Enjoying Life or Enduring Life?

Evening Sky-Photo by: Mark J. Booth

The jail cell was damp and cold.  The quality of the food was dismal.  The Apostle Paul didn’t know if he would soon be executed.  How could he enjoy life in the midst of such dismal circumstances?

The Apostle Paul faced many trying times in his life, but he enjoyed life instead of enduring life.  Many of us no longer enjoy life. We complain about our circumstances. Self-pity controls our thought patterns.  Anxiety keeps us from enjoying God’s presence.  We have the idea that enjoying life is based upon our circumstances.  Paul’s circumstances were dismal in the Roman jail; yet he enjoyed his life.  Let’s look at why Paul enjoyed life even while he was suffering in a Roman jail.

1. Paul enjoyed his life because he had a purpose in life.  “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1)

Many people don’t have a life purpose.  They have a vague idea that they should be doing something for themselves, for their family. and for their community; however, they have no real purpose.  Paul enjoyed his life because he had a purpose!  His purpose was to serve His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Paul enjoyed life because he knew that he belonged to the King of Kings. Paul wasn’t pulled in many different directions.  He received his directions from Christ.  He even understood that his time in prison was for the glory of His Master.  He wrote in another letter.  “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ”.   We will enjoy life when we live each day in light of the fact that “I am a servant of Jesus Christ”.

2. Paul enjoyed his life because he experienced God’s grace and peace.  “Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:2)  

Paul wasn’t alone in his jail cell.  The Lord was with him.  Paul enjoyed his life because he was aware of God’s presence even in the most difficult of times.  God’s grace enabled Paul not only to survive in his trials, but also to thrive.  God’s peace gave him the knowledge that no matter what was happening in his life, God was in control.  We enjoy  life when we experience God’s grace and peace in even the greatest storm of our life.

3. Paul enjoyed his life because he invested his life in others“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,” (Philippians 1:3)

Even in prison, Paul was ministering to others.  He wrote his letter to the believers at Philippi to encourage them.  He was willing to sacrifice his life for others.  He prayed for others.  He shared the Word of God with others.  He loved others.  Paul didn’t focus upon his problems, but he used his problems as a means of ministering to others.  There is great enjoyment in seeing God use us in the lives of others.  We minister to others through our testimony, our prayers, our words of encouragement, our expressions of love, and our sharing the truths of God’s Word.

4. Paul enjoyed his life, because he understood that his trials brought glory to God.  “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12)

Paul’s time in jail was part of God’s overall plan.  God used Paul as a witness to the many people with whom he came into contact.  God also used Paul’s imprisonment to encourage other believers to go out and share the gospel.  God doesn’t allow things to enter into our lives for our harm, but for the good of ourselves and others.  We can enjoy life when we surrender to God’s purpose for our trial.

5. Paul enjoyed his life because he knew the future.  “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Paul showed joy even in facing death, because he knew that death was the door through which he would enter heaven.  We enjoy our life on earth when we live for Christ and keep our focus upon the eternal reward that waits for us in heaven.  When we live our lives for ourselves, our focus is upon this life alone.  Paul saw the big picture, do we?

“Dear Lord, I often feel as though I am enduring life.  I focus on my problems.  I focus on my needs.  I focus on the faults of others. Thank you for Paul’s example to me of a man who enjoyed his life in spite of the dire circumstances he faced.  Please help to enjoy my life in you regardless of the circumstances that I face. Thank you for your great patience and love towards me.  Amen”

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Moving Beyond Anger to Meekness

Elbow Lake in Alberta, Canada-Photo by: Mark J. Booth

Anger is a common human emotion that negatively affects us and others.  Anger often leads to emotional, social, spiritual and physical problems in our lives.  We would like to control our anger, but we constantly fall back into the same trap.

Anger is a choice.  We may blame others for our anger, but we can move beyond our anger and live a life of meekness.  Meekness is: “Yielding all of my rights and expectations to God.”  Whenever we become angry, it shows that there is an area in our life that we have yet to yield to God.  Here are three ways that we can move beyond anger and live a life of meekness.

UNDERSTAND GOD’S VIEW OF OUR ANGER

1. God’s commands us to put aside anger. Psalm 37:8 says: “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” Anger leads to wrath which leads to evil actions.  Anger destroys our Christian testimony. Our anger shows that we are defending our rights.  Our focus is not upon Christ, but upon ourselves.

