All Things

Paul's words seem like a sweet, cool breeze on a sweltering afternoon: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." But what about those two wonderful, perplexing words all things? In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul lists some of the experiences he includes under that heading. Severe floggings. Staring death in the face. Bloody lashings with a whip. Brutal beatings with rods. Terrifying shipwrecks. Danger from bandits. Heartaches over betrayals and false believers. Exposure, exhaustion, hunger, and thirst (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). And the list goes on.

Most of us could say that our problems pale in light of Paul's list. Yet he could still write, "I know that in all things God works for my good." What's keeping you from believing in God's goodness right now, in the midst of your difficulties, pressures, and disappointments?

Lord, I know that if You worked everyth…

A Call to Holiness More Than Happiness

I recently read Gary Thomas' book Sacred Marriage. The premise of his book is how marriage can help us to deepen our relationship with God. When I read a book like this, I like to journal about it to help me remember what I've read. Here I've written some of the points that stood out to me the most. These barely scratch the surface of what Gary Thomas included in his book, so I definitely encourage you to read it for yourself.

Chapter 1: Marriage is intended to make us holy more than to make us happy. Marriage can help us to grow in our service, obedience, character, pursuit and love of God. It forces us to face character issues we would never have otherwise. Marriage calls us to a new and selfless life.

Chapter 2: Marriage points us to true fulfillment. It helps us draw meaning, purpose and fulfillment from God. If our marriage relationship is right, we won't make severe demands on marriage asking one another to compensate for spiritual emptiness. We experience dissatis…

God's Gifts

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." -1 Peter 4:10
Every believer, including children, has at least one spiritual gift (see 1 Corinthians 12:7). Unfortunately, many Christians never identify their spiritual gifts and simply live life as a spectator rather than a participant. God desires His church to be active and growing, with each believer playing an important part in its effective worship and work. Understanding your gifts, therefore, will help you find the best way to serve and eliminate frustrations over trying to do things the way someone else does. Not only will the church be strengthened and unified, but you'll also discover that spiritual gifts are really just Jesus working through your life as you carry on His ministry.

Do you know your spiritual gift(s) in the Lord? As you read Romans 12:3-9, ask God to reveal which gifts He wants to use through your life. Discov…

On Target

"Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint." -Proverbs 29:18

Wasting time is never wise in living the Christian life. Nowhere in the Bible does it talk about sitting back and letting life pass you by. Rather, the apostle Paul repeatedly addresses the need to discipline ourselves to achieve our utmost for God's highest. Buffeting our bodies and taking on the mind of Christ, we are to live each day wholly committed to doing the Lord's will. In fact, God commands us to present ourselves as living sacrifices that He might use us for His glory - no matter what time or day of the year (see Romans 12:1).

Until the Lord returns, God expects you to be about His business each day using the gifts and talents He's given you. Don't be like the lazy servant in the parable of the bags of gold who hid his gold in the ground (see Matthew 25:14-30). Instead, come to the Lord each morning in prayer and discover God's purpose to keep your life hitting the mark. &…

Calm Down

As churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife. -Proverbs 30:33
Agitation. Jon Courson comments, "Rather than letting hurt feelings heal, those who continually revisit problems and rekindle the fire of misunderstanding will make the situation infinitely worse, as sure as stirring milk results in butter and wringing the nose brings forth blood."

Let's take an example. Your friend calls. She is livid. Her mother-in-law was domineering and rude on Christmas Day. Your friend is hurt and wants to vent. Okay, what kind of friend are you, really? A carnal friend would not just be sympathetic, she would add fuel tot he fire, adding criticism and reinforcing the woundedness. This does not help, and it is not true friendship, either.

As true godly friends, this very same encounter could take you both to a higher place, the Cross. First, just listen, but pray as you listen. Sometimes, when people share, they see thi…

Sober Words for our Upside-Down World

There is a generation that curses its father; And does not bless its mother. There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness. There is a generation - oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation whose teeth are like swords, And whose fangs are like knives, To devour the poor from off the earth, And the needy from among men.
-Proverbs 30:11-14
This describes a generation that has turned its back on God. At the risk of sounding too negative, I feel I must read 2 Timothy 3:1-7: "Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of th…

Flattery Will Get You No Where

Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet. -Proverbs 29:5
We all like receiving a compliment, don't we? A word of encouragement is just that. It encourages us. But flattery as defined by Webster's is "an insincere compliment, excessive or unjustified praise." Put another way, flattery's not truthful, and in the end, it isn't kind.

So let's beware of people who lavish flattery and praise. An old folk saying is "Flattery looks like friendship, just like a wolf looks like a dog."

Pastor Chuck Smith comments that "flattery is often used to soften us up and then trip us up." If we listen to enough flattery, we might begin to believe it, causing us to think too much of ourselves.

But on the other hand, many people never hear a word of praise, not ever. So if you're a Sunday school teacher, try to find one uplifting thing to say to each child before they leave class. If you're a mom, don't just point out your k…