Waiting

habakkuk-23-widescreenDo you know anybody that enjoys waiting? I know I don’t. While my ability to wait instead of jumping in and taking action may have improved with the years, so as my ability to not actively prepare for what I know is coming. Both approaches have downsides, although they are different. When I was younger, and unable to delay my desire for immediate gratification, I would run ahead of God, frequently into messes that my faithful heavenly Father would then bail me out of (although not without pain, lessons, and consequences). When I finally began to understand that I really did need to “wait upon the Lord” I found that I was still able to use that as an excuse not to do anything!

Waiting is not about sitting still while others work. It is about resting in the knowledge that God has a plan and that He not only knows how everything is going to turn out, He has already told us who wins! Our ultimate goal is not in question. Our ultimate goal is to spend this life building our relationship with God (Father, Son and Spirit), and learning how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He guides us into beisaiah-4031-widescreencoming the image of Jesus that we were meant to be. This requires letting go of the old, and the selfish, and devoting ourselves to God first and foremost. It requires that we work at it every single day. It is not sitting around waiting for something to happen. It is seeking God with all of our heart and mind and strength. It doesn’t typically happen in the “big events” although they may be catalysts. Rather, it happens in the little choices we make each day.

Do I choose to recognize the choices I am making as I go through each day?
Do I strive to choose in accordance with God’s Word?
Do I seek God’s direction and guidance from the Holy Spirit when making decisions?
Do I make choices to fill myself listening and watching evil or good?
Do I spend time each day learning to bring each and every thought captive to Christ, accepting only those that are in accordance with God’s Word?
Am I focused on living the here and now recognizing that we are just visitors traveling through this life, that we are preparing ourselves for eternity?

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If you are like me, you can either condemn or commend yourself on each one of these on a given day. But, here is the real question. Am I making progress each day toward the goal? The question is not whether I succeeded or failed today. The question is whether I am pointed in the right direction and whether I am closer to, or further away, from My Heavenly Abba.

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Playing Favorites

God does not play favorites.  The apostle Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34 NIV).  Paul reinforces this by proclaiming “God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11 NIV).  Every person on this earth has access to the most-high God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  During his ministry, Jesus surrounded himself with the social outcasts – prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, even the dead.  (No one likes to be around the dead, right?)  Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9:12 NIV).  He recognized those who knew they had fallen short through sin, and acknowledged they needed a savior, would find forgiveness through him.  We all come to him in need.

Your past actions, addictions, failed relationships, thought patterns, and secrets, no matter how terrible, do not disqualify you.  God sent Jesus to be born of a virgin and rise from the dead to save people just like you.  We often hear, I need to clean up my act before I can…come to church, or accept Jesus, or join a small group, or get baptized, or take the next step.  Nonsense.   God loves you just as you are.  He hates your sin, but he does not define you by what you have done or will do.  Jesus can separate the sin from the sinner.  The closer we become to Jesus, the less we desire sin.  Can we live a sin-free life?  No.  Jesus is the only person to live a sinless life.  The rest of us are destined for sin in this fallen world.  But all is not lost.  We have a savior who can forgive us of our sins as we confess and repent.

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Peter wrote, “show proper respect to everyone.”  (1 Peter 2:17 NIV)  I love when the Bible states something so plainly.  While it can be a complex book full of symbolism and parables, there are times when it is very direct and to the point.  Everyone deserves respect.  Simple, isn’t it?  No one should be treated differently because of his or her situation.  Given the opportunity, we would all change things in our life.  But we are where we are.  We cannot change our past.  However, we can change our present, which will result in a different future.  Your earthly situation does not define you. We are all children of God through faith (Galatians 3:26 NIV).  God knows everything you have ever done and everything you will ever do.  In spite of this, he adores you.   He has never forgotten about you.  He is never too busy for you.  Your needs are not too small for him.  He has been faithful to you even when you were not faithful to him.  He forgives you and wants to grow in a relationship with you.

Jesus specializes in the forgotten. “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.” (1 Samuel 2:8)  We are all poor in spirit.  We are all needy.  When we accept Jesus, he will raise us to a seat of honor.  If we are to strive to be like Jesus, we must treat people the way he did.  Honor each person as God’s creation regardless of their earthly situation.

Robert M. Steere is one of the founding directors on the Board of Directors of Alabaster Boxes Ministries. He and his wife Hillary live with their three dogs and a cat in North Carolina.

