How to despair proof your life

You have the ability to ensure you will never fall prey to despair. We are given the key in Psalm 27:13, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (NASB)

 Apparently King David, who wrote this Psalm, had come close to despair himself, and with good reason. His father in law, who happened to be king, was out to kill him, the army he once served on faithfully was now hunting him down, & the throne he had been anointed to sit on was occupied by someone else. But no matter how bleak things looked, no matter how bad things got, we are told there was something that kept him from despair. There was one thing in David’s life that prevented him from losing heart. 

He says plainly, “I would have despaired…” He would have given up. He screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-10-46-43-amwould have decided answering God’s call on his live was not worth it. He would have concluded that he no longer wanted to serve the LORD.

But something prevented that from ever happening. What was it?

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord…”

David had it settled in his heart that he would SEE the goodness of the Lord. Not just hear about it. Not just believe in it. Not just know about it.  He believed that God’s goodness was going to become visible, apparent, obvious, observable in his life.  

But when?

Not “when the roll is called up yonder” or “in the sweet bye and bye”.   He knew he would see God’s goodness “in the land of the living.” In THIS life.

David attributes this belief, and nothing else, to what guarded his heart from despair.  If it was true for King David, it is true for you and me as well.  To despair proof your life you must build our faith in God’s goodness and in the fact that you can see that goodness on display during your lifetime.

To not have this settled in your heart is to make yourself vulnerable to despair.  Believing that His goodness may or may not be tasted in this life, or is only reserved for heaven makes you easy prey to hopelessness.  Let it be established in your heart, “I WILL walk in His provision. I WILL see His healing power. I WILL live in His freedom. I WILL know His joy. I WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!”

How to become utterly worthless

Sometimes, when something doesn’t do what it was made to do, you can find another use for it.  I once used the handle of a broken shovel as a stake in my garden to hold up a large tomato plant. It actually worked quite well.  I have seen old car tires, that no longer work well as car tires, being used for all kinds of different things, from planters to playground equipment.

But sometimes, there are things designed with such specific purpose, that when they cease to fulfill that purpose, there is absolutely no other legitimate use for them.  Salt fits into this category.

Salt can be used to add flavor to food or to preserve food. But if salt quits making food “come alive” with flavor, and no longer functions as a preservative, Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 1.42.33 PMthere is no other use for it.  If salt stops being salty it becomes completely worthless.

In Luke 14:34-35 Jesus said, “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Jesus said that salt that does not behave the way salt should has less value than dirt! People have even found beneficial uses for animal waste, using it as a fertilizer. No such use can be found for salt that is not salty. It is utterly worthless and is thrown away.

If Jesus had simply been talking about sodium chloride, that would be one thing, but he wasn’t.  He was using salt as an analogy as he talked about people who claim to follow him.  Followers of Jesus are called to be like salt in this world.  We are called to bring life and preserve.  A disciple of Jesus is similar to salt in that he or she is designed with a very specific purpose.  And if that purpose is not fulfilled the result is worthlessness. What happens if a disciple refuses to “bring life” or preserve? What if they refuse to do what they were made to do?

If you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior then you are a new creature (2 Corinth 5:17). As a new creature, you have a new purpose; bringing others into relationship with Jesus (2 Corinth 5:18-21).  This is the same instruction Jesus gave to his disciples in Matthew 28.  A disciple of Jesus is assigned the task of telling other about Jesus & teaching them to follow Jesus (Matt 28:19-20).

Disciples disciple.  That’s what we do. That is what we were made to do. That is our purpose. A disciple that doesn’t disciple is like salt that isn’t salty: worthless.  Refuse to fall into that category.  Decide today that you will fulfill the purpose that God gave you.  Commit to tell somebody about Jesus and teach them to follow him.

Disciples disciple. Refuse to become utterly worthless. Do what you were made to do.

Pro-Life? Really?

Abortion is one of the most frequently performed medical procedures in the United States each year.  Just the mention of the word “abortion” can stir up strong emotions and even stronger opinions. When it comes to the subject of abortion, people typically fall into one of two camps; Pro-Choice or Pro-Life.

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Generally, those who profess to be Christians would also consider themselves to be Pro-Life.  Some are quite passionate about their Pro-Life stance, and rightly so. They would, and do, sign petitions, march in parades, form picket lines and vote in elections accordingly.

