God Is Watching You! – Part Two

Yesterday we saw that we are to be doing all things as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). When we do so we will do things with extreme passion as we know the Lord is watching everything we do. And, we looked at the parable of the sheep and goats and saw that we are to treat all people with dignity, respect, and lots of love. And to do it passionately because we are doing it “onto the Lord.”

This principle is, of course, fondly known as the golden rule, and we see Jesus mentioning this in Luke 6:31-38 in The Message version.

“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behaviour: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

“I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

It would be wonderful to live that way, but how is it done? The golden rule sounds simple but proves difficult to live by. What is the secret to handling people as Jesus says we must handle them? For Brother Lawrence (see blog for July 28, 2020), it was an all-day, every-hour, wide-open passionate and personal intimate relationship with God. He experienced more joy in the kitchen than anyone with a million-dollar allowance at the world’s finest luxury resort — because Brother Lawrence was with God, and that showed him to pots and pans, and fellow monks in the monastery, in a whole new light. It enabled him to live by the golden rule.

We are empowered to live a truly passionate life when serving God is the object behind everything we do. Our passion is diluted when we live only to gratify self or win the approval and acceptance of others. Peter and the other apostles of the early church made it clear who was at the center of their activities: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The passionate ministry of those dedicated leaders resulted in thousands of people turning to Christ and the establishment of the early church.

Paul wrote, “Do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). Remember, Paul had been a very successful Pharisee, a well-educated man, a Roman citizen with every privilege that status entailed. Yet he gave it all up to follow his passion for Jesus Christ. He was consumed with that passion, and it gave him joy in every circumstance — even while sitting in prison or waiting for slow legal appeals when he wanted to be travelling and preaching. “To live is Christ,” Paul said, “and to die is again” (Philippians 1:21). There is no reason that you and I cannot live with such an unsinkable view of reality. And, to live that reality with passion. Embracing every day, engaging every person, living life with enthusiasm and expectancy. 

This is how a Christian is to live. And we need to remember that God is truly watching everything that we do and hears everything that we say. So, let’s made a decision right now and choose to live life passionately and for an audience of one – God, our Heavenly Father. 

God Is Watching You! – Part One

David Seamands, author and professor, tells a story about his seminary’s cafteria, which shared facilities with a college campus. One day, as the students moved through the lunch line, they found a basket of bright red apples. A sign places by the staff read, “Take only one please — God is watching.” The students progressed through the line, selected their courses, and reached the other end, where they found a box of broken cookies. There was another sign, this one hastily scrawled on notebook paper, clearly left by a student. This one read, “Take as many as you want. God is watching the apples.”

We chuckle because we understand that God is watching indeed, but He has no blind spot. He is watching the apples, the cookies, and everything else. Most of all, God is watching us. How often do we consider that fact? How much of a difference would it make in the lives of you, your family, your friends, and your coworkers if you lived with that message in mind all the time: God is watching. Perhaps you would find that to be a crushing burden. But perhaps, if you knew who God really is and understood His love and His grace, you would instead live passionately and on purpose. 

If God is watching — and smiling upon you — then you would want to please Him every moment. If God is watching — and love that hurting person in the next cubicle at work — then you would want to minister to that person because you know that is what God wants you to do.

The apostle Paul knew that Gof is watching. He challenged us in Colossians 3:23-24 to do everything passionately, “as to the Lord and not to men.” We work as to the Lord at the office, but that’s only the beginning. We work to the Lord while grouting the bathroom tile. We work as to the Lord when we stand to sing in church and when we change a diaper in the church nursery. There is no task in this world you cannot perform with passion, as long as you remember who that task is really for and all that He has already done for you. How you do it will reflect how you feel about your Master.

Brother Lawrence is a well-known monk even thought he lived in seventeenth-century Paris, France. He lived with a group of Carmelite monks. He was no deep thinker or learned theologian. But he had a very special gift: an understanding that God was with him everywhere. That transformed everything about Brother Lawrence, and his writings on the subject have transformed countless others. 