2. God tells us that anger causes strife with others.  “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.” (Proverbs 15:18) Anger creates strife in marriages, in parent-child relationships, in friendships, in work relationships as well as church relationships.  Our anger is divisive and very self-centered.  This is the very opposite of love.

3. God tells us to avoid friendship with angry people.  “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.”  An angry person not only causes strife, but he also causes others to take up his angry cause.  Anger is like a contagious disease that goes from one person to another.  For this reason, we are not to develop close friendships with this type of person.

TRANSFORM YOUR ANGER TO MEEKNESS

1. Meekness is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)  Anger is often the symptom of something seriously wrong in our lives.  When the Holy Spirit controls us, anger will no longer control us.   Meekness must come from the Holy Spirit because it isn’t natural for us to yield up our rights to God.  

2. Meekness learns to pass over a transgression against us.  When somebody wrongs us, we react in anger.  Yes, this is natural, but it is also very destructive to us and to others.   Jesus Christ said: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44) This is only possible when we yield the right to our time, possessions, reputation, etc. unto God.   Is this not what Joseph did in response to the treachery of his brothers?

3. Meekness remembers who we are in the eyes of God.   Angry people have an inflated view of their own importance.  We develop meekness when we look at ourselves from God’s perspective.  Paul didn’t become angry throughout his trials with others because he remembered that he was the greatest of all sinners, whom God saved.

4. Meekness is seen in the life of Christ “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)  When Christ came to earth, he gave up many of His rights “  He would experience hunger, pain, rejection and eventually death.  Why did he do this?  Christ demonstrated meekness because He saw that His rights were much less important than His mission to die on the cross for our sin.

Our anger says that my rights are more important than ministering to others.  Where would we be if Christ choose not yield his rights?  When Christ prayed to the Father, he laid down his rights.  “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Can we say the same prayer?

FOCUS ON THE FRUITS OF MEEKNESS

1. We will enjoy God’s presence and teaching: “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” (Psalm 25:9)

2. We will walk in God’s peace and joy. “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psalm 37:11)

3. We will respond eagerly to God’s Word. “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21)

4. We will experience contentment. “The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him:” (Psalm 22:26)

“Lord, I find it easy to become angry with difficult circumstances and difficult people.  My anger keeps me from enjoying your presence, peace and power.  I need to learn to yield all of my rights to you.  Please help me to develop a meek spirit.  Thank you for sending Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who yielded His rights for my salvation. Amen”

 

Goodbye Mike Bartnikowski (Thank you for everything)

My visit with Mike in 2011

Today, I received sad news.  I learned that Mike Bartnikowski had passed away on Thursday.  He will be greatly missed.  While I was living in Highland Park, Mike was a great influence in my life during my teenage years.

The first time, I ever saw Mike was while I was a student at Ford Middle School from 1966-69.  Mike was a seventh grade teacher, and I would see him walking down the halls with his class.  I never had Mike as a teacher; so I really didn’t know him or even speak to him.  He did appear to enjoy teaching and seemed to have had a cheerful disposition.

I met Mike when he started to work at Ford Park in the summers.  I spent a lot of time at Ford Park even as a young teen because there wasn’t much else to do.  I would play shuffleboard with the old men, play some table games, and play a lot of tennis.  It was during these summers that I was able to develop a friendship with Mike.

Mike treated me as an adult though I was only a young teen.  He would listen to what was going on in my life and he would share things that were happening in his life.  I remember that he was quite excited when his daughter, Barb, was born.  I didn’t really appreciate Mike’s friendship and kindness until later in my life.

One of the things that Mike greatly enjoyed was playing war games (mostly board games).  Mike and I would spend time each summer playing some of these war games at the park.  Eventually Mike started a war gamers club that met at Hackett Field House every Saturday morning.  He loved the competition.  It was a great way for several of us to pass the time on a Saturday morning.

Mike also enjoyed playing practical jokes.  One evening at Ford Park, I was playing tennis when I heard this voice over the loudspeaker say: “Mark Booth, your mother is calling you!”  Many of those playing were laughing as I ran off the courts to see what was up.  Mike then comes up to me laughing because he had pulled off a brilliant prank.

After I graduated from Highland Park High School in 1973, I never did see Mike again until last year.  Like many people, we were able to get reconnected through Facebook.  I enjoyed spending a couple of hours with Mike and his wife, Barb.  He talked about Ford School, the teachers in the school, some of his students, and he also wanted to relive his prank that he played upon me forty years before.  I am glad that we had that chance to get acquainted again.

