Moving Forward

Are you moving forward? Or, are you going backward? Are you improving your understanding and relationship with God? Or, are you regressing into worry, fear, and anxiety? Will you decide to move forward, trusting God with everything?

Despite what we often feel or may even hear from those around us, it is a conscious decision on our part to trust God. We are to wake each morning and decide to trust Him. We must make that decision each and every day. If we do not, we regress into our old ways.

When we don’t make a conscious decision to trust God each day, we leave ourselves open to be manipulated by outside influences that come our way. As Paul writes to the Ephesians, we are tossed about on the waves like a boat with no anchor nor motor (Ephesians 4:14). We allow others to cause uncertainty, which leads us down the dark path to fear and anxiety.

We are to have solid roots that are deep in the soil of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:6-7). When we are rooted deeply in Him, we can withstand the storms, grow and flourish, and bare fruit to feed others. As we trust in God, we become the calm in the storm and shed His light for others to see and follow.

There is a lot of worry, fear, and anxiety in this world right now. People are concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic, the effect on their jobs, the amount of supplies available, and whether a family member will become sick. There is chaos throughout the world, whether it be physical chaos in the streets or mental chaos in people’s minds.

Our faith in God will provide us with the peace we need (John 14:27). As we experience His peace in us, we can remain calm and continue to move forward. If we are unsure, experiencing the fear and anxiety we see in others, we should pray. Our prayer cannot be a one-time prayer that only lasts a few seconds. We should pray multiple times per day and every day for several minutes. We should lay our worries, fears, and anxiety bare before God and trust Him to remove them from us. As we pray, we also need to remain patient. All things happen in God’s time.

I pray we all make time to pray throughout each day. I pray each of us will lay bare our concerns to God, laying them at the foot of the cross. I pray that each one of us will receive the peace of God that goes beyond understanding. I pray we all remain safe as we go through this pandemic. Pray often. Lay your concerns at God’s feet. Receive His peace. Trust God. Increase your faith.

2 Peter 3:8-9 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

New Life

How is your life going today? Are you looking forward to a change? Do you anticipate things getting better? How does your life today compare to your life 10 years ago? What do you think your life will be like 10 years from now? What will your eternal life be like?

I believe we all look for a better life. Unfortunately, we too often look for it in this world and especially in material possessions. Sure, we often can make a better life here on this earth. That is especially true if we put God first in our lives and depend on Him. Yet, we often want to take the reins ourselves and put more trust in our plans than we do God’s.

Personally, I understand Paul’s message to the Philippians when he basically says he is ready to go to heaven. I also understand his conundrum and why he decides it’s better for him to stay for a while.

Let me explain. On a personal level, looking only at me, I’m ready to live eternity with God. I’m ready to leave all the pain and suffering behind. Why not? Can you imagine what heaven will be like? I would love to find out and stay there forever.

On the other hand, I also believe without a doubt that God has a plan for me to continue His work here on this earth. So, I’m willing to stay here and continue working on the tasks He has laid out for me. I also would hate to leave my family and friends behind.

That makes for quite the conundrum, doesn’t it? On the one hand, being ready to spend eternity in heaven. On the other hand, not wanting to leave things undone and wanting to take care of your family. Ultimately, each of us need to trust God. He knows when the time is right for us to come join Him and He knows what He has planned for us to do yet.

It is nice to be comfortable in knowing God is in control. It is comforting to not worry about where we will spend eternity. It gives us freedom to continue working the tasks God has laid out for us without fear. It provides us with a confidence and peace that is beyond understanding and cannot be fully explained.

I pray each of us come to the conundrum of wanting to go to heaven and yet wanting to stay on this earth. I pray we all find the peace beyond understanding. I pray we all trust that God has a plan for us and are willing to take on the tasks He assigns us. Trust God is in control. Accept His peace into your life. Be confident in completing His assigned tasks. God will not let you down.

