“Rock and Roll”

I appreciate all styles of music, and as we know, musical styles are largely influenced by one another. For example, the expression “rock and roll” was initially used to describe the rocking and rolling motion felt when sailing on a ship. However, the description was later adapted to describe the style of music that blended country and western with jazz and blues. For it contributed to the listener and players rocking and rolling. Similarly, the rhythms of life have plenty of ups and downs, causing us to feel like we’re rocking and rolling against its waves. Here are few examples of such highs and lows:

Problems: Who doesn’t have problems? Yet, how we deal and respond to these problems varies. If we realize problems can’t be avoided, and learn to trust God when they do, we are better positioned to learn the lessons God has injected in them to teach us (Romans 8:28). Thus, when difficulties arise, it’s not solely wondering why they happen, but also what God up to in allowing them to happen. For example, what is it God wants to teach me, show me and do through me?

Praise: We all like praise, but it has been said that very few men are able to carry a full cup (Proverbs 16:18). This means many of us are made vulnerable to praise due to pride, ego, insecurity, vanity and sin. Thus, how we respond to praise is much like how we respond to problems. What platform is God allowing us to use for His honor and glory. How might we display Him to a broader audience and share our testimonies to the encouragement of others as we point all eyes to Christ.

Perseverance: Sailors gain their “sea legs” when the rocking and rolling of the ship no longer causes them to stumble and tumble. Likewise, Christians gain “sea legs” to the ups and downs of life as God builds our perseverance. We are able to see them for what they are and as opportunities to expand and share His Kingdom to others (Jeremiah 29:11).

Application: “Build The Bridge”Matthew 10:16
In music, the “bridge” is used to contrast with and prepare for the return of the verse and chorus. It sounds different from the chorus, but is part of the same song. Likewise, life has many bridges, or interruptions, but these are part of our life song. They make it more beautiful, interesting, engaging and enjoyable. Without the ups and the downs, we’d be flatlined. Thus, God builds and allows interruptions to come our way to teach us, mature us and share with us some of His greatest gifts – love, grace and mercy. Therefore, may we enjoy the days we have been given and the harmony of life. For when we trust God with everything and not just some things, the ups and downs make our life’s music more beautiful.

Carrying The Weight?

If I’m being completely honest, there are times I feel like throwing in the towel. For attempting to deliver at a high level on the various commitments involving career, family, community and other demands can leave many of us wanting to run in the other direction at times. However, these moments are when we need to pause and resist the temptations of feeling overwhelmed, anxious and insecure. One of the most strategic ways we can do this is reminding ourselves to some simple Biblical truths about life. We will all face challenges, but as Christians, we also possess victory. So, like an obstacle course race, we can expect challenges to come, but with focus and perseverance, we can also look forward to overcoming and finishing well:   

Discouragement: One of the most powerful weapons forged against us is that of discouragement. For when we get discouraged, it can quickly downward spiral into despair and from despair into defeat. However, by catching discouragement on the front end, we can better guard against it from taking a foothold in our life. Some of the most potent ways to do this is to begin encouraging others, exercising our spiritual gifts, praising God for His blessings and worshipping Him for the victory He has given us. What all of these strategies share in common is they get the focus off us and our problems and onto others and the promises of God – like the one that assures “no weapon forged against us shall prevail” (Isaiah 54:17).

Despair: When discouragement locks in, we can quickly begin feeling depressed and a sense of despair. This is an emotion we all struggle with occasionally and for some it is a very serious issue. Yet, for all of us, the Bible offers hope and help. Some of the things we can guard against include, worrying too much about what others think, dreading things we have no control over and/or relying on others and ourselves more than we do God. However, when God is our first priority and we seek to obey and give Him our best in all we are involved in and called to, we can safely trust and leave all the outcomes to Him (Matthew 6:33-34).

Defeat: Eventually, we can begin feeling a sense of defeat if discouragement and despair is allowed to bombard our hearts and minds. This leads to what so many sadly face – hopelessness. When we have a sense that all is lost, we are in very dangerous territory and right where the enemy wants us. For if Christians can be chained into hopelessness, we become strangled by distraction and our Kingdom impact dwindles. However, this is never a condition a Christian has to remain in. For we receive hope when we receive Christ through faith, that we don’t have to live imprisoned by defeat. Instead, we inherit His victory and love that leads us to an abundant life (John 10:10). Or, as Oswald Chambers once said, “God does not give us an overcoming life – He gives us life as we overcome”.

Application: “Through Christ” – Philippians 4:13
Clearly, trying to battle discouragement, despair and defeat in our own strength is a very temporary solution. Yet, God promises we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us – and although all our problems and challenges may not disappear, we do receive the endurance and perseverance to stay in the race, finish well and not throw in the towel, even when we may feel like. For that’s when we discover His power carries us.

