But I don’t want to, God!

I love the Word of God with all my heart. The Bible has transformed my mind and heart and life. It has become my passion, my calling, and my ministry. I believe every verse is true and right. I believe as Paul said, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man [or woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-7). I honor the Scriptures as the authority over all creation – especially over me. But I don’t always like what it says. Sometimes the Bible meddles. Like Philippians 2:14: “Do everything without complaining or arguing . . .” Uh-oh.

I believe that obedience to the Scriptures is vital to God’s people. It was a major issue with the Israelites. They wanted God’s blessings without obedience. I strive to obey God every day. I don’t always get it right, but I so want to follow Him and walk in His ways. But sometimes I do so with a chip on my shoulder and a bit of an attitude. “I’ll do it God, but I really don’t want to.” “I will make this sacrifice, but it’s not fair, they’ve done nothing to deserve it.” “Why do I have to take this on God? Don’t I have enough on my plate?” I’m like a petulant child stomping her feet in protest on the way to bed. I sure hope you’re nodding your head in agreement, otherwise, I’m the worst kind of Christian.

But Paul said God expects obedience with a humble and grateful spirit. That is exactly what Jesus did. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus went to the cross – to His death with Joy. How could that be? Crucifixion was a horribly painful and humiliating way to die. Because He knew what the end result was going to be. Granted we don’t have that same advantage. But we have the same Heavenly Father who has never failed us, who works all things to fulfill His good purpose. We have a God we can trust when we are told to do something hard.

What is the end result of our humble obedience? We “become blameless and pure children of God [who] shine like the stars in the universe” (v. 15). In other words, we become like Jesus. And that is the desire of my heart. How about you, Beloved?

How to Battle Negative Thoughts

“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin

I’ve had several conversations recently with ladies who are struggling with oppressive, negative, angry emotions. They are surprised when I tell them that the key is to learn to take control of their thoughts. We tend to focus on our feelings, but forget that those feelings are fed by our thoughts.  And our thoughts can be controlled. Negative thoughts, depressive thoughts, sinful thoughts, angry thoughts can and must be brought into submission. It’s a matter of paying attention to what’s running around in your head.

Psalm 77 was written by Asaph, one of the Temple priests during the Babylonian captivity. The situation seemed hopeless, and this is reflected in his Psalm. In verses 1-9, Asaph lamented God’s apparent rejection of His people. In verse 2 he says “my soul refused to be comforted.” Ever been there? I know I have. But look at verse 10, Asaph turns his mind and heart on a pivot, like a door on its hinges. “Then I thought, to this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the deeds of the Lord…I will meditate on all Your words” (vs. 10, 11, 12). Did you catch the keyword? Thought. In that moment of despair, Asaph took control of his thoughts and changed the focus of his heart and mind.  He deliberately remembered and meditated instead on the character and deeds of God. And when he opened that door, hope and peace flooded in.

We see the same change of mind in Lamentations 3, which starts out: “I am the man who has seen affliction,” (v.1) and continues for 20 verses saying “my soul is downcast within me” (v. 20).  And then verse 21 begins with that hinge word: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.” There’s the clue again “I call to mind.”  Jeremiah’s whole focus and attitude is transformed. A change in his focus changed everything.

Paul said, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Then we take the Philippians 4:8 prescription – I’ll let you look that up. It’s how we battle mental negativity. Beloved, the only sure way to find peace in seasons of struggle is to intentionally turn your thoughts to God, to wrap His Words around you like a comforter, and trust in His love, faithfulness, and peace to carry you through.

