April 30, 2017
NAVIGATING ROUGH WATERS
1 Chronicles 28:20
"Then David said to Solomon his son, 'Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.'"
I was enjoying the start of my first whitewater rafting experience—until I heard the roar of the rapids up ahead. My emotions were flooded with feelings of uncertainty, fear, and insecurity at the same time. Riding through the whitewater was a first-rate, white-knuckle experience! And then, suddenly, it was over. The guide in the back of the raft had navigated us through. I was safe—at least until the next set of rapids.
Transitions in our lives can be like whitewater experiences. The inevitable leaps from one season of life to the next—college to career, changing jobs, living with parents to living alone or with a spouse, career to retirement, youth to old age—are all marked by uncertainty and insecurity.
In one of the most significant transitions recorded in Old Testament history, Solomon assumed the throne from his father David. I’m sure he was filled with uncertainty about the future. His father’s advice?:
"..."Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.'" (1 Chron. 28:20)
We’ll have our fair share of tough transitions in life. But with God in our raft we’re not alone. Keeping our eyes on the One who is navigating the rapids brings joy and security. He’s taken lots of others through before.
God guides us through the rapids of change.
Our Daily Bread
April 29, 2017
NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more."
In its "plot," the story of the Bible ends up very much where it began. The broken relationship between God and human beings is healed at last, and the curse of Genesis 3 is lifted. Borrowing images from Eden, Revelation pictures a river and a tree of life:
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (Revelation 22:1-2)
But this time a great city replaces the garden setting-a city filled with worshipers of God. No death or sadness will ever darken that scene. When we awake in the new heaven and new earth, we will have at last a happy ending. Heaven is not an afterthought or an optional belief. It is the final justification of all creation. The Bible never belittles human tragedy and disappointment-is any book more painfully honest?-but it does add one key word: temporary. What we feel now, we will not always feel. The time for re-creation will come.
For people who feel trapped in pain or in a broken home, in economic misery or in fear-for all of us-heaven promises a timeless future of health and wholeness and pleasure and peace. The Bible begins with the promise of a Redeemer in the book of Genesis:
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15)
And ends with that same promise:
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'” And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.' And he said to me, 'It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.'" (Revelation 21:1-7)
A guarantee of future reality. The end will be the beginning.
April 28, 2017
"the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer;"
Future savings is a wise way to express faith in our Heavenly Father. He does His part by giving us the ability to produce resources and He expects us to not spend it all in the present. The temptation is to take the work of our hands and have it all for now. However, it is when we wait on wants and save for needs that position us to give in our golden years.
"And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great." (Job 8:7)
Future savings requires self-denial and self-sacrifice. This is especially hard for those who are spenders. You want to reward yourself for a job well done, so you splurge and enjoy the moment. Perhaps a good process is to save 10% for long-term savings, just like you give 10% to the church and the Lord’s work. Consider an automatic draft from your checking account into safe savings, so that over time you adjust and don’t miss the cash flow.
"Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it." (Proverbs 21:20)
Future savings gives you options. Would you like to have the opportunity to take your grandchildren on mission trips or give to building orphanages around the world? Maybe. Or, you may have the simple goal of having access to proper healthcare. None of us want to be a burden to our family or friends, even though they are there to bless you. Savings helps them to help you in your time of need. You raised them to be there for you one day.
"For thus says the LORD: 'Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, "O Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel."'" (Jeremiah 31:7)
Use the times when you gather extra income to store up for the lean times just like Joseph saved grain during the prosperous days so he could provide during the days of famine.
"And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind." (Genesis 41:6)
How can you save wisely for your family and your future needs?
April 27, 2017
PEACE ON EARTH
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
Peace on our planet has been at best a rare commodity. Wars continue to ravage innocent lives, domestic violence is a growing calamity, divorce rates soar, churches split, and peace in our restless and wayward hearts seems to be an elusive dream.
Where is the promised peace? Actually, on reflection, we can see that Jesus brought all that is needed for peace in our world.
