Thursday, September 29, 2016

To REact or HEact?

"We walk by faith, not by appearance" (2 Cor. 5:7, RV).

The natural life is by sight.  The supernatural life is by faith.  The flesh trusts only what it sees, but our Spirit longs to be led by something deeper... more real... more trustworthy.

It is so true that what we see--or perhaps more accurately--the assumptions we draw from what we see are fickle, shallow and very often premature.  Our flesh is so quick to jump to negative, defensive, fear-based reactions.  God calls us to a differernt way of living; a way that is based not on sight, but on our faith, our trust, in Him and in His promises.

When circumstances appear bleak, instead of wringing out hands and allowing our minds to run down the path of worry and anxiety--God calls us to be still and know that He is God.  He is with us, in us, for us.  And if He is for us NOTHING can stand against us.

When people are rude, passive-aggressive, demeaning, etc. toward us--do we REact in the flesh with defensiveness; lashing out, or do we HEact--pausing and recalling His promises, His presence and power within us?  REacting leads to fear, strife, stress, division and weariness.  HEacting leads to joy, peace, confidence and strength.

This discussion highlights the power of Romans 12:2.

"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

The world REacts in the flesh.  It's what they do.  It's their "pattern".   They can't help it, it's all they have.  But Born-Again, Holy-Spirit-Indwelt-Christ-followers have another option, we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).  The Spirit of Christ dwells within us--guiding, comforting, revealing, encouraging, steadying, empowering us.  When we TRAIN ourselves by daily discipline to INTENTIONALLY quiet ourselves... "tune-in" & be led by God... instead of REacting in our flesh---over time our mind is renewed and we are transformed as the fruit of the Spirit replaces the fruit of the flesh.

If you were blessed by today's thoughts--you will LOVE "Streams In The Desert" -- an amazing daily devtional---Click the link below to check it out!

Thanks for reading!  Remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

HELP for your Marriage, Work, Emotions & Life!

Dude, who doesn't need help HELP for their marriage, work, emotions & life?  I don't know the details of your life---but I know LIFE.  Life is hard.  People can be jerky.  Money can get tight.  Inconveniences and genuine hardships come--ALWYAYS when we DON'T want them to come, etc. etc. etc.

And if that paragraph was the END of the story... well, I wouldn't be sitting here today if that was the case.

Here's the AWESOME NEWS---that's NOT the end of the story.

There's a whole new chapter called, "God Is Good."  And I like to cally it "God Is Gooder than life is hard." :-)

So---if you have a few struggles in any of the areas mentioned above--or maybe other areas of your life, let me ask you a personal question, "How's your walk with God?"  I'm NOT asking, Do you believe in God... I'm asking How's your DAILY WALK/RELATIONSHIP with Him?  Are you HUNGRY for His Word?  Are you asking Him throughout your day... moment by moment to rule and reign and guard and encourage and embolden and convict... you?

You see... "...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."  If Jesus is (not just present, but) actively invited into your daily... minute by minute thought life--HE will produce a supernatural joy and peace that surpases understanding (Phil. 4:7).  He will set you free from YOU--free from worring abyout what others think about you.  Free from worry about what might happen to you---As you walk with Him daily, emptying yourself of "self" and inviting the Spirit of Jesus for fill your heart (emotions) and mind more and more each day--ASSURANCE (which is a confidence and a peace that is based NOT on you, or anything in this world--but 100% on Christ) will GROW in you.  As ASSURANCE grows in you--you enthusiasm for life will replace worry--because you know God is with you, in you, for you and loves you----and as you are filled up with that assurance & enthusiasm, it will OVERFLOW into your marrage, work, emotions, etc.

"You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." (Ps. 23:5)

What I'm describing is the process of spiritual growth... maturing in your walk with Jesus.  As you grow in Christ---faith replaces worry, insecurity, defensiveness, stress, fear, etc... I.e. it replaces every negative aspect of "broken life" and replaces it with all of the divine aspects of "born again life"... things like, love, joy, peach patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control--these are the FRUIT... the "result" of a life that passionately seeks God daily (Gal. 5:22-23).

