No Promise of Comfort

It’s probably the fourth time in the last few weeks that I’ve read or heard a devotional on comfort. And I know that when I hear something that many times, God is trying to tell me something.

Maybe you’re like me. You want God’s best. You even pray for God’s will to be done. But when life gets hard or the devil attacks, you wonder if it’s worth it. Lately, I have found myself uttering these words over and over again,

“Why can’t I just stay
where it’s comfortable?”

It occurred to me this morning that Satan has lulled many of us to sleep with the promise of comfort. We are stuffed full with the pleasures of this world, unable and unwilling to move from the table. This imagery got me thinking of a character in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

In the story, The White Witch, as she was called, lulled Edmund, one of the Pevensie children, into submission through a delicacy known as, Turkish Delight. He became entranced by her sweet treats and by her promise of power. See, Edmund didn’t realize that he was already predestined for royalty. But the queen knew this, and she set out to destroy Edmund before his promise could be fulfilled. Edmund easily traded God’s purpose and plan for a comfortable seat at the enemy’s table.

lwwi

How many of us have done the same thing without even realizing it? It’s so subtle. We are Christians. We try to live the “Christian” life. We go to church and do good deeds. We even read our Bible and strive for a closeness with our Savior. But would we be willing to trade all of our comforts to follow Him with our entire being? I always thought I would until that thought became more of a reality, and the calling to give up some of my comforts has caused some tension in my spiritual walk.

In the story, the other Pevensie children had to go through a severe battle in order to reach their promised throne. They chose to stand with Aslan, the allegorical Christ figure of the story, instead of the White Witch who offered an easier way to riches. In the climax of the story, Aslan sacrificed his life for Edmund so that he would have a second chance to sit at God’s table.

Christ has already made that same sacrifice for us and many of us are now living our second chance. Why should we be chained once again to the “yoke of slavery” even if it does have the appearance of being easier and lighter? In reality, it may be that the enemy of this world is stealing God’s intended purposes for our lives.

Jesus never promised us a comfortable life. But He did promise us an abundant life, one filled with joy and hope, along with an eternity as part of His royal family.

 

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In the terminal, waiting for the bus to take me to Gloryland.

I admit, I don’t really like to think about heaven all that much. Ever since I was little, thoughts of eternity would suffocate my mind until I cried myself to sleep. I’m not sure why that bothered me so. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t alone. But now, I’ve found that as my relationship with the Lord has deepened (and maybe my trust has too), I have begun to see the significance of the verse:

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. – Colossians 3:2

This mindset is extremely difficult for a number of reasons. I mean, earth is where our loved-ones live. It’s where our careers are and where our hopes lie. It’s where we spend our time, our money, our…Oh…now I see the reason why God encourages us to think on things above.

There’s no stopping an individual with a heart pointed towards heaven. Everything he or she does will be for the glory of God. They will love their family, while cherishing every little second. They will serve in their careers, realizing people’s eternities hang in the balance. They will spend their money on things that matter, things that will last well beyond their time on earth. And maybe, if we fixed our eyes on heaven just a little bit more, we’d find more hope and less darkness, more purpose and less despair, more reason to live and equal reason to die.

Think about it, even when you’re waiting for a plane or a bus, you still hustle about airports and terminals biding your time. Yet, as you’re flipping through a magazine or ordering a latte, what are you doing the entire time? You’re looking at your watch. You’re keeping track of the time. You’re making the most of every second, listening and awaiting your departure call because we all know, that’s when the real adventure will begin. It’s just like life on Earth in that way. This isn’t our home. We’re only biding our time until our departure call. As we fix our sights on heaven, let’s make the most of every opportunity.

If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Savior, please consider accepting Him today. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Heaven is not going to be filled with good people. We could never do enough good to cover all the mistakes we have made. No, heaven is filled with sinners who put their faith in Jesus Christ. One prayer to Jesus can change everything both now and forevermore. Be blessed.

 

The Absence Greatness

I’ve been a Christian most of my life, but I still have so many questions. It’s usually the same ones too: What’s God’s plan for my life? What is Sovereign will vs. free will? What is my calling? Etc.

We look at Biblical men and women such as Noah, Moses, Esther, David and so on, and we question our own existence and purpose in light of theirs. We know that Noah was called to build an ark. Moses was called to to lead the Israelites out of slavery, and Esther was called to be queen in order to save God’s people from annihilation.

When I read these stories, I can’t help but wonder, What am I ‘called’ to do?

