Being Purposeful

I can go there only for a while. Stay there until my project is complete. Hopefully, completely complete. In order for me to accomplish my purpose, I usually need quietness (aloneness, no one around to interrupt). My brain works better without interruption (conversations, music, etc.). “This one thing I do,” was Paul’s ultimate focus in Philippians 3:13. This verse reminds us to forget the past because it diverts our attention from the present. The task at hand is of immediate purpose. 

David asked a specific favor of the Lord. It was simple, thoughtful, and intentional. He wanted to dwell in the Lord’s house. He desired the companionship of the Lord (Psalms 27:4,5). The servant of God sought the Lord in prayer (v-7). He was willing to wait on the Lord to answer his requests (v-14). David gave us a great example—wait for God to answer our prayers.


Patience is a trait many Christians need to develop. Especially when waiting on God to intervene in the affairs of man.

The rich, young ruler in Mark 10 had all the worldly possessions any human could ever need. Yet, he was not at total peace with God. He needed an eternal purpose. What we do here on earth for Jesus will always have a lasting effect and heavenly rewards. It is one thing to have everlasting life, but having eternal rewards requires drive. What we do here and now is our basis for those heavenly rewards. 

A great example of divine purpose is in the episode of Martha and Mary. Martha was busy preparing to serve Jesus and his disciples. Mary sat before the Lord, absorbing his every word. Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus, in his gentle way, said Mary chose to learn the spiritual rather than prepare the meal. The spiritual always outweighs the temporary needs of man (Mark 10:41,42). 


Our Lord, through Peter, related time as viewed through the Lord’s eyes. Jesus is patient with this human race. He does not want anyone to die without repentance (II Peter 3:9). He is willing to wait for a man to repent. But our time is limited to life. What we do for Christ, or do not do, will last for eternity.

So, it is purposeful for God’s children to focus on being obedient to him. Paul conveyed his focus. “This one thing I do.” He wanted his purpose to be all about God. 

May each of us have the same.

Lesson Learned in Adversity

When you are lonely, you are in great company. Does that make sense? Most people would say you are crazy.

Let your mind drift back to scripture. Specifically to those Bible stories you learned when you were a child.

Christmas is approaching. You know about the birth of Jesus. Now think about the circumstances. Barn! No one else around but animals. Joseph and Mary. Then his birth. No doctor or midwife. Just Joseph and Mary. In their loneliness, the Savior is born. Then the shepherds appear to see our Savior. The most significant night in history is a lonely night.

The three Hebrew children in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to serve King Nebuchadnezzar’s gods. The King, in his rage, had them thrown into the furnace. That’s because the three Israelites chose to worship only God. The heat of the furnace killed those who threw the three into the furnace. But the story was about to get better. They were not alone in the furnace because now there were four walking in flames. The fourth was like the Son of God. When no one else was around, that’s when Jesus stepped in and resolved the situation. That is how He works.

God told Abraham to go to Mount Moriah and worship; really to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. So off went Abraham, Isaac and two servants. When they came to Mount Moriah, Abraham and Isaac went a little farther for the offering. As they arrived, Abraham said, the lad and I “will go farther and worship and will come back.” What a testimony of faith. Isaac even asked, where’s the lamb. By faith, his dad’s reply, God will provide.

Can you imagine placing your son on an altar as a sacrifice? But this is where God stepped in and provided the sacrifice. Before that moment, it was just Abraham and Isaac. Proof once again, God is never late.

Again, in the New Testament, Paul records the times God intervened in his life. II Corinthians 11:24-27 gives the details of Paul’s loneliness. Yet God was with him in every one of those situations. It didn’t make any difference whether it was a beating, shipwrecked, robbers or false brethren. God was with him. God never deserted him.

When circumstances are adverse, it does not mean God has deserted you or is punishing you. Sometimes the greatest lessons are learned in adversity and loneliness. But each time is for God’s advancement and glory.

So, when you are alone, and things appear to be harsh, He is with you. Open your eyes of faith and see the glory of God in action. He is there because He promised, “never to leave you or forsake you.”

Fairness

Rules are part of life. Rules of fairness are made so everyone can have an equal chance. If a person does not play fair, he will lose some friends.