Philippians 1:21-24 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

Golden Rule

How well are you received? Do you think you are liked by others? Do you like others? What are you doing that will cause others to like or dislike you? Are you working on yourself, looking transparently at yourself in the proverbial mirror? Are you willing to change into who God wants you to be?

As we go through this world, it is inevitable that we will be liked by some and disliked by others. It is also inevitable that we will like some and dislike others. Yet, why should it be this way? Sure, we will do things some people won’t like and there are people who will do things we don’t like. But why should that keep us from liking them, or loving them?

God has given us insight into how we are to behave throughout the Bible. Jesus taught many parables about behavior, even if we don’t always associate them to behavior. We often look at the wayward son who asked his father for his allotment of his father’s possessions, then squandered it all on raucous living, as being a loathsome person. Yet, when it was all said and done, he humbled himself as a servant (Luke 15:11-32). Behavior.

We see Jesus discuss the rescue of a lost sheep. His points out to us, if we were to lose a prize possession, we would go in search of it. He further tells us to do the same as our Heavenly Father does in seeking those who are lost (Matthew 18:10-14). Again, this is about our behavior. You don’t draw bees with vinegar but with honey.

In His simplest statement regarding behavior, Jesus tells us to do to others as we want them to do to us. So, going back to our questions above, what are you willing to change so others will like you, will want to be around you, will want to do for you? May I suggest the first step is to do for others?

When we do for others, we are typically blessed in triplicate. How can I say that? First, we are blessed with a feeling of accomplishment and well-being in our knowledge that we did something for someone else. Second, God blesses us for doing His work. Third, typically the other person shows some appreciation for our assistance, though this should not be the reason for us doing for others. It is a nice bonus when it happens.

I pray we all realize that it is by doing for others that we are blessed. I pray each of us will pursue doing more for others. I pray we all experience the peace and wellness of God as we do His work. It is only by doing His work that we can. Do for others. Be blessed by God. Become a joy to be around. Experience God’s peace.

Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Prepared At All Times

Are you prepared for what is coming? Do you know how to prepare? Do you know what to prepare for? If you knew, would you prepare?

I recall the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared.” I remember my Scout Master often teaching us lessons to be prepared. He always used a different example every time he talked to us about it. We face a lot of different situations as we go through this life, don’t we? Sometimes they catch us completely off guard.

Nearly all of us were caught off guard recently. Though, we did have some time for preparation, if we were paying attention to what was happening and how things were escalating. Too often we are caught unaware because we aren’t paying attention. We don’t like the news, so we don’t watch it. We don’t like our work, so we keep our heads down and only do what we are told. We don’t like our neighbor, so we never look in their direction.

There is another topic we don’t like—death. We don’t want to think about it. We don’t want to discuss it. Yet we all must face it. There is no reason to fear death, unless we are not prepared for it. You may wonder how you can prepare for death, especially if you are still young. There is only one way.

Jesus stated on multiple occasions that no one knows when the end is coming except the Father. He told parables about masters leaving and coming back to check on their servants, and the servants didn’t know when he would return. In today’s Scripture, we see His parable uses a thief coming to the house and the owner is unaware of when.

Folks, none of us know when our end will come. If we are not prepared, saved by Jesus, we are going to end up in eternal torment—hell. If we are saved by Jesus, we will end up in eternal glory—heaven. It’s really pretty simple. When we are prepared, saved, we have no fear of death. We are going to a place far better than anything we can imagine. Perhaps our only regret is that we didn’t do enough while on this earth to ensure our loved ones will be there with us.

Might I suggest that each of us be prepared. Maybe we should spread the gospel of Jesus to those we love, to our neighbor, to people we meet. Just maybe we should live in the comfort of knowing death has no hold over us. Yes, let’s go about our lives prepared.

I pray each of us is prepared. I pray that those who are not prepared will become prepared. I pray everyone will accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I pray we all live our lives in peace, knowing we have no fear of death. Be prepared. Accept Jesus as your Savior. Live without fear. Live in peace.

