Well, I just finished a workout at the YMCA. While there, I was thinking that all of these people are working very hard at keeping their bodies in shape and I wondered how many worked that hard to keep their souls in as good a shape?
You are going to be “strained” in a walk in Christ. Just as in the physical workouts—no pain—no gain, they say. And Jesus says the same for your spiritual workout. Look at John 16:33, “…in the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”
Jesus is the best “personal trainer” you can ever have. He won’t deliver you from trouble, though; He delivers you in it.
As a child of God, you will have plenty of trials and troubles and in that “workout”, you are strengthened. Listen, you’re going to have problems in this life…why not be strong in them! So when crushing difficulties come your way, you can stand strong because you’ll know that if something is so ludicrously impossible, it is not impossible to God. Go ahead now…get to “God’s gym” for your daily workout! Endure the fire—it’s producing pure gold!
Rest—a form of worship? I’m not kidding! I don’t mean the “sleep on the couch and live like a slug” type of rest, no way, that’s laziness and God says to fight that fault.
I’m talking about resting in the Lord. God has made a covenant with those who take their refuge in Him; He will not leave you nor forsake you. He is almighty in power and is absolutely able to do what He has promised.
So those of us fools who continually drive ourselves into the ground doing the works of God need to switch tracks and concentrate on doing the will of God. What He has called you to do He provides all you need to do it. So, when you rest in Him, you’re really worshipping Him!
Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” Ah—there now, doesn’t that feel better! Endure the fire—it’s producing pure gold!
Listen up class…homework this time in my blog. I can hear the sighs now! Tough it up soldiers in the army of the Lord. Just do it!
We are called to lead; we are a nation of priests; we must serve the Lord. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel because God has already given us the qualities of a good leader. They are as follows:
There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Endure the fire – it's producing pure gold!
Yesterday, I wrote about how grace is not the "what can I get away with” ticket that some think it is.
So what is this "grace" thing anyway? It's not a go ahead and do with complete abandon what God has said not to do; but rather grace is more the “guardrail” on the road to entering into a love relationship with Him and what He has said to do! God did not create us to sin, but to love Him and freely receive his love – a flow that was never to stop. That plan was terribly interrupted by man, not by God.
What God's grace means is that He did not throw us away forever, but while we were yet sinners, He still loved us. The caveat, though, is that if you do not come to Him to be cleansed of that sin, then your bodily death initiates the entrance of your un-cleansed nature into a place of death and darkness far from Him. Death, the grave and hell; or death, the grave and heaven? Your choice…and made possible with grace!
God knew that if we fell in love with Him as much (or near that) as He loves us, that our obedience to Him would not be motivated so much by guilt as by gratitude. We would want to be holy because we would want to please and be like the one we love.
The early Christian writer Augustine said, "If you but love God, you may do as you incline." And that is so true, as well as it sums up grace: God will love you through your journey toward Him. Don't be afraid to ask God to help you learn to love Him back. Endure the fire – it's producing pure gold!
"Grace" is not a license to sin! Some people believe it is okay to just dive in and sin any time with anyone because Jesus already forgave them of those sins. Whoa, bro–what are you thinking! Do you think Jesus died for your sins so you could keep on sinning? Isn't that a bit of an oxymoron–or maybe just a moron!
I am reminded of two examples of the foolishness of someone believing grace to be a license to sin. They are found in Philip Yancey's devotional book "Grace Notes" in the October 4-5 entries. One example was a graduate school task learning basic German. Yancey struggled, sacrificed and studied that summer because he wanted to earn that degree. But he pondered, “what if the school registrar had told him to study hard in the German classes, but, no matter what he did, he’d still get the diploma.” Do you think Yancey would have studied at all? Yeah, when pigs fly!
Can we now understand Paul's exclamatory remark of "God forbid" when asked if people can go on sinning so grace could increase? (Hm-m, mankind has been stupid for a long time, ya’ think!)
Another Yancey example is even more potent when he asks in his October 6 entry if the groom on his wedding night would ask the following of his new bride: "Honey, I love you so much, and am eager to spend my life with you...now that we’re married, how far can I go with other women? Can I sleep with them? Can I kiss them? You don't mind a few affairs now and then, do you? I know it might hurt you, but just think of all the opportunities you'll have to forgive me after I betray you!"
Sounds crazy, yet that’s just what you would be doing if you think grace is a free ticket to sin-city! No–God doesn't want to whip you into shape. Instead, you have a free will to choose–Him or you. God wants your heart, not your head, and what you think He means. He wants you to live, loving Him in the way He thinks it means. It's not a "law" relationship but a "love" relationship; meaning that you love God so much, you would hate to sin against Him. Endure the fire – it's producing pure gold!
If money could make you happy, why do rich people divorce, take drugs or kill themselves and others? If good health could make you happy, why do top of the game athletes divorce, take drugs and kill themselves or others? On the other hand, some of the poorest and sickest people on earth have an unbounded sense of joy, stable families, maintain sobriety and wouldn't hurt a soul.
