My Heavenly Coach

A standard practice among coaches is to view a film of the previous game with the players. During that viewing the staff points out each player’s mistakes and good plays. A dedicated player will accept the criticisms and resolve to improve. Such an athlete feels gratitude for the compliments and determines to repeat that behavior the next game.

Their won-lost record at the end of the season hinges largely on the success of such sessions.

If I am serious about playing well for my Heavenly Coach I will eagerly take part in the periodic reviews He makes of my life. At times I will sense Him saying “Bob, you missed an opportunity to be a witness there” or “Bob, that was cruel” or “Bob, that was a selfish attitude.”

Then my reaction should be “You’re right, Lord. I’m sorry. I see now that it was sinful. I confess each of these to you and I will try my best not to repeat them. Please help me. Thank you for forgiving me.”

At other times Coach will say “Bob, you controlled your temper pretty well back there” or “You were extra kind and thoughtful with your family today” or “Your attitude of gratitude was strong last week.”

And my reaction should be “Thank you, Lord. All that is the work of your Spirit. I’m going to work harder to make sure I keep developing the fruit of your Spirit.”

Battle With Sin

Why is it that Christians must have the proper concern about the sin in their lives? After all, we have been promised eternal life walking on golden streets. We have been forgiven. Our everlasting reward is guaranteed. Why should we be concerned about our sins?

The sin that remains in our lives will be a barrier to a close relationship with our Father. It will be a cloud that prevents us from knowing Him more intimately and it will block us from understanding his purpose for our lives. It will block the blessings He has planned for us. . Therefore, as his children we must continually be alert for sin. We must learn to recognize it in  its many forms.

Sin comes in many outwardly attractive shapes, sizes, colors and packages. In reality, it is ugly, deceptive and deadly, but on the surface it is often beautiful and alluring.  It is presented to us through the internet, books, friendships, magazines, TV screens, movies, advertisements and the advice of well-meaning people. It calls to us at night, in the morning and throughout the day. It approaches us at home, at work, in the park, on the lake, in the country and in the city. It invades our thoughts when we are alone or when we are in a crowd. It even calls to us on Sunday morning during church services. it can be loud or soft, bold or shy, smooth or crude.

Sin is everywhere, all the time. Satan, who is a liar and killer, constantly tempts us.

God calls for us to use all our strength to resist sin, but He does not ask for us to do it alone. He has given us the Holy Spirit and in Philippians 4:13 He promises we will be able to do all things through Christ. All things certainly includes resisting sin.

Our minds are the battlefield on which we must defeat sin. We can be successful only if we give God control of our thoughts and actions. In James 1:5 He has promised us his wisdom to use in this battle. Through the Holy Spirit He will direct our fight against sin. If we follow his directions our lives will be increasingly free from Satan.

And then we can give our heavenly Father all the glory, praise and gratitude.

Our Need For Companionship

Four times in the first chapter of Genesis, God looked at his creation and “saw that it was good.” Then, in verse eighteen of chapter two, He considered Adam’s aloneness and said “it is not good” (emphasis mine).

At first it might seem that when God evaluated his creative efforts He realized He had made a mistake or left something undone. Adam was alone and it was not good. Had God simply forgotten to create woman? Was Adam left to play a life of solitaire because God had overlooked something? Of course not!

God had a purpose when He allowed Adam to begin life without companionship. Just before Eve was created, God caused all the animals to pass by Adam (Genesis 2:19-20). Adam saw that throughout the animal kingdom there was male and female. Only he had no counterpart.

God wanted Adam to realize he was alone so he would place greater value on Eve when she was provided for him. From the very beginning, human nature has caused us to have greater appreciation for a blessing if we have spent some time without it. (We don’t realize the value of water until the well runs dry.)

We, like Adam, have a God-given, built-in need for human companionship. He intentionally put within us the need to communicate and fellowship with other people. This need is evident in all stages of life. The infant that stops crying instantly when his mother picks him up and the child who cries out “Mommy, mommy, watch me” are responding to this aspect of being human. The herd instinct that drives teens is evidence of its presence. Wedding vows are exchanged because of it – and sometimes repudiated due to the lack of it. The elderly can lose the desire to continue living if they don’t have it.

Satan recognizes this need and uses it to harm and tempt us. He tells us that we can never be happy until we find a human companion. He leads us to believe we are alone because we are somehow unworthy or unattractive or socially deficient. He tries to make us feel we are incomplete if we are alone.

