Monday, July 6, 2015

Advice From a 5-Year-Old

"Just pretend like you're a slave and you'll die if you don't do it."

This was 5-year-old Evan's advice for his older brother the other day when Jacob was complaining about his chore.  I chuckled as I listened in on the conversation, because it could only lead me to believe that this was the mentality Evan was using as well.  It wasn't totally new to me, since at the dinner table, when I have served something that doesn't exactly appeal to him, he has informed me that he doesn't like it, "but I'm going to pretend I'm in jail and it's all I have to eat."  I usually encourage him to do just that, because even though he isn't in jail, it really is all he has to eat at the moment!

Obviously, I do not my wish for my children to think of their relationship with me as that of slave/master or jailer/inmate.  :) But I do think Evan is on to something; frame of mind is important! 

It's like running.  We are a running family.  While some of my family members train to compete, I run for exercise.  Sometimes, before a run, it's helpful for me to acknowledge "Ok, I will be in pain for the next thirty minutes" (or forty or fifty, or however long the run is).  I have to be mentally prepared for the discomfort of exercise because I believe in the benefit it provides for me.  Even the more serious runners in our family have to be mentally prepared for pain because they are looking towards a greater goal!  Something we say when the run gets hard is,

"We are out here--make it count!"

To think this way reinforces the fact that the pain will not be forever, and it encourages us to focus on the end goal, not the pain of the training itself.  It's the same when they actually run their races.  Being prepared mentally can help with achieving the goals of completion and hopefully a good finish. 

Our time on earth is temporary.  James says that we "are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes".  We aren't going to be here forever.  As I've heard it said recently, one out of every one person dies.  For those who have trusted Christ, we have a better place awaiting us.  We look forward to the life to come, and eagerly await the glorious return of our Savior.  It is natural and right for a person filled with the Holy Spirit to be disgusted by the sin and corruption of this world, as well as our own sin with which we must contend while we are here.  However, it is essential that we consistently remind ourselves that it is not forever.  That doesn't mean we just sit around and wait, and not deal with the issues at hand.  We should work for the coming Kingdom and take the gospel to our neighbors.  Keeping the end in sight, and more importantly, keeping the goal of becoming more like Christ within our minds helps us to press on.

 "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, 
but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. 
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,   
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.   

Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, 
God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according 
to the example you have in us.  For many, of whom I have often told you 
and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  
 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, 
and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  

But our citizenship is in heaven, 
and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  
 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, 
by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Philippians 3:12-21 

Our frame of mind can make a difference.  A mind that is set on eternity will no longer view the things of this world as the end.  Material things will rightly become lackluster, and the glory of God will be of utmost importance!  We are here for just a little while in the scheme of eternity.  Make it count!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Importance of Knowledge

Knowledge is a good thing.  I like knowing things like random trivia, how things are made, the stories behind songs, and the little known facts of historical events.

When it comes to Biblical knowledge, I like that too.  Now, of course, head knowledge isn't everything.  God designed us with minds to know and hearts to feel and souls that connect with Him through Christ.  Only such a perfect designer as He can create such a perfect balance!  Knowledge is great, though, because there are times when we must depend on it!

Psalm 57 was written while David was hiding out in a cave.  He was hiding because King Saul and crew were out to destroy him. In verse 4,  David may have been likening his enemies to lions, but it is possible that he actually was "in the midst of lions" inside of the cave.  And of course. outside the cave were "the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows".  David was surrounded on all sides.

But in the midst of his fear, he acknowledged the things he knew to be true.  Fear likely did not overtake him because he knew that the God to whom he was crying out "fulfills his purpose for me".  He knew that God would "send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness".  David made known his desire for God's glory to be shown with the sudden proclamation "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!  Let your glory be over all the earth!"  Because David knew the character of God, he was able to praise Him, even in those dire circumstances.  It is evident that David recognized the importance of God's glory over his own personal problems.

Like David in the cave, Paul and Silas worshiped God in a prison cell in Acts 16.  Despite being bound in chains for the cause of Christ, they sang hymns and prayed to Him.  In the midst of great discomfort and pain from beatings, these men relied on their knowledge of the Truth to sustain them during such a dark night.

Folks, it's no different for you and me.  Circumstances change.  Emotions change.  Relying on circumstances and emotions to guide our steps is like hopping on a bucking bronco.  We will be tossed around and beat up and eventually end up in a place we never thought we'd be.  But Truth is steadfast.  Jehovah-El Emeth, the Lord God of Truth, is steadfast.  Knowing the truth of His Word is a priceless gift.  Study it.  Know it.  Because sometimes, when we are surrounded by our own sorts of lions and bound by our own sorts of prison chains, we are unable to think straight.  We easily believe the lies that are swirling around in our heads.  Depending on our thoughts will lead us astray.  But when we know the truth of God's Word, we are able to defer to that, even when we don't "feel" like it. 

When I study the Word and trust its truths, when I get to know the character of God, I am then able to lean on that knowledge to lead me to my Father during times when my emotions would lead me elsewhere.  And I can tell you this: worry cannot thrive in the midst of praise.  Praising God doesn't make the circumstances go away, but it reminds us of who God is and of His covenant of faithfulness to us in Christ.

When you are worried, stressed or tempted, begin to think on the truth of who God is.  Speak scripture or sing (or speak) a song that declares the truth of God's character.  You may feel strange at first because your emotions may be trying to drag you elsewhere, but disciplining yourself to meditate on truth of God will remind you of His unfailing love, and will open your eyes to know that His glory is above all.  And that is a very good thing.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Worth It All

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:56-58

In thinking this past week about the last week of Christ's life on earth, I have been refreshed and reminded of important truths.  I thought about the hope that He has given us to carry on with our labors, even in what seems like mundane tasks, because we do not merely live for this world!

The suffering, the mocking, the scorn and shame that Christ endured on the cross was certainly not in vain, and because He broke the chains of death and came back to life in victory, neither is the work we do when it is done in His Name.  Nothing we do for Him is wasted!  No meal cooked, no lesson planned, no discipline administered, no hug given, no words of grace spoken, no forgiveness granted, no tiny shirts folded - nothing done in the name of our Lord is done in vain because we look towards eternity!  But sometimes the battle rages within my flesh. 

It seems in vain when I start thinking that I should receive recognition for my efforts.  

It seems in vain when I feel like I have worked so hard and I am not seeing any fruit.  

It seems in vain when I worry that I am not doing enough.  

It seems in vain when I wear myself out trying to achieve what only God can do.  

It seems in vain when I am focused on myself.

Because of the temporal nature of our world, we must look beyond and trust in the sovereign hand of God in all of our labors.  When I remember the resurrection of Christ, how He overcame death and sin...

...I don't grow weary and feel unappreciated, because I am not working to make a name for myself, but rather I am lifting up His name.  

...I don't need to see immediate fruit, because I can rest in the fact that the Holy Spirit is working in ways that I don't always see.  

...I don't have to worry about not doing enough, because Christ's atonement and resurrection is sufficient.  It is finished, and I can trust Him. 

...And I don't have to wear myself out trying to do what only God can do, because God is sovereign, and He alone can change hearts.  

Rather, I can be faithful in showing the grace of the gospel to my children, serving my husband with a genuine attitude of love, and remembering that I am in desperate need of His mercy every day.  At this point in time, I am not being faced with death because of my Christian beliefs.  But if or when that day comes, it changes nothing.  I pray that on that day, I will remember how our Lord defeated death, and that I will know that it is all worth it.  Christ has finished the work and God is completely trustworthy to do what He will for His good pleasure, for His glory and for our ultimate good.  He is worthy, and He is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!