Do your thoughts tend to run away from you? Do you find yourself thinking about one thing, then another thing comes to mind, then another, then another, then another … and before you know it you’re stressed out and overwhelmed trying to think of everything all at once? Well, the mind is like that … it wants to have a “mind of it’s own” and dictate what you do or do not think about. Fortunately, as children of God, we have power over our minds, over our thoughts … we don’t have to allow them to control us, but, rather, we can “take authority” and “take charge” and actually choose what we are thinking about (or not thinking about). It’s a little known fact … we do have that power. When Jesus died and then rose again, He gave us that power … power over sin, power over negative thinking, power over worry, power over anything that would try to control us. Is it easy? Of course not! But it is possible! Remember, with God all things are possible … including getting a handle on our thoughts. After all, our thoughts determine our actions. Most often, we first think about something before we actually do it. If we’re careful, we will pay attention and choose those things that are beneficial to both us and others. Want more proof that we can actually choose “right” thinking? Philippians 4:8 (NIV) says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Now, if scripture instructs us to do something, we can trust that God will enable us to do it. He won’t ever ask us to do something that He wouldn’t also give us the ability – the power – to do. 2 Peter 1:3 (ICB) tells us, “Jesus has the power of God. His power has given us everything we need to live and to serve God. We have these things because we know him …” So, the timeless truth for today is that we have the ability – the power – to choose our thoughts. With that knowledge, we can make choices that will help, rather than hinder, our walk with the Lord as well as our relationships with people, and, last but not least, our relationship with ourselves (the things we tell ourselves in our own minds that no one else is aware of). As we do this, we will notice our lives improving. After all, as we focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (all positive things, by the way), we will be focusing our thoughts on things that will build ourselves (and others) up, we will be combating all the negativity in the world, and, most importantly, we will be coming into agreement with what God has to say in his Word … a sure-fire way to be blessed, not stressed!
Do you put off until tomorrow what can, and should, be done today? Do you find yourself dragging your feet whenever there is something you know you need to do that you just don’t want to do? Do you procrastinate? If so, you’re not alone. Everyone has things that they don’t like to do. Perhaps it’s cleaning the bathroom … or the garage … or the junk drawer. Whatever it may be, “tomorrow” seems to always be better. Unfortunately, “tomorrow” can drag on and on and on … until what once may have been a manageable task becomes harder than it originally needed to be. Then, hopefully, we learn our lesson, grit our teeth, get the job done, and resolve to keep up with it so it doesn’t have to be so hard the next time around. Usually, procrastination, if we’re honest, can be overcome. Usually, it just takes a change in our mindset. We can just choose to think differently. We can choose to see something from a different perspective. We can look at it from a different angle. What may have previously seemed like a chore (something undesirable) can turn into a learning experience. Then, once we’ve gained that knowledge, the same task can actually become something we now desire to do. (For example, have you ever thought of cleaning the bathroom as a good cardiovascular workout? Not only does the bathroom get cleaned, but you get in shape in the process!) It’s the same with spiritual matters. Maybe you’ve been procrastinating when it comes to your relationship with God. Maybe you have known for quite some time that you needed to “get right” with Him. Maybe you’ve known in your heart it really was time you got serious about accepting Jesus’ gift of salvation and making a commitment to living your life in a way that the Bible says is pleasing to Him. But maybe you’ve been procrastinating. Maybe you’ve been putting it off, thinking it was a “chore” that you didn’t really want to deal with right now so you’ve kept telling yourself, “tomorrow” I’ll do it … then “tomorrow” never comes. Well, if that’s the case, let me encourage you to rethink your perspective on what it means to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation and live for Him. Perhaps you have the mindset that it’s all about a bunch of rules and regulations that you can never measure up to. Some people really believe that’s true … however, in reality, according to the Bible, there could be nothing further from the truth. The truth is, accepting the gift of salvation Jesus offers is just that … accepting a GIFT. A free gift that you don’t have to earn, you don’t have to work for, you don’t have to deserve. It’s all about receiving what Jesus has already done for you … on your behalf … when He died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins. You don’t have to “do” anything other than receive it by faith. Then, out of gratitude, you can make the choice to live in a way that’s pleasing to Him (with the help of the Holy Spirit that you also receive when you receive the gift of salvation). So, the timeless truth for today is that none of us should procrastinate when it comes to receiving all that God wants us to have. Salvation, freedom from the controlling power of sin, love, joy, peace, an ever-present help in times of trouble, someone who understands you completely, the hope of heaven … all this and more can be yours once you make a decision to receive Jesus’ gift of salvation. In fact, Hebrews 3:15 (NIV) tells us, “… today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts …” So, don’t procrastinate! Today is the day of salvation! Receive Jesus’ gift today!
