Thursday, June 20, 2013

Finding Joy

When you buy a new car or home you typically can choose several upgradeable features.  These extras usually add more style, comfort, convenience but most of all more money to the cost.  Because cost is a concern, most people skip several extravagant amenities and stick to a more basic model unless money is no object.  I worked really hard when I built my own house to save money by doing a lot of the labor myself.  By doing this I was able to upgrade some things in my home like granite countertops and crown molding.  There were several things I really wanted to upgrade but knew it would be impossible.  Things like a multi-head rain shower, heated floors, and an office were just out because of cost.

Like those upgradable features we think we can never have, many Christians think all they can have is a “standard” Christian life.  Things like joy, they think, are only “extras” they can never have.  But joy is a standard feature for every Christian.  How is this possible?  It isn’t your joy to begin with; it is the Lord’s. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”  This verse is clear that joy is the Lords and it can be what empowers us.  Hard work isn’t where we find strength.  Money isn’t the answer either.  Joy itself isn’t our strength.  The Lord’s joy is our strength.  I don’t have to be dependent on my joy for strength!  Amen to that because sometimes I am at a loss for joy.  It is when I remember that joy comes from a relationship with the Lord that I find renewed strength and encouragement. 
Whenever you feel down or discouraged it is because you lack the Lord’s joy.  One thing is true – you cannot fake joy.  Either you have it or you don’t.  You can fake happiness with a fake smile and fake laugh but you can’t fake real joy.  When you have it you real power from the Lord.  Happiness is dependent upon the circumstance.  If your circumstances are good, you are happy.  If they are bad, you are sad.  That’s a roller coaster I get tired of riding.  But when you have the Lord’s joy you are sustained and fulfilled in even the worst of times.  In Psalm 51 David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.”  It isn’t the joy of my salvation because only He is the inventor, originator, and delegator of joy.  Joy comes only by God’s work of grace which brings about salvation. 

Joy is actually a standard feature of the Gospel.  The word “gospel” actually means “good news”.  They are interchangeable words.  It isn’t bad news or disappointing news – Jesus’ work of salvation is good news.  It’s the best news ever!  If you are constantly living a Gospel-centered life you are living in the good news.  Paul said joy or a form of that word (i.e. rejoice) 16 times in the book of Philippians.  When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds he said, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.”  If you are living in the Good News, the Gospel, in Christ you are living in true joy.  If you have been searching for pure joy then look no further.  It is only found in Christ through believing the good news of His Gospel. 
Jesus is the answer to your joy problem.  Stuff won’t give it to you.  People can’t keep it coming.  Only Jesus brings true joy.  Peter said that those who believe in Jesus are “filled with and inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).  Jesus promised His disciples in John 16:22, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”  Trust Jesus for your joy and He will “anoint you with the oil of joy” (Hebrews 1:9). 

Friday, June 14, 2013

When Your Dreams are Delayed

Remember the first time you were excited about a dream for your life?  I mean you could see it and you were pumped!  It was what you lived for, what made you get up in the morning.  The last part of Proverbs 13:12 tells us, “A dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”  It is a high like none other to see your dreams fulfilled.  But what if the dream doesn’t seem like it is ever going to be fulfilled?  What if the dream is delayed?  What if you have lost hope in the dream?  The first part of Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  Perhaps you’ve hoped, planned, prayed, and sacrificed but the dream still eludes you.  What do you do when your dreams are delayed?

First you must ask yourself if your dreams are God’s dreams for you.  Is what you are spending your time, talents, treasure, and life on God’s plan for your life?  Scripture reminds us that God knows the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11-12).  His plans are perfect and He wants to give you a great future and hope.  He never promised us it would be easy or without problems though.  In fact, He said we would have trouble in this world.  The good news is that He has overcome the world so we should be of good cheer (John 16:33).  If you are a Christian you must remember that everyone born of God overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).  We don’t overcome because of some special fairy dust He sprinkles on us when we are saved.  We overcome because of the previous verse - we keep His commands (1 John 5:3).  If you aren’t keeping God’s commands then don’t expect God to bless your plans because they probably aren’t His plans.  You can’t just ask God to bless your plans – you must find out His plans and follow them.  Then you will be blessed.

Abraham’s dreams were delayed.  At age 75 God told him he would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5).  God changed His name from Abram to Abraham which means “father of many nations.”  Can you see it?  Imagine someone coming up to him at age 99 and saying, “What is your name?”  “Abraham, the father of many nations,” he exclaims.  “Wonderful,” they would reply.  “How many kids do you have?”  “None...yet”.  How many of you would have given up on that dream a long time ago.  Abraham was 100 when he had Isaac, which means “laughter”.   It means laughter because I’m sure they laughed at God about having kids at that age.  If God said you were having a kid at age 100 I’m sure you’d cry, not laugh.  But God delivered the dream in His timing.  Abraham didn’t give up on the dream even when it was delayed.  Romans 4:17 tells us concerning Abraham that God was able to give life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.  Abraham believed in hope and faith (v. 18).  His body was old and as good as dead and Sarah’s womb was also dead (v. 19) but God he didn’t waver in unbelief and strengthened his faith believing God would do what He said He would do.
Even when God asked Abraham to sacrifice His only son Isaac – the one through whom the dream would be fulfilled, Abraham believed and trusted God.  He even said they both would come back (Genesis 22).  Abraham knew that even if killed his son – the dream – God would resurrect him (Hebrews 11:19 says this).  Don’t give up on God’s dream for you even if it looks dead.  God can resurrect dead bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14).  Those bones may have been dead but they weren’t buried.  Don’t give up on the dream God’s put in your heart.  Remember He can even resurrect dead and buried things but only because it will give Him glory and fulfill His will.  Wait on God and love and serve Him with all your heart – that’s the real dream fulfilled. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Greatest Verse in the Bible

