Why Should We Be Good?

In his parents eyes there was never a doubt that he had the raw intelligence and ability to excel, but like many kids his age, success in school seemed to be elusive. It was clear that after his first year in High School that something would have to fundamentally change to enable success in his remaining three years.

His  parents rightly understood that the basic issues he faced were related to a lack of focus and clarity of objectives, coupled with the right incentives to help cultivate an internal desire to apply himself and perform at his fullest potential.

They were also aware of studies that demonstrated a correlation between high school GPA  and success in later life. Academic performance in high school had been shown to be directly linked to subsequent success in college and the obtainment of an increased lifetime income. Higher performing students increase their probability of successfully completing a college degree college from 21% to 42%. Additionally, for every point increase in GPA a typical student in high school would expect to see an increase in earned lifetime income between 12% and 14%. (1)

With all of this in mind his parents took a step back in order to devise the best approach to help their son be successful. First they recognized that their son didn’t have the emotional maturity to cope with the distractions found in his current high school setting. Every child is different in their level of maturity and parents need to assess this realistically. Fortunately they understood that there was a difference between chronological maturity and emotional maturity, and that they needed to develop an appropriate plan that considered both of these elements.

To help bring focus and remove distractions they elected to place their son in an on-line learning environment. In this environment all assignments, grades and expectations were clear and transparent to both the student and the parents. Feedback on quizzes and tests were instantaneous.

While this decision helped in terms of focus and clarity of expectations, it still failed to address the matter of motivation of the heart which would be required for their son to succeed.

These parents wisely recognized that motivation to achieve worked best when it came from within. While some level of progress could be made by applying external pressures, the real life-long successes would only come when their child drove himself internally to achieve.

To address this they devised a simple set of rewards that provided quick feedback in practical terms. The on-line education program had a combination of quizzes, mid-terms, and finals as the principle sources for grades. For each type of evaluation his parents created a sliding scale that linked grades to tangible near term financial rewards.

The rules were simple, they were printed and placed on the wall next to his desk. Only grades “C” and above would be eligible for a payment each Friday at the end of the day for the previous week’s of work. Quizzes were worth less than mid-terms, and mid-terms less than finals.

Inside each test category, the financial rewards were structured such that a “C” grade merited a very modest payout, a “B” grade was considerably more, and an “A” would be exponentially more. (Typically 2X the “B” grade.)  This model  recognized that it would take considerably more effort to move from a “C” to a “B” then likewise from a “B” to an “A,” but the rewards were structured to reflect the commensurate effort required as the student advanced to the next higher level of grade performance.

In the first year under this approach his parents saw modest yet consistent improvements across the board. Not only in grades, but in their son’s level of self-direction and discipline to get things done. During this time trust was built as he found that the payout was real each week. He readily spent his earnings on lots of little things and found himself wanting in terms of needing additional cash.

During the second and subsequent years until he graduated from High School, the strategy changed by his own volition. He recognized how much money he was leaving on the table by settling on  “C” and “B” kind of performance and started to aim for “A” level performance.

Interestingly by his own request he elected to not take cash each week, rather he wrote his cumulative earnings on a white board that hung on the wall next to his desk. The growing balance soon became its own source of encouragement and the grades he earned were no longer the goals, they simply became a by-product of his focused efforts, discipline, and perseverance in studying.  At the end of each school year his parents gave him the full balance of his reward and the process repeated itself the next year.

During this period his parents no longer had to manage his homework assignments at a tactical level. He was able to manage his own time and meet all required deadlines on his own. They told him that if he needed help to study or needed to escalate something beyond a teacher to get resolution on any matter, then they were there for him to help him succeed. In the last two years he operated at a near 4.0 GPA!

In some ways many believers and followers of Christ are a bit like that high school student.

In our case God serves as our heavenly parent and much like this boy’s parents, God deeply loves us and desires for us to be in a healthy and successful relationship with him.

The wonderful news is that once we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ we are adopted into God’s  family forever.  Our salvation is secure, even if we subsequently elect to live a life that’s less than honoring to God.  Our eternity is covered by God’s grace and not subject to revocation.  No where in the scriptures are there cases where believers are “un-adopted” by God.

Given the certainty of our eternal security, what then is our motivation to honor God in the way we live out our lives in the here and now?  Why should we be good?

The answer lies in God’s own reward system for us.

Much like the young high school student who watched his rewards grow on his white board as he made healthy choices to do what was right in school, similarly we can be assured that God is keeping our treasure in heaven stored up and safe as we do the right things for God’s kingdom.