During my last visit, Mike was surprised that I was a pastor of a Baptist Church.  I shared how God had used him to greatly influence my life.   I reminded him how through his advice, I was able to convince my parents to transfer me back to Highland Park High School after a very miserable ninth grade at U of D High School.  This decision enabled me to eventually finish college early.  If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met my wife, Sharon.  I wouldn’t have gone to South Africa and Portugal.  My two sons wouldn’t be in Portugal now.  I could just go on and on.

During my high school years I didn’t know how God was working in my life.  I thank God for having an adult friend like Mike with whom I could talk.  I am thankful that God used Mike to change the direction of my life even when I wasn’t even a believer in Jesus Christ.  I am sure Mike didn’t know until my visit last year how important his role was in my life. Yes, Mike will be missed by many, but I will not forget Him.  God is still blessing me by having placed Mike in my life.

P.S. Here is an article about the Wargamers Club that Mike started:

A Heart to Walk with God

Sleepy Hollow State Park-Michigan USA-Photo by: Mark J. Booth

Imagine taking a walk with God. One of the most unusual people in the Bible is Enoch.  He is one of two Old Testament characters who never died.  What is it that makes Enoch unique?  The Bible says:  “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24)  Enoch loved listening to God.  He enjoyed sharing his heart with God. He made his relationship with God the number one priority in his life.  Enoch’s walk with God meant that he had an intimate relationship with God.

We often find ourselves too busy to take time to walk with God.  Our culture focuses on  instant gratification.  We don’t like to slow down.  We have fast food, fast cars, instant photos, instant communication and microwave ovens.  We think that we can also have a microwave relationship with God.  We  read a few verses, and say a quick prayer and think that we have a close relationship with God.  We have lost the joy and the benefit of slowing down and learning to walk with God.

How can we develop a heart that longs to walk with God?  Here are five ways that we can cultivate a heart that desires to walk with God.

1. We need to develop a heart that agrees with God.  Agreeing with God enables us to view our life from His perspective.  We enjoy our time with God because we aren’t arguing with Him. We are learning from Him.  The nation of Israel had a problem of agreeing with God.  They wanted to go their own way.  The prophet Amos said: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) Do we agree with God concerning our goals, our future, our family, our time, our money and other areas of our lives? We can’t walk in our own way and walk with God at the same time. 

2. We need to develop a heart that is humble before God.  Pride causes us to think that we don’t need to walk with God.  We are able to handle our life without God.  The prophet Micah says:  “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?(Micah 6:8) A humble spirit is a dependent spirit.  A dependent believer sees their great need to walk very close with God.

3. We need to develop heart that is pure before God.  Because God is holy, sin keeps us from walking with God.  The Apostle John says: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.(1 John 1:6-7) Sin is choosing to walk in darkness, instead of walking in God’s light.  However, God has provided the way of restoration in our walk with Him. “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) A pure heart is a heart that enjoys walking with God, who is Light. 

4. We need to develop a heart that loves as God loves.  When our hearts are full of anger, bitterness, hatred, and selfishness, we are unable to walk with God, who is love.
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” A believer that loves God and others feels very comfortable walking with God.  They look for opportunities to pour out the love they receive from God unto others. 

5. We need to develop a heart that is quiet before God.  God’s Word encourages us to slow down and be still.  We need to learn the art of waiting upon God. “Be still, and know that I am God:” (Psalm 46:10) A patient and quiet heart is saying to God: “I am ready to walk with you with my undivided attention.” 

Woldumar Nature Center-Lansing, Michigan (Photo by: Mark J. Booth)

Enoch made a choice that he would walk with God.  This meant the sacrifice of his time.  It meant that he would be misunderstood by others.  However, he desired a close walk with His God. God took pleasure in His time Enoch. As a result, He just took Enoch right up to heaven to be with Him.  What about us?  How is our walk with God?

“Dear Lord, I am tempted to hurry my time with you.  I find myself walking this life without you.  Then something happens and I wonder where are you.  Help me, to see my need to walk close with you.  I know that the greatest enjoyment in life is when I take the time to walk with you.  Thank you for always being available to walk side by side with me.  I love you, Lord. Amen”

 

 

Three Truths to Start the Day

Sunrise-Photo by Jonathan Snow (By Permission)

How we start the day often dictates how the rest of our day will go.  When we start our day with anxiety, worry and fear, these emotions likely will continue to affect us during the rest of the day.  David faced many trials and obstacles; yet he could be encouraged by focusing upon His Lord in the morning.  Starting our day with a focus upon God enables us to walk with confidence, peace, and joy.  Our life will not be dictated by the events of the day, but by our faith and confidence in our living God.

