Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Blooming Where You're Planted

by Mary Lowman

Recently I had an opportunity to talk to a senior citizen, Betty, in her 80’s, who is an inspiration to me.  Betty is a widow and a mom of three grown children and lots of grandchildren.  She is a Jesus-lover from way back, and at this stage in her life, she is finding creative ways to reach out to others with the love of Jesus.

Betty’s husband died after a very long illness where she was his main caregiver.  This was a daily “dying to self”, as she dedicated all her time and energy to helping him after a massive stroke.  It took its toll on her physically, as she had to lift him and help him maneuver.  “But,” she told me, “because of that my upper body became very strong.”  Then, when she had to have open heart surgery after her husband’s death, her doctor said it was a miracle she was still alive.  “It was because I had such strong upper body that I was able to survive that surgery,” she said. “So, you see, it was good that I had helped my husband all that time.”

Now that she lives alone and is still driving, she has found a way to continue to share the love of Jesus with others.  She goes to the grocery store every day.  She said, “That way I don’t have heavy bags to carry if I just get a few things each day.  And then, I just go up and down the aisles of the store, to see who God puts in my path that day.” 

Betty uses her daily trips to the grocery as a way to meet people, to offer encouragement, to pray for people, and to let them know that Jesus loves them.  Almost every day she has an opportunity to speak to someone—mostly strangers—and simply offer a moment of caring and concern.  She has story after story of the people she has met in this way, and how blessed she is to have this ministry.

Just knowing Betty is to see an example of what it means to “Rejoice always,” as Paul exhorts us.  As we sat together after the funeral of her beloved daughter-in-law—and my niece—and as we recalled how much we loved her and would miss her, Betty found the bright side of the occasion and her attitude of blooming where she is planted challenged and inspired me.

It’s not so much the big things we do for Jesus that makes a difference; it’s the way we reach out in our everyday lives—on our jobs, in our families, and yes, as we walk the aisles of the grocery store. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Can We Live Guilt-free Lives?

Has your life been hounded with guilt? 

Living with Guilt
A life burdened under a load of guilt is not the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. Guilt steals our joy, hinders our productivity, interrupts our peace, harms our relationships, and worst of all, makes us self-focused. Guilt leads to dissatisfaction and discontent.

What is Guilt?
Guilt is both a fact and a feeling. It is possible to be guilty without feeling guilty. It is possible to feel guilty without being guilty. And, it is possible to be guilty and feel guilty. No doubt we have all experienced these three conditions.
  • Being guilty without feeling guilty can be due to ignorance. The apostle Paul wrote, "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me."  1Corinthians 4:4.
  • It is possible to have a hardened heart that feels no guilt even when we are guilty. Hebrews 3:13 admonishes us not to be "hardened by sin's deceitfulness."
  • Feeling guilty even when we are not guilty is a more common struggle for most of us. False guilt is caused by wrong thinking. We feel guilty because we allow ourselves to think thoughts that tell us it is our fault, whatever "it" is. We ignore the facts, we wallow in self-recrimination, and we send ourselves into a downward spiral of despair and discouragement without justification. That's because this false guilt is a feeling, not reality.
Living Guilt-free
If you are a Christian, it is not God's will for you to live in guilt. Allowing guilt to continue to plague you is evidence that you are living a defeated life, and we Christians are called to live victoriously. Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

We must learn to recognize Satan's strategy and stand firm against it. It's time we discover that guilt is not meant to be part of our everyday living; it is not normal; it is not okay; it is not inevitable.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What Blots Out Eternity?

Mortal Versus Immortal

This "bit of mortal life" is a good reminder that the things that blot out eternity from our view are mortal, not immortal. This means that they don't last very long. Furthermore, they are bits--small and inconsequential compared to the unseen things of eternity. Yet because this mortal life is close pressed, right in front of our eyes all the time, it frequently keeps us from looking with Forever Eyes.

There could be a scene of unsurpassed beauty and grandeur in front of you, but if you hold a worthless piece of play money up close to your eyes, it will keep you from seeing the magnificent scene behind it.  It will blot out the beautiful with the worthless.  How often we allow useless, worthless, meaningless, mortal things to blot out the everlasting view God has for us, waiting there to be seen with Forever Eyes.

Loving the World

Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.    1 John 2:15-17

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Looking at Marriage and Singleness with Forever Eyes

Whether single or married, your challenge is to look with Forever Eyes at your situation. Neither marriage nor singleness will give any advantage in heaven.  Yet, how we handle our single or married status here on earth will matter, because it will demonstrate our trust - or lack of trust - in God.

Choose Your Mate Well

Marriage is a God-ordained covenant, and should be highly honored and respected here on earth. God told us that it was good for us to have mates and companions, to meet our need for earthly intimacy and support. God takes the marriage vows very seriously and expects us to as well. Looking at marriage with Forever Eyes should cause us to be far more careful in choosing a life mate. You need to consider the consequences of that choice in ten years, twenty years, fifty years. You will want to make sure that the partner you choose is God's choice for your life.