This particular monk, you see, was assigned to the kitchen. He cooked and cleaned for his Carmelite bothers. Kitchen drudgery? Not to him. Scouring every pot and rinsing every dish were extensions of his worship and service to God, as important as any other task in the monastery. He would pray, “Lord of all pots and pans and things … make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates!” He would tell others, “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.” He called it practicing the presence of God, and we could all use a little practice of that kind.

In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus illustrated how our passionate good deeds go much further than the people for whom we do them. God, pictured in the story as a great king, says to his righteous servants: “… ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me’” Matthew 25:34-36 ESV)

The servants are puzzled. Their master has never suffered in any of these ways. They ask him to remind them when he, a king, was ever hungry, thirsty, lonely, or naked. And he replies,   

“‘Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:40 MSG.)

It’s interesting that Jesus uses down-and-outers to illustrate that passionate service to others is, in fact, ministry to Him. Perhaps because we find it difficult to serve people who are dirty, disrespectful, or potentially dangerous to us; it’s easier to be passionate about helping people who we consider deserving. But as Jesus explained in the Sermon on the Mount, it’s not up to us to make those kinds of evaluations. As long as the one who crosses our path is one who was created and loved by God, then we can be certain we must serve and love him too. And however we would wish to be treated, we can be certain were must treat that person the same way.  

More next time…

The Pursuit of Happiness

When I was growing up I loved to listen to the old 78 rpm records that my Mom and Dad had in their record collection. One in particular was my favourite: The Bluebird of Happiness by Jo Stafford (You Tube: https://youtu.be/af8oPFjzs2s).

It seems that today people are puzzled about where exactly the bluebird of happiness makes her nest, because all around us are passionless lives, lives idling in neutral, and lives out of focus. Deep down in our soul, we feel that there must be more to life than we are currently experiencing. It seems that life should be lived in fourth gear and we are still in first gear. Some live in reverse. From a distance they have caught sight of the exotic quality called passion, exhibited by certain characters from books or in the movies and, every so often, someone we meet in the real world. 

Years ago I made the decision to live each day fully. To grab hold of each day early in the morning and live every minute with passion. You know, get involved, be engaged, make life happen, don’t just let life happen to you. Be pro-active and not reactive. Live with enthusiasm. Grab the tiger by the tail and swing it for all it’s worth. Don’t settle for what is. Be excited. Anticipate, Live with enthusiasm, engaged fully.

It seems today that people don’t live life with a sense of excitement and anticipation. Not even the Christians who. you would think. would be passionate about life considering al that Jesus has done for them. 

So the question: How do we bring real, living excitement into this life? Not some cheap, store-bought, amusement park-simulated excitement — we want the genuine article. And, an excitement and enthusiasm that lasts, not a high gained through alcohol, sex, or drugs. What is there that could possibly make us eager to leap out of bed in the morning, filled with laser-intense purpose, exhilarated about the prospect of another twenty-four hours in earth?

We would like to know, because many of us are not living a life wide-open, full throttle. Not by a long stretch. We’re closed shut. We are passion-impaired, though we have surpluses of longing, yearning, hopelessness, loneliness, and purposelessness. Maybe we can remember the times when our blood was really pumping, when our heart was skipping beats, and when it seemed there was some purpose we were reaching toward with everything in us. But that was long ago, history. So, we long for a time, when we can live and experience the passion and purpose of a full life. 

As I read about the life and ministry of Jesus I see a life lived wide open. I see a man who embraced each day and lived each day to the fullest. I see Jesus engaged and interacting with the people He meets. I see that He is open, real, honest, connected, transparent, and even vulnerable. His teachings are meant to liberate us and free us to be totally ourselves. To no longer fear being the real you. The words spoken from His heart, when taken seriously and applied, totally transforms the way you see and live your existence and your purpose. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth held the key to ultimate power for living — more important, He is the key. 

