When I was a hippy, before becoming a follower of Jesus, I would pride myself on being laid back, using the common vernacular back then. I was “mellow.” When I finally made Jesus the Lord of my life I looked up the word “mellow” and found out quite humorously that it is defined as “the last stage before rotting.” HA! It was truer than I wanted to admit. In the Book of John, Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.” (John 14:27, NLT) No matter how “mellow” I thought I was, I lacked the eternal peace only God can give. True peace comes from one Person alone, God Himself: the “Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Life Beyond Our Wildest Dreams
I recently went to see a movie that featured such blatantly evil coming attractions it made me want to cry. The world has a romantic fixation with evil. It is as Jesus said, “Light has come into the world, but people LOVED darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19, NIV) Why is there such a fascination with vampires, witches, warlocks, aliens, demons, skulls, the paranormal, the supernatural, other worlds, fantasy, and comic book super heroes? Why do we substitute illusion for true intimacy? It is because deep down we know we are capable of so much more. We long for life beyond our wildest dreams: true goodness, supernatural power, becoming all God created us to be and do, but only God can fulfill these longings, for He alone planted them in us!
Four Convictions of Centennials
A study was done that determined the four convictions people who live to 100 years old adhere to. I believe each have a spiritual counterpart. First: being optimistic and having a positive attitude. Paul the Apostle wrote, “…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it” (Philippians 1:6, NKJV) Secondly: continuing to be engaged with purpose, vision, and activity. “For where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18, NKJV) Thirdly: staying flexible and involved in physical activity. In God’s creation we can see that trees, which are healthy, have flexible branches. And lastly: learning to deal with loss. Paul again wrote, “…For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8, ESV) Isn’t it fascinating that people live longer who practice these biblical principles.
George Washington Carver once asked God to tell him about the universe. According to Carver, the Lord replied, “George, the universe is just too big for you to understand. Suppose you let Me take care of that.” Humbled by this response, Carver replied, “Lord, how about a peanut?” The Lord said, “Now, George, that’s something your own size. Go to work on it and I’ll help you.” When George Washington Carver was done studying the peanut, he had discovered over 300 products. He believed it was all because he asked God’s advice. All of us need God’s wisdom, that’s why James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all…” (James 1:5, ESV) and later he said, “you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” (James 4:2, NLT)
Flawed…Needing a Savior
I am unable to present my life, or my fellow believer’s lives, as more whole than they really are. This would make me no better than the Pharisees of old. My only honest option is to acknowledge the obvious: I am a flawed man desperately in need of a gracious Savior to rescue me, and an all wise Lord to rule over my soul and spirit. In order for this to happen I must turn myself in daily, living a transparent life that embarrasses and costs me the most. I must do all I can to undo the false premise that as a leader I am in some way less of a sinner and more of a saint than those I serve. The ground is level at the Cross. I must kneel at the feet of Jesus, finding the forgiveness and strength to not cop out living a lie, saying words that cost me nothing. He gave His all, and so must I.
Seeking God’s Approval
God has planned many tests for each of us; each designed to draw us closer to Him. The Bible says that when Moses had come of age he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Why? Was he a fool? He could have been counted amongst Egypt’s rulers, given his own gold coffin, and maybe even had a pyramid named after him, but Moses refused to follow the decadence of the Egyptian culture. He knew, you can not be a true follower of God and simultaneously follow the world. Though Moses never made it to the Promised Land, the Book of Revelation says that in eternity they will sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. Paul said, “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.” (Galatians 1:12, NLT)
Judging Your Secret Life
A famous football player provides each of us an excellent example of the level of integrity followers of Jesus should have, even in private. He said, “When I’m working out alone, I expect every bit as much from myself as I do when coaches or teammates or workout partners are watching. No shortcuts. No cheating. No manipulating. No rationalizing. I know that nobody’s watching. I know that no one would ever know… I want to know I have done everything I needed to do to prepare myself… I can allow no shortcuts, not even in private.” WOW! That sounds like a great goal for each of us. What I am in private, is what I am! The Bible says, “…the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.” (Romans 2:16, NLT)
Nothing is Hidden
One of the greatest incentives for not doing something you know is wrong is never losing sight of the absolute fact that you will be caught, there will be severe consequences, and you will always regret having done it. Moses thought no one was watching when the Bible says, “…he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” (Exodus 2:12, NKJV) Just because Moses saw no one, didn’t mean he hadn’t been seen. He then fled for his life and lived in a desert for 40 years. The Book of Hebrews says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13, NIV) Truly, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10, NIV)
One of the most difficult realities all true followers of Jesus face is that we are often most useful to God when we feel most useless. When God said to Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Paul then wisely responded, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (2Corinthians 12:9, NLT) Think of the Bible’s greatest comebacks. From God’s perspective aged Abraham and Sarah were prime candidates for having a baby. Exiled, disgraced, and broken Moses was the perfect choice to deliver the Israelites. Childless and desperate Hannah was perfectly suited to become the mother of the great prophet Samuel. The Kingdom of God is often counter-intuitive, most clearly seen in the God of the Universe becoming a man.
Obedience Brings Blessing
All of us will need to be healed at some point in our lives, whether in spirit, soul or body. One action in the Bible that always precedes healing is obedience. After the children of Israel were delivered from the Egyptians and miraculously passed through the Red Sea, the Lord gave them a promise, “I am the Lord who heals you.” The prerequisite for this magnificent statement is found in the previous verse. “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I brought on the Egyptians.” (Exodus 15:26, NKJV) Though we may not see it or understand it, obeying God always brings blessing, healing and deliverance.
Expecting the Unexpected
What does the healthy Christian life look like? It will always look…unfamiliar… unexpected. If you and I keep experiencing the same challenges and adventures in our Christian life it probably means we are going in a circle. God never eats leftovers, and He doesn’t watch reruns. Neither should we! Those who truly follow Him can expect the unexpected. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel had soon forgotten the miseries of Egypt. They would have exchanged the familiar slavery of their past for the uncertain freedom of their future. Isn’t that just like us? As in the case of Lot’s wife, we look back even though we know there’s nothing there. Paul’s advice is always so appropriate. He said, “…one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” (Philippians 3:13, NIV)
Are you a practical atheist? Do you believe in God, but for all practical purposes, don’t really believe He will do anything supernatural in your life or the lives of others? Supernatural things like healing, deliverance, and even victory over temptation? Even still, God’s Word and promises are true! It is impossible for Him to lie. (Hebrews 6:18) And here are two scriptures WORTH believing: Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has…sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” (Luke 4:18, NIV) “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1Corintians 10:13, ESV)