Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Week Seventeen - Natural Laws

I was sorting my office and found some notes I had taken on natural laws. Natural laws are those that hold true no matter what. Like the law of gravity, they never change. The notes gave ten natural laws that, if implemented, would result in growth and personal development in any area where applied. So if you are a student, a worker, a mother, a minister, or in any place of life, these laws hold true.

1. You control your life by controlling your time. Many Bible verses support this truth. Time management is simply the wisest way forward in any situation.

2. Your governing values are the foundation of personal success and fulfillment. Joshua 1:8 supports this law, as does the book of Proverbs, Psalms 1, and the story of building our lives on sand or rock. What are you building your life upon?

3. You gain inner peace when daily activities reflect your governing values. Why? Because we aren't vexing our souls by living outside our values. 

4. You must leave your comfort zone to reach any significant goal. And how we try to avoid this truth! But God continually gives us Scripture to motivate us to go, love, press toward the mark, and hazard our lives for Christ. You can't get anywhere sitting in a rocking chair or hiding in the house.

5. Consistent daily planning leverages time and increases focus. Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established." I use this verse as a prayer almost every day. "Lord, take my day and show me how best to use it." And Proverbs 17:24 taught me another truth. It reads, "Wisdom is before him that hath understanding, but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth." To me, this verse says, "Concentrate. Stop looking at everything else and focus on what is before you."

6. Your behavior is a reflection of what you truly believe. If we believe kindness is important, we will be kind. If we believe forgiveness is the key to peace, we will be forgiving. We could list a host of qualities, both positive and negative, that are reflected by our behavior. This is the natural law of self-control that is never out of place.

7. You satisfy needs when your beliefs are in line with reality. This can be hard, but it means we find more satisfaction and happiness when we live in reality instead of drama and trauma. When we use God's Word to define truth, we find stability and productivity.

8. Negative behaviors are overcome by changing incorrect beliefs. And this is another hard one because change can be difficult. It requires honesty and humility. We sometimes don't even realize the false beliefs we hold. Mistaken beliefs or false ideas create wrong responses. Double-checking ourselves, discovering God's truth, and adjusting our belief system are wiser than doggedly holding on to a destructive belief.

9. Your self-esteem must ultimately come from within. There are two ways to look at this. First, Proverbs 14:14 says, "A good man shall be satisfied from himself." We find personal satisfaction and self-esteem from knowing we are doing right. But ultimately, our self-esteem comes from Who is within - from Christ and our position in Him. 

10. Give more, and you'll have more. This is an eternal truth. Proverbs 11:24-25 reads, "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself." God is teaching us to give liberally. Don't hoard or withhold. Why? Because God gives the increase. Good measure. Pressed down. Shaken together. Running over. And, because He loves a cheerful giver. So stinginess won't get you anywhere, but giving holds the blessing. So be generous, and God can bless.

Successful people, happy people, have discovered these ten natural laws and live within them. They know that a haphazard life does not result in positive growth and personal development, so they conduct themselves by these laws positioning themselves into a place of blessing.

It's not rocket science! God says, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." And that's another natural law. So what are you sowing, and what are you reaping? It may be time to refer back to laws 7 and 8!

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Week Sixteen - But I Don't Want To

Like a child whose had enough, sometimes we reach a point where we "just don't want to" anymore, don't we? I think you'd agree that none of us enjoy the trials of life. And when someone says, "This trial will make you stronger," or "Count this trial a blessing," we cringe. We don't want to grow that way or look to see some distant blessing. We just want the pain to stop.

I've been reading a series of devotions on the cross, and the idea of suffering is oft repeated. Indeed, our Saviour suffered. Easter proves that in a most poignant manner. And while we read of His suffering and know He purchased salvation for us by His sacrifice, we too quickly turn away when suffering becomes the call of our life. 

Scripture teaches that we will be partakers in His suffering. Partaker is a word I have noticed in my Bible reading. One day I'll record what I've been meditating on, but today my question is, "How can we endure trials when we don't want to, when the path looks too dark and hopeless, and our strength is small?

Dear friend, we've all been there. And though fear and weariness pervade and the road grows long, as we look to the cross, there is strength and comfort in His sacrificial example. At the cross, we find each drop of blood "capable of alleviating the woes of humankind." In the expression of God's love through Calvary, the soul is penetrated with hope. Spurgeon said, "Those who would know love, go to Calvary and see the Man of sorrows die."

Love is what we need when we face trials. Love that understands. Love that walks beside us and love that will carry us through. Inside this love, we find compassion and sympathy - the sympathy of Christ becomes our sustaining power, "One of the early martyrs said, 'I can bear it all, for Jesus suffered, and He suffers in me now; He sympathizes with me, and this makes me strong.' 

I find great comfort in Jesus' Gethsemane prayer. Matthew 26:39 reads, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."  "If it be possible," Jesus prayed. I hear Jesus saying, "If we could do this any other way, God?" Or, "I know what I'm facing, and I'd rather not - but..." And there is the secret. We, like Jesus, might be fearful of the trail ahead. But we choose, just as Jesus did, to trust and obey. We want to be found faithful, so we yield. And why? Because we know that every trial is laced with God's perfect love.

I used to tell my little daughter, "Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do." And you know what? I find the burden lighter whenever I remind myself of that truth and keep moving forward by faith. As a result, I have renewed strength for the journey, and I see God's hand of blessing around me.

So, dear friend, pick up your cross and follow the one who went before you. "Consider him," Hebrews 12:3 says. "Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." And I love verse four, "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." I am not enduring Calvary or shedding my blood, so let me see my trial from God's perspective.

