A Cool Change

imageI am a Christian and yet, I can be prone to wander. I can be prone to seek my own interests. I can be prone to desire worldly pleasures. I can be prone to seek gains rather than give gifts. I can be prone to isolate, rather than congregate, and I can be prone to control, rather than surrender – and so I wonder, what hope is there for me (Psalms 119:176)?

Then I remember a beautiful hymn’s declaration, “nothing but the blood of Jesus“! Truly, only He can restore me, and although I may be prone to stray, when I act on what I know, pursue Him, seek Him and desire Him, He is faithful in refreshing my soul to maintain the course He has changed me for and called me to:

Loving: Since the world can often confuse love with lusts, it can be difficult at times to distinguish the real thing. Biblical love however has little to do with feeling. Rather, it is a reflection of our heart’s commitment to healing. For example, are we willing to sacrifice our feelings, wants and desires for the best interests of others; and are we willing to forgive first, overlook injuries and surrender our pride to pursue reconciliations? Not that we are to be pushovers and seekers of abuse, but are we willing to love to the degree of our Father and give of ourselves to the point of sacrifice (Philippians 2:2-4)?

Leading: When leaders of integrity are lacking, we shouldn’t be surprised when things start slacking. However, leadership begins with who we decide to follow – and as long as it’s not Jesus Christ, evil doesn’t care. For where Jesus is cast aside, decay will reside. This includes our churches, culture, communities and countries (Revelations 2:3-5).

Lifting: Insecurity can often cause us to distance ourselves from others, or feed our desire for dominance. However, true confidence found in our relationship with Christ empowers us to reach out to others, encourage them and lift them up to greater heights. We see their potential in Christ and allow our gifts to be used for God’s glory as we seek to help others and not just ourselves (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Application: “Like Jesus Does” – 1 John 2:6
A country song by the same title speaks to the love of a wife that mirrors the love of Jesus. She forgives him when he stumbles and continues to see the best in him, despite his imperfections. I have been blessed to receive this type of love in my life, but the question is, do we love the same? Or do we cast judgement on the flaws of others while refusing to address our own? My prayer is to see others like Jesus does – and despite the fumbles, desire to love them, lead them and lift them…like Jesus does. For only through Him do Divine changes come.

Gold Digger!

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I’m married to a “Gold Digger” – but not in the way you might think. For rather than the riches of man, she digs deep to discover the riches of God. As a result, our home is truly blessed! Likewise, may all of God’s children always remember to be G.O.L.D. diggers too:

God: We must choose what comes first in our lives and homes. Is it work, money, promotion and/or entertainment? Although, none of these things are necessarily wrong, when we pursue them before God, they inevitably distort our priorities and purposes away from the Divine and towards our detriment (Joshua 24:15).

Others: We are not placed in this world to serve ourselves, our agendas and our desires. What a waste! Instead, we are blessed with talents, treasures, time and testimonies to help others on their pilgrimage. Happiness and fulfillment returns our way as we learn to give ourselves for greater purposes beyond ourselves (Luke 6:38).

Love: Loving others isn’t always easy. For people are messy and come with messy problems. Yet, God loves us so much His Son was sent to rescue us from self-destruction, despite our messiness, mistakes and manipulative natures. Therefore, if Christ continues to live in His Children, shouldn’t our dispositions be the same (1 John 4:7)? I thank God my wife held to this kind of love for me when I was at my messiest.

Devotions: What are we devoted and committed to? Again, this speaks to our priorities. The world and our flesh pulls us away from God and towards ourselves, and when we submit to these magnetic distractions we act like the foolish man who hoarded his possessions. What did He have in the end? Nothing. Nothing was given, nothing was gained and nothing was grown for eternity. Digging for gold is a vain attempt at meaning, unless the treasures are from the Divine (Luke 12:19-21).

Application: “Divine Dancing” – Psalm 149:3
I grew up listening to “beach music” and whenever one of my favorite songs begins to play, my wife and kids know they will soon be dragged onto the makeshift dance floor of our kitchen to join me in a twist, waltz and/or old fashioned beach shag. Inevitability, it always leads to a healthy laugh and tremendous joy. At those moments all is right in the world and God smiles upon the love in our home. Likewise, I believe Christ enjoys a good dance with His children as we praise His glorious name. Therefore, let us always dare to dance with the Divine as we dig deep for the treasures only He can provide.

Role Models Of Redemption

imageIn a world distracted by “blurred lines”, righteous role models are precious treasures when found. Thankfully, believers can be encouraged to know our search doesn’t need to be in vain, when we know what to look for. For even when everyone around us seems to be caving in to cultural cravings, God’s remnant can always be found:

Grateful: A heart of gratitude can always be seen. Despite circumstances, challenges and conditions, those with thankful spirits possess perspectives that empower them to look beyond feelings (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Clearly, thanksgiving doesn’t overlook periods of struggle, pain and discouragement, but as Corrie ten Boom, a former prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, once beautifully described in her book, The Hiding Place, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still“. May we too always rejoice in such truth!

Fruitful: What type of contributions can be made apart from Christ? Kind deeds can be done by anyone, and even though they may be good, are they best? For only Christians possess the power to make eternal impact through works produced by the indwelling Spirit of God – and it is by Him, that these deeds then become platforms for His glory and the eternal benefit of others (Matthew 7:17).

