The Ups and Downs of Life

wepnerLife is an adventure.  Some people seem to stumble their way through it, while others have the ability and agility to bob and weave their way through its obstacles.  Some people have the knack to fall face-first into every mud hole that dots their path in life, while others can transform the sourest moments of life into a sweet and exhilarating experience.

Muhammed Ali’s life was more exciting than it was boring.  Ali was fond of saying that he “could float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee,” but even the Champ felt the brute force of a punch that was akin to the kick of a mule.

On March 24, 1975, Chuck Wepner introduced Ali to one of the universal laws of life:  Sooner or later you’re going to get hit by a punch you’ll never see coming!

Suffering is a thread that’s woven into the fabric of life, and it’s the sucker punch that can drop you to your knees.  

This universal law is the subject of discourse of both Peter and James:

  • Peter said you should not, “be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you (I Peter 4:12).”
  • Even though suffering is anything but pleasant, James said to, “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2–3).” 

It’s important to note that James did not say that the suffering or trial is a joyful experience; instead, he said the joy comes in acknowledging the result of the trial—steadfastness.  The situations that shake your faith are the ordeals that form a faith that’s unshakable.

Your faith is like your muscle tissue—to get stronger, it must be stressed.

The trials of life can buckle your knees and make it hard to see the end of the journey. It’s only from the perspective of hindsight that we have 20-20 vision.  Paul confirms this in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. When he contemplated the past through the light of the present, he could see the boldly colored thread of hope in the tapestry of his heartache.  He could see God’s purpose in the suffering he had endured: “We want you to know, Christian brothers, of the trouble we had in the countries of Asia. The load was so heavy we did not have the strength to keep going. At times we did not think we could live.  We thought we would die. This happened so we would not put our trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead.”

“This happened”, so Paul would know that God is able and that He would enable him. What God did for Paul, He will also do for you.

 

Refocus

blueeyerefocus-e1402765750552One of the great men of the Bible was David, and he reigned as King for over thirty years. His path to the throne wasn’t an easy journey, and his years as a monarch were often times of great difficulty.

One of the more trying moments of his life is recorded in 1 Samuel 30:6: David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters.  But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.

Even though David was greatly distressed, he didn’t allow the trial, the heartache, and the grief to define the rest of his life.  Instead, David strengthened himself in the Lord.

David refocused his emotions, turned his thoughts towards God, and remembered: My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121).

It’s also likely, that David rehearsed the many times that God had intervened in his life:

  • God once delivered him from a lion and a bear
  • God gave him a victory when he faced Goliath in battle and beat him
  • When jealous Saul tried to kill him, God always provided safety.

Today may be one of those days that you’re feeling distressed.  Whatever your Goliath may be, God can bring your giant to his knees.  Find strength in knowing that what God did for David, He can also do for you.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:13

Hand in Hand

handsThe trials and heartaches of life can leave you weary of life and tearful; and, wary of people and fearful.  When God seems far away, remember you’re in His hand and you can handle “all things” through His strength.

When life gets tough, these 4 truths may help:

  • When you spend more time in prayer, you have less time to worry.
  • When it seems like you are in over your head, remember God is in it with you.
  • When life seems too hard, remember that nothing is too difficult for God.
  • When you’re convinced you’re lost, you’re ready to be found.
  • When you think you’re unlikeable, God thinks you are loveable.

When I was a small boy, there were times I found comfort when my parents held my hand.  When my mother grew old and unsteady, there were time we walked arm in arm so she could lean on me.  What my parents did for me, and what I did for Mom, God will do for all of His children: For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.  ~Isaiah 41:13

Leaders: Some Rise and Some Fall

 

thumbs upIf you take a causal walk down the self-help aisle of most book stores, you find shelves stocked full of books on leadership.  A common principle in many of these books is the need to study the lives of leaders.

To accomplish this, you can thumb through the pages of the Bible where you will discover a long list of leaders.  Some them are polished and practical; others are hopeless and hapless; but, the stories are fair a fair and balanced account that opens the door that reveals the skeletons in their closets.

Two of the better-known leaders are Saul and David.  Saul, the first king of Israel, could whip most anyone, but his ego got the best of him.  Samuel, the priest, issued a stern rebuke and no-holds-barred reprimand to King Saul: Now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee (I Samuel 13:14).

The man after God’s own heart was David, and he knew the key of his strength would be a dependence on God.  David said: You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me (Psalm 31:3).

Like David, we can and should, look to God for strength and guidance:

  • Psalm 5:8: Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before my face.
  • Psalm 25:5: Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.
  • Psalm 23:2-3: He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
  • Psalm 143:10: Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.

When you begin to trust in the goodness of God, you hear the rhythm and cadence of His voice and begin to walk in step with Him—He leads; you follow.

Solomon said, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Are you a King Saul who continually tried to prop himself up with his own wisdom; or, are you a David who found a life of blessings by trusting God and letting Him direct his paths?

Who has your ear? Whose voice are you hearing?  Which path in life are you walking? Are you following God’s lead?

