Stress

When we are at the breaking pointWhen We Are At The Breaking Point

If we don’t have any stress in our lives, chances are, we are pretty close to being dead. We all need a certain amount of stress in our lives to accomplish what we have to do. Stress can stimulate energy and effort to get things done. However, it’s also true that too much stress can be bad. In fact, unrequited stress can bring us to the breaking point.

So, what do we do when we find ourselves in that situation? In this blog we are going to look at five suggestions that the Bible offers for dealing with stress.

The first thing the Bible suggests we do is RELEASE our frustrations.

Release — that’s a wonderful word. In Mathew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come to me and I will give you rest.” He was talking about release. Whenever there is stress in our lives, there is always related emotions. Things like anxiety, worry, fear, depression and so on. And many times, when we are under stress, we ignore these emotions. We do that is by pushing them down. That’s swallowing everything up and pretending it’s not there. It’s wearing masks and ignoring pain. There’s a name for that. It’s called stuffing.

Let me ask you a question. Do you think that’s what God would really like you to do? In other words, does God want you to be phony? Does He want you to be a hypocrite? Feeling one way and acting another? I don’t think so.

No, God wants us to be real. He understands we have these emotions. He created us and gave us the ability to feel them. But He wants us to acknowledge them — He wants us to identify them. And THEN He wants us to express them to Him. He wants us to release them, because He knows if we don’t, they will hurt us.

Let’s look at Psalm 62:8.

“O my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.”

A refuge is a safe place. God says “Pour out your heart to Me, because I’m safe”. God says, “You don’t have to worry about Me.”

So we can go to God and say, “Lord, here it is! “Here’s how I feel, the good, the bad and the ugly.” “I’m stressed. I’m frustrated. I’m irritated. I’m angry. I’m depressed.” “I’m mad at you.” God says tell me all about it.

Let me tell you something about our feelings. If we don’t deal with them now, we’ll have to deal with them later, because feelings will pile up. If you let them pile them up, they’re will explode. It’s like taking a bottle of coke and shaking it. That’s what stuffing does. God says don’t repress your feelings. Don’t pretend they don’t exist. And don’t rehearse them. That’s hanging on to them until they gets bigger and bigger in our minds. God says, “Talk to me”.

Let me ask you, have you ever been so stressed out that you couldn’t pray? Have you’ve thought, “God’s nowhere to be found”. “He’s not even within fifty miles.” “And I don’t think He cares anyway.” Well, let me tell you, that’s not true. That’s a lie straight out of the pit of hell. God never leaves us. There may be times when you might think so, but He never does. God sees and knows everything that’s going on.

Let’s look at Psalm 31:22.

“In panic I cried out, ‘I am cut off from the Lord’. But you heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help.”

God is always available. He always hears, and He says release your frustrations to Me anytime, anywhere, anyplace.

OK, that’s the first thing we must do when we feel stressed out to the max. Next week we will talk about a second thing we must do.

Have a good week!

Why Get Married Part 4 of 4

Why Get Married Part 4 of 4WHY GET MARRIED? (Part 4)

Today we are going to finish our discussion about why God designed marriage.

God designed marriage for the preservation of society.

Marriage is the fundamental building block of every community, state, nation, society and culture. History reveals where marriages are strong — cultures and nations are also strong, but they decline when the reverse is true. To me it’s obvious where our nation is headed right now. I don’t think America is getting better. It’s not getting stronger. It seems to be going the other direction. Why? Well, there are many reasons, but I think one of the major ones is because we don’t put a high value on marriage and family. Focus has shifted to individuals. The mantra has become — it’s all about me. I’ve got to do what’s best for me. I think we’ve made individualism an idol. Proverbs 14:34 says,

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”

OK, let’s move on and look at another reason why God designed marriage.

God uses marriage to develop a reverence for Christ.

This is probably the most profound reason for marriage. Take a look at Ephesians 5:21.

“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

The context of this passage is marriage.

