Maintaining a lifestyle of joy can be difficult in our world today, let alone in our own back yard. With no lack of catastrophic events near and far that create stress, worry and fear, it seems that every dimension of our lives has the potential to rid us of joy. Yet, joy is connected to our strength to endure the trials of life.
“…And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Perspective can drive our joy thermometer. Who and what we choose to focus on will determine our outlook on life. John the Baptist was a man who seemed to keep his life in perfect focus on the mission he was born to fulfill. He no doubt encountered misunderstanding, mocking and difficult circumstances in relationships that had the potential to derail his desire to submit to God’s will and preparation for ministry. He was the prophet of the Most High, born to go before the Lord to prepare His ways. (Luke 1:76)
“Who are you…What do you say about yourself? He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:22-23)
His joy in the Lord became his strength. Rather than allowing the issues of life to harden his heart, distract him from fulfilling his purpose, he learned that by putting God first he could rely on God giving him the strength or the joy to finish his course well.
“Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30)
There is a joy that melts the hardness of the soul and it is found in Jesus. Trust Him to sustain you with His joy and He will be your strength.
Did you know that your perspective on how you view time can have a tremendous effect on how well you run your life’s race and the training required to finish well? For starters, we must embrace God’s perspective of time, He is not limited to our 24 hour days, seven-day weeks and 12 month years.
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2Peter 3:8)
Secondly, we must adopt the perspective of a soldier whose loyalty and commitment to serving a higher purpose embrace the suffering and focus required to endure and finish well by the grace provided by God through Christ Jesus.
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2Timothy 2:3-4)
Third, we must learn the proper rules of running our race.
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2Timothy 2:5)
In order to compete according to the rules we must become a student of the bible in order to learn God’s rules of engagement and how to apply it to our daily run. As we get to know God, the more inclined we become to trust in His approach to running well the race set before us.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep Your righteous rules.” (Psalm 119:105, 106)
When we decide to live by God’s word, He promises to watch over our lives forever.
“The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121: 8)
Have you been running your race according to your rules or God’s rules? There was a group of Christians in the Bible that were reprimanded for not having grown in their faith-run as expected by their teacher. They had become dull of hearing and needed to be taught again the basic principles or rules of engagement according to God. They needed, once again, the milk of a child, not being able to digest the solid food for the mature in Christ. (Hebrews 5:11-13) These Christians were running their race according to their rules.
Those who run their race according to God’s rules will lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and run in such a way to endure to the finish line. They will not let distractions take them off course and are quick to bring their focus to the call of Jesus on their lives.
“and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)
At the end of my life’s race I want to be able to say, like Paul the Apostle;
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2Timothy 4:7,8)
How about you? May you run God’s race for your life well.
Love is such a multi-dimensional emotion so often expressed simply in acts of kindness and tenderness yet on so many levels it invites a complex nature. On any given day love has the potential of being displayed tenderly or roughly, with deep loving affection and at other times in painful distress or cutting anguish. By the time we reach young adulthood most of us have been exposed to a full range of love actions from good to bad.
Love was originated by God. I call His love blessed. It is straightforward and uncomplicated, simple in its application to mankind. He presented it to us through the most generous act of all time by sending His Son Jesus to rescue us from a life void of His love. This blessed love is as pure as refined gold because it came through the fire of deep adversity that brought sin to its knees, crushing the power of it forever. Without accepting this blessed love we can’t come close to loving others as we should.
This God love is as pure as love can be. It is as giving as it can be, never running out and is always there when you need it. This blessed love is committed to your future, it believes for the best and greatest potential imparted into you. This blessed love is pure joy and equips you to live above your circumstances while trusting God to work out His best for your life. God is true love.
Loving others well hinges on how well we allow God to love us through Jesus His Son. May you choose His blessed love.
“…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“…God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1John 4:16)
What are the pressing issues in your life right now and how are they impacting your long-term goals? For most, these challenges have the capability of knocking us off path towards our ultimate life fulfilling goals and discouraging us from pressing on.
Paul, the apostle obviously struggled with his past failures to the point that he referred to himself as a ‘foremost sinner’, unworthy of the grace and mercy that God had bestowed on his life.
