Friday, February 27, 2015

Getting Spiritually Fit

Spiritually Fit
The fitness principle in exercise it that you have to put your body through a bit of discomfort, to work it hard, and then after you have recovered, your fitness level is higher than before. The discomfort you placed upon your body during exercise has made it grow. This is the only way it works. Sitting around in comfort will never get you fit.

This physical principle also works in the spiritual realm too as God uses it to help us grow spiritually as well.

God places, or allows discomfort/suffering upon us because He knows that through this, we will grow.

We will never grow spiritually if all we do is live in comfort all the time. It is during testing times that we have to depend on God. This strengthens our faith, allows us to trust Him more, helping us to grow.

In fact James 1:2-5 (NIV) says: 

'Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything'.

James is not saying the trials themselves are a joy, but to consider them a joy because of the spiritual benefits. To persevere means to be firm and strong in faith. This is what God wants us to be like.

Paul says in Romans 5:3-4 (NIV):

'Rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope'.

Suffering is not easy! We are to rejoice in suffering and hardship, because we know that this is ultimately for our own good. We know it is not meaningless. 

Paul says to rejoice in them, not in spite of them, as part of God's purpose is to produce character in us.

Let us begin to re-shape our thinking about suffering. To know that a little discomfort is for our own good. God turns these difficult times upside down, turning a negative into a positive - so that it will bring Him glory; shape us and mold us so that we may become more like Him. Phil Russ

Father, we thank You that no matter what difficulties we face, we are never alone as You are always in the middle of them; that suffering is never meaningless as You use these times to build us up and strengthen us; to give us character and hope. Amen.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Give Me Your Heart, Lord

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 NLT)

Give Me Your Heart, Lord
Do you ever feel unloving? Like everything starts to annoy you and you find yourself not even trying to be kind to others? Your younger sibling or your child asks you a question (or maybe a zillion questions in a row) that you really just don’t feel like answering, so you snap at them? Or everything in you wants to ignore a certain person because they seem like a pest and you don’t want them “wasting your time” with their incessant chatter about virtually nothing?

I’m ashamed to say that I sometimes don’t love the way that I should. 

A few days ago, I felt myself slumped into one of my gloomy moods that usually results from not studying the Word as much as I should. Even one day without intimate prayer and Bible study with my Lord leaves me powerless to act as He desires me to act. My human nature is so terribly unkind, uncaring, and unspeakably selfish.

So there I sat on my bed, Bible open to 1 Peter where I had currently been reading through. But I couldn’t get into it right then. My brain wouldn’t allow me to concentrate on everything I was reading so I decided to skip over to I Corinthians chapter 13, which is always a great reminder of what love is and how to practice it. And I knew that my heart needed a good dose of teaching on love.

But ya know what one of the great things about the Bible is? The entire book is all about love. The whole plot, the whole point is God’s unending love for mankind since the beginning of creation. And that day, although I never made it to Corinthians, God had a few things to show me about His favorite subject.

In my page flipping back from 1 Peter to 1 Corinthians, I found myself hooked in to Ephesians chapter four. Something about the chapter heading must have caught my eye and I began reading. I marveled at how closely it paralleled where I had been reading in 1 Peter 3:8-12.

Both speak of humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, peace, unity, and love. Both refer to these qualities as the “calling” of believers. Ephesians says that these are the manner “worthy of our calling” in which we are to walk. I Peter says that we are to bless others in order to inherit a blessing for which reason we are called. 

We are called to these things.

It’s no secret that God has called us to love, to show kindness and gentleness, and to genuinely care for others. But how often do we overlook the absence of these qualities in our lives? How often do we allow any fruit of the Spirit in our lives to whither, turning us into rotten individuals?

If we are walking daily with the Lord, it shouldn’t happen at all, at least not to the extent that I described in the beginning of this article. But the problem is, we sometimes forget that we do not have the capacity to exhibit these characteristics. On our own, we don’t know how to love … we don’t know how to look at any random person and see them through the eyes of Christ. 

As I was considering this, the words to Brandon Heath’s song “Give Me Your Eyes” flooded my mind with all new meaning. And with head bowed on folded hands I made the chorus to that song my prayer:

“Give me Your eyes for just one second, give me Your eyes so I can see, everything that I keep missing. Give me Your love for humanity. Give me Your arms for the brokenhearted, the ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten. Give me Your eyes so I can see.”

In order to care when I only feel like worrying about myself, I must see others through Jesus’ eyes. He doesn’t see anyone as a nuisance or a pest … He sees them as His beloved children. When you look at others through a Heavenly pair of eyes, even people who are unlovable or people who annoy you will be seen through the light of God’s love.

I discovered first hand what happens when you plead for God to fill your heart with His love. Suddenly you have a compassion that wasn’t there before. The next time you encounter a situation that would have annoyed you, instead of getting upset you see the people involved in a different way. You care about their feelings. You desire to help them, to teach them, and to love them with a Godly love. 

