Tuesday, March 30, 2010

God of Joy

How often do we think about the fact that God is a God of JOY? Joy is not just a great feeling; it’s an essential part of experiencing an effective Christian walk.

Nehemiah told the Israelites, "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10). Strength – mental, physical, emotional or spiritual – is important in all we do. Have you ever noticed that when you approach a task in a negative or sad state of mind, you feel exhausted the entire time you’re working? Now think of the times you were really happy and felt good about what you were doing. Do you remember how exhaustion didn’t hit you until after the project was finished? Joy makes the difference.

Jesus was filled with joy, and He came to share that joy with us. In John 15:11 He said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” You see, it’s His joy in us that makes our own joy complete. And in John 17:13, he reminded, “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them” (John 17:13). Our God is not stingy when He’s handing out joy! He wants us to have the full measure of His joy – all of it.

When the Holy Spirit was given to us, He became the direct path for us to enter into God’s joy. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus and know what it is to experience the kind of joy the world could never understand.

When God is our source of joy, we are infused with His strength. This joy is not something we manufacture ourselves – putting on a happy face and going through the motions. This joy is His gift to those He loves to enable us to walk in His power and victory.

The boss's time

I do freelance work from home, and, depending on how tight a deadline I have, there can be a lot of freedom in setting my own hours. I can get up early, sit down at my computer in my pajamas, and have a lot of work done by noon. Or I can work late into the night and sleep in the next morning. If I have a small project with a loose deadline, I might putz around – an hour here, an hour there – doing other things along with my work throughout the day.

But when I come to work at the Voyageur, I get paid by the hour; therefore, I’m on my boss’s time. I understand that I’m expected to work for every hour I’m paid. I’m accountable for my time, and I do what my boss expects me to do, not whatever I happen to feel like doing – which, quite frankly, some days would be zilch! Doesn’t matter. You gotta work when you’re getting paid.

I got to thinking about how different my life would be if I approached every day with the mindset that I am not on my own time. I’m working for “my Boss,” and need to do whatever tasks He sets before me. What would happen if each day I said, “Okay, Lord, I’m on your time; what would you have me do this day?”

Ephesians 5:15–16 of the Amplified Bible says, “Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.”

The days are evil, the time is short, and every day has Kingdom work to be done, whether it’s out in the world or in a prayer closet. Making Jesus the boss each day puts our lives on track to be purposeful and worthy and accurate.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What About Trust?

Pastor Rick Warren made the following comment in a post on his Facebook page: “Never confuse forgiveness and trust. Forgiveness must be immediate and unconditional. Trust must be re-earned over time.”

I found this especially interesting since I’ve recently been part of an ongoing group discussion on the topic of forgiveness. Someone posed the question, “How do we trust those who continue to sin against us after we’ve forgiven them multiple times for the same type of offense?”

That’s a very good question, and I would never presume to have a pat and easy answer to that question, but as the discussion progressed, this thought occurred to me: The expectation that we can or should be able to trust our fellow human beings should be tempered with the realization that even those most worthy of our trust – those who truly love us and would never want to hurt us – in all likelihood will eventually do something that leaves us feeling hurt or betrayed or just very disappointed, and our trust in them will be compromised. Therefore, while trust is an essential part of any good relationship, maybe we shouldn’t expect to be able to trust others 100 percent.

Now, if we deal with someone who habitually offends, asks forgiveness, and then repeats the offense, our responsibility is to forgive that person every time. The next move? Pray for that person, and trust GOD to deal with whatever underlying issue in his or her life is causing this behavior. And then the next time that person comes along and commits the same old sin against you, trust that your prayers are at work in this person’s life. Trust that God is dealing with the issue and change is on its way.

As I said, I don’t want to sound trite when it comes to an issue that can be complicated and painful, but sometimes we think it’s up to us to “fix” someone else when we need to step back and let God take care of the matter.

So we forgive them, we pray for them, and we get out of the way and let God do what He will.

Psalm 118:8; It is better to trust in the Lord / Than to put confidence in man.

Of Tigers and Men

Society devours scandal like crazed children at a birthday party devour cake. We love it. And when previously unscathed Tiger Woods fell from grace with his multiple indiscretions, the public gleefully tuned in to witness his descent.

Recently, Tiger apologized. With his voice hesitant and slightly shaking, he spoke to his audience: “Every one of you has reason to be critical of me.”

Isn’t this true for all of us? We all have something of which others can find fault. Most of us have something in our past that causes us to feel shame every time we think of it. The Bible says,
“[A]ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Because we’re all guilty of sin but we hate to think of ourselves that way, we look elsewhere to find others who are “worse sinners” than ourselves. In this way we can say, “Well, at least I’m not that bad.” And someone in the public eye is an easy target.

Tiger said, “My failures have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before.”

Tiger’s reawakened conscience is an example to us all. When our natural tendency is to make excuses, justify, or place the blame on someone else, our best option is to say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23), allowing our Creator to reveal the true nature of our hearts and the sins we may be refusing to acknowledge.

Tiger sought the forgiveness of his family, his friends, and his fans. Many will forgive him; others may not, for that is the fickle nature of humankind. But God has promised that when we seek HIS forgiveness, it is done. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Now begins the difficult process for Tiger of trying to rebuild what pride and arrogance have torn to shreds: respect and trust. “I have a lot to atone for,” he declared. But ultimately, Tiger Woods can never undo what has been done, and we all face that harsh reality . . . once that deed has been done – that word has been spoken . . . how do you take it back?

Thank God, “He Himself is the propitiation [the atoning sacrifice] for our sins (1 John 2:2). What we could never make right or undo, the Lord Jesus has already covered with His precious blood.
Society might turn against you, accuse you, and want to see you penalized; but the Lord Jesus has already taken the punishment for your sins. So agree with him that you are a sinner and then accept His free gift of forgiveness.