Faithful: If a sandcastle is constructed too close to the currents, it will eventually be swept away. Likewise, many who identify as Christian find when the cultural tides of secularism become too strong to resist, they too fade into the world’s abyss. Unfortunately, simply proclaiming belief in Jesus isn’t always the best indicator of one’s faith. For even Satan and his legions believe, but they do not follow (James 2:19). The tides of triumphs and troubles will surely come, and in the hands of God, they serve as valuable sifters to reveal the faiths built upon Rock.

Application: “Hearts In Hands” – Proverbs 17:17
Indeed, true friends are hard to find and role models can be even harder, but God shares some powerful insights into how we can be on the lookout for His own. As mentioned, what fruit is being produced in their life, is there a Spirit of gratitude being expressed and are they steadfast in their faith, regardless of the cultural pressures being faced? More importantly, are others seeing these truths demonstrated in us?

Dire Straits?

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The story of the poor widow about to lose her children to debt collectors serves as a powerful reminder to God’s loving provision in our life, but also to our divine responsibilities during this life:

Trust: When she discovered her husband had left her with unpaid debts that could result in her children being taken away, she immediately sought help. However, it wasn’t just anyone she went to. It was the prophet, Elisha. She not only humbled herself to seek help, but she was wise enough to seek Godly counsel to her problems (2 Kings 4:1). Where we turn first in times of trouble is a powerful indicator of what we trust most. For us, is it other people, the government, or Christ (Psalm 40:4)?

Testimony: God’s blessings are always to be shared. Therefore, before God worked His miracle through Elisha, the woman was required to get others involved. She was to ask her friends and neighbors for their empty oil jars (2 Kings 4:3). Most likely those closest to her were aware of her problems and when she went knocking on their doors, some may have asked why she wanted their empty jars. This of course, opened the opportunity to share her hope and faith in God’s instruction. Likewise, we too have opportunities to share our testimonies with others, but we must first let go of our pride and/or doubts in order to do so (Palm 145:6).

Teach: Once the jars had been collected, the widow had to sacrifice her last bit of oil in order to receive the blessing. As she poured out all she had, God was faithful in filling every jar collected. Elisha was the vessel God used to strengthen trust, spread testimonies and teach on His power and provision (2 Kings 4:6-7). Like Elisha, we too have tremendous opportunities to help others by teaching them to obey and trust God (2 Timothy 3:16). However, to do so, we must also be pursuing God, filling ourselves with the wisdom of God and available to be used by God.

Application: “All In?” – Colossians 3:16-17
If the widow hadn’t been committed to God, she may have never pursued Godly counsel, much less been obedient to the sacrificial demands being given to her. Likewise, if Elisha hadn’t been fully committed to God, He would have never been available in the first place. Therefore, the opportunities for us are two fold – are we “all in” to be used by God, and are we “all in” in our obedience to God? If so, how many friends and family are we impacting through such faith? For like the widow, many around us are watching and have their own “jars of faith” for God to fill.

Lastly, although God was gracious and turned this dire situation for good, we must consider the widow’s husband. Even though he is mentioned as a follower of God, he left his family in a very desperate situation. Although his family knew to turn to God for help, could he have better managed their financial situation to secure their protection while he was living? We of course don’t know, but as we are living, may we always strive to be faithful stewards in all we do. For that too requires trust, provides testimonials and promotes teaching opportunities.

Persistant Pursuits

imageWhen we fail to understand our greater purposes as believers, the mistakes from our past, the immediate demands of our present, and the pressures to ensure a “successful” future can compound to distract and discourage us from our most productive devotions. Thankfully, God persistently, eagerly and graciously pursues each of us with His loving truth to help get us back on track, despite all the distractions:

Past: We all make mistakes and have regrets. However, through Christ, those missteps can become powerful lessons and opportunities to catapult our testimonies. Alternately, we may desire to cling to our past and the mountaintop moments of life. However, like mistakes, triumphs can stifle calling when they distort Kingdom perspectives. Granted, memories are treasured reminders to God’s providence, but they are not to be grasped too tightly for new adventures await us (Luke 9:62). There are new challenges to overcome, new opportunities to pursue and new lessons to be learned – looking back too long, simply weighs us down.

Present: Living in the moment can be hard to do. For various obligations and commitments like to make their demands all at the same time. However, we needn’t fret over the pressures of today for when we place our trust in Christ, we discover His grace comes without borders and can cover any demand that comes our way (Luke 10:41-42). This is because He leads, guides and sets our priorities so that when we seek to obey and honor Him in all we do, all we need to do gets done.

Purpose: How powerful a position it is to know one’s purpose in Christ! It not only eliminates distractions, but it helps drive our decisions so that our time is invested wisely and for greater impact. For how can anyone be effective in their divine calling if Jesus isn’t positioned first and foremost? We may say He is, but how many of the divine opportunities that come our way dry up, because the living waters of Christ fail to get distributed (Psalm 73:28)? Consider – is our commitment to the church, prayer and Bible study based on convenience and feelings, or are they deeply rooted pursuits present throughout our daily lives as much as eating, sleeping and breathing?

Application: “Dying To Live” – 1 John 3:16
The death of a single seed leads to the multiplication of new life. Likewise, when we surrender to Christ’s pursuit of us, we die to our self and new life grows greater within to spring forth transformed pursuits – and lives more abundant!