As we walk with Him through the pages of Scripture we enter a passionate journey — a quest for all the riches of living in the presence of a God who absolutely, unconditionally, passionately, adores you and wants only the best and the most for you. As we watch Jesus live life. As we listen to His words which are life. As we apply His teachings to our every day life. As we allow Him to change us, transform us, fill us … we will no longer live a passionless life. We will, with Him, engage and embrace each day as a serious and wonderful gift from the Lord and follow Him as He leads and guides us through each day. When we do this we will no longer be passion-impaired. We will no longer wonder where happiness is found. We will live life with gusto and in fast-forward, excited about each and every opportunity and challenge that life brings our way. Jesus is the key. 

Why not pick up your Bible and study the life and ministry of Jesus (read the New Testament books called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Read with more than your mind – engage with the heart. Listen with the heart. See how He lived and listen to His words as He relates to others, as He teaches the multitudes, and as He shares more intimately with His twelve disciples. As you read, pause to feel what He is feeling; think about what He is saying; engage with the words, embracing the truths. If you will take the time to immerse yourself in the life and ministry of Jesus you will slowly be transformed and find yourself living with passion and purpose as never before. 

Forget the Bluebird of Happiness. Jesus is the key!

Without Faith You Can’t…

The Bible states that without faith we cannot please God. This is the God-kind of faith He wants us to walk ion daily. 

Hebrews 11:6 states, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”

This means you must take risks. Living by faith is stepping out into territory that you are not familiar with and trusting that God is leading and guiding you. Living by faith means that, at times, you will fail. But remember Proverbs 24:16 states that “though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” When we walk by faith we might fail but we get up again, dust ourselves off, and keep moving forward. To do this we need to remember that failure is not a person – it is an event. You are not and cannot be a failure because you are a believer and one of God’s chosen. 

During seasons of failure, God is shaping us. If we take a risk, step out in faith, we might not succeed. But, if we avoid all risk, we guarantee we won’t succeed, and we miss so much of what God wants us to learn. Failure is often the price you pay for progress. And when you fail, remember you are walking by faith. So, look at what God is teaching you. What’s happening to you is not as important as what God is doing in you through the failure. 

Walking by faith and not by sight is dangerous. Stepping out in faith is often difficult because it means moving forward without all the facts. But, without stepping out in faith you just cannot please God.

Faith is believing in what you can’t see, following a voice you con’t prove you heard, and living by principles that God stays are true but don’t make sense in this world. But, without this faith, you cannot please God. 

So a personal question: What big faith risk have you taken in the last two years?

Most believers will answer that they have not taken a ‘faith risk’ in that period of time. Why? Because most believers are sailing the tranquil sea of complacency. 

Do you remember the story about Jesus’ disciples riding in a boat during a storm? Jesus wasn’t with them, and they were freaking out. (Which is exactly what I’d be doing, riding in a small, rickety fishing boat during the Perfect Storm.) That’s when Jesus miraculously walked toward them on the water. Then the disciples really started to wig out, thinking Jesus was a ghost.

Trying to calm them, Jesus said, “Take courage, it is I” (Matthew 14:27) 

Then one disciple spoke up. Above the terrified shouts of the others, Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to You on the water” (Matthew 14:28).

Jesus responded with one word: “Come” (verse 29).

Is Jesus saying that to you?

Come. Follow Me.

Come. Let Me lead you.

Come. Leave your comfort behind.

Come. Trust Me.

The next line of Matthew’s telling of the story will always amaze me: “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus” (verse 29).

Would you have done what Peter did? Eleven other disciples didn’t. Even though they had seen the same miracles and spent time with the same Jesus, they stayed in the boat. I can’t tell you why they wouldn’t hop onto the choppy, icy water. But I know why I wouldn’t. I’d be afraid I’d sink. In other words, I’d cower in fear of failure. Again. And, in the process, fail to walk by faith and please God.

Why did Peter do it? Because he suddenly grasped — even if only for a moment — the basic principle of faith. That principle is: God never fails. If He says to do something you can trust Him and step out in faith because He will never fail you. You can trust Him!

