Dying to Self
Dying to self is a major part of training our souls. Speaking of Jesus, the Bible says, “And being found in human form, he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8, ESV) In “Human Form” or, as one translation says, He was “found in fashion as a man.” This is the same wording used in ancient times when a king exchanged his kingly garments for a brief period of time to become a beggar. That’s what Jesus did. As the King of the Universe, He humbled Himself. He willingly stooped to the measure that was needed: to be humiliated. “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.” (1 Peter 5:6, NLT)
Being Credible Makes You Incredible
Some people are more concerned about being incredible, than being credible. But, if we focus on making our lives credible, God will make them incredible. In our celebrity-enamored culture, gifted people have more clout than those with character. Yet, in eternity, what matters most to God, should matter most to us. And what always matters most to God is our reflecting Him and the fruit of His Spirit. The Bible says, “…the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT) Make your life credible by yielding to the fruit of God’s Spirit, and your eternity will not just be incredible, your life on Earth will be as well.
Is Your Life Believable?
We’ve all seen movies that have touched us emotionally. If you’re like me, they’ve even brought you to tears. And yet, they are just actors, acting! In the 19th century, there was criticism that the preachers were too theatrical. The Bishop of London once asked Garrick, a well-known actor, “Why is it that actors, in representing a mere fiction, can move an audience to tears, while ministers, in representing the most solemn realities, can scarcely obtain a hearing?” Garrick replied: “It is because we represent fiction as reality, and you represent reality as fiction!” Wow! What a response! Do I represent God in my life as reality or fiction? Is my life believable? Do I live like I know about God, or actually know God? “Jesus, make my life believable, like Yours!”
Forgive and Forget
Joseph, the Old Testament patriarch, had every right to become bitter toward the brothers who sold him into slavery; to hate the employer’s wife who lied and sent him to prison. Even toward God for allowing all this to happen. But Joseph guarded his heart. He did it by letting go of past pain. Joseph named his first son, Manasseh, which meant “forgetfulness.” He chose to forget about his troubles and forgive those who hurt him. (Genesis 41:51) Because of this he was able to name his second child, Ephraim, which means “fruitfulness,” saying, “God has made me fruitful in this land of my suffering.” (Genesis 41:52) We each have the same choice. Are we are willing to forgive and forget in order to live fruitful and abundant lives? The success of our future is always linked to the healing of our past.
Have you ever heard someone say “shalom!” It’s a beautiful Hebrew word. I used to think it just meant “peace,” but it means much more than that. Shalom speaks to our wholeness, well-being, safety, happiness, completeness, our peace, security, prosperity, victory, contentment, and rest. The symbols for the word shalom actually read, to “destroy the authority that binds to chaos.” It is derived from a root word, which means “to restore what is needed in order to make someone or something whole and complete. The Bible says, “Keep turning your back on every sin, and make “peace” / “shalom” your life motto. Practice being at peace with everyone.” (Psalm 34:14) Shalom…be whole, completely at peace, restored by the blood of Jesus, and the marvelous grace of God.
When Hope’s Inside You
Each of us believe many things in our heart, but nothing more important than hope. No conviction is more-essential, more life-giving, more encouraging, than hope. The Bible says, “…sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15, NKJV) “…the hope that is in you.” Hope has been defined as “…that which is contrary to all human expectations.” Wow! If what we are hoping for has no natural reason to happen, then our hope must be in the God beyond the natural…the super-natural God of the universe. Only He can give us the eternal, beyond expectation, hope that we need. Today, put your complete hope in God. He alone can exceed your expectations.
In the Old Testament, when David became King, he could have been vengeful and, like his predecessor, King Saul, try to destroy Saul’s son Jonathan’s descendants. Instead, David did the opposite. He said, “Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1, NKJV) The word “kindness” here is a beautiful word meaning “loyal love.” Wow! Showing kindness is demonstrating “loyal love.” David then allows Jonathan’s physically disabled son, Mephibosheth, who called himself a “dead dog,” to eat at his table. He showed Mephibosheth loyal love. Isn’t that what God has shown us? Isn’t that what He wants us to show others…loyal love? Today, who can we be kind to…to whom can we demonstrate loyal love?
In 2016, I interviewed two of the young men who, the year before, had stopped a terrorist attack on a French train. Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler Jr., with a third friend, courageously intervened and prevented a heavily armed terrorist from inflicting untold injuries. For their efforts, the President of France gave them medals. I was stunned at how their response was to immediately run toward the danger. It provoked me to assess my own willingness to be courageous. I then had a serious conversation with my wife Suzie about what I would do if, in the future, I was confronted with a life-threatening situation that I could possibly prevent. My conclusion: I want to live and, if necessary, die courageously. If we have to get ready, we’re too late. We must live ready!
It is obvious when reading Scripture that God is asking us to whole-heartedly follow Him. But what does this mean? Wholehearted in the Bible is the Hebrew word “tamim” which means “without uncertainty, undivided and resolute.” It doesn’t indicate ideal moral perfection, but speaks to our relationship with God. Some of us are wholehearted in our work, career, ambitions, dreams, and desires, but are we wholehearted, without uncertainty, undivided and resolute in our relationship with God? God’s not asking us for perfection, but He is asking for us to give Him our whole heart! Jesus said, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37, NLT) “Jesus, I want to whole-heartedly live for you. For in the end, it’s all that matters.”
Hope Without Disappointment
Want to know the cure for hopelessness? It’s Hope! Pretty surprising, huh? The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12, ESV) Is it possible to have hope, without disappointment? I believe it is! Here are five requirements for experiencing hope without disappointment. First, realize that hope without diligence is mere “wishful thinking.” Second, accept that you can’t become more than you hope to be. Third, acknowledge that hope always works in tandem with faith. Fourth, believe what God has ordered for you, is not just good…but is exceptional. And lastly, hope not just for better days, but also for a better understanding of God’s love for you, and a greater acceptance of His will.
Is your Identity, Fear-based or Faith-filled?
Are you viewing your life through a lens of fear or faith, hope or hopelessness? One way of evaluating your answer is to consider, do you have more fear or faith about your future? If your answer is fear, how can your fear be replaced with life-giving faith? The Bible’s equation is clear, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17, NKJV) It’s God’s Word that builds our faith. It’s His truth that sets us free. Who knows more about your future than God? Wouldn’t His view of your true identity and destiny produce the most faith in your life? We can build faith muscles every day by spending time in the Word of God. Only then will our lives become faith-filled and not fear-based.
Confident on Judgment Day
Would you like to have confidence when you stand before God on the Day of Judgment? I know I would! The Bible provides a sure-fire way to make that happen. It says, and I’m paraphrasing, “God is love, and whoever abides in (His) love abides in God, and God abides in him.” It goes on to say, “By this His love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment…” Why? It continues, “…because as (God) is (full of love) so also are we…” And then it lands the plane, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” Bam! (1 John 4:16b, 17, 18, 19, ESV)