David shares his faith and confidence in God by writing Psalm 31:3:  “For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3) David  didn’t start his day alone.  He was aware of God’s presence throughout the day.   Here are three truths about God that gave David peace, joy, strength and direction each day

1. “My Rock”-David understands that God brings stability to his life.  We don’t know the future.  There are many dangers and pitfalls that we face each day.  We are tempted to worry.  We feel unable to handle what is happening.  We feel like we are drowning; however, we can find stability in the midst of the instabilities of life.  God is our rock!  He is there to steady us. He is there to enable us to withstand any storm.  Like Peter, when you feel like you are drowning allow the Lord to take your hand and place you on the Solid Rock.

2. “My Fortress”-David understands that God brings security to his life.  Worry, fear and anxiety can control our days because of our insecurity.  We feel insecure about our relationships, our finances, our health, our future, and our reputation.  We can say “goodbye” to these insecurities when we flee to our Fortress, the Living God.  He can protect us from whatever “enemies” or destructive thoughts that may be attacking us.

3. “Lead me and guide me”-David understands that God brings direction to his life.  Each day presents its challenges.  Often, we face situations which confuse us.  We don’t know what to do.  God is our Shepherd.  He desires to lead us each day.  As we start each day, God will guide us as we seek Him in His Word and in prayer.  James shared with his readers: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5)

“Lord, every day has new challenges, problems and unexpected trials.  Thank you for bringing stability, security and direction in my life.  Help me to begin each day focusing upon you as my Rock, my Fortress and my Guide.  Thank you for taking a special interest in me and what happens in my life throughout each day.  Amen”

 

Making the Debates Personal

Photo by: The Washington Post

The first two debates are now history.  The debates have been helpful to hear the candidates and learn their positions.  They have also been helpful to see how the candidates interact with each other. Many people have written about the debates, but no one has asked the question:  “What can we learn about ourselves from the debates?”  Here are several questions that we can ask to help us make these debates personal.

1. What is the most important thing in my life? 

The debates, thus far, have focused a lot upon our economy.  The candidates in their own way are saying that money is the most element for being a happy, contented citizen. Is this correct? God says:  “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

When money becomes the main focus in our life, it keeps us from focusing upon God.  Jesus understood this when He said:  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
The Lord desires our focus to be upon Him, anything else can quickly become an idol in our life.

2. Do I have a fear of man or a fear of God? 

The candidates use the debates to state their positions to please a certain group of people.  The candidates develop a fear of man because they are looking for votes.  We can often be controlled by the fear of man as well.  The Bible says: “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) The fear of man keeps us from pleasing God.  It keeps us from serving God fully.

True freedom is found when we have a fear of God instead of a fear of man.  When we fear God, He is the one that we need to please. “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:7) Unlike the politicians, the opinion of others should not enslave our thoughts and actions.  We find true freedom in submission to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

3. Do I build people up or do I tear them down?

The debates have illustrated the great art of tearing down another person to build up one self.  We find this to be great entertainment.  We cheer for “our side” to win.  Is it Biblical to tear down another person?  Is this pleasing to God?  Do we have the habit of running over people?  There are many examples in the Bible of people who made it their goal to tear people down.  Ahab hated Elijah.  Saul was out to get David.  Satan wanted to destroy Jesus’ ministry.

Unlike the candidates, we are to seek to build up others.  The word “discourage” has the idea of taking the heart out of a person.  Encouragement means “to put the heart into a person” Barnabas was a biblical character who encouraged others.  He encouraged the early church by his example. He encouraged Paul by befriending him.  He encouraged the church at Antioch by his teaching.  He encouraged John Mark by helping to restore him after his failure.  Love means to encourage others.  We don’t see a lot of love in the debates, but do we see this love and encouragement in our own lives?

4. Am I self-centered or God-centered?

By listening to the debates, you would think that Americans are the most self-centered people in the world.  Our politicians keep trying to pander to what each of us wants.  They appeal to our selfish nature.  I haven’t heard President Kennedy’s quote: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

It is easy for a Christian to develop this attitude of self-centeredness in this culture: however Christ has called his disciples to a life of self-denial.  “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).  Our lives are to be centered upon Christ.  Our goal is not to follow our desires, but His will. 