How can you become firmly convinced of God’s absolute trustworthiness? Peter’s courageous move of faith shows us the only way: You have to step out to find out. You’ll never know what God can do — and wants to do — through you until you leap over the gunwale and get your feet wet. 

Just Be You!

Every one of us is unique. God created us and we are “one of a kind.” There has never been someone exactly like you before you. There will never be someone exactly like you after you are no longer on the plant. And, each one of us is called, through our uniqueness, to do good works that He has prepared for us even before we were born (see: Ephesians 2:10).

Because He created you and has selected specific things for you to do within His wider plans and purposes, you have everything you need to fulfill your purpose. So, you have everything you need to do everything God wants you to do.

Don’t just take my word for it. Look at what Scripture says: “[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). FIRST, notice that according to this verse a godly life doesn’t happen under our own power; it happens by God’s divine power. NEXT, make sure you realize what God’s divine power have given us. Every thing. Every thing. Everything. In case you’re wondering, the Greek word translated as “everything” in this verse, pas (pronounced PAHS), means “everything.” It also means “each, every, any, all, the whole, all things.” You know … “everything.”

God is never caught off guard. He doesn’t ask people to do something, then realize later that they weren’t equipped to do it and say, “Whoops! My bad! I don’t know what I was thinking. You don’t have what you need to do that!”

When God called Moses to lead the Hebrew people out of their slavery to the Egyptians, Moses didn’t believe he was good enough to do it (see Exodus 4). He didn’t believe he was that unique person designed for this specific task. He argues with God, “I’m not a good speaker. I can’t do this!” And you’ll remember from the story that God slapped His forehead and answered, “Oh, my Me, Moses! You’re right. I guess I just thought you could do it, but you’re obviously not good enough!”

Of course, God never did that. When God calls you, He equips you with everything you need to do everything He wants you to do. I believe that this “I can’t do it” mentality boils down to each one of us comparing ourselves to others we know and see around us. When people compare themselves to other people, we end up making excuses for ourselves:

      • “Well, I’m not a good speaker like Stephen.”
      • “Dave’s really good with money, but I never have been.”
      • “I sure wish I had Beth’s confidence.”

Scripture tells us that when we compare ourselves with each other, we are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). Instead, we should be focusing on the unique ways God created us. We say, “I wish I could do that!” Instead, we should be discovering and acknowledging those things that we can do. What are the things you can do that other people can’t? God has given you everything you need to ado everything Her wants you to do.

When I speak God’s Word, I can sense God’s Spirit empowering me. God created me to share and teach His truth. Of course, there are far more things that I cannot do.

I can’t sing. When I try to sing, dogs howl and birds migrate. I’m pretty sure what I do doesn’t even qualify as a joyful noise.

I can’t fix anything. I may be the only person I know who’s gifted at breaking things that are already broken. You may have heard that old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t let Howe anywhere near it!” I’m so bad at fixing things that I can’t even fix a sandwich.

But those things don’t bother me. Because I wasn’t created to sing. I wasn’t created to fix broken appliances. And what difference does that make in God’s blueprint for my life? Other people were created to do those things, and it’s my great joy to let them live out the talents God made them for.

Stop focusing on the things you can’t do. Turn your attention to the things you can do. Don’t flip through the catalog of things you aren’t, wishing you could order a few nice things for yourself. Instead, look at the sales brochure for you. Start meditating on the truth about you: “I am a unique person created by God. One of a kind. I’m a new creature in Christ Jesus. I already have everything I need to do everything God wants me to do.”

One Of Those Days!

Henry Ford once said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

If you are having one of those days when everything seems to be going wrong and you are struggling just to stay sane and get through it without killing someone or simply giving up altogether …. Remember that you need to rise up, face the current ‘hard thing’ that is happening and let the ‘wind’ push you up and over. 

