Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Don't you Remember?

Living as a believer in Christ, I get frustrated so easily with myself. Loving God births a desire in me to become more like Him. An honest appraisal shows me how little I resemble His graciousness and compassion. This self-recognition often leads to self-condemnation and discouragement, when I buy into the lie that Christ is displeased with me.

The Gospel of Mark describes an instance when Jesus' disciples found themselves in a similar situation. (Mark 8:14-19) Jesus' followers were realizing their own shortcoming: They had forgotten to buy bread. Misinterpreting Jesus' teaching about leaven, the disciples thought He was upset with them. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, gently guided their focus away from themselves and their condemnation. Instead He asked them to remember what He had already done. "Don't you remember?" He asked them, reminding them of the times when He used what little bread they had and multiplied it.

This principle can readily be applied to our own lives. Sometimes it is helpful to look back and remember how much the Lord has already done, rather than lamenting our imperfections. We can draw encouragement from the fact that God is at work in our lives. He is using what little we have to offer and is multiplying it.

Unfortunately I so easily forget. Recently a friend encouraged me to remember God's work in my life by keeping a journal, recording honest, heartfelt prayers, and the answers which God provides. I wanted to record how God had changed me and drawn me closer to Himself in the process.

In my search for a suitable notebook, a journal, which I had kept 20 years ago, plopped into my lap. Reading it was so encouraging! Do you know what struck me the most? The issues I had struggled with back then are not my issues today. Oftentimes daily change comes in such miniscule degrees that we don't realize how we have changed, learned and grown closer to Christ. Realizing God's work in me made me so thankful.

Going back and reading an old journal entry is like an Ebenezer - a stone erected in Old Testament times for the purpose of remembering. Like this stone it speaks into our present situation saying, "till now the Lord has helped me." (1Sam. 7:12)

Whenever you start feeling impatient with yourself, think of Jesus gently asking, "Don't you remember?" God is at work in your life, if you are submitted to him, and "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

True Happines

It is so easy for me to get wrapped up in my quest to keep everyone around me happy. Trying to be superwoman is exhausting and unrealistic. God never meant to make anyone's happiness dependent upon people or performance. Instead, Jesus taught us the source of true "blessedness," also translated as "happiness," in the Beatitudes:

1. Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3)
Jesus is offering to be at work in our lives:
Have you ever reached the end of your rope? That is exactly where God's kingdom can begin in our lives. Realizing that we have nothing to offer God positions us to receive what God is willing to do in us.

2. Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matt. 5:4)
Jesus is offering to save us from God's wrath:
Feeling bad about our sin is actually a good thing. The Holy Spirit evokes this in our lives, not to make us despondent and depressed, but to bring restoration. He wants us to realize that all we deserve is God's wrath. The Gospel truly becomes "good news" when we understand that Jesus allowed all of God's wrath to be poured out on Himself in our stead.

3. Happy are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matt. 5:5)
Jesus is offering to be our refuge in times of trouble:
Did you know that Jesus is quoting Psalm 37:11 here? In doing this, Jesus is echoing the psalmist's encouragement to trust that God will act on behalf of those who choose to delight in Him rather than fret. He promises to deliver, vindicate, establish and even exalt those who wait on Him.

4. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matth. 5:6)
Jesus is offering to make us righteous:
Loving God for what He has done for us should make us desire to become more like Him. He satisfies this hunger in two ways: He clothes us with Christ's righteousness, and also changes us to become more like Him.

5. Happy are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matt. 5:7)
Jesus is offering forgiveness:
Our relationship with God is real if it has a direct influence on how we treat others. When we are willing to let go of grudges and resentment, forgiving those who have wronged us, God, in turn, extends His forgiveness, freeing us from guilt and protecting us from bitterness.

6. Happy are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matt. 5:8)
Jesus is offering us a relationship:
God is holy, absolutely pure, righteous and good. God's desire is to purify us so that we can intimately know Him who is infinitely holy.

7. Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matt. 5:9)
Jesus is offering to use us in His kingdom:
Once we start relating to God as our Heavenly Father, our natural desire is for others to experience this peace with God.

8. Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:10)
Jesus is offering for us to identify with Him in His sufferings:
Confessing our faith in Jesus will cause us to encounter pushback, but will also allow us to experience Jesus acknowledging us before the Father in heaven.

The Beatitudes could easily be misinterpreted as a ladder with eight rungs . Ironically, making it our goal to reach the top of this ladder would give us the illusion that this is something we can accomplish in our own strength, placing us back below the first rung. Jesus does not seek perfect performance, but desires for us to realize how much we really need Him. True happiness does not stem from our accomplishments, but from accepting what God is offering to do in us.

Monday, November 7, 2016

God Wants to Bless Your Socks Off!

This Sunday was the hungriest I have felt in a long time during a church service. You can probably guess what the sermon was on - FASTING - The abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. The harder I tried not to think about eating, the greater my desire for food became. Sounds familiar? Fasting is neither fun nor easy, but it is so worth it when we consider Jesus' awesome promise in Matthew 9:16+17: When questioned why his disciples didn't fast, Jesus explained that this was not the right time for them, yet. It would be like "new wine [being] put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved."

This implies that the disciples, before Christ's resurrection, were like old wineskins. They could not have handled the glory which God wanted to reveal to his children through fasting. They had to wait until they were made new creations in Christ in order to be ready for this 'new wine'. Unlike the disciples, we do not have to wait, because we were made new when we turned to Christ. Jesus' promise is for us! God wants to bless our socks off through fasting by revealing more and more of Himself to us. That is reason enough for me!