He taught the principles of peace, calling for people to love their neighbors as they love themselves. And as He was leaving this planet, He promised,
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." (John 14:27)
He told us to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, forgive offenses, reject greed, tolerate each other's weaknesses, live to serve and love one another as He has loved us.
"But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39)
It seems that, in large part, peace is up to us. Paul verifies that in Romans:
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." (Romans 12:18)
Let us make peace our gift to the world in which we live as we reflect the Prince of Peace. When we experience peace with God, we can share His peace with others.
April 25-26, 2017
SALT OF THE EARTH
"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet."
What did Jesus mean when He told His followers that they were "the salt of the earth"?
In the ancient world, salt had many uses. For one, it preserved food. Without salt, meat and fish would quickly spoil. In a similar way, Christians who uphold God's moral standards can slow the decay of society.
Salt was also used as fertilizer. Until the mid-1900s, English farmers added salt to their fields to increase the yield. Salt helped crops to grow. Christians too can encourage the growth of what is good wherever they live. Salt also brings out the flavor of food. By their witness, salty believers help the people around them to taste life fully as God intended.
Yet Jesus warned that salt can lose its flavor.
Pure salt as we know it, made up of sodium chloride, can't lose its taste. In ancient Israel, however, farmers would dig salt from the shores of the Dead Sea. Although it was called salt and looked like salt, it was mixed with other substances. Farmers would make a pile of the salty material to use on their crops, but when the rains came, the pure salt would sometimes drain away. What was left looked like salt, but it had lost its saltiness.
What about you? Are you a salty Christian?
A salty Christian makes others thirsty for Jesus, the Water of Life.
Haddon W. Robinson
April 24, 2017
THE MARSHMALLOW TEST
1 John 3:3
"And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure."
I bet you have never thought that faith has anything to do with marshmallows, but it absolutely does—and I learned that it does while recently listening to Invisibilia, an NPR podcast.
During each episode, Invisibilia addresses the unseen things that motivate and shape people such as expectations and beliefs. During one particular show, the hosts discussed the popular Youtube video, “The Marshmallow Test.” In this test, a small child is ushered into a room by a researcher, seated, and given one marshmallow. The researcher then tells the child she is leaving, but that if he will wait and not eat the marshmallow, that he will be given a second marshmallow when the researcher returns in approximately 15 minutes.
The Marshmallow Test has its roots in The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment which was a series of studies on delayed gratification conducted in the late 1960s and 1970s by psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University.
In an interview for Invisibilia, Mischel said that the main point of the experiment was that if the researcher told a child something like, “Imagine that this is not a marshmallow at all. It’s just a picture of a marshmallow” then suddenly, a little girl who couldn’t delay gratification for more than a few minutes could resist temptation for 15 minutes simply by thinking differently about her circumstances.
Mischel’s statements hit me and a deluge of thoughts began circling in my mind:
The child Mischel describes could act differently because she thought differently. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to what happens to us. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Jesus said we should think thoughts that are pure and lovely and of a good report.
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)
God has called us to frame our life experiences within the context of His truth and when we do, when we think the way God thinks, then we will act differently because we think differently. How we think shapes who we are and how we navigate life. God has given us minds to create and to influence. We are to use our minds to agree with Him.
The good news is that no matter what we are going through, God has given His kids the ability to agree with Him. He has given us the ability to think about our circumstances the way He thinks about them. So rather than tell ourselves, “I can’t do this.” “I can’t take any more.” “I can’t go on,” we can reframe our experiences within the context of faith. So we say, “I can’t do this, Lord. But you can. You will enable me.” And just like the little girl who can endure a “marshmallow temptation” by reframing her circumstance, we have the blessed privilege of “reframing” our circumstances too, within the context of God’s truth and His love for us. Then we can press on.
You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to what happens to you—and that makes all the difference. Do you need to “reframe” your experiences today within the light of God’s truth and love for you? Try it. I think you’ll like it.
"For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall." (Psalm 18:29)
Do you need to reframe one of your life experiences in God’s truth? Talk with God about it today and accept His truth regarding your circumstances. Choose to believe Him.