Monday, July 17, 2017

Whom Do You Seek?

            EVERYONE IS SEEKING SOMEONE. We’re either seeking someone to spend time with, to love, to listen, to hire us, complete us, to spend the rest of our lives with, to educate us, mentor us, pat us on the back, or empathize with us.
            Knowing whom you seek tells you whose opinion you are seeking. So may I ask: Whose opinion matters most to you?
            Before you read on, think about how you’d answer that question.
            When I was speaking to my sons during their coming of age celebrations when they turned thirteen, I told them that the nobody’s opinion of them should matter more than what God thinks of them. The directive means that everything you do in life is driven by what God thinks of you and your actions. It means that you spend time with God, you listen to God, you study His word, take His directives and then move out with them. And when you do that, it means—more often than not—that you live like a salmon swimming upstream, going against the flow. Fighting against the world’s wisdom and the world’s status quo.
            More often than not, it means that instead of being a world follower, you are a world changer. And not in the political sense. (Check your Bibles, but I don’t think I heard of any of the early Christians carrying political banners, holding rallies, or having shouting matches with the Roman government and Emperor Nero.)
             Look at the people in Scripture who changed the world. There are plenty of them, some of whom were the least respected people in society and the last ones you’d expect to change anything.
            But they had certain characteristics we should pay attention to:

            1. They listened to God.
            2. They obeyed God.
            3. They had their minds set on heaven rather than on earth because they knew                       their citizenship was in heaven and not here.

            Read that last point again. They had their minds set on heaven rather than on earth. That doesn’t mean they ignored their physical needs; it means they focused on the main thing—that possessions and opinions and political power and 401Ks and Roth IRAs and power positions didn’t absorb their energy. Doing God’s will absorbed their energy, even though it wasn’t always easy and sometimes put their lives at risk.
            They were world changers. As Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship says, “A world changer is a thermostat, not a thermometer.”
            A world changer sets the temperature, or tone; he doesn’t just report what it is. A thermostat sets the desired temperature, and then regulates when that desired temperature is met. If it’s set to 72 degrees, it keeps the air conditioning unit pumping and working to get the house cooled to that temperature. It doesn’t re-set itself because it’s easier or more advantageous to do that.
            And one more point:
            4. World changers live by faith.

            They live their daily lives based on God’s promises, not their own fluid and often unreliable emotions. They see what others don’t, or what others ignore or dismiss. They apply their faith to their lives, which sometimes means taking risks. Big ones. When the rest of the world is zigging, they decide to zag.

            You’ll want to hear everything Pastor Greg has to say about being a world changer. You can find it at the link I've added at the end of the post. It’s worth listening to just for the wonderful testimony of living by faith and finishing well played in the middle of the broadcast.

             But before you listen to Pastor Greg and as you go through your week, do some personal assessment and ask yourself some hard questions. (My BFF calls it "soul digging.")

1. How much do you really pay attention to how much do your emotions swing up and down or right and left by the world’s news?

2. How much stock do you take in what others say? How many of your decisions are based on what the world, or your friends say, that don’t line up with what God says?

3. How much praying do you do before making an important decision? How much searching the Scriptures? How much time do you spend listening to political radio or television? Secular opinion talk shows?

4. What kind of influence are you having on your family or friends? And what kind of influence are they having on you?

5. As Pastor Greg asks: “How often do you remind yourself that earth is not your home, that you’re just passing through?” and “Are you expecting this world to give you something it can never deliver?

             Honest answers to those questions may reveal why you’re so frustrated with life, angry about the unfairness of it all, why you’re suffering anxiety and depression. Why you feel as though you haven’t achieved, or have fallen short of the world’s or someone else’s standards.

             Finding the answers to those questions may give you the peace and joy that’s been eluding you for so long.


Next week we’ll revisit patriotism and how that may clash with your Christian faith. That also goes along with who you seek and how you view this life.

Until next week.

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Google Images          

Monday, July 10, 2017

What’s God Saying to You—and What Are You Going to Do About It?

            WHAT’S GOD SAYING TO YOU? Do you know? Do you spend enough time with Him to be able to hear His voice, know when it’s Him talking and not your own internal voice or the world’s?
            Once you’ve determined that it really is God speaking to your heart, you need to ask yourself the next question: What am I going to do about it? Maybe your answer is “nothing” because you don’t like what God’s telling you to do. Or maybe it’s “gee, I’d love to God, but I’m terrified,” or “I don’t have enough faith in myself, so how am I going to do that?” Scripture is loaded with people who answered in all of these ways. But for today, let’s get back to the basics of just asking ourselves: What is God saying to me? That’s a great place to start.

            Using the passage in Deuteronomy 10, verses 12-22, we see that Moses asks that very question of God’s people. It’s a section referred to as “The Essence of the Law.” It’s the soul or spirit of the relationship God’s people should have with Him. It begins: “And now Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you?” The same question God asked thousands of years ago, He’s still asking. So it’s just a pertinent today as it was then.
            After he asks the question, Moses provides a cheat sheet so there is absolutely no question about the correct answers. You’ll need to read all of verses 12 and 13 to get the answers, but here they are in list form:

1. To fear the LORD your God.
2. To walk in all His ways.
3. To love Him.
4. To serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.
5. To keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which are for our good.