So... would a mind and heart overflowing with freedom from self... filled with divine assurance and the spiritual fruits of ove, joy, peach patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control help your marriage, work and emotions?

Ya... me too!

Guess what--God is right here... right now... You are as close to Him... as filled up with Him as you choose to be---because He's already declared that He wants to be you're all-in-all!  Seek Him today... and every day---unswervingly and passionately--and you WILL be so blessed by what HE will do in you!

Thanks for reading!  Remember to share.

If you are hungry for an EXCELLENT resource to help you SEEK GOD every day--I totally encourage you to check out THE LINK below--this is an AWESOME daily devtional!

Blessings,
Brad


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Why The Church Matters

Today I want to share a message with you I shared here at North Euclid on Sunday, Sept. 18.  It's about WHY THE CHURCH MATTERS.  If you know Christ as your Savior---guess what---you are PART OF HIS BODY, I.e. "The Church."  This message digs into Why That's A BIG Deal.  Enjoy!

WHY THE CHURCH MATTERS.

Thanks for reading / listening!  Remember to share :-)
Blessings,
Brad

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Psalm 119:105 Days

Today is a Psalm 119:105 day for me.  I've had a lot of these recently.  Psalm 119:105 says,

"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path."

I'll never forget the day I learned the meaning of this verse.  I was sitting in service at First Church in Altoona, PA and John Collins was preaching.  He pointed out that the "light" & "lamp" referred to here aren't "SPOTLIGHTS" or "FLOOD LIGHTS" that expel all darkness.  They are little lights that give you light enought for your "next step."

Sometimes God does part the sea and make our foreseeable path blatantly clear.  But many days it's just about having light for that day... for that moment... resting and trusting in God for that next step.

Jesus said, "Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Mat. 6:34).  Do you see that word "Therefore" -- any time you see that word you need to ask, "What's it there -- for ?"  It's a way of saying, "BECAUSE OF WHAT I JUST SAID..."  So, let's go back to the previous statement Jesus made.

"...seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Mat. 6:33).  Translation--Keep the main thing the main thing and God will provide for you what you need...  So............ therefore............ don't worry about tomorrow.  Focus on walking with Jesus today.  Let His Word's light guide you through THIS step---and guess what?  When you get through this step and you're ready for the next one---The lamp of God's Word will be right there with you--to give you light (wisdom, understanding) for the NEXT one.

I guess we could sum this up by saying,  "Chillax ... take a deep breath... If you've trusted Christ, rest in Him.  He is with you.  Don't try to figure out your next 72 steps, just faithfully walk through the one that is right in front of you, knowing that God is with you and for you EVERY step of the way."

Blessings, thanks for reading!   Remember to SHARE!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

You GOT it... but do you GET it?

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' 14 'Well,' they replied, 'some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.' 15 Then he asked them, 'But who do you say I am?' 16 Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.' 17 Jesus replied, '... my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.'"  (Mat. 16:13-17, NLT)

Dude, Peter GOT it!  Jesus is the Christ... our Savior!  and Jesus commended him for having a a heart that was open to the Father's voice.  You know Peter had to feel pretty good about that moment!

But then... if you keep on reading, after this Jesus begins to share with his disciples that he came to die... and that he had to go to Jerusalem and be arrested and crucified...

...and this conversation breaks out...

"Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. 'Heaven forbid, Lord,' he said. 'This will never happen to you.' 23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, 'Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.'”  (Mat. 16:22-23, NLT)

What happened?  Peter GOT it... but then he didn't GET it.

I wonder how many people GET Jesus as Savior... but then, just like Peter, within a very short time... begin to live like they don't "GET IT" anymore.

We GET that Jesus is Lord, but then, like Peter we walk according to the ways of this world, instead of God's ways.  We function according to our own wisdom or the wisdom of this world -- instead of God's Word.

Can you point to a time in your life when you GOT IT?  I.e. you understood the message of the Cross, and received Jesus as Savior?

Are you living today like you GET IT?  Or are you like Peter---caught up in worldly thinking... alowing the culture to "conform you" instead of allowing God's Word to renew you (Rom 12:2)?