5. Am I more concerned about my physical well-being or my spiritual well-being?

One of the greatest issues of the debates and this campaign is the health care crisis in this nation.  Yes, we do have crisis in America concerning our health care. The physical health of Americans in general is quite poor.  However, the greatest crisis is not the physical well-being of Americans, but our spiritual well-being.

How healthy am I spiritually is a question, that we often neglect.  God is very concerned about our spiritual health.  He has given us His Word as food that will nourish our soul.  Here are some questions to help us evaluate our spiritual health:

  • Do I truly desire to walk with God daily?
  • Do I read the Bible with an open heart and mind?
  • Am I quick to obey the commands of Christ?
  • Do I quickly confess my sins to God?
  • Do I love God with all of my heart?
  • Do I love others as God loves me?

There are two more debates in this election cycle.  However, let’s not just look at President   Obama and Governor Romney in these debates, but also we need to think about our own lives and our relationship with God

“Dear Lord, I am thankful that I live in a nation in which I can worship you freely.  I also thank you for the great salvation that I have in your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to view this life from your perspective.  Help me to center my life upon you because it is easy to take my focus from you.  While you are working in my life, please guide the leaders of our nation to make wise decisions. Amen”

Moving Beyond Covetousness to Contentment

Woldumar Nature Center (Lansing, Michigan USA) Photo by: Mark J. Booth

Discontentment is found everywhere, including our own hearts.  People are discontent with their marriages, with their jobs, with their health, with their relationships, as well as their possessions.  The root of discontentment is covetousness.  Covetousness is defined as the inordinate desire to have something.  It is also defined as the desire to have something that belongs to another.

Covetousness is a sin that creates a warped view of God.  We feel that God has cheated us out of something.  Satan used this approach with Eve when he told her that God was wrong to withhold the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Eve coveted the fruit and ate it.  The tenth commandment says: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” (Exodus 20:17)

God’s gives this commandment for two reasons.  First of all, God hates covetousness because it places the coveted object above Him, which is a form of idolatry.  It also causes us to have the wrong view of His person and blessings. “For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire,and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.” (Psalm 10:3)

Secondly, covetousness brings harm to us and to those around us.  The Bible teaches us that covetousness leads to:

  • injustice: “And they covet fields, and take them by violence;and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.” (Micah 5:2)
  • harm to ourselves: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
    (1 Timothy 6:9)
  • departure from the faith: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
  • many sorrows-See the above verse
  • family problems: “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house;”
    (Proverbs 15:27)

Covetousness is clearly a problem many of us face.  The solution to this problem is having a spirit of contentment.  The secret of a growing, joyful Christian life is being content in our relationship with God in spite of the circumstances.  One person defined contentment as: “Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness.”  How do we go from a spirit of covetousness to a spirit of contentment?

We move beyond covetousness to contentment when:

1. We know that our Heavenly Father will take care of us.  Covetousness says: “I want something beyond what God gives me.”  Contentment says: “My Heavenly Father loves me and He takes care of all of my needs.” “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” (Matthew 6: 31-32)

2. We know that God is with us even in the most difficult situations we face.  Covetousness looks at others and thinks that they have a better situation than we have.  Contentment doesn’t look at others, but looks to God.  God is with us.  What more do we need?  “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
(Hebrews 13:5)

3. We focus on our spiritual lives above all else.  A covetous person focuses upon the physical realm.  He doesn’t make his spiritual life a priority.  Jesus reminded His hearers; “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)  A contented person understands that in this life we will have difficulties, but he knows that life is more than this material world.  His desires are focused upon his soul and his relationship with God.

4. We give God all of our burdens.  A covetous person attempts to find security through their own efforts.  They always feel that there is something missing in their life to have total security.  A contented person gives all of their cares and burdens to the Lord.  He is their security. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Our Heavenly Father has blessed us beyond what we will ever know or understand.
“Dear Father, thank you for your many blessings.  Help me to see you in every circumstance in my life.  Help me to trust you to meet all of my needs.  May your presence, love, and provision be the focus of my daily life.  Thank you for adopting me into your family.  Amen.”

Our Own Debate with God

 

This evening many of us will be watching the big debate between President Obama and Governor Romney.  We will be pulling for our favorite candidate in the debate.  In the end, we will probably conclude that our candidate has won.

