Expectations and Eternity

Great expectations versus reality are at odds. You hope to win the lottery and be rich forever. The statistics say you have one chance out of millions. So, in essence, you are donating your money to the state. But in the meantime, the state has made a truckload of money.

Some people pray like they have one chance for God to answer their prayer. They expect God to give them the jackpot and jump to answer their prayer. Meanwhile, their daily lives lack evidence of any godly meaning.

Please note that I am not saying you must walk on water to get your prayers answered. Unanswered prayers happen. They happen to everybody. God promised Abraham that his descendants would occupy the land we now call Israel. Abraham was 75 years old when God made this commitment (Genesis 12:4). After twenty-five years of prayer, Isaac was born (Genesis 21:5). It took a “lifetime” for God to fulfill His promise. God answered Abraham, but on God’s timetable.

Moses, the most significant leader of Israel, had unanswered requests. The prophet, who spent 40 days with the Lord, wanted to see God. God replied, “I’ll show you mercy and kindness,” and I’ll do that for anyone I choose. But to see my face, the answer is no. (Genesis 33:18-20).

The apostle Paul asked the Lord to remove his suffering or, as the King James Bible says, “his thorn in the flesh.” God answered, “My kindness is all you need” (II Corinthians 12:8,9). We need to remind ourselves God used Paul to write more of the New Testament than any other individual. 

The fact is, God doesn’t need our strength or resources. Almighty God desires our hearts and our fellowship. Like any parent, God wants a tender heart willing to comply. Riches and personal charisma are spiritual hindrances at times. Tenderness and obedience will enrich your earthly time and reward you for all eternity.

Fluff Not Required

Writing, like some thoughts, can be all fluff. Words put together to sound good. The same goes for speeches—a string of words that fills the air but says nothing. Politicians are masters of this art; however, have they ever considered what an insightful audience hears?

What’s the real intent of our words? Truth or camouflage? The Bible, if appropriately applied, has a way of revealing the truth to the discerning heart. A person of integrity senses the difference between truth and fibs. They may not be able to explain it, but they can smell a foul odor.

Dishonesty sends out a faulty vibe. Its vibration is weird even unnerving. On the other hand, simplicity radiates and reveals the heart. No explanation is needed, and truth needs no expanse of words. Just say it.

True prayer works like that, admitting to ourselves what God already knows. The Almighty knows the truth, all the truth. No amount of words can change it. Explanations are useless. Confession is good for the soul because it releases the load of guilt. Frees the hurt and gives a sense of relief then unburdens the soul. A scar may remain, obvious to see but lacks the old pain. Forgiveness is our healing salve for our spiritual wounds.

The nerve of asking for forgiveness is difficult at times because of our ego. Amazing things happen when we swallow our pride and do what’s right. The gulp goes down and disappears.

Forget about the fluff and looking good. Instead, bring sincerity to your heart, writing, and speaking. Then you can enjoy the sweetness of the dessert.

Never Give Up

Can’t do what you used to do? Don’t worry. A new day is coming. Maybe your eyesight isn’t clear. Your memory has blank spots. The knees that used to bend are stiff and straight. Then, there is your back; it’s just there to remind you not to try that again.

Your bodily functions are ever-changing. It’s all part of life; we can either accept it or scream. Living is changing, adjusting and moving forward as best we can.

Adjustments can be challenging at times, but necessary to go forward. Progress is a mindset. So, do you want to continue as best as possible or stop and enjoy the pain while making excuses?

I had a fresh reminder recently. I’m not as strong as I was years ago. Lifting certain things, knowing that pain will follow, is a wrong choice. The result was a pain for several days. The decision was all mine, and so were the consequences. Was it a good decision? Probably not! Nevertheless, it was on me and no one else.

The apostle Paul said, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13 NKJV). Paul kept his mission in sight even though he wrote the above scripture while in a Roman prison.

What’s your mission? Are you still on course and making progress? Be like Paul. Never give up, regroup, if necessary, adjust to whatever may slow you down. But, never, ever quit.

Right Decisions

Are you going in the right direction? If so, how is your pace? Are you running, or is it a steady walk? Maybe you’re at a stop sign.

If you’re running, you will soon be out of breath. On the other hand, a steady walk means you’re making progress and allowing time to evaluate your surroundings. The stop sign means one of two things. You have come to a complete stop in your progress for the Lord. The second allows you to look in different directions to see if interference is coming your way. Careful observation will enable you to progress toward the Lord’s destination safely.