            While the first directive focuses on an attitude, the next four shift that attitude into action. Our attitude toward and about God drives us to, and needs to be reflected by walking, loving, serving, and keeping.  It’s like the Ten Commandments in a nutshell, which start out with what our attitude toward God should be and then works out from there. Even Jesus narrowed it down to two things to remember: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and then your neighbor as yourself.

            Dr. Paul Tripp, pastor, author and speaker, does a great job of summarizing and defining these in his July 5 “Wednesday’s Word” blog post. I’ll summarize Dr. Tripp’s definitions.

Fear—an awareness of who God is and who we are in relationship to Him;

Love—knowing who you love more than anything else and how that drives your behavior;

Act—God-focused, functional living. As in working out your fear and love in practical, 
          daily actions. What psychologist Dr. Randy Carlson calls intentional living.

           You’ll want to click through and give Dr. Tripp’s post a read. It’s short, to the point, and he follows it up with 3 great Reflection Questions that will keep you thinking all week. I was definitely convicted by a couple of them.

Until next week!

May your fear and love of God move you into more areas of walking, loving, serving and keeping!

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photo by Google Images

Monday, July 3, 2017

What Are You Striving For?

HERE IN THE UNITED STATES we like to proudly pronounce that if you work hard enough, you can be anything you want to be. Exclamation point! Work hard, keep your nose to the grindstone, strive, keep trying harder, and you can be a success, if you want to be. Through your hard work you can earn it.
            The problem is that it’s not entirely true. Hard work never guaranteed anyone anything. There are all sorts of obstacles that can get in the way, like not having the natural talent to achieve what you dreamed of achieving (particularly in sports), or not having the brains to do the math required to be an scientist. My older son had a college English professor who told him that he had always wanted to be an engineer, and he was convinced that it was his poor high school teachers not being able to teach math correctly that held him back. Then, when he got into college and took his first math class in engineering, he realized he didn’t have the brains required to be an engineer. So he became an English professor.
            And what about parents who hold their kids back, for any number of reasons, or the problem of graduating from college just about the time the economic takes a sharp downward plunge, leaving most jobs and careers untouchable. You end up waiting tables for a decade until it recovers, at which point you are considered pretty old and out-of-touch with your major to be expecting an entry-level job in it. Or you major in something that isn’t very useful to society, and you end up waiting tables anyway after graduation. Then there’s family or personal illnesses or accidents that derail and warp dreams.
            The point is: hard work never guarantees you anything, except maybe some satisfaction in your hard work, and perhaps the moniker of workaholic. But we tell ourselves and others not to give up, to push through, to strive for the good life so we can retire and (probably) do nothing useful for the rest of our natural lives. And we strive for all of the benefits of success, telling each other that we deserve them. And then we get to the end of our days, and none of that matters anymore; we regret the time we didn’t spend with family and friends. We wonder what all of the striving was for. We kick ourselves for forgetting that souls of men are the most important thing in the world, and that people’s time is the most precious commodity they possess.
            Yes, there is the 1% of the population that actually has a calling, the kind of God-given purpose that demands attention every waking moment. Something that takes years to study, develop and perfect, like brain surgeon; something that possesses a deep, moral obligation to people and requires every last ounce of energy you can give it. But these are rare. And so often today you hear college students complaining about how parents, teachers, and other adults have told them for years that they can do anything, and then they find out it isn’t true.
            When that happens, where does it leave us emotionally and spiritually? Frustrated? Angry? Heartbroken?

            It doesn’t have to leave us feeling any of these emotions. Why? Because we have a great Savior who did all of the striving for us, who won the battle. We don’t need to struggle over what He already took care of over two thousand years ago. It’s what the music group MercyMe calls “The Best News Ever”. So if you need to be reminded what the point of the cross was, then listen and be renewed spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

               Then, after enjoying that song, you can put on your cheerleading outfit, gather up your rah-rah pom-poms, and do a victory dance! This next song has become my husband’s personal anthem. Being a recovering work-striver, it really hits home for him. It’s a reminder that Christ-followers have many things in common: doubts, wondering if it’s worth it, feelings of worthlessness, heartbreak, and something else we often forget. We have something bigger than all of our problems. So if you feel as though you’ve been knocked down so many times that you just can’t, and don’t want to pick yourself up, listen and be reminded—We win!

             And since we’ll be celebrating Independence Day tomorrow in the United States, I’m including a patriotic song, performed by the United States Army Field Band.

And finally, if you’re discouraged about the turns life is taking in this country, or any other, listen to Reba McEntire get to the honest basics of what it takes to restore hope and purpose to a nation.

Reba McEntire’s “Back to God”

Happy Fourth of July!

May the rest of your day and week be blessed!

Until next week.

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Google Images