“…that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1Timothy 1:15)
Paul goes on to say that this mercy that he received was a display of Jesus’ perfect patience that would serve as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
It is in this context that Paul encourages us to not make futile the gift of grace that has been poured into our lives by accepting our imperfections and inconsistent attempts towards fulfilling our goals and purpose. Instead, by faith, believe “…that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Our daily, pressing life issues have been sovereignly and compassionately placed in our lives by a loving Heavenly Father who knows its value and necessity in shaping our destiny while impacting those around us in their faith walk.
The point is that when we respond correctly to trials and sufferings, as Jesus did, we come through having gained more of Him than when we entered into the trial. (Philippians 3:8-9)
So let’s keep our life goals at the forefront of our life issues and follow the example of Apostle Paul who lived with the conviction of not wanting the grace that had been poured into his life to have been in vain. This, we are told, is how the mature respond to the call of God on their lives with all its imperfections:
“…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13)
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Keep pressing on!
Image: The Light of Morning, brl.press
Christmas is a time of great joy and this Christmas joy is rooted in an announcement from an angel to shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock one night. That particular night God’s glory was unmistakable as the bible tells it; “the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” (Luke 2:9) Have you noticed that when life gets dark, God’s glory shines its brightest when we turn to Him for help?
“And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord was born on this day and the shepherds found Him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:13-14)
This is the Merry in Christmas and peace to those with whom God is pleased. And how is God pleased? When we adore His Son Jesus, who is Christ the Lord.
Honor, devotion and worship are qualities of adoration towards someone. If your heart desires to honor God in all that you say and do, you are pleasing Him. If you are devoted to keeping God the priority of your life, you are pleasing to Him. If you are willing to live a life of worship to God by submitting to His will, you are pleasing to Him.
“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15)
“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Jesus is our good news and great joy, the Merry in our Christmas. His glory is unmistakable!
Image: Old Design Shop
Hope is a positive emotion, the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. What is your hope based upon and on whom are you relying to achieve the outcomes you hope for?
Self-reliance has a proven history of mixed results. How often have you failed to reached the desired end of a hope born out of inspiration? Or encountered another human being that didn’t have a failure or two to remind them that hope in ‘self’ can not be trusted to get you where you want to be?
Jesus had something to say about hope. He revealed to us who our hope should be anchored in to ensure crossing the finish line of life without regret. He knew and took the steps to live His life in a way that would please His Father in heaven. He humbled Himself and followed every command of His Father without exception. He trusted God and placed all His hope in Him to the point of God becoming His all in all. And He did it for us.
“…then the Son himself will also be subjected to Him who put all things in subjection under Him, that God may be all in all.” (1Corinthians 15:28)
God is our sure and living hope offered through Jesus Christ who humbled Himself by descending from heaven to save a hopeless, self-reliant people striving after the wind.
It is in Christ Jesus we find eternal hope and triumph over failure and triumph in life. When we place our trust in Him He promises to stay with us to the end.
“…I will never leave you nor forsake you…” (Hebrews 13:5)
Out outcome has been guaranteed, sealed in eternity in the power of His Name. He is our One Hope, our all in all!
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you…” (1Peter 5:6)
My mother raised eight children and she is my hero. When I think about my childhood and her influence on my life the word prayer comes to mind. Her faith in God grew with every baby she birthed, with each new level of life’s challenges and the growing complexity of managing a large family. She learned to pray about everything, even a difficult marriage that brought consistent strife and hardship into our home.
Growing up I could not perceive the weight of her burden in managing eight children without the support of my father. I do however remember how she modeled her faith in God and the strength she received through prayer. Hearing her crying out to God one night for help in our tiny bathroom made a lasting impression on my heart. Supposing that we were all asleep I never told her that her pleas made it to my ears. Her faith was strengthened to endure through prayer.
Her prayers brought much-needed provision, protection and purpose in the midst of so much insecurity growing up. Her prayers brought salvation to our souls as well. It was Mother’s Day 47 years ago when I and my siblings made our way to the altar to accept Christ as our Savior. It was a result of a mother’s prayer.
“Pray about everything,” she used to tell me all the time. Now that I am a mother I know firsthand that her words were wisdom coming through the fruit of a praying life. As my mother prayed over her children and household so shall I. In cultivating a praying heart God has blessed my family with provision, protection and purpose.
I am the fruit of a mother’s prayer.
“…pray without ceasing…” (1Thessalonians 5:17)