Let’s look at Ephesians 5:25-33.

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body. As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

In this passage Paul likens the relationship of Jesus and the church to the marriage relationship. He says, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her….”

The most sublime demonstration of love possible is to give one’s life for someone else. In Jesus’ case He gave His life for the whole human race. Paul says that’s the way husbands must love their wives. Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 where he says, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” He says this is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.

There is no better way to understand love in marriage than to understand Jesus’ love for the church. The problem is we get distracted by the culture we live in. Our culture demeans, discourages, ridicules, redefines, and dismisses marriage. People go to Las Vegas to get married and twenty-four hours later they get divorced.
Celebrities spend millions of dollars in the preparation of their weddings, but the preparation often lasts longer than the marriage. People go from one relationship to the next to the next in serial marriages. All this conflicts with God’s commands.

Sometimes when a couple is married for 50 or 60 years or longer, it makes the news. People are amazed. Why? Because it’s counter culture.

Twice in the Bible Jesus says that there is no marriage in heaven. Why did He say that? I think it’s because the six purposes of marriage that we have discussed in our past blogs will no longer be needed in Heaven. Heaven is a perfect place, so we will be connecting with everybody perfectly. We won’t need marriage to facilitate that.
There will be no need for further propagation of the human race. Everybody will have been created. There will no further need for the enhancement of our lives because we will be fully enhanced. We will be perfect, and our character will also be perfected. In Heaven society will be perfect, so there is no need to advance it either.
And finally, we will express the proper reverence for Jesus.

But here on earth that’s not the case, so the six purposes are still needed, so marriage still matters. We must continue to honor it. We must continue to follow God’s directions for it. And that is one man — one woman — for life. Husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives must love and respect their husbands Amen and amen.

See you next time…

Why Get Married Part 3 of 4

Why Get Married Part 3 of 4WHY GET MARRIED? (Part 3)

In our last two blogs we have been talking about “Why Get Married”. We talked about various reasons which are in the Bible. Today we going to look at another biblical reason for getting married.

God designed marriage for the perfection of our character.

Certain character qualities can only be developed in relationships. It’s only through relationships that we learn to be unselfish, other directed, caring, empathetic and loving.

When we were born, we were completely self-centered. Nothing on the planet is more self-centered than a new baby. A baby doesn’t have the capacity to think about anyone else. All they can think about are themselves. I’m too hot, I’m too cold, I’m hungry, I just pooped, I need to be cleaned up… The first concept a baby learns is “I”!

Human maturation and development is the process of realizing it’s not all about “I”. It’s about learning that happiness comes from being unselfish — serving others — and being loving. One of the major goals of life is to grow from selfish to unselfish. Unfortunately, there are some adults today who haven’t adopted that goal.

Life is a process of learning how to love other people. Why is love the most important thing in life? The answer is because GOD IS LOVE, and God wants us to become like Him. He wants to love others as He loves others, and He wants us to learn to be unselfish.

God uses the marriage relationship as one of the primary places where these qualities can be learned. Marriage is a lifelong course in learning to be unselfish. Once we are married, “me” gradually becomes “we”. When we are married, we learn pretty quickly that we can’t always do whatever we want to do. One of the first things we have to learn is compromise.

God wants to make us like Jesus. That’s His number one goal for our lives. That means He has to change our character, because our character is the only thing we are going to take to Heaven. It won’t be our cars, our careers, our houses or anything else related to this world.

God uses the marriage relationship to do that. The marriage relationship provides numerous opportunities to take focus off ourselves and onto our spouses. But you might say, “But my spouse is not even a Christian.” So what! It doesn’t matter. They don’t have to be saved for you to focus on them. God still uses them, because they’re close to you and they have the most impact.

Here’s a statement worth memorizing:

THE NUMBER ONE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE IS TO MAKE ME HOLY – NOT HAPPY.

I know that’s counter culture, but it is the truth. And by the way — the holier you become the happier you become. Studies show that we are the happiest when we are loving, giving, serving, sharing, and unselfish.

