A Life Empowered

The hike was her first. At age six she needed an occasional hand from her Mom, Dad, or Grandpa to climb over some of the larger rocks and logs that were sometimes encountered on the steep mountain trail.

After an hour of walking on the tree covered trail the path finally flattened out. Tall Ponderosa pines whispered above the four hikers as gentle breezes found their way through the tree’s lofty branches. After a few more minutes of  hiking, the crude trail opened up to a beautiful lush green meadow. Nearby, a small wooden bridge leading to the meadow traversed a little creek that gently gurgled along its banks. Tiny yellow and white flowers dotted the the lush mountain oasis, tended by numerous songbirds, which added to the cheery scene as they sang and chirped while darting with flashes of bright colors through the gently swaying grasses.

This regal meadow scene was surrounded by soaring snow covered mountain peaks that rose like rocky edifices from the earth. The sound of cows mooing in the distance were complemented by the lazy clanging of their cow bells. Evidently a herd of cattle spent the better part of their Summer grazing upon the rich supply of food and plentiful mountain water.

Grandpa leisurely walked the way across the meadow with his granddaughter. Mom and Dad sat near the little bridge on the skirt of the meadow under the shimmering Aspens, taking pictures and watching as the two started their walk across the meadow.

About midway the into their walk, the cows who had been grazing on the other side of the meadow, spotted the two hikers. Being curious creatures, they gradually moved as one group towards them. The little girl watched with fascination as the cows steadily closed their distance.

In time the two were surrounded by fifty to sixty cows, each wearing a copper colored cow bell that clanged with each step they made. Close up the animals were huge! The little girl appeared dwarfed by their presence.

Her Grandpa paused and took her picture with the cows while the animals milled about in the background. The cows kept their distance while looking curiously at them. Soon the little girl pulled out a small yellow disposable camera from her pink backpack, something her parents had given her prior to her big hike to the meadow. She evidently wanted a picture of her Grandpa, ideally just like the one he took of her. He dutifully followed her every direction so that she could get him framed in the perfect picture with the cows as the backdrop.

All the while this was going on, she never once was afraid or concerned about the presence of these enormous animals. Occasionally an independent minded cow would get a little to friendly and try to approach them; but Grandpa was used to being around such animals and would shoo them back a bit.

In her mind why should she be concerned? She was with Grandpa, a man that loved her, who would never place her in harms way. He seemed to understand all the things in the world that she didn’t know about. Certainly he knew they were safe standing on the dirt path in the middle of a mountain meadow surrounded by a bunch of curious cattle. The experience was one she would always remember.

As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we too should have a similar degree of confidence in our Heavenly Father, just as this young girl did of her grandfather.

For believers our encounters with God are through the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, the one whom Jesus promised would come after his death and resurrection. In our case, we most likely met the Holy Spirit during the period leading up to our saying “yes” to Jesus; for it’s the job of the Holy Spirit to bring about conviction of heart that leads to conversion (John 16:8-11). Conversion is the human’s turning to God. It consists of a negative and a positive element: repentance, that is, abandonment of sin; and faith, that is, acceptance of the promises and the work of Christ.”(1)

From the moment of our decision to follow Christ in faith, we are assured of our place in Heaven. Like Jesus, and because of His work on the cross, we too have overcome death. With death behind us it’s now possible for us to look forward to life in the future with confidence and peace. Charles Wesley once wrote the following lyrics in a hymn that captured this powerful realization of Christ’s work for us. In part he wrote: “Where, O Death is now thy sting?…”(2) Indeed we have much to celebrate when it comes to our decision to respond to the entreating’s of the Holy Spirit and to place our faith in Christ.

Thankfully the Holy Spirit doesn’t simply leave us hanging after we’ve made the choice to follow Christ, He remains steadfast in our lives each and every moment. Jesus told his disciples that through the Holy Spirit they would be enabled and empowered to do works far greater than even He had done in his earthly ministry (John 14:12).