Friendships, work, relationships and marriage are all about fairness. When someone doesn’t honor the rules, respect is lost.

What or who decides what is correct, proper, honorable or fair? God speaks very clearly about what He knows to be the correct, proper, and honorable. In plain language, He wants His children to be fair in their living. 

A great place to start would be Deuteronomy 1:17. “You shall not show partiality in judgment.” Those are the words of Moses to Israel about selecting judges. 

Showing respect and fairness is not a one-time thing but a way of life. In other words, consistency is the rule. Job showed great restraint when his acquaintances told him he was wrong, and God was punishing him. Job held to his principles, saying, “Let me not, I pray, show partiality to anyone” 32:21. 

God’s standard of fairness is different from most of ours. We are human. We tend to want things to our advantage. Longevity is one of those principles that has crept into our lives and churches. “We’ve been here for a long time. We worked our way up the ladder. It’s my turn. I’ve earned it.” These are some of our thoughts. We may not say them out loud, but they are real to us. We all have had them.


God, in His fairness, is also the God of mercy. He knows we cannot be perfect. We are all sinners. He knew we would be sinners before He created Adam. Because of His foreknowledge, our God knew we needed a savior, our sin-bearer. Jesus became sin for us. Through the shed blood of Jesus, we have forgiveness of sin. That is mercy in reality. The Lord described himself as “merciful and gracious” in Psalm 103:8. It was true yesterday, and it is true today.

The parable of the vineyard in Matthew 20 explodes our premise. The owner hired laborers in the early morning, midday, and even at the last hour of the workday. But, when compensation or reward time came, the owner paid everybody the same. So, in fairness, the laborers’ wages were as per the verbal contract. Some disagreed. “We’ve worked in the heat of the day,” they said. In essence, they said, “we did more than the newcomers, and we deserve better treatment.” Have you ever thought something like that? Probably.

From God’s perspective, are those thoughts in agreement with His? No. Because God gives eternal life to whoever calls upon the name of the Lord. That is Romans 3:22 in the application. “Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference.” Fairness is based upon the uncompromising word of the Bible, our standard. 

To put things in perspective, at least to my understanding, we serve God because we love Him. It’s certainly not for earthly rewards or advancement. God encourages us to show our genuine love for Him by doing—helping others. To be loyal to Jesus every day of our lives. That’s fair. That puts everybody on the same page. I know His assessment will be correct according to His fairness. 

Encouragement

Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes they’re encouraging, and other times discouraging. So, what are we to do? Let the bad times destroy our dreams? No! Shove them aside and don’t allow them to ruin your future. For the believer, trust in the Lord, and believe. 

God works things out. He may not do it the way we plan, but He’s in charge. He knows best even in the times when we wonder if He’s working on our behalf. You may have had that thought or one like it. Not once but many times. 

We tend to forget the times He has intervened in our lives and the way He has turned the bad into good. He has a way of making things better. His timetable does not always agree with ours. His clock seems to move very slowly at times. Be assured, He always arrives on time. 

Our wounds always heal. Scars may remain. They are there to remind us not to do the same thing again. Those scars show us He will intervene and solve the problem. 

I’ll share one particular scar, the long one on my chest. It’s about ten inches long and is the result of open-heart surgery 17 plus years ago. I would not be writing this if God had not intervened in my life. Things have changed, improved in many ways. One byproduct of this long scar is I was given time to reflect. It directed me to be more encouraging not just in words but in actions. Helping others seems to be my new calling. At times, it is helping individuals and organizations that help others. Whoever or whatever God puts in my way is his divine appointment for me.

Times are always rotten to some. Hopeless at times. The woman, a widow at Zarephath, comes to mind. Her desperate time had arrived and she was down to her last meal. Then, God showed up in the Prophet Elijah. She shared her last meal with him. God took care of her. Who would have thought that sharing her last meal would bring God’s blessings, but it did? It always does. 

Encouragement comes and goes down many avenues of life. But it seems best for those who are willing to let God have control of their lives. Maybe that’s man’s real problem. Who is in control? If we have lived very long, we have experienced tough times and great times. To me, the better times come after I have learned to let God be in control. How about you? Do you need to let God be in control? 

