Thursday, January 29, 2009

True Satisfaction

How’s your attitude? Do you feel better when the sun shines? When the temperature rises? When you have money? When everything’s going your way?

What makes you happy? What makes your life worthwhile?

I’ve been perusing Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and his resounding tone of hope, joy, and love is amazing. Keeping in mind that this was a man in prison, separated from people he loved, facing the prospect of execution, one could understand if he were angry, frustrated, and depressed, but he wasn’t! We can learn a lot from the apostle Paul about keeping a positive attitude regardless of our circumstances.

The apostle Paul said knowing Christ, rejoicing in Christ, living for Christ, and preaching Christ made his life worthwhile. In other words, Paul focused on things eternal—on Jesus, the everlasting God, and not on his circumstances. He was more concerned about fulfilling God’s call on his life than living comfortably and securely. His greatest hope was spending eternity in the presence of the Lord. And all this brought him inner joy and true contentment—not what was happening around him.

In order for life to be meaningful and satisfying, we need to focus on that which is permanent. Nothing but a life lived for Christ has any true value, and we’ll always be searching for that “something” that’s going to fulfill us until we discover our worth and purpose in Him.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Are You Hungry?

Is prayer and Bible study like exercise to you? You know what I mean: you know you should do it because it’s good for you, and you always feel so much better after you’ve done it, but it’s still something you have to make yourself do – a discipline.

What would happen if we approached our quiet times the same way we approach meal times?

We would be thinking of our next “meal.” We would know (have a plan for) when we were having our next “meal.” We would search for good “food.” We might be guilty of “eating” more often than others realize. Sometimes we might stuff ourselves on “food,” (but we would never feel miserable afterwards!). And we would certainly share our “food” with others as an act of love and friendship. Don’t we want to be overflowing and plumped out with God’s Word and the Holy Spirit?

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). Have you ever thought about the difference between being hungry and craving something? When you crave something you have to have it or “you’ll just DIE!!!” That’s how we’re to approach feeding ourselves on the Word of God. Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

Too many Christians buy into Satan’s deceptive lies: “Quiet times are boring.” “I don’t have time.” “I don’t know how to pray.” “I don’t understand the Bible.” “Blah, blah, blah.” The enemy knows very well that if we aren’t fed, we will DIE. And that’s exactly what he wants. But Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

Let’s approach every day eager to satisfy our hunger in the Lord.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Alive in Christ

Galatians 2:20; I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Dying to self is a concept the Lord brings me back to again and again. I’ve thought a lot about what it means, questioning how one dies to self in this lifetime. I have several ideas from the Bible; I’m still working on the practical application!

One of those ideas has to do with humility, admitting our neediness. Human nature—especially in our culture, I think—tends toward self-reliance. To say, “I need you, Lord,” is to admit weakness. If “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10) means our strength is in God and we’re not willing to admit or acknowledge any weakness, then we’re not giving Him the chance to be strong in us. Obviously, we can’t grow strong in the Lord as long as we insist on holding onto and operating in our own strength.

I know I need to depend on the Lord’s guidance and help for everything, yet it’s amazing how often I set out to do things in my own strength, I struggle or have problems, and then I say, “Oh! I know! I should pray about this!”

“Self” is a stubborn, obstinate beast that clings tenaciously to us, fighting to stay alive; but the truth is that until we put self to death and make Jesus the Lord of every area of our lives, we’ll never fully know what it means to be “alive in Him.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Invest in Eternity

There’s a book I love called Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. It’s a true story about a retired sociology professor dying from ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease), and his former student (Mitch Albom) visits him every Tuesday for lessons, not on dying but on living. Among the many wonderful aphorisms Morrie spouts is “Everybody knows they are going to die, but nobody believes it. . . . If we did, we would do things differently.” His point is that when we come to grips with our mortality, it changes our priorities and our attitudes.

Perhaps we could carry Morrie’s idea further to say that if we truly believe in eternity, it would profoundly affect our attitudes about this life.

We get awfully attached to this world and this life, don’t we? We “know” that this life and everything in it is temporal, but we act as if it will all last forever; we cling desperately to that which we can never hold onto. If we “believed” that everything here is impermanent—yes, even those relationships we hold so dear—we would hold them a bit more loosely and be far more “eternity minded,” making decisions about how we will invest our time and resources based on eternal values rather than worldly ones.

I rather like the following modern version of Matthew 6:19-21 from The Message: "Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”

Since heaven is our true home, let’s invest more in it than in this one.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Closer in 2009

There are those we tend to think of as “very spiritual” or “so close to God”—the ones who seem to have a direct connection to God. You know the type I’m talking about; they’re grounded, mature, filled with wisdom, always able to give sound advice, and they talk to God like a close friend. Have you ever wondered how they came to be that way? Have you ever wished you could be that way? Does God have favorites with whom he chooses to develop a closer relationship?

I know people like the ones I’ve just described, and I’ve figured out their secret. I’ll share the secret with you, but you must promise not to tell where you got this information, OK?

These people are consistently spending quality time with God. They’re filling their minds with His Word—reading the Bible, listening to Christian radio, TV, teaching tapes, etc.; they’re in church and small-group studies; they’re in fellowship with Him through prayer, worship, and friendship with other Christians. They are seekers of God. They’ve made knowing Him their number-one priority in life.

So you see, there is no “secret.” The fact is each of us is exactly as close to God as we choose to be. God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34); He wants an intimate relationship with all His children. If you’ve wished for that closeness you see others have with Him, you can have it . . . if you’re willing to invest the time.

It’s that time of year again: lots of us will be making New Year’s resolutions. My first resolution will be to know God better in 2009 than I did in 2008. How about you?

But from there you will seek the LORD your God,
and you will find Him if you seek Him
with all your heart and with all your soul (Deut. 4:29).