Whistle While You Work? I Don’t Think So, Joel Osteen

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Dear Christian Friends,

Work. It’s a word that conjures up rather despicable thoughts in my mind. In fact, I don’t like the word at all. It reminds me of the ugly, inhumane job that I had during many high school and college summers at a local discount retailer, pushing carts outside in 102 degree weather. I think about the awful amounts of homework that I was required to complete in order to pass a class. I sneered in disgust at the possibility of having to take out the garbage at home, or even do chores.

Yes, maybe I am complaining too much, but we all have stories of too much work that we have to do in our lives. Sometimes, it seems to crowd us, overpowering our senses with the size of projects, the deadlines, the writing and rewriting, the manual labor. These things are overbearing and hard to resolve, when they just seem to be coming and coming.

Yet, we still must do them. “Why?” you may be asking. “What purpose does it serve to overwork ourselves?”

I don’t think the question should be, “Can’t I avoid doing all this?” The question that we must ask ourselves is, “What purpose does the Lord have for me in doing this work?” We need to realize that God gives us this work for a purpose. Whether to show us what we are capable of, to test us and make us stronger, or to help us provide for our families and loved ones. The work that we do is a testament to our faith that what we do is what the Lord has given us to do. He wants us to graduate from school, or feed and clothe our families, or use the gifts he has given us.

Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

With these wonderful words of encouragement, we should remember that we do not do the work just for ourselves, but for the Lord as well, who wants us to prosper and grow in Him, using the gifts He has given us, to serve Him through the work that we do.

Remember, the Lord has prepared you to do the work that is set before you. Work hard, trust is His goodness, and He will give you hope and life. Proverbs 28:25, “A greedy man stirs up dissention, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.”

Read also: Isaiah 53 (The Suffering Servant), Psalm 128, 2 Timothy 3:10-17, Colossians 1:24-2:5, Genesis 29:14-30 (Working for the greatest earthly gift the Lord gives…)

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Talk about timing! (And it’s all in the timing…)

A change is on the horizon.  A new season is coming.  For those of you in the midwestern U.S., the smell was in the air.  Fall is upon us, along with, for some of us, the preparations of another year of schooling, or the sending of children to regular classes at all levels.  The trees will soon turn many wonderful colors.  The days become short, the air gains a new crispness in the evening, and all around, life changes.

Ecclesiastes speaks to this change, and many others, in the first part of Chapter 3.  It states,

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keepo and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”

These are powerful words in our lives, because of the constant changes we endure.  The deaths and births, the moving from one place to another, the divorces and marriages that we encounter our lives.  We see change all around us.

And yet, our lives do have a Constant, a never-changing Source of Hope and Comfort, of Peace and Joy.  Malachi 3:6a, “I the Lord do not change.”  This is the assurance in our lives, the INSURANCE we need against change, large or small.  Whether we discovery a friend who does not return in the fall to school, or the destruction of our lives by fire, flood, or human fraility, we will always have the Lord with us, to guide and strengthen us, to hold us firm and keep us safe, no matter what season we experience.  Jesus Himself says in Luke 21:33, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”

And those words are our unchanging Hope.

God’s Peace I bring you, God’s Blessing I wish upon you, God’s Hope and Comfort I leave with you.

Also see:  The Story of Job and his unchanging Faith, 1 Samuel 15:29 (NIV), Hebrews (shows the Unchanging God throughout time), Matthew 5:17-20 (The Word of God will not change)

Built on the Rock the Church Shall Stand!

One night when I was in college, a Christian friend and I had the pleasure of having a conversation with a non-Christian friend of mine which lasted until 4:00 in the morning.  While it was an enlightening discussion and a wonderful witnessing experience, there was one point that made me stop and think.  I asked the non-Christian, when he alluded to his current state of searching for the Answer, “What do you stand on?”  After he gave me an explanation, I stopped and thought, “Well, what do I stand on?”

Constantly in this world, we are bashed by the rains and waves of sin and temptation, hounded by the winds of evil and suffering.  We try to establish ourselves a place to stand on this earth, only to be struck again and again by depression, anger, pain, unease, and weariness.  And most of all, our sinfulness.  In all of this trouble and torment, what do we stand on?

