Toxic or Thankful?

Air Pollution

The E.P.A. sets high standards for air quality to protect us from breathing toxic chemicals in the environment.  There is another form of air pollution that, while still legal by government standards, is just as toxic to our health and to the health of those around us.  It’s called complaining. Opportunities to complain are everywhere, inspired by annoying neighbors, heavy traffic, careless drivers, illnesses, politics, the news, a harsh boss, the weather, our kids, our spouses, and so on.

And yet in Philippians 2:14, the Bible commands us to do everything without complaining or arguing. Everything! James 3:10 goes further to say that blessing and cursing should not come out of the same mouth. So why do we invest so much time and effort into speaking negatively about those things that rub us the wrong way?

Our culture tells us that it’s all about me, and when me is negatively impacted by the surrounding world, something must be wrong.  While an individual’s rights are certainly important, God, not self, has and always will be the center of the universe.  What if we began to see the inconveniences of life as divine “set-ups” through which God will develop our character, perseverance, and trust in Him? Are we willing to make the effort to bless that person that drives us crazy or do we stay stuck in how we are personally, negatively impacted? How do we effectively learn to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds (James 1:2)?

The antidote for toxic complaining is to intentionally develop a thankful heart.

Consider the story about a young boy adopted from an island in the Philippines where hot water is not available.  The adoptive father taught his son about hot running water by holding his hand under the faucet and gradually increasing the water temperature.  Now part of his new family in the U.S,. the young son comes downstairs from his morning shower expressing thanks and delight over the availability of hot water!  What a rich example of appreciation for what appears to us to be such a simple, staple of life!

Humans have approximately 30,000 thoughts per day.  Every thought releases a neuro-chemical response into our bodies.  Knowing that 75-95% of all illness finds its roots in toxic thoughts should compel us to cultivate joy in ourselves and others by starting with the foundational premise of thankfulness for every blessing as well as genuine appreciation for the uphill challenges that can serve to make us stronger.

An attitude of thanksgiving should be our default disposition, regardless of the swirl around us, as our declaration to the watching world that every good and perfect thing comes from God (James 1:17).  We must talk to God about those things that threaten to wear us down (Philippians 4:6) while maintaining a genuinely thankful heart because we have been blessed with so much!

If you woke up tomorrow with everything and everyone you thanked God for today, what would you have?

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Resting in the Lord

What exactly does it mean to “rest” in the Lord?  Are we all supposed to take long naps and do nothing? At the root of the word “rest” is the meaning to stay or remain in one place, free from what disquiets us.  John 15:4 explains it so well, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Resting in the Lord means to stay completely one with Him, never leaving that space or place where you and He are one and the same. He knows your thoughts and quiets you with His.

A terrific personal barometer of how well you are “resting” in the Lord comes from 2 Thessalonians 3:16 that says, “The Lord of peace himself will give you peace at all times an in every way.” So whether you are splashing in ankle-deep water in a cool brook or swimming alone in the deepest place of the ocean against a formidable current, God’s peace can always rule and reign in your heart.  The power of His peace is what allows you to live obedient to His command to not be anxious for anything (Philippians 4:6)!

Are you living upset, frustrated, or worried?  God’s peace is your promised inheritance!  Peace is a place that is only found in Jesus.  Stop agreeing with the enemy about your fears and frustrations and ask the Lord to teach you how to remain in the power of His peace at all times. Run like a small child to the Father’s lap and stay there until He allows you to see your circumstances through His all-powerful, all-knowing eyes.  Allow Him to show you the infinite extent of His unfailing love and faithfulness towards you. Upgrade your fearful thoughts by trading them in for His eternal perspective. Insist on your inheritance of deep, lasting peace by living determined to remain in Christ no matter what!

Swimmer

Command Central

in charge

“The Spirit is the first power we practically experience, but the last power we come to understand.”  –Oswald Chambers

Without our realizing it, it is only by the Holy Spirit’s revelation of Jesus to us that we can enter into His saving power, and the moment we do, we also receive all of the holiness of Christ in us because of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence. What an incredible reality! At the most basic level, the Holy Spirit is a reflection of our Heavenly Father’s great generosity!  He gives us the Holy Spirit as a gift when we ask for it, and in turn, the Holy Spirit gives us all wisdom and understanding! He teaches us all things and reminds us of everything Jesus has said.