Years ago, during a particularly hard time, the Lord taught me that “dead fish float downstream.” And that “live fish swim upstream to span and birth new life.” Since then I have welcomed the hard days and simply see them as an indication that I am alive and facing a new challenge – another time to swim upstream and not give up and simply go with the flow and float downstream.

The truth is that life has a way of hitting us hard. You’re either coming out of a tough season, in the middle of a tough season, or heading into a tough season. How true!

I work hard to remember, in the midst of the hard time and current challenge, that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul asks that question that then proceeds to answer it

Romans 8:32 “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?”

Paul’s point is so urgent and all-consuming that the drives it home by asking…

Romans 8:35 “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?”

His answer is a definite NO! Paul tells us this in Romans 8:37….

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

Another version – a bit more expressive and accurate to the original states- “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

It’s important that we acknowledge that this promise is fulfilled not through our own power but through the power of the risen Christ, who loves us. If you follow Christ, you are more than a conqueror, more than an overcomer.

The little Greek word that appears in various translations as “conqueror,” “winner,” “victor,” or “overcomer” is the word niko, which means “to win, to be victorious, or to gain a surpassing victory.” But that’s not the word used in this passage. The word Paul uses here is hupernikao, which means “to vanquish beyond recognition, to gain a decisive victory, to conquer exceedingly.” With Christ, you are hupernikao! You are not going to just eke out some tiny, insignificant victory. No, you’re going to demolish the opposition. 

Your victory is the God kind of victory, where God vanquishes the opposition beyond recognition. Imagine Pharaoh’s army chasing the Israelites to the edge of the desert, and God parting the Red Sea in front of them. The Israelites cross on dry land, and the entire Egyptian army follows them in. Then God withdraws His hand, and whooooosh! all of them are washed away. It’s total victory!

Consider Gideon, God’s reluctant warrior, in my butchered paraphrase from Judges 6 – 8, God tells Gideon, “I want you to take on the Midianites.”

But Gideon responds, “I just can’t do it! I’m too scared!”

“No! You’re a mighty man of valour,” God tells him. “You might not believe it yet, but you are!”

“But I have only thirty-two thousand men!” Gideon whines.

God shoots back, “You’re right. That’s no good. That’s way too many for Me to get the glory!”

So God pares those down to just three hundred and tells Gideon, “Now, you guys take your weapons and your pitchers. Light some torches, cover them up, blow your horns, and break your pitchers.”

Gideon says, “Uh … I’m sure you don’t know what you’re talking about, but we’ll do it. You are God and everything … I guess.”

Then when Gideon’s men work God’s plan, the whole Midianite army turns on itself in confusion and wipes itself out. And that is hupernikao. That is who you are in Christ! You’re more than victorious., You are hupernikao

Now, what I’m not saying is that you’ll never have a hard time in life. The Bible doesn’t say that at all. Jesus makes it clear that “in this world you will have trouble.” But think about this for a minute: to be an overcomer, you have to have something to overcome. And Jesus continues, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

Breeds Of Belief

There is a difference – a distinction – between believing in something and believing it

You can believe in airplanes – but be afraid to fly

You believe that airplanes are a good thing

But do not believe that thy will carry you safely to your destination

In the same way, there is a big difference between believing in God and believing God

James reflected this truth when he wrote:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19)

Demons know God its real, but obviously, they don’t serve Him

For many people today they try hard to believe in God without fully believing God

There are at least three types of faith on the spectrum between “believing in” and “believing”

I think that I have experienced them all!

1> The first kind of faith is held by the person I would call a casual believer

Such a person believes in God but has not fully surrendered to Him

He may be a church attender

He could be a very moral person

He most likely is kind and generous

BUT, even though this person believes in God, he lives his life as if God doesn’t really exist – He would be a Christian atheist

These people – casual believers – appear to be Christians

They pray a polite prayer at Thanksgiving and Christmas family meals

They attend church on Christmas and Easter

They tell you they are “thinking about you” during difficult time

But these same people

Don’t let God affect their spending habits

Don’t take God into consideration regarding the movies they watch

He doesn’t keep them from swearing – using God’s name in vain

He not involved when they fudge on their expense reports

Gossiping, Stretching the truth, telling a white lie

They believe in God, but they still do whatever they want

2> The second kind of faith is that of the convenient believer

This is the person who waves the Christian flag whenever it involves a potential benefit.

