Harmony Accomplished By Humility

What does it look like when two people live in harmony? They might smile at each other. They might laugh a lot. If two people are in harmony with one another, you would never see them fighting. They would never avoid eye contact with one another. They would never use cutting sarcasm with, or say anything mean about, the other person. Harmonious relationships are good relationships. They can be a great source of joy, encouragement, and strength.

Relationships in which there is some hostility or friction, however, can be quite the opposite. And what are you supposed to do if you have a relationship like that, one that frequently fills you with discouragement or pain? Well, there’s one thing you should not do. You should not wait for the other person to make the first move.

God’s Word in Romans 12:16 gives you godly goal for all your relationships: “Live in harmony with one another.” And the instructions as to how you should carry that out all have one thing in common. They all focus your attention on your own heart and actions—not the other person’s. “Do not be proud.” “Be willing to associate with people of low position.” “Do not be conceited.” In other words, use your time and energy to love and to serve the other person. Or, to say it another way, do what Jesus did.

When God’s relationship with us became broken with sin, the Son of God didn’t sit in heaven waiting for us to love him. He came as a baby in Bethlehem. Jesus lowered himself into the humblest of situations, associating himself at birth with the lowliest of families, associating himself throughout his ministry with the most recognizable sinners, and eventually taking the lowest position of all on a cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Why? Because he desired a harmonious relationship with us. And he knew that harmony could only be accomplished by humility.

True Contentment

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)

Our voices of thankfulness are closely connected to the contentment in our hearts. If we are content with our situation in life, then it’s easy to give thanks. When we are content with our job, we are thankful for it. When we are content with the way other people treat us, we give thanks for our favorable relationships. If we have good health, we may often pray to God and thank him for this blessing. When our heart’s desires are fulfilled, thankfulness is easier to express.

However, when there is discontent, then thankfulness is harder to put into words. How can I be thankful when my job is a hassle, or I can’t seem to earn enough, or other people treat me badly? How can I be thankful for that accident I had, or the surgery I need to have, or many other circumstances which disturb me or adversely affect me?

There is a way to be truly content no matter what’s going on. The apostle Paul declared, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” The source of his contentment did not come from within himself or depend on life’s situations. The apostle found contentment in the fact that he was forgiven by God because of Jesus Christ who died on the cross to give him eternal life. Paul’s contentment was based on his confidence in the eternal, loving-kindness of God.

True contentment is not attained by the quantity of things or the quality of life. True contentment is the result of the glorious status that we have with God through Jesus. Our outlook on life changes significantly when we learn to say with Paul, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Cherishing our Savior’s loving will for our lives and trusting in his almighty power, we have the satisfaction that he will always sustain us. In all situations—in plenty or want, in sadness or joy, in success or failure, in hardship or blessing—God does not fail to be our refuge and strength.

Real Meaning To Life

“So you’re just going through the motions again, eh?  I know what you mean.  You hear people talk about wanting to have some routine in their life, but this is over-kill!”

Your alarm interrupts perfectly good sleep marking the start of your day. Same ol’ tooth brush, same ol’ cereal, and the same ol’ clothes.  Same ol’ school, same ol’ friends, same ol’ job, and same ol’ family.

“Doesn’t God want me to be happy? How can I be happy when every day seems so routine, so meaningless?  I really do need a change.”

“Maybe one of those electric toothbrushes to remove the left-over new cereal from between my front teeth—which I’ll whiten up with some new brightener product.  Time to hit the mall and find some new outfits and add some spice to life.  Maybe I’ll meet some really neat new friends while I’m there.  And there’s got to be some better jobs out there, for someone once told me that if you find a job you like, you won’t have to “work” another day in your life!

But do you really think all these changes in your life will really bring meaning to your life?  Oh, they might for a day or two, but they’ll soon become routine.  And then what—more money spent on more changes?  You’ll go broke!

Wouldn’t it be just great to enjoy the life God has given to me right now and know it has real meaning!

There is.  It starts at the cross of Jesus.  Really!  At the cross we learn how much God loves us—SO much to send his Son to pay the penalty of our sins and give us the righteousness we need to get into heaven.  When God’s people start their day remembering God’s love for them, then life takes on a whole new meaning.

Life isn’t about me, or how much I can get out life now.  Living is about Jesus and how much he loves me.

When Jesus lives in my heart, then toothbrush, cereal, school, job, friends and family are seen in a whole new light.  Jesus puts the bounce in my step and gives me the joy of thankfully serving him because of all he did for me.  Then my life has meaning. I get to do everything for a reason—to thank and praise Jesus who loves me so much.

No wonder the apostle Paul had a life full of meaning.  He got it!  He wrote, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

What greater meaning to life can there be than knowing all I do as God’s child, I do to give God glory!  Thank you Jesus, for giving real meaning to my life!

What More Could We Want?

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”Psalm 23:1

John D. Rockefeller was one of the richest men in the world. An interviewer once asked him, “How much money is enough?” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more.”