The natural nature can't fathom that. It is hard to understand that joy is not dependent on your circumstances. Remember, it's the joy that feels so good, not what's around you. So if it's the joy you want – go to the only one who is true joy. Let the Lord dwell in you and the joy will come with Him. I don't mean “Cheshire cat grinning” happy. I mean true joy, the filling to the brim fullness that only God's presence can bring...and that doesn't depend on your circumstances. So, just because things get tough, doesn't mean that your joy has to disappear!
Instead, when difficulties come, concentrate on staying aware of God's presence in you and not the problems around you. If you make the problem and its solution secondary to staying close to God, you get both the joy and the solution! Endure the fire – it's producing pure gold!
We all know the "glass half empty" folks; the “nothing is good, life is gloomy” crowd! You could give them $1 million and they’d complain that the ones were wrinkled!
Caution – don't go there. Complaining can come from you, even if you love the Lord. When difficulties come your way, you can handle them, or you can start trusting God first to show you the way. A sad fact of handling things yourself is that it tends to open you to fall prey to negativism. The task is complicated or involves relational difficulties that suck you dry or financial or physical woes become unbearable; with these circumstances, only God Himself can "lift you up."
If you haven't noticed, complaining is contagious, both to you and those around you. Complaint follows complaint, follows complaint - it's a downward spiral, and you don't want to go down but up! Stop the insanity; cry out to Jesus, no matter how you feel or what the magnitude of your challenges. And, as crazy as it seems, dig deep and sincerely start thanking God when things worsen. You are not thanking God for the bad circumstances – good grief, no! You are throwing out a rescue line to the only one who knows what to do and who knows what all of your circumstances mean in His plan.
Much to our chagrin, God uses our pain, tears and discomforts, not to chasten us but to build us up, to "burn out," so to speak, the dross, the waste, the filth yet still in our hearts. So don't give up. Challenges often humble us down to the realization that God is greater and God loves us - more than we love Him!
In all things, trust Him, thank Him and enter into His immeasurable peace. God will either calm you or calm the storm – it's a win-win. Go for it. Read Luke 12:7 and Romans 10:13. Endure the fire – it's producing pure gold!
Psalm 37:3-5—run to read it when you need to “rest”. “Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.”
Oh, I so often need those comforting words. All of us “controllers” need to heed and listen closely…we only think we control things. Get a revelation—it is futile, we do not! But it is so hard to just let things happen; just “let it go”. STOP suggesting unsolicited solutions to yourself and others; stop having conversations in your head about what you will say or do for each situation. Stop! Here’s where the “Let go and let God” banner needs to fly constantly before your eyes. I don’t mean just to let the world stomp all over you. No—God never said to be a doormat, but He did say to be a welcome mat!
Be careful, when you interject yourself into the mix with your solutions and opinions ruling, you’re on the slippery slope of practicing self-sufficiency. Looking to the Lord, committing your way to Him and trusting Him first (and not yourself), will allow Him to shower you with His abundance. Even when you know you can competently handle a situation by yourself…don’t! Run to the Lord, stand in His presence and constantly train yourself in that manner. That way it will not just be a “good thing”, but more and more it will be a “God thing”. Endure the fire—it’s producing pure gold!
Obedience is not only doing what you are commanded to do but it is also not doing what God forbids. It’s probably the only thing that when you don’t do something, you actually are doing something. Did that make any sense?
This obedience thing doesn’t mean it’s up to us to determine whether we agree with God’s command or not—it just means, if it’s from God, it is good and we must obey. God even said that obedience is better than sacrifice. Obedience makes you holy; sacrifice only makes you feel holy!
But this obedience thing is hard and sometimes it really hurts. So you really have to make sure when you feel burdened by obedience that you don’t fall into the trap of complaining about it. Rather, run to the Lord quickly. Do any complaining right there at His feet, instead of to your fellow man. Complaining to others opens the door to self-pity, anger, rage and a host of things that will hinder you in hearing from God and being a godly example to others.
Complaining and groaning before God is a safe place to get things off your chest. Being in His presence will not foster a “pity city” response. Being in His presence will bring you understanding and will temper your thoughts so you can see the “view from the top”, as He does.
Philippians 2:14-15 sums it up so well, “Do all things without grumbling or complaining, that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent children of God, above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” Endure the fire—it’s producing pure gold!
Did you ever hear people say they just “stretched” the truth a bit? Sorry, folks; that is still lying! When God speaks of ethical principles, He’s not speaking in the terms of the moral relativism of today. When God says to speak the truth, He means the pure truth. Everything God says and does is pure; it is not tainted in any way. That is what we must strive for--His truth, not our flawed interpretation of it.
Be cautious though, deception is Satan’s playground, so make sure your lips are flowing with truth and not lies. Remember, lies take many forms: