Archive for August, 2014

Wouldn’t It Be Nice

I don’t believe that many of us Christians have a clear vision of how fulfilling and joyful our lives could be. Many of us settle for a lifestyle that is far below what it could be. But wouldn’t it be nice if our day-to-day living were more like this:

  • We experience a deep and enjoyable love relationship with God throughout the day. “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).
  • We are not afraid so much because we rely on our good God to control the circumstances for our good. “Every good and perfect gift comes from God” (James 1:17, paraphrased).
  • We see God throughout the day in our devotions, people, circumstances, nature, etc. and feel guided, loved, and protected by him.
  • We are content with our lot in life knowing that God will change things in his time. “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in (Philippians 4:12).
  • We live in the reality that “It’s okay to be me” and we don’t feel that we have to pretend. “God has made us always acceptable to him” (Hebrews 10:14, paraphrased).
  • We expect God’s love and favor throughout the day. “Surely God’s goodness and love will be my experience today” (Psalm 23:6, paraphrased).
  • We do things that are right for us and we are not pressured by others to do what they want us to do. “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).
  • We share the heaviness of our problems with God throughout the day, and receive his help as we ask for it. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28).
  • We don’t beat ourselves up when we fail to meet standards because God doesn’t. “I am gentle” (Matthew 11:29).

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could live like this all of the time.

And we can!

This lifestyle is God’s will for each of us as we cooperate with him to change us. “Be strong in experiencing God’s undeserved blessings” (2 Timothy 2:1).

Why settle for less?

Let’s not say that the cost is too high because God says, “When a person finds this kind of lifestyle, he pays any price to get it” (Matthew 13:46, paraphrased).

Let’s not say that we don’t want this lifestyle because God says that idols, achievements, praise and pleasures will not satisfy us anywhere near like he will (Mark 4:19; John 10:10).

And let’s not say that we want to depend on ourselves to make life work because we need God’s favor for life to work as described above (Jeremiah 17:5).

May I suggest that you ask God to help you picture what your day would be like today if you were living more in the lifestyle described above. Spend a couple of minutes imagining this reality.

Wouldn’t it be nice!

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If we were honest, most of us don’t want to change. We may want the perks that change will bring, but we don’t want to go through the painful process to get them.

However, sometimes the status quo can be so painful that we are eager to do almost anything to change.

When I came into adulthood, I was in much pain. I didn’t like my game plan for living. My game plan was to get a good education, get a job, make lots of money, get married, have three children, do some good deeds and die. Somehow, I wanted life to have more meaning than that.

So, I went on a journey lasting six years until I found a good game plan. I chose to change my game plan, rather than endure a largely meaningless existence.

Why Change?

The main reason we need to change is that God has a game plan for each one of us to rescue us and change us into the wonderful person that he has designed us to be.

“Rescue us from what?” you may ask. In a word, to rescue us from “hell.”

But you may say, “I am rescued. I have accepted God’s free gift of going to heaven because of what Jesus did for me on the cross. Now, I am busy learning about God and trying to obey him.”

But are you changing? Are you becoming more like Jesus by being more loving, peaceful and joyous? Do you even want to change?

I think one of the great deceptions that Satan has fostered upon us Christians today is to dupe us into believing that if we just know about God we will be “magically” changed. Filling our head with facts about God gives us the illusion of growth but our heart knows that there is a big difference between knowing truth and living it.

I was shocked several years ago when I realized that despite trying to grow spiritually for over 35 years, I was still in bondage to many subtle sins like depending on achievement for worth and using other people’s opinion of me to form what I thought of myself. I should have been relying more on how God viewed me as expressed in the Bible. This awareness motivated me to change.

How to Do It

So, how do we change?

If God has not given you a hunger and thirst after righteousness, ask him for it. Satan is too clever for us and he offers many diversions off the main path of change. Only a God-fueled hunger will keep us from feeding off the false substitutes that are all around us.

“Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If any one loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

Knowing the Bible is essential to changing. “Long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).  

But change only occurs in those of us who depend on the Word to live life. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14)

A third way to change is to embrace the hard times that are sure to come our way. Instead of cursing our luck for lousy circumstances, we need to be more like Jesus and look beyond the pain to the good God is doing in our difficulties (Hebrews 12:2).

God is relentless in stripping away good things that get in the way of relying on him. Good things like achievements, being liked by everybody, and always being strong. And when he does strip them away, it hurts!

He wants what is best for us. He wants to change us into the wonderful person he made us to be to reflect his greatness to world. And that takes a lot of change, even though he deeply loves, accepts, and respects us throughout the entire change process.