If you have gottne caught up in worldly thinking---you're not condemned (Rom. 8:1), but you do need to allow the Spirit to convict you of that... and repent today.... turn away from that and freshly commit to allowing God's Word and God's Spirit to guide you life---and NOTHING else.

I know I needed to do this today... this is my prayer, "Father, empty me of me.  Empty me of self-centered thinking and of any thoughts that are rooted in this world--and not of your Kingdom.  And FILL me with your SPIRIT and with a boldness to live unashamedly for you!"

Blessings, thanks for reading!   Remember to SHARE!

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Jesus & Noah - Faithful in Loneliness

If you’re a student of the Bible, you’ve probably heard people talk about “types” or “foreshadowings” – I.e. people or events that foreshadow another person, or event further along in history. A great example of this is the Temple in Jerusalem. It was an amazing structure—filled with priceless decor and spiritual symbolism. The earthly temple was a type, or a foreshadowing of the Heavenly Temple. “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24). 

In this bible study series I looked at a well-known Biblical hero--NOAH and how he foreshadowed the life and ministry of Jesus. In Bibe study one we discovered how both Noah and Jesus were agents of rest for God’s people. In Bible study two we discovered that Noah and Jesus were both beacons of light in a dark world. And today—in the final study—Jesus In The Old Testament -- Jesus & Noah Part 3 Faithful Servants—we’ll see how Jesus & Noah were both faithful servants even though they faced great loneliness at times.


Blessings, thanks for reading!   Remember to SHARE!

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Grace & Truth

 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).

Grace without Truth is perverted into a license to sin.

 “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about[b] long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude Vs. 3-4).

Truth without Grace is a brutal taskmaster that no one can please.

 “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were” (Rm. 5:20).

Jesus came filled with BOTH Grace & Truth.

 Truth reveals God’s nature and what He expects from us; a righteous lifestyle and a Christ like attitude and character.  Grace empowers us to obey.

 Godliness is impossible without grace. The Christian life is fundamentally a supernatural life. This is why Jesus said, “…no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (Jn. 3:3).

Consider the “attitudes” Jesus said are part of Kingdom Life:

 “Blessed (happy) are the poor in spirit (those who know they are spiritually bankrupt) for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed (happy) are those who mourn (those who grieve over the brokenness that fills this world because of sin) for they will be comforted.

Blessed (happy) are the meek (those who know it not about them) for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed (happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (those who have died to self—and long only to honor and please God) for they will be filled.

Blessed (happy) are the merciful (those who never seek vengeance—but instead always offer forgiveness) for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed (happy) are the pure in heart (those whose ONLY desire is to please God) for they will see God.

Blessed (happy) are the peacemakers (those who build bridges of reconciliation) for they will be called children of God.

Blessed (happy) are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (those who are belittled, marginalized, disrespected and even tortured because of Jesus) for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
(Mt. 5:3-10).

 NO ONE can live like this on their own steam. This is NOT a NATURAL life.

ONLY those who have been BORN AGAIN (born from above, or reborn spiritually--via repentance and faith) have the GRACE-POWER living within them  to live this kind of life.

EVERY time we approach Christianity as a self-help philosophy; a set of teachings that we should try to live by in order to make our lives better---we will fail miserably. You don’t NATURALLY rejoice when you are tortured of treated cruelly because of your profession of faith in Jesus. ONLY those who have laid their lives aside and fully embraced Christ as Lord and DEPEND on HIS Grace-Power have the POWER to live like this.  This is what Jesus can FULL of---GRACE (power to live by God's TRUTH.

This is why the FIRST step to LIVING for Jesus is DYING to SELF. Flesh (our self-centered-sin-nature) cannot live for God. Adding religion to your life without dying to self and embracing Jesus as King is a recipe for a luke-warm mess of a life. But when you die to self—then you are truly set free in Christ—this world has no more hold on you.

Here are a few verses that reflect this truth:

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Mt. 16:25).

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rm. 6:1-4).

“…consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rm. 6:11).

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

God NEVER intended for you to live a supernatural Christ-honoring life in NATURAL strength… so if you’ve been trying to---QUIT… die to that… freshly surrender the steering wheel of your life back to Christ today and ask Him to fill you up afresh with His Holy Spirit-GRACE-power for living!

