A man hired a carpenter to build him a house. He described the house he wanted and told the carpenter "Give me a list of everything you will need. I will get it all delivered." Six weeks later all the material was assembled and the carpenter went to work. A week later the man drove up to the site with a spray can of red paint. He started walking around the stacks of lumber marking some of them with the paint. The surprised carpenter asked "What in the world are you doing?" "You cannot use any of what I am marking. If it has red on it, don't use it." The carpenter did as he was told and finished the house as best he could with the limited material. When the owner saw the house he was disappointed and complained about the carpenter's work. Do we do this with God? He has provided all that is necessary to make us into the person He intends for us to be. Then we withhold part of ourselves - our attitudes, preferences, opinions, prejudices, habits, likes, dislikes - and wonder why we are not as happy and content as we would like to be.
Regular faith allows us to look back at past unpleasant times and say "God, I see now that you were teaching me and growing me. I understand now at least part of what you were doing. Thank you." Great faith allows us to look at current unpleasant times and say "God, I guess you are teaching me and growing me. Keep it up until I have learned all I need to learn. Thank you!" Somewhere I read "Faith and obedience will remove mountains of evil. But they must go hand in hand." I like this thought, but is faith without obedience really faith? The primary purpose of strong faith in God is not so that He can do more work through me, but so that He can do more work in me. My lack of faith hinders my effectiveness as his servant and it also blocks my becoming like him. I do not need to develop a plan for my life...month...week...day...hour. Instead I need to discover God's plan, which has been in existence for thousands of years. I need the faith to believe his plan is better than mine and the courage to put it into practice. Faith says to God "If it is your will I will attempt the impossible and accept the uncomfortable."
JESUS DIED TODAY (Friday) Nailed to a cross, held up in the air So his enemies could see Him there. Beaten and tortured, bleeding and bare Jesus died today. He did not cry out, did not complain. Like a lamb at the altar He was slain, So my sins with me would not remain. Jesus died today. He chose to die...the time and the place. He did it for the human race, the example of God's loving grace. Jesus died today. JESUS IS BURIED TODAY (Saturday) His place is a tomb, cold and alone, A borrowed grave instead of a throne To pay for sins like my very own. Jesus is buried today. There is no marker, no special way To see where Jesus lays today Because He said "Father, I obey." Jesus is buried today. Draped with cloth from his head to his feet The great sacrifice is now complete. Proudly all his enemies repeat Jesus is buried today. JESUS ROSE TODAY (Sunday) Women were first to see it was true. They went to the tomb while day was new. They told others. Soon everyone knew Jesus rose today. He left the tomb so cold and so bare. No need to look, Jesus is not there. The news is joy to men everywhere. Jesus rose today. Death is defeated. Jesus has won. This is the proof that He is God's son. He's the Messiah, the Promised One. Jesus rose today.
My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I love every person in my life all the time. My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I want to help every person I love. My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I learn how to express my love to people as individuals, not just as a group. None of this growth will take place until I yield to the influence and power of the Holy Spirit.
God sends us into the world with a trunk full of love to give to others. We are to dip into that trunk and scatter love to everyone we meet. That love takes the form of listening, sharing, teaching, patience and forgiving. (That short list is not exhaustive.) That trunk has compartments that contain all the forms of love. He also gives us the wisdom to use the most effective form of love with each individual we meet. When I find myself running low on the motivational drive to be a "love scatterer" I must remember how empty my trunk was before He filled it, how small my qualification was to be a receiver of that love, and how much better my life is now because of that love.
The best, most effective, most accurate way I can glorify God is to let the Holy Spirit make me like Jesus. "God...decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son." (Romans 8:29, The Message Bible) The Holy Spirit will do the shaping of the way I am. My role is to allow such changes to happen and then behave in ways that exhibit my new shape. Do we Christians spend more time, money and energy trying to change our physical "shape" into the way the world says it should be than we do allowing the Spirit to alter our spiritual shape into the way God wants it to be?
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.
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. ********** 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. ********** 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?
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.
Being alone with God is more than being isolated from others, reading the Bible and praying, sitting quietly and meditating on spiritual things and trying for a few minutes to strengthen the relationship we have with Him.
Being alone with God means being without our “stuff,” entering his presence emotionally, intellectually and spiritually naked. Then allowing Him to change us as He sees fit.
It is possible to be alone with God even when in a crowd, but such intimacy is more likely when there is no one else around. We must cease to be concerned with family relationships, vocational success, recreational pleasure, health, prosperity and all else we consider important in this life. Until we reach this degree of trust these things go with us when we enter his presence. They are unnecessary baggage.
Each time we pray, we should begin with the request for the Holy Spirit to empty us of everything except an awareness of His presence.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I want God to control our relationship, oversee our companionship, begin and end our conversations.
"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself..." Matthew 16:24 To deny self means to deny self-importance self-competence self-direction self-motivation self-accomplishment self-glorification self-determination self-approval self-justification. To deny self means to realize we are nothing apart from Jesus. Such a realization may come as a shock. It is not natural to surrender control of our lives to someone else. The very basis of our culture, our democratic way of life, lies in the belief that each person is in control of his own fate. Denial of our right to decide our own course goes against everything the world has taught us. To live and function within this state of denial, we must constantly abide in Jesus. Only such abiding will enable us to accept his decisions and become all he wants us to be.