Jesus said:

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20, NIV)

It turns out that God has devised a means of rewards that will directly impact our standing and scope of responsibilities throughout eternity. The scriptures tell us that he maintains a record of all of our deeds in this life, and that God knows our hearts and the purity of our motives in the things we choose to do.

The bible speaks of a time when each of us will come before God to be judged. During that time God will first check to ensure that our names are written in the “Book of Life.” It’s here that the names of every believer are recorded. Those whose names appear are granted to join God in eternal life. If not, then they  will be forever banished from God’s presence, sentenced to a place that the bible calls Hell for all of eternity. For those of us that are listed in the “Book of Life” there will also be a review of our Earthly lives and how we lived them out.

The Apostle John mentions in the book of Revelation of other “books” in addition to the “Book of Life:”

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.” (Revelation 20:12–13, NIV) –Emphasis mine

Unlike the “Book of Life,” these “books” have recorded within them all the deeds we have done in our lives. These deeds will be evaluated to determine the type and quantity of our reward that God will give to each of us.

It’s critical to note that with respect to this part of judgement, where God looks at the deeds of our life,  that our eternal standing is never in question. Once our names are written  in the “Book of Life” they are never erased. Our God is thankfully a God of grace beyond our own understanding or comprehension.  We cannot loose our salvation because we dropped the ball in terms of how we lived out our lives after receiving Christ as our savior. Rather God’s  review of our life deeds will be used solely to determine the type and amount of our eternal reward that God will give to each of us. The apostle Paul spoke of this idea in his letter to the church in Ephesus:

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” (Ephesians 6:7–8, NIV)

Here we see the idea of God rewarding believers no matter their social standing or occupational standing in this earthly life. Notice too that the rewards given are given to the the individual. That each person will be evaluated based upon individual conduct. There are no group or team rewards given.

In another letter,  Paul writes to the church in Corinth where he shared additional details regarding the day of judgement that each of us will one day face.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10, NIV)

Observe in this passage that the tone continues with the idea of rewards for conduct. No where does Paul suggest that a believer’s salvation is contingent upon our conduct. This makes perfect sense if we understand our salvation to be entirely based upon God’s grace and not on any contribution on our part:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV)

Paul speaks of God reviewing both the “good” and the “bad” things that we did while alive in our bodies as believers. He never states that our salvation might be in jeopardy based upon the “bad” things we might have done as believers.

Matthew recorded Jesus’ comments on the subject of rewards:

“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Matthew 16:27, NIV)

Here we can see that those who honor God and who properly use their gifts and resources in this life to further God’s kingdom will be rewarded in his future kingdom.

When speaking on the topic of living out our lives in righteousness, Jesus warned that our motives for doing good things must be pure. God will not reward those whose motives and hearts are not genuine:

“ ‘Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.’ ” (Matthew 6:1, NIV)

Jesus spoke again as recorded in Matthew on the topic of rewards. In the following statements we can see that not all rewards are equal.

“ ‘For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.’ ” (Matthew 25:29, NIV)

Charles Stanley in his excellent book, “Eternal Security: Can you be Sure,” shared the following:

“The kingdom of God will not be the same for all believers. Let me put it another way. Some believers will have rewards for their earthly faithfulness; others will not. Some believers will be entrusted with certain privileges; others will not. Some will reign with Christ; others will not (see 2 Tim. 2:12). Some will be rich in the kingdom of God; others will be poor (see Luke 12:21, 33). Some will be given true riches; others will not (see Luke 16:11). Some will be given heavenly treasures of their own; others will not (see Luke 16:12). Some will reign and rule with Christ; others will not (see Rev. 3:21).

A careful study of these passages reveals one common denominator. Privilege in the kingdom of God is determined by one’s faithfulness in this life.” (2)

Several points come from Stanley’s observations:

  1. Some believers will be very rich in God’s kingdom and others will be comparably poor. (Although even the poorest in God’s Kingdom would be better off than anything they might imagine in their Earthly life.) “ ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’”  (Luke 12:21, NIV) “ ‘Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.’ ” (Luke 12:33, NIV)
  2.  Some believers will be given true riches because they have demonstrated that they were responsible for all that God gave them when they lived out their lives. “ ‘So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?’ ” (Luke 16:11, NIV)
  3. Some will be given “heavenly treasures” to own themselves and others will not. “ ‘And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?’ ” (Luke 16:12, NIV)

Given God’s perspective and his revealed reward plan for each of us, it’s pretty plain to see that it’s in our best interest to seek genuinely from the heart to honor God in all the ways of our lives. He will reward those that truly seek to place him first in this life. The good news is that it’s never to late to start.