This person is quick to talk God-talk if it might help seal a business deal or score a date

They will speak “Christianeze” if it helps them to get a promotion

This person uses God to leverage a situation for personal benefit

Their life is a mess as they do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it; and when it reaches crisis mode they call the pastor

3> The third type of faith belongs to the committed believer 

This is the kind of faith Jesus calls us towards

The road to committed faith is paved with personal abandonment and self-denial

Life ceases to be about is – and it begins to be all about God

The committed believer doesn’t waver because of the crowd and what others might be doing

He isn’t moved by other people’s opinions

He is a Christ follower all the time – complete obedience and faithfulness are his goals

A 99 percent commitment to Christ is not enough

So, what kind of faith is yours?

Casual belief – you are a good person who believes in God, but doesn’t let your faith dominate your life?

Convenient belief – living right when someone’s watching, or when it might benefit you, but doing your own thing when you want?

Committed belief – wholly devoted to the One who’s wholly devoted to you

Theodicy

You may be familiar with the cliche “Life is hard; God is good.” Maybe you’ve even said it to help get you through difficult times. If so, you’re going to appreciate knowing that it is more than a cliche. It’s a strong and solid theological truth. If you’re like me you are going to be encouraged by the fact that some really smart people who were here before us have wrestled with questions such as, If God is good, then why if this happening? Why is injustice allowed, and why does life have to be so hard? Why are children starving the death in Africa?

Philosophers and theologians refer to their conclusions on this topic with the complicated-sounding word theodicy (pronounced: thee od-euhsee), which is the name given to the study of how God’s goodness exists alongside the pain, suffering, injustice, and inequality of life.

Our problem is that we tend to assume that if life is hard, then God must not be good. But it’s not an either/or scenario — it’s both.

Life is hard; God is good.

Here are five statements that pretty much summarize the deeper reasoning behind Life is hard; God is good:

      • Although evil is an undeniable part of the world, the existence of evil cannot and never will cancel out the existence of good
      • Human beings don’t have to offer explanations for why evil is allowed to exist, only that it does. And by the same rules of reason, good exists as well
      • In the same way that Adam through disobedience opened the door of undeserved hardship for all of us, Jesus through obedience opened the door of undeserved favour for all of us
      • The fact that we experience undeserved consequences for someone else’s sin is now trumped by the fact that we experience undeserved favour for someone else’s righteousness
      • God’s undeserved goodness is not just equal to the undeserved hardship. It is surpassing in greatness

The evidence of these two realities is front and center in our lives every day. But what’s most important is which reality we choose to live our life from.

People who live from the “life is hard” reality see everything from that perspective. Sometimes when people are living from the “life is hard” reality they don’t even want to hear the good news. They have already decided that good news is not their reality. If you’re talking about something positive or something good, they usually wait for a chance to quickly turn the conversation back to the “life is hard” reality. It has become such a way of life for them that they don’t usually realize what they are doing.

The contrast between the two perspectives is so stark that it makes it difficult for people who choose to live in one or the other reality to get along. It’s like oil and water —the two don’t mix. You see things differently. You talk about things differently. You approach problems differently.

The presence of problems doesn’t mean the absence of God. In the natural realm we know that the presence of clouds doesn’t mean the absence of the sun. The clouds may temporarily block it, but the sun is still there. Even when you can’t see the sun directly, you can see it’s light as evidence that it’s there.

It is the same way with God’s goodness and favour. There are times we may not be able to see those attributes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

When we don’t get the job we wanted or the person we were dating breaks up with us, we’re often quick to assume God’s favour and goodness is far away from us. But in time we come to realize that God was actually doing us a favour. He was saving us from hardship and struggle we would have had if we stayed in that relationship or got that job we thought we wanted.

