Thursday, December 31, 2009
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
From this short passage, John MacArthur pulls out three points in his commentary on the book of James. He says we see people that ignore God’s will, deny God’s will and disobey God’s will. Those are interesting thoughts because we can all find ourselves in there somewhere. This passage is about business plans, but rest assured you're in there. Across the full span of our lives, we're all in there somewhere.
Are You Ignoring God’s Will?
How often are we guilty of making our plans without consulting God’s Word or even thinking them through this with Godly people we know? It seems that many times people don’t look for God’s help until they are in such deep trouble they are sinking fast. Sometimes we are in so deep that it is too late to escape the consequences of these poor choices. Put simply, it is our arrogance that causes us to live this way.
Are You Denying God’s Will?
Everything we do in life is done intentionally. Whether it is the building of a family business or being lazy and doing nothing, all of our actions require thought and decision. When we deny God’s will it is the act of not only ignoring God’s will, but of us believing there is a better way. And that better way, at least in theory, usually ends up being our way. Parents get upset when children transform a simple project into a hazardous disaster because they didn’t seek guidance. How many disasters have we created in our lives because we thought we knew best and were too arrogant to seek God’s help?
Are You Disobeying God’s Will?
The passage ends with a third option. It speaks to those that have studied and researched what God would have them do in a situation and they simply choose not to do it. Unfortunately, we all have been guilty of this. In a given day there are probably several things that we know are the right things to do and we don’t do it. There a thousand reasons and excuses for this behavior ranging from the task being too hard to me being too tired. Regardless, the Bible says that when we know God’s will and how we should act, when we fail to do so we sin.
Instead, You Ought To…
So, what do you do? How do you right these wrongs? James says, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” We should submit our plans to the Lord. We should ask for His help and guidance and we should study His Word to see if our plans will help us live lives that please Him. Are the choices we are considering consistent with God’s Word? What is the ultimate focus of our decisions? Do we desire to honor God, to help others or to exalt ourselves? Through studying God’s Word and spending time in prayer we will come to know our motives. But knowing isn’t enough. We must act faithfully and consistently with what God shows us is right.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
A few years ago a friend introduced me to the SMART goal system. It has been helpful as I've made various goals and maybe it will be helpful to you also. Here it is as found at http://www.goal-setting-guide.com/smart-goals.html
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Timely
Goals should be straightforward and emphasize what you want to happen. Specifics help us to focus our efforts and clearly define what we are going to do.
Specific is the What, Why, and How of the SMART model.
WHAT are you going to do? Use action words such as direct, organize, coordinate, lead, develop, plan, build etc.
WHY is this important to do at this time? What do you want to ultimately accomplish?
HOW are you going to do it? (By...)
Ensure the goals you set is very specific, clear and easy. Instead of setting a goal to lose weight or be healthier, set a specific goal to lose 2cm off your waistline or to walk 5 miles at an aerobically challenging pace.
If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. In the broadest sense, the whole goal statement is a measure for the project; if the goal is accomplished, the is a success. However, there are usually several short-term or small measurements that can be built into the goal.
Choose a goal with measurable progress, so you can see the change occur. How will you see when you reach your goal? Be specific! "I want to read 3 chapter books of 100 pages on my own before my birthday" shows the specific target to be measure. "I want to be a good reader" is not as measurable.
Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goals.
When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop that attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. Your begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.
Goals you set which are too far out of your reach, you probably won't commit to doing. Although you may start with the best of intentions, the knowledge that it's too much for you means your subconscious will keep reminding you of this fact and will stop you from even giving it your best.
A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it and it will need a real commitment from you. For instance, if you aim to lose 20lbs in one week, we all know that isn't achievable. But setting a goal to loose 1lb and when you've achieved that, aiming to lose a further 1lb, will keep it achievable for you.
The feeling of success which this brings helps you to remain motivated.
This is not a synonym for "easy." Realistic, in this case, means "do-able." It means that the learning curve is not a vertical slope; that the skills needed to do the work are available; that the project fits with the overall strategy and goals of the organization. A realistic project may push the skills and knowledge of the people working on it but it shouldn't break them.
Devise a plan or a way of getting there which makes the goal realistic. The goal needs to be realistic for you and where you are at the moment. A goal of never again eating sweets, cakes, crisps and chocolate may not be realistic for someone who really enjoys these foods.