Several verses of scripture may help.

Isaiah 43, verse 13, the first part of it. “For I, the Lord your God hold your right hand.”

Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

I Corinthians 16:18, “For they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.” 

He Is Not Finished Yet

Discouragement happens. It comes into our lives. Sometimes it creeps in, then other times it rushes in. We don’t know how or why it finds us, but it does. It seems to know where we are. Home, work, church, are places where it looms. We need to realize it is temporary. Maybe a short temporary or possibly a long temporary. 

Right is still right, and wrong is always wrong. We know that in our head. Circumstances in life squirm their way into our heads. What we know to be a Bible principle waves in our face. We reason in our mind, “Wouldn’t it be better to bend just a little.” It would bring peace at least outwardly, but there is that gnawing in our innards, something isn’t right. There is no peace of mind. 

So, what is right? What do we do? When human reason fails, and it does, where do we go? Some say pray; others, read your Bible. Some say seek someone else’s opinion. 

Our spiritual growth can sway in the wind of social circumstances. If the roots are deep, the outward limbs may bend, but those roots go deep to the living water—God’s Word. Our emotional limbs may be in turmoil, but our roots hold firm.


Yes, is the magic word. Yes, to God, not self. Yes, when it doesn’t make sense. Yes, because God wants us to agree with Him. The men of Israel did not say yes to God in Amos 8:11. They refused the Almighty. So, God sent a spiritual famine to the land. God’s word wasn’t heard or honored in Israel for centuries. They suffered the consequences of God’s silence.

Faithfulness is God’s measuring stick for eternal rewards. How is your dedication to reading the Bible, and to prayer? You know, and God knows. It’s not the accumulation of things or the reputation you have (I Timothy 6:10). It is your heart with God. Have your possessions crushed your relationship with the Lord? It happened to the Church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:17). Its members became preoccupied with things, not their relationship with the Lord.

Through all his struggles (II Corinthians 11:23-27), Paul remained faithful until his death. He was never rich in earthly goods, but he was faithful to God until the end.

Life may seem unfair to you. Your circumstances may be adverse, and your health may be lacking; however, in the big picture, your faithfulness to God makes you rich in the Lord.

How Big Is Your God?

Our mind is a wonderful thing. It has imagination, it can visualize dreams and can understand reality. But, when we think about God, what do we see? Can we see God in everything good? How big is our God, our wonderful God? The Father of our Savior, the Lord Jesus. 

Think about it for a minute or two. Maybe even for an hour. Who can speak, and the immaterial becomes material, real becomes visible and tangible? Who can pick up a handful of dirt and make a living breathing person? Only our God. Who can hang a star in place or cause the earth to rotate around the sun without burning us up? Only our God.

When He formed Adam, He leaned over him and gave him the breaths of life. Both earthly and eternal breaths were given to him because the soul never dies. It lives forever, somewhere. Actually, the soul has two choices and only two. Heaven because of our relationship with the Son of God or hell because there is no relationship with Jesus. 

The Almighty, in His wisdom, looks after the details of each person. For the righteous, his steps are God directed. Yet God allows man a choice to be obedient to Him or to disobey Him. Our decision is the basis for our eternal rewards or the lack of them.

God knows how to get the attention of each individual. Once He does, He allows us to follow His lead or to ignore His leading. It’s our choice. 

Adam chose to eat the forbidden fruit. Noah built an ark on dry land. Lot’s wife decided to look back and ignore the warning. Elijah trusted God over Baal. Nehemiah was willing to be sad in front of the King to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. David trusted God with a slingshot. The list goes on and on. But each one of the previous examples was all about decision making. The size of their faith was about the size of their God. For some, their personal God was bigger than the circumstances around them. 

What does that say about us thousands of years later? What can we trust God for, or can we trust Him at all? God has a track record of being true and fulfilling His promises. No, we may not get our way at times, but did He promise us that? The Lord said He would never leave us. Jesus didn’t promise to make us millionaires or to give us perfect health. He simply said He would always be with us.