That same empowerment extends to you and I today, as the Holy Spirit is present within each believer. He empowers us to do things that would normally be beyond our natural capabilities and strengths. Yet when we look back through the milestones of God sized assignments in our lives, we can’t help but to acknowledge that our apparent accomplishments ultimately found their roots in God’s empowerment via the Holy Spirit.

One need only to look at the lives of the disciples to see this to be true. In the scriptures we are presented with twelve individuals that accomplished incredible feats in just a few years after their encounter and choice to follow Jesus. They could not have by their own strength managed to have shared the gospel and carried the message of Jesus such that over two thousand years later, the gospel and good news of Christ is still changing millions of lives. Their success was not a function of their own innate abilities, rather it’s origins were from the Holy Spirit. These individuals were associated with the initial spread of the Gospel throughout the entire Roman empire! (3)

Scriptures record that thousands of Jews placed their faith in Jesus (Acts 21:20), and these were not ordinary Jews, they were committed Jews sold out to their own way of life. Luke recorded that these were people that were “zealous for the law.” This would have meant that a choice to follow Jesus was one that likely came with a steep price. Many may have had to give up respected social positions, they were likely rejected by their families and suffered great economic hardships for their choice in following Jesus. Despite the costs they embraced the message of the gospel.

It would seem unlikely that these hardcore steadfast individuals would have given much heed to the message of the gospel were it simply delivered to them by uneducated fishermen, a hated tax collector, and a former Jewish leader (Paul) that abandoned his place in society to follow Christ. Yet they were moved to follow Jesus. Why? Only the Holy Spirit could account for such empowerment. The Bible tells us that many other prominent members of society outside of Jewish circles also believed and placed their faith in Christ (Acts 17:12).

That same Holy Spirit that empowered these normal everyday people is as available to you and I today as it was for the disciples then. I would strongly encourage you to embrace the peace that comes with knowing for certain that death no longer has hold of your life. You need not fear it.

We as believers are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, who is God, and the Bible tells us that God has his best in mind for you and I, and that his best includes God sized assignments that you and I could never accomplish without direct empowerment from the Holy Spirit.

Are you in the midst of a God sized assignment? If so, take a moment and ask God to empower you to accomplish whatever it is that he has set before you. Trust him to give you the abilities and resources to accomplish that which he has desires you to complete.

It is the desire of Jesus that we live our lives and live them to the full (John 10:10) We can only do that if we are in total reliance upon the Holy Spirit to empower us and that we genuinely believe that the work of Christ was sufficient to overcome the “sting” of death.

 

 

 

 

**************************************Notes************************

(1) Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 795.

(2) Logos Hymnal, 1st edition. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).

(3) G. W. Bromiley and J. Orr, “Christianity,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 661.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 FullLifeWord

 

Where Our Treasure Lives

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34, NIV)

My wife is without a doubt my very best friend in this life. Over the many years of our marriage we have traveled through countless life challenges. A great deal of our success in navigating through the storms of life has been our common love for Jesus. It’s been through our common love of our Lord that we have learned to value the things that God values, and in so doing we have benefited as He has poured out His richest blessings upon us.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of learning what it means to “cherish” when it comes to life’s most important of relationships. I cherish my wife and have come to recognize that the things of this life have little value in comparison.

There is a proverb in scriptures that says; “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Now I don’t know what a bunch of rubies might be worth these days, but I completely concur with the sentiment of the writer of this proverb. Indeed, whatever they’re worth pales in comparison to the value of my love for my very best friend.

It turns out that our heart priorities are not only important in our earthly relationships but also in our Heavenly relationships.

Our heart is connected most to the things in life where we invest our time, energy, and resources. From this one might deduce what we value most. In terms of my Heavenly relationship with Jesus, I have made the conscience choice to invest and store my treasures in things eternal, in living out my life in a way that most honors God’s heart. My choice to do so is motivated as a simple expression of my gratitude to a gracious and loving God that has always had my best interests in mind.