For instance, it may be more realistic to set a goal of eating a piece of fruit each day instead of one sweet item. You can then choose to work towards reducing the amount of sweet products gradually as and when this feels realistic for you.
Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort! Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low sends the message that you aren't very capable. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!
Set a timeframe for the goal: for next week, in three months, by fifth grade. Putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards.
If you don't set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can start at any time. Without a time limit, there's no urgency to start taking action now.
Time must be measurable, attainable and realistic.
Everyone will benefit from goals and objectives if they are SMART. SMART, is the instrument to apply in setting your goals and objectives.
One thing to remember in setting goals is that we are to wisely consider what God would have us do and how we can best honor Him through our goals. The people in James 4:13 are rebuked because they were making their goals apart from submitting them to God's will. They were not chastised because they were making goals, but because they were only relying upon themselves in making the goals. As you think through your goals make sure to submit your plans to God's will for His glory and your joy.
Friday, December 25, 2009
An Intentional Steward
My thinking keeps returning to one theme though. That theme is to work harder at living intentionally in 2010. None of us are promised another year, month, week or day. Whether we receive 50 more years or only 50 more minutes God has given us much freedom in making the most of what we have. Even more, He expects us to make the best of what we’ve been given as He calls us to be good stewards of our time, talent and money.
What Should You Do?
What do you need to take on intentionally? Are there people in your life that you need to intentionally forgive? Are there people you need to intentionally encourage? Is there something you should intentionally share with someone else? I’m sure something comes to your mind. Hardly anything happens accidentally in life. There are times we seem to be in the right place at the right time, but most often we are there because of preparation and hard work. We must be intentional if we are going to live a meaningful life.
Tonight as we prepared for bed one of my seven year old sons asked me to mark in his Bible where we were reading. He said he wanted to remember it after I died. Sounds a bit grim I know, but it reminded me that if I am going to choose the mark I make on his life I must be intentional about it. Oh, you can be sure that I will leave some sort of mark on his life no matter what, but if there is something I want to teach him or pass along to him I must be intentional about it. I took advantage of this wonderful opportunity.
How about you? What is an intentional change you should make today? How can you take your thought, make a plan and put it in action?
Monday, December 21, 2009
Do you realize that we all approach life with some intentional perspective? Even if you try to make it through life with no perspective at all, you must be intentional about that perspective if you are going to consistently live this way. From the way you dress to the way you talk to the way you think of other people, there is intent behind it all. We frame our lives to fit our perspectives. That’s why you might be annoyed with family members at holiday gatherings this year. Not necessarily because they are annoying, but because they are behaving outside of the perspective you have perceived as acceptable. Whether or not you receive what you wanted or not will determine whether you’ll be happy or sad when you see the gifts you receive. Our perspective shapes our expectation and we live accordingly.
Are All Perspectives Equal?
From my standpoint, though, not all perspectives are equal. Jesus says in Revelation 22:14-15 that those who “wash their robes” in His truth will receive forgiveness and welcome entry into the
An Important Examination
Perhaps that seems harsh to you. Indeed, it is direct. But, as we said before, it is important to realize that our perspectives shape our lives and we live accordingly. Why not take a moment to examine which perspectives on your life and the world around you are shaping your expectations? It will be worth your time.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Trusting God is a difficult task for us, especially when we are struggling to make sense of life's events. I hope you'll take time to read or watch these videos and find the great comfort I did as we learn to rest in God's sovereignty.
Monday, December 14, 2009
God’s perfect word gives us real pictures of people facing difficult circumstances. Psalm 63 wasn’t written for Christmas, but David wrote it during a time when he knew the reality of hardship. I believe you’ll be able to identify with him in this psalm if you will listen for a moment. He says, “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”
We long for satisfaction. We look in a thousand different places for it. We desire joy. We lie in our bed or sit on the couch and long for strength and help. David did the same. Where did he look? He looked to God. He saw God as the One who would ultimately bring deliverance and healing. He knew that when he stayed close to God’s “wing” he would find the support he needed so desperately.
What does this longing sound like? Perhaps like a simple prayer saying, “God, please help me get through this family gathering without totally breaking down.” Or maybe it sounds like, “God, please help me appreciate the past, but not be stuck there. Help me be thankful for what you have provided for me today.” Friend, as David has said, I will recommend and pray that you will desire to cling to God and seek His strength if you find that the holidays are not so merry and bright. God knows where you are. He doesn’t waste our hurts, but desires to draw closer to Him through them. In the wake of your pain, where are you looking?