Love Is . . .

When you hear the word “love” what images come to mind? Do you see boxes of chocolates and red roses with a young couple staring adoringly at each other?

Our culture tells us that romantic love, accompanied by a healthy dose of lust, will bring eternal happiness. This is a lie. Romantic love is fine. But, it will not bring us eternal joy and it is not the kind of love that Jesus has for us. It is not even strong enough to sustain a marriage for a lifetime. 1-john-48-widescreen

Jesus loves us with “agape” love; a divine, unconditional, eternal, selfless love. Jesus loves us so much that He willingly and knowingly submitted to the most brutal torture known to man.

God Is Love

God is the very definition of love. Love is who He is and what He does. We cannot truly understand or love others until we know God and receive His Love.

The first lesson for us to master about love is that we need to receive it first from God. We cannot give what we have not first received. By ourselves, we are not capable of truly loving others. Remember when Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? (Matthew 5:43) Have you ever met anybody who truly loved others who were mistreating them, who was not thinking they would get something in return (either in this life or the next)?

If you desire to lov1-john-419-widescreene others, the place to start is by accepting and soaking in God’s love. Once we are saturated with God’s love, we will discover that we cannot contain this love, it is so big that it must flow out or we will burst. So, in addition to loving God (Father, Son and Spirit), we will find ourselves pouring out love onto other people, even people we used to think of as “unlovable”. As we receive and pour out this divine love, we think less about ourselves and more about the other persons.

Love is other-focused.  It always desires the best for the other person.

Jesus was not thinking about Himself as He hung on that cross. He was thinking about us. He was thinking about the joy of the reunion we will one day all celebrate. It was this joy that empowered Him to be able to endure. His focus was not on Himself, but what was best for us!

As you celebrate (or not) this Valentine’s Day, spend time praising and thanking God for who He is and what He has done. In other words, let us try to spend some time focusing on receiving God’s love, and then pouring it back out in worship. Loving other people then comes naturally as a form of worshipping God. What a different world this would be if we could master this thing called love!

 

 

“Love” Images are from Faithlife.com.
Featured Image is from Ushkabel on Wikipedia commons

 

 

 

Finding Joy in Work

Work.  How can such a little word create so much emotion?  It instills doubt, anxiety, uneasiness, exhaustion, and fear.  There are numerous references to work in the Bible.  It begins with “by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground” (Genesis 3:19 NIV).  Sweat of your brow.  That doesn’t sound like fun.  No wonder so many people try to get out of work.

Work doesn’t have to be a four-letter-word.  God wants you to have joy.  “The prospect of the righteous is joy” (Proverbs 10:28 NIV).  Work can be joyful if you do it the right way.  You have to use the gifts God gave you to find the right work.  “Establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:17).  We all have gifts.  What are yours?  What are you interested in?  What are you good at doing?  What do you enjoy?  Start by answering these questions.When you find a job, it should be more than a j-o-b.  It should be a calling.  It is your mission field.  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).   We should all be respectful of those in positions of authority over us.  But as believers, we have a higher calling.  We work for the Lord.  He is our master.

The Bible speaks at great length about benefits of work.  “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense (Proverbs 12:11).  I want abundant food and it requires work, and sometimes it requires hard work.  “All hard work brings a profit”  (Proverbs 14:23).  Now we are talking.  I want to profit, don’t you?  I certainly don’t want to be in debt to others.  The Bible is very clear when it comes to the subject of debt.  “The borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).  Slave.  Is there any lower position?  Debt equals slavery.  No thank you.

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We live in a sowing and reaping world.  To put it a different way, this is a cause and effect world.  If we plant the seed, God will bless it and provide the rain.  The result will be a harvest.  If we do not sow, we will have nothing.  You can’t stand in a field, do nothing, and expect to grow corn.  It won’t happen.  You have to do your part.  There is no ambiguity in the Bible.  “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).  I like to eat.  I do it everyday and so should you.  But don’t get discouraged trying to do something God hasn’t equipped you to do.  He will do his part if you do yours.  Expect each person to work to the extent they are able.

 

Robert M. Steere is one of the founding directors on the Board of Directors of Alabaster Boxes Ministries. He and his wife Hillary live with their three dogs and a cat in North Carolina.