Friends

Ointment and perfumes rejoice the heart: and the good counsels of a friend are sweet to the soul (Prov 27:9).
God knew what he was doing when He created friendship. I mean, He’s always intentional in what He does, but for me, this is an extra special one.

Did you ever have a problem or challenge that you tossed around in your own mind? It doesn’t take long for it to go in a downward spiral. But just sharing it with a friend, one who has your best interest in mind, often gives a different perspective, and more importantly, hope and encouragement.
When that friend is a believer, and the council and encouragement are based on God’s word and prayer, the outcome changes exponentially.
We can go to God alone in prayer, or seek answers in His word, and find He is enough. He can be that Mighty Counselor giving us direction, understanding and peace. But in His love, He often graciously works through people, especially our spiritual brothers and sisters, allowing us to comfort each other. Our own past experience can be used both to honor Him and bless another by sharing truth in love. . . His truth in His love within us.

Advertisements

Goals for the New Year

Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Ps 37:4).
At a church service that I attended before the beginning of the new year, one of the pastors posed these questions concerning goals. “Do your goals honor God?” and “Are they motivated by love?”
I would guess that 90% of the people in the U.S. who set goals include losing weight and exercising more in the top five. We certainly can justify this concerning question one—a healthy, fit body does honor God. It is His temple. We are to be good stewards of all that He has given to us. He can better use us if we have the strength and stamina to do His will.
But the second question sheds a different light on this worthy goal. Is it motivated by love? Love of God? Love in order to serve others?
If we are honest, we may consider this as an incentive, but the primary motivation is probably fitting into last year’s clothes, or running x miles or lifting x pounds. Vanity by any other name is still pride.
In the scripture noted above, if we delight in the Lord, that is, seek our happiness in Him and not in any worldly qualities or possessions, the desires of our heart will align with things that do bring honor to Him.
I am not giving us an excuse to give up on a worthy goal, in fact, just the opposite. If the idea came from God, and our motivation is to honor Him, and to be more effectively used by Him, then He will guide us in seeing it through.

Heavenly Calling

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14).

At the end of every year, or maybe it’s just because of the holidays, we have a tendency to look back. Our memories are very much a part of who we are—the joys from the good, and the lessons from the not-so-good. But even pleasant memories from the past have a bitter-sweetness because they rarely can be revisited or relived.

A wise person once said, “Never let your memories be greater than your dreams.” As believers, we need not get sucked in to the hopeless part of nostalgia. Each of our experiences has prepared us for the work that God has for us now or in the future. He is very intentional, and although we have the freedom to make choices, He can use them to further His plans. We can make it easier on ourselves and avoid sometimes painful detours, when we trust His guidance.

The good news is that His goals and dreams for us don’t need to end when we graduate, or when we “settle down,” or when we retire, or even when we’re on our deathbed. In fact, as believers, they go on forever, never-ending, eternally.

I love to think that after we exhale our last earthly breath, that we inhale the sweet fragrance of His presence, and even our dearest, sweetest memories are of no account compared to what’s ahead.

Did You Know?

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19).

 I love the song Mary Did You Know by Mark Lowry. As a mother who was in awe of each new baby, this song never fails to send my emotions into cartwheels. Oh, the imagery! How about the words “When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God!” Aaahhh!

Well, Mary did know. Although she may not have grasped the magnitude of the words of the angel–God’s words—she received them as we should, in faith.

In her prayer following the angel’s news (My soul magnifies the Lord… in Luke 1:46-55), Mary didn’t question God. She praised and thanked Him for allowing her to be an instrument in His plan to rescue mankind. Including delivering her…

“Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered will soon deliver you.”

 Mary saw first-hand some of the events that were foretold by the angel and prophets unfold during her life as she observed Jesus’s earthly ministry. We can read about them, but like Mary, the prophesied events, and our own individual role in God’s plan, should be accepted by faith with wonder and gratitude because we too, as believers, are God’s chosen instruments.

The last line is my prayer for you, that you receive in your own heart Heaven’s Perfect Lamb, and that you grasp that you are truly loved and cherished by the Great I AM.

Have a wonderful Christmas filled with Christ’s hope, peace, and love.

Forgive

…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us (Matt 6:12).

Since God is Love, it is impossible to truly, unselfishly love– the kind of love He wants us to demonstrate—without Him. Like love, forgiveness is not just difficult; it is impossible without Jesus.