While it is true that my salvation through Christ is due entirely by God’s grace, and not by anything I could ever do myself, (Eph 2:8-9)  I do make the choice to treasure my relationship in Jesus through prayer, the study of His word, and in living out my faith authentically and practically to those around me. It is my desire that my family, co-workers, friends, and even total strangers see God’s love expressed in the manner in which I live out my life. (John 13:35)

The scriptures remind me that my love for my wife is to be measured against the standards that Christ has established and not my own. Having said that, the scriptures share that I am to love her just as Christ loved the church; with the heart of a servant, unselfishly, and sacrificially. (Eph 5:25) In this way she would know the degree in which I cherish her in this life.

Similarly, in my daily life it is my desire to live out my life transparently and authentically, honoring Jesus in all that I say and do so that others would see His love for them lived out and expressed in practical terms.

We’re All In Need of Adoption

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12)

I saw a picture the other day of a child posing next to a hand written sign that read “For 806 days I have shared their Love+Home…as of today I share their last name.”

It’s hard for me to imagine what it must be like to go from living in the foster care system, with all of its tensions and uncertainty, to being adopted into a loving family as its newest member.

What a transformative and life changing experience!!

Gone are the days of wondering if your current family will be just another temporary place to live as you move from home to home. Gone are relationship ties that are built and then necessarily broken time and again. Gone are the needs for emotional walls of protection and the deep insecurities that develop which will no doubt have life lasting impacts.

On a personal note, I’m grateful to have lived out my childhood in the context of my birth family. In that setting I always knew how much I was loved and supported. As a child I knew that no matter what happened my parents would always love me. I grew up with siblings that to this day I am close to. We can count on each other in good times and bad.

Despite such a stable upbringing, I eventually came to realize that my wonderful earthly family was a temporary one and would not last forever. I sensed an absence in my life that I ultimately identified as spiritual in nature. Although everything around me seemed fulfilled in my life, there was this last nagging piece in my heart that had yet to be satisfied. At some point I realized that the missing element was my relationship with God.

Having grown up around the scriptures, I knew that the Bible spoke of being “children of God.” How could that be? I was already a child of my parents, what more would I need?

I remembered that the scriptures shared a story of another person that was also struggling with this concept. He was a religious leader in his day, a man by the name of Nicodemus.  One night he  secretly met with Jesus in the dead of night and asked him about his relationship with God. I was amazed, here was a devoted religious leader, an educated and intelligent person by any standards. Yet he knew the moment he had encountered Jesus that his life was in some way incomplete.

Jesus shared with him that in order for Nicodemus to have a relationship with God that he would need to be “born again.” Nicodemus didn’t understand at first, as he was already born, how could he be born once more? Jesus explained to him that it was one thing to be born to an earthly family, but entirely a different matter to be born into God’s family.

As I recalled that story from the Bible, I realized that while I might have an early family that loved me, from a spiritual perspective I was really an orphan. I was in need of adoption. The emptiness I sensed was my lack of relationship with God. The reality was simple: unless I was adopted into God’s family I would spend eternity alone and have to face life by myself.

The apostle Paul shared that making a personal decision to trust in Jesus Christ would allow me to be formally adopted into God’s eternal family. He shared that “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.”( Galatians 3:26 ) He went on to say that we would “receive adoption” (Galatians 4:5 ) into  God’s family and that as His child I would no longer have to live out my life in fear or uncertainty of the future. In fact I would become  “co-heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:17) Wow!!!

As an adopted child of God I knew for certain that no matter what might befall me in this life, even physical death, nothing in all of creation would ever separate me from the love of God. (Romans 8:39 )

It’s a key milestone in our lives when we figure out that life is much better as a member of God’s family than by going it alone. Many choose otherwise and suffer great loneliness and lack of direction in their lives.

Good healthy families care about one another and seek to build each other up, desiring to see each member of their family succeed in this life. That’s the way it is in God’s family. Our Heavenly Father is perfect and He only wants the best for each of us. He will never let us down, even when we might think He has, He hasn’t.

