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!

Can God Help Me Be Safe?

One summer night during a severe thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small daughter into bed.  She was about to turn the light off when the little girl asked in a trembling voice, “Mommy, will you stay with me all night?”  Smiling, the mother gave her a warm, reassuring hug and said tenderly, “I can’t, dear.  I have to sleep in Daddy’s room.”  A long silence followed.  At last it was broken by her daughter’s shaky voice saying, “That big sissy!”

All of us have fears.  And they don’t always end with a chuckle.  Our fears may be rational or completely irrational, but when we experience them, they are definitely real.  At times we are afraid and may wonder, “Can God help me?”

On another night, Jesus Christ’s disciples were caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee.  Their fear was very real too.  Jesus came to them and said, “Take courage!  It is I.  Do not be afraid” Mark 6:50.  Jesus was there, and they didn’t need to be afraid any longer.  He displayed his almighty power by calming the wind and waves.

Jesus can help us with our fears as well.  He controls all things and promises to use his power to help those who trust in him.  When Jesus is in our lives, we can take courage and not be afraid.

While his promises are true for all kinds of fears, they are especially true for our spiritual concerns.  Many are afraid of dying and having to stand before a perfect God and answer for their imperfect lives.  Jesus encourages us even in these great fears.  He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” John 11:25-26.  Life on this earth will end for all people, but Jesus promises that those who believe in him will live with him in heaven eternally.  Jesus died on the cross to take our sins away, so that God will not condemn believers in judgment but will give them eternal life in heaven.  This is the comfort and courage that God gives to those who trust him. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s power and his many promises to help us with our fears.  Take courage and don’t be afraid; God can help you when you’re afraid.

Being Tempted?

“Lead us not into temptation” – (Luke 11:14).

Those are familiar words from the Lord’s Prayer. Yet there seems to be something almost sinister about them. Would God actually lead you into temptation?

At times you may want to blame God for falling into temptation. Your circumstances maybe caused you to lie. Maybe the people around you were a bad influence on you. Can you blame that on God? The apostle James says you should not accuse God of tempting you because: “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13).

Satan is the author of evil.

The reason the devil’s temptations work so well is because they connect with desires you have deep inside. “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (James 1:14-15).

Interestingly, there is one time in the Bible where it seems that God led someone into temptation. “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). God led Jesus into the desert but it was the devil who tempted Him. And God knew that the devil would not succeed! This passage shows that the devil is real. The devil wants to lead people into sin. He wanted to tempt Jesus most of all.

The Holy Spirit wanted Jesus to trade places with you.

Jesus faced every temptation and hurt and disappointment you face. For all the times you have failed by giving in to temptation, Jesus succeeded. He succeeded as your substitute. When you believe that, God counts Jesus’ success as though it were yours.

Why can’t I be satisfied with my life?

In 1975 the United States promised to convert from the so-called English system of measurement (which even the English don’t use anymore!) to the metric system. Since then, bills passed by the U.S. Congress have called for conversion but have basically been ignored. Meanwhile, when officials experimented with metric road signs in kilometers instead of miles, some dissatisfied people even went so far as to shoot up the road signs! (albeit with metric weapons like 9mm pistols).

We’re used to a certain way of measurement for a satisfying life. We don’t like it when our lives are interrupted. We want life to be perfect! Perfect functioning from our computer. Perfect programming on cable TV. Perfect weather. Perfect service at our favorite place to eat. Perfect health. Without perfection, we’re simply not satisfied.

We even have a conscience that won’t let us be satisfied with anything less than a perfect performance on our own part, either. Missed deadlines. Failed relationships. Half-hearted efforts. We know we’re not right… with others, with ourselves, with God who happens to expect perfection in every action, word, and thought – think about that!

There is one measurement standard that does make us satisfied with life. The Bible urges us “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ – that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). The love of Jesus Christ is wider, longer, higher, and deeper than any sinful pile of imperfections we can assemble. Jesus Christ satisfied all demands of perfection by obligating himself to them and fulfilling them perfectly in every way. Then, he satisfied God’s anger at our imperfections by suffering and dying. All this he did on our behalf, to make God perfectly satisfied.

