So, we have this cat named Dusty. I sometimes wonder what’s going on in his “cat brain” as he lounges around most of the day. I doubt he thinks much about the past. He has no “regrets” of past behavior that rob him of his sleep. I also doubt he worries about the future. “What if my food dish is empty tomorrow?” probably never crosses his mind. Dusty lives in the moment. Humans are quite different than animals. We often dwell on the past. In a good sense, we can learn from past experiences; but, too often, our focus on the past creates painful memories and regret. We also project ahead and imagine the future. Here again, this can be good for us as we interject hope into our thoughts. However, the future can be a scary place, and our human nature tends to gravitate toward worry and anxiety. What can we do to overcome past regret or future worry? God’s Word teaches us the importance of “being present” in the right now. Paul told the Ephesians, “Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (5:16-18). The phrase “be filled with the Spirit” is a present imperative (in the passive) which basically means, “Let God keep on filling you now!” I have noticed in my walk with God how easily I can be distracted from the moment because of the past or future. However, when I simply walk with Jesus right now and depend on His Spirit this moment, life takes care of itself. Yes, the Lord wants us to learn from the past…and to anticipate the future, but He calls us to abide in Him in this present moment. Lift up your soul to Jesus right now, and you will discover He is the great I AM.
Prayer:“Lord, help me not to miss the opportunities right in front of me. Please fill me with your Spirit right now…in Jesus’ name!”
As a believer in Jesus I read the whole Bible. Most of the Bible is what we call the “Old Testament.” Throughout the centuries after Jesus came, Christians have struggled and debated questions such as: “Do I need to obey the Old Testament?” and “What do I apply to myself and what do I simply overlook in the Old Testament?” The answers to these questions are found in the teachings of the New Testament. Jesus declared that He came to fulfill the Law (the teachings given by God to Moses for the Israelites) and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, many of the Old Testament ceremonial and temple rituals are fulfilled in Christ. The laws given to Israel teach us good things about God, and they also reveal the wonderful ministry of Jesus the Messiah. For example, we don’t need to sacrifice bulls and sheep as the Israelites did because Jesus gave himself as the perfect and final sacrifice! In the Book of Galatians, Paul wrote to believers who, after receiving Christ, were trying to “add” to their salvation the practice of the Law. Paul called them on this. In strong, unmistakable terms Paul proclaimed that the believer in Jesus is free from having to live under the Law found in the Old Covenant. Being declared righteous before God, He taught, was not a matter of proclaiming ourselves “worthy” because of our efforts to keep a bunch of laws. Righteousness comes through faith in Jesus! This “freedom” from the Law, however, does not mean we abandon morals or godly behavior. Paul wrote, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:13-14). So, the way we live out our Christian life is by faith in Jesus and love for one another. This is not a “law of works,” but it is the “law of love.” Paul again wrote, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6). Catch Paul’s vision here: Living for Christ is not a “burden” of having to perform duties and keep laws; it is, rather, a freedom to live above the sinful nature and to express our faith through loving God and others. You can’t beat that!
A while ago I was talking to a young man (let’s call him Sam) who experienced a great disappointment. As a believer, Sam loved Jesus, but his heart felt the heavy weight of discouragement. These questions kept surfacing in his mind: Why did I have to go through this? Why didn’t God answer my prayer? Spiritual confusion led to an abundance of self-pity. How can we help others who are disappointed with life…and with God? Well, let’s try to imagine a life without any problems or challenges. Would there be any need for faith? Would we see our need of God or have compassion for anyone else? The Bible helps us with these questions. The Apostle Paul wrote two letters to believers in Corinth who struggled with many issues. Life was going very well. Here is how Paul reconciled the reality of suffering with the will of God. He wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God is not aloof in our struggles. He doesn’t take pleasure in the disappointments we face. The clear truth here is: God wants to comfort us! For this to happen, we must step off the treadmill of self-pity and reach out to the Lord in faith. Jesus was acquainted with persecution at the hands of those who hated Him—as well as disappointments from those who loved Him. Yet, He committed himself to the One who is just, and who is able to keep what is committed to Him. We must admit that in our difficulties we grow more in our faith and learn more about God than we ever could if life were always smooth sailing. As we ask God for help, His Spirit does a deep work in us and renews our perspective on life. He reminds us that we live in a fallen rebellious world where most people are suppressing the truth instead of embracing it. As God comforts us, we “rediscover” our true source of hope and strength…the Lord himself! Also, our trials serve an amazing purpose…not just for us but also for others. As we receive God’s comfort, we are then given the ability to comfort others! Has God sent someone to you who “happens” to be going through what you just experienced? You would never know how to help someone else if your faith was never challenged. So, look at your disappointments not as the period at the end of a sentence, but, rather, as a comma that leads you into the unknown adventure of faith! Keep trusting, keep receiving comfort, and keep giving what God has given you!
A Christian was witnessing to a man and asked him if he ever read the Bible. He said, “No, the Bible is just about an angry God sending people to hell.” Is that so? Nothing could be further from the truth. I just finished reading the Book of Jeremiah. It’s true, the prophet had a lot to say about judgment and God’s wrath coming on many nations—including Israel. Babylon, a powerful nation to the north of Israel, would be God’s instrument, sharpened and ready to devastate the land. Does God delight in punishment? Is judgment what He desired for Israel? Absolutely not! Over and over, Jeremiah pleaded with the king and the people. God gave them much time and many opportunities to repent and turn from their sins. Judgment eventually came, not because “God is an angry God” but because the people chose evil over obedience. King Zedekiah, the leader during the final years of Judah, met several times with the prophet. Each time, Jeremiah tried to get Zedekiah to act in faith, to believe that God is merciful, and to believe that God is holy and just. But Zedekiah, and the people who followed his “misleadership,” showed no interest in what God said. Through their own hardness of heart, they marched themselves right over the cliff of judgment. While reading this sad account, I thought of how easily God could have simply annihilated Israel and started over. However, after some of the people were taken captive to Babylon, God showed His concern and love for them. Through a letter written by Jeremiah, the Lord said to them, “‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’” (Jeremiah 29:10-13). Does this sound like the “angry God” some people imagine? Our Lord loves us so much that He warns us ahead of disaster. And, even after the bitter consequences we bring upon ourselves, He offers us hope. We serve a good God!