Singleness Through Earthly Eyes

If it's your natural desire to be married and have a family, singleness can sometimes seem like a prison or a punishment. It can be very difficult to look at singleness with Forever Eyes.
When you look at your singleness with earthly eyes, it can lead you to desperateness, to anger with God, to despair, to wrong choices, to sinful lifestyles, and to settling for less than God's best. This, then, becomes self-inflicted suffering. When you choose to see your singleness as a burden, you have chosen a life of dissatisfaction, restlessness and misery.

Singleness Through Forever Eyes

Marriage takes a lot of effort to make it work but brings many wonderful benefits. Yet, the grass on that side of the fence is not always green.

In speaking to some single women recently, the question came up about the role of women in a godly relationship and what God expects. Does the "submission" issue begin in the dating relationship, or only after the marriage vows are taken?

I reminded the young women that relationships are never easy. A good relationship - especially with someone as close as a mate - requires lots of dying to self. It is a never-ending challenge to put the other person first, to adjust to that person, and that means there will be lots of give and take.

Marriage Through Forever Eyes

When you look at your marriage with God's Forever Eyes, you are taking very seriously those vows, "til death do you part." Through Forever Eyes, marriage vows are of great importance, and preserving the marriage if at all possible should be the earnest goal.

We won't have a married or single status in heaven. However, we will recognize each other in heaven, so you will know your marriage partner on the other side of eternity. Paul said, "Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (1 Corinthians 12:12b). It must be of great comfort to those whose mates have preceded them into eternity. We will know each other and enjoy renewed fellowship and companionship in eternity.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Looking at Money and Possessions with Forever Eyes

Do you know that the Bible has more than two thousand verses about money? There is more ink in the Bible about money and possessions than there is about heaven. This tells me that God considers money and the things it can buy very important.

Money's Bid for Control
Jesus fully understood the power of money and its ability to quickly and easily make its way to the throne of our hearts. He said, "No on can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money". Matthew 6:24

Love-of-Money Griefs
Paul wrote to young Timothy, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10

The Smell of Money's Control
Here are some of the telltale signs that money has burned a hole in your heart:
  • Money causes you a great deal of fear and anxiety.
  • You find yourself dreaming about somehow coming into a lot of money, and the things you would do with it.
  • You envy people who seem to have all the money they need.
  • You think of money as the solution to all your problems.
  • You look to money for security.
  • You evaluate people by their financial success.
 What if for some horrible reason you were left devoid of all financial security? Would you feel that life was over?  It's a telling exercise because we can see how much we treasure our possessions, and where our treasure is.

Rejecting the Lordship of Money
Jesus make it clear that in order to be His disciple, we must knowingly and consciously reject money as a god in our lives.

Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal".  Matthew 6:19-20

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Looking at Time with Forever Eyes

The Bible clearly teaches that there are two places where people will spend their hereafter lives--heaven and hell. Those are the only options we have, and before we leave this life, our decision about Jesus Christ determines whether we will transition from this life into heaven or into hell.

Numbered Days
The days here on earth are numbered for each of us, and each of us has a different number. We just don't know what that number is.

David wrote:

You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.   Psalm 39:5

It's not that earthly days are unimportant, but eternity is far greater. David saw his days on this earth as inconsequential because he compared earthly days to eternal numberless days. He looked at his time with Forever Eyes.

Messages From the Person You Will Be

I heard this great question from a television commercial a while back but it really made me think. The question was "If the woman you will be in twenty years could talk to the woman you are now, what would she say to you?"

The woman I will be in twenty years will be older and wiser. She will have a perspective that I do not now have. Would she have some of these messages for me?
  • You're wasting valuable time on many things that do not matter.
  • You're missing opportunities for service to God that will never come your way again.
  • You're throwing away energy and resources on things that will burn up.
  • You're living as though your days are numberless; they are not.
Recognizing that we don't know how many days we have left, we live every day as though it could be the last.

Living now in the light of eternity brings freedom, joy, and contentment that we'll never know otherwise. It is the gateway to a meaningful, intentional lifestyle.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Looking at Difficulties with Forever Eyes

How do you live with a sickness or infirmity that is unexplainable? How do you come to a place of acceptance, understanding, or peace when you or someone you love is caught in the web of a disabled or diseased body or an infirm mind?

It can be a real struggle to see these tough conditions through Forever Eyes, but with much effort, look beyond the here and now. The suffering is nothing compared to an eternity with the Lord.

Transformed Suffering

There are so many examples throughout the history of the church of people who have been dealt a terrible physical blow, and yet that very condition has given them a voice for God that they would never have had otherwise.

The apostle Paul left us the ultimate example of looking at suffering through Forever Eyes when he faced a debilitating disability. He called it a "thorn in my flesh" and referred to it as a "messenger of Satan, to torment me" (2 Cor 12:7).  Three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away from him.

God responded to his threefold plea:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.      2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Paul was able to arrive at a place of acceptance because he could look beyond the current suffering to see the eternal purpose. He saw his suffering through Forever Eyes.

Let your life be a testimony to God. He is our Savior, Healer, and Lord. He is all around you. He will never leave you or forsake you.