Martha, Martha or How to be a Joyful Servant


 

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42)

Where are all my Marthas?  Raise your hands.  You can’t, you’re in the kitchen up to your elbows in flour.    Let me say that I don’t think being a Martha is a bad thing – I am also a Martha, to a certain extent.  I mean somebody’s gotta make sure people are fed, right?  There is a lot packed into this account, and we can draw many applications from it.  I just want to offer one observation today.
I want to look at two words in this story.  First is “distracted” from verse 40: “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”  The word distracted comes from a root word combination meaning to worry and to draw (as in drawing a sword).  Hold that thought.
The other word we want to examine is “upset” in verse 41.  This word doubles back to “distracted,” but has a very interesting root: meaning an uproar, riot, commotion, disturbance.  Recognize that feeling of being frustrated with a smile on your face?  You’re doing the good things and all the while your spirit is in an uproar and there is a riot going on in your head.  You are screaming at the top of your lungs on the inside, all the while portraying a calm servant disposition on the outside.  I see you nodding your head.
For Martha, this commotion in her heart and head caused her to “draw a sword” against her sister – and if we’re being honest, against Jesus too.  Check it out: “She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!” She went on the defensive and the Lord called her out on it.
I believe there are two things in particular we can take away from this:
1. Don’t fret about the work that needs to be done – just come for a bit and sit with Jesus.  Yes, people need to be fed, so let ’em make sandwiches.  Don’t let serving the Lord become a burden or a cause for resentment.
2. If you do chose to serve, don’t get resentful toward those who chose otherwise.  Humble servants are happy servants.  If you’re serving for a pat on the back, go sit down.  If you’re serving out of love and the joy of blessing others – you can stay in the kitchen, but stand near the doorway so you can still listen.

There is work to be done in the Kingdom, but we want to glorify Jesus in it.  Resentment leads to internal warfare and  stomping our feet and eventually drawing swords.  Let’s be humble and gracious in all we do.

 

Giving Joyful Thanks

“Joyfully giving thanks to the Father…”  Colossians 1:12

We are looking at JOY this week in the Advent season, and the many sources of joy that God has given to us.  In our culture, depression and anxiety seem to be the most significant issue of the day.  We look around our world, even around our own community, and find so much pain, anger, sadness and despair.  Of course there are medical causes for depression, but how much is a reflection of the darkness of this world.

What is one of the best ways to experience joy?  Give thanks!  A grateful heart is a joyful heart, and the more we focus on the blessings of God, the greater our joy grows.  An “attitude of gratitude” lifts our hearts to see how good our gracious our God is.

What can we joyfully give thanks for?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16.  I am joyfully grateful for the love of God that enabled Him to sacrifice His beloved Son that I can have eternal life.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen!” Luke 24:5.  I am joyfully grateful for the empty tomb, and a living Savior who has promised that I will live forever with Him.

“I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” John 8:12.  I am joyfully grateful for the light of Jesus Christ in this dark world, and for His light that shines in my heart when darkness and fear and discouragement take hold of me.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…and I lay down my life the sheep.” John 10:14-15. I am joyfully grateful for my Shepherd who leads this not-so-bright sheep to good pasture and living water and places to rest, who protects me, finds me when I wander, and died that I might live.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him” 2 Peter 1:3. I am joyfully grateful that God has given me His Word and His Spirit to live a godly and fruitful life in Him.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:6. I am joyfully grateful that God will never, ever give up on me, but will continue to mold me and shape me until He sees the reflection of His Son in me.

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth” John 17:17.  I am joyfully grateful for the Word of God, which is completely and fully truth.  I am grateful for its power to convict me of my sins, to reveal the truth of the Gospel of Christ to me, and to sanctify and transform me into His child.

I am joyfully grateful for God’s Holy Spirit, for His redemption, grace, mercy, sovereignty, providence, provision, protection, kindness, promise…there is no end to the list of blessings that God pours out on those who love Him – and even those who reject Him.

Take some time today to express your joyful thanks to God who has been so good to you.

Holy Father, there is no end to the blessings You have given to me.  Even if I start today, I could never express in a thousand years my gratitude for all you have done for me.  I’m so glad that I will have all eternity to bow before You in joyful thanks and praise.  Amen.

