He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, April 27, 2015

Confusion In The City

We received word this week a dear friend passed away.  He was now resting in the arms of Jesus.  Yet, our hearts hurt while our emotions run between grief and anger that cancer won.  It seems unjust and cruel, leaving us feeling empty, confused and sad.

            Those few days after Jesus’ resurrection, in the city of Jerusalem, there must also, have been much confusion.  There were those leaders who were rejoicing that they had finally found a way to stop the following of a man they clearly feared, even if they didn’t admit it.  They had seen him flogged, crucified, dead and put in the grave.  Yet, there must have been at least a twinge of uncertainty, since despite all this knowledge, Jesus’ tomb was not only blocked by a huge stone, no single man could move, it was sealed and then guarded.

            Then there were the followers of Jesus who must have felt grief, anger, emptiness, and confusion, and also, fear.  Their world was completely turned upside down.  For three years they followed the man they were sure was the Messiah, the Christ.  How could they have been so deceived?  Surely the Messiah was one who would rule forever and ever….But how could he have been Jesus, if he was now buried within this stone tomb? 

            Even the skeptics must have had questions given the “natural phenomenon” which happened between noon and three, the day Jesus died.  They were witness to pitch blackness in place of sun or even clouds, there was an earthquake, large rocks split apart, graves were cracked open and those inside the opened graves appeared to many in the city, and the veil that separated the Holy of Holies in the Temple was split in two!  Understand this veil was sixty feet tall, thirty feet wide and ten inches thick!  This was no small rip!  It was huge!

            To complicate all this after the resurrection, Jesus was seen in the city!  This must have caused an uproar from all the believers, since this was the proof they needed, to verify they weren’t being “duped” when Jesus was alive and among them.  Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Peter, the disciples, over 500 Brethren, James, the apostles and then Paul on the road to Damascus.

            There are many who still try to discredit the Resurrection, despite the proof we have.  Do you find yourself sometimes questioning what is real and what is not?  Christ provided proof….a record….of His life, even after death.  He is a risen Lord.  There is no other religion that can make this claim.  All others serve a god that has long since been dead, whose bones can be found.  There are no bones to be found for Jesus because they aren’t there!  Jesus rose again and is alive and well.  He can be called upon and will answer.  He is longsuffering and patient waiting for each of us to recognize His coming, death and resurrection are not a lie, but truth. 

            Are there days when you are filled with confusion, anger, sadness or an empty ache nothing seems to fill?  Does your heart hurt, even as you feel the tug of the Holy Spirit?  It is a void only Christ Jesus can fill.  I challenge you to surrender to the tug because Christ is the only way you can truly have peace.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Pinnacle of Popularity

        It seems every year I set new goals.  Through the year I accomplish some of my goals, but rarely all of them and even the ones accomplished sometimes are altered by the time “completion” has occurred.  
      I’d like to be a success.  I expect most of us do or at least have had these kinds of dreams.  Now, of course, the definition of success changes from person to person, but with success usually comes at least a certain amount of satisfaction, monetary rewards or other kind of compensation for a job well done at whatever we are working toward.  Personally, I just want to see my work “out there” making a difference in people’s lives.  Fame?  Not likely, I’m just an ordinary person, doing what I consider an ordinary job.  Money?  Well, sure, that is certainly a welcome reward for a job well done, but it’s more than that.  It’s about leaving something worthwhile, and helping to make someone’s life just a little better. 

            The greatest success story is the story of Christ, the Messiah.  Jesus had been on the earth 33 years and at the pinnacle of his popularity, people had to make a choice.  He had performed many healing miracles, rebuked demons and even brought Lazarus back to life.  The common people thought he was wonderful while the Religious leaders of the time felt horribly threatened.   

            There comes a time when we need to meet with Jesus, one on one, and make a decision to follow Him.  This should be the most important decision in our entire life.  It doesn’t matter what we do on a daily basis or what legacy we leave!  What does matter is where we choose to spend eternity.

            Once we meet with Jesus we place our souls into His trust, yet how often do we not trust him with our finances, kids, health or other decisions?  Do we even approach him when things are turned upside down because we feel we have the need and power to do it ourselves?    

            Are we afraid to allow God to “control” our lives?  He has a way of using our abilities or talents to place us in uncomfortable arenas, out of our comfort zone.  What He sometimes asks goes against what seems naturally possible in the physical world, as we know it.  Consider even the belief of Mary and Martha as God calls Lazarus out of the tomb.  What is He asking of you that seems unnatural to your normal way of thinking?  Is it forcing you to trust him? 

          Jesus will fill us with the ability to trust, believe and have the faith required to leave behind the world and follow Him.  When we remember that Jesus raised Lazarus from death, even though we weren’t physically there to witness his resurrection, we can be reassured he also raises each of us who accept Him as Savior from an eternal death in a lake of fire.  And with that trust, can also come the ability to trust Him to do whatever "work" he has set aside for us!