Debating has been around since the fall of man.  When Adam and Eve fell in sin, they debated God by blaming Him for their sin.  Moses debated with God when He had called Moses to go to Egypt.  Peter debated with the Lord Jesus when Peter told Jesus that he wasn’t suppose to die on the cross.  Satan also debated with God when he discussed Job’s life.  We also have had our debates with God.  We have questioned God about various areas in our lives.  Here are a few of our debate questions for God and His answers.

1. Why did you give me the family you gave me?  God answers: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139:14)

2. Why did you allow this tragedy in my life? God answers: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

3. Why don’t you get rid of this problem in my life? God answers: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

4. I don’t understand what you are doing in my life. Can you tell me? God answers: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9)

5. How should I respond to those who have hurt me? God answers: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44)

6. Have you really forgiven me of my sin? I still feel guilty! God answers: “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12)

7. Why aren’t you answering my prayer? God answers: “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)

8. Where can I find satisfaction in my life? God answers: “For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” (Psalm 107:9)

God always has the right answer for each of our questions. Don’t be afraid to take your own questions to God.  He is always ready to answer them.  By the way, He doesn’t need any prep time!

 

Moving Beyond Selfishness to Love

New York City-Photo by: Mark J. Booth

True love has many enemies.  Some of these enemies are hatred, lust, ignorance, and jealousy; however, the greatest enemy of love is selfishness.  Love gives.  Selfishness takes.  Love thinks of others.  Selfishness thinks of self.  Selfishness is: “The desire for one’s own gain without regard for God and others.”  Selfishness has destroyed marriages, families, work relationships, individual lives and even churches.

Do I show evidence of selfishness in my life?

  • Am I a lover of self?  “For men shall be lovers of their own selves.” (2 Timothy 3:2) The last days will be a time when people’s self-love will reach new heights; however, selfishness is rampant even today.
  • Do I seek to please self? “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1) Selfishness says: “I will please myself.  I don’t care what God and others think.”
  • Do I seek my way? “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philippians 2:21) Selfishness says: “It’s my way or the highway”  Frank Sinatra sang a song glorifying selfishness: “I Did it My Way”. Is this our life theme as well?
  • Do I seek my gain?  “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:17)  Selfishness says: “What is mine is mine.”  This was the philosophy of the scribe and Levite that passed by the man who was dying in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
  • Do I seek first place?  “They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.” (Mark 10:37) James and John, ignoring the other disciples, sought the most important places in Christ’s kingdom. Selfishness runs over others; so that we can be first.  Our goal becomes not the success of others, but our success. 

People dismiss selfishness as something that exists in our lives.  We may try to control it a bit, but we love to satisfy ourselves; however, this selfish spirit destroys our relationship with others, including God. Are we prepared to replace selfishness with love?

How can I move beyond selfishness to love?

  1. Have an intimate relationship with God, the source of love.  “God is love.”  He is the author of love.  He showed his love toward us by sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins.  John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  When we place our faith in Christ as Savior, we become a child of God.  This loving relationship enables us to share the love we receive from the Father towards others.  We are like a water hose.  A hose doesn’t produce the water, but it disperses the water.  We don’t produce love, but we disperse God’s love to those He brings into our lives.
  2. Learn and apply the qualities of love in your life.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 show the qualities of love.  Take the time to meditate upon each quality.  Think about how Christ demonstrated each of these qualities.  Also, think about how you can demonstrate these qualities in your life. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
  3. Look unto Christ as your example of love. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)  Christ demonstrated love in spite of the hatred that was demonstrated against Him. How does Christ show His perfect love towards us?
  • The sacrifice of His love.  Christ gave his life for us.  How about our love for others?  Are we willing to sacrifice for those God places into our lives.  “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)
  • The permanence of His love.  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35)  Nothing stops Christ from loving us.  What about our love for others?
  • The edification of His love.  When Christ walked upon the earth, he was always encouraging people.  His teaching helped people to grow and understand the truth.  When we love others, we want to build them up and not tear them down.
  • The forgiveness of His love.  Christ said of those who were mocking him: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Christ forgave even in His darkest hour.  Forgiveness is a great act of love.

Love is more than a feeling, It is a choice.  We can live a life of love.  Selfishness doesn’t have to rule in our relationships.  We can look up to the God of love and seek to apply His love to others.

“Lord, thank you for your great love towards me.  Thank you for your Son who died on the cross for my sins.  Thank you for adopting me into your family.  Lord, I still struggle with selfishness in my life.  Help me, to apply your love to those you bring into my life.  Amen.”

Note: This is the third article in the “Moving Beyond” series.