Because of Christ you are filled to the measure of all the fullness of God! Because of the boundless love of Jesus Christ, God is satisfied. He now takes delight in your thoughts, words, and actions meant not to satisfy him, but to serve him with pleasure. You can take delight just the same!

How does Satan tempt us?

Satan also knows us well. But the way he knows us is different from the way God knows us. God knows us because he knows everything.

One of the most famous kings over the Hebrew people in Old Testament times was a man named David. He also wrote many of the psalms. In one of them he states, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord.”

What David said about God is not something we could say about Satan. He is not everywhere at once as God is. Nor can he read all of our thoughts as God can.

But the devil has spent a lot of time studying us. He knows our habits, even our sinful ones. That puts him in a good position to tempt us. For he knows that some things will be more tempting for us than others.

For example, some people are tempted by money. They may steal money from a coworker, roommate, or relative. That is their weakness. So the devil does what he can to place these temptations before them.

This was true for a disciple of Jesus called Judas. This man loved money, so the devil tempted him to negotiate with the Jewish leaders to betray Jesus. In exchange he would be paid a good sum of money. He fell for the temptation and sold his friend for a bag of cash.

What are your pet sins? What are some of the sinful things that tempt you? Gossip? Evil thoughts?  Internet porn? Material stuff? Popularity? Sex? To a certain extent we all have different weaknesses. And the devil knows that.

The good thing is that God also knows our weaknesses. Instead of tempting us to sin, God promises to help us avoid temptation. That’s what a line in the Lord’s Prayer is all about: “But lead us not into temptation.” When we pray those words, we are asking that God would help us avoid or overcome temptation. We know that he has the power to help us. For Jesus resisted the devil’s temptation three times in the wilderness (See Matthew 4) and many times after that.

It’s kind of scary to think that the devil knows our weaknesses. But think of it—Jesus knows them, too. And he has promised to help us overcome them.

Can God help me build up my self-esteem?

“I’m worthless!”

That’s a depressing statement. Yet many people silently admit to themselves that they are worthless.  The single mom who doesn’t feel loved; the child or adult who can never seem to do anything right for his parents; the employee who messed up on the job again; they and many others feel that they are not worth very much.  Maybe you’ve felt this way.  Is there an area of your life in which you want to feel better about yourself?

Many say you can establish a positive self-image by focusing on your skills, accomplishments, status, financial resources, or appearance.  There’s “help” out there in the form of self-hypnosis, support groups, affirmation and visualization techniques, plastic surgery, self-help books, CDs, DVDs, and other attempts to build self-esteem.  All these efforts only provide a temporary, superficial lift.  Ultimately they prove to be feeble efforts to feel worthwhile.

We all want to feel a sense of worth, love, and security in our lives, but we can’t provide them for ourselves.  But God can.  He freely gives them to us through his Son, Jesus.  His Word tells us not to focus on ourselves but on him, to look not at what we’ve done but at what he’s done for us through Jesus Christ.  Our sense of worth and value – our self-esteem – is found in the Savior who lived and died in our place.

A man named Paul realized this when he said, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).  In Jesus we find a status before God that we could never produce, a love from God that is unfailing, and the security for life in knowing that our Savior who loves us will be with us each and every day.

God’s way of helping us build up our self-esteem is showing us Jesus.  Please join us to find out more about your Savior who lived and died for you.

Feeling Down?

Do you ever feel that things you do really don’t make a difference?

Is it sometimes difficult to see the results of your hard work?

There are many times when we may ask ourselves, “What’s the point? Why do I keep trying?”

When events in our lives lead us to become depressed or discouraged, two reactions come rather easily to us.  The first is blaming God for the problems.  The second is thinking that somehow God is punishing us for something we have done.  However, neither of these reactions is correct.

The problem lies not with God; it lies with sin.  All of life’s problems come as a result of living in a world filled with sin.  These problems include layoffs at work, health problems, family issues, and others.  We’d have to get rid of sin to remove the troubles and problems that discourage us. But that’s something we could spend the rest of our lives trying to accomplish and never complete the task. Thankfully, God accomplished what we are unable to do.

