Archive for December, 2013

Well, it’s that time again- time to make New Year’s Resolutions!

I have to admit that I am ambivalent about making them. I have often failed to achieve them and wonder if it’s even God’s will to make them. After all, doesn’t God already have my life planned out?

In the past, my New Year’s Resolutions have been my goals for the year. I had goals for every major area of my life. I like to plan so it was easy for me to make them. Yet, I wonder to this day if they did me much good.

So, why make goals?

The Scriptures support that God wants and expects us to plan and make goals. “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord, it will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).

One reason God wants us to plan is to see the danger ahead and take action before it is too late. “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naïve proceed and pay the penalty” (Proverbs 27:12).

Another reason he wants us to set goals is because he wants us to set our sights on what he wants us to do. “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

We are not wise to make whatever goals tickle our fancy. He has called each one of us to certain goals that he has planned for us to do. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

He doesn’t want us thrashing around chasing after every impulse of ours. He wants us to be like Paul who said, “I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26).

Our “running” and “boxing” need to be directed towards God’s targets.

So, how do we make goals that are God’s goals?

One thing we could do is to commit the goal-setting process to him. ”Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and he will do it” (Psalm 37:5). At the end of the goal-setting or New Year’s Resolution process we need to aim for our goals being his goals –they need to be what God wants to do in and through us during the new year.

We would be wise to always remember that, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We can do nothing of eternal value without our goals being his goals.

God usually guides us step by step. So, our goals may change some during the year. We need to ”Trust Him with all [our] heart and do not lean on [our] own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6) as the year goes by. Our goals need to be the product of daily communion with God as we partner with him throughout the year to achieve them through his strength.

Are you going to set some goals or New Year’s resolutions? If you have decided to go ahead and set some goals, commit the process to God in prayer. Ask him to bring to your mind one goal he wants to either accomplish in you or through you during the year. Ask him what he wants you to do to cooperate with him in achieving this goal. Thank him for what he is going to do.



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Are You Okay?

There was a popular book in the 70’s called,  I’m Okay, You’re Okay. I never read the book but understood the message to be that we needed to accept one another, even if we were different.

But are we okay? This week a magazine did not think my article that sought to correct some misconceptions they had about spiritual formation was okay. I felt that they not only did not think that my article was okay, but also felt like they didn’t think I was okay.

Later in the week I failed to meet my performance standards in an area of weakness. I did not feel that I was okay as I was going through the experience.

However, in each instance I turned to God and thanked him that I was okay to him. I thanked him that “He has perfected [me] for all time” (Hebrews 10:14).

So, even when others or myself did not think I was okay, I turned to God to get my acceptance.

Then, why do so many of us fail to regard ourselves as okay?

One reason is that we believe that we need to meet the standards of others or ourselves to be okay. It is a rat race in which our being okay is on the line every day. We think that we are only okay if others or ourselves regard us as okay. We fail to rely on God’s acceptance of us as a gift of salvation.

Another reason we doubt that we are okay is our pride. We would rather earn being okay rather than accept it as a gift. Being okay to God is not good enough for us. We have to be okay to everybody–which is impossible without driving ourselves crazy.

A third reason that we question if we are okay is that we have been programmed all our lives to get our acceptance from others and ourselves. We have not been trained to look to God. And yet this is the only reliable place to go to be okay.

Then, how do we live in the reality that we are okay–not necessarily to others or ourselves, but to God?

How do we accept the fact that only God’s viewpoint counts?

How do we live in the reality that we are not only okay to get into heaven, but also okay to boldly and confidently enter his presence at anytime (Ephesians 3:12)?

One thing we can do is to deeply understand the full meaning of the Christmas story for Christians. Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection not only made us okay for heaven, but also okay in the face of rejection from others and ourselves.

A second thing we can do is to reject the old ways we regarded ourselves as okay-meeting others and our standards. “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16, NIV).

Instead, we ask God to help us believe that “we are accepted in the beloved”  (Ephesians 1:6, KJV). We are okay because God thinks we are okay!

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The Search for Peace

I have been recovering for the past couple of months from major heart surgery. As you would expect, not everything is back to normal physically. Unusual things are happening, like my iron is low, and my energy level is not at full strength.

These imperfections often cause me to worry. I allow them to cause me to doubt that I will attain the prognosis of a full recovery.

