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Friday, June 2, 2023

From Being Overwhelmed to Overflowing

In John 15:5 I read, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (NIV)

The moment I start doubting the goodness of God and deciding for myself what will make me happy, all kinds of problems begin. I wind up being overworked, overanxious, and overloaded—and just generally overwhelmed!

But God promises me an overflowing life, not an overwhelmed one

Jesus said, “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness” (John 10:10 GNT).

How do I experience an abundant, overflowing life? I’m learning that there is one habit that, if I do it every day, will fill me with an endless supply of God’s goodness: It’s staying connected to Jesus.

In John 15:5, Jesus compared staying connected to him with a grapevine: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NIV).

What happens when a cluster of grapes is cut off from the vine? It dies. The same is true with me.

God is my true source of energy and power. If I try to go through life on my own power, I’m going to be overwhelmed. But if I’m connected to him, I’ll have all the power I need. Or, as the Bible says, “Your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11 NLT)

One way I try to stay connected to Jesus is through my daily quiet time. In a quiet time, I set aside time to be alone with God and get to know him through reading his Word and talking to him in prayer.

Mark 1:35 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (NIV).

Even Jesus knew his personal need for connection with God—and he was the Son of God! How much more do I need the strength that comes from daily time with the Lord?

There are and will be some days that I may not feel like having a quiet time—but I need to do it anyway. If I wait to have a quiet time until I feel like it, Satan will make sure I never feel like it.

If I find my life needing more time, energy, knowledge, or opportunity, then I need to continue to challenge myself to the habit of spending daily time with Jesus. When I stay connected to him, I’ll find my life overflowing with God’s goodness and power—and I’ll realize that’s all I really need.

In summary, remaining in Christ means (1) believing that he is God's Son, (2) receiving him as Savior and Lord, (3) doing what God says, (4) continuing to believe the Good News, and (5) relating in love to the community of believers, Christ's body. So I need to stay connected, be grateful, be generous and be content. 

Thursday, June 1, 2023

It’s Time to Tend to the Soil

In James 1:19-21 I read, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (NIV)

Gardeners know that you can take the exact same seed and plant it in three different locations and get three different results. In one spot, you may get giant tomatoes. In another, you may get small tomatoes. And in a third, you may not get anything at all. What’s the difference? It’s not the seed; it’s the soil. The soil must be prepared for the seed

The same is true when I hear God’s Word. My heart has to be prepared for the Word. 

Church service is a great example of this. If I get up late, have trouble finding a parking spot, and are irritated as I rush into church, I’m probably not going to hear God’s voice! My heart is not prepared to receive God’s Word. 

That’s why two people may go to the same church service, sit side by side, and hear the same Scripture read and sermon preached. One will walk out thinking God really spoke to them, and the other won’t get anything at all out of the service. The heart of one person was prepared; the other’s heart wasn’t.

The Bible says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:19-21 NIV).

Scripture teaches that, for my heart to be prepared to receive God’s Word, I need to have four attitudes:

Be quiet. I can’t hear God if I’m talking

Be calm. I can’t rush God. If I’m frantic, I’m not going to hear him. The Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” My translation of that is, “Sit down, and be quiet.”

Be clean. Before I can meet with God, I need to confess my sin to him and ask him for forgiveness.

Be humble. Be ready to do whatever God tells me from his Word. A prideful attitude won’t work. 

So the next time I’m going to spend time in God’s Word—whether that’s at church or in my quiet time at home—take time first to prepare my heart. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes!

In my life, I’m often in a hurry, living based on a schedule. I quickly want to move through things to get to the other things.  I’ll need to consider allocating more time for the task. I need to prepare my heart. I have also just been so quick to jump into a quiet time study, that I’m not thinking about or considering my sins and asking for forgiveness. The best thing I can do is to allocate more time to what’s important, not just thinking of the task but time to prepare my heart. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

What’s on the Other Side of My Troubles?

In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 I read, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)

When a crisis hits, I need to do the smart things necessary to get through it. I need to listen to God’s Word and godly advice, to make good choices, and then to keep moving forward while remembering that this will pass. It’s not going to last forever!

The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:12, “Dear friends, don’t be bewildered or surprised when you go through the fiery trials ahead, for this is no strange, unusual thing that is going to happen to you” (TLB).

In this world, there will be times of trial and testing. It’s guaranteed! Since sin entered the world, nothing works perfectly. Everything on this planet is broken—the weather, the economy, our bodies, and even our best plans. Nothing works perfectly in this life because sin broke everything on Earth.

Isaiah 24 says, “The land suffers for the sins of its people . . . [they] have twisted the laws of God and broken his everlasting commands . . . The earth has broken down in utter collapse” (Isaiah 24:4-5, 19 TLB).

On Earth, everything is lost, abandoned, and confused. Even nature is groaning. We may even contemplate or wonder why God allowed sin and evil to enter the world; it’s because God wanted us to have a choice.

And we’re the ones who have chosen to cause evil. We’re the ones who are selfish and self-centered and cause problems in society and in our environment.