In Matthew 7:24ff, Jesus tells the story of the wise and foolish builders.  These two guys each built a house; one built on the rock and the other on sand.  The rains and winds came and beat the house on the rock, but it stood straight and tall, and did not fall.  The other house on sand fell to the ground, because it had no firm foundation.  Jesus says in this passage that all who follow Him and His Word are like the wise man who built on the rock.

We stand on the Rock that is the Lord.  Isaiah 26:4, “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”  We stand on God and His Promises, the Hope of now and our future years.  We stand on Christ Jesus and His Victory over sin and death.

When the world pulls at us, trying to bring us down into it’s hopeless depths, remember the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 40:2, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”  We have the contentment and satisfaction of knowing that we stand on a Rock which can never be broken.  The Rock that will never succumb to the evil of this world.  It is our strength and refuge.

The next time I ask myself, “What do you stand on?” I know my answer.

Read also:  Psalm 31, 61, and 62, Matthew 16:13-20 (Peter’s answer is the Rock), 1 Peter 2:4-12.

The Mighty and the Doubter

Doubt is not a big word. It’s short, simple, and not even all of the letters are really pronounced in it, either. Yet, it is the scariest word that I have ever encountered in my life. Not even death, which frightens the jeepers out of a lot of people, scares me as much as the word DOUBT. I shiver just thinking about it.

It doesn’t take much to doubt. A thought here, a comment there, an instance of personal realization, can turn someone’s world upside-down when that one little word comes into play. “What if I’m not supposed to do this today? Does she REALLY love me anymore? Where AM I supposed to be in five or ten years? Is there REALLY a God?” I know that that last one scares me the most, because it’s a thought that I’ve had to deal with before, and I’m sure some of you have had to deal with it, too.
Doubt creeps into our lives unnoticed most times. Just a down day on the job, a tired Monday morning in class, an innocent argument with a spouse or loved one, and suddenly, it’s there. What can we do? How can we stop it?

The truly scary part of doubt is…we can’t stop it. We can’t put a wall up so that it will never enter our lives. But, we can battle it, and win the day. “How?”

God loves us, and would never leave us. Joshua 1:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He’s there. In our doubt and uncertainity with the ways of this world, God is the Rock upon which we know we have solid footing. When we doubt, Psalms 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46 is a wonderful reminder of the stability of the Lord, and His power in our life.

So, when life is down, doubt is raging, and you just don’t know anymore, look to the One who does not change, is always there, and will not crumble under the pressures of uncertainty:  The Valiant One who fights for us, and wins for all eternity.

I would like to leave you with a message that was written a long time ago, by a very great man, based on Psalm 46. It has been my personal message of faith in times of doubt and trouble. Read it, think of the problems of your own life, and gain strength from its words. Words of hope and comfort which will lift your spirits.

“A mighty Fortress is our God, A trusty Shield and Weapon;
He helps us free from ev’ry need That hath us now o’er-taken.
The old evil Foe Now means deadly woe;
Deep guile and great might Are his dread arms in fight;
On earth is not his equal.

With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One, Whome God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is,
Of Sabaoth Lord, And there’s none other God;
He holds the field forever.

Tho’ devils all the world should fill, All eager to devour us.
We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpow’r us.
This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none, He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.

The Word they still shall let remain Nor any thanks have for it;
He’s by our side upon the plain With His good gifts and Spirit,
And take they our life, Goods fame, child, wife,
Let these all be gone, They yet have nothing won;

The Kingdom ours remaineth. Amen.

These words, the text of the hymn by Martin Luther, are probably the greatest attestment to the power of God that I have ever seen in my life. Nowhere else does the message of our eternal victory ring truer. And that is what it’s all about. The Eternal Victory.

May the Lord smile upon you today, and give you hope and joy.

Read Psalm 31, Matthew 7:24-29, Isaiah 40:28-31, Romans 11:33-36.

Out of Darkness, Into His Marvelous Light

Dear Christian Friends,

Have you ever had that murky, ugly feeling inside, where you know that you’ve done a few things that weren’t right? You know, when you’ve said something behind the back of someone, been mean to a friend, or just been hurtful, mean, or cruel to yourself?

