“Under Construction”

imageA couple driving past an area undergoing repairs read a posted sign stating, “End of construction – Thank you for your patience.” Immediately the wife turned to her husband to inform him that was the exact engraving she one day wanted etched into her tombstone, for it perfectly described the spiritual process, she believed, each Christian goes through during their time on earth. Thus, upon her death, her husband and famed pastor, Billy Graham honored his beloved wife, Ruth, with her specific request.

Thankfully, as we surrender our lives to Christ, He doesn’t leave us as we are, but immediately goes to work, carefully constructing each of us to the likeness of His Son. In the process, three primary areas of our faith are strengthened:

Fellowship: God’s building materials for His church are His people. We are “living stones” that are bound and work together through Christ for the purpose of glorifying and promoting the gospel and His Kingdom (1 Peter 2:5). Thus, as we grow in our walk, so should our fellowship and care for other believers.

Freedom: God works in our lives to free us from the chains that once held us captive. We are set free by His truth (John 8:32) and the more we build our lives upon His truth, the more free we become from worry, doubt, fear and despair. Naturally, we will all face storms and struggle, but in Christ, we will also grow in a peace that truly surpasses all understanding.

Focus: As our fellowships expand and our pursuit and application of biblical truth strengthens, so does our ability to maintain focus amidst a world of distractions. Our footing will remain stable and therefore, we will be less likely to be tossed around by the waves of adversity, (Ephesians 4:14) which empowers us to effectively engage the various opportunities God sends our way.

Application: “Kingdom Builders”Nehemiah 6:3
Like Nehemiah, we will undoubtedly discover that when we’re on mission for Christ and undertaking purposeful pursuits, distractions, detours and dangers will persistently pursue us. However, as our faith matures and God’s loving work constructs our foundations and purposes, we too can stand courageously without falter in the face of adversity to complete the Kingdom work He has set before us.

Blooming Where Planted – Again?

imageWe all have them – those days when everything that can go wrong does. Even worse is when we face a string of bad days that roll into months. These hardships may include our work environments, job loss, health issues and/or relationships. We may even begin questioning God’s ways and doubting His involvement.

Thankfully, we don’t have to travel down this path, for as believers, many of our greatest opportunities and blessings are received during the seemingly tough times. Remembering this, along with committing to three primary habits can help us ensure we make the best of the bad situations that come our way:

Purpose Minded: In baseball, the batter must focus on the ball in order to make contact. Likewise, we must keep our focus on Jesus in order to fulfill the purposes He has called us to. In doing so, we receive His leading, direction and provision, despite our situation, in order to share the gospel to a watching world (2 Chronicles 20:9).

Perspective Maintained: We can either choose to have a pity party, or realize hard times are just a part of life that God allows and uses to build our character, strengthen our faith, expand our testimony and spread His truth. We can’t expect to win everyone’s approval and some may even take offense to our testimony, but as we begin to accept trials as opportunities under God’s control, our attitude transitions from pessimism to praise (Philippians 4:6-7).

Persevering Mission: During our school years, we had to study and apply what we learned in order to pass exams and graduate to the next level. Likewise, as we actively seek and study God’s Word, we will be tested with opportunities to apply the truths we’ve learned (James 1:2-3). The question is, will we rely on Christ and persevere to the next level in our faith, or default back to our fears and feelings?

Application: “An Attitude Of Gratitude” – 1 Timothy 4:4
As we begin to accept that God allows and supplies all things, we are better positioned to praise Him for the various life events He provides us. For they serve as platforms for God to display His power and promises in and through us for the benefit of our spiritual maturity and the promotion of His church.

Loving Gomer

This is not Gomer from The Andy Griffith Show – but rather the harlot God called Hosea to marry and pursue despite her repeated infidelity (Hosea 3:3). Clearly, marriage can be challenging and even though we may not be faced with infidelity, we all struggle at times with loving our spouse the way God has called us to – or perhaps we never learned God’s instruction on marriage in the first place, which was the case for me. Unfortunately, I was never introduced to God’s standard for husbands and therefore, my marriage was hindered in becoming the bountiful blessing it was designed to be. Naturally, I was selfish and overly concerned with my own needs getting met, but thankfully with God, it’s never too late. As I studied and sought God’s guidance for my life and marriage, three powerful truths helped get my marriage back on track:

Feelings: We often confuse the euphoric feelings and desires we have for a person with love, when in reality feelings can’t be trusted, and euphoria is most often lust. Instead, true love is sacrificial, patient, self-denying and committal, regardless of how we might feel (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) . This is the picture we see with Hosea’s commitment to Gomer, and God’s unwavering love for us. Love is not fleeting, rather it’s reliable and loyal – especially through the hard times.