Matthew 24:42-44 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Exercise Your Faith

Are you exercising? Are you becoming stronger? Will you work at it? What are you doing to strengthen your faith? Are you exercising your faith? Are you testing your faith? Are you stepping out and trusting God a little more each day?

Why do we exercise our bodies? We likely exercise to be healthy. How are we healthier due to exercise? Our heart and lung capacities increase. If we exercise outside, and we should to the extent possible, our immune systems are exposed to a wide variety of germs. Our immune system kicks in, fights them off, and becomes stronger.

Paul tells Timothy that being physically fit has some value (1 Timothy 4:8). He doesn’t say it is the ultimate in value, but we need to be physically able to do the work God lays before us. I believe Paul is telling Timothy to remain physically fit to perform the tasks he is called to do, while not neglecting the most important thing, which is spreading the gospel.

How does this relate to our faith? Physical fitness is a type for our spiritual fitness. Our faith must be strengthened, yet we often don’t think about how we go about doing that. Much like we exercise our physical bodies, pushing them to do more, we must push our faith to increase it.

We can exercise our faith by doing little things at first, much like we start out running a mile rather than a marathon. Our faith exercise may start as simply confessing to be a follower of Jesus when asked. It can be a bit scary at first, but it gets easier the more we do it. We increase our faith.

We can step out of our comfort zone to take on a task at our church. Perhaps it means teaching an elementary age Sunday School class. Perhaps it is saying an opening prayer in front of the congregation. Perhaps we are asked to relate our story and how we came to be a follower of Jesus for our church. Our faith increases.

Ultimately, we want our faith to increase so we can rely on it when the really tough things come, much like a soldier trains for war. Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a war, whether we realize it or not, and Satan continues to attack us. Our faith, trust in God, needs to increase to ward off those attacks. Our faith allows us to persevere.

I pray each of us will take up the challenge to exercise our faith. I pray our faith increases each and every day. I pray the faith of us all will strengthen us to do the work God sets before us. Exercise physically. Exercise spiritually. Increase your faith. Become strong in your faith. Prepare for the fight and persevere. God is faithful.

James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Traditions and God

What are your traditions? Do you have family traditions? Do you hold fast to them? What are the church traditions you adhere to? Do you know if they are biblically based or not? Have you given them any thought? What were Jesus’ commands?

Most of us have traditions we follow. We may call them our routine, rather than traditions. Yet they mean the same. We often will go to extremes to keep them. Why do these become so important to us? No, not all traditions are bad. Yet we should understand why they came into being and what purpose they serve.

For example, family gatherings at Christmas are good traditions. It brings the family together to celebrate the birth of Christ. True, when you dig into the history, it is almost certain He was not born on this day. Yet we don’t know the exact day He was born. Choosing to celebrate His birth is a wonderful thing. It also provides us with an opportunity to celebrate our family. Good.

But why do we have such a wide variety of traditions within the church? Do you know why they exist and where they came from? Are they simply man-made traditions that were devised so a select few could maintain control? Or were they derived from some instruction given in the Bible? Do you know that Christ came to earth and destroyed nearly all of the Jewish traditions and even held those traditions against the Jewish leadership? No, not all traditions are bad and not all are solely man-made.

Yet we should legitimately question the traditions and we should know why they exist. We are not to be lost sheep. We are expected to know who Jesus is and His expectation for us. Sure, we need some leadership. That is why Jesus stated He was our Shepherd (John 10:1-21).

Perhaps God is using this time of disruption to cause us to think about our traditions. Perhaps we should evaluate what it means to be the church. Did you know in the first century there was only one church per city? Sure, they were fewer in number, yet they came together in unity. They came from different backgrounds but joined together in the name of Jesus. They didn’t have lots of traditions, nor did they determine they needed them. After all, they knew the stories of Jesus berating the Jews about their traditions and how the Jews had put traditions ahead of God. No, not all traditions are bad.

Jesus gave us two very simple yet stout commands—we are to love God and love our neighbor. He said ALLof the law and prophets were wrapped up in these commands. Perhaps we should get back to fully adhering to these two commands.

