March 4, 2017
"Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before."
The follower of Jesus cannot remain sad. Yes, there are seasons of sadness, but you are not meant to stay there as you walk with your Savior through gloomy times. Instead, be grateful to God for little things such as rain, the warmth of the sun, and the cool of the night. God Almighty is the author of all of these and He is forever creating good things for His children: relationships, laughter, a full stomach, a good night’s rest, healthy children, a free nation, and the opportunity to share all of our gifts from God. His blessings elicit smiles on the face of His children. Giving gladness is a vital role of your heavenly Father; even in the middle of severe sadness, He dispenses gladness.
The gladness of God is uncanny in its ability to keep you poised with a peaceful perspective. People and circumstances can shell out sadness, while Christ’s compassion brings gladness. Therefore, go to God often for the gift of gladness. Receive His roaring laughter as a reminder not to take ourselves, others, or situations too seriously.
"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting." (Job 8:21)
Fight sadness with gladness so that when you are tempted to torture your mind with sad thoughts, you will choose instead to fill it with glad memories of good things.
Yes, pain is ever-present. Emotional pain may emerge often, your physical pain may be perpetual, and financial pain could be flirting with your peace of mind. Relational pain may be assaulting you with rejection. Pain is a part of life, but do not allow pain to pin you to the mat of victimized living. Pain will try to steal your gladness and replace it with sadness. It will show up on your face as a scowl or a jutting jaw. Be glad instead, and allow the calm of Christ to caress your countenance. Slow down and let your trust in the Lord massage your mind. Trust in Christ brings you glad tidings.
This is why we worship God in place of the things of this world. Anything outside of the Lord has the potential to let you down. Money will fall short and even contribute to sadness. Children can break your heart, and your spouse will make you sad. Friends will fail you, and circumstances can crush your motivation to care. But Christ-followers have a heavenly Father who gives gladness in the middle of sadness. Abandoning yourself to the Almighty is like tilling fertile ground for a growing faith and a glad face. You cannot remain sad if you are fully abandoned.
Unconditional surrender to your Savior elicits gladness, and a triumphal spirit comes from being in Christ. Peace and contentment are first cousins and fruits of a glad attitude. Anybody can live a chronically sad life, but those who look to their Savior, Jesus, cannot help but be glad. He is the giver of all good things that satisfy. Therefore, be glad for the grace of God that gushes from heaven like a generous geyser. See gladness as a result of your resting in the presence of God and engaging with a community of Christ-followers. Allow grace to govern your thinking, because gladness grows in a heart overflowing with gratitude for God’s grace and all His good gifts.
"[Bless the Lord]...who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." (Psalm 103:5)
What sad situation do you need to give over to God and become glad in Him?
March 3, 2017
"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
Simple faith does not mean simplistic faith. Christianity can be complex; for example, our full understanding of the Godhead three in one, will not happen this side of heaven. There will always be a mysterious shroud around the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why simple faith in Him is necessary to receive the revelation of His truth found in the Holy Bible.
Jesus made it simple when he described becoming like a little child in order to enter into His Kingdom. Small children can clearly see simple truths because they are unencumbered by the complexities of adult living. Because of their humility and honesty they are able to listen to the Lord’s teachings about sinful man and our need for a Savior. For a child, loving Jesus is an opportunity to be loved. They can easily accept God’s gift of His only son, Jesus, for their salvation. Thus, childlike faith in Christ is your bridge to God.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:16-17)
Don’t miss meeting the Lord in simple faith because of the pain or problems you have encountered in this world. There is no lasting peace to be found on earth. Jesus said:
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Your part is to confess faith in Jesus Christ and His part is to forgive you of your sin and give you eternal life in heaven. The Bible teaches:
"...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." (Romans 10:9-10)
Have you simply placed your faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation from the penalty of your sins? Have you made public your confession through baptism and engagement with a community of believers?
March 2, 2017
DO YOU PRAY BIG PRAYERS?
1 Timothy 2:1-4
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to pray for those that we love and are close to us, such as our spouses, children, close friends and loved ones? Those with whom we share life are often the first that come to mind when it comes to prayer and support. And yet, important as this form of prayer is, it should never be the full extent of what it means for us as Christians to be people of prayer.
True prayer is never simply a validation of your current loves but should expand your capacity to love in unexpected and ambitious ways.
Paul’s letter to Timothy includes instruction and guidance on Christian worship, helping clarify what is central to our identity as Christians. He reminds us of who we are and what we are meant to do. And at the heart of this exhortation, Paul tells us that we are first and foremost a people of prayer. Christians are invited to lift up the joys and the burdens of the world to the Lord, asking that he bring his healing and wholeness to the injustice and brokenness of our lives and our world.
There is a boldness in Paul’s words. He reminds us that part of the work God gives us to do as his sons and daughters is global in its focus. Should we pray for those who are close to us suffering, for example, sickness or the loss of a job? Of course! And yet, this must not be the full extent of our vision. Paul invites this small and fledging early Christian community to pray “for kings and all those in authority.” Paul knew that God hears and responds to prayer, and was therefore shamelessly bold in his vision for the prayer life of this early church. Do we have the same bold vision?
It is so easy to identify problems in our world, isn’t it? Injustice, inequality, political abuse and corruption are to be found everywhere we look. And it is equally easy to criticize and condemn those responsible for these actions. Yet if we spent as much time in prayer as we did critiquing and commenting, what might be different? As the late English pastor John Stott once said, “I sometimes wonder whether the comparatively slow progress towards peace and justice in the world, and towards world evangelization, is due more than anything else to the prayerlessness of the people of God.”
In times of heated political debate and polarization across countless ideological lines, the church more than ever must hear the words of Scripture, take them to heart, and obey! Set aside time today to pray for those in authority and leadership, in our churches, countries, and the world, that we might see peace, godliness, and holiness flourish in our day.
How can you broaden your prayer life and faithfully lift up the joys and sorrows of the world to the Lord?
March 1, 2017
"His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had."
What brings you fulfillment in your work? Is it the sense of accomplishment? Is it the opportunity to encourage someone? Is it the satisfaction of caring for your family? Is it the sense of security from a steady income stream? Your vocational fulfillment flows from a combination of these characteristics and more. When you are fulfilled in your job you are able to filter through the negatives on the way to the positives.
Be careful not to equate feeling passionate about your position with being fulfilled in your work. Passions ebb and flow around the excitement of a situation, like a start-up when everyone is thinking and working 24/7. But this breakneck passionate pace is not sustainable. Your career is a marathon not a sprint. Indeed, if you are absorbed in your work, and not constantly glancing at the clock, then perhaps you are in a place of fulfillment.
"Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'" (Luke 9:62)
Is it your sense of control over the outcomes that draws you to serve where you work? You feel empowered, you are able to expand your skills and you can make a meaningful contribution in your community as a parent or an employee. Vocational fulfillment flows from a heart engaged in a mission that means something to you and to the Lord.
If Christ has placed you where you are, can you be content to serve Him wholeheartedly? The Almighty’s vocational assignment carries its own sense of satisfaction. Joseph found favor because God placed him in his leadership role. In the same way use your workplace platform as a launching pad for the Lord. Your ability to support others, offer promotions and create a caring culture facilitates fulfillment for everyone. Vocational fulfillment is a faith journey that brings out the best in you and those around you. God blesses the work He assigns. Have you accepted the Lord’s assignment?
"From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field." (Genesis 39:5)
What brings you fulfillment in your job? How can you help others find fulfillment in their work?