Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Biblical Mantra for Difficult Days

According to the online dictionary, a mantra is "a word or phrase that is often repeated or that expresses someone's basic beliefs."  When it comes to Christianity, some of the most-used mantras include passages like Psalm 23, Psalm 91, and individual verses like Philippians 4:13.  When choosing a mantra from the Bible, you can't go wrong as long as you're quoting the verse correctly and in context. (We've discussed this before, but if you're not sure to what I'm referring, feel free to contact me.)

I know a lot of Scripture, though not as much as I should.  And when troubles arise, I'm quick to search for a verse that will bring comfort to me during that particular circumstance.  Sometimes it's easy because verses immediately pop into my mind, but during the darker days, I have to pull out my worn copy of There's a Verse for That to find what I'm looking for.

This morning, however, I came across a couple of verses that are guaranteed to cover any situation or emotional struggle I may face.  If I can remember this one passage (or at the very least, the mantra I can glean from this passage), I'll never have to search for comfort again.  These two verses cover it all.  Are you intrigued?  Good!  Have a great day.  (Just kidding, I'm going to tell you!)

And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. (Exodus 3:7-8)

Now you're probably confused, right?  What does this have to do with your problems?  Well, in this passage, Israel was in trouble, and in these couple of verses we see God's response to their predicament, and because God is not a respecter of persons, we can be assured He will respond to us in the same way.  If you read back through those verses very carefully, you'll find our new mantra.  Ready?

God sees.
God hears.
God knows.
God comes to the rescue.

Woohoo, I've got glory bumps!

God sees the circumstances we're facing.  He sees the sorrow of our heart and the tears on our face.  He sees the heartbreak, the frustration, the hopelessness.  He sees it all.

God hears our cries and our torment.  He hears the pain in our voice and the hoarseness of our pleas.  He hears the taunts the enemy throws our way and our own words of discouragement and fear.  God hears it all.

God knows.  He knows how long we've been waiting.  He knows how much we've suffered.  He knows the road has been rough and we're ready to quit.  He knows because He's been there.

Just when we feel we are all alone.  When we are ready to throw in the towel.  When it seems we can't take another step, God reminds us that He's here.  He has never left us.  He's been watching, listening and understanding--waiting for His perfect timing to make His presence known.  He was there all along, and now He's here to rescue us.

We see this story play out time and time again throughout the Bible.  Though the people and circumstances vary, God's gameplan remains the same:  He sees, He hears, He knows, He rescues.  And we serve the same God.  The One Who is unchanging.  The One Who loves us and cares for us.  The One Who knows what's best for us even when we can't see it.  We need to trust Him.  He has a plan, and if we constantly remind ourselves of that plan (our mantra), we'll find it easier to get through life no matter what comes our way.

So, let's say it again, and say it like we mean it.

God sees.
God hears.
God knows.
God comes to the rescue.

He's done it before, and He'll do it again.  Trust Him and keep these words close to your heart at all times.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Whatchu Talkin' About?

A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it! - Proverbs 15:23

I love verses like that!  So simple.  So concise.  So straightforward.  But how often do we glance right over the meaning of such wonderful passages?  Too often, I'm afraid.  But not today.  Today, we're going to dig into that first phrase:  A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth.

Do you want to be happy?  To feel good?  To be encouraged and hopeful?  Sure, we all do.  Then according to this verse, we need to guard what comes out of our mouths.  If we want to feel good, we need to speak good (no, I don't mean well, I mean good).  To speak well is to be eloquent, clear and expressive, and while those are excellent qualities, they are not the things that will bring or expel our happiness.  No, that comes from speaking good.  Talking about positive things.  Using words that lift others up rather than tearing them down.  Words of praise and gratitude.  Uplifting.  Encouraging.  Joyful.

I challenge you to take a moment and think back over the words that have come out of your mouth today.  Were they good?  Could they be considered joyful?  Or were they words of complaint, criticism, cynicism and the like?  As I type this, it's only a little after 9:00 in the morning, and I must confess that not all of my words today have been joyful.  Words of praise didn't escape my lips this morning when I discovered that the ants had gained entrance to the pantry and were helping themselves to anything and everything they could.  I didn't shout "Hallelujah" when I stepped outside for my prayer walk and was met with the rising heat.  Even during my prayer time, many of my words wreaked of complaint and dissatisfaction.  Hmm, and I wonder why I get discouraged and downcast.  The verse above tells me exactly why.

We need to watch our words.  They have power--far more than we give them credit for.  We cast them around so carelessly, but Proverbs 18:21 tells us, Death and life are in the power of the tongue. . .  Did you catch that?  We have the power over life and death, and that power resides in our tongue.  So, I ask you again, what are you talking about?  Are your words killing you or giving you life?  Are they bringing you joy or heartache?