Have an awesome and totally victorious day in Jesus!

Blessings, thanks for reading!   Remember to SHARE!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Okay--So what now?

This is where I take off my pastor-teacher cap and pick up my cheerleader megaphone! If you've been following these past couple of weeks, you know I've been talking a lot about becoming a Kingdom-Change-Agent for Christ.  If you missed that series you can catch up starting here.

As much as I hope and pray that the message of this little series has edified and encouraged you, my greatest hope is that you are spurred on to a deepr walk with Christ and to good works!

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). 

My hope for you is that these blogs have inspired, deepened, or rekindled a Kingdom-change-agent-mentality within you. Your coworkers, classmates, family members, neighbors, etc.; everyone you know and interact with is hungry to experience it—even if they don’t know it yet! 

Pause and ponder how an attitude of godly optimism, consistently demonstrated in your interactions with people could have a life-changing impact for the gospel.

Peter shares something in his first epistle that I believe offers us a perfect daily game-plan. He writes, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Pt. 3:15). 

Three Steps to Daily Change Agent Living.
Step One: Set Jesus Apart As Lord. 

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Pt. 3:15a).

This is where it all begins; waking up with the prayer, “Lord Jesus, you are my only sovereign and king. I’m optimistic today because in You I know that all my sin is forgiven, I’m whole, redeemed, loved and my life is in the hands of a God who is always working for my good! Father, by your Spirit, fill me with the power and the desire to be an agent of Christ-centered optimism everywhere I go today, for your glory and in the name of Christ I pray, Amen!”

Step Two: Be Ready! 

The above little prayer lived out will cause you to stick out. Your Jesus generated kindness, hope, encouragement and can-do attitude will cause you to shine as a beacon of hope. And when people struggling in darkness encounter people of light and hope, they pay attention. That sets the stage for Peters next set of instructions to us.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pt. 3:15b).

“Always be prepared…” (1 Pt. 3:15b)

This phrase means just what you think it means. Peter is teaching us that living as a change agent isn’t an event that we mark on our calendars, prepare for, execute and then forget about. Living for Jesus as His ambassadors is a twenty-four - seven daily lifestyle. We don’t know when or where our opportunities will come. We aren’t called to know that. Our job is simply to shine wherever we go for our King; to ALWAYS BE PREPARED to bless, help and encourage others wherever we go.

“…to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pt. 3:15b) 

In 1989, Field of Dreams, one of my all-time favorite sports movies was released. It’s a wonderful story. Here’s a little excerpt from Wikipedia's description of the plot.

"Ray Kinsella is a novice Iowa farmer who lives with his wife, Annie, and daughter, Karin. In the opening narration, he explains how he had a troubled relationship with his father, John Kinsella, who had been a devoted baseball fan. While walking through his cornfield one evening, he hears a voice whispering, 'If you build it, he will come.'  He continues hearing it before finally seeing a vision of a baseball diamond in his field. Annie is skeptical of that, but she allows him to plow the corn under in order to build a baseball field.”  And what happens next is magical! In case you’ve not seen the film I won’t spoil it for you here.

I share this little story because Field of Dreams made famous the line “If you build it, he will come.'  Peter is whispering a similar message in our ears. If you shine, people will notice and God will use it for His glory! Some may, as Peter suggests, come right out and ask you why you’re so hopeful? But many will cloak their “ask” in a variety of other ways. Some will silently watch how you live. Some will ask peripheral questions like, “Are you religious?” or “Do you go to church?” Others may begin talking about their life with you, sharing their struggles, which provides a perfect segue for you to say something like, “I’ll pray for you about that…” or “You know, I was just reading about worry in my devotions. The Bible says some really helpful things about this.” Or... well, the list of possible scenarios could go on forever. The point is, if you shine for Jesus around people, opportunities to interact with them in meaningful ways will come.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: 
This doesn’t just happen automatically. If you don’t daily set Christ apart as Lord in your heart, you’re probably not going to shine very brightly. If you aren’t intentional about engaging with people and looking for opportunities to bless and encourage others, the odds of someone randomly seeking you out and saying, “Hey, are you one of those Jesus-following people? My life’s a mess. Can you help me?” are slim-to none. But if you begin each day with that prayer we talked about above and walk through your day prepared and seeking opportunities to shine, they will come!