I have heard people say, “My goal in life is to be happy”. Unfortunately, that’s an elusive goal. Happiness was never meant to be a goal. It’s a condition that can only be achieved when we are lined up with God’s plans. Let’s look at Romans 12:9-10.

“Love sincerely. Hate evil. Hold on to what is good. Be devoted to each other like a loving family. Excel in showing respect for each other.”

That’s an excellent summary of what God wants to develop in us. I like the idea of excelling in showing respect.
Excelling means we get better and better.

Before I was married I thought I knew how to love a woman. Boy was I wrong! I knew nothing about love. Nothing. After 38 years of marriage I have learned a few things. God has been working in me. But even so I still have a long way to go, because I am far from perfect. That’s why marriage is a lifelong process.

Well, we have gone longer than I originally planned, so I am going to wait until next week to talk about the next biblical reason for marriage.

In the meantime have a great week!

Why Get Married Part 2 of 4

Why Get Married Part 2
WHY GET MARRIED? (Part 2)

In today’s blog, we are going to continue our discussion on “Why get married”. To this end we are going to look at a second purpose of marriage which is:

God designed marriage for the multiplication of the human race.

That’s right. That’s how we all got here. You’re here because your mother and father got together, and they caused your first two cells to join. That’s God’s idea.

Let’s think about that for a moment. Everybody God planned to create came into existence through sex. And His preferred vehicle for sex was marriage. Let’s look at Genesis 1:27-28.

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

Notice His first command was, “Be fruitful and multiply” — “Fill the earth.” That, by the way, is probably the only command of God that the human race has been able to keep! And we’ve done a pretty good job. Today there are approximately seven billion people on the planet — and counting.

Let’s look at another important passage — Malachi 2:15.

“Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.” Malachi 2:15 NLT SATAN

Once again, we see that God created marriage, and He designed it to be a union between the husband and wife.
We also see that He wants children from the union. Now, this is not an indictment against childless couples. There are lots of reasons why couples do not have children, and many of them are out of the couple’s control.
God is not disappointed with these couples. He has other purpose for them.

Ok Let’s take a look at a third purpose of marriage.

God designed marriage is to enhance the quality of our lives.

I want to break this one down by the individuals involved in the marriage relationship, so let’s start with the kids. When children are born, they are completely helpless. They can’t feed themselves, dress themselves, change their diapers. They can’t even turn over, and this dependence continues in various ways until the child reaches maturity. So, we can see from this that God has designed marriage to accommodate the development of children.

However, when marriages break apart there are devastating effects on this process. Studies have shown that children from single parent homes don’t do as well in school as those from two parent homes, and they are less likely to go to college. Children from single parent homes are more likely to be involved in substance or alcohol abuse. They are more likely to experience depression. They are more prone to suicide. They are more likely to spend some time in jail.

These same studies reveal that kids develop better in nuclear families.

Unfortunately, we live on a broken planet. Not everything works right. So, the likelihood of children growing up in a fractured home is high. Satan is indeed live and well, and the family is one of his favorite targets.

These same studies have information on how marriage affects men and women. For example, men and women who marry and stay married have lower rates of depression. They earn more money and have greater net worth. They live longer. They have fewer injuries and illnesses, and they are generally happier.

Alright, what’s all this saying? I think it’s saying that when you do life God’s way, things work better. Let’s look at Proverbs 14:26.

“Those who fear the Lord are secure; he will be a refuge for their children.”

Wow! How many of you know that passage is in the Bible? For people who “fear the Lord” God will provide a place of refuge and security for their children! That’s an incredible promise of God. It’s a promise we need to believe and implement.

In my counseling ministry, I’ve heard couples say that they are staying together for the sake of the kids. For many years that was considered to be the honorable and noble thing to do. But today people often laugh at that statement. “Staying together for the sake of the kids?” “What are you talking about?” “You’ve got to do what’s best for you.”