“Pro-Lifers” make strong arguments about one person’s choice or convenience not depriving another person from the opportunity of being born.  They would argue adamantly that what is easiest or most comfortable for one person should never be allowed to prevent someone else from living! When it comes to someone’s LIFE, forget your choice!  Who cares about your choice when someone else’s life is on the line!?!?

While a majority of Christians are Pro-Life on the issue of abortion, spiritually, most are staunchly Pro-Choice.

As insistent as most Christians are about the virtues of being Pro-Life, in reality, most are very much pro-convenience, pro-comfort, pro-choice.

Sharing the Gospel could be uncomfortable. Telling someone about the incredible sacrifice that was made for them could be inconvenient, or even feel a bit awkward. Far too many believers choose not to risk that potential discomfort, and in doing so rob someone else of the opportunity of being born into the Kingdom of God.  When it comes to obeying the Great Commission, they prefer their right to choose not to.

Share the Good News with a co-worker, or don’t. It’s really up to you.  Tell your neighbor about Jesus, or keep putting it off. The choice is yours, isn’t it?

As disgusting and selfish as the Pro-Choice attitude is when it comes to robbing babies of life, it is even more revolting when people who have tasted the newness of life found only in Jesus Christ choose to deny others that same opportunity to experience new life.

Are you Pro-Life? Really?

 

Embracing Delusion

Imagine a friend asking you to meet them for coffee.  You meet them at your favorite coffee shop, order, get your coffee, sit down together and begin to make small talk.  It isn’t too long before they let you know they need to share something with you.

Something personal.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 5.33.21 PMSomething they have been wrestling with for a while.

You can tell that the mood has changed from casual conversation to something more serious.

They begin to open up and share with you that they are not who you think they are. They are not who they have been pretending to be.  They tell you that they have come to believe themselves to truly be a dinosaur.  Or imagine they tell you they genuinely believe themselves to be a 6 month old baby, or you can pick any other thing that they clearly are not; a cat, a frog, whatever.  The point is that they believe themselves to be something that, in fact, they are not.

Now, as they share this belief with you, it would be wrong for you to react with anger and disgust; telling them how stupid they are and attacking them for holding a belief that is clearly outside of reality.  If you began yelling at them that they are crazy, insane, dumb, evil or any other insult, it would only be hurtful.  It would also be wrong for you to get up and leave and simply avoid them from that point on. Neither abusing them with words nor shunning them would do them any good.

Your friend is under some kind of delusion. They believe themselves to be something that in reality, they simply are not.  They need help, and responding with a negative backlash would be damaging.

We live in a time when more and more people are becoming deluded and believing themselves to be something they are not.  Our culture has properly identified that lashing out at them with insults and spewing hatred is the wrong way to respond.  Unfortunately, they have chosen a more damaging response; embrace the delusion.

Let’s go back to you and your friend at the coffee shop for a moment.  They have just broken the news that they are not who you think they are or who they have been pretending to be, but they are a dog.  You choose not to laugh in their face or say something hurtful, but it will also do your friend no good to “play along” with the delusion. You are doing more damage by not confronting this delusion with truth.

When someone is deceived and out of touch with reality what they need most desperately is truth. However, we live in a culture that embraces delusion, even celebrates it. Anything other than embracing the delusion is misunderstood as hatred and bigotry.

It is easier to just play along.  “So you are a dog?!? That is wonderful!  Dogs are great and I think it is fantastic that you are one!”

In Ephesians 4:15 we are told to “speak the truth in love.” As followers of Jesus we are called to speak the truth, to set people free from the lies and delusion of the enemy.  That is what love does. In fact, to leave someone caught in lies and confusion should not be understood as acceptance, but cruelty.  But when we “speak the truth,” it must not be in hostility, frustration, anger or disgust, but “in love.”

a mindset that leads to life & peace

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” Romans 8:5 & 6 (NLT)

I have been thinking about these verses from Romans 8 and what it means to “think about things that please the Spirit.” I am very much interested in having a thought life that “leads to life and peace.” But what does that mean exactly? What kind of things should I be thinking?Screen shot 2014-09-13 at 10.46.26 AM

I have been mulling this over. Here is what I have come up with so far:

What “pleases the Spirit” is Jesus. The Holy Spirit  came to point to and reveal Jesus (John 16:12-15).  So, my thoughts should be centered on Jesus.

