this bondage, once I truly understood what caused it in the first place.

There are actually a number of reasons for perfectionism. The strongest is the fear of failure, which is attached to feelings of inferiority and a lack of personal value and self-worth. Perfectionists often equate blunders with failure. However, by avoiding even the possibility of making a mistake, we miss opportunities to learn and to grow. Perfectionists view their own efforts as forever inadequate, and we fear that someone will someday find out just how flawed we are. We also fear that if we allow others to see that we are flawed, they may disapprove, criticize or reject us. Therefore, we structure our life according to endless lists of rigid regulations. The sad fact is that in the attempt to walk perfectly, we cause others to feel exactly how we are afraid of feeling. 

The remedy for perfectionism is to set healthy goals, which is quite different from the self-defeating process of perfectionism. We start to base our objectives on our own wants and desires rather than as a response to someone else’s expectations. These new goals are realistic, come from the leading of the Holy Spirit and are actually quite attainable. I am happy to admit that I am a recovering perfectionist!

Recovering perfectionists learn to take pleasure in the process of a task, rather than obsessing about the end result. As we continue to recover, we go one step further. We recognize that only by making mistakes can we learn many positive aspects about life and discover new ways of doing things. We also come to understand that pleasing God is our only requirement in life.

I am grateful that I learned this lesson while my children were still young. None of them have ever hesitated to strike out in a new direction or to challenge the status quo. They are all three fiercely independent and capable of setting and reaching their own goals. They learned to think outside of the box, to trouble shoot and to find solutions, to teach themselves what they need to know to succeed in their chosen vocations, and to help other people, me included, to reach their potential as well.

As for me, I am not as daring as they are. I still require strict parameters to feel safe. My husband is teaching me to be more flexible and to agree to act on more of a spur of the moment instead of relying on a strict list of activities and goals to reach for each new day. I still have my lists, but if I do not accomplish everything I set out to do, I can rest in the knowledge that tomorrow is another day.

Lord Jesus, I want to reach for the goals that You set for me each day. I want to be found in You, not having any success of my own that comes from my efforts, but only that which I achieve through faith in You. My righteousness comes from You and is mine by faith. I want to know You intimately and to experience the power of Your resurrection and the fellowship of Your suffering; so that I may become more like You every day, and eventually live with You for eternity. – Philippians 3:9-11

Thought for the Day:
I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. – Philippians 3:12b

Monday, February 13, 2012

God In Creation

Read: Genesis Chapters One & Two

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” Romans 1:20

I get so sad when people refuse to believe that we have an eternal God who loves us and who died to give us eternal life. Yet, these same people who do not believe in God, actually blame God for all of their troubles and trials. Some people even view God as a tyrant with rules. They think that anyone who dares to break a rule gives God the delight of judging them and sending them to hell.

They rail accusations at Him and blame His people for all the evils in the world. Some even say that they would rather go to hell than to live in heaven with Christians - such a sad commentary on the church of today; hypocritical behavior gives us a bad name. We actually have a couple in our church now, which delayed coming to church, because they did not want to be like hypocritical church members that they know.

The truth, however, is that God never condemns anyone. Our unbelief is what condemns us. Let me show you why I say this. Everyone knows John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We hear it so often that we take it for granted and we pass over it without giving it much thought. When you do think about the import of these words, however, they change your life.

God, the creator of the universe, so loved the world - the sin-filled, ungodly, hypocritical world. Therefore, He gave His only Son - which person on earth would sacrifice their child to save our rotting humanity? So that whoever believes in Him - He puts no restrictive criteria on those words, but freely gives salvation to everyone who will believe. They should not perish, but have eternal life - there is no qualifying statement attached to this promise, it is a free gift.

Then, if you continue reading in John 3:17-18, you see an even bigger miracle. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

Look at these words again, “Whoever does not believe is condemned already”. God does not ever condemn us. We condemn ourselves, simply because of our refusal to believe. It has nothing to do with God’s behavior toward us. It has nothing at all to do with whether we live a good or evil life. It has everything to do with whom we trust with our life.

Do you maintain strict control over your life, not allowing anyone to dictate to you about what you do, think, believe, or feel? Do you seek peace and contentment in sources outside of yourself? Even if you feel satisfied with your life at this moment, your health, wealth and success can change in an instant. How will you feel then?

Look at the next three verse of John 3:19-21, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Do you hate the Light of God’s holiness and prefer to live in dark ignorance of God and eternal matters? In your last seconds of life, you will not be able to blame your condition on the fact that you did not know the truth. Ever since God created time, space, matter and humanity, we all can clearly see His invisible qualities (Romans 1:20).

The critical balance of life on earth, the atmosphere in space, the placement of the planets, the provision of rain, sun, moon and stars all point to an Intelligent Designer. Every day, nature exhibits God's eternal power and His divine nature. No one has an excuse for not knowing God (Romans 1:20). The earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as abundantly as the waters, which cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). Even the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1).

God also promises, "I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11). 

When you breathe your last breath of earthly air, will your next breath come from the celestial atmosphere? When you face God, you will not have an excuse for your unbelief. Therefore, today is your day to believe. You will never regret chosing Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Lord God, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You. You show Your love to thousands of generations. You are a great and powerful God, whose name is the Lord Almighty. Great are your purposes for mankind and mighty are your deeds on the earth (JeremiahJeremiah 32:17-19 32: 17-19). Open the hearts of people everywhere to receive your Truth and love.

Thought for the Day:
God rewards everyone according to what our deeds deserve, but He judges only those who live in unbelief.