Let me ask you. Why do you always have to do what’s best for you? Can’t we do something that’s best for somebody else? Somebody who’s perhaps needier or more vulnerable than you are? The answer is yes – absolutely. It’s called maturity. It’s called unselfishness. It’s called love.

OK, that’s it for now. Next week we will continue talking about why get married, and we will look at some more purposes of marriage.

Have a good week —

Why Get Married Part 1 of 4

Why Get Married? Part 1 of 4WHY GET MARRIED?

In our blog today we are going to start a new series entitled “WHY GET MARRIED? Let’s begin by looking at what Paul says about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:7.

“But I wish everyone were single, just as I am. But God gives to some the gift of marriage, and to others the gift of singleness.”

Paul says God controls who gets married by giving the gift of marriage to some and the gift of singleness to others.

OK, so how do we know which gift we have? The answer is quite simple. If you have any desire to get married – now or in the future –then it’s likely that God has given you the gift of marriage. And since He has given you this gift, He has somebody in mind for you to marry.

On the other hand, a person with the gift of singleness will say, “I’m perfectly happy to live the rest of my life and not be married.” “Marriage is not a priority for me — my life is complete and fulfilled without it.”

Hebrews 13:4 talks about marriage. It says,

“Give honor to marriage and remain faithful to one another in marriage”.

This is how God wants us to view marriage. Notice He gives us two commands. To everybody He says honor marriage. To those who are married, He says remain faithful. Unfortunately, these ideas are not in vogue in our society today. In fact, it’s the opposite. Today, many people dismiss marriage as irrelevant — as unnecessary — as an impediment.

The main reason for that kind of thinking is that the purpose of marriage is not clearly understood. Forty or fifty years ago, if I asked people what was the purpose of marriage, most of them would know. And many would cite biblical reasons. Today that’s less likely, because society has turned away from the Bible and is moving toward secular humanism.

Today many people think marriage creates problems and causes complications. You will often hear people say, “I didn’t have any serious problems until I got married!” But let me tell you, that’s wrong thinking. Marriage doesn’t create problems — people do. Actually, marriage reveals problems. If I’m negative to begin with, my marriage didn’t cause that. If I’m a perfectionist, or an alcoholic, or a codependent, or whatever, my marriage didn’t cause that either. Marriage is the joining together of two sinners, and they bring their sin problems with them.

Sometimes in counseling I come across people who say, “I’ve been married several times, but it just doesn’t work.” My question usually is, “What do you think is the common denominator? If you have been in several failed marriages, maybe the problem is you!”

Now, the Bible says marriage has several important purposes. Let’s look at the first one.

God designed marriage to connect men and women together.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 11:11.

“But among the Lord’s people, women are not independent of men and men are not independent of women.”

From this we can see that God designed a connection between men and women. Unfortunately, today’s attitude is that men and women don’t need each other. But that’s not what God says. We are made in God’s image, and that includes both men and women. God thought up gender, and He designed men and women to need each other, and He designed the marriage relationship to fulfill those needs.

When God created Adam, He didn’t create Eve right away. Why did He delay? Why didn’t he make them both at the same time? I think he wanted Adam to realize that he was incomplete. Adam must have asked God about it. He saw all the animals paired together — male and female, and may have said to God, “What about me?”

That’s when God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who is right for him.” That was the first marriage. God made Eve to compete Adam, and He made Adam to complete Eve. In Mark 10:6-9 Jesus said,

“But God made them male and female from the beginning of creation. This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one (completeness). Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

This is a very informative passage of Scripture. First it says marriage is God’s invention. Secondly it says is marriage is between a man and a woman. There are many different kinds of human relationships, but marriage is the ONLY one where a man and a woman are mandated to become one.

And thirdly the passage says that marriage is to be permanent. It says what God joins together – no one should separate.

Now I understand that these ideas are not popular today. BUT THESE ARE GOD’S IDEAS. Marriage is for a man and a woman to become one in a permanent relationship.

OK, that’s the first purpose of marriage.