Profit Points

  Profit is defined as a gain, benefit and/or advantage. Thus, who doesn’t prefer to profit in life? Even more powerful is when we learn to define profitability through God’s eyes, rather than the world’s. Here are a few of the ways, God reveals His Kingdom gains:

Desire: What do we desire most? Is it more money, career advancement, relationships and/or happiness? None of these desires are wrong. However, when our desire for God isn’t first, these other interests can quickly enslave and slay their pursurers (Matthew 6:24). Therefore, it’s vital we possess clarity with our priorities. Otherwise, we can be distracted, become too busy and soon discover our time with the Lord is strained and reduced, along our Kingdom purpose.

Direction: Without direction, we go nowhere and sadly, many are living aimless and hopeless. However, with Christ, there is no need to ever be in such a condition. For He promises to direct our steps, make them firm and lead us in ways to maximize our potential and calling (Psalm 37:23). As a result, when we know where we’re going, others notice our clarity, purpose and peace. For this type of confidence stands out in a world of chaos and confusion and attracts them to learn more about its source, which allows us to share the good news of our Lord.

Development: We all have something missing God wants to give us. None of us, as they say, have “arrived”. For we are all on a journey and pilgrimage in life – no one has it all together. However, Christ does have all the answers and all we need (Jeremiah 29:11). Yet, how can we ever receive all He has planned for us if we sacrifice time with Him? God must be sovereign and supreme in order for us to build a relationship, but as our relationship grows, so does our development in faith, clarity, wisdom, direction and divine revelation. Who wouldn’t want that?

Application: “Developmental Direction”Jeremiah 29:4-9
We are not left here on earth to simply react and survive a mass array of random events, without meaning, or purpose. On the contrary, we are designed with purpose and have glorious plans prepared for us by our heavenly Father. Our part is choosing to participate with His plans, or making due with the futile strivings of man? Each life can impact another life for good and each life can be lived with value and purpose when entrusted to God. May we always be wise and humble enough to choose God’s ways over our own

Lessons From Scrooge

Many of us know of Ebenezer Scrooge from the classic story, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens’, but how many of us identify ourselves with him? Clearly, we’d rather see ourselves in a very different light and for good reason. After all, Scrooge is a mean, stingy, greedy, grumpy old man, who thinks and cares for no one but himself. In fact, he may even remind us of people we don’t care for. However, there are at least five lessons most of us can learn from Scrooge financially, professionally and in life. For when we look closely at ourselves, we may find some startling similarities we can use as motivation to help us change for better years to come:

Attitudes Are Contagious – Have you ever noticed how when some people enter a room, they either brighten it up, or dampen it down? For example, some eagerly share smiles, engage in encouraging conversations and generally show interest in others. However, there are others who jump right into gossip, negative talk and reflect downcast demeanors. Now, consider – which are we? Just as Ebenenzer’s attitude affected those around him, both before and after his conversion, so does ours. When we are positive, kind and encouraging whether it be at work, at home, or simply around town, it helps others do the same; but even if it doesn’t, we still don’t have to be the ones to dampen the room, but rather seek to brighten it (Proverbs 15:30).

Choices Matter – Ever think how great it would be to redo something differently? When Ebenenzer decided to choose his money over love, it left him in a dark place. Yet, how many times have we misaligned our priorities? We may fool ourselves for awhile, but not many of us want to look back on our lives with nothing to show for it but some money left over. We may think that money will solve all problems, but when it becomes our primary motivator and priority over caring for others and even ourselves, it has typically proven to result in more harm than good (James 1:5).

It’s Better To Give Than Receive – Scrooge is known for his greed. However, in the end, he realizes the power of generosity and as he gives, he grows, and through his generosity, others grow. This is also true for us at work, home and in our communities. When we are generous with our time, talents and treasures, we typically discover an interesting surprise – we realize the joy, fulfillment and goodwill we receive in return far exceeds what we give (Acts 20:35).

Consider The Welfare Of Others – When we focus solely on ourselves and our needs, we miss the opportunities around us that we are uniquely gifted and positioned to help solve. For example, when Scrooge worked Bob Cratchit to the bone, he not only affected his employee, but also his employee’s family. Yet, when he began considering ways he could help Bob and his family, the life of Tiny Tim, Bob’s son, was greatly rewarded. The same is true for us. When we consider others, the affects of our actions not only impacts them, but perhaps even generations to come in ways we could have never imagined (Philippians 2:4). Thus, why let opportunities pass us by by simply focusing on me, myself and I?

It’s Never Too Late To Change – Last, but not least, we see with Scrooge that it’s never too late to change – never. We may think the mistakes we made, the roads we chose and the damages we caused are forever cemented, but thankfully, they are not. Rather, those same mistakes can result it empowering testimonies to help us encourage and elevate others (Luke 22:32).

Application: “Choose Life” – Deuteronomy 30:19
In conclusion, none of us know how much time we have left, but with the time we do have, may we be courageous enough to identify the areas of our life we can improve and then commit to making change. The kind of change that demonstrate happy endings don’t have to be limited to fictional stories, but can happen in reality too when we surrender our life to Christ.