I can say with a heavy heart that I’ve done all these things and more. I’ve doubted God, been angry with friends, lied to my family (they can usually tell though), and just been a bad person. It sucks, and as Paul says in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do do.” How depressing is that? Even Paul was a bad guy.

DC Talk says in their song, “In the Light”:  “What’s going on inside of me? I despise my own behavior.” We do not understand what’s happening to us. We hate what we do. And yet, we cannot stop it.

So, many of us walk through life with that heavy feeling that we cannot make up for the bad things that we do. What follows then? We are a sinful, horrible people who do these things. What next?

Matthew 11:28, “‘Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.'” The words of Jesus Himself come to us as a comfort and strength in our times of trouble. He is there for us, for He has taken away our sins, and we are made sinless in God’s sight. We are washed in His blood and made white as snow.

Our prayer can be taken directly from Psalm 51:10-12, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presense or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

That is so powerful! We are forgiven and blessed by God, as horrible as we may think our deeds. He still loves us, and will watch over us. Romans 6:11, “Count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Remember, as DC Talk says, “All I want is to be in the Light.” And we are, in the love of Jesus Christ.

Read also: Psalm 51, Eph. 2:11-22, Matt. 11:25-30, Romans 6, and 1 Peter 2:9.

Waiting for God…Oh?

Here is an email I wrote many years ago to some friends of mine as a devotion.  It’s amazing to look back on it now and realize that God works in His own ways at his own times (some of those times may not be here, yet, either).  You may also notice that the beginning of the email is the title of this blog (I’ll save that story for another time).

Dear Christian Friends,

There are many things that I want in this world. A loving, caring, beautiful family that I can take care of. A fulfilling, uplifting job as a pastor in the Lord’s church. World peace. Things like that. And I want them NOW. As you can tell, I, like many of us, have a problem with being impatient. I swear that God seriously doesn’t have a watch that works. And it’s not that I don’t get what I need when I need it. Matthew 6:25ff is very true. God does provide. It’s just that God has a way of giving me what I need when I have my eyes set on something else I want.

Well, I’ve come to a realization. I’m not ready for what I need when I want it, usually. Oh sure, when I need a home, a friend, or a turkey sandwich on wheat, God’s always got one ready. But the things I think I WANT, that “I can’t live without,” or the things that I need to have soon, I am not ready for.

I want to be a husband and a loving father. Yet, time and again, I fail to realize that I need to spend the time I have preparing to fulfill a job that the Lord wants me to do down the road (1 Peter 1:13). My time is best spent, right now, working on preparing myself to serve Him in love and faithfulness, waiting patiently for the good things that He has in store for me. Romans 8:25, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Let me give you an example from my own life. I want, and I mean really want, a female companion to share my life with. But, I realize, that God knows that I am not ready to share my life with someone; I am not ready to commit to a lasting relationship, because He has things that I must do and skills I must learn. I am not ready to tackle the problems and stress of marriage. I mean, I’m not ready to tackle the problems and stress of a Monday morning yet. How can I possibly be ready for marriage? But, I know that God and I will work together to see fit that I have the tool and knowledge to deal with sharing EVERYTHING with another human being. My purpose right now is to live a God-centered life, to make Him and His plan my number one concern, to take care of my problems, struggles, and stumbling blocks, before I can move into new responsibilities. The good things will come, that I am sure of. Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Even later in life, I have a job to do. God wants me to spread His love to the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). He wants me to love Him and my family and friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. I need to make sure that my mind is not cluttered with overzealous plans and desires when my one focus should be on Him. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t think about what you would like in this world, but what I am saying is make sure that what you want doesn’t get in the way of the Lord and your devotion to Him.

Remember, make God and His plan for you your focus right now. Let Him be your guide, and He will help you, love you, and give you all that you need. He has given gifts to you to use in this life, and you need to remember to learn them so that you can use them when He fulfills your wants and needs.

Jeremiah 29:11-13, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.'”

See also Proverbs 19:21, Psalm 37, Romans 8 (one of the greatest chapters in the Bible), Philippians 2:12-18, 2 Timothy 2:14-26