Perhaps you surrendered your life to Christ many years ago and have since not lived a life that you know best honors the Lord. If that’s the case, then come to the Lord in prayer, confess, and then renew your heart. Purpose to live out your life in a way that best reflects God in all that you think, do, and say each and every day.

Do this with the full knowledge that you and I must ask God for the strength to live out such a life; we cannot do so of our own strength and willpower alone. There’s a strong connection between our ability to live out Godly lives and the amount of focus we expend on Christ. The more we focus and invest our lives in Christ, the easier it becomes for Christ to have control over every part of our lives.

Keep in mind that in all of this your salvation is non-negotiable. You and I worship a God that keeps his promises no matter what.

“The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 145:13b, NIV)

His grace and love are beyond anything we could possibly comprehend. The Apostle Paul reminded us:

“if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13, NIV)

When it comes to our conduct in this life, our eye should be on the eternal rewards that God has for each of us. While God will evaluate each of our lives, we can be confident that he will do so without bias or poor judgment. He will do so with all the facts including our heart motivation. He is a just God and the evaluation will be based upon his standards, and done on an individual basis.  He will not compare my life choices to someone else’s, rather he will judge my heart, my actions, my thoughts as my own. In the end God wants to reward us!

If this idea of rewards is new to you or resonates in some way and you want to move forward with your best effort, then the best time to start engaging is now!

As soon as you’re done reading this devotion, take a moment and pray, commit yourself to a life that seeks the rewards God has for each of us. These rewards are eternal and everlasting in nature; make the conscience choice to stop looking to other people for significance in this life, instead seek to be significant in Christ’s eyes and in so doing build a life that allows you to store up your treasures in heaven.

 

 

 

 

===== Notes ======

(1) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/05/20/heres-how-much-your-high-school-grades-predict-how-much-you-make-today/?utm_term=.7bfa1648e914

(2) Charles F. Stanley, Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure? (Nashville: Oliver-Nelson Books, 1990).

 

Copyright FullLifeWord 2017

 

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

 

Bringing Positive Change by Seeking to Understand First

Some years ago there was a young lady who traveled for the first time to a very poor part of the Dominican Republic. Her name was Rebecca, and she went with a group that volunteered their time to build homes for the poorest of the poor. When I speak of “homes,” keep in mind functional simplicity. The finished product was a basic structure built upon a crude concrete slab, hardly a home by most standards, little more than a shed in most places. But for many of the recipient families, these structures might be the first reliable and safe homes they have ever known.

In recalling this first visit to the Dominican Republic, Rebecca shared that she knew very little Spanish at the time,  but each day she made every effort to communicate and practice her language skills as she went about her duties during her stay. One day, while walking to a job site, she encountered one of the many children that played in the streets. The young girl was about ten years old. She asked what Rebecca’s name was, so she told the little girl that her name was “Becca,” thinking it would be easier for her to pronounce than “Rebecca.” The little girl looked perplexed and said “Bocca?” Rebecca replied; “Becca with an ‘eh’,” she told her. The girl seemed surprised as her mouth slowly formed “Bocca” again.  After a “conversation” that was part verbal and part sign language, they parted ways each going about their respective day.

The following day they once again met, but this time at the work site. On this particular occasion there where a bunch of kids that had joined the little ten year old to watch Rebecca help build a  house. During the course of the day, Rebecca noticed that every time she walked by the kids, they would ask her her name and then whisper “Bocca.” Immediately thereafter, everyone in the group would break out in uncontrollable laughter. The laughter would soon die down until she had to walk by the group again, and the entire process would repeat itself.

Finally, in mock anger, Rebecca tossed down her gloves in frustration and asked “what does ‘Bocca” mean?” One girl looked at her and slowly replied, “Cow.” That’s when it hit her, they where saying “Vaca,” Spanish for “Cow.” It was then that everyone, including Rebecca, broke out in laughter. It was an amusing moment and illustrated for her how difficult it was at times to understand some of the nuances of  language. But it also proved to be a learning experience for her as well, and in the end this clarified understanding of her name resulted in a deepening bond between her and the families she was serving.(Reflections: A Journey to the Dominican Republic)

One of the greatest challenges we often face in life is in the ability to simply understand accurately what another person is attempting to communicate. While we may not always agree with what someone might share, it’s important that we at least ensure we understand and can articulate their position back to them. In this way they we might confirm our understanding of what they just shared to us.

Over the years I’ve found there are times when I’m not the best listener, and I don’t always practice good communication skills like feeding back the topic to the speaker to ensure I actually understand their perspective. I have a feeling I may not be alone in this regard.

As followers of Christ we are actively living in a culture for which we and others we encounter may not always agree. If we are to influence our culture positively, we need to start by first ensuring that we understand and can distinguish our own views from that of the popular culture around us. This first step is necessary so that we know upfront where we are in agreement and where we might be out of alignment with popular ideas.