And often, in response to Satan’s prompting, we begin to base our life on the search for a person whose presence will fill our emptiness. We evaluate others on the standard of “Do I want this person to be my companion and friend?” If we feel they do not somehow measure up they are rejected and the search goes on, often in the wrong places.

How does God want us to deal with this need until He provides us with the companions He has chosen for us? First of all, we must understand that such companionship does not necessarily contain a sexual component. Companionship can come from either gender and does not require the breaking of the seventh commandment.

We must learn to look to Jesus as the perfect companion. In John 15:13-15 Jesus offered us his friendship. And in John 14:23 Jesus said he and the Father will come and live with those who love and obey Him. How’s that for companionship?

Jesus wants us to make him Number One in every part of our life. He will provide all we need in this endeavor because He is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20)

Teaching On The Way to Emmaus

     The episode on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-36) is beautiful to me because it is so instructive.
     Just a week before, these two men believed they had found in Jesus the answer to all their political and spiritual questions. But their hopes that He would "redeem Israel" had been dashed. They were confused and disappointed followers of Jesus. (Don't know about you, but I've been there and done that.)
     But Jesus specifically and intentionally went to them in their struggle. (And He finds me in mine.)
     After walking with them for awhile He started to leave them with only a partial understanding. They asked for more teaching and He obliged. (He gives me more when I ask.)
     In verse 27 Jesus used the scriptures to teach about himself. What Scriptures? The Old Testament, because that is all they had.
     I would love to have been there and heard Jesus tell about himself and his relationship to those Old Testament writers. He could have said "I know exactly what Isaiah and David meant because I was right there with them when they wrote those words." That is really teaching with authority..." (Mark 1:22)
     And then they went and told others.

I Can

If I apply Paul’s “I can do all things through Christ…” (Philippians 4:13) to my life, it means I can run errands for a shut-in neighbor and then sit and listen for the hundredth time as she recounts her memories of childhood. It means I can ladle soup in a homeless shelter. It means I can baby sit for a single mother while she goes grocery shopping. It means I can take a four-hour shift beside the ICU bed of a relative I hardly know and do not particularly like. It means I can share Jesus on a bench at Wal Mart. It means I can forgive completely. It mean I can show love to those who criticize me.

Any time my pastor or other church leader asks me to do something I must never say “I can’t” without first asking God if He wants me to. When I am following his will the answer “I don’t want to” is not an option, unless I immediately say “But I’ll do it if He wants me to.” In the Philippians verse the words “through Christ” are the key to life application. If, as I pray, I am led to believe God does not want me to do it I may say “I won’t” but I must never say “I can’t”.

Attitudes and Actions

In Matthew 5:20 Jesus called his disciples to a spiritual level higher than that of their religious leaders. He was asking the disciples to grow beyond those who led their times of worship and taught in their synagogues.

To the disciples this must have sounded impossible. Those religious leaders very carefully followed the law of Moses and the many interpretations thereof. They were the theologians and seminary professors of their day. They wrote the Sunday School literature and scriptural commentaries. They tithed, attended all the festivals, gave special offerings, prayed three times every day, fasted several times each year, and sacrificed at the correct times and in the appropriate manner. How could these “working stiffs” ever exceed such righteousness?

They could love their neighbors!

Jesus did not fault the actions of these leaders. Their actions were impeccable. But He knew their hearts (Luke16:15). He called his followers to a set of attitudes that were more pleasing to the Father. He called them to love others. 

If God were to call us to judgement today, would we want him to judge us on our actions or our attitudes? Which come closer to the meeting his standards?

What should be our primary attitude toward God? Love! (Matthew 22:37)

What should be our primary attitude toward people?  Love! (Matthew 22:39)

What actions should we take to show God we love Him? Obey Him! (John 14:15)

What actions should we take to show others we love them? Serve them! (John 13:4-5)