Step Three: Be humble. 

“But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pt. 3:15c). 

I think D.T. Niles captured the Peter’s thought here when he said, “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” 

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). 

The ground is level at the foot of the cross. No one is better, or morally superior to another. Apart from the blood of Christ, everyone is hopeless. Social status means nothing in the Kingdom of God. So, Peter exhorts us to stay humble. Never lose sight of where you would be apart from Grace and allow that humility to guide you in your interactions with everyone.

Set Christ apart as Lord… Be ready… Be humble… 

Let’s do it!

Are you ready to become a Kingdom Change Agent of godly optimism? I’m pulling for you! God is pulling for you! It’s time to move beyond religion to genuine discipleship; daily following Jesus as King.  It’s time to engage an intentional lifestyle that flows out of your relationship with Christ. As the Lord of Life lives and moves in you, He will shine through you. As you walk through your days—in the company of whoever happens to be with you—rejoicing in the Lord, not in a stuffy-religious way, but authentically; not just when things are going your way, but especially in the difficult moments, people will see your hope and that will open doors for conversation, testimony and kingdom work. Let's do it!

Blessings, thanks for reading!   Remember to SHARE!

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Jesus In The Old Testament - Pt. 2 Jesus & Noah were beacons of light!

If you’re a student of the Bible, you’ve probably heard people talk about “types” or “foreshadowings” – I.e. people or events that foreshadow another person, or event further along in God's story.

A great example of this is the Temple in Jerusalem. It was an amazing physical structure—filled with priceless decor and spiritual symbolism. The earthly temple was a type, or a foreshadowing of the Heavenly Temple.

“For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24). 

In this bible study video series I’m looking at a well-known Biblical hero--NOAH and how he foreshadowed the life and ministry of Jesus.

In Part One -- we discovered how both Noah and Jesus were agents of rest for God’s people. 

Here in Part Two -- we discover that Noah and Jesus were both beacons of light in a dark world.


Blessings, thanks for watching!   Remember to SHARE!

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Church is YOU with a PURPOSE

Traditions, ministries, programs, pot-lucks, VBS, Small Groups, Boards, Budgets, By-Laws, Buildings, Pastors, etc... we could make a list a mile long of all the good & important "stuff" we DO/Participate in "at" church couldn't we?  But NONE of those things ARE the church.

The Church is God's People--all who have received Christ as Savior and follow Him as Lord... or as I'm planning to say this week in my message, "The Church is you with a purpose."

And the Bible is pretty clear on what that purpose is: to love God and love people.

Matthew 22:37-39 "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

As followers of Christ around the world wake up each day--determined in their hearts to LOVE God with their lives--by the words we speak,  actions we engage in  and the attitudes we express---THE CHURCH functions as salt and light in a world that desperately needs it!  There are reportedly 2.2 billion Christians in the world---that's a lot of salt and light!  God is a great orchestra conductor.  By His Spirit living within each of us--He directs our lives along "paths of righteousness for His names's sake"  (Ps. 23:3); leading us into conversations, opportunities to bless, serve, help, encourage, pray for another, testify about His love in our lives, etc.   As we individually follow Him--collectively we form a massiave symphony---playing God's tune in the world each day!

You may not feel like your individual life makes all that much impact---but don't let that lie linger in your mind.  Take it captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) -- and replace it with this thought:  My life matters!  The "notes" I play today make a difference--even if I don't always notice it.  Just like every "part" of my human body matters and plays an important function--MY LIFE and daily choices are import and play an important part in God's plan.  My lifestyle & witness matters!  How I live impacts the "health" of Christ's body!

The church isn't a religious institution.  It's God's people living with a purpose every day!

So, love God and love people today---boldly--in Jesus' name.  And do so knowing that you're part of something massvie.  You're part of God's 2.2 billion piece orchestra--and "every note" matters!