Forgiving is a command. We are told in Colossians 3:13 to forgive as we’ve been forgiven. It even came from the mouth of Jesus, Himself in the Lord’s Prayer. But love and forgiveness are complicated because they are spiritual issues connected with emotions. That makes it pret-ty messy.

The first step is a choice—to choose to forgive. It prepares our head for what only God can do in our heart.

So what if we choose to forgive. We can’t just wish ourselves into actually forgiving. Selfishness is a quality of our human nature; forgiveness and love of someone who hurt us or our loved ones is unnatural. We NEED spiritual help.

Let’s look at scripture for practical counsel:

Ephesians 4:29 says Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need. . .Next step–No more badmouthing. Even if you’re the victim. It feels so good, especially if we get agreement from someone, but don’t allow yourself the “luxury” of critical words—even if they’re true, although the truth, when we’re hurt, tends to get embellished.

Next–Just because we choose to forgive and we’re suspending critical talk, doesn’t mean we need to bury how we feel. That’s not even healthy.

Hebrews 5:7 tells us that During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears… Jesus is familiar first-hand with emotions! He felt anger, sorrow, and grief. He was betrayed, and when He assumed our sins, He even experienced abandonment.

But Jesus did not let those emotions and feelings control Him. They didn’t control His behavior. His response aligned with the will of the Father and often He extended grace and mercy and love.

So recognize those feelings, but don’t allow yourself to wallow in them. Don’t take up residence there—in your anger, in your hurt.

We may choose to forgive, but dealing with the emotions which are tied to the incidents is where we really need Jesus in order to experience resolution and peace in our own hearts—the peace that passes all understanding.

We are not commanded to forgive and forget. But we are commanded to forgive, and we can choose with the help of the Holy Spirit not to dwell on the negatives, even if they flare up again and again. We can’t do it on our own. Pray and be obedient as the Lord leads.

This is the most important step—Pray. Pray and be obedient as the Lord leads. He may lead you to apologize. Or He may lead you to wait (This is a hard one for me who wants resolution yesterday).

And pray for “that” person. Pray good things for that person. We’re to Build each other up according to their need. That need may be attention, or encouragement, or understanding. We may even develop some empathy or compassion. And we may be the only person praying for him/her.

A little sidebar: It is awesome to remember that we may not be able to both forgive AND forget, but that is exactly an attribute of God and what He does with our sins.

God removes our sins from us as far as the East is from the West, not the North from the South. At the Poles, the directions touch and change; north changes to south. But a person can go east or west infinitely without ever reattaching to those forgiven sins.

Grasping the scope of the love and forgiveness of God is mindboggling, but He is ready and willing to give us the knowledge, strength and power to do His will which is to forgive as we have been forgiven.

The Root of Evil

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1Tim 6:10).

Money is NOT the root of all evil. And no, I am not contradicting Scripture. This verse has been used throughout the decades as a basis of manipulating naïve, but well-intentioned individuals from letting go of that evil money. This verse is about coveting and goes hand-in-hand with the command, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Anything, even good things, become evil whenever we pursue them ahead of the Lord, God. Scripture tells us that craving (the love of) money has caused people to wander away from the faith resulting in “piercing themselves with many griefs.”

Money is good for what it’s good for. It can be a source of blessing others and certainly can be used to fund the spreading of the Gospel. When we assign our wealth, either great or small, a skewed priority, it can lead to sinful actions—all kinds of evil.

The flip side is contentment. Paul tells us in Philippians that he learned to be content regardless of his circumstances, whether suffering need or living in abundance. If we are obedient to God as He leads us in both obtaining money and in being a good steward in using it, His peace will be the true reward.

And blessings always follow obedience.

Wonderfully Made

Your works are wondrous, and my soul knows it very well (Psalm 139:14b).

 What do you see whenever you look in the mirror? My eye usually zooms in on the imperfections—the new wrinkle, the dark circles, the zit, the unwanted hairs. It is a good thing that I gave up pulling out the gray ones or I would be bald by now.

But when we focus on the imperfections or shortcomings, we are taking our eyes away from God who designed us, the Holy Spirit who empowers us, and away from Jesus who completes us. They are lies that rob our joy and rob our contentment. And you know who the father of lies is; the one who tricks us into believing that we are less.

God lovingly knit us together while we were still in our mother’s womb. He designed us for purposes that are as unique as we are, and He empowered believers with every physical, emotional, and spiritual tool that we’ll ever need.

We need to start looking at ourselves (and others) through His filter in order to see how valuable and precious that we really are.