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
God’s wrath is not a Divine blemish on His character.
Yes, many there are who turn away from a vision of God’s wrath as though they were called to look upon some blotch in the Divine character or some blot upon the Divine government. But what saith the Scriptures? As we turn to them we find that God has made no attempt to conceal the facts concerning His wrath. He is not ashamed to make it known that vengeance and fury belong unto Him. His own challenge is, “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand. For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live forever. If I whet my glittering sword, and Mine hand takes hold on judgement; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me.” (Deut. 32:39-41) A study of a concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury and wrath of God than there are to His love and tenderness. Because God is holy, He hates all sin; and because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner. (Psalm 7:11) -- A.W. Pink
God’s wrath is a display of His holiness and justice.
The wrath of God is His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. It is the displeasure and indignation of Divine equity against all evil. It is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin. It is the moving cause of that just sentence which He passes upon evildoers. God is angry against sin because it is a rebelling against His authority, a wrong done to His inviolable sovereignty. Insurrectionists against God’s government shall be made to feel how great that Majesty is which they despise, and how dreadful is that threatened wrath which they so little regard. Not that God’s anger is a malignant and malicious retaliation, inflicting injury for the sake of it, or in return for injury received. No, though God will vindicate His dominion as the Governor of the universe, He will not be vindictive. -- A.W. Pink
The wrath of God received by evildoers is not revenge, it is justice.
God’s wrath should call all people to careful meditation and personal reflection.
The wrath of God is a perfection of the Divine character upon which we need to frequently meditate. First, that our hearts may be duly impressed by God’s detestation of sin. We are ever prone to regard sin lightly, to gloss over its hideousness, to make excuses for it. But the more we study and ponder God’s abhorrence of sin and His frightful vengeance upon it, the more we are to realize its heinousness. Secondly, to beget a true fear in our souls for God: “Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:28) We cannot serve Him acceptably unless there is a due reverence for His awful Majesty and godly fear of His righteous anger; and these are best promoted by frequently calling to mind that “our God is a consuming fire”. Thirdly, to draw out our souls in fervent praise for our having been delivered from “the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
God’s wrath will be a source of rejoicing at the judgment.
“After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’3 Once more they cried out, ‘Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” (Rev. 19:1-3) Great will be the rejoicing of the saints in that day when the Lord will vindicate His majesty, exercise His awful dominion, magnify His justice, and overthrow the proud rebels who have dared defy Him. - A.W. Pink
God's wrath is reality for all those that have not turned to Christ for forgiveness. At the cross He absorbed the wrath of God for all those that will love Him. Today, you are offered the free gift of the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. Will you receive it?
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
When we ignore this call to wait we pay a price. We miss the lessons and experiences that happen during the time of patience. We miss the important lessons of obedience and are left with the sour fruit of disobedience.
Today, wait upon the Lord. He knows the struggle. He knows the answer. He knows what He desires to teach you.
Psalm 25 (ESV)
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
6 Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For your name's sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
19 Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
22 Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Though we may feel rushed and a bit pushed, most of us secretly enjoy every minute of it. Christmas brings a time of special activities, special food and seeing people that we either don’t see very often throughout the year or that we get to see in a different light during the holidays. It isn’t often that people open their homes or have lunch gatherings like they do during Christmas.
People don’t typically open their bank accounts during the year like they do during Christmas. For the most part we cheerfully part with our money as we buy gifts for family and friends. We are on the lookout for kettles in front of stores where we can deposit change in our pockets and we hear people specifically ask about helping the less unfortunate. They look to share money, gifts, food and even time with those who find themselves in a difficult place during the Christmas season.
Is there a common theme on your calendar and in your checkbook during Christmas? Yes, it is sacrifice. During Christmas we are willing to be busier than other times of the year. During Christmas we are willing to share our homes and lives with others. During Christmas we are willing to offer a word of thanks or encouragement. During Christmas we are willing to look for those in need and act on that need. All of this requires sacrifice. During this brief season we are willing to inconvenience ourselves for the betterment of others.