How many times have we told ourselves that if we had “just a little bit more” we would be happy? A higher paying job. A larger home. An earlier retirement. Better health. Successful children.

But what happens when those wants are met? Are people truly happy? And what happens when those wants aren’t met? When you find yourself unemployed. When in rough times your savings are depleted. When plans for better housing or earlier retirement have to be put on hold. When your health takes a turn for the worse or your children struggle in school. Where do you turn? Turn to Jesus and remember, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

We might not have everything we want in life, but Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has truly given us everything we need. He’s given us his word. He’s given us his promises. He assures us that our sins are forgiven and eternal life in heaven is ours through his death and resurrection.

He promises to provide for all of our physical and spiritual needs richly and abundantly here on earth until he takes us to the glorious home that he has prepared for us in heaven. There through our Savior, you and I will experience the fulfillment of his promise, “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

Not long after his death, someone came up to the accountant of John D. Rockefeller and said, “We know Rockefeller was a very wealthy man. How much did he leave?” Without a moment’s hesitation, the accountant answered, “Everything!” A man who seemed to have it all was forced to leave it all behind in the end. The only things that will go with us from this life to the next are the spiritual treasures that belong to us through faith in Jesus.

What do we want out of life? What we need the most has already been fully and freely supplied by Jesus, our Good Shepherd. So, what more could we want? What more could we need?

Why does bad stuff happen?

Have you ever:

  • Been gossiped about…
  • Been injured in a freak accident…
  • Been dumped in a relationship…
  • Contracted a disease…
  • Lost a loved one…
  • Lost a job…
  • Just “lost it”…

If so, what is the common denominator in all these situations? Isn’t it that they hurt? When bad stuff happens, it hurts, and because we don’t like to hurt we ask why bad stuff happens.

The answer, in a single word, is “sin.” You won’t read that word on the op-ed page of your favorite newspaper or on a CNN newscast. Scientists won’t use that word. Philosophers won’t use that word. Politicians won’t use that word. But God does!

In the book of Romans we read, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). God is willing to identify the source of suffering and pain. It is sin. That’s why bad things happen.

But just knowing why is not real helpful. What we really want to know is what we are to do about the bad stuff that happens.

In that regard CNN, the scientists, the philosophers, and politicians will have something to say. They will offer a theory, a medicine, or a philosophy by which to live. Those answers to life’s problems, however, only create another problem. What do we do when the solution doesn’t work?

That’s when it is wise to turn again to God. He has something to say about bad stuff. He is willing and able to do more than identify the source, he has provided the solution. God has a plan for health and healing. God deals with sin–the source of hurt and pain–by removing it.

Romans 5:20-21: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If scientists could wipe out diseases, they would…
If politicians could end war, they would…
If philosophers could create bliss, they would…

But they can’t, so they don’t, and we keep asking why bad stuff happens.

If God could wipe out sin, he would…

And he has. Where sin increased, his grace–the love he has for undeserving sinners–increased all the more. That grace came to all in the perfect life of Jesus, in the sacrificial death of Jesus, and in the resurrection to life of Jesus. Jesus brings us God’s grace, and with grace come spiritual peace and health and joy that last forever. That’s God’s good answer to all the bad stuff.

 

Quality Time

A few years ago there was a statistic which claimed that the average American dad spent five minutes a day with his children. If that’s true, I sure hope those are five really good minutes!

I’m sure we can debate the validity of the statistic, but it does raise a question: How much time are you spending with your children and grandchildren? Perhaps the better question is: How are you spending that time? We certainly do lots of good things with the children in our life. We cheer for them as they run the bases in a little league game. We take them to the lake, to the movies and to the county fair. We read to them, laugh with them and wrap them up in great big hugs. Those are the good times.

What about the other times? Much of the time we spend with them is filled with impatience and frustration. We use harsh words and unloving actions. We fail to discipline and instruct with love and patience and compassion. Sometimes we are too busy for them. Sometimes we are too preoccupied to answer their many questions.

If we are honest with ourselves, too often even our “quality” time with our children is missing something. God reminds us of what we too often leave out of our time with the children who are important to us: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). Do the children in your life get to hear from you about the love their Savior has for them? Do they get to hear on a regular basis about the God who has created them and saved them and given them so many wonderful promises? If we don’t take the time to teach them, who will?

Thankfully we have a Father who gave us more than five minutes. Actually, our heavenly Father gave us much more than that: he gave us an eternity in heaven through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ. We will be with our Father in heaven forever. That same Father is with us every minute of every day in his Word. Get together with the children in your life and spend some quality time with God’s Word.

How Can I Be Safe in a Terrifying World?

There are scary people and scary events in this world. But terror is not really outside of you. It’s internal. Terror is being so afraid inside that you are paralyzed outside, unable to live a normal life.

Because terror is internal, the solution to it has to be something that works internally. Lots of people try to work out internal solutions, such as “sucking it up” or “lifting themselves up by their own boot straps.” But those don’t seem to work.

