Something Brand New
There is a great verse in the Book of Isaiah that encourages me so much, especially in The Message paraphrase Bible: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert…” (Isaiah 43:18-19, The Message) I love that! We all spend way too much time dwelling on the past; a past that’s covered and forgiven by the blood of Jesus. Sure, I’ve had to look at my past in order to let Jesus heal me, but I don’t allow the enemy to rub my nose in my mistakes and failings. Once I’ve repented of them, I focus on the good that Jesus has done in spite of my shortcomings, not what I’ve done wrong.
Are you grateful for what Jesus has done and is doing in your life? I am! If we’re not grateful for what we have, we will eventually lose what we have. We will lose sight of it…touch with it and connection to it. Gratitude connects us to eternal realities. Only gratitude leads to true joy. The Bible says, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NLT) Happiness depends on happenings. Joy depends on perspective. When we are the keepers of our gratitude, we are then the reapers of our joy. If we cultivate an attitude of gratitude, then no one will be able to steal our joy. “For the joy set before Him, Jesus even endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Shaking and Awakenings
Are you being shaken? I know I am. I believe God shakes us to awake us! In fact, great shakings usually happen right before great awakenings. In the Book of Judges, Gideon felt he was the weakest and the least, and yet God said He would be with him to make up the difference. When Gideon faced a massive Midianite army, he initially only had 32,000 men. But God thought even that was too many and so reduced it to a mere 300. God often contradicts what we think would make sense because only He knows what should happen. He’s chosen, out of all possibilities, the best plan to bring about His desired purpose for us. We don’t need our circumstances to change in order to have peace; all we need to do is trust God.
Giving Up Too Soon
Recently, I led a man to Jesus who the week before had put his neck on a railroad track to take his life, and only lifted it up right before the train passed in front of him. He’s the father of three young children. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation!” (John 16:33) He wasn’t overstating this. Life is really tough! Then Jesus added, “But…take heart…take courage…cheer up…I have overcome so that you can overcome.” “I’m victorious so you can be victorious…” Those were not empty words. Because Jesus conquered sin and the death sin produces, we can be “…more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave His life for us.” (Romans 8:37) Don’t give up too soon! Find the victory behind God’s promises.
Forgiveness and Gratitude
In Luke 7:44-47 of The Message paraphrase Bible, Jesus said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” If the greatest blessing we could ever receive is being pardoned…forgiven for our sins, then the most appropriate response to this greatest of all gestures is to actually BE grateful!
Getting God’s Attention
Do you believe that when you pray you are finally getting God’s attention? Actually, the opposite is true! Whenever we pray, it’s because God has finally gotten our attention. That’s what happened in the Upper Room at Pentecost. The 120 disciples were gathered there united in prayer because God had, at last, gotten their complete attention. God only finishes what He authors. That’s why we are never the scriptwriters, but we can be what He always intended us to be: script doers. In the Bible it says, “…don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” (James 1:22, NLT) “Jesus, You have my complete attention! I want Your will, and not my own. Help me to be a doer of the Word and not merely a hearer, deceiving myself.”
Character Is Not a Consolation Prize
What are you chasing after in life: money, fame, security, peace of mind? If the goal of life is to become like our Creator, then Christ-like character is what we should be emulating. Character is not a consolation prize. It’s the main event! We were created in the image and likeness of God in order to become like Jesus. The Bible says, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (Philippians 2:4-5, NLT) Being like Jesus is the fulfillment of being created in God’s image; and the fruit of Him being the first fruits of God’s new creation. Don’t chase after what lasts for only a moment. Pursue what lasts forever…becoming like Jesus; it is the greatest honor in life and the only life worth pursuing.
How the Devil Lies To Us
There are three primary ways the devil lies to us. First, about who God is! Then about what God says; and thirdly, about who God says we are. We can see from His beautiful creation that God is beautiful. And the fact He doesn’t boast in His creation with light shows saying, “This morning’s sunrise is brought to you by God,” demonstrates He’s humble. This beautiful, humble God died on a cross so that we could be engrafted into His marvelous family for eternity. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3) So, the next time the devil tries to lie to you, remind him of who God is, what He says, and who you are in Him: a forgiven, loved and cherished child of the most-high God!
Are you grateful? Better yet, do you live grateful? Harvard professor Shawn Achor said in his book, “The Happiness Advantage,” that training your brain to be “positive first” yields the greatest success. In fact, 75% of your success on the job can be traced, not to your intelligence, but to your optimism. His research shows the importance of focusing every day on three events that have occurred in the last 24 hours for which you are grateful. Doing this makes a positive imprint on your brain. Gratitude connects us to eternal realities and is perhaps the clearest indication that we are seeing our lives as God intended. Only gratitude leads to true joy. The Bible says, “Always be joyful. Be thankful in all circumstances…” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NLT)
Shaping Worries Into Prayers
Would you like to get a victory over worry? Here’s a sure fire way to do it! I love how the Message Bible says, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4:6-7) WOW! “…shape worries into prayers.” What a marvelous concept! I’ve found, petitions require trust and praise requires gratitude! When I allow God to shape my worries into prayers the wholeness of God begins to shape my life. Cast off the worries of life, because our worries are temporary, but our worship is eternal!
The Best Alarm Clocks
The greatest blessing we could ever receive is being pardoned…forgiven for our sins. And the most appropriate response to this greatest of all gestures is being grateful! The Message Bible paraphrase says, “Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.” (Colossians 4:2) We are not awake until we are grateful! We are actually sleeping through our rescue. So, how do I get fully awake in order to live gratefully? I’ve found that the Word of God and the presence of God are my best alarm clocks. They wake me up every day. Focusing on my problems will lull me to sleep. Feasting on God’s promises wakes me up to eternal realities. I want to live awake. “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14b, ESV)
One of my favorite verses in the Bible encourages me that no matter what troubles I’m going through God will protect me. It’s found in Isaiah 43. “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1-3, NLT) WOW! What a promise! When the enemy tries to focus you on your problems, set your eyes on God’s promises. Our problems are temporary, while His promises are eternal.