         Our pinnacle of success is best measured by what we do for Christ during this life.  It is after all the only thing we can take with us when we depart this world.  All other rewards will be of absolutely no value.  So I ask you, where do you see your pinnacle of success?  Is it for Christ or something (or someone) else?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Attitude Is Your Paintbrush

            Spring is amazing, full of color with new birth all around! I heard the line in a song once, about our Earth or nature described as, “God’s coloring book.”  That’s an awesome visual since beauty is all around us, especially Spring….  well ....and Fall!  Both seasons have vibrant colors that can take your breath away.  Spring has the added allure of “newness” since we can watch flowers poke their heads out of the ground producing this magical, petaled gem! When God created the Earth, He said it was “good,” and I’ll add, shows He appreciated beauty, vivid color, creativity, joy, generosity, and a kind attitude toward His creation!

            There's an expression, “attitude is your paintbrush,” and I contend it doesn’t just describe our God, it also describes us!  It describes our relationship to other people, to our environment and even our relationship to the Father.  The truth is we have the capability to have a real relationship with God and his son, Jesus, as well as the Holy Spirit.  As believers in a risen Christ, we are all heirs of God.  We are accepted, redeemed and forgiven!  We have the Holy Spirit within us and are sealed in Christ.  Why shouldn’t we have a GREAT attitude?

            That’s not to suggest things can't go wrong, or seem upside down and inside out!  We live in a fallen world full of people who are “trying hard,” but are experts at making mistakes!  (I'm one of these!)

            I had a friend who visited me often for many years and it seemed every time I saw her she was in a sour, depressed mood.   It seemed her negativity affected all areas of her life and finding happiness in anything was extremely difficult!  The conversation always went to how hard and awful life was.  There were excuses for illnesses, financial woes, children problems and relationship issues with her husband.  It was a rare day when she smiled and said “life is good!”  It came to a point where after visits I felt so drained I just wanted to cry! (literally not figuratively!)  I felt like I was being sucked dry and after a while I didn’t have anything more to give.  That is an awful feeling!

            Instead of focusing on all the negative in our world, we need to focus on what is good and right, despite how we feel!  How we feel will then be transformed!  When we are in this mind frame we can create positive solutions, which may include removing ourselves from those people who refuse to be positive about anything!  That’s not always easy, but for our own well-being sometimes there is not an alternative! 

            It is said, “You are known by the company you keep.”  This is very often true.  When we spend much of our time with people who are continually negative or cynical, we tend to adopt this perspective.  On the other hand, when you place yourself in the company of those who are happy, positive, you admire and respect, and a reflection of the person you would like to be, then it is likely it is this kind of attitude you will adopt.  

            I challenge you to take these thoughts one step further.  Along with keeping company with happy people, wrap yourself in Christian companionship while serving others, God will bless your efforts of servant hood.  It is what God wants of us, after all; to joyfully serve others.  This attitude, when done with a pure heart will emanate from all that you are and people are drawn to you. So, smile through your tears this week!  God will bless you!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Excuses.....Everyone Has One!

          Sitting in my Communications class, I listened while the professor addressed the students.  “Attendance in my class is mandatory if you plan to pass my class,” he said.  “We have some kind of activity every single day and you can’t afford to miss any of them.  I will not accept excuses,” he continued.  “And, believe me when I say, I’ve heard them all.  You know, the dog ate my homework,  I know it was in my back pack when I left the house this morning and even, I had to go to a funeral!  Don’t come to me on a Monday and tell me you had to miss class because you went to a funeral!  It just doesn’t happen!”

            Two or three weeks later I approached this same professor.  “Mr. A, I know you said not to even consider coming to you about attending a funeral, especially on a Monday, but, my dad’s funeral ceremony is planned for Monday.  I have to be there.”

            Of course I was excused from class, but I couldn’t help but think about the whole idea of making excuses to not live in our faith, or even accept Christ as Savior because we believe we have something better to do.

            I suspect we all make excuses from time to time for not having enough love, time, communication or even money.  Very often while there may be a grain of truth to our reasoning, the truth is, it is an excuse because we are sure it can’t possibly be our own fault! 

            God wants us to have an abundant life and he invites us over and over again to ask and believe in Him.  When we do, we have the opportunity to have a changed life and with a changed life comes a changed perspective and attitude.  With a changed attitude, very often our excuses change into plans given to God so we can be in His will, where God’s Prosperity will find us and we are finally able to drop the chains of life we wrestled with, when we didn’t believe.

We’ve probably all been in a position where we’ve planned a grand event, whether it was a birthday party, special celebration or just wanting fellowship with another family, and at the last minute they call and cancel and we are disappointed at the loss on both sides.  Jesus tells the story about a time when an important man held a banquet and all those invited gave excuses not to come.   The time will come when those who know the Lord will attend The Great Supper, also known as the “Marriage Supper with the Lamb.”  The invitation has been announced.  People worldwide have been invited, yet many choose to ignore it.

            God’s banquet will not be rescheduled.  It will happen just as He planned even if we’re not ready or we are choosing to ignore the invitation because we decide we have “better” things to do.    There will be a day when he will return and any time to reconcile with God, will be past. 

            So I challenge you this week to consider the excuses you have used over the last few days, whether they be related to time, financial or family issues, work problems, spiritual relationships or any others.  Are you willing to give your “excuse” to God ---no matter what area it falls in ---and allow Him to change it into an action plan? Today is the day, for change.