Scripture says that just as we have been brought into a right and healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we’re to help those around us see the same love and grace that God has bestowed upon each of us, and to communicate His desire to be reconciled with each person. In that way, we are to be  “ambassadors” for Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

Our credibility for engaging the culture around us must be founded in our genuine love for those with whom we engage. Jesus said that our love for one another would be the way in which others would know that we are followers of Christ. (John 13:35 ) The scriptures share that if our love for others is not real, than we’re no better than a loud gong or clanging symbol. We’re just another voice in an already noisy world of erroneous beliefs. (1 Corinthians 13:1 )

When we encounter a contrary cultural viewpoint, we should always start our conversation by asking the Lord for wisdom and knowledge on how best to respond. Secondly, we need take the high road and not plan on “winning over” the person for whom we are in conversation. Rather, our goal is to hear out the other person’s position completely without interruption, and then to respond in a manner that leaves them with something worthy of consideration that cannot be easily swept aside.

Greg Koukl, author of numerous resources on apologetics, suggests that our primary tool in separating fact from fiction in any conversation is “reason.” In his book, “Tactics” he pointed out that the Apostle Paul often appealed to reason and other practical approaches to engage others around him. (Acts 17:2-4) Koukl also suggested that our conversations should be handled fairly, reasonably, and with a high degree of grace. In fact, we should allow enough room for our own views to be challenged with evidence, reasoning, and from Scripture.

The bottom line is that when discussing cultural values that run contrary to God’s desire for those whom he loves, we need to keep in mind that our goal is to testify by word, deed, knowledge, and reason. We’re not to take personal responsibility to change a person’s heart. That’s the job for the Holy Spirit. Heart change is something that happens from within, and only God can move a person’s heart. But that movement often starts by engaging the mind. That’s our job.

Don’t be discouraged when conversations don’t go as planned. Each encounter is an opportunity for us to learn. Accept that we personally may not succeed in seeing a person’s perspective change immediately, instead remember that in love, and as an ambassador for Christ, the purpose of our conversation may simply have been to lay the groundwork for positive change in that person’s life for some time in the future.

Mr. Fish

“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10 (NIV))

When our kids were young we would take them to the local County Fair which arrived for about two weeks each Summer.  They loved the fair and would enjoy the rides, the food, and all the fun activities.

Many of the fair booths would offer prizes to kids for succeeding in certain events, such as tossing a small ball into a hoop, or coins into bottles and bowls.

On one occasion, my son won a goldfish.

We had little hope that this “Fair fish” would survive for long, it looked rather skinny and listed to one side. Nonetheless, our daughter set out with great determination to ensure that her little brother’s fish would survive. We started by locating a large fishbowl that had been purchased at a garage sale some years before. After a trip to the pet store, we had an inexpensive air pump, fish food pellets, and some water conditioner in hand.

For the first week or so our Fair fish seemed to remain somewhat on the fence about survival, but then it suddenly seemed to take to its new home. Each morning he got a few pellets of food and he continued to thrive. In time he matured into a large handsome and very bright orange fish.

Days became weeks, months passed and then years.  Our Fair fish is now over seven years old and is as healthy as ever. Somehow over the years I became his de facto caretaker. Mr. Fish resides in our kitchen on the counter, his bowl only a few feet from our coffee pot.

Each morning as I pour my first cup of java, Mr. Fish slurps the top of the water in his bowl loudly and splashes his tail to remind me that it’s also mealtime for him. I obligingly drop in several pellets of food, which he hungrily devours. He spends the rest of his day poking around his bowl looking for anything that he may have been missed in the morning.

Periodically his bowl needed to be changed with fresh clean water. This used to be a process whereby I would chase the poor guy around the bowl with a fish net, and then transfer him with a plop into a  small temporary fish bowl (Actually a small plastic food storage container) until I finished cleaning his bowl.

Over the years however, this entire process became much less traumatic. In time there developed this unspoken trust, that when I needed to clean his bowl, all I needed to do was to gently cradle Mr. Fish in my hand, lift him out of his bowl, and place him in his little container until the cleaning was done. Once his home was cleaned and ready to occupy again, I would do the reverse and put him back into his bowl.

During this transfer activity, Mr. Fish remains extraordinary still and at peace as I make the quick, but smooth transfer from one environment to the other. Any normal fish would have every reason to be frantic, because absent the environment of his water, he is totally helpless. He can’t breathe, he can’t swim about, and it’s all about trusting that I’m not going to harm him in the process while I clean his home so that he remains healthy and strong.