Thanks for reading!  If you were encouraged--rmember to share, thanks!

Blessings,
Brad

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Are You A FAN or a FOLLOWER of Jesus?

Today is a day in the trenches at the office... got a Mt. of "to-dos" to nock out... So I thought I would share a video I posted a few days ago.  This video leads into one of my Christian Rock Songs--at the end... but the majority of the video focuse on a very important spiritual question--one the every Christ-follower needs to consider.  I hope it encourages you today!


Thanks for reading/watching!  If you were encouraged--remember to share, thanks!

Blessings,
Brad

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I'm Optimistic--Even When I'm Sad...

I think it’s really important for us to understand that optimism and sadness are not mutually exclusive. Life is hard. This world is a broken place. Bad things happen. The Bible is crystal clear on this point,

“In this world you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:33).

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (Jn. 15:18). 

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). 

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Mt. 5:11). 

God never candy-coats things. Life is hard and following Christ in a world that in many respects has rejected Him is very often an uphill climb. But difficulties, hardships and even tragedies don’t crush optimism. Indeed, they are the soil out of which optimism blooms! When we’re all with Jesus in Heaven someday, nobody will be writing or reading books about optimism. There’s no need for optimism in paradise. Optimism and its close cousin, hope, are born out of dark times, hard times, painful and desperate times. Optimism is the ability to look past our current hardship and see God’s presence and purpose in the larger picture.

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later” (Rm. 8:18, NLT).

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16:-18).

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

In each of these passages, I’m sure neither Jesus nor Paul was happy about being ridiculed and tortured. But those circumstances didn’t dampen their optimistic trust in their Heavenly Father one ounce. In fact, those circumstances ignited their faith and fanned the flames of their optimism. Author Tim Hansel was right when he wrote, "Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.” We can choose joy!  We can choose optimism!  James said it this way,  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance" (James 1:2-3).

In an interview, Kay Warren, author, speaker and wife to Pastor Rick Warren, said, “Joy” (another close cousin to optimism) “is a settle assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life. It’s a quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright. It’s a determined choice to praise God in all things. And that has nothing to do with feelings. It has nothing to do with what happens to me. It doesn’t matter what goes on… what happens… what doesn’t happen… what I get… what I don’t get… what prayers are answered the way I want. It has everything to do with what I have decided in my mind about God. It’s growing in the settled assurance that I can trust God.”  

When Christ lives in you. His presence does not insulate you from the pain of this life, but it does supernaturally empower you to walk victoriously through it. One of my favorite professors in college was Bob Martin. Bob was my theology professor.  Bob's mind was a resevior of theological concepts and perspectives.  But what made him truly special was the reality that his theology went so much deeper than mere academics. I’ve never met anyone who loved Jesus more or walked more closely with Him than Bob. Whenever you passed Bob on campus and asked, “How are you today?” He was famous for always responding with, “Rejoicing in the Lord.” And when he said it, it rolled off his lips with a sincerity that was utterly genuine.

One day in class Bob was lecturing on subject of suffering. He said a lot of profound-theologian-type of things, all of which I still have captured in my notes in a three-ring binder in my office. But at one point in his lecture the mood shifted from academic to personal as he began to shared about his own experiences with suffering. The lecture became a testimony about Christ’s faithfulness in times of trouble. I don’t have the exact quote, but I’ve treasured and shared my paraphrased version of something he said that day with countless others over the course of my adult life. It went something like this:

Everyone experiences suffering in this broken world, but Christians uniquely have the promise of Christ’s presence in the midst of suffering. We never walk alone. We are never forsaken or abandoned (Heb. 13:5). Our suffering is never pointless or unseen (Rom. 8:28). God is intimately aware of every hurt and every tear drop. 

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Ps. 56:8, NLT). 

Optimism could be defined as a Christ-centered approach to living that magnifies the joys of life and permeates every season of suffering with an empowering confidence that God is walking with us and working for us all the way through! When this mindset takes root in your heart and begins guiding your daily life. You will stand out as an agent of Christ. Your light will shine. And God will use that light to influence the world around you for His glory!

Thanks for reading!  If you were encouraged--remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

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