Peace of Mind

“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

We need peace in this world.  We need peace between ourselves and God.  We need peace when we are afraid.  And we need peace when we are upset and our minds are a whirlwind of anxious and angry thoughts.  We need the peace that only comes from the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.  This is the peace we are focusing on in this week of the Advent season.

I am upset today.  My mind is racing with a hundred thoughts of frustration and anxiety, all because of some comments my seminary professor made.  I am having a hard time grabbing hold of the things that I need to focus on today.  I need peace of mind this morning.  I wonder if you do too.

God promised us the gift of peace, and if you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior, that peace is yours.  We’ve seen that He has made peace possible between us and God, and that He is our peace when we are afraid.  But what about now, when the real issue is simply my thoughts and attitude?  How do I find peace when my mind is anything but peaceful?  I have to choose peace.

The peace of Christ is there for me, but it is my choice to receive and apply it, or to leave it on the shelf and continue to stew.  Where will I allow my thoughts to roam – to the wasteland of anxiety or to the peace of Christ?  Two verses of Scripture offer me important keys.  From the Old Testament, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trust in you” (Is. 26:3). And from the writings of Paul, “the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).  I can have the peace of God by focusing my mind on Him, trusting Him, remembering His faithfulness and His character; and by submitting my mind to the control of the Holy Spirit.  I cannot just grit my teeth and force myself to be at peace.  Peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), and it only comes when I am surrendered to the Spirit.  Ephesians 4:23 tells us to “be made new in the attitude of your minds.”  This will only happen when we fill our minds with the things of God; things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy” (Phil 4:8).  Isn’t it interesting that when we consider all these characteristics we are to think on, they all add up to one thing. Jesus.

Holy Father, Giver of true Peace, I chose today to turn my thoughts to the Baby in the manger, the flesh-and-blood gift of your perfect peace.  Let my mind be at peace, Jehovah Shalom as I trust in You.  Amen.

A Fresh New Day!

The Lord’s loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness.    Lamentations 3:22-23

This morning I woke up to a new day – and an old attitude.  The frustrations of the day before hung heavy on my spirit and before my first cup of coffee, I was chewing on them all over again.  I bet you can relate.  Yesterday’s argument with your spouse rolls around in your head this morning.  Your child’s disobedience last night stirs those gnawing thoughts about what kind of parent you are. And as you turn on the shower you draw a deep sigh, knowing that you will spend another day with that irritating co-worker.  If only we could greet the new day without the frustrations and irritations of the day before.

God does you know.  This verse reminds us that as we greet each new day, we do so with the full measure of God’s compassion and mercy.  No “leftover” thoughts of our attitudes and actions from the day before.  You and I often drag yesterday’s problems into today.  But God doesn’t    Because we cannot wrap our finite minds around who God truly is, we tend to think of Him in human terms, assigning Him human characteristics and  human limitations.   We get irritated with others, and they sometimes “get on our last nerve.”  But God has a limitless supply of understanding and compassion toward us.  In other words, God’s doesn’t have “a last nerve.”  Our frustrations mount up with people and we find ourselves dreading the next encounter with them.  Not so with God. As He calls for the sunrise each morning, He has a sense of overwhelming delight toward us.  Psalm 139: 17 says, “How precious [toward] me are Your thoughts, O God!”  We simply cannot conceive of the immense love, tenderness and compassion of God towards His beloved children.

Aren’t you glad to know that God doesn’t hold grudges?  He doesn’t weigh us today based on our actions yesterday.  He doesn’t hold the mistakes of the past over our heads.  And He doesn’t expect us to either.  Because Jesus Christ paid the price for all of our sins, because He took all of our shame to the cross – we can face each day knowing that God’s love, mercy and goodness toward us is fully stocked and there is a never-ending supply.  Greet the morning with the Lord, and step out into a fresh new day!

Wonderful Father – Thank you for a new morning, for new mercies and the promise of Your presence with me all through the day.  This is the day that You have made; I will rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)  Amen