Do you like to take tests? Most likely, the answer is no. It’s not the most enjoyable activity in the world. After all, being under pressure to remember all the answers to all the questions puts a strain on your mind … and your body. However, if there were never tests, there would never be new things to learn, new things to study, and new ways to grow … and growing is an essential part of being a Christian. It’s not good to stay the same forever; it’s important to be open to change and open to new challenges. As we do, we find we have more opportunities to live for Jesus. We find we have more people to witness to. We discover both the gifts we have to pass on to others as well as the gifts other people have that get passed on to us. Therefore, tests become a part of our everyday lives whether we realize it or not. James 1:2-4 The Message (MSG) says, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” And James 1:12 The Message (MSG) goes on to say, “Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” So, these timeless truths further enlighten us to the importance of not only tests, but also of passing the tests; that is, passing therm to the extent that we “stuck it out” until the end … we didn’t give up half way through … we didn’t try to get out of anything prematurely, but, rather, we allowed the test to do its work so we could become mature; so we could become all God wanted us to become … for His glory alone. So, today, if you are facing a test – of any kind – keep in mind that it does, indeed, have a greater purpose … probably greater than you could ever imagine! That will help you endure to the end … and one day, when you see Jesus face to face you can have the expectation to hear the words of Matthew 25:21 (NIV) that tells us, “…Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Losing a loved one is never easy … especially when it is unexpected. Having no hope that you’ll ever see them again is even worse. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 The Message (MSG) tells us, “And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus. And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.” Yes, we can have hope … if our loved ones died “in Christ” we can have the assurance that their death does not mean good-bye forever … it only means good-bye until we meet again … if we are “in Christ” as well. What does it mean to be “in Christ” you may ask? To be “in Christ” means to be in a relationship with Christ … it means someone has accepted the gift of salvation Jesus offered when he died on the cross to pay the penalty for all of our sins. It means we are trusting Jesus alone to make us right with God (not our own “good works”). To be in Christ means to be “born again” … it means to be “born” into the family of God … where old things have passed away and all things become new. It means someone is no longer living their lives just for themselves to satisfy their own desires, but, instead, out of thankfulness for everything Jesus has already done for them, they are choosing – as an act of their free will – to live in the way the Bible teaches … for the new desires God puts in their hearts … the new desires that involve loving others as God has loved them … the new desire to live in a way that is pleasing to God and is beneficial in how they treat others as well. To be “in Christ” simply put, means to be saved. So, if your loved one who has died was “in Christ” when they died and you, now, (or before you die) are also “in Christ” you can have the hope and confidence that you will, indeed, one day meet your loved one again and it will be like one huge family reunion with the Master! Therefore, look to the timeless truths in these scriptures to give yourself and others the hope and comfort you need in your time of loss. And if you haven’t accepted the gift of salvation Jesus offers to everyone (yes everyone!) … or if you’ve backslidden away from him … don’t worry, you can trust in Jesus even now to make you right with God and can receive the gift he offers by praying a prayer for salvation such as this sample prayer:
Dear God, I am a sinner in need of salvation. I believe Jesus died on the cross in my place. I believe He alone gave His life as the perfect sacrifice for my sin. I believe Jesus not only died for my sins, but was also raised again and is now living in heaven. I believe only Jesus can make me righteous before You. There’s nothing I could ever do to earn Your free gift. I repent of all my sins and ask You to make me new as I accept Your gift of salvation now. I ask Jesus to be both the Lord and Savior of my life. Come into my heart, fill me with Your Spirit, and help me to live for You. Thank You for saving my soul. In Jesus’ name, amen.