So there you have it – Theodicy.

Now you know.

New Every Morning

The manna God provided for Israel in the wilderness was a huge demonstration of God love, His provision, and His care for His people as they moved through the wilderness going from Egypt to the Promised Land. 

It started like this: The Israelites were running short of food, only to wake up one morning and see the ground covered with manna. Chaos broke out as everyone scrambled to pick up all they could gather in their pockets, baskets, and other containers. Their thinking was, We better get all we can while we can. In their minds, that kind of heavenly provision would be short lived, so they decided to ration the gathered supply and make it last as long as possible.

What seemed like a reasonable plan was spoiled, however, when that night while they were sleeping, maggots infested their stored manna. God sent them a message that said, Yesterday’s provision is not today’s provision. He clearly did not want them to eat today’s leftovers tomorrow. Rather than trying to preserve today’s provision, He wanted them to engage every day with a fresh, new expectation and anticipation of what God would do new, new every morning.

God wanted them to believe that there’s always more where that came from – more blessing, more provision, more healing, more power, more of God’s favour (see Exodus 16).

Another thing that happened was that after the Israelites ate the manna, they complained that it was not “the same” as the corn and melons they had enjoyed while in Egypt. The form of God’s favour and provision had changed, and they were sentimentally attached to the old form of God’s favour and provision, which hindered them from fully appreciating and receiving the new season they were now in (see Numbers 11).

Here’s the takeaway: As good as yesterday may have been in your life, God doesn’t want you living there. He has new experiences, new discoveries, and new opportunities for you in the current season of your life.

I am thinking this through because recently I was thinking that maybe I should retire. That it is just too much to continue travelling to nations to share God’s Word. I am getting old, feeling old, and thinking that maybe I am done. Nd God spoke to me in a number if ways to let me know that it is not over – and that it is new every morning. 

I learned a few other truths during this season of wrestling with my feelings and thoughts… 

The best way to honour the past is to not get stuck in it! Stay creative and confident in today’s fresh supply of favour and provision. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to get sentimentally attached to a past season of God’s favour and means of provision versus moving forward to experience a new season and experience His provision and favour in new ways.

 

God’s favour was on yesterday, yesterday — it’s not on yesterday, today!

The Psalmist said, “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 NKJV). He didn’t say he will rejoice in yesterday; he said he will rejoice in today!

God’s favour and provision is new every morning!

Live in today!

Expect great things today!

Draw on God’s favour and provision today!

So, as I said, in my life recently I hit the “I’m tired” button because I was depleted – emotionally and mentally. I began to think I should tap out because I am getting too old for all of this; too old to make a significant difference.

Here is what I discovered once again: When you feel weary it may mean it’s time for some course correction or new habits. It might be time, as I discovered, to get some outside voices speaking wisdom and clarity into your foggy set of circumstances. But the main thing I learned (again) and that I want to impress on you is that God’s plan for your life is not over and we must continue to expect and anticipate that things will become new every morning until the morning you see Him face-to-face in Heaven. New hope. New perspective. New direction. New insights. New wisdom. New provision. New direction. New challenge. New every morning. 

God’s favour and provision – and His call on your life – isn’t finished when you feel tired or weary. God has fresh favour and provision for you just on the other side of this season you are currently in. You are about to start a new chapter of your life. God will refresh you, renew your strength, and make you strong all the days of your life!

You may still be young, but you’re not too young to start thinking about staying strong, and finishing strong!

I love the words of Caleb who, when he was 85 years-old, said, “I’m still as strong today as I was in my youth … Now give me this mountain” (Joshua 14:11-12)

When Abraham was 99 years old, God appeared to him and said, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).

Cam Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, flew to Moscow and began learning Russian to assist in Bible translation work in the Caucasus. The nation was still under the iron grip of communism, and he was 72 years young.

Colonel Harland Sanders was 65 years old when he started actively franchising his chicken receipt. His face later became the second most recognized in America.