One morning as I was having my coffee and watching Mr. Fish I found myself thinking about matters of trust and how rare real trust actually is.

Life for you and I offers many of its own challenges. We have every reason to find little trust in anything or anyone. Our news is filled daily with horrible stories of people taking advantage of one another.

Even as I look to the Bible I saw that one of Jesus’ closest and trusted disciples, Judas, traded him in for the equivalent of about six months’ pay.

What exactly is “trust” anyway?

In the context of relationships, the word trust means to have complete certainty when it comes to the character, ability, strength or the truthfulness of an individual. The reality is, no matter how well meaning, there’s no human being that we can hold with complete trust. That’s because the Bible tells us that all of humanity simply falls short, (Romans 3:23) we would have to be a perfect being in order to convey perfect and complete trust.

In a world of shifting values and uncertain times, where then do we anchor our trust? Over the years I have found that the only reasonable place to secure complete trust is in Jesus Christ. He has always been and will always be. (Revelation 22:13) The character and integrity of God is unchanging (Hebrews 6:17) and can be completely relied upon for all of the ages. Only Jesus possesses the character traits that have stood the test of time. He is the only one who has lived a life that is perfect and untainted by the effects of sin, a condition for which no one is immune. (Matthew 5:48)

Perhaps today as you read this you’re facing issues of trust. I don’t know what specifically they might be, but I do know this; you can trust our Lord for all of time, He is the one constant and certainty that you can reliably anchor to. He is an unmovable rock, the firm cornerstone that you can confidently build your life upon.

If you choose to follow Christ, to lay your complete trust in Him, you will also experience the peace and the joy of a deep inward satisfaction knowing that you are eternally loved by your creator. For the first time you’ll have a lasting purpose and you will know for certain that your presence in this life is not an accident, it was intentional in every respect.

Will this trusting relationship cause conflict or challenges in life to go away? Nope. But it will allow you to prevail with a hidden strength that will carry you through the storms of life with confidence and trust, knowing that the outcome of your life is in God’s loving hands.

 

Copyright FullLifeWord 2016

Fatal Letters or Living Spirit

For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (ESV 2 Corinthians 3:6b)

When I was eight years old I remember traveling with my Dad in his 1961 Ford Fairlane to a shopping center parking lot. It was there that vehicles were being given free seatbelt installations, making them compliant with a new law that went in effect in January of 1968, which required every seat in a car be equipped with a seatbelt.(1)

My parents were practical people and saw that seatbelts made sense, and whenever we drove anywhere, we had to have our belts on. But there were many people that didn’t see it that way, they wanted to make their own choices and didn’t want to be told what to do. It would take many years, but eventually laws had to be passed that fined people for not wearing their seatbelts. This despite data that showed that seatbelts reduced the probability of being killed by fifty percent.(2) In the face of real world data, thankfully most people have internalized the benefit and buckle-up almost automatically.

Yet, try as we may, it’s sometimes hard to comply with all the rules and laws that we are faced with each day. Many are not as compelling as the seatbelt laws, which make them harder to follow. If we break a law there are often consequences.

In our society the consequences for breaking our laws vary. Some consequences are severe, and others might simply be a small fine or fee we might have to pay. Sometimes we break the laws quiet unintentionally, at other times we do so with full knowledge, weighing the risk of being caught vs. the consequences should we be caught.

In our country, the laws are created by legislators. Once passed they are recorded and then enforced in our society by the appropriate officials.Officials typically enforce the letter of the law, and our actions and behaviors are evaluated against the backdrop of these laws.

Long before the United States came into being, God gave Moses His laws in the form of the Ten Commandments. One would think that it would be simple to keep these ten Laws, yet no matter how much we try to live by them, we will at some point trip up and fail them.

Sadly, God’s laws were ultimately misused over the years. Soon the very letter of the law became twisted into an impossible list of external rules that would ultimately form a barrier to our ability to be in a relationship with God. The letter of the Law replaced the spirit of the Law. When used this way, the very letter of the law would lead to separation from God, preventing us from having an eternal relationship with God.

Fortunately, Christ came and restored the intent of the Law. He did not come to replace the Law, but to restore the spirit of the law, to draw us to God so that we would be able to receive His grace and the gift of eternal life.

As one writer put it; “when one served the law, he ministered death. When he serves the gospel, he ministers life.” (3)

In life, I must be on guard to not judge others hearts and motives by what I see, rather as a believer, I need to offer the kind of grace that God has offered me. I am reminded by the Scriptures that no matter how hard I might try, I will never be able to stand before God at the end of my life and declare that I never once sinned before Him. He offers His grace freely to me and loves and forgives me as His child.