I’ve prayed this prayer before, and I’m certain that I’ll pray it many times in the future when I find my heart in a place where it shouldn’t be. And the next time you don’t think you have what it takes to love, just remember what God’s Word calls you to.

And through His miraculous power, God will give you His eyes to see people anew and His heart to love them like you couldn’t before. Amanda Brogan

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” —1 Peter 3:8-9 (NAS)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Inaction

The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, For his hands refuse to work; (Proverbs 21:25 NAS)

Inaction
Amid discussing the options how to react to crises or situations, we may have been advised that inaction is the best course of action. The risk of such inaction, unfortunately, often bears consequences of potentially greater dangers because of its unpredictability. Consider the consequences of doing nothing about the climate change, health care, fiscal cliff or crises in the regions, just to name a few.

Inaction or being lazy at times is not something many of us would ever admit preferring, because for most of us, we are more often too busy to even find time to rest. Perhaps, some of us may feel unrest or even guilty having a well-deserved rest. To such people, there is only a fine line between rest and sloth. Rest is essential and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Amid our busyness, we must make time to get sufficient rest. 

In contrast, unwillingness to put much effort in whatever we are doing is pure laziness. Staying idle, doing little, or disliking work, yet expecting a return for our ‘effort’ is like a sluggard who does not plow and expects a harvest, but found nothing (Proverbs 20:4).

The Bible warns us that he who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys. The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat. The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway. Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger. The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, for his hands refuse to work. Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks (Proverbs 13:4; 15:19; 18:9; 19:15; 21:25; Ecclesiastes 10:18).

Not doing what we should be doing is as much the same as indolence, laziness and sloth. If anyone is unwilling to work, let him also not eat. But for the working man, his sleep is pleasant whether he eats little or much. When he lies down, he will not be afraid, but his sleep will be sweet (2 Thessalonians 3:10; Ecclesiastes 5:12; Proverbs 3:24).

Are we staying away from what we know we must do? Is our inaction hurting others? Are we slacking in our work?

In whatever we do, let us do our work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, for it is our Lord Christ whom we serve (Colossians 3:23-24).

Dear Lord, grant us rest amid unrest to keep focused on You. Help us not stay away from doing what is right or what we ought to do. Whenever we are half-hearted doing what we are doing, remind us that it is You whom we serve. Renew in us a heart and spirit that is diligent and not lazy or insolent but is upright that when we lie down, we might not be afraid, but our sleep will be pleasant and sweet.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Storing Up Treasures

The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the LORD will prosper. (Proverbs 28:25 NIV)

Storing Up Treasures
“We are in a time where CEOs over the years have given themselves raises to the point where they are making billions of dollars a year for being the head of a company, while their employees are just barely making ends meet,” wrote Matthew Gates at the website currently run by him, ConfessionsOfTheProfessions.com. “We are in a time where it is okay for the government to help out greedy banks, but the banks help no one in return. … where interest rates and the cost of education are extremely expensive and profitable, yet not everyone can afford it, or spends almost a decade paying it back.”

“Anyone and everyone can begin to become less greedy, become more charitable, and help each other, not for the purpose of self-gain, but for the purpose of realizing that we are all connected as souls living inside of human bodies,” Gates continued. “If we wait for the people we elect to do anything, we will never progress forward. We must do it ourselves and only then, once we realize we have that power, we will advance beyond our imaginations.”

In a sense, there is much truth in what Gates talked about. Greed knows no bound, but if those who have plenty are willing to become more charitable, the society would probably be better off at succeeding its goals.

The Bible warns us of the greedy who exploits people with false words, whose judgment from long ago has been determined. The righteous will receive deliverance, but the treacherous will be caught by their greed. Those who are greedy will bring ruin to their households, but those who hate bribes will live. Greed stirs up conflict, but those who trust in the LORD will prosper (2 Peter 2:3; Proverbs 11:6; 15:27; 28:25).

Are we feeling a strong desire within us to want to have lots of money and possessions to keep for ourselves? Does our heart contain any insatiable greed for riches to want to hoard wealth?

Jesus shared in a parable of a certain rich man whose land yielded an abundant harvest. This man thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God (Luke 12:16-21 NIV).

What good, therefore, will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for his soul? Rather than store up for ourselves treasures on earth, let us store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal (Matthew 16:26; 6:19-20).

Forgive us, dear Lord, for the times when in our weakness we give in to our carnal selves to covet worldly gains and possessions. Grant us in our plenty to desire to help those in need and not to hoard our wealth. Help us take earthly wealth lightly and with love give generously to aid the poor. Do not let greed overtake us, but put in our hearts contentment and the desire to bless others with what You have given us. All good things come from You, and we are grateful to You for prospering us in all we do. 

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