Writer’s Desk

A Reason To Be Thankful

Thanksgiving. We are blessed to live in a country that sets a day apart to remember the goodness of the Lord!
 
We really should live with an attitude of thankfulness every day. Have you ever asked yourself why it’s sometimes so hard to be thankful?
 
There are lots of reasons, many of them legitimate. It can be hard to be thankful in the face of death, health problems, betrayal from a loved one, financial struggles, work stress, or loneliness. Yet thankfulness is so important! Thankfulness has the power to shift our focus from our circumstances to all God has given us.
 
Psalm 136 really highlights the essence of thankfulness.
 
It begins with “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.”
 
The writer goes on to highlight many of the things for which we can praise and thank God: He alone does miracles, He made the heavens and earth, he created light and day and night, He rescues His people, He leads His people to safety, He overcomes our enemies, He remembers us in our weakness, He saves us, and He provides for us.
 
Maybe you don’t feel that some of that is true in your life right now. Maybe you feel overcome by opposition. Maybe you feel incredibly weak in some or many areas. Maybe you are in danger or hungry. Those situations are all real and are all tough, but there are still things for which you can thank God!
 
You can thank Him for the ability to read. You can thank Him for giving us His word. You can thank Him for the freedoms we have in this great land. You can thank Him for Jesus, and the salvation He so freely gives.
 
The key to thankfulness is repeated over and over in Psalm 136: “His faithful love endures forever.”
 
God’s love for us never wavers, it never changes, and it will never disappear. If that’s not something for which we can be thankful, I don’t know what is!

The Best Superhero

I love a good superhero movie! Not those dark ones that have lots of bad language, gore, and sensuality, but the good fun ones. Our culture has proven that I’m not alone in this.
 
But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why? Why do so many people flock to these movies about grown men and women who put on funny costumes and run around doing crazy things?
 
Maybe it’s because, on some level, we all recognize that we NEED saving.
 
Sure, we like to think we can handle whatever comes our way, but the reality is that we can’t. More often than not, we need someone bigger, someone stronger to swoop in and make things right.
 
When you think about it, these superhero movies mirror the gospel. Most of them come from humble beginnings. They have to persevere through trials and difficult circumstances. They rise to fame and are loved by the general population, but also face tremendous opposition from their enemies. They reach a point where it seems like they’ve been defeated and all hope is lost.
 
Sound familiar? Jesus came from the humblest of backgrounds. He faced temptation from Satan himself. He was constantly on the move, constantly threatened by those who feared or opposed Him. The crowds loved Him – for a while – but the religious leaders wanted nothing more than to kill Him. Then came the cross. It appeared that He’d lost.
 
Until the third day, when His ultimate victory became evident.
 
So the next time you’re discussing the latest superhero movie with someone, why not use that as a launching point to share Jesus? Who knows… maybe the person you’re speaking with will be in a place where they finally recognize that they need saving.
 
Acts 4:12 – “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

How do you respond to the giants in your life?

Do you listen to the lies around you? Or do you really know who you are?
 
I was reading about David and Goliath recently and one phrase stuck out. In 1 Samuel 17:8, Goliath is taunting the Israelites and he says “…You are only the servants of Saul.”
 
The result? The Israelites were terrified. Now, in their defense, this dude was a giant and a fierce warrior. No question. But the Israelites forgot that they weren’t merely Saul’s servants – they were God’s!
 
Contrast David with the rest of the people. He hears the taunts and his response is “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” (vs. 26b)
 
God. Not Saul. David knew the One he really served.
 
When he goes out to fight Goliath, he tells Goliath two very important things:
 
“Today the Lord will conquer you…” (vs. 46a)
“And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues His people, but not with sword or spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and He will give you to us.” (vs. 47)
 
Goliath massively underestimated David, because Goliath incorrectly thought that David served Saul. But David served someone much stronger – David served Almighty God.
 
Do you feel daunted by the battle surrounding you? Perhaps you are listening to your adversary, who wants you to believe you serve someone with limited or no power. Take a lesson from David – remember whose you are! Everyone who calls on the name of Jesus serves Almighty God, whose power is limitless. Fix your gaze on Him, then face down the enemy with boldness. God has already won!

Committed to Complacent

Those who know me know I love music. One of my playlists puts songs in alphabetical order.
 
Yesterday I was listening to the Newsboys’ Committed. It ended and the very next song was Complacent by Luna Halo.
 
As I was chuckling over the irony of these two songs being back to back, God reminded me that this is far too often the story of my life. Sometimes, I am all in. I’m energetic, excited about God and all he’s doing. I’m hearing Him speak, seeing Him work, and sensing Him lead.
 
Then other days? I linger in the land of complacency. It’s a dangerous land, and one that God warns us about pretty harshly.
 
Can you relate?
 
