“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever”—Psalm 136:1(NRSV).
On a recent overcast day, the cold had driven the birds to my suet feeders. The feeders are located outside my kitchen window, offering me a great view of the variety of birds dining on the peanut butter laden treats. When we have an extremely cold winter, I have to refill the feeders more often. With this year’s milder weather, I’ve not had to do so. The usual visitors are shades of brown and gray.
On this particular day, several cardinals showed up to eat their share. I marveled at their red beauty and by the contrast they provided to the dull winter colors of the bare trees and dead grass. While the drabness of winter doesn’t bother me, the unexpected appearance of these creatures brought hope to my weary soul. Overwhelmed, all I could say was, “Thank you, God, for sharing your love today.”
What does love look like?
If we would only open our eyes, we could see a glimpse of God’s love everywhere, every day. I am reminded of this when I see an elderly person struggling to open a door and, before I can respond, a teenager rushes to pull it open. I always smile because it’s a reminder of His love.
Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” That’s love.
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”—Luke 9:24-25 (NLT).
Some people might be surprised to learn the world does not revolve around them. What? You mean it doesn’t!
As infants, we sure thought it did. We cried and someone tended to our needs. We got fed. Our diapers got changed. We were picked up and rocked to sleep. In my case, the rocking chair didn’t work for my eldest, so I had to dance him to sleep. I’ve known other parents who had to place their infant in a car seat and drive him repeatedly around the block until he dozed off.
However, some never outgrow this demanding behavior. If I whine enough, people will do what I want. If I stomp my foot, they’ll jump. If I pucker up, ready to burst into tears, they’ll do anything to keep me happy.
“We shine most brightly when we give ourselves away.”
Guess what! That’s not what God wants from His children. If we hang onto our lives, always seeking to please ourselves, we’ll never grow up.
In his book “It’s Not About Me,” Max Lucado writes, “When God looks at the center of the universe, he doesn’t look at you. When heaven’s stagehands direct the spotlight toward the star of the show, I need no sunglasses. No light falls on me. Lesser orbs, that’s us. Appreciated. Valued. Loved dearly. But central? Essential? Pivotal? Nope. Sorry.
“Perhaps our place is not at the center of the universe,” he adds. “As John Piper writes, ‘God does not exist to make much of us. We exist to make much of him.’”
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him”— Matthew 4:18-20(NIV).
Our Sunday school class is currently studying the gospel of Matthew. Recently, we read the passages about Jesus calling the first disciples to follow Him. We began to wonder why these working-class men would drop their fishing nets, walk away from their livelihood, their families and friends to follow someone they barely knew.
As we discussed the passages, I read my Bible commentary which explained Jesus had encountered Peter and Andrew before in the Jordan region, where Andrew (and perhaps Peter as well) had become a disciple of John the Baptist.
The commentary also explained that the two brothers had left John to follow Jesus for a time before returning to their fishing in Capernaum. Fishing wasn’t a hobby for these men. It is how they supported themselves and their families. Now, Jesus has shown up at the Sea of Galilee where he calls them to follow Him in long-term discipleship.
“You’re kidding, right Jesus?”
What would you do if Jesus showed up at your workplace or on your doorstep and asked you to drop everything to follow Him? Would you make excuses or would you follow?
“But Jesus, what about my family? Who is going to take care of them?”
“You’re kidding, right Jesus? You know I have other things I must attend to. I’m needed to lead the choir at church.” Or “I can’t Jesus. What would my friends and family say? They’ll think I’ve lost my mind.”
“Not me, Jesus. I’m not the right one. I have nothing to offer. Look at me—I’m old.” Or “I’m too young.”
We’re already halfway through the first month of 2016. Most entered this year with high hopes to start anew. Some are still sustained by that hope, while for others the new has already worn off.
Just as we’ve changed the calendar from one year to another, many of us vowed to make changes in our health, our jobs, our families, our finances. As the days have passed, however, many have struggled to keep their commitments. The new has worn off.
Feelings can’t be trusted, but the facts of God’s Word can.
Just like a new automobile elicits excitement with its ‘new-car’ smell, the thrill wears off when the payments come due. The latest and greatest gadgets we unwrapped under the Christmas tree last month failed to hold our interest as even newer technology appeared. The new has worn off.
If you bought exercise equipment or workout tapes, or joined a gym, you might still be committed to the new you. Statistics reveal that the second week of January is almost always the busiest of the year for gyms. However, by the second week of February, only 20 percent of new enrollees remain, according to Fitness Coach Darren Beattie, citing a Wall Street Journal article. The new has worn off.
I love shopping at thrift stores. I’m always amazed when I find items almost brand new and some even sporting the original price tags. I shake my head, grab a bargain and wonder why someone would get rid of a perfectly good blouse or other piece of clothing never worn. The new has worn off.
After reading many New Year’s posts on Facebook, I’ve come to the conclusion that most people are trying to remain positive in spite of personal trials and the constant spate of negative news with which we are bombarded with daily. However, I’ve noticed that most of those who have a confident outlook have one thing in common. They are believers and followers of Jesus Christ.
In a recent sermon, our pastor made the following statement, “The future is different when you have met the Living Christ.”
Faith + Optimism = Possibilities
One important lesson I’ve learned since I sought a serious relationship with Him is that being a Christ follower does not automatically insure you are free from trials. In fact, I can attest that my trials have increased. But, those trying times have stretched me spiritually, teaching me to trust Him even more.
How can we stay positive in a negative world as a New Year begins? How can we awaken each day in joyful anticipation instead of troubled doubt?
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well”—3 John 2(NIV).
A New Year has arrived and with it the usual resolutions to lose weight, get in shape and quit smoking. Some look for quick fixes through crash diets, new exercise crazes or so-called ‘magical’ pills while others seek a solution through surgery, bringing with it a host of possible complications and side effects.
Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I don’t recall seeing as many overweight people as is prevalent today. I also don’t remember seeing a fast-food restaurant on almost every corner. My mother was a stay-at-home mom who cooked healthy meals. When we did eat out, it was a treat. Today, eating out seems to be the norm as the choice of restaurants and fast-food places have grown as fast as our waistlines and hips.
Quit making excuses.
Instead of setting ourselves up for failure by making resolutions each January, what if we turned to scripture for a permanent solution to our health problems? What if we chose to do the following?
“Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new”— 2 Corinthians 5:17 (CEV).
Although I’ve not seen it, I’ve heard the lyrics to the song associated with Disney’s popular animated movie, “Frozen.” Sung by little girls who have seen the film, the song’s title is “Let it Go.”
As I was thinking about the New Year, I looked up the lyrics to the catchy tune. When I read them, I thought, “How appropriate for anyone who wants to let go of the past and embrace the new?”
Recently, I was having lunch with a couple of friends. As usual, we shared several belly laughs when we revealed some of our deepest desires and thoughts—just girl talk. While I can’t recall how the subject led to our past, I found myself confessing some of the more “ornery” things I’d done before moving to Claremore 10 years ago.
The beginning of a new year is a good time to examine our lives.
Since my friends have only known the person I am now, they were surprised by my confessions. While those escapades weren’t necessarily earth-shattering, they were definitely a part of the person I was before Jesus got ahold of me.
When we belong to Him, we become a new creation. He forgets our past. Everything becomes new. Even the Old Testament reminds us in Isaiah 43:18 to “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past (NIV).
The beginning of a new year is a good time to examine our lives and let go of those things holding us back from spiritual growth. Growing spiritually requires us to be intentional.