1 Peter 4:12, 13 reads, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."  And there is that word again - partaker. I want to be a partaker with Him. Don't you? And why? Because there is glory, joy, and gladness on that path. And as Spurgeon said, "The jewels of a Christian are his sufferings.

So, when we face unwanted trials, we best place our eyes on Calvary and keep walking by faith. Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Week Fifteen - Lifestyles

There are so many different ways to do life. Some people live at a fast pace, some much slower. Some live for competition, and others can't be bothered. Some see life as a new adventure, while others see it as complete drudgery. So I got to thinking about this and thought of three ways not to live, according to the Bible. And one way we should all live. So, let's look at these lifestyles.

First, we should not live like Martha. Do you know her story? She fretted over the meal preparation and resented doing the work alone while Mary sat at Jesus' feet. Oh, how many times I have caught myself with a Martha attitude - resentful and with a complaining spirit. My lifestyle revealed my lack of  priority in spending time with my Lord. I chose to do my duties first. But He is to have first place. Everything else will get done in its time if I take time to sit at the feet of Jesus first. This lesson seems too often repeated - Don't live like a Martha. Marthas have patterns of virtue, but they serve without a loving heart.

Then, don't live like a heathen. My grandfather used to call my sister and me heathens when we acted wildly or out of control. Especially when our language or attitude was unacceptable. I still hear him saying, "Don't act like a heathen." I didn't know much about what he meant, but I knew he wasn't pleased with our behavior, and I knew in my heart I was being disobedient and rebellious. So, don't live like a heathen - out of control, rebellious, unacceptable.

Another unfavorable lifestyle is that of a Pharisee. This paints the picture of self-righteousness, pride, judging, and insincerity. The Pharisee's lifestyle looked good on the outside, but the Bible says it is inwardly full of dead men's bones. It was only a shell, a pretense, and a show. That’s not a very pretty picture. For the Pharisee, what matters most is what they look like on the outside. They pay no attention to their inner man as long as they can tick the boxes of acceptable or commendable outward behavior. The Pharisee ends up empty on the one hand and full of pride on the other. So, don't live like a Pharisee - hypocritical and meaningless.

So how should we then live? Is it possible to live a specific lifestyle if we all live differently? Here's what I have found. God created each of us differently. Just look around you! But He gave us one governing factor - Christ. So though the demands and outlooks vary, we are all to live as unto Christ.

Colossians 3:23, 24 is one of my favorite Scriptures. It reads, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ."

Whatsoever you do - if your life moves quick or slow, if you feel the pressure of competition or not, if you are an optimist or more pessimist - whatsoever you do, do it heartily. With gusto! Knowing the Lord is watching. Forget trying to please men; they will never be satisfied. But since you are created by God, saved by the sacrifice of His Son, and sealed by the Holy Spirit, live for eternity, avoiding the temporal.

Because - your reward doesn't come on this earth. It is received in heaven. So if your lifestyle has this heavenly outlook, you can transcend the demands and temptations of this earth. You can curb the opposing sides of your lifestyle and bring all things into obedience to Christ, for ye serve the Lord Christ.

If Martha had this in mind, it would have sweetened her attitude and service. If the heathen knew this, their lifestyle would be aligned with Scripture. So, likewise, if the Pharisee took his eyes off himself and began yielding to the Lordship of Christ, his life would find greater joy.

So, my friend, have a look at your lifestyle. Is it lived as unto Christ? Do you have a heavenly perspective? Or do you need to make some lifestyle adjustments?

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Week Fourteen - You Can't Hide

You can't hide. Those three little words strike fear in the hearts of many. Theirs is a life of secrets, unhealed hurts, nurtured grudges, and shameful past mistakes. They live in constant fear of being caught out or exposed. Hidden in the closet, those skeletons rattle and tremble when the doorknob moves.

But here is what Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar, "There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets" (Daniel 2:28). My friend, that is a blessing. There is nothing to fear. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to know what God was saying through his dreams, and Daniel knew where to find the answer. He looked to God, who would reveal the truth.

And if we look to God, He will also reveal the truth to us. He has the answers for the things we can't figure out. He knows the secrets we try to hide, and He isn't afraid for you to talk with Him about them.

There is no need to hide and no way to hide. Hebrews 4:13 say, "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."

All things. Did you see that? Nothing is hidden from God. He sees right through you with His big loving eyes. His word is the "discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

We might hide in shame or fear, but God offers healing and forgiveness. He isn't ashamed of or angry with you and isn't afraid of your secrets. He knows the remedy and, in love, invites you to come to Him.

Proverbs 28:13 tells us, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." If you want freedom from your secrets, bring them to God. You'll find it hard to advance in life while holding secrets or trying to hide your sins. It's better to lay them before His feet. Verse 14 reads, "Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief."

Do you want to be happy? Then confess, forsake, and fear the Lord. Otherwise, according to Proverbs, you will not prosper, your heart will grow hardened, and mischief will dog your path.

So what can we do with the secrets, hurts, grudges, and past mistakes?

Dear friend, there is a God in heaven who knows all about it. You don't have to carry this burden alone. He sees every hurt and knows every secret, grudge, and mistake, yet He opened His arms to you just as you are and right where you are. He is ready to forgive and restore you to wholeness.

Come, lay them before Him, and let Him show you the way forward - the way to mercy and release. Confess and forsake are His instruction. Trust Him to lead you; know His loving arms will carry you through. There's no way to hide from the God of heaven. So instead, rest yourself in His love and let Him heal your heart and clean out your closet!