Speak well, but more than that, speak good!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Finding Your Purpose in Life, Part Four

I hope you've enjoyed this short series on finding your purpose in life and that it has helped you to see your gifts and talents for what they are.  I pray you've also identified your passion in life and are now on your way toward a happier and more fulfilling existence.  Before we close out the series, however, I feel we must cover one more point.  It doesn't matter how much we know or understand if we're not willing to put that knowledge or those skills to work.  So, the final piece of this purpose puzzle can be summarized with one word:  ACT!

If you read the rest of Exodus 36 and chapters 37-39, you'll see that these men completed the work that God called them to do.  Step by step, piece by piece, they followed the directions of the Lord and used their knowledge, skill and passion to perform each task.  Verse 43 of chapter 39 tells us, And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the Lord had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.

Did you notice that twice in that one verse it says, "they had done it"?  They didn't just think about it.  They did more than plan for it or envision it.  They did the work.  They completed the job.  They put their knowledge, skill and passion to the test, and God wants us to do the same.  He not only wants us to find our purpose, but He also wants us to live out that purpose.  What good is the knowledge if we don't put it to use?  Who cares how talented you are if you're unwilling to use those talents for God's glory?  Don't just know; do!

This principle is repeated elsewhere in the Bible.  For example, James 1:22 says, But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  And Philippians 4:9 tells us, Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

You've heard; now do.  You've seen; now do.  You've received; now do.  You've learned; now do.  Don't squander what God has given you.  Use it!  God gave you that knowledge, skill and passion for a reason, but you'll never know that reason if you don't act.

So, what are you waiting for?  Time is short, and believe it or not, the world needs you.  It needs you to be exactly what God has called you to be.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  It's time to be the best version of yourself--one committed to God's purpose and plan!

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. - Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Finding Your Purpose in Life, Part Three

In a couple of previous posts, we covered the first two steps to determining your purpose in life. To boil it down, we discussed how God will give you both the knowledge and the skill to perform the tasks to which He has called you. I saw an excellent example of this in the devotion book I was reading this morning. The author put it like this: "If I gave you some wood, a saw, a hammer and some nails, you would know that I want you to build something. If I gave you several cans of paint and a variety of paintbrushes, you would understand that I wanted you to paint something. It's the same way with the things that God gives us. We need to examine the knowledge and skills He has given us and determine what He wants us to do with them."

Sometimes, that can still be a bit tricky. After all, as we mentioned earlier, many of us have a range of knowledge in many subjects and quite a number of talents. So, where does that leave us? With so many things to choose from, what exactly is God trying to tell us about our purpose? That's where step three comes into play. Let's go back to our example above. If I gave you wood, a saw, a hammer and some nails, you would know that I want you to build something, but what exactly do I want you to build? It's up to you. What do you want to build? What are you passionate about?

To understand this point further, let's consult our passage of Scripture. Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the Lord had commanded. And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it. (Exodus 36:1-2)

Today, I want to focus on that last phrase, whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it. To have your heart stirred up is to have passion about something. These men were passionate about the project ahead of them. They were excited about it. They couldn't wait to get started. Maybe you can relate. I know I can. This is exactly how I feel about writing, especially when I'm working on a new project or even nearing the end of a project that I've been working on for some time. My mind is focused on the task, so much so that I have trouble sleeping and eating. I awake in the morning and can't wait to get started. I think about it day in and day out. It's always on my mind. That's what it means to be passionate about something. Yes, there are other things I enjoy and other things that I consider myself good at, but when I boil it all down to what I want to do the most, the answer is simple. I'm a writer, and I want to write!

Some of you may be raising your eyebrows and declaring, "But that's what I want, not what God wants." Who says it can't be both? Why do we have it in our minds that the tasks God wants us to perform have to be unpleasant and undesirable? After all, if He gave us the skill and the knowledge, doesn't it make sense that He would also provide us with the desire? This is where Psalm 37:4 comes into play: Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. This verse is often quoted in support of the theory that if we pray for something, God will give it to us simply because we want it. But that is not what this verse is saying. What it mean is if we delight in the Lord (seek to do His will), He will plant the proper desires in our hearts. So, when it comes to determining your purpose in life, you need only look at the things God has given you and figure out which of those things brings the most joy to your life. Which one gets you the most excited? It's not about money or fame or anything else for that matter. It's about having your heart stirred to perform the task.

Here's the best part about doing something you're passionate about: it doesn't feel like work. Yes, it will probably require a lot of time and effort, but because you're enjoying the process, it seems more like a hobby. That's not to say it won't be difficult at times or that it won't have its ups and downs, but overall, it will be something that will bring you joy time and time again.

We must remember that God has given us free will, and while that does not give us the freedom to do what we want or act how we want, it does mean that He has given us choices to make. If you're seeking His will, He will enable you to find your purpose, and if, for some reason, you get off track, He is both willing and able to lead you back where you need to be. So don't be afraid to take a risk or step out in faith. After all, you'll never find your true purpose if you don't go looking.

Have you found your passion?  Would you like to share it with the other readers?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017