Perhaps the most significant thing that is revealed in Jesus is the fact that I am loved.  This is huge when it comes to my though life. Constantly thinking of the fact that God’s love for me (and you) is so extreme that he sent his son to die for me, cannot help but alter the atmosphere of my thought life. 

The environment Jesus establishes when I fix my mind on him is that of love. The content of my thoughts must continually acknowledge that I am deeply loved.

So many thoughts and patterns of harmful, hurtful thinking are immediately dismissed when I allow Jesus and his love to dominate my thinking.  The negative self-talk that I so easily fall into is eliminated.  The nearly abusive internal “talking to’s” that I regularly give myself no longer have place to tear me down.

Doubt, envy and bitterness fade.  In their place, thankfulness rises up.  As I allow the overwhelming love of God to impact my mindset, I find myself thinking of all I am thankful for; people I know, God’s incredible provision and care for me, situations I am blessed to be in and ones I am blessed to have avoided….

As I set my mind on Jesus I find “life and peace” where there was once death.

Exposing God

I’m not sure how you feel about tests.  Most people are not crazy about them. Typically people’s disdain for tests is related to times when they were the one being tested.  Few relish exams in school or having their patience “tested” in every day life.  Testing reveals. A test will show how much, or how little, you have of something; whether it is your knowledge, strength, character…

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But what if you weren’t the one being tested?

What if you got to be the one doing the testing?

What if you were the one who got to examine the results of the test and analyze what had been revealed about the one who had been tested?

In Malachi 3:10 God says, “Test me!”

While it is true that tithing tests us in a number of ways, it also tests God.  But here is the thing: God WANTS to be tested.  Unlike us, He does not shy away from the exposure that testing brings. He wants his character to be revealed.  He desires His heart and His nature to be on full display.   But we rob Him of that opportunity by not issuing the test.

Read Malachi 3:8-10 (NIV)

“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.  But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

(Tithe is a word that simply means a tenth.  The Bible tells us that a tithe, or 1/10, of all that we produce belongs to God; it’s His [Lev 27:30].)

Testing exposes.

God is gracious, good, faithful and desirous to poor out blessing.  By tithing and “testing” Him, we give the opportunity to put His character on display.

 

the grasshopper principle

“…we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” (Numbers 13:33)

This was the concluding argument from the 10 spies who believed it was impossible for the Israelites to successfully go into the Promised Land. Eventually, the children of Israel would concur and head back into the wilderness for another 38 years, just to eventually end up right back in the same spot.

The reason the Israelites did not get to enter into the land and enjoy all that God had for them wasn’t that they suffered a humiliating defeat. It wasn’t that they tried and just didn’t have the right strategy or military prowess. The issue was that the people who were inhabiting the land saw the Israelites as mere grasshoppers. But notice why their enemies saw them as grasshoppers.

Again, Numbers 13:33b, “…we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” (ESV)

The way they perceived themselves directly affected the way others perceived them.Screen shot 2013-06-21 at 8.40.23 PM

I refer to this as “the grasshopper principle” and it holds true for us as well. It can either work for you or against you. If you think of yourself as a “grasshopper” then you will begin to notice others seeing you that way as well. If you allow yourself to think “grasshopper thoughts” you will start to live a “grasshopper life.” And just like the Israelites in Numbers 13, that self perception alone is enough to prevent you from enjoying all that God has for you and all that He has called you to do and be. But, it could also enable you to be the man or woman you were made to be.

When our eyes are on ourselves we are limited to our own abilities and inabilities and it is easy to become discouraged and hard to believe we could ever do anything significant. But when a Christian begins to see themselves inline with the realities of who they are in Christ, then there is no challenge too great or obstacle too large. Our focus should not be on ourselves but on Jesus because “as he is so also are we in this world” (1 John 4:17), our lives are hidden in him (Col 3:3), it is no longer we who live, but Christ living in us (Gal 2:20) & in Christ we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37).

Do others think little of you, doubt your ability, are convinced you will never amount to much or see you as a failure? It is possible that the cause of that perception is how you see yourself.

How would you like others to perceive you? How do you see yourself?