Next week we will look at the second purpose. Until then, have a great week …

Lasting Joy part 3

Lasting JoyLasting Joy part 3

In our last two blogs, we talked about what the Scriptures say about recovering our joy. Today we are going to finish our discussion and provide more information about how to do this. Let’s look at the next step.

A fourth step we can take to recover our joy is SPEND TIME WITH GOD.

Do you know that God wants to spend time with us? That may be hard to imagine. He’s got a whole lot of things going on, doesn’t he? Why would he want to spend time with us? Well, throughout Scriptures God invites us to do that. Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened.” God says, “If you seek me you will find me.” God also says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” And there are many other passages that extend the same invitation.

One of the best ways to spend time with God is by having a daily quiet time. There are two major activities in quiet times. They are Bible study and prayer. As we pursue these activities, we can become friends with God. Isn’t that amazing? In John 15:15 Jesus called us friends. He said,

“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”

Friends want to spend time with each other. One of the best ways we can spend time with God is through the Scriptures. And doing that will consistently produce joy in our lives. Take a look at Psalms119 — verses 92 and 143

“If your instructions (God’s Word) hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery.”

“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands (God’s Word).”

Both verses talk about the joy that comes from God’s Word.

Prayer is also critical to maintaining our joy. In John 16:24 Jesus instructed His disciples about a new way to pray. Let’s look at what He said.

“You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy“.

Jesus says we can pray using His name, and not only will we receive what we ask for, but He says we can also have abundant joy. Using Jesus’ name means that He is endorsing what we are requesting. Does that mean he will endorse anything we ask for? No, there’s another condition. What we ask for has to bring glory to the Father. Let’s look at John 14:13.

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”

So how does praying like this produce abundant joy? Well, when we ask for something that meets these conditions, we know Jesus is going to do it and that brings joy.

Here’s one more thing we can do during our quiet time. We can sing. Psalm 95:1 says, “Sing for joy.” And the Bible tells us to do that in many other places as well. I read about a psychologist who would often prescribe singing worship songs as therapy. He said he would ask his patients to sing these songs over and over. He said there was great power in these songs, and he saw how they created joy in people’s lives. And he said you don’t even have to be a very good singer.

So, here’s what I want you to do now. I want you to find a simple worship song and sing it. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be, “Jesus loves me” or “Amazing Grace’ or “I love You Lord” or any other song that appeals to you. It doesn’t matter which song you pick. Just sing it over and over, and see what happens. I know you will be very surprised.

OK I would like to close with an invitation.

If you’ve never opened your life to Jesus Christ – if you’ve never accepted His offer of friendship — you can do that right now. I am going to pray, and I ask you to make this prayer your very own.

Dear Lord Jesus, I don’t understand it all, but I realize that you love me, and I need to learn about Your love. I don’t understand all about the cross, but I want to accept what you did for me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for dying for me. I ask you to forgive all my sins. I ask you to come into my life and make me a new person. Please help me to understand it all as I follow you. And as I begin to follow You, Lord, please produce Your joy within me. In your name, I pray. Amen.

I hope you prayed with me. See you next week …

Lasting Joy part 2

Lasting JoyLasting Joy part 2

In our blog last week, we talked about what the Scriptures say about recovering our joy. We said the first step is to admit that we have lost it in the first place, and we talked quite a bit about that. Today we are going to continue our discussion and provide more information about recovering our joy. Let’s look at the next step.

The second step in recovering joy is to OBEY GOD’S COMMANDS.

Let me ask you — are you doing everything God wants you to do? Well, if you are honest you would probably say no. And you would have lots of company, because nobody does — after all we are all human beings with sin natures.

In John 16:33 Jesus told us that we are going to have trouble in this world.

“….. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Notice Jesus said He overcame the world. Jesus probably had more trouble than anybody who ever lived, but He dealt successfully with all of it. That puts Him in the best position to tell us how to deal with our troubles, and He does that through His commands. Jesus told us when we follow His commands, we will have joy.

