I used to, until I realized the disappointment in myself wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In Christian-ese we call it “sanctification.” It’s a process of refining, perfecting, changing – aka repenting. And it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It is lifelong. There are peaks and valleys, just like with anything else worthwhile. Just the fact that you become aware of your shortcomings and feel bad about them is something to be happy and joyful about! It shows you’re moving in the right direction.
I know. Counter-intuitive, right?
But so much of what happens once we get into the meat of building a relationship with our Abba, with Jesus, and being conscious of the workings of His Holy Spirit, is counter-intuitive. Know this much. It’s all good when we’re moving, even if three steps forward and two steps back. It’s when we stagnate that we end up in trouble.
In today’s dailyaudiobible.com Brian is reading from the book of 1st Thessalonians. In this book we have a to-do list and a not-to-do list. This is another one of those letters written by the apostle Paul, to a church he planted in Thessalonica, in the province of Macedonia, around AD 50. He wrote this letter to clear up some questions regarding the return of Christ and as a basic instructional narrative on holy living. So, in it, he tells these new Christ-followers…
“Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” 1 Thes 5: 14-22 NLT
Warn, encourage, be tender, be patient, be joyful, be thankful…AHHHH! I can’t do all of that all of the time!
But guess what?
If you are following Christ these are the things you are learning. This is who you are becoming. Go ahead and feel convicted! But realize this is your road-map, not your whipping post.
“I get to be transformed like that? Because of Jesus? That’s good news!” says Brian in his commentary. “The Holy Spirit is invested in moving us in this direction. Let’s rejoice in the fact that there is work to do in all of us…unless we are truly rebelling.”
We cannot rebel and yield fruit at the same time. We do have to make a choice.
If we are determined to rebel, it will be so. Most of my life is evidence of this. But my life is also evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit when we yield to Him and allow Him to transform us. We get to become a little more like Jesus with each passing moment!
We choose to be transformed, or we do not. And this is the beauty of the free will God gave us. We love Him or we don’t. We learn that His way is better or we don’t. We scoff or we don’t. Your choice.
And PS…we don’t get to judge the ones that don’t. We just pray for them. Pray that they wake up and realize that all of their possessions, their accomplishments, their money, and their fame mean nothing in the end. All that matters is love.
And God is love.
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree…
There’s a favorite song of mine by David Crowder, a pop Christian artist, entitled HOW HE LOVES. It goes like this:
He is jealous for me. Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy…
Not at any other time in my life has this love thing been more in my face than right now. We, in southwest Florida, just suffered the largest disaster I have ever personally taken part in. Hurricane Ian, the deadliest hurricane to hit Florida since 1935, devastated our barrier islands and even several areas inland with category four and five winds and record flooding. Click here to read about it if you like.
What has happened as a result of this storm has truly transformed our community, our church family, and me.
I have witnessed the biggest and purest outpouring of love and resilience and unselfish giving that I have ever known. It is humbling and life-giving. It touches parts of my heart and soul in a way that I can’t even explain. And it has made me realize these were things I was not very good at doing in my ‘pre-Jesus’ life, but I can do them now. I have always been a lover of people, and quite good at giving, but not always unselfishly.
In a time when many of us have lost hope in humankind, in our culture and our governments, in our faith even, this event is reshaping lives including my own. And Paul’s letter of instruction on holy living today is so very poignant.
How are we to be joyful now? How are we to be thankful in these circumstances?
It’s a tall order. Anyone in their right mind would think us totally nuts to be joyful and thankful right now. Ahhh, but in God’s mind it’s a different world. When you really know and love God, you love His people like He does. So that’s how.
Do you know that God never asks us to do anything He hasn’t done Himself? He lowered Himself to take human form in the man we know as Jesus just so He could live among us and know our pains, our temptations, and our struggles. Non-believers don’t believe this. Non-believers cannot fathom it. But it is at the very heart of God’s love for us, His family. He loves us like we love our kids, our parents, our flesh and blood family. Do you believe that? Do you feel that? I feel bad for you if you don’t.
We are His family. He is our loving Father. Our Abba. Daddy.
He never said it would be easy in this life, but He did say He would always be with us. He never turns His back on us. We turn our backs on Him.
As children of God we know how our story ends and where we end up when it’s over. It’s a win-win for us, so when you see a Christian facing death and disaster, and wonder how they seem so serene, that’s why. It’s like Paul said, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.” Philippians 1:21-24 https://my.bible.com/bible/116/PHP.1.21-24
So we can always be joyful and give thanks, even in the worst times of our lives. And we can extend a hand to those that need one, to pull them up with us, to show them the hands and feet of Jesus, to do what Jesus would do.
Are we perfect at this? Nope. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Being happy and chipper and always smiling isn’t always the case. But being joyful and being happy are two totally different things. Even when we can’t act so happy, we know where our hope lies and that nobody and nothing can take that away from us. I have seen this in the past couple of weeks, watching how tirelessly my church family has rescued and relieved and provided. It has been mind-boggling. It’s such a good feeling being a part of it all. There really are no words.
There is Always Need
My husband and I had to fly north to attend a family wedding and a reunion a few days ago. It was hard to leave in the midst of the rescue efforts. There is still so much going on and volunteers are needed to get it all done. I almost made him go alone. But the need and the work will be on-going for many months and even years to come. Our mission field is home now. Our jobs are not over in the disaster relief efforts as a church. After all, look at all the people out there whose lives are always a disaster! And they need Jesus! It’s our job to show them what it means to know Him.
My husband and I are so blessed that our house wasn’t damaged despite lots of large fallen tree limbs in our yard, and despite being in the city where the storm surge was supposed to hit heights of up to fifteen feet. Instead, that happened just forty miles south of us in Fort Myers Beach, (Estero Island), and the other barrier islands just northwest of it. Very sad. My old stomping grounds, gone. Very little left of anything.
One lady photographer videoed the flood waters crashing through her kitchen windows on the bayside of Estero island, filling her little house, furniture and photographs and clothing all floating around her. How on earth could she just stand there and do that? Surely she must have thought she would die…
Inland, where we evacuated to, it flooded way worse than where we live just four blocks from the Peace River. We almost couldn’t get out of that town to get home as the flood waters on all major roads, including the highway, continued to rise the day after. The bridges to Sanibel and Pine Islands were damaged, but already have been repaired enough to get linesmen and construction crews to the task of restoring and rebuilding. The crews that pour their all into this work just amaze me.
Our church alone served over 6500 hot meals in the first four days of having no power or water throughout Charlotte and Lee Counties. Relief organizations provided the food and I don’t know the final count, but it is massive. We continue to dole out supplies for restoration and sustenance; diapers, food, formula, tarps, cleaning supplies, etc…I can only shake my head, and close my eyes in prayer for others in war-torn countries that have no hope at all of this kind of restoration. How hopeless must they be?
But we never stop praying, and praising God, no matter what. Keep your eyes on the prize as they say. It’s certainly counter-intuitive, especially in light of all of this, but so worth the effort. Like anything worthwhile.
As a follower there is one thing I can rest in, and that is knowing I can always find peace in the worst of times, through the most hurtful pains in life, through all the uncertainty, doubt, and fear. And I am never alone.
All you need to do to have that same peace is ask Him for it, and then surrender to Him. That’s all.
Simple. But hard.
What do you have to lose? Where are your priorities? What do you value more than peace and hope and belonging?
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26 https://my.bible.com/bible/111/NUM.6.24-26