Dr. David Martyn Loyd-Jones once made the observation:

“I am now in His family, I am now His child, and when I sin now I am not sinning against Law, I am sinning against Love. It is no longer the action of a criminal; it is the action of a child.” (4)

If I am to be like Jesus, if I am to live out my life honoring the spirit of the Law, I need very much to remember that when I encounter someone that has disappointed me in some way, or frustrated me in some fashion, that I need to be very careful about the first words that come to my mind, because they may be words of judgement, they may be harsh and lack His love, grace, and forgiveness. I need to remember how my Savior approached me when I failed him. In fact, it will be a certainty that I will continue to fail Him many more times before that great day when He calls me home to be with Him.

May the heart of Jesus lead my words, my thoughts, and my actions. May God’s Law show the way to eternal life with my Lord Jesus, may it take root in my heart, not as the letter of the law which kills, but the Spirit of the Law which leads to eternal life in Christ Jesus.

 

 

====================================================================
Notes:

(1 ) Seat belts were required starting in January of 1968
https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=when+were+seat+belts+required+in+cars

(2 ) According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 86% of the US drivers use their restraint systems. Seat belts reduce your chance of dying in a car accident by 50%. In 2012 there were 277,245 vehicle related deaths. Without the use of restraints this would be double, at least half a million deaths. This of course does not count the life changing injuries that go along with this statistic.

(3 ) Robert E. Picirilli, 1, 2 Corinthians, ed. Robert E. Picirilli, First Edition, The Randall House Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Randall House Publications, 1987), 295.

(4 ) Tony Sargent, Gems from Martyn Lloyd-Jones: An Anthology of Quotations from “the Doctor” (Milton Keynes, England; Colorado Springs, CO; Hyderabad, AP: Paternoster., 2007), 181.

Copyright FullLifeWord 2016

Ambassadors for Christ

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” -2 Corinthians 5:20 (1)

Paul used the idea of an ambassador, to remind the early church that God works through each of us as an extension of Himself to others. Therefore, it’s important that we recognize this vital role in our relationship with God and with those around us.

An ambassador in today’s world is a diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to another country. An ambassador will take up residence in a host country, and while there, they must be conscience of how they conduct themselves at all times. What they say, and how they respond to various situations are all reflections of their home country. In all they do, they seek to represent their country to the highest standards possible.

To follow Paul’s analogy, that we as believers are Christ’s ambassadors, simply means that we as believers, are in a way extensions of God’s ministry here on Earth. In simple terms, what we say and do in everyday life matters. Why? Because our actions might be the only positive testimony about how much God loves us, that other people see. Not everyone will step foot in a church to learn of God’s love and grace. In a way, you are the church to the world around us.

Being an ambassador is a tough job. As believers we are not called to take the easy path, but to take the sure path of Truth.(2) The gate that opens to the path of Truth is a narrow one, and it’s not always an easy one. Yet the Lord calls us to a life that reflects His character and nature.

All of this raises a question: As ambassadors, what type of traits should we be living out each day that best represents our Heavenly Father?

Fortunately, the Bible provides many examples. In one example; the Apostle Paul identified a number of these Godly character traits in a letter he penned to the early churches in the region of Galatia.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (3)

Paul wanted the early church to be known for these qualities, to live them out in their everyday lives.

On a personal life application level, the implications for me is that when someone wrongs me, or slights me, or even puts my character in question, I no longer have the liberty to respond in like manner. Rather, I need to consider how Jesus would respond and take the higher road. In such cases, He would no doubt trust his Heavenly Father for the outcome; and He would extend love and grace towards the one who offended me.

In fact, more often than not, I should be praying for those that have offended me and at the same time praying for myself, allowing the Lord to humble me and bring compassion and forgiveness to my heart, instead of coldness and blame. I need to seek His ways to love the very person that’s wronged me.

In this way, we become “Christ’s ambassadors.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright FullLifeWord 2016

 


References:
(1)The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 2 Co 5:20.

(2)The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ga 5:22–23.

(3)The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 7:13–14.

Notes:
Currently the U.S. has 180 Ambassadors in service, only the president with approval of the senate can nominate an ambassador, six have died due to acts of terror, most recently Chris Stevens Libya Benghazi, Libya September 12, 2012. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambassador)

Defined: an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country. (https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=ambassador)

For God has chosen to extend his work in Christ through “Christ’s ambassadors,” making his appeal through them to those who do not yet participate in the new creation to be reconciled to God (v. 20).
Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 2 Co 5:11.