Joshua observed Israel’s actions over the years. He warned them not to do as their ancestors had, nor as the neighboring Amorites did in worshipping false gods. Finally, Joshua made a public declaration. “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15 NLT).

There comes a time in our lives when we must decide. Will we choose to do what is right or follow the crowd and those around them? To be a God-fearing individual versus a crowd-pleasing follower is the choice.

Ultimately, everyone makes that choice. Acceptance or isolation. A guilty conscience or one of obedience. Joshua chose God for himself and his family. Consequently, Israel decided to follow the Lord.

Correct decisions can be tough decisions, but in the end, right always wins.

Your Determination Path

Distractions are everywhere. Somebody or something wants your time. Family, friends, or jobs all want a part of you. Your time here on earth is irreplaceable. You can’t go back and live part of your life again. Your time is always a one-and-done scenario. Discerning the necessary priorities is a personal dilemma.

Your desires have a wide range to bring them into focus. Which ones will migrate to the forefront and be pushed back in the priority order? If you’re a kind, giving individual, you allow the desire of others to take precedence over your goals. However, a focused individual will schedule new requests in some order in your list of things to do.

Staying focused is your mission regardless of the interruptions. Without goals, your project will never achieve your desired end. With the completion in mind, you can push aside all interference and intrusions while focusing on the undertaking at hand. 

Keeping your goal before you allows you to readjust your focus and stay on your destination path. You may need post-it notes plastered in front of you to keep you on track. Whatever it takes to eliminate the distractions. Remember your goal. Discern what is best and proper to reach your desired destination.

God’s Provision

The wonder of Christmas. The special day when most of the world stops and celebrates in their own way.

The celebration two thousand years ago was special too. The unusual event of the Lord’s conception happened. Two young people, Joseph and Mary, rejoiced over the birth of  God’s Son.

There was no room in the inn, so the world’s Savior was born in a barn. His first bed was a feeding trough. The barn was quiet; only the animals knew of Jesus’s arrival. But the angels announced elsewhere with praise the Messiah was nearby. In Bethlehem. 

Shepherds were frightened by the angels, but they were also amazed. The heavenly host announced the birth of the Messiah. Why them? Why in the open fields did the angels come to them? Whatever the reason, the sheep watchers scurried off to Bethlehem to see the Son of God.

The barn had its first visitors, shepherds, who were in awe of the baby Messiah. Maybe they didn’t realize they were the first to see our Lord. These flock-protectors didn’t know the miracles  making the Lord’s birth possible. But there they stood in amazement. Jesus, the King of kings, was here on earth before their very eyes.

Wise men saw a new star in the heavens. The new phenomenon was a magnet saying follow me. Were these men the only ones on earth who saw a star moving? They followed its direction by night. Their faithfulness paid off. They saw the boy of miraculous birth. In their worship, they left gifts of gratitude. The gold, frankincense, and myrrh provided the support necessary for Jesus’s parents pilgrimage to Egypt.

As you read scripture, notice God’s way of providing for the gospel’s advancement. God still directs his children.

Ready or Not

Ready or not, here I come. The words of hide-and-go-seek ring as true as they did 2,000 years ago. The small town of Bethlehem was unprepared for the arrival of the King of kings. The local innkeeper was overbooked. His only suggestion for Joseph and his pregnant wife was the barn out back. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law to redeem…” (Galatians 4:4 ESV). 

The timing of the Lord is always right. Man often disagrees, doubting that the events are best for himself. The innkeeper in Bethlehem wasn’t accommodating. Neither was Herod, the Roman official. The local priests knew the correct location for the Messiah’s birth but not the timing.

The shepherds in the nearby fields were scared when the angels appeared and proclaimed the Lord’s birth. But they responded positively to the divine announcement and sought the Lord. They found Jesus in the inn’s barn lying in a feeding trough. The only place ready for the Lord was a building out back for animals.

Is it any wonder that today’s society has the busyness of life? Many seem to miss the reason for the season—celebrating the birth of the Son of God. The Messiah decided to take up residence here on earth for a while. He did so with little fanfare, practically unnoticed. 