Bit & Pieces, Odds & Ends…16

A craftsman is someone who does accurate, skilled work with tools. He values his tools. He uses them, but never abuses them. He uses them correctly and properly. He repairs them if they are damaged and keeps them in good repair. He cleans them after each use and stores them properly. After all, his reputation is based on the quality of work he is able to do with those tools.
If I am letting God use me as His tool, will He treat me any differently.
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There is no record that Jesus ever hurried or worried. If I am successful in becoming more like Him I will do less of both. He said "Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew ll:28-30)This is for saved people as well as lost people.
     Come reminds me that I must take some initiative. I must take action to go to Him.          
     Me tells me I must go to Jesus, not some church or religious leader.
     Give indicates that rest is a free gift and cannot be earned.
     Rest includes the ability to not fret, worry or fear.
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      I have asked God to "show me your face." I have said to Him "Help me to know you more fully."
     His reply seems to be "Why should I? The knowledge you already have of me is not being consistently and effectively shared with others. Are you asking for your own comfort and gratification or so that you may be a better witness?"
     Isaiah saw God in a new and glorious way (Isaiah 6:1-9) But God's revelation of Himself has a purpose beyond Isaiah's spiritual growth. God was preparing him for a mission.
     God knew Isaiah would obey. Do I have a core of disobedience that keeps God from further revealing himself to me?

Burden Sharing

One of the most attractive aspects of Christianity, one of the most cherished promises of Scripture, is in 1Peter 5:7 (Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.) Over and over , we go to the Lord in prayer, acknowledging that the cares of our life are over-whelming. To the best of our ability, we follow the instruction of this verse and give God our concerns.

And, faithful to His word, He lifts those burdens from us. He allows us to continue our daily life with optimism and freedom from fear.

Then our daily prayers can begin and end with expressions of gratitude for this load-lifting, burden-removing promise. We praise Him, privately and publicly, for His faithfulness.

But Galatians 6:2 puts new light on burden-sharing when Paul tells us we are to “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”

Burden-sharing is to be horizontal as well as vertical. Just as the Father helps us carry our load, we are instructed to help others carry the weights their life has given them. Our motive for this should be our love for them. Our willingness should be indicated by an attitude and question of “May I help you?” toward everyone we meet…and really mean it.

We hesitate to become burden bearers because we fear we will be overwhelmed by the load someone might pass to us. We don’t trust Paul’s assurance that “I can do all things through Christ which  strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13). Such lack of faith often prevents from being obedient to his command.

We must learn to trust that our Father will not give us a heavier load of our burdens, or the burdens of others, than we can carry with His help.

Guidance

Dear Lord, give me the humility to ask for your guidance, the patience to wait for it, the sensitivity to recognize it, the wisdom to understand it, the faith to trust it, the courage to carry it out and the gratitude to praise you for it.

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Every blessing I have been given I am expected to pass on to others. These include grace, mercy, patience, sympathy, empathy, tolerance, listening, forgiveness and second chances.

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Each day my challenge is to allow the Holy Spirit to change or reinforce everyone of my attitudes, likes, dislikes, plans, opinions, memories, hopes and fears. To do this I must be sure I deny self and permit the Spirit total access to all I am.

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I must not allow God to become the “elevator music” that forms the largely ignored background of my life. Instead, He must be the blaring symphony, the hard-driving beat that is clearly heard and seen in every part of my life.

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I want God to control our relationship, oversee our companionship, begin and end our conversations.

Thankful For What?

John 6 tells of a problem facing Jesus and the disciples. More than five thousand people needed to be fed. The only food the disciples could find was fives loaves of bread and two fish.

Jesus took that meager lunch and thanked God for it.

But what was there to be thankful for? Five loaves and two fish? To feed five thousand people? The problem was immense and the resources inadequate. Yet He took a few minutes to show appreciation to his Father. He had the attitude of “We don’t have much, but we are truly grateful for what you have provided and we’ll do the best we can with it!”

Then He had the disciples start giving the food to the people. Give them what? Five loaves and two fish divided 5,000 ways? No! They were to share all God had provided. 

God’s power was released by Jesus’ faith. The multitude got a meal and the disciples received a faith lesson. (In fact, that lesson may had been the primary motive for the entire episode.)

His followers could not visualize one small lunch becoming a seafood buffet for the crowd. To them a large problem and small resources equaled unmet needs. But their equation omitted God’s willingness and ability to help those in need. 

What about us? Do we find this lesson easy to understand in our minds, but difficult to incorporate into our lifestyle? Do we ignore God’s power when we consider how we can solve our big problems without limited resources?

We read Jesus’ words about moving mountains and we say “I’m going into the earth moving business!” Then we run head-on into problems like stubborn children, monthly bills, a distant spouse or an uncaring boss. And what do we do? We compare the size of the problem with the size of our resources and become discouraged.

God wants to help us every day with every problem. But his power will be limited in our lives if we do not demonstrate faith in his ability and desire to care for us.