But if you think about it, they were all called in different stages of life, and most of them had to wait a long time before God’s purpose was revealed. Noah was called to build the ark when he was over 500 years old. David, anointed as a young boy, wasn’t seated on the throne until much later. Israel had to endure 500 years of God’s silence before the coming of the Messiah.

It makes me wonder, What in the world did they do in the meantime?

This is where their seemingly extraordinary lives becomes much more commonplace, and relatable. They had to do what we all have to do–Get up. Go to work or school. Clean up the house. Make lunch. Go to bed.

We often see Biblical heroes on a highlight reel. We see an ark being built. Dreams being interpreted. And seas being parted. It’s easy to get caught up in such Grand Miracles. We forget that these fantastic highlights are a result of God’s magnificent power on display.

We want our own lives to mirror such displays of greatness, but more often that not, it just doesn’t, at least not of that magnitude. No matter what, we can’t allow discouragement to set in when our lives don’t look how we imagine them to be. We have to remember that Joseph was thrown into jail and forgotten before he became a great leader. Daniel was a prisoner of war. David was chased by Saul for years before his reign began.  The years we don’t see must have been spent praying, seeking God, learning to listen, and a lot of waiting; otherwise, they would have never been qualified for the position to which they were called.

We are all called, yet, the nuances of that calling will look different for each individual according to God’s ultimate plan and purpose for all of humanity. Some may be called when they are young. Others may not be called until their Golden Years. As Paul writes, we are all required to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” Despite the times when life seems ordinary or mundane, we must continue trusting in the greatness of a mighty God.

Let’s be honest, not everyday willbe a Grand Miracle, but with the right attitude, every day can be grand, and with the right perspective, we will see miracles in every situation.

This is War

This past week I started a new Bible study based on Priscilla Shirer’s book, Armor of God. I’m only two days into the 7-week study and I am loving it. Too often, I get so caught up in the day-to-day monotony of this world, that I forget we are at war. Sometimes, we think our war is the Indy 500 traffic (if you live in South Florida), the ornery woman at the register, or that student who just refuses to listen. But can I tell you that they are not the problem. The Bible reminds us of this when Paul writes, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).

We devote so much time fashioning our words, emotions, and attitudes into weapons in a vain effort to strike down those who have offended us. We are the only casualty in those scenarios as we are at the receiving end of frustration, anger, loss of relationships, and bitterness. If you ask me, it looks like Satan is the only winner in the battles of the flesh. So, what are we to do? Well, if our war is in the spiritual realm, then maybe that is where our battle should be waged.

In her book, Priscilla highlights that fact that prayer is essential to the battle. Ephesians 6: 13-17 tells us how to “put on the armor of God” as Paul eloquently reminds us of our weapons of spiritual warfare, but we often miss the most important weapon. Look at Ephesians 18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and request…” Putting on the armor without praying is like going into war only partially dressed. Your defenses are easily left open to attack.

Prayer requires precision and intentionality. It’s not easy. The devil wants to distract us in every way possible. He knows that he is in a losing battle, and he realizes his time is almost up. He knows that a believer in Jesus Christ will never be his, so instead, he uses his tactics to keep us tired, busy, frustrated, and essentially, useless for God’s Kingdom purpose. Prayer keeps us on the frontline. It also keeps us connected to the Father, so when we can’t go on, He is there and steps in to fight on our behalf.

As you proceed to put on the armor of God this week, remember to pray. Pray for strength as you face the struggles of this world. Pray for love as you are confronted with those who wage war against you. Pray for wisdom when you find yourself face-to-face against a threat. Pray to be filled with immeasurable peace as you remember the battle is won, and you are already seated in Victory in the heavenly realms.

Hope in the Desert

I don’t know about you, but I am busy. At least I feel busy most of the time. Even if I am not physically doing something, my mind seems to be in a constant state of work, either I’m mentally creating, going over my lesson plans, or thinking about my to-do list. I have noticed that in one’s refusal to get quiet before God, He sometimes takes drastic measures to get our attention. Surely, if you’ve spent any time in Christiandom, you’ve heard of “desert experiences” or “seasons of drought”. These can be as traumatic as a sickness or job loss or as subtle as a flat tire, coffee on a new shirt, or just a real awful day. In seasons of drought, it often seems that God is far away. But maybe, God is using these moments of His silence to show us just how far the distance has grown.

A quick study of Scripture will show just how often Jesus retreated to the desert places. After healing many people in Capernaum, Luke writes, “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5:15-16). After the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, Mark says, “After telling everyone good-bye, [Jesus] went up into the hills by himself to pray” (Mark 6:46). Unlike us, Jesus sought out the desert. Jesus knew that he needed the quiet barrenness to meet with God. He needed to get away from the people, the busyness, and the noise of city life. In the desert, he could reflect on His mission and refocus His attention on His purpose. He understood just how desperately He needed God’s strength to carry out His arduous journey.