The Holy Spirit fills us (Acts 2:4), reveals knowledge (Luke 2:26; Ephesians 3:5), encourages us (Acts 9:31), gives us His power (Acts 1:8), emboldens us to speak (Acts 4:31), leads us out into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1), carries us to unknown places (Revelation 21:10) or prevents us from going places we should not (Acts 16:6).  Further, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that sanctifies us (Romans 15:16) and helps us guard the good gift of Christ in us (2 Timothy 2:14). The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts (Hebrews 2:4) and in Him we are seated in Heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).

A life hidden in Christ is a life that is both surrendered to and empowered by the Holy Spirit’s leading in all matters.  Are all of your life’s choices submitted to the One who knows you best and has your best at heart?  Do you walk boldly in the direction that the Holy Spirit reveals or brashly in the direction of your own choosing, asking God to be your safety net if things go badly? Who is in charge of your “command central?” May today be the day that you surrender all control of every one of your life circumstances to the Lord, trusting that God will direct your steps through the power of the Holy Spirit as guarded by His Word and the counsel of mature believers.

Isaiah 30:21 says, Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’  God is eager for you to hear His voice and follow His leading. He longs for you to give up your control in exchange for His, and He always makes a better way! But remember that even if you make your best effort of surrendered obedience to Him and still you turn left when you should have turned right, have no fear, for the LORD is in both places.  He will teach you great and mighty things all along your journey as you set your greatest heart’s desire to remain hidden in Christ and allow Him to have all control.

2018 – A New Era

All Things NewAs we ring in the New Year, our hearts turn to expectant hope because of the infinite possibilities that lie ahead. There’s something about the word “new” that causes us to consider that this year might be different in limitless good ways. After all, God has given us the ability to discern the times and the seasons (Mark 13:28).

What’s especially significant about this New Year is the purposeful alignment with the number “8.” In the Hebrew calendar, the year 5778 began on September 20, 2017. The number “7” represents completion. As 5777 came to a close, the Lord brought completion to lots of chapters and seasons in so many lives, and urged us to not be afraid to “turn the page” to the new chapter. (We can get very comfortable with where we are, even if it’s not an ideal place—at least we know what we’re dealing with.) After all, He is the one writing our stories, so why would we fear the unknown? With the Hebrew year 5778 in full swing, coupled with the ushering in of 2018, how great is our anticipation when we understand that “8” represents “new beginnings” or a “new era.” Consider that God spoke eight times to create the world and everything in it before He commissioned man to rule over His creation. He chose the eighth day to mark the beginning of the new week. He saved eight people in the ark to usher in a fresh start for mankind. God commanded Moses to circumcise newborn male children on the eighth day after their birth (Leviticus 12:3), a sign of His covenant with them. Jesus was circumcised at eight days old. Eight is the personal number of Jesus. Eight signifies resurrection and regeneration. And, Pentecost took place on the eighth day of the seventh week.

According to God’s intention for this year of “eight,” we delight in declaring that 2018 is a year full of the earthly manifestation of the Lord’s many promises to us. We thank Him that He is always in the process of making everything new, including us (Revelation 21:5). During the recent past, He has been perfecting and refining our individual and corporate relationship with Him, bringing us into a greater one-ness with Him so that we can be trusted to carry the fullness of His Holy Presence. We have sought the power of His Holy Spirit to create in us clean hands and a pure heart. We have delighted to linger in the light of His perfect love. We have been brought into agreement with Him regarding our deepest hearts’ desires (Psalm 37:4). In 2018, the Lord will take great delight in bringing those heart desires into reality in the earth, so that we might see a new and greater degree of manifestation of His Kingdom for our good and His eternal glory!