Take a look at John 15:10-11.

“When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”

So, following Jesus’ commands will not only help us deal with our troubles, but they will produce joy as well. Let me give you some examples.

The Lord commands that we tithe. Why? God certainly doesn’t need the money. So why does He tell us to do that? God says when we give to Him, He will give back in abundance. That builds our faith in God. We begin to see that He is faithful and reliable. And that produces lasting joy.

Here’s another command. God says,

“I want you to save sex for marriage”. God says “I have designed you for intimacy, but I don’t want you to be indiscriminately intimate. I want you to be intimate with the person I have picked for you. That will keep you safe. It will keep you from having a broken heart, and it will produce great joy.”

Now I don’t exactly know how it works, but obedience to God always produces joy. God says,

“I created you, and I know you better than you do. I know what causes heartaches, problems, disease, sickness. I know what causes emotional instability and stress. So, if you’ll just follow my commands, you will have success and joy and peace and abundance in your life. And you will avoid all those problems. But the choice is yours.”

God is not going to force His will on us. What it really comes down to is we get to choose how much joy and how much success we will have in our lives. We can choose to obey God, or we can choose to do it our way. God’s way leads to peace and happiness and joy while our way leads to loss and uncertainty at best.

Alright, let’s talk about a third step to recovering joy.

A third step in recovering our joy is change our PERSPECTIVE ABOUT TROUBLES.

James 1:2-4 says,

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4

We just saw that Jesus told us that we will have troubles, and now James is “piggybacking “on that and is talking about how to regard them. He says WHEN troubles come — not IF they come. He says WHEN they come, we must look at them as opportunities for joy.

Wow! That’s a pretty revolutionary idea. How in the world is that possible? Well, James tells in the rest of the passage. He says troubles test our faith. When we act in faith — God shows Himself to us, and He becomes real.

OK, so what happens when we do that? James tells us that too. He says our endurance grows. We need endurance, because trials often last for a while, so we have to hang in there while God does His work. James says the result is we become mature and complete — not lacking anything – AND THAT PRODUCES LASTING JOY.

Alright, so how can we use this in our lives? Well, let’s say we are going through some kind of a trial. The first thing we need to do is find out what the Scriptures say about our trial. Let me give you several general ones that we can use in any situation.

First there’s Jeremiah 29:11-12, which says,

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”

Next Romans 8:28.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

And of course, there’s the James passage that we just talked about.

So, we can take all these passages, and we can pray through them. I have put an example of this kind a prayer in your notes, so let’s take a look.

Lord, right now I am going through a difficult time. Here’s what’s going on _________________________
Lord, you tell me in James 1:2 that you are using these troubles to test my faith, and that it will produce endurance which will help me to become mature and complete. Lord, I don’t think I can endure this trial, so please strengthen me so that I can. Lord, You tell me that I should be joyful about the transforming work You are doing. Well, Lord, I have to be honest — I am not. Right now I am hurting. I am not joyful. Please help me.

Lord, You tell me in Romans 8:28 that You are working everything out for good. In Jeremiah 29:11 You tell me that You have good plans for me, which will prosper and help me. Lord, I believe all these promises, and I expect You to do all that You say You will do. In Jesus name I pray. Amen

God will answer that prayer. And when He does our joy will abound!

OK, that’s it for now. Next week we will continue our discussion. Have a great week!

Lasting Joy part 1

Lasting JoyLasting Joy

Galatians 5:22-23 says,

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

The passage talks about something called fruit, which is produced by the Holy Spirit. This fruit is actually a list of godly qualities and virtues. We need this fruit to successfully live the Christian life, but the problem is we are not capable of producing it ourselves. There are no formulas — no man-made rules — no procedures that we can follow to produce it. That’s what the passage means when it says there is no law against such things.