 

The Essence of Prayer

“Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” -Philippians 4:6

 “In the stirring chapter in which Sir Ernest Shackleton tells of the loss of his ship among the ice-floes, he describes an incident that must have set all his readers thinking. In the grip of the ice, the Endurance had been smashed to splinters; and the entire party was out on a frozen sea at the mercy of the pitiless elements. Shackleton came to the conclusion that their best chance of eventually sighting land lay in marching to the opposite extremity of the floe; at any rate, it would give them something to do, and there is always solace in activity. He thereupon ordered his men to reduce their personal baggage to two pounds weight each. For the next few hours every man was busy in sorting out his belongings—the treasures that he had saved from the ship. It was a heart-breaking business. Men stole gloomily and silently away and dug little graves in the snow, to which they committed books, letters, and various knickknacks of sentimental value. And, when the final decisions had to be made, they threw away their little hordes of golden sovereigns and kept the photographs of their sweethearts and wives!” (F.W. Boreham, 2010)

Getting down to the basics in anything can be difficult. Certainly for Shackelton’s expedition team, this was so. In the end, they took with them that which represented the essence of their possessions; photographs of their loved ones. Nothing else was deemed more valuable.

I’ve been on a journey myself, a journey that required me to set aside the distractions of my life and to capture and focus on the essence of prayer.

Over the past several months, I have come to recognize that God’s motivation for the idea behind prayer was driven by His love for His creation. God’s love is an enduring love that knows no boundaries. His love pursues us; it’s a love that transcends all time and space.

 “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. “ (Psalm 139:16)

Prayer became God’s designated means to allow us to respond to His overtures of love. It is through prayer that I am able to communicate and respond to my Creator, to the one who loves me with all of His being. (Psalm 107:15, Psalm 118:1)

Prayer is a gift from God that rises above the circumstances of life. A pastor friend once reminded me that life is hard. At times we seem to face a never ending set of circumstances that makes life hard. Perhaps the circumstances we’re facing are life threatening, or a chronic medical condition that painfully reminds us of its presence each and every day. For others it might be facing economic or relational challenges, or the loss, or imminent loss of a loved one. Whatever our circumstances, the scriptures assure us that we are to engage in prayer, in good times and in bad. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, 1 Timothy 5:5, Daniel 6:10)

The Apostle Paul reminds us that in every situation, no matter how tough it might be, we are to approach God with a heart of thanksgiving. In the face of our circumstances this can be a very tall order. Such a heart is one of continuous gratitude for God’s grace, provision, and ever present love for us. In time, I have learned that the only way to possess such a heart is from the perspective of eternity. What we know is that God’s love for us endures forever. Meaning, that for those who trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, His love for us will continue from the present into Heaven for eternity, long after our earthly bodies have turned to dust. Once in Heaven, our finite and comparatively brief earthly life, with all of its troubles and difficulties, will be but a distant thought, a moment in time. It will pale in comparison to the eternal life we are going to experience in Heaven. (Ephesians 5:20, Matthew 1516, Psalm 9:1, Romans 7:25)

Lastly, prayer, at its most basic level is one of confidence in our God. Confidence is expressed in our belief and faith in God for the outcome of our prayers expressed to Him. I’ve learned that at times, God may elect to answer our prayers in an unexpected manner. When He does, it may not feel like the answer we desired or planned for. We should not falter on this point, as I’m convinced that His response is working within a framework that must consider His overall plan for our lives and the lives of others. In this context, our challenge in this earthly life is to trust in His answers, even when we don’t fully comprehend or agree with them in the moment.

It’s possible that the full disclosure of God’s responses to our prayers, and the impact of His responses, may not be fully realized until we are in Heaven. It’s there that we will see the full breadth of his wisdom. For now, we will be blessed in this life for taking the step of trusting fully in God’s wise responses. (Matthew 20:29)

I’ve learned in recent times, the importance in trusting God for the outcomes of my prayers, knowing that His answers to my prayers will ultimately fit into His grander and total plan for my life. (1 John 5:14-15, James 1:6, Matthew 21:22)

The essence of prayer then, is to understand that God loves us with an enduring love, and that He desires communion with us; prayer becomes the vehicle by which this is accomplished. Prayer must be something that is elevated above life circumstances, and when we do pray, we must do so with a heart of thanksgiving. And finally, we need to pray with confidence, trusting in God’s responses, even if we don’t fully grasp the significance of His answer in the moment.

Copyright 2015 FullLifeWord.com

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.

Do You See Anything?

“‘…Do you see anything?’ …Then his eyes were opened…he saw everything clearly.” (Mark 8:23-25)

In my dentist’s office there used to be this really large picture that hung on the wall in her waiting room. It had the appearance of some sort of modern abstract art. It never did anything for me. I had glanced at it on numerous occasions but never really paid it much mind.