Through faith in our Savior, we are children of God.

We deserve to be sentenced under the judgment of God for everything we do or say or think that violates God’s will for us to live perfect lives.  But the Bible gives us the good news from God that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).  In tremendous love for us, God took away all of our sins and laid them on Jesus.  He charged his Son with our guilt.  Jesus, our Savior, suffered the punishment that we deserved.  He died to free us from eternal death.

Even though we experience discouragements in our life, nothing can take away the peace we have in Jesus, who took away our sins.  Through faith in our Savior, we are children of God.  Every day God is at our side helping us through difficult times.  Confidently trusting in him, our discouragements melt into calm assurance that our loving God is always leading us.

Handling Pressure

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.(2 Corinthians 4:7-9)

To which would you compare yourself? Are you kind of like an over-inflated balloon? Does the slightest pinprick cause you to burst? Or when your knot comes unraveled, do you fly this way and that until all the air is spent and you hang limp, unable to move? Are you similar to a fluorescent light bulb? Will a rap against a hard object cause you to fracture into a million tiny shards? Or maybe you’re more like a rubber playground ball, always feeling kicked around and sometimes feeling a little too squishy. Maybe it’s like a weight is attached to your foot and you’re being pulled deeper and deeper and the ringing in your ears gets louder and louder. We’re all under pressure, aren’t we? How do you handle yours?

By ourselves, we’re pretty fragile. The problems of life are usually not so considerate as to come at us one at a time. The word “bombarded” would fit rather well sometimes, wouldn’t it? Temptation pricks at our thin exterior. We are pulled in all sorts of directions by the schedule that so often dictates our lives. Tragedy and trouble shatter the peace that we want so dearly to maintain. People kick us around and criticize our ideals and decisions. Sometimes the pressure feels so great that we think we’re going to implode. The additional pressures of serving God and his people just add to all those other things.

But don’t you think God recognizes all this? By ourselves, we are fragile. But with the Lord, we’re firm. When we hear or study his Word, there’s something solid that grows underneath our delicate exterior. The Holy Spirit does his work of giving us faith and strengthening us in that faith to resist everything that the devil and the world can throw at us. And you know what it is that’s so solid, don’t you? The Bible proclaims a certainty that we just can’t find in ourselves. The good news that Jesus lived perfectly and died in our place and forgave us all our sins is not something squishy or fragile. It’s real. It’s one hundred percent done. It’s yours to rejoice in. It’s the solid foundation on which you and I stand.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my Savior, thank you for giving me something I can count on. Thank you for being what I could never be and doing what I could never do. Thank you for giving me forgiveness and heaven. When the pressures of life remind me how fragile I am, help me to trust only in you. Even in all the problems of life, help me remember that you will keep me safe in your most capable hands. Amen.

My Weak Faith

The first line of an old Christian hymn asks for “a faith that will not shrink.” That seems like an odd way of talking about faith shrinking. It’s the way my faith sometimes feels, however.

News stories report on people who have great faith and who are heroes. Somehow, I don’t seem to be a likely candidate.

The Bible paints dramatic pictures of “heroes of faith” Abraham, Moses, David. I can’t picture myself comparing to them.

My faith seems timid and uncertain; not heroic. Sometimes I even conclude that faith and church and religion work fine for some people, but they’re not for me.

I need to stop looking at my faith and look at Jesus instead.

Every Christian’s faith “shrinks” sometimes, but Jesus stays strong.

A father once brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus and asked if Jesus could do anything. Jesus told him, “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23). Nervously, excitedly, the father exclaimed: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief”(Mark 9:24)!

What matters is not so much how strong my faith feels, but what my faith rests on.

I may have very strong convictions that a bottle of drain cleaner will make my sore throat go away. Actually, it will make me sicker instead of better.

The correct medicine will assist in making me feel better, even if I don’t have much confidence in it.

Martin Luther said once that we are all “equal in Christ through faith.” Luther knew that Abraham, Moses, and David all had a stronger faith than he did, but it was the very same faith in Christ.

Faith is a gift God gives us, and whoever believes in Christ receives Christ’s blessings no matter whether he receives them with a strong faith or a weak one.