So, when I noticed this week that a vein in my arm was discolored and was hard and protruding I did the natural thing – I got scared. I went immediately to the doctor to have him take a look at it to remove me from the danger I feared.

What a comfort he was! He said, “Don’t sweat the details. You have made it 99% of the way. The hard part was the 6 bypasses and the two aneurisms. You just need to accept the little aches and pains like what you have now” (it was an irritated vein that was the home of the IV during my hospital stay).

Thus, peace came to me when I refused to sweat the details. If God has gotten me this far, why can’t I expect that he will finish the job of my recovery? “Shall I bring [you] to the point of birth, and not give delivery?” (Isaiah 66:9).

Peace can be defined as the absence of a troubled and fearful inner world (John 14:27).

So, what keeps us from experiencing this peace?

One reason is that we often face our problems and future thinking we are alone- that we have to be our own god. Yet, we know deep within ourselves that we can’t control our circumstances and can’t solve all of our problems.

Even if we are aware that God is with us, we may doubt that he cares. Maybe he will just watch and see how I perform. Maybe “He is not a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Fear results and we lose our peace.

Many of us have a long history with God. He has done much for us in the past and we know it. Yet, we often don’t remember his past faithfulness and thus do not expect his faithfulness in the future. We are like Jesus’ disciples when he rebuked them for not learning from the past. “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:14-21).

Instead of trusting God with providing us his peace, we often choose to search for peace in good circumstances. Yet, circumstances never are good enough to give us peace of mind (John 16:33).

So, how do we change? How do we find the peace that we have been searching after?

One thing we can do is to pray. We can take our fears and troubles to God for his help. God promises that we will never figure out how it works, but we will experience supernatural peace (Philippians 4:6-7) Include thanks in those prayers too, for thanks helps us to grow in dependence on God.

“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single [day] to his life” (Matthew 6:26-27).

Another thing we can do in our search for peace is to get to know our loving God, so that we feel his love. Our fears will never go away until we live in the reality that God loves us so much that he died for us. Only then can we experience a deep peace (1 John 4:18).

So, what can we do today to experience more peace of mind?

May I suggest that we take each problem or thing that is robbing us of our peace to God and ask for his help with it. Then, let us thank him for all the good things that he has put into our lives. Finally, may we thank him for what he will do to help us with our problems.

May God richly bless you with peace today!

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Facing Our Future with Confidence

A couple of months ago, my future on this earth nearly came to an end. I was suddenly facing two aneurisms in my aorta artery that were starting to dissect. Only heroic efforts by God and surgeons saved me.

Now, I am faced with an uncertain future of several months of recovery. The prognosis is good, yet pain and weakness tend to drag me down in my confidence that I will fully recover.

So, why is it so hard for me to face my future with confidence? Why is it so hard for many of you to face your futures with confidence?

One reason is that we cannot control our futures. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away”’ (James 4:13-14).

Many of us do not have confidence in a future that we cannot control. Only by pretending that we have control will we have peace of mind. Only if we think we can figure out what is going to happen to us, do we face our future with confidence (Proverbs 3:5).

Others of us have bad thinking habits that tend to project worst-case scenarios into the future. Since we do not know that the worst will not happen, we tend to think it will.

Another important reason that many of us Christians do not have confidence in our futures is that we do not rely on the great love that God has for us. We look out into the future as if we are alone and not being faithfully watched over by God. “I will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever” (Psalm 121:8).

A fourth reason that we have difficulty facing the future with confidence is that the world has a lot of bad things in it. Jesus warns us that, “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). How can we be sure we have what it takes to face this future tribulation?

So, how do we face the future with confidence?

We need to remember that Jesus is our partner (Philippians 4:13). He promises he will always be with us bending our futures for our good and his purposes. “God causes all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28).

And we need to rely on our partner, who is God Almighty. “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you” (Psalm 91:7).

But what about the possibility of open-heart surgery in our future? Why shouldn’t that undermine our confidence in the future?

If comfort is our goal we will probably not be able to face our futures with confidence. But if we see our futures as allowing God to finish his work in us, we can face them with confidence. “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

And even if we know our futures will have some tribulations in it, we will not be given more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).

May our faith in God and our futures grow to become more like David’s who said “Surely goodness and lovingkindnesses will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).

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