That changed one day.

On that particular occasion, a little girl accompanied by her mom, came in to the dentist office and took the seats nearest me. I overheard the child saying to her mom, as she gazed at the picture with a smile; “Do you see anything?” The mom looked up briefly from her smartphone, smiled, and then returned to whatever it was she was looking at. The little girl continued to gaze at the picture until it was her turn to see the dentist.

After they left the room, I wondered what it was that was so interesting about this picture that had engaged a child’s attention for so long. The picture itself, though large, in my opinion was nothing to really look at…in fact, it was rather plain looking. I was thinking this while I was still looking at the simple colors and the seemingly random patterns that made up the picture, when suddenly an entire scene of various forest animals materialized! What to the uneducated eye appeared as simple abstract art, was actually, a carefully crafted picture that required the viewer to spend time gazing at it before the true objects became evident to the viewer.

Now, whenever I happen to see that picture, I can’t help but really “see” the images that the creator intended for me to discover. The images no longer remained hidden from view.

Some years ago, while serving at a start-up church, I found myself in the position of having to teach children; kindergarten through six grade. It was never my intention to teach kids, I was much more comfortable with teaching adults. But there was no one else, and so I took the role with the idea that this was only a temporary assignment. I had never taught kids before, and I judged my first few weeks as a disaster.

To complicate matters, we served a community in which many families where skating on the edge of homelessness. Many single moms and dads from a low income housing project nearby would visit our church on Sundays. Some of these families were transitory, they would come a few Sundays and I’d never see them again. For those families in particular, I was not able to see how anything that I was doing with them in class would ever matter or make a difference in their little lives.

Over time my teaching skills improved as I learned that kids learn differently than adults. The kids and I were having much more fun, as evidenced by a lot of laughter and even some random learning happening. Yet I still wondered…did my miniscule contribution really make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Shouldn’t I be doing something bigger and more important? I pondered those questions, and concluded that what I was doing really didn’t make a difference, there was simply too much hurt and impossible circumstances with many of these kids. Nothing I was doing really mattered.

A few weeks after coming to that conclusion, a young mom and her little kindergarten aged son came and visited our church.

Her son was a joy, a great little guy, complete with out of control blond hair and sky blue eyes. In class he was very attentive, he followed every move I made and made every effort to politely get my attention during the entire class time. I couldn’t help but spend some extra time with him. As I interacted with him, I saw that his little blue eyes gave away something else; a sense of deep hurt and loss. I devoted as much time with him as I could. Fortunately we had several other adult helpers that day, so I had the luxury of extra time. Together we played games, drew pictures, and he demonstrated his extraordinary play-dough skills for me.

It was later that I had learned from his mom, that her husband had recently abandoned their family, and that her son had been devastated in not understanding why “daddy left.”

When class was over, and I was signing him out to his mom, he ran over to her with crafts in hand and greeted her with a hug, and then turned quickly to face me as if to say something. I knelt down to be at his level, and without warning, he fell into my arms, putting his little chubby arms around my neck. He gave me a great big hug! He held me tight. I was so surprised that at first I didn’t know how to respond. That kind of thing never happened before! Certainly never in any of my adult classes! I put down wherever it was I had in my hands and gently hugged him back.

In that instant, my heart was broken, but my vision was made clear.

What we do for our Lord does matter! It matters because He places us in the right places at the right times for His perfect purposes. We may not see the final outcomes, but where possible, we are to express His love in every task we are given, no matter how much or little we think it might matter.

All I know is that it mattered to a little boy that morning, a young life that had experienced deep hurt without understanding the adult complexities of why. I hope and pray that perhaps on that day, he saw in me a small reflection of Jesus.

I’m Not My Own

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

We are often willing to sacrifice a part of ourselves when our children need us, when our aging parents can no longer care for themselves, when a spouse or significant other is hurting, and needs our encouragement and support. In those times, we make the choice to humble ourselves, and serve those whom we love. Our actions are rooted from our heart, from the abundance of our love.

Jesus knows what true sacrificial love means. He expressed as much when he gave His life for me and for you. Yet he fulfilled his promise and took up His life three days later, and in so doing, brought victory over death for each of us.

There is no level of sacrifice I could personally make, that would allow me to repay Jesus for His sacrifice for me. In that way, I have come to realize that I am not my own. That He took my place, so that I would never worry about being separated from the One who is Light, from the One who has given me eternal life. For you see, he redeemed my life for a price, even before I knew Him.

I choose to live my life as one long grateful response for His sacrificial gift. In that way, I am not my own, but I am His. For I was brought for a price.

 

 

 

 

Copyright FullLifeWord 2015