Jesus, in his earthly journey, impressed many. The Lord preached to all, healed many, and raised the dead. Unfortunately, he was ignored and rejected by many. Finally, a few decided to kill him. Yet his shed blood was for them as well as us.

Ready or not, the Christmas season is upon us. Can it be said, “This year, you were celebrating for the right reason, not hiding or making excuses?”

Angelic Conversations

The Christmas story starts like so many others in the Bible. It’s about the lives of ordinary people affected by divine appointments. Unexpected interventions cause believers to trust in the God of the impossible.

Mary, a young unmarried lady, had an unscheduled meeting with an angel. Gabriel told Mary she was soon to be with child. She inquired. How? Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit will overshadow you, and you will conceive and bring forth the Son of God.” She replied, “Okay,” and accepted Gabriel’s words by faith.

When Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, realized his future wife was with child, he didn’t know what to do. The legalism of the Old Testament would have her stoned, their method of public execution. As a man of integrity, he wanted to do what the Lord wanted him to do. The only spiritual recourse for him was to pray, and God answered. “Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife (Matthew 1:20); the infant inside her is the Son of God. His name shall be Jesus (Matthew 1:21).”

If you were Joseph, what would you do? The groom-to-be had a big decision to make. Wed or not to wed, unite or separate. Raise a child that is not yours, or abandon the love of your life. Instead, Joseph chose to obey God and ignore human reasoning.

Now think about the conversation between Joseph and Mary. Each tried to explain God’s intervention. They both sat in awe as the other explained what the angel said. When their explanation ended, they sat and stared at each other, asking themselves, “Who are we that God should use us?” By faith, they committed themselves to each other and to the will of God. They trusted their Creator to fulfill his purpose through them.

The faith of ordinary people can do marvelous things by simply trusting in God.

Serve Just To Serve

Some people leave a lasting impression, especially those you have only encountered briefly. The Bible has a number of them. Jewels of refreshment. Saints without egos. Examples of encouragement.

Second Timothy mentions a saintly nobody, Onesiphorus, who was an encouragement to Paul. Onesiphorus, a name often mispronounced, sought Paul in Rome. He found him in jail. Would you look for a friend in prison? Onesiphorus knew Paul and knew his preaching was offensive to politicians.

Silent service happens in unusual places and in unique circumstances. Dedication ignores the boundaries and opinions of man. Faithfulness overlooks surroundings and looks to God. True friendship shows itself when others flee. For some, jails, hospitals, nursing homes, and Hospice care are fences. But the few, the ones who stick closer than a brother, are the true friends. They are willing to climb over the walls of life. Fleshly callousness doesn’t exist.

As believers, we have friends—Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They promised never to leave us. Hospitals and Hospice don’t scare them. That’s where they get closest to an individual. Their commitment to each Christian is one of inseparability. No circumstance can drive them away. Jewels like these shine in the darkest times.

Your friend, coworker, or neighbor may be your dearest friend. They help and stick by your side when no one else will. They take the time to be there when no one else will. They are your Onesiphorus. Just serving to serve.

Holy Spirit Enables

What do you do when you lack the ability to do what you want? Hopefully, you will ask for help. However, if you are stubborn, you probably won’t. You would rather fail than lower yourself to ask for assistance. One of those two thoughts describes all of us. Ask for help or struggle is the dilemma.

The Holy Spirit is always accessible because he is always with you (John 14:16).

Christians can be stubborn, but believers have a divine resource, the Holy Spirit, who resides within us. Because he lives inside of you, he can help you in the following ways:

The third person of the Trinity has a way of guiding you like no one else (John 16:13b). No one can teach you as well as He.

The Spirit knows when we need help. So, He prays for us in a way that we cannot pray for ourselves (Romans 8:26, 27).

God’s Spirit shows us what is true in demanding situations (John 16:13a).

Lastly, the abiding Holy Spirit opens our eyes to speak about the Lord Jesus (John 15:26). Jesus promises never to leave us or abandon us (Hebrews13:5).

It’s one thing to know the Bible’s truth. It’s quite another to appropriate it into our lives. Of course, it helps to read our Bible. But, applying scriptures to our lives is entirely different. Practicing biblical principles allows us to enrich others.

Individuals willing to venture out by faith will find the Lord guiding them. The choice is ours to walk into the unknown by faith or hold on to the handrails of experience. There’s a difference between a pat on your back or to hear the words well done by the Savior.

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