Can we see His strength by the way He hangs the stars? How about the rainbow? He will never flood the whole earth again. What about the still small quiet voice that speaks to our heart. Or that conviction of sin. To me, God is real. Personal. Understandable. He loves me each and every day because He cares. Everything else is a want. One thing I know is I need a deep personal relationship with Him. Because as big as He is, He is still interested in me.

Persistence

Life seems unfair at times. You do the right thing, and it still doesn’t go your way. It happens to all of us, too many times for many of us. 

What do you do? Get mad, give up, or reach down with determination and say to yourself, “I won’t quit.” Do you give up? There must be a way to accomplish this by the grace of God.

Then it’s you and God, no one else. It seems very lonely sometimes when you put yourself out there. No encouragement, maybe. Possibly you have quit sharing your dream, desire, or determination with friends and family. You may have even stopped praying about it for a while. But, the desire reappears in your heart. You can’t let go; you keep your hand on the plow (Luke 9:62). You keep plugging away. It seems like each thing you try is a dead end. Somehow, you keep going, eliminating one more wrong solution. It may seem like there are no more thoughts on how to accomplish your dream. Slowly, another one comes to mind. You say in your heart, “do I try this one?” You do it again. It is not the solution. Then you try again and again.

It seems out of the blue the answer comes. It may be your idea or from someone in your past. Maybe a new person in your life. Whatever or whoever the thought comes from may be the God-sent solution. The problem solver. It’s all of God. The answer, but especially the timing. All your efforts were not fruitless. God wanted to see your gut, heart, and pure reliance upon him.

See, God knows what is best and when is best. We do not. That’s hard for us to accept sometimes. Extremely hard, but faithfulness and trust in the Almighty are never wrong. He is always looking out for us, even when we do not know it or understand His ways.

It is in these circumstances that bring our focus on Him and not on our efforts. We don’t understand this principle, but God wants the glory. He wants you and me to do the best we can. I know our puny efforts seem insignificant. But He sees our sincerity and love for Him in our actions. That’s important to Him. 

So, don’t give up even if your desires did not come to be. Your request was not for you, and that is best for you. 

We may think, finally, when He comes through and answers our prayer. We need to thank Him, not once but multiple times, even years later. God is good, loving us regardless of life’s dealings with us. 


Through persistence, God answers your prayer, like the widow before the unjust judge in Luke 18:18. God is revealing to you He is in control even when our human eyes can’t see it. 

God does reign Supreme even when we do not know it or see Him working.

Obedience

All of us can remember when we were obedient when we didn’t want to. Our parents made us comply. We did it, not because we wanted to, but because they demanded it. Either out of respect or fear, we responded outwardly the way they wanted. But inside, there was a rebellion in our hearts. 

Christians are like that, sometimes, our behavior has those same childlike emotions. We comply, but not without hurt feelings. Other times, we express our dissatisfied opinions. Church splits happen over instances like this. Feelings never to be reconciled. 

Godly obedience isn’t always easy, but it is still right. The Lord has given us specific instructions in the Bible. A heart, in fellowship with God, will do as He directs. We may not understand why at the time. But “we know that all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28 NKJV). Even though we might not know why we trust God’s instructions, that’s faith in action. Do what He wants when we don’t know His why. 

Christ was doing His Father’s will on the cross. It was there the Lord was paying the ultimate price for our sins. The Messiah was doing what was necessary, so we could have our sins forgiven. In obedience, Jesus sacrificed Himself for us. When He was doing so, Jesus felt deserted. Our Lord even cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34 NKJV). Obedience isn’t always explainable, but you know in your heart, it is right. 

Doing what is honest before God is always best, understanding isn’t necessary, but compliance is. Faith is hard sometimes, but it’s still for the best both now and all eternity.

When we don’t understand God’s whys, we need to realize the understanding will come sometime. But the act of obedience is desired behavior. Sooner or later, we will be glad we agreed with God. It’s always best to honor God in all things!  Did Moses understand why he was to hold his hands up at the Red Sea? He did it, and God parted the sea. Abraham didn’t understand the offering of Isaac, but he did it. What Abraham found out is that God always supplies grace. If we can be obedient to God and follow His divine instructions, we will experience God’s provision.