John Wesley preached over 40,000 sermons and travelled 225,000 miles and foot and horseback. But get this: these figures belong only to the latter part of his life, from age 35 to 88.

President Roland Reagan was 76 years old when he pointed to the Berlin Wall and said those famous words that ushered in a new era: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

No better what your age or circumstances, your past supply and provision is not your last supply! There is no end to the favour and provision of God. It has no quota and no limits. The Lord’s eyes are on you for your entire lifetime! Not a day goes by that He is not watching over you: “The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:8).

He has fresh, new ways to provide for you and bless others through you in every chapter of your life, and every day that you live. 

Change Your Life

The Bible speaks a great deal about the changes we need to be making in our lives now that we are followers of Jesus. Of course, He will help us with these changes as we journey with Him in our daily life. As believers we are to live differently than the world. We are to be a counter-culture and not a sub-culture; living within the world but with a Kingdom perspective and biblical values, morals, and ethics. 

We have many examples to follow. As we are discipled and then mentored we can see and follow the example of those who are walking with us on the journey. We can read the Bible and see how early believers lived. And, there are numerous books that can help us get a handle on the changes that we should be making for our own benefit and spiritual health as believers.

Paul’s words to the Colossians are particularly fascinating in this regard because he was writing to a young Christian community that didn’t really know how Christians were suppose to act or live. They didn’t have Christian grandparents who had been believers before them. They didn’t know any mature believers who had spent decades walking in the faith and who could model the way Christians live. In Colossae, faith was brand-new. Everyone was a pioneer of sorts, with no generational influence to build on. They were the first Christians they had ever known, forcing Paul to be clear and precise as he taught them how to behave. Without getting all flowery, Paul writes to the Colossians with explicit and specific words: This is how Christians act. This is how our faith and belief affect our attitudes and actions. 

Paul tells the Colossians that a central theme of behaving like a believer is first taking something off: “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3:8).

In other words, “Don’t be toxic.” The entire human disposition that intentionally hurts others has to die in us. Toxic people are always putting themselves first in all relationships. They say and do things that hurt you and the relationship. They are controlling and manipulative. Harsh in what they say and how they say it. And usually abrasive.

Paul then tells the Colossians what they are to put on: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

These qualities are the polar opposites to toxicity. Compassion means you feel for others rather than setting yourself against them. Kindness means you want to help, not hurt. Humility puts others first instead of wanting to control them. Gentleness means you are tender, not harsh, and patience means you are encouraging rather than abrasive. 

Notice something that is crucial for personal transformation: before Paul tells the Colossians how to behave, he reminds them of how much they are loved and prized by God, “…as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” (Colossians 3:12).

Knowing that we are chosen and loved by God is the essential mind-set through which we love others and reject being toxic. With all our spiritual needs met in God, we can live in a toxic world without becoming toxic ourselves, providing we remember we are chosen and dearly loved. Because we live in a toxic world filled with toxic people, we will be treated in a toxic manner. We avoid responding in a toxic way by living out of and being motivated by the gracious love of God, who chose us when we were still living toxic lives and who ushers us into gracious living.

Toxic people find sick satisfaction in being mean, controlling, and hurtful. Believers find true satisfaction in being chosen and loved by God. That love is so overwhelming that we don’t expect people to meet our needs. We don’t want to control people or hurt people; we want people to experience the same joy and satisfaction in God that we have come to know.

God’s love and affirmation lift us to a dimension of living where fighting each other doesn’t make sense. When I feel spoiled by God, what you do to me or think of me doesn’t matter all that much, because God’s opinion is superior to yours. God’s protection makes me feel secure in the face of your assault. God’s affirmation speaks louder than your opposition or hatred. One of the primary ways we show that God has taken such good care of us spiritually is how we live and take care of others. 

And, the key to that is to allow God to transform us … and we cooperate by “taking off” and “putting on.” We are partners with God in bringing about these needed changes in our life as believers and disciples of Jesus.