Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tips For Triumphant Living--Remember Where We Started

I’ve longed for contentment. And yet, I've not fully found it yet. I’m goal oriented, which very likekly makes me more prone to being discontent. It's especially hard because the environment most Americans live in tells us to want it all and to expect it all.

God’s Word says we are to be content. In I Timothy 6 Paul says, Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing let us be content.

Like all human beings I came into this world with nothing; in fact I was naked and didn’t even know it. All I cared about was keeping my tummy full (some things never change), staying warm and needing the touch of another human being. My mom and dad provided those things. Other expectations didn’t set in until much later.

Thinking back, I’ve wasted many hours dreaming of things I hoped to own or hoped to achieve. I’ve spent way too much time thinking about worthless pursuits. Sadly, if I’d focused more of my heart and brain on God and His ambitions for me I would have led a life that contained more contentment.

I’ve not given up on the pursuit of true happiness, which can only be found within God’s will. I turn my heart to Him more and more. He has the important things in mind, the things that really matter, like the lost and hurting souls in this world. He’s not so concerned about bigger paychecks or nicer homes or better cars.

Being human sometimes makes me feel small. If one is self-absorbed it makes for a small world. Often we lose sight of true riches, that of loving God and others well. What joy awaits us when we set our minds upon God and put feet to our faith. Then we are able to fulfill the great commission, to love others, and to be up to God's business instead of our own.

When we seek the Lord we will find Him, and there we will also discover joy and contentment, just as a baby does lying in its mother's arms.

Grace and peace to you from God.

I'll be at my daughter's wedding and then teaching at a writing conference. So, look for my next letter on August 4th.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Quiet Moments With God--Baseball Lessons

Two of my grandsons, Corey and Ezra, have waded into the adventure of playing baseball. Corey is nine. He and his teammates are learning the intricacies of the game. Many of them have been playing for several years and have already achieved quite a bit of proficiency. Ezra, is six and he plays Tee-ball. He and the other little guys on his team are just beginning to learn about the game. They’re having a lot of fun.

The two teams are nothing alike. Corey’s is striving to gain skill and to win. They compete with other teams and the coach is focused on training his kids. Sometimes there are flaring tempers and even tears of disappointment. Reaching for expertise is not a bad thing, but the boys are much more serious about the game than the Tee-ballers.

Ezra and his friends are beginners and just finding out what it’s like to be part of a team. They are mostly thinking about having fun. There is no score-keeping; all players bat and all of them play no matter what their ability. No one gets into trouble for a bad throw or for making an error. Kids twirl while in the field, or pick flowers or chase butterflies. They even lie down in the grass and stare at the sky. It’s all about having fun.

I’ve watched a fair number of games this summer. They’ve been a good teaching tool for me. I’m a Type A personality who wishes I were a Type B. I want to be on the tee-ball team, but I’m stuck on the baseball team. Every time I try to make the change guilt storms in telling me to get serious.

As I’ve watched my grandsons play ball and thought about the differences in how these two groups play the game I’ve also been thinking about how we live our lives. Some of us are driven and work too much and others of us just want to play.

Neither is good or bad, unless we fix ourselves into just one category. Life should be lived in balance. We do need to work hard, improve our skills and grow in knowledge. It’s kind of like playing baseball and getting to hit a line drive and then race to first base, our arms and legs pumping. It’s fun. But too much intensity will wear us out. We need to take time for playing, to stare at the clouds looking for the Indian Chief floating there or to listen and hear the quiet voice of God.

God speaks, but we don’t always hear. We’re too busy pushing through, intent upon some achievement or other. As the saying goes, “We need to stop and smell the roses.” Ahh, their fragrance is rich and pleasant; it quiets our soul . . . kind of like God.

Grace and peace to you from God.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tips for Triumphant Living--Find a Place of Rest.

God speaks plainly about how we are to live. In Isaiah 30 He makes it quite clear.

Verse 3 says, But by trusting Pharaoh you will be humiliated and by depending on him you will be disgraced. Move on to Verse 15 where it offers a wonderful promise. This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.

Life is difficult. There is so much going on and some of it is hard stuff. We all have troubles; we struggle to make sense of our lives and of our world. Our leaders let us down. But God says we don’t need to struggle. We have hope in Him. In Him there is confidence and rest.