What is taking up your time? Is it a ministry? Is it a job? Is it family? While God is giving us all these avenues to glorify His name, we must make sure that we take significant time to meet with Him. As a teacher, I experienced extreme burnout last school year. I was drained. For 180 days, all I could do was cling to Jesus. Even into the first month and a half of summer, I spent it at His feet. At the end of the appointed time, I finally knew what Jesus meant when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Thankfully, God worked through my for the entire school year; there was no way I could have done it without Him. I am even more thankful that while I still cling to Him just as much as I did last year, He has given me a new strength for the current year.

Too often we wait until we are suffering in the unquenchable desert before we even think about asking for help. How much better would it be if we stopped frequently on our journey, and allowed the One with rivers of Living Water to nourish our weary souls?

Stop often. Sit daily. Journey more.

 

What I learned about church through #PokémonGO

(Photo: http://www.13wmaz.com)

It was like something out of a horror movie. Hundreds of them coming on foot and by car, flooding a vacant lot, heads turned downward, eyes glazed, slowly moving through the night. If I wouldn’t have known better, I would’ve thought it was a zombie apocalypse. But it wasn’t that at all. It was hundreds of teenagers gathering together to play the new Pokémon GO game. It was like nothing I had ever witnessed before.

I was flabbergasted and shocked that so many people would come together for one common goal. I couldn’t help but laugh at their essentially useless goal. In a world of ISIS and police shootings, hundreds of people are preoccupied with fake monsters in some alternate universe with minimal human interaction. I accusingly thought, “How can they all get together like this for no real purpose? There’s something seriously wrong with this picture.”

And of course only God, in his infinite mercy, gently corrected me. He reminded me of another occasion when people gather together for one reason and for one purpose. Yet now, this Pokémon game had me wondering if outsiders were asking the same thing of the church: “What are they doing in there? Do they even have a real purpose?”

Hundreds of us gather each week. We sing a few songs. We contort our faces in adoration. We stare down in our Bible apps. We sing a closing song. We get up, and we go home. But how big was our impact? What did we do, really? I can’t help but imagine what would happen if hundreds of Christians gathered outside the church in unity, love, and service. What would it look like if we walked out of the church building on Sunday, entered into the local neighborhood, and began meeting the needs of the people there? It would be shocking and strange. And it would be exactly what the world needed.

I can’t claim to have all the answers, but I sense that if ever there was a time when the world needed Jesus and Christians committed to serving them, it is now. The harvest is ready. May we be willing to do the work.

(…Or at the very least, maybe you can place a few Pokémon monsters in the location of your church this Sunday so hundreds of young people will show up in search of something truly out of this world.)

Rejoice!

“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”–Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)

You may have heard this verse before. Maybe you even sang the song in Sunday school. Some mornings, like today, I even wake up with that verse in my head. It’s a nice little chorus, and I always thought it was a fitting way to jump into a new day. But as I went to check the verse this morning, it appeared to be so much more than a simple child’s refrain.

Like many verses in the Bible, this one is full of meaning, and I really suggest that you read the whole chapter to really get a feel for why the Psalmist was rejoicing. Taunted and hated by his enemy, he had every reason to fear, and yet, line after line he is praising, rejoicing, and giving thanks to the Lord Almighty, in spite of his bleak circumstances.

And yet, here is what we can glean:

  • God is still in control.
    The fact that the earth is still spinning and the sun is making its way over the horizon gives me hope to believe that the God of heaven and earth is still on the throne. We can find in peace in knowing that no matter the political landscape or the thoughtless violence, God is still victorious, and He is still working everything for His ultimate good.
  • God is still loving.
    With a new day freshly dawned, it’s a good time to forgo yesterday’s mistakes and shortcomings. Lamentations 3:22-23 reads, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Today we have been given a second (or a third or a fourth) chance to discover his magnificent, unending love that offers help, hope, forgiveness, and healing.

  • God is still faithful.
    Not only do we get another opportunity to witness the power and authority of God, but we also get another chance to sit at the feet of our faithful friend. God, will never leave nor forsake us. He is trustworthy and true. We can go to Him at any time with any need. We can seek solace under His wings and find the comfort we desperately need.

It’s good to know that while we may change, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can place our trust in our eternal God. We can delight in what is called, “today” because we have a God working outside of time on our behalf. What do we have to fear? He’s got this. So, be of good courage and Rejoice! Again, I say, Rejoice!