I pray we all decide to love God. I pray each of us will love our neighbor. I pray we examine our traditions and understand their origination. I pray we all decide to live the exciting life of following Jesus. It is exhilarating. Love God. Love your neighbor. Understand your traditions. Live an exciting life in Jesus. Be exhilarated. Jesus loves you.

Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

What Is Your Excuse?

How many excuses do you have? Have you gotten so used to providing them that you can come up with an excuse without even thinking about it? Why are you not spending more time with God?

This world wants to rob our time and focus. It wants us to spend our non-working time being distracted by things that are not of God. It is evidenced by the sheer number of options to entertain ourselves.

Though our options have decreased to some degree due to the current health crisis, we still have access to thousands of movies online and hundreds of TV channels. We still have the ability to play games with people across the internet and interact with social media. In other words, the world is still distracting us as we seek entertainment.

Let’s do the math. We’ll assume that each of us sleeps for eight hours, works for eight hours, spends an hour going to/from work, at least half an hour taking a shower and getting ourselves dressed, and we spend an hour a day on meals. It’s a given that these times will vary based on how long it takes you to commute to work and how long it takes to prepare your meals.

Going with our basic assumptions, eighteen and a half hours per day are spoken for to continue living and provide for our families. That leaves five and a half hours a day that we do something else. What are we doing with our time? Even if you cut this down to just three hours a day of discretionary time, what are we doing with it? We seek entertainment. We seek escape.

Here’s an idea, why not spend some of that time with God? Why not spend at least a few minutes discussing Him, what He has done for us, what we can petition Him for with our families and friends? Our example of the early church is they spent time every day together to do just that.

So, what is our excuse? We have no legitimate reason. We have time to spend each day. Yet we will come up with a lame excuse not to spend time with God, not to attend church, not to participate in classes, not to read about Him, not to spend time in prayer. The current health crisis with church buildings closed is being used as another lame excuse to ignore God. What do you expect His answer to our lack of attention to Him will be?

I pray we all decide to take advantage of being sequester in our homes to spend more time with God. I pray we all see that God is begging us to know Him better. I pray we take a little time to pray for, not only ourselves, but others as well. Spend time with God. Get to know God better. Follow Jesus’ example. Pray more. God is waiting patiently.

Luke 14:18-20 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 

“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’”

Be Prepared

Are you prepared? Do you have an answer if someone asks? Will you be able to explain why you have hope? Do you have an explanation within your own mind? Have you ever really thought about why you have hope?

We prepare answers for many questions as we go about our lives. Sometimes we are given days or even weeks to provide a written answer. At other times the questions come unexpectedly, and we are required to answer on the spot. Those are the questions that often stump us.

Peter gives us the admonition to always be prepared to answer the question concerning our hope. Our hope is spending eternity in heaven. Our hope is based on the love God has for us. Our hope is built on our trust that God will always be there for us. Our trust in God comes through our experience and knowledge of Him.

It is no wonder that when we are a young child, we will quickly repeat what we learned in Sunday School. As a child we trust adults implicitly. We trust our parents to provide for us. We trust our teachers are teaching us truth.

As we grow into adolescence and young adulthood, we start thinking more critically. We start thinking for ourselves. We start questioning what we are taught. It doesn’t mean what we are taught is any less true, it simply means our brains are maturing and we question what we are taught.

As we get older, having a plethora of experiences, our thinking continues to mature. Our capability to discern truth increases, providing we continue to seek it. Understanding the truth of God and where our hope comes from makes it easy for us to answer when asked why we have hope.

We need the hope of Christ in our lives. Without that hope we are left wondering aimlessly in this life, often following the worlds desires, chasing false dreams. When we know where our hope comes from deep within our hearts, we still chase dreams, but with an understanding that we have been guaranteed an inheritance far greater than anything on this earth (Ephesians 1:13-14).