If you’re awaiting adoption…you need wait no longer, the choice to surrender your life to Christ and become part of His family is entirely yours. God is present and awaits your decision, but He will never force your hand. Yours is a response to the love He has already demonstrated to you through His Son Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Copyright FullLifeWord 2016

The Great Piggy Bank Heist

“It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.” -Matthew 24:46

 
The Great Train Robbery of ’63 that occurred in London had nothing on the heist I was involved in, known simply by our family as the “Great Piggy Bank Heist.”

I was in kindergarten at the time, and my older brother (Heretofore known as the “ringleader”) was in the second grade. It was in this state of advanced education that he gained certain, albeit incomplete, understandings of money. In school he learned that coins had some sort of intrinsic value, what value of course, was still beyond my limited understanding, but I was certain that my brother understood all those details, and would one day enlighten me with his vast storehouse of learning.

In any event, we had in our shared bedroom a closet; and on the closet floor, way in the back, were two genuine ceramic piggy banks. One was mine and the other was my brother’s. Evidently, as I learned many years later, my Mom had a tradition of giving each child a piggy bank and putting coins in the bank minted with the year of their birth.

Of course my brother and I didn’t know of such details, and while the pigs were a curiosity, they never garnered much in the way of attention; at least not until my brother learned in school that the coins contained within each pig could somehow be traded for toys. Of course the specifics of how such a transaction might come about had yet to be determined.

It was a Saturday morning, and the ringleader filled me in on exactly how this was to go down. Dad was at the store, and Mom was around the house doing things moms do. My job was to stand by the door and keep a lookout for Mom.

The ringleader explained to me that he had evidently developed a clever way of inverting the ceramic pig while shaking it at a given frequency. In doing so, he explained; the coinage would come out of the little slot on the top of the pig’s back. (Somehow in this moment of dazzling insight, he failed to notice the rubber plug on the belly of the pig, which would have made our heist considerably more successful. This and other such overlooked details would ultimately be our undoing.)

At the appointed time, I took my position by the bedroom door, and when Mom went into the garage with and armful of laundry, I gave the signal for the extraction process to start. A lot of shaking was taking place, rather nosily I might add, but not many coins were making it out.

The garage door coming into the house opened suddenly, and Mom reappeared. I quickly hushed the ringleader until she disappeared into another room.

After the coast was clear the shaking resumed. Soon the shaking took on a different resonance, more of an up and down shake pattern. This resulted in a better yield. My brother was clearly brilliant! The coins were practically pouring out onto the wood floor making a steady tinkling pitter patter sound in our closet.

In due process, I observed the ringleader skillfully sorting through the growing pile and tossing aside the dimes and collecting the other coins. I asked him why he was doing that. He explained to me, as one with an air of superior knowledge; that obviously the dimes were smaller, in fact they were the smallest coins amongst coins, and therefore they could hardly be worth much when it came time to trade coins for toys. I could find no flaw in such a sound argument. Soon he had the larger pennies stacked neatly, as were the nickels and the occasional quarter, while the diminutive dimes were set aside. With that said, he resumed the shaking.

As there hadn’t been a Mom sighting in a while and my interest in the lookout job was waning, I took it upon myself to gradually move closer to the action, away from my post so that I might study the coin extraction technique in more detail. I figured at my age, having already decided on becoming a lifelong learner, I figured it was to my advantage to pick up a few life skills along the way. This trade the metal coins for fun toys was an example of some real out of the box thinking. Gone would be the days of waiting on birthdays and Christmas times for toys.

It wasn’t long before I found myself standing behind my brother, who was on his knees and halfway in the closet, all the while skillfully shaking one of our beloved pigs. At that moment, one of the lowly dimes popped out of the pig he was shaking. It hit the wood floor and rolled just past me. I was following it with my eyes, and as I turned my head slightly, I noticed that the dime suddenly stopped as it struck a pair of shoes. Unfortunately for us, our careers as professional piggy bank boosters were over, as the dime stopping shoes were occupied by our Mom.