What do you think the greatest verse in the Bible is?  Here are a few hints:  It is on the bottom of every In-N-Out Burger paper cup.  The clothing chain Forever 21 prints it on the bottom of their shopping bags.  Lots of people have displayed its reference at sporting events.  Tim Tebow prints it under his eyes in football games.  It was the top Google search after Tim Tebow threw the exact yardage of the reference against the Pittsburg Steelers.  Professional Wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin substituted his name for the chapter of the verse and used the numbers at the end of it for his wrestling handle.   Give up?  It is John 3:16.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” 

Why is it the greatest, most famous, and most used verse in the Bible?  It contains the greatest message of the Bible.  This short verse states a huge truth of Scripture.   God sent His Son Jesus to die on a cross and resurrect three days later to be our substitute and payment for sin.  It is the most widely known and the most frequently used Scripture for a reason.  It is the most concise statement of Christianity.  Some have called it “the gospel (good news) in a nutshell.”

What else is great about it?  It shows us God’s great love for us.  God loves us so much He gave us Jesus.  1 John 3:1 says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.”  How good is this love?  “God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”  God doesn’t just say “I love you” He showed it.  Everyone is a sinner.  If we say we are not, we lie (1 John 1:8, 10).  Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  This sin will lead us all to death – eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).  But God isn’t a mean God out to get you.  He didn’t send Jesus into the world to condemn the world but to save the world (John 3:17).  God is patient with us, not wanting any of us to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  In Jesus there is no condemnation of sin (John 3:18; Romans 8:1) because He took care of our sin on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21).  If we are not in Christ (saved, born again, Christian) we are already condemned (John 3:18).  You become saved when you surrender your life to Christ.  Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13).  Confessing Jesus as Lord and believing God raised Him from the dead promises us salvation (Romans 10:9-10).

So why do people reject Jesus?  A few verses after John 3:16 is John 3:19.  “This is the verdict:  Light has come into the world (Jesus) but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”  John 3:16 isn’t just a title to a song, a great t-shirt idea, or cool saying to put on a poster board at a football game.  It is not novelty but liberty.  The message behind this famous reference is the key to eternal life.  It is the method in how we experience God’s love and freedom from sin.  We do not need to perish in an eternal place called Hell because God gave His Son Jesus so you and I can be saved.  There is no other way to be saved but through a relationship with Jesus (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Hebrews 2:9). 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

10 Signs Your Marriage is in Trouble

1. Instead of working on any solutions all you do is revisit the problems - over and over and over and...

2.  You are quoting Scripture AT each other to prove each other is wrong instead of using it as your guide.

3.  When a problem arises, your first thought towards them is suspicion instead of trust. ("He is out to get me.  That proves she doesn't love me.  If they cared, they wouldn't have done that.")

4.  You aren't proactively planning your future (date nights, family time, vacations, goals, etc.) because you're still stuck and fuming mad in your past hurt. 

5.  EVERYTHING turns into a fight and is something to argue about.  Arguing only stops when food is in your mouth blocking your vocal cords and you are unconscious because of sleep - and then you argue about the food and how their actions kept you from enough sleep.

6.  You aren't thinking about how you can serve them - you're thinking about what they did wrong.  You are literally consumed with negative thoughts towards your spouse which leads to anger, bitterness, revenge, wrath, etc.

7.  You are running scenarios in your mind about what you would do if you separate - where you'd live, what you'd take with you, how much you have to save up to separate, etc.

8.  You are happy and mad all at the same time when they have to work late.  Happy so you don't have to deal with them but mad because they "never spend time with you anymore."

9.  You use the kids against your spouse.  "YOUR son did that.  MY daughter said you said this.  Your daddy is a ______.  I'll take the kids and leave you if you don't..."

10.  You pretend everything is perfect in front of others (i.e. at church, work).  You argue about the same sad things on the way to church but when the minivan door opens you put on your righteous robe and pass out holy handshakes and gracious greetings to everyone while you stonewall your spouse.

Bonus:  Everything your spouse does gets on your nerves and fuels your thoughts (and eventually actions) for separation.  That's because you are right 100% of the time and they are 100% wrong - but every now and then you half-heartedly admit you may have an issue but quickly pass the buck and list how much worse they are than you are.