I pray each one of us has the hope of Christ deep within us. I pray we are all prepared to give an answer when asked why we have hope. I pray that we continue to seek after God, walking in step with His instruction, and continuing in our hope. Know God. Trust God. Know you have an eternal inheritance. Be prepared to give an answer. Be a witness for Christ.

1 Peter 3:15-16 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Patience in Uncertain Times

Are you a patient person? Are you willing to wait for good things to come? Will you sit patiently, putting things in God’s hands? Or, are you impatient? Will you be anxious, fretting over getting what you want?

We see tons of impatience in our society today. With the innovation of technology, we have become impatient, expecting to get what we want with just a few keystrokes. Technology can certainly be used for good but has also spoiled us to the point of becoming anxious and impatient.

Our society has lost the ability to be patient. We see it in our businesses—with manager’s demanding new technical capabilities yesterday and asking why it didn’t happen at the snap of their fingers. Our children and grandchildren, who have grown up in this technology age also demand their wants be satisfied immediately.

A character trait has become nearly extinct. Yet, God has a way of causing us to reacquire those traits that He deems important. We have heard that all things happen in God’s time and that is true. Just don’t make us wait for it. We want patience and we want it now. But God doesn’t work that way. In order to teach us patience, God puts us in situations where we have no alternative but wait.

I remember being on a mission trip to Romania. During our return home, we were put in a situation that required patience. Our flight arrived in Madrid with very little time to transfer to our connecting flight. Unfortunately, we had to get our boarding passes for the next flight in Madrid due to the Romanian airlines being unable to provide them to us before we left Bucharest. I jokingly told one lady on our team that she was to blame because she had been praying for patience. You see, we missed our connecting flight and had to stay overnight in Madrid.

We have heard the old saying, “patience is a virtue.” Perhaps what we have forgotten is that virtues come from God. As humans, we are flawed. In order to be virtuous, we need God in our lives. Therefore, in order to be patient, we need God to teach us this virtue.

I pray that we all learn patience as we go through this time of uncertainty. I pray each of us lean on God and remain confident that He is in control. I pray we continue to see the good that God is doing during this disconcerting time. Be confident in God. Be patient with others. Sit quietly and listen for God. Spend time in God’s Word. Be strong in the Lord. Wait for God.

Psalm 27:13-14

I remain confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart 

and wait for the Lord.

Rely on God’s Strength

How are you doing? No, how are you really doing? Are you relying on yourself to do all you need to do? Do you ask others to help? Do you rely on others to do for you rather than doing for yourself? Do you ask God to give you the strength you need?

We see all kinds of people as we go through this world. We see some who refuse to ask for help, who will do it on their own or not do it at all. We often think these people are strong. Yet sometimes those people have become that way because others have failed them in the past or they simply want it done their way and don’t trust anyone else to complete the task the way they want.

We see some who ask for help all the time. We may refer to them as being needy. It seems they can do nothing for themselves. We may get tired of them asking for help. Yet they likely have gotten this way because people have done for them for a long time and they’ve become accustomed to others doing their tasks for them, sometimes without even realizing it.

As someone who follows Jesus, we are to be neither of these type of people. We are to lean on God’s strength to help us through whatever we face. We are also to rely on God’s people to help, when needed. Imagine what we could accomplish if we all relied on God’s strength and we all helped each other as needed.

We are to do everything we do to the glory of God. This means every word we speak and every task we work. We are to ask God for the strength to do so and be confident He will provide. This does not mean we do it without the help of others. In fact, God often works through others to our benefit, which means He works through us to the benefit of others.

We have heard the saying, “it takes a community.” When that community relies on the strength of God, our potential is limitless. When the community speaks as Jesus would speak and approach tasks in the way Jesus would approach them, with the strength of God, we find we can take on whatever faces us.

I pray we all determine to rely on God’s strength in our lives. I pray we all speak each word to the glory of God. I pray each of us help each other with tasks. I pray we decide to ask for help when needed and complete what we can without someone else’s help. Be kind to others. Speak as Jesus would speak. Help others. Ask for help. Rely on God’s strength.

1 Peter 4:11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.