Saturday, August 24, 2013

Put Meaning Back Into Your Life

Sometimes life can seem downright hopeless and meaningless.  Have you ever felt that way?  The daily grind of working, paying bills, eating, sleeping, and repeating can weigh on anyone especially when facing trials and problems.  God has meaning for your life.  He designed you on purpose for a purpose.  Maybe you have discovered God’s purpose for life.  Maybe you’ve settled into a rut.  Living a meaningless life really means you are wasting your life. 

Solomon was a very wise and rich man but knew what living a meaningless life was all about. He said in Ecclesiastes 2:17, “So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”  Here are a few “symptoms” of a meaningless life taken from the account of his life.   In just a few verses, Solomon sums up his frustration and disappointment with his life.   First, Solomon said his life seemed useless.   “Life is useless, all useless. You spend your life working... but what do you have to show for it? ... The world just stays the same” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-4).  Next, he was tired of the mundane.  He refers to the repetitive nature of the rising and the setting of the sun, the way the wind blows, and how rivers flow in Ecclesiastes 1:4-8.  He was missing out on the greatness and blessings these had to offer his life. 

He goes on in verses 8-10 to describe how he is never fulfilled, satisfied, or content.  Verse 11 shows us how insignificant he saw himself.  He said no one would remember or care about what he did, what he was doing, or what he would do.  Finally, Solomon shows his disgust with the uncontrollable nature of life.  He said in verse 15, ““You can’t straighten out what is crooked and you can’t count things that aren’t there!”  Meaningless, frustration, pointless, disappointment, useless, mundane, repetitive, unfulfilling, rat race, disgust… are these characteristics of your life?  Do you feel these are overwhelmingly controlling or descriptive of your life?  You may be living a meaningless life…but you don’t have to.

The good news is God created you on purpose for a purpose.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  God has prepared a purpose for your life that is bigger than the mundane, unfulfilling, pointless life you are living.  You may think that is all life is about but God has something greater in store for you.  God knows the plans He has for you (Jeremiah 29:11).  To have the life God designed for you, you must align yourself with Him.  His values must become your values.   His purposes must become your purposes.  You can’t oppose God’s truth and expect to fulfill His purpose at the same time.  You must, as 2 Corinthians 13:8 says, “Stand for the truth at all times and not oppose it.”

You are uniquely created by God and He has placed in you special giftings and abilities to enjoy a meaningful life.  Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and 1 Peter 4:10 tell us we have great gifts from Him to carry out a life of meaning and purpose in Christ.  If life is feeling mundane and meaningless then it’s time to revisit your 8th grade English class and start living your life in the prepositions:  for, in, through, like, by, along, near, inside, with, upon, via, under, and beside Him.  Whatever you do, work at it with all you heart for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Key to Godly Living

Romans 12:1-2 have been two of my favorite Bible verses for many years.  I seem to remember learning them very early in life and they have stuck with me since.  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  These verses are really God calling us to godly living.  The culture around Christians tries to persuade them to blend in with worldly principles and lifestyles.  Compromise and temptation to stray from Biblical living are all around.  The pressure for someone desiring to live Christ-like has never been higher.  How can a follower of Jesus overcome and be holy?  By living Romans 12:1-2.

God desires Christians to surrender their lives to Him.  Paul is begging and urging Christians to do this.  He even calls it “presenting your bodies as a living sacrifice”.  The control of your life must not be in your hands or given to someone else.  It must be presented fully to the Lordship of Jesus.  The eleven chapters before these two verses describes salvation and victorious Christian living.  These two verses challenge Christians to surrender in light of all God has done and mentioned in the previous chapters of Romans.  While we don’t have the right to control our own lives as Christians we still have the choice.  We must choose to surrender our minds, passions, will, emotions, and actions to Him.  We must put on the brake and yield to our own life and give Him control to the gas and let Him steer us in the right path. 

A living sacrifice really means dying to ourselves.  You can only die to yourself because Christ died for you.  Because Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection He defeated the power of sin.  That allows our dead spirit to be made alive by His Holy Spirit who now lives in us as Christians.  The Holy Spirit grants us life, leadership, empowerment, counsel, and relationship with God to know and do His good will.   This is how we become holy or “set apart for a special purpose.”  We are made holy at salvation but it is also a lifelong process of growing in Christ.  Being set apart means living a Godly lifestyle.  The basis of this lifestyle contains fundamentals like confession, repentance, forgiveness, and walking in truth and grace.   This is how to have “proper worship”.

Verse two tells Christians not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  We are conformed to this world when we give into the false promises and principles this world says will fulfill us.  Becoming rich, striving after physical beauty, and seeking fame will leave us wanting every time.  The world screams those are vital to success.  The culture of this world should not shape our values and priorities.  Christ should shape us and in turn we should influence this world for Him.  All of this happens as Jesus transforms you and renews your mind.  Filling your mind with Scripture, meditating on holy things, practicing the presence of the Lord are all ways to become more like Christ and less like this world.   Surrendering your life – all of it – is the key to Godly living and true purpose and blessing.  Let God have complete control of your life.  Don’t let your life be shaped by this world but shape this world with a life fully surrendered to Jesus.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Christian Parenting 101

As a parent, parenting can be unapparent.  Did that make sense?  Well, that’s parenting sometimes.  Trying to figure out the how to’s of parenting can be confusing and frustrating.  As a Christian parent, I have more goals than just producing well educated, drug-free, activity driven kids. While these are important, there is so much more to parenting than giving my kids happiness and basic instructions before leaving home.  I want to prepare my kids for life but more importantly, life in Christ.

Luke 2:52 says Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and men.  I want to shape these four areas of my kids’ lives as well.  Wisdom means helping to guard and shape their mind.  I want them to have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and a Biblical world view.  I want them to grow in stature. This isn’t talking about their physical height but their moral character.  Their actions should be formed by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  Favor with God means He molds them and shows them their purpose in Him.  Favor with man means through their relationship with God, their personality grows and influences their relationships with people.

I also desire to give my kids the right platform for launching their lives.  I pray four things for them every day: (1) that they would give their lives to Jesus; (2) that they would be called into full time ministry, (3) that they would marry Spirit-filled, born-again, ministry minded spouses, and (4) that they would raise children to do the same.  In order to do this my wife and I have to model this.  One of my favorite verses is Malachi 4:6.  I pray it all the time for my kids.  “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”  Our hearts have to be one with the Lord as parents before we can instill the heart of the Lord in our kids.

There are many dangers I want to protect my kids from.  I am not na├»ve enough to think I can shield them from every harmful influence in life.  But I can give them the right foundation to make the right decisions when faced with trouble, temptation, or trials.  Change will come in their life.  How do they see me deal with change?  What does the Bible have to say about it?  Failure will happen (either to them or by them).  How do they remain who they are in Christ beyond the bad grade or let down from a friend?  Rejection is evident – even Jesus was rejected.  Showing them how He overcame will help them overcome and be confident in Christ’s love for them.  He never leaves them (Hebrews 13:5) and loves them unconditionally (Romans 5:8).

My wife and I want to point our kids towards the ways of God but the only way to do this is found in Joshua 24:15:  Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  We can’t drop our kids off at church and expect this to happen.  We have to steer their lives toward Christ as they see us make daily choices to follow Jesus.  The greatest way we can honor our kids is to love them like Jesus does, show them Jesus’ ways of living, and pray for them daily.  Who cares if I leave them great wealth, provide a good education for them and keep them busy in great activities if I never show them Jesus?