So, do you want to change?

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I have been through several challenges in the last several months that have left me tired and anxious. But now I feel the storm has passed; like it is the morning after! Who knows if it is true, but apparently it is for now.

But what did God accomplish in all my hospital stays and the fear it produced in me? Why did he cause the storm to happen anyway?

As I pick through the broken pieces of my life after the storm, I am looking for what remains. How did the experience change me and make me a better person?

Am I am still anxious to return to my old ways of feeling safe, important or loved, or will I better accept God’s safety, worth and love as gifts from him? Will I repent or will I stubbornly stay the same? Has God’s discipline accomplished anything in my life?

We often find it hard to understand how such a loving God can be so ruthless in stripping away our old habits of feeling good, such as depending on achievements, health, people’s approval and feeling comfortable. We think that if God loves us, he would make us feel good all the time.

Yet, God is in the storm as much as he is in the sunny days. “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen” (Job 37:13).

He yearns for us to try his splendor out and experience his joy, peace, and love. Storms are often necessary for us to try his splendor out.

Below is a poem that can help us realize why our storms are so important:

When God wants to drill a person

And thrill a person

And skill a person

When God wants to mold a person

To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart

To create so great and bold a person

That all the world should be amazed,

Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects

Whom He royally elects!

How He hammers them and hurts them,

And with Mighty blows converts them

Into trial shapes of clay which

Only God understands;

While their tortured heart is crying

And they lift beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks

When their good He undertakes;

How He uses whom He chooses

And with every purpose fuses them;

By every act induces them

To try His splendor out-

God knows what He is about! [1]


In the storm we can become desperate enough to risk giving up the old and learn to rest in the new.

Recovery from the storm is not easy. Old habits do not die easily. We will yearn to return to the familiar, though the familiar failed us miserably in the storm. God is trying to teach us to walk in his ways, even when the pressure from the storm is not on us.

So, ask God to bring to mind a storm that he has brought you through recently. What was he trying to teach you through that storm? Ask him to help you live in these teachings today.



[1] The Character of a Christian-Design for Discipleship-Book Four, (Colorado Springs: The Navigators, 1973), 48.




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Going Through Hard Times

Last week I went under the knife for the second time in 10 months. The surgery was for an abdominal aortic aneurism. It was expected to be a piece of cake compared to the previous open-heart surgery.

The initial report is that the surgery went well and that I am doing fine. This week, I seem to be recovering well and continuing to show signs that the surgery was successful.

However I do harbor a few concerns, which I hope to clear up when I meet with my surgeon this week.

In addition, in the months between these surgeries, I have been hospitalized for a possible infection from surgery, a temporary stroke, and dehydration.

Never have I been through such trying times physically. What is going on here?

Why Hard Times?

The Bible clearly teaches that God takes us through hard times for our good. Now if we measure everything that happens to us by how good it feels, we will have a difficult time living this truth. Sometimes the pain hides the good from us.

I can see that my hard times of the last 10 months have increased

  • my humility
  • my dependency on God for physical security
  • my endurance
  • my compassion for the suffering of others

The pain is often necessary for us to loosen our grip on the idols that we use to meet our needs instead of relying on God to meet them. For example, if we depend on good health, and fail to see that it is a gift from God, he may remove it for a season. We can then learn that the only thing we can count on is his presence and the health that he chooses to provide (Isaiah 41:10).

What Can Help Get Us Through the Hard Times?

Something to remember that can help us get through hard times is that life is difficult. It was intended to be that way. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

One of my favorite passages from a book is from The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck. In the book he says,

“Life is difficult. But when we accept the fact that life is difficult, then it’s not so difficult.”

It can help to remember also that God is the potter, and we are the clay. He continually works to mold us into his likeness, that we may experience “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).”

“But it hurts!” you may say. “I don’t like what you are doing.”

But “Does the clay dispute with him who forms him, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!…. Who are you to command me concerning the work of my hands?”’ (Isaiah 45:9,11, TLB).

It helps to know that God is more concerned about our transformation than our comfort.

Finally, we can take comfort in the fact that he will never give us more than we take.

“No temptation has overtaken [us} but such is common to man, and God is faithful, who will allow [us] to be tempted beyond what [we] are able; but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that [we] may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). That temptation for us may to be to despair or give into bitterness.

He knows us completely and is sensitive to when we need a break and need the joy that comes after the storm has passed (Psalm 30:5).

So, are you going through a hard time? Is God painfully working in your heart to make you more like himself?

May I suggest that you ask him to bring to your mind some of the qualities he is developing in you through this hard time. Then, thank him for each of them.






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