It’s good to remember or be reminded that this Earth is not heaven. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray the Lord’s Prayer—”your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NIV). Heaven is a perfect place with no sorrow, sickness, sadness, or stress, but we shouldn’t expect heaven on Earth. One day we’ll get there, but we’re not there yet.

So I will get through whatever trial I’m facing right now. Soon enough I will marvel at all that God did in the midst of my trouble as I look at it from the other side.

There will be more challenges to face and adversity to endure. But I can always hope in this truth: “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV).

In summary, these troubles and sufferings I face are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon me forever and ever! So I should not just look at what I can see right now, the troubles all around me, but I look forward to the joys in heaven which I have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.

Any troubles I encounter should not diminish my faith or disillusion me. I realize that there is purpose in my trials and suffering. My problems and limitations have several benefits: (1) They remind me of Christ's suffering for me; (2) they keep me from pride; (3) they cause me to look beyond this brief life; (4) they give me opportunities to prove my faith to others; and (5) they give God the opportunity to demonstrate his power. Therefore I can learn to see my troubles as opportunities.

The ultimate hope I can have whenever I experience a terrible illness, persecution, or pain is the realization that this life is not all there is. There is life after death. Knowing that I will live forever with God in a place without sin, trouble, or suffering should help me live above any pain that I face.  

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Why I Can Face the Future Without Fear

In Psalm 23:6 I read, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” (NLT)

Someday my life on Earth will end, but that won’t be the end of me. I’m going to live forever in one of two places: heaven or hell. One day my physical body is going to die, but while this happens, I’ll go on, because I was made to last forever.

How long is forever going to last? Forever!

God’s Word tells me why as a Christ follower, I should be most confident about the future: “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord . . . We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6, 8 NIV).

I will never know how to really live until I’m ready to die. Only a fool would go through life totally unprepared for something that everybody knows is inevitable

So I’m going to physically die someday. But because I’ve accepted Christ, I’m going to go to heaven, to “live in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6 NLT). In heaven, I’ll be released from pain, sorrow, suffering, depression, and fear. “He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone” (Revelation 21:4 The Message).

For a Christ follower, death is just a transfer, a promotion. It’s on to better things and no more problems.

Those truths should change everything! It doesn’t mean life is going to be easy. And it doesn’t mean I will always be happy, or always know what I should do, or that I will never sin again.

But it does mean I can face the future without fear. God has taken care of my biggest problem, my salvation. He is never going to leave me, and I will live with him forever!

In summary, God's goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life. I will get to dwell with him forever in heaven. God is the perfect shepherd who promises to guide and protect me throughout my life and into eternity. There are only two things that I do on Earth that I won't be able to do in heaven. One is sin and the other is to witness and assist non-believers.  

Monday, May 29, 2023

Slow Down by Learning Contentment

In Philippians 4:11 I read, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (NIV)

I’m learning that If I’m serious about slowing down, I shouldn’t start with my schedule, rather start with my heart.

Paul says in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (NIV). Notice that Paul says he has “learned” contentment. Unfortunately we are not by nature contented people. It is our nature to be discontent—to want things to be different, to want them to be better. But if I’m going to slow down my life, I have to learn contentment. And I can only do that over time.

Paul explains what it looks like to be content. He says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:6-8 NIV).

Paul is emphasizing that life isn’t about things. A person who is content can acknowledge, “I didn’t have anything before I was born; I’m not going to have anything after I die. Yes, I need things, but they’re not what life is about—so I’ll just be content with what I’ve got.”

Contentment is not abandoning ambition; we need to have ambition and make the most of what God has given us. Contentment doesn’t mean we don’t have any goals, dreams, or plans for life. In fact, God says it’s good to have godly ambition.

Contentment means this; We don’t need more in order to be happy; we can be happy right now with what we’ve been given.

Happiness is a choice. In other words, I can be as happy as I choose to be! Furthermore, I can’t blame unhappiness on circumstances. If I’m not happy with my current circumstances, I’ll likely not be happy with different ones. We live on a broken planet, and nothing is perfect; there will always be something wrong in life.

God wants me to learn to be happy in spite of difficult situations by trusting that he will give me exactly what I need when I need it. Learning contentment is a process. So commit to starting that process today!

In summary, we can learn to be content with whatever we have or whatever our situation is. The secret is doing everything through Christ who will provide us strength. This includes my work situation. We can learn to rely on God's promises and Christ's power to help us be content. He will supply all our needs, but only in a way that he knows is best for us. Often a desire for more or better is really a longing to fill an empty place in my life. The answer will be in our perspective, priorities, and source of power. The power we receive in union with Christ is sufficient to do his will and to face the challenges that arise from our commitment to doing it. As For me, as I contend for faith, I will face troubles, pressures and trials. As they come, I can ask Christ to strengthen me. True contentment is enjoying what I have right now rather than waiting for something else to happen. It means that I'm happy with what I have. Peace of mind will beat relentlessly chasing for more every single time.