He never fails. He will never ask His children to do something He is not there to support. That’s how our God works. He is always faithful. Always.


All About Fear

Mask wearing is the new norm. It has been declared necessary, even mandatory in some areas. This phenomenon may be for health reasons, but mask-wearing isn’t new. Criminals have used them to hide their identity and their wrongdoings.

Healthy people may wear the visual one for protection, but others wear the invisible one. It’s the mask of hidden character. They are afraid to reveal their real intentions even in everyday life. Very few people know the real person behind the mask. Friends don’t know; even mates do not know. But there is this looming personality hiding behind the mask.

Sometimes they are afraid to reveal the real thoughts and desires of their inner being. Christians make up part of this segment in our society. They want to be outgoing, magnetic personalities for Christ. But they feel safe in the shadows. The spotlight on their lives would show their flaws. Their humanity. The real ordinary person. To open their mouths and engage in a genuine conversation about the Lord would show their lack of spiritual knowledge. That’s what they may think deep down inside, not realizing the other person may feel the same way.

Opening up for the Lord can be scary. Frightening even. But once you put yourself out there, it’s inspiring what you will say. You may also place your spiritual foot in your mouth. The other person in the conversation can’t see it because they know less than you do about the Bible. You haven’t realized that fact because of the fear you imagine. Yes, the concern is real, but only to you. Did you hear yourself? They know less than you. Have you ever thought that thought? It’s true. They just didn’t have the nerve to ask the question. Why? Because, they are afraid, too.

You have heard the expression, “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.” Nothing is accomplished unless you put your fear aside. A helpless person would perish in a burning building if no one rushed in to help them. People would drown unless somebody jumps into the water to save them. The one who rushes into the burning building or jumps into the water has forgotten their fear. 

What kind of fear do you have? Can you get your eyes off of you and look to see where you can be brave? You really can’t plan bravery. It just happens to the ones who are willing to overcome their fears. 

Proverbs 29:25 may have the best description. “The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” (NKJV). 

The Lord will take care of you, even if you are afraid.

Love – A Different Prospective

I was reading today. The content was about love, God’s love. Then, this thought ran through my mind. God was and will always be about love. God’s love is plain and simple. The Father loves His Son, Jesus. The Father loves the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. The Father is all about love. Genuine love. Spiritual love. Real love. The kind of love that is beyond man’s ability to understand. 

I can only understand human love, most of the time. Not all the time. I love my wife, children, and grandchildren, but that love is human, not divine. My love has limits. God’s love is deeper and broader—past man’s ability to grasp. 

God’s love is about giving. Sharing. Even when it is not recognized or appreciated. His sincerity is real and available for all humanity to accept. If only we would. What keeps us from doing so? I suppose there are many reasons. It seems like ignorance is the main reason. That is a harsh word, but valid.

Many people do not realize that God love them. He loves them on a personal basis for who they are and who they can become. God, the Father, sees potential. He sees what could be if only they would look to Him. 

Here’s the problem. So many people do not know Him as Father. They are His children, but they do not recognize Him as an affectionate, loving Father. His own family here on earth does not always appreciate His affection. The foundation of this dilemma may have its roots in our upbringing.

Our own family may not have been genuinely loving, at least not outwardly. Maybe because of these roots, we do not know how to verbalize or show our feelings. The sad thing is our example is contagious. Maybe learned would be a better way of saying it. Most of us learn by example. It does not make any difference in the model, whether it is good or bad. It is still the example we implement. It’s not until later, we may learn better ways.

The same principle works with God because He loves us. He wants what is best for us. Sometimes, the Lord will use undesired measures to correct us, but He still loves us. 

Learning love can also be significantly enhanced by reading examples of God’s love in the Bible. Whenever God’s people are rewarded here on this earth, you see the love in action. When you see disobedience and His disciplining hand, it is still love in action. If you are a parent, you punish your children for bad behavior, especially when they disobey your instructions. Their attitude against your established principles is a form of rebellion. As a parent, you still love your child even when you discipline them.

He loved us before Adam’s creation; even thousands of years before you came into being. God loved you. God has always loved you as He loves you today.

Do YOU love Him today? Do YOUR actions say so?