Perhaps you’re wondering where we learned this. It doesn’t come naturally and I say it goes beyond the human spirit and a desire for goodwill. No, sacrifice is at the heart of Christmas. We see it best personified as God takes on flesh and comes in great humility to be born to a teenage virgin among the livestock on a night that causes angels to sing with joy. Sacrifice is best seen as God draws near to make a way for us to be with Him. Sacrifice is Christmas. Sacrificial love, service and generosity. It is the joy of Christmas.
Friday, December 04, 2009
I’ll admit that I struggle while watching the scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold is trapped in the attic and ends up watching old home movies from Christmases past. As the tears roll down his cheeks I can’t help but be carried back to memories from my own childhood where traditions were established and memories were made. Reminiscing is good, but it can also be dangerous.
Listen to what Ecclesiastes 7:10 says, “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” The passage is found in the context of someone who is struggling. The writer is cautioning them in this verse to keep from looking to the past for escape, and in the next verse he cautions them to avoid to looking to the future for their inheritance which would be another form of escape. It is quite remiscient of what Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious about itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” However, our point here is thinking about looking back, not ahead.
Why is it dangerous to look to the past or to the “good ole days” for our rescue? I can think of a few reasons.
Our Rose-Colored Glasses
First, the past is usually not as rosy as we remember it. Sure we have memories of hard things that have happened in life, but when we look back upon our good memories they tend to get better with age. We forget about the stress or inconvenience that was really going on at that time. As we think we think about those holiday gatherings or momentous occasions we tend to forget that there was great tension in some part of it. Often our memories of the past are not quite accurate because they have been swayed by our sincere desires to make them better.
God Is At Work Today
Second, looking back may cause us to lack appreciation for what God is doing in our lives today. By nature we are contrastors. I like this brand of peanut butter better than another. I like this song better than another. You get the idea. If we don’t guard ourselves in this type of thinking we’ll convince ourselves that God was better to us then or life was just better back then. Again, that is probably not the case. Remember, there was sin and struggle back then as well. Perhaps we have chosen to forget about that element of the memory. God is faithful. The Bible says that He does not change. He desires to actively work in the lives of His people today. Don’t miss how He wants to work in you and through you today because you can’t get your eyes off of the past.
Please hear me here, I am not calling you to forget the past. But, I am calling you to make the most of the moment God has given you to glorify Him and love others.
So, this is a blog and not book and I am only going to give you two of my reasons. What are some reasons you can think of that make the truth of Ecclesiastes 7:10 true and relevant for you?
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Are You Lenient?
Later on I began looking at this word reasonableness and found that it actually points to fairness, but also mixes in the ideas of patience and leniency as well. Paul continually points the readers of Philippians to be kind to one another and long suffering with one another because of the kindness and leniency Christ has shown them as believers. That is consistent, then, when we think of being reasonable because the Lord is at hand. He is aware of the situation and knows your real needs (and motives). Paul then instructs us to deal with anxiety and being treated unfairly through prayer, supplication (telling God our requests) and thanksgiving.
Are You Dependent?
The Bible is teaching us that we don’t have to be consumed with whether something is fair or not when we are depending upon God’s strength and deliverance. Is our trust in what we can accomplish, what others can do for us or how Christ will deliver us? When I am trusting in Christ to care for me and meet my needs I am able to show patience, mercy and forgiveness to others. In fact, when I am fully depending on Him I am not overwhelmed when someone takes advantage of me. Lord, please move me to this way of living. Will you ask for this same help from Christ today?
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
What is the greater miracle? For God to heal someone or to give them the strength to endure great difficulty while maintaning a loving heart, a quiet spirit and a mind of perseverance. Certainly it is a wonderful miracle to see someone healed and returned to their typical routine; but isn’t it more inspiring for us to see someone persevere with their faith not only in tact, but stronger at the end of the difficulty? Which of the two has the greatest long-term impact on family members and the church? Yet, which one do we prayer toward most often? I think I might be guilty of praying more for healing rather than this great perseverance.
What is your struggle? How are you suffering at this moment? How are you praying for those that are struggling? As you suffer, as you pray and as you seek and give encouragement remember God’s words to Paul as he struggled with a “thorn in his flesh”. God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12) Pray for greater dependence on God’s power and that He may be magnified even through your struggle. Then, don’t just pray, seek to glorify Him with your attitude, words and actions.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. 2 Timothy 1:8-14