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen! (Ephesians 3:20-21)

God With Us

Angels Announce

By God’s design and desire, man was made to walk and talk and fellowship with the Creator in His garden.  God delighted in His fellowship with Adam and Eve. His desire from the beginning was for an intimate relationship with His creation.  On that history-changing night in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, an angel appeared with the Heavenly Host to announce good news and the cause of great joy amidst the darkness; that God had invaded earth with His manifest presence once again in the form of an innocent babe—our Savior.

When the Kingdom of Heaven is made manifest on the earth, the glory of God’s presence overtakes every shadow, and history makes note of the event. Today, because Jesus shed His blood on the cross to forgive our sins and then deposited the Holy Spirit in each one of His saints, His Kingdom is abundantly present on earth every place we go.  So, as we remember the miracle of Jesus’ birth, may our joy be inspired by the beauty of God’s enduring holy presence and His brilliant plan to cause His glory to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. May the whole earth know not only that we celebrate history (or better yet, “HIS-story”) during this season, but also that we delight in the blessing of God’s presence because Jesus made a way!

May the peace, joy, hope, promise and presence of Jesus’ birth rule and reign in your heart today and always! How blessed are we to be a significant part of HIS-story as it unfolds!

Thy Kingdom Come!

Kingdom of Heaven

John the Baptist and Jesus both declared, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” They understood that holiness is a requirement for entering into the Kingdom. We are to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.  Jesus taught about His Father’s Kingdom more than any other topic. The Kingdom of Heaven is real—more real than the ground under our feet.  It is a Kingdom of light. The Kingdom of Heaven is now, yesterday, and tomorrow, not just for when we “get to heaven.” It will never end. It has a King – Jesus—who rules with a scepter of justice.  And Jesus taught His disciples to pray that his Father’s Kingdom would come to earth, so that earth could be like Heaven.  He has given us the keys to His Kingdom, made us to be His Kingdom, and has called us as priests to serve God and to reign on the earth.

So how do we operate in and cooperate with God’s Kingdom?  Jesus sent His disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom in tandem with healing the sick and driving out demons, for the Kingdom of God is not a Kingdom of words but of power. It is not our power, but rather, the power of Jesus indwelling each one of us that enables us to accomplish the “greater things” of His Kingdom. We are to encourage, comfort, and urge others to live lives worthy of God who has called us all into His Kingdom and glory.

How do we discern the presence of God’s Kingdom all around us? The Kingdom is ever present in our midst. But Jesus said that we could not see the Kingdom of God unless we are born again, and that we could not enter into it unless we are born of water and the Spirit. He declared that we must enter into it as little children—humble, unassuming, trusting.

Lord, help us to hear and understand, and to perceive and to see the glory of Your Kingdom all around us! May Your Kingdom come and Your will be done!

Faithful God

Faithful God

Merriam-Webster provides layers of definitions for the word “faithful.”  Faithful means steadfast in allegiance, loyal, firm in adherence to promises, conscientious, given with strong assurance, and true to the facts, a standard, or to an original.

The Scriptures are replete with references to how abundantly faithful our God is.  So when He promises to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19), to work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), to stand by us and give us strength (1 Timothy 4:17), or to never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5) we can trust that the One who promises is truly faithful.  If we learn to weigh God’s faithfulness against any trial that would threaten to overtake us, we begin to understand how it is possible to “consider it pure joy” when we face trials of many kinds. Each and every trial presents a fresh opportunity for us to see the Lord glorify Himself, provides us with a new testimony about our faithful God to share with others, and builds our enduring faith for the next day and the next.

His faithfulness is our shield (Psalm 91:4). Knowing that the Father’s faithfulness is absolutely perfect, how can we possibly make room for fear, doubt, lack, or despair in our lives? Whoever trusts in the Lord is safe (Proverbs 29:25)! As His beloved, our response to His unfailing faithfulness must be saturated with incredible joy, deep peace, unwavering hope, tremendous thanksgiving, and confident trust that we are well protected from all harm by His faithfulness. Let nothing hold you back from hiding your every care in His heart and stepping back to see what He will do in response if you will allow Him to. How great is His faithfulness!