When I place my trust in myself or in my government or my pastor or in . . . anything other than God, I will struggle. God offers me what I need. He will fight my battles and will keep me in a quiet place, if only I will seek Him.

We need to be sensible. We need to make wise choices. We need to pray. But the outcome is in God’s hands. We can trust Him and Him alone.

Grace and Peace to you from God.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tips For Triumphant Living--Stop Fretting

Psalm 91:1-2 says, Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord; He alone is my refuge my place of safety; he is my God and I trust him.

I could probably write a book about fretting. I’ve done more than my share, especially in recent months. There’s been a lot going on around my place.

It’s human nature to worry. But that doesn’t make it okay. Psalm 91 tells us that we don’t need to be anxious if we belong to the Lord. Our bright ideas, our fretting, or trying to figure out solutions is not the answer. Oh, we can sort out a problem or handle a situation; God did give us brains after all. But there are things in life that can’t be changed. Still we try to fix them, and when we can’t we get anxious. We need to hand these situations over to God. He can handle them. If I’m afraid it means I’ve lost sight of the One who watches over me, the One who offers shelter and rest.

When we place our lives in His hands then we can trust that whatever comes our way is part of His greater plan. He’s big enough and wise enough to know what’s best.

So then, shall we approach God and rest in His shadow? He’s waiting for us.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Quiet Moments With God--Making our joy complete.

Philippians is a great book. When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi he wanted them to dig deep and examine their hearts.

Chapter two, verses 2 – 5 says, “Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

We’ve all heard the adage “What would Jesus do?” Sadly, it’s become cliché and in some ways has lost its power. But cliché or not, this statement should make us think.

Paul tells the Philippians that their oneness of mind gives him joy. Living in unity pleases God. As His children we should think about His purpose rather than our own. However, society teaches that we ought to put ourselves first, and search for personal fulfillment. It's easy to fall into step with the world's ideals, especially when concurrence makes life all about us.

God disagrees with the world's view. He makes it clear we’re to look out for one another, to love and cherish each other. We're never supposed to look for opportunities to discredit or humiliate someone else or to take advantage of a weakness. I once had a pastor explain that sometimes Christians can be like sharks in bloodied water. Sadly, I’ve seen this, even among people I love. Even more sickening to me is that I’ve been a shark on more than one occasion. I'm thankful for a merciful God.

How lovely life would be if we could think like and live like Jesus. Can you imagine the beauty and peace in such a world?

I know a couple who live out the concept of putting others first. No matter what the issue, they always consider their spouse and what that person's needs may be. It can be something as simple as getting a drink for the other or allowing their spouse to choose the movie they'll watch that night, or it can be something as important as giving up their dream retirement so their partner can live close to family.

Of course no human gets it right all the time, except Christ, the God/man. He gave us the perfect example of what it looks like to put aside selfish ambitions and place others needs before our own. He served with humility and never forgot His Father’s wishes. God’s plan stood above all else. So much so that Christ, in obedience and humbleness, gave His life.

If Christ is our example, how then shall we live? Certainly not by seeking personal gratification or personal glory, but rather by desiring how to best serve The Father. Through obedience we shall find true joy.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tips For Triumphant Living--It's Who You Know.

While reading Isaiah 31:1-3 I was profoundly struck by the power God gives to those who believe. It begins with, What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers and depending on the strength of human armies instead of looking to the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.

It is who you know that brings victory. My self-reliant personality can sometimes be a stumbling block for me. I want to fix things, to call in the experts, to get ‘it’ done right. God created me with a good mind and organizational skills, and I can usually figure out which expert to call when I need one. All that’s good, but my strengths can sometimes be weaknesses. I too often forget to call first on ‘The One’ who knows all things and can do all things.

Verse three in Isaiah 31 goes on to say, For these Egyptians are mere humans, not God! Their horses are puny flesh, not mighty spirits! When the Lord raises his fist against them, those who help will stumble, and those being helped will fall. They will all fall down and die together.

No expert, no specialist, not even the most spiritually mature person we know is as powerful or as knowledgeable as The King. It’s clearly stated; He strikes down puny flesh. When we stand we will prevail only if our army is God’s army. If we stand in our own strength we will soon discover how frail and worthless our power is.

So, may we be true conquerors, remembering that nothing is too difficult for God. He will deliver us from our foes.

Grace and peace to you from God.