A Fact A Day

facts-hands-holding-letters-1500_largeMy post today is a simple list for the complex world in which we live.  Instead of hurriedly glancing at the list and moving on with your agenda for the day, I hope you will keep it in mind and take the time to consider each one again on its assigned day for the week ahead.

Fact 1 for Monday: Life is full of obstacles.

You will encounter many detours in your life’s pursuit—be resolute. Don’t allow detours and distractions to become attractions; remain focused on your goals

  • Philippians 3:13-14: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Fact 2 for Tuesday: Small sparks can start big fires, so mind your manners and tame your tongue.

  • James 1:26; 3:5: If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile . . . though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites

Fact 3 for Wednesday: Whatever grips your attention, grabs you.

  • James 1:1:14-15: Each one is tempted when he is lured, enticed, and trapped by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.

Fact 4 for Thursday: You may not be what you think you are, but what you think you are.

  • Colossians 3: 1-2: Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth

Fact 5 for Friday: The world may think you’re a zero, but God knows you’re a hero.

  • Judges 6:12: The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!

Fact 6 for Saturday: God has a plan and a purpose for you.

  • Genesis 50:15, 19-20: When Joseph’s brothers saw their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” But Joseph said to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”

Fact 7 for Sunday: It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

  • There are 86,400 seconds in a day and you can use them or abuse them.

I’ve only just a minute; 0nly sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it; didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,

But it’s up to me to use it.

I must suffer if I lose it; give an account if I abuse it,

Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.

~Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

I think this quote is a good conclusion to my list, so I’ll end with it: “Let us take things as we find them: let us not attempt to distort them into what they are not. We cannot make facts. All our wishing cannot change them. We must use them.” ~John Henry Cardinal Newman

An Adventure in the Land of Why

maliLife is an adventure.  Some people seem to stumble their way through it, while others have the ability and agility to bob and weave their way through its obstacles.  Some people have the knack to fall face first into every mud hole that dots their path in life, while others can transform the sourest moments of life into a sweet experience.

Even though he could float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee, there were a few times Muhammed Ali felt the brute force of a punch that was akin to the kick of a mule. On March 24, 1975, Chuck Wepner introduced Ali to one of the universal laws of life:  Sooner or later you’re going to get hit by a punch you never saw coming!

Suffering is a thread that’s woven into the fabric of life, and it’s the sucker punch that can drop you to your knees.  

Peter said you should not, “be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you (I Peter 4:12).”

Even though suffering is anything but pleasant, James said to, “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2–3).” 

It’s important to note that James did not say that the suffering or trial is a joyful experience; instead, he said the joy comes in acknowledging the end result of the trial—steadfastness.  The situations that shake your faith are the ordeals that form a faith that’s unshakable.

Your faith is like your muscle tissue—to get stronger, it must be stressed.

In hindsight, Paul could see the boldly colored thread of hope in the tapestry of heartache.  He could see God’s purpose in the suffering he had endured: “We want you to know, Christian brothers, of the trouble we had in the countries of Asia. The load was so heavy we did not have the strength to keep going. At times we did not think we could live.  We thought we would die. This happened so we would not put our trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).”

“This happened”, so Paul would know that God is able and that He would enable him.

It’s The Season

Organize-Your-Home_chore-checklist_092011It’s one of those annual rites that’s practiced in most homes across the USA.  At some point in the Spring and the Fall months of the year, there is some time scheduled for extra cleaning.

Just as you make time to spruce up your house, you might want to examine your life as well.  Is it as tidy and clean as it was a week or a month ago?

Self-examination is a continuing theme throughout the pages of Scripture, and I’ve emphasized a word in each verse below.  While these are different words in the English, they come from the same word in the Greek which is the language of the New Testament.

As you read these verses consider them in the context of who, what, when, and why:

***1 Thessalonians 5:21-22:  Test everything. Hold on to what is good. Keep away from every kind of evil.

  • What am I doing now that I wasn’t doing that has created a void in my relationship with God?

***Philippians 1:9-11:  I pray that your love will keep on growing because of your knowledge and insight. That way you will be able to determine what is best and be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.  Jesus Christ will fill your lives with everything that God’s approval produces. Your lives will then bring glory and praise to God.

  • When did my love for Jesus quit growing and when did it cease to bring Him glory and praise?

***Ephesians 5:8-14: Live as children of light, for the fruit that the light produces consists of every form of goodness, righteousness, and truth.  Determine what pleases the Lord, and have nothing to do with the unfruitful actions that darkness produces. Instead, expose them for what they are. For it is shameful even to mention what is done by these disobedient people in secret.  But everything that is exposed to the light becomes visible, for the light is making everything visible.

  • Who has influenced me to walk in the shadowy sin of darkness instead of the light of God’s love?

***Galatians 6:3-4:  If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself; but let each one examine his own work

  • Why do I think I can live my life on my own terms and disregard the principles of God and compromise my testimony?

***Romans 12:1-2: I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship.  Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.

Examine your life to discern who you are most like.  Are you more or less of a reflection of Jesus than you were a week or a month ago?  If you are less like Him, is it because you like Him less and some one or some thing else more?  Are you still conformed to His image or have you morphed into the likeness of the world?

Examine yourself:  Is it time for some Fall cleaning?