It reminds me of Revelation 3:14-22, where Jesus warns the church in Laodicea about being lukewarm. It’s one of those passages that makes me uncomfortable, because I know that I too often fall into the same category.
 
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16.
But there’s good news! There’s a cure for complacency – it’s more of Jesus! So if you’ve fallen away from church and Christian fellowship, go back. If your Bible is collecting dust, start reading. And if you can’t remember the last time you prayed, why wait?

The Kong or the plush?

With multiple dogs under my roof, playtime is a serious thing. There are 2 favorite toys: a Kong and a squeaky plush. One dog will only chase the Kong. Another will only chase the plush.
 
And then you have my dog Grace.
 
She loves chasing the Kong. She also loves the plush. She’ll chase the Kong but then all of a sudden will notice the plush and wonder if she’s missing out. The end result? She’ll be left standing alone in the middle of the room, while the Kong goes one direction and the plush goes another. Her indecision leaves her empty handed.
 
God showed me that this is the picture of a divided heart.
 
See, sometimes we’re consistently following God. We’re all in. But other times? We get distracted by the things around us.
 
Maybe your first thought is that you don’t have a divided heart, but a divided heart shows up in a variety of ways. We know that God calls us to love others, but sometimes it’s easier to cut them down than build them up. We know we should study God’s word, but it’s so much easier to just turn on the TV and watch mindlessly. We know that God calls us to give of our resources, but that tithe would cover the monthly payment of that new car we want to buy. We know that God calls us to be a part of a Bible-teaching church but honestly, sometimes we just want to sleep in on Sunday mornings.
 
The danger? If we toe the line, we can’t be fully committed to either side. We might be like little Grace, having nothing.
 
We run the danger of being the lukewarm believer warned about in Revelation 3:15-16: “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”
 
The solution? Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
 
Half-hearted devotion never works. Spiritual success only comes when we commit fully to God. Where has a divided heart invaded your life?

To Invest or Not Invest?

Do you struggle to get involved?

It’s challenging for many of us to choose to step into the mess of someone else’s life. Most of us have enough mess in our own that the last thing we want is to get take on more.

I was struck by something that was shared at church last week. A young couple was moving out of state and they shared about their journey. They moved here to go to grad school. They knew it would be a temporary stop for them. She said that her natural inclination was to just get through school and not get involved, particularly with the church.

God reminded her that there is no such thing as temporary time in His kingdom. Transitional periods are intentionally designed by Him.

Life is full of what we view as temporary stops or transitional periods. For most of us, our temptation is to pull back during those times. Investing in relationships and other people takes time and effort and when we “know” we’re not going to be here long, it can be hard to justify that investment.

And yet… Jesus is our example. If anyone knew that His time was temporary, it was Jesus. He KNEW His purpose. He KNEW He came to live in this world for a relatively short time and then He’d die.

Yet He never once chose to pull back from people. Over and over we see Him intentionally stepping into the mess of people’s lives and walking alongside them. He purposefully invested in people, building relationships wherever He went.

If our Savior chose to step into our mess, how can we not do the same for those around us?

So no matter what phase you find yourself in, whether you’re in a place for the “long haul” or “just passing through”, look around. Reach out to others. Get to know them. Share your mess with them and help them in their own mess. God has placed you where you are for a purpose – press in!

Success as Defined by God

Success. It’s a tricky thing, yet something we all seek on some level, isn’t it?
 
We’ve been studying the life of Joseph in church. Joseph is one of my favorite historical figures and I’m thoroughly enjoying the study.
 
Today, the pastor was pointing out how Joseph enjoyed success in everything he did. (Genesis 39:2, 3, 23). Joseph’s secret? God was with him.
 
As I was pondering all this, I recognized that all of this occurred during a time when the world would not define Joseph as particularly successful. First, he was living as a slave in Potiphar’s household. After that, he was in prison.
 
I doubt most of us would define our lives as particularly successful if we found ourselves in those circumstances.
 
Yet, that is precisely the word scripture uses (in the NLT version). This reminded me that God’s definition of success doesn’t necessarily line up with ours – or with that of the world around us.
 
Maybe you don’t feel particularly successful. Maybe the world doesn’t view you as successful. Maybe you’re stuck in a dead-end job. Maybe you don’t have a job. Maybe you feel like you’ve failed as a parent. Maybe you feel like you’re always failing, that you’ve never been successful at anything.
 
God’s definition of success has nothing to do with our circumstances and everything to do with our perspective. Joseph was successful because he trusted God. He recognized that God was with him, no matter where he was or his status in life. God was with him.
 
If you belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ, God is also with you. You may not be 2nd in command over a powerful nation. You might even be stuck in a prison of some sort. Remember that God’s success is not the world’s. Seek Him and wait to see what success He might bring your way.