How do you know what to keep and what to throw away? Sometimes the answer is obvious. Other times it can be harder to discern. Most likely, if you have a scheduled trash pick up day, you prepare for it by taking out the trash and putting it at the designated pick-up spot – usually at the curb. Then, just like clockwork, the person comes and does the dirty work for you – often just leaving behind an empty trash can. But what happens if you accidentally threw something away that was never intended to be trash? How would you get it back? Would you even want to try? Spiritually speaking, Hebrews 10:35 (ESV) says, “do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” What confidence you may ask. The confidence you had when you first understood what it meant to be saved. The confidence that enabled you to endure a great struggle with suffering – knowing that you had a better and enduring possession for yourselves in heaven (see Hebrews 10:32-34). So, the timeless truth in this scripture reminds us that keeping our confidence (rather than accidentally or purposefully allowing it to be taken out with other trash) has an eternal value. In fact, there is a great reward coming. Hebrews 10:36-39 (ESV) says, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” So, today, if you have unwittingly put the confidence you had in Jesus in the trash, know that all you need to do to get it back is to make a choice. Yes, simply make the choice to believe that all of God’s Word is true and all of God’s Word applies to you – yes, even to you who may have backslidden away from a close, personal relationship with Jesus. God is not as far away as you may think. He is right here, right now waiting for you to pick up the confidence you may have lost somewhere along the way. Just pick it back up, put it back in your heart, and recommit your life to Him so He becomes first in your life once again. In so doing, you can be assured, with confidence, your reward will be great for all of eternity.
Are you the stubborn type? Do you like to have everything go a certain way (your way) and do you easily get upset when your plans get changed? Well, there’s good news … you’re not alone! It’s quite common for people to think their way is the best way (perhaps the only way) to get things done, and get them done efficiently! The up side of that mentality is that you generally have a good work ethic; the down side is that you may not realize there’s a problem until someone else points it out (hopefully gently) … and that’s when humility needs to come into play. You need to be willing to accept there really are other ways of doing things … and some ways just could be better than what you imagined. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” So, this timeless truth lets us know that God’s plan for our lives is good (period). Even when it may not look that way on the surface, God’s plan is always good … the problem often comes when we may not see things the way God sees them. We may have a vision of how our lives ought to go … how one thing will lead to another, and another, and another so that eventually our vision comes to pass. However, as we quickly learn (as in all of life) our plans often undergo several “revisions” before the “final draft” is completed … and even then, it’s still not over until it’s over (meaning even more revisions will most likely be needed before all is said and done). The key is being open and willing to allow Jesus to be Lord (not just Savior) of our lives. Think of the word revisions as re-visions … being willing to change and get a new vision … being willing to change course (as the Lord leads). Suppose you had gone through the process of applying for several new jobs and had started to think maybe there was one other job you might be willing to apply for as well and you had started to open yourself up to that possibility but had not yet actually gone and done it. Then suppose you get a phone call out of the blue from a company in the same business as the one you had been thinking about (but had not applied to yet). This company got your resume online when you filled out all the information for the job bank and you had no clue until you got that phone call that you “just so happened” to answer without knowing who it was. What would you do? Would you be open and willing to at least talk to the person on the other end … even though it wasn’t in your plan? Would you be willing to “change course” and see what they had to say/what they had to offer you? Would you realize perhaps this was a blessing from God you hadn’t fully considered receiving yet? Would you revise your own plan and be open to a new plan – a new vision? Hopefully (and prayerfully) you would … otherwise, it’s possible you may miss making the change that could be needed … the change that could lead to a new destiny for you … a new blessing for you to grow in the grace and knowledge of God … into the knowledge of how much of a loving and gracious God we have the privilege of knowing personally. Remember, when God tells us a revision is needed to our original plan, we can trust that His plans are always good and always better than anything we could have dreamed up ourselves!