As I reminisced on this childhood memory of my Mom returning unexpectedly to find us boosting the piggy bank, instead of doing what we should have been doing, it reminded me that Jesus is concerned with what I’m doing with my life right now. If He were to show up unexpectedly, as my Mom had, would He approve of what I’ve been doing? As a believer and follower of Christ, I know that He has entrusted me with talents and abilities to use wisely in my earthly life. But what exactly should I be doing? While there are many things I could be doing, I would like to touch on at least three activities I sense we should all be doing.

As a believer, I ought to be living my life out authentically. By that I mean, my life should reflect the principles and character of God as much as possible and as consistently as possible. Not out of a sense of just following a bunch of rules, rather from a place of gratitude in my heart for the love and grace He has already expressed to me.

Jesus said that the love we express and show for one another will identify us with Him to the rest of the world around us.(John 13:35) My life should be marked as a life lived with integrity before God. My motives and heart should be aligned such, that I am viewing life and life situations, as much as possible from God’s perspective. (1 Thessalonians 2:4) That means that I should not allow my life to be governed solely by the approval of others. On the other hand, neither should I fall into a life of challenging others to live out their lives authentically, if I’m not also willing to live by those same principles that Scriptures teach. (Romans 2:21-22)

Secondly, to the best of my ability, I need to do my part to maintain the integrity of God’s Word in my life. This means that I must resist the pressure to compromise or dilute God’s standards defined in His Word for me. (Jude 3) Instead, we need to partner with the Holy Spirit to preserve and teach from the scriptures what God intended for us to hear and then do. (1 Timothy 1:11, 2 Timothy 1:14) All of this is challenging, because we live in unprecedented times in our country. Yet we must find a way to express God’s perspective to a lost world with respect, and to engage our fellow believers with love. (1 Peter 1:22) This approach makes sense to me because that’s how Christ approached me.

Lastly, I need to trust that God is executing His perfect plan for my life and in the world we live in. We need to live expectantly, awaiting Christ’s return and to be prepared for that day. (1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Timothy 1:12)

Much like my Mom suddenly appearing, we don’t know when Christ will return; (Matthew 24:36) but we do know this, that He will! And when He does, I want to be caught doing His will and not my own.

The longer I live the less I know

My kids have long since surpassed me in so many ways. Technology abounds while I’m just keeping my head above water.

For example, I’ve never been able to figure out the whole Facebook thing.

People just say to me “Find me on Facebook.”

“Yeah right.”

I gotta call in my kids to help me do that. The real experts!

Last week my daughter starts up this blog thing on something called WordPress, I’m aware of blogs, but totally intimidated by the whole thing. I don’t have a clue. But she’s a writer like no body’s business…I mean the kid is super articulate. I love to read her stuff.

She knows I like to write too, but I’m not in the same league for sure…but I get inspired after she’s kind of blazed the way and looked at all the main blog sites. She settles on WordPress…hey if it’s good enough for her…its good enough for me!

After some effort, I finally get the thing set up, and I spend a few days tinkering with it, and I generate my first official post. I feel pretty good about the whole experience.

I’m thinking, “The old man’s still in the game, I’m holding my own…can’t let these youngsters get to far ahead of me.”

I enjoyed the glow for about thirty seconds. Then I shared with my daughter that I created my first post.

She looks it over and says to me…”nice job Dad. So did you ‘Tag’ it?”

“Tag it?” I replied.

I had that deer in the headlights look on my face.

“I dunno. I don’t think I tagged it. Should I tag it?”

With a degree of patience befitting the likes of Mother Teresa, she pulls up to my desk, takes over the mouse, and deftly starts clicking here and there and then shows me what tagging is all about.

With my blogging 101 lesson completed, I’m once again reminded of how little I know, and the worst part is, that every day I live; I appear to become increasingly ignorant.

This can’t be a good trend…

I think she’s leaving now to go write up this experience in her blog…probably categorized under the heading of “Hopeless Causes.” I’ll likely be reading it in an about an hour and laughing my head off.

 

 

Copyright 2013