Forgiveness: Bitterness and resentment are powerful tools in damaging and destroying relationships. However, forgiveness is a powerful tool in reconciliation. Perhaps we have the right to be angry, or the other person isn’t even sorry for their actions, but in forgiving them anyway, we are freed from the damages of an unforgiving heart. In addition, forgiveness stimulates blessing and connectivity with God, which always refreshes hope and healing (James 5:16).

Focus: Are we focusing more on ourselves and how we feel, the other person and how they feel, or Christ? Where we focus our attention, gets the most attention. Therefore, for any marriage to work, God must be first (Matthew 6:33). Husband and wife must be under the authority of Christ in order to operate effectively. Otherwise, we will default to our natural tendencies and feelings rather than submit to the power and direction of the Holy Spirit.

Application: “Til Death Do Us Part” – Hosea 2:19
Sadly, the percentage of Christian homes impacted by divorce is significant. However, this trend can be reversed, for with God nothing is impossible, but it won’t just happen. It takes active commitment on our part. We must place Christ first in all we do and apply the teachings in His word. I know the power of this truth firsthand, for my wife and I, although believers, did not pursue God’s perspective on marriage early on and it nearly cost us everything – but thank God we realized the danger and completely surrendered ourselves, our marriage and our family to God. In other words, we got serious about our marriage, which means we got serious about Christ.

Obstacles As Opportunities?

imageThe law of gravity dictates that what goes up must also come down. It is a reality that cannot be denied, or avoided. However, their is a greater law that overrules gravity – the law of aerodynamics; and under this law that which is weighted down can suddenly be lifted off the ground.

Likewise, as various obstacles and problems come our way, we know they too are a part of life that cannot be denied, or avoided. However, just as the law of aerodynamics is greater than the law of gravity, there is spiritual truth that overrules how we view and engage the obstacles that come our way. For followers of Jesus Christ, we know our loving Father does not allow obstacles to impact our lives without cause and that He is able to work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). The problem is, do we doubt this reality? If so, we will surely find ourselves operating as victims of circumstance rather than victors in Christ. Thankfully, three components of our faith can help us seize the opportunities that reside within every obstacle we encounter:

Reason: Rather than arguing and complaining about what happens to us, we can actually begin to accept it with confidence – knowing God has allowed whatever obstacle for a reason and that it can be used to promote the gospel, as well as deepen our walk with Christ (James 1:3).

Reliance: As problems arise, our worry can be replaced with worship (1 Thessalonians 5:18). For what comes our way may not be pleasant, or desired, but instead of fretting, we can praise God and seek His guidance in the situation. With our reliance upon Him strengthened, we are directed by the higher power of faith than fear.

Relationships: Undoubtedly, when struggles arise, others will be impacted by our potential responses. Therefore, as we begin viewing our obstacles as opportunities to reflect the power of Christ in and through our lives, others are impacted and transformed by what they see. Thus, obstacles allow for our faith to be put into action, which manifests the gospel in ways others can experience (James 2:17).

Application: “Don’t Cling To A Thing” – 2 Corinthians 4:18
As a prisoner sailing to Rome, Paul encountered a storm causing his boat to eventually crash, resulting in many swimming for their lives. Yet, even after all this, as the survivors worked to make a fire in order to gain warmth, Paul gets bitten by a viper.

Clearly, this was not a good day for Paul, or anyone sharing in his situation; but Paul never lost faith in God, who he knew could use all these events for a greater good. For if in lieu of God, Paul had embraced despair, or even attempted to cling to the ship for his life, the inhabitants of the island he eventually encountered would have been denied the experience of seeing Paul’s faith in action, hearing the gospel and experiencing the miracles.

People came to Christ because of these difficult circumstances experienced by a man of God who operated at a higher level of truth. He didn’t view his obstacles as hindrances, but as opportunities, and by the power of Christ, so can we.