Have you gotten comfortable? Maybe with this whole pandemic you’ve been enjoying having time off from work or school and you’ve fallen into a routine of getting up when you’ve wanted to, going to bed when you’ve wanted to, and wearing whatever you’ve wanted to … after all, without ever having to leave the house, who is going to see you wearing your bunny slippers all day? Problem is, it has been all too easy to get complacent … and when it’s time to actually get back into the habit of going to work or school (or just getting out of the house more frequently in general) it may not be so easy to get back into the swing of things. Taking a break is fine … and needed … from time to time. However, when that break becomes your “new normal” and the break turns into complacency into not just your outward appearance but your inward character as well, then there could be an issue that needs to be dealt with and dealt with decisively. Scripture warns against complacency. Proverbs 1:32,33 (NIV) declares, “For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me (wisdom) will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” So, this is a timeless truth we would all do well to remember … complacency isn’t something to be treated lightly. It’s one thing to let your appearance go when no one else can see you; it’s another thing entirely if you’ve let your inward character go … you may think nobody else sees … but God always sees … and He always loves us so much He doesn’t want our hearts to get complacent; He doesn’t want us to have a self-satisfied, smug, unbothered attitude that thinks no changes need to be made even if a situation is dangerous or harmful (the definition of a complacent person). We are always supposed to be growing, learning, and changing throughout all of our lives … no matter how old we are. Philippians 1:6 (NIV) tells us “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” So, we should come into agreement with God’s plan and open ourselves up to change – trusting it’s actually good for us – and will actually help us to have the kind of life Jesus tells us He wants us to have when He says in John 10:10 (NIV), “… I have come that they (you) may have life, and have it to the full.” Therefore, be aware of complacency … it can be even more dangerous than the pandemic!
Cities are beginning to open up … quarantines are beginning to be lifted … restrictions are beginning to ease up … and people are beginning to venture back out into the “real world” … and into what is being considered the “new normal”. You would think everyone would be super excited … you would think everyone would be saying, “it’s about time”! You would think the overall reaction of society as a whole would be a collective sigh of relief … you would think. However, for some people who deal with anxiety … or even just a resistance to change, it may not be so easy. It may be hard for them to adapt … hard for them to leave what had become their comfort zone during a time of upheaval. And, really, even for the people who don’t usually have a problem with just “going with the flow” and “winging it” … these people may still face challenges as well … just because things are different now. It’s almost as if the world went into a collective ark like Noah and his family did in the time of the flood (see Genesis 6-9) and now it’s time to get out of the boat … if we dare. Now it’s time to start exploring the whole “new world” around us … with fresh eyes and fresh insight that we may not have otherwise gained had we not been “stuck” inside. Now we have an opportunity … an opportunity to live our lives in a whole new way … in a way different than before; different, perhaps, than we’ve ever dared to live them … ever. Maybe during this whole pandemic you’ve realized that time is short and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Maybe you have been procrastinating … putting off ’till tomorrow what you’ve known in your heart for a long time needs to be done … now. Maybe the recent turn of events has left you with an urgency in your spirit that you shouldn’t wait any longer … now is the time to get out of your boat … now is the time to get out of your comfort zone … now is the time to go forward into the plans and purposes God has for your life. Maybe you agree with everything I’m saying … but you’re still scared; you’re still nervous … well, that’s okay … Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples was nervous too. Matthew 14 tells the story of how Peter had to choose to exercise faith when he was in a boat a considerable distance from land that was being hit by waves because the wind was against it. At that time, he saw Jesus walking on the water towards him and he and the other disciples were afraid. Matthew 14:27-31 (NIV) says, “But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” So, here we see a timeless truth. When the Lord calls us to get out of our boat, we need to obey and we need to keep our eyes on Him. At the same time, since we are human, we can also take comfort in the fact that Jesus is merciful to us and will catch us if we start to waver in our faith. He never condemns us … He simply encourages us to exercise faith rather than listen to doubt. So, today, if you hear the Lord telling you it’s time to get out of your boat, take courage and boldly obey His instruction, trusting, as always, He knows best.