Friday, August 29, 2008

It's Getting Lean, and Its Not about Meat!

These are lean times. But I don’t believe that’s all that bad. There is something positive about being forced to examine your priorities by taking a second look at where you spend your money. My guess is that most of us are a little too loose with the use of discretionary funds. Maybe it’s time to cut that caramel frappuccino from the treat list this week – time to discipline your impulsive whims.

It is right and good for us to perform a little introspection and self-examination. In this busy life we live, we don’t do this enough. The noise, commotion, and busyness of our schedules cause us to naturally forfeit this needed habit.

I’ve been a Christian for nearly 30 years, and there were many times in that span where my faith suffered from neglect. My walk with God has been stale at times, usually as a result of carelessness and too much focus on self. Apathy can creep up on you when you are not looking if you are not looking – looking to Christ that is.

Paul wrote this,

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” - 2 Corinthians 13:5

Jesus also said that where your treasure is, there is where you will find your heart. What do these times of money pinching and budget adjustments reveal about the affections of your heart? Take a minute to reply to this blog and tell me what this money tightening season of life is teaching you…

What’s its telling me is that I’m too self-consumed and undisciplined, and my spending habits show it. Lord forgive me, and teach me to number my days aright, and to watch the numbers in the process.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Joy of Life with God

There are many things in this world that can rob our joy. Jesus, in one of His parables, told about the person who hears the Word of God and receives it with great joy, only to watch it slip away when trouble or persecution comes. The point being the Word of God never actually took deep root in that person’s life, and external things had a way of washing that joy away. A superficial faith will never have real and lasting joy.

All this leads to the idea that one’s personal joy is not so much related to external circumstances as much as it is connected to a person’s deep spiritual roots in the person of Christ (who in another sense is the Word of God). He is a God and Savior who desires not to be seen as a genie in a bottle to pull out and rub when needed, but rather the Lord and Master of one’s daily life. He is the source of all joy, a joy that gives inner peace and refreshment that literally lifts one above and beyond any circumstances in life.

If you are depending on your success at work, your ability to have constantly obedient teenagers, Christmas bonuses, and even the prospect of people liking every word you say as your own personal source of joy, then you’re in for a rude awakening, and odds are you are probably going to be riding an emotional roller coaster most of the time with a shifting view of God’s goodness that changes with every slight turn of the wind.

Never confuse joy with happiness. They are not the same. Joy is much deeper than circumstantial blessings or outwardly dependent mood swings, and it is something that can never be robbed of someone who is walking with God. Not even torture or poverty can rob a Christian of their joy if God is their strength (Neh. 8:10). Obedience to Christ and His commands brings forth this joy in surplus. Listen to the Savior’s voice in John 15.

10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Life can be a joy, to be sure. But life with God is lasting joy. Eternal joy. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). In this way, it is wholly of God, and surpasses all human understanding. It is why we can rejoice even when dying, and even when tragedy strikes, because it’s from God – it’s source is God himself, who is our inheritance (Rom. 8:17).

Does your life radiate joy, despite what’s going on? The real secret to joy is complete satisfaction in your relationship with Jesus. (Read Psalm 103:1-5) If you are looking for something outside of that to bring true joy and peace, you will be looking for a long time. He is your everything! Lean not on “stuff” and “happenings” and let your heart be lifted up by the Spirit that brings life.

11"But let all who take refuge in you be glad;let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. 12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:11-12

If today your joy is lacking -- pray to God for it. Go ahead, ask Him. Would He not answer that prayer? Of course He would, and He might decide to rearrange a few things in your life to give it to you. (You can interpret that however you wish). But please know that joy in the Lord is what God's will for your life entails (1 Thess. 5:16-18, Phil. 4:4). Don't miss it by being caught up in "stuff." External circumstances change, but God never does.

(Oh by the way, the fella in the picture above is my brother-in-law Christian Motter, who loves to express his personality in unusual ways. This is classic, a picture taken at a family wedding -- and it fits him perfect, because this year Christian found Christ, and now his joy is quite literally captured by this picture! Thanks Christian, for making life with you and life together with God such a joy.)