Experts will tell you that you have to go outside of yourself to feel safe. They suggest a network of friends and reliable diversions to take your mind off what’s bothering you.

Do you want to feel safe? Real feelings of safety come from actually being safe. That’s where Jesus comes in.

He’s not called “Savior” for nothing. He has actually made us safe from the devil (1 John 3:8). He has defeated the worst enemy of all, death (1 Corinthians 15:55), rescuing us from the fear of what comes after death. He has saved us from hell by winning forgiveness for us (Luke 1:77).

When you get to know the power and love of Jesus, you can say and really mean things like: “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress. . .You will not fear the terror of the night. . .No harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent” (Psalm 91).

There are still scary people and things out there. You can still feel uneasy in scary situations. But when you have Jesus, you have real safety where it’s needed — inside.

Offering the True Hand of Help

It can be so frustrating. In love, you reach out a hand of help and get rebuffed. “Mind your own business.” It could be as minor as a child stubbornly saying, “I can do it myself.” But it could be as tragic as a loved one enslaved in a dangerous habit, and refusing to see your offer as anything but meddling. Dangerous habits become tragic addictions. And the person seems blind to the horrendous outcomes of ruined lives and empty bank accounts or worse. How can I show that person I care and not be pushed away?

Look to the One whose outstretched hands offer help for now and for eternity! Your Savior God says, “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13 Those hands of Jesus touched lepers and healed them. Those hands of Jesus smeared mud on eyes and turned the blind into seeing. Those hands of Jesus were stretched out and nailed to a cross in a love payment for all sins, even sins of addiction. Those hands of the resurrected Jesus were shown to doubting Thomas as proof positive of power to do the impossible.

The Lord Jesus still demonstrates the power to do the impossible and reaches out his hands of healing. Start with prayer and remember his promise: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 Talk to your loved one and extend your hand in prayer with him or her. Don’t pretend you can fix it. Together ask Jesus for his powerful love to reach a heart. Ask Jesus to move that heart to see and reach for the many other hands offered to help: a pastor’s hand of Scriptural counsel, a doctor’s hand of medical help, a counseling center’s hand of intervention. Be patient and persistent in your love and in your prayers. Stay close to that person and lovingly remove opportunities to indulge the addiction. Reach out in love, and remember your Savior’s promise, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

Parenting

A sign along the freeway shows a picture of a worried mother with her teenage son. The caption reads, “Too bad children don’t come with instructions.”

Every parent is faced with many dilemmas, frustrations, and heartaches throughout life, and it seems like sometimes there is nowhere to turn for “The Instructions.”

But in actuality instructions ARE available. It’s just that so many parents either don’t know or overlook the instructions. It’s called the Word of God.

You see, we parents don’t create children. God does. Science can explain the process to some degree. But only the Creator can create new life.

Now, along with that new life, He wants to bless parents and children with a deeply caring relationship that will last for time and eternity.

First and foremost, the Lord God made it possible for our family bonds to last forever. God the Father sent his one-and-only Son to bring forgiveness of wrong doings, to rescue the world from death and hell, and to give us the gift of heaven on top of it all! It’s a “done deal” through the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus!

Now when your family has Jesus in the center of its life, that makes for a loving and rewarding home life, too. Not easy, not trouble free, but richly blessed.

These instructions really WORK! If you could list every valuable piece of advice from books, newspaper columns, radio talk show hosts, and clinical counselors, you’d find that all the best advice has been said before—in the Bible!

Consider, for example, this one piece of advice from the Apostle Paul: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Parents, don’t toss the “Instructions” away. Take the time to read the Bible. It works.

Managing Possessions

No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. – Acts 4:32

“That’s mine! You can’t have it! Leave it alone!” Many parents have heard words like that so often that they never want to hear them again. At work you hear: “He took my parking place.” “That was supposed to be my promotion.” “Why doesn’t anyone think about my loyalty to this company?”

The concern about me and what’s mine seems to be present at every stage of life. Some stages may be more filled with it than others, but the general thought is still the same. You have to fight to hold on to what you have. You have to fight to get what you deserve.

The early Christians spoken about in our reading didn’t think that way. In fact, they didn’t claim anything as their own. Those believers did not find it necessary to talk much, if at all, about their own possessions. Possessions were not that important to them.

Why? The first reason is that these believers realized that everything they had was God’s, not theirs. They didn’t think about possessions as belonging to this person or that person. Everything belonged to God. Each one of them was only a manager of God’s possessions.

Think of that. What you have is not yours. It’s God’s and you are the manager. One person manages one particular group of things and other people manage other things. Having that understanding can change your point of view about possessions dramatically.

Another reason why the early Christians didn’t consider their possessions to be their own was that they were learning, as all of us are, that we use our possessions only for a short time. What we possess now must be viewed in the perspective of our eternal glory of heaven. Our lives here and now are only a short step in our unending journey. Everything comes from God, and he has even better things, even more valuable things, in store for us. Heaven awaits. This fact teaches us to place the right amount of value on what God has given us to use here on earth.