In this blog I want to focus on the second fruit which is joy. Why the second fruit? Why joy? Well it seems to me that there is a general lack of joy today. People are generally anxious. They are uncertain about the times we live in and are preoccupied with doom. I run into these people all the time, so I think we need stop for a moment and learn how to put more joy into our lives.

So let’s begin by defining joy. What exactly is it? Joy is a condition that is produced when we believe God is in CONTROL, and He is working EVERYTHING out for good. Joy is a strong sense of well being, but it is not produced by circumstances or situations of life. Joy produced by God, as He works through our circumstances.
For example, let’s say we are dealing with a very difficult and disagreeable person. If we ask the Holy Spirit to give us the fruit of joy for that situation, He will do that. As a result we immediately feel less threatened — less bothered — less overwhelmed. And many times the other person becomes less antagonistic and disagreeable.

Now this kind of joy is different than ordinary, everyday happiness. Ordinary, everyday happiness is short lived, whereas the joy produced by the Lord is not. Ordinary happiness is based on what happens at the moment — current circumstances. For example we buy a new car, and that makes us happy. But if circumstances change, happiness can change. For example we get into an accident with our new car and it gets totaled. So every day, ordinary happiness is an up and down system at best.

Romans 14:17 says, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink (that’s a description of daily life), but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Notice the words “goodness,” “peace,” and “joy,”. These words define the kind of life God wants us to live. He wants us to live a good life, a peaceful life and a joyful life, and He gives us the Holy Spirit to help us do that do that.

You know when God’s children lose their joy, it makes God look bad. Cranky Christians are bad witnesses. They often look like they’ve just been baptized in vinegar. They seldom smile, they are always serious, and they focus on the dark side. That makes God look bad.

I don’t know if that’s where you are today. Maybe you are feel like you’ve lost your spark. Maybe you feel you are not where you used to be. Maybe you feel like God is far away from you. Maybe everything seems routine and humdrum. Maybe you feel hopeless. We need joy, but we are unable to achieve it.

The good news is God tells us how to recover our joy in the Scriptures. We are going to look at four ways God tells us how to do that. So let’s take a look at the first one.

The first step in recovering our joy is ADMIT WE HAVE LOST IT.

As obvious as that may sound, that is the proper starting place. We can’t recover something until we know we lost it. There is a simple way to find out. We can look at our past and ask three questions. First question — when was the last time I experienced true joy in the Lord? Second question — what were the circumstances? Third question — what happened that made me lose it?

Now, let me caution you, don’t overlook this step. I understand we may have to so some digging. It may be difficult, but this is where we have to start. We have to know what we’ve lost. Once we know it, we can ask God to help us get it back.

David did this in Psalms 51:12. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”

David didn’t ask God to restore his salvation, because he hadn’t lost it. Instead he asked for what he called the joy of salvation. This joy is the pinnacle of joy — it’s the ultimate joy. It’s activated by understanding the prospect of eternity future. In eternity future we will be with God forever — in a perfect place — doing perfect things — perfectly. We will never have a bad day or a bad thought. There will be no more pain and no more tears. We will be doing fascinating stuff with God forever. Our lives will be in a state of constant exhilaration and thrill. That’s called the joy of salvation, and that’s the kind of joy David wanted back. But he didn’t want to wait to get to heaven to get it. He wanted it right then, so he asked God to give it to him.

Notice the expression, “Make me willing to obey you”. This describes a key principle for achieving joy. IT’S BEING OBEDIENT TO GOD.

That leads to the second step for recovering our joy. Unfortunately, we are out of time and will have to talk about that next time. Until then, have a great week …

Born Again Part 2

What Being “Born Again” Means

Last week we talked about Jesus telling Nicodemus that he must be born again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We said that Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about. Today we are going to talk about why Nicodemus didn’t understand and what being “born again” means.

Now many people think that Jesus was narrow minded and exclusionary in this statement to Nicodemus. These people think that there are many ways to heaven. But Jesus tells the hard truth. He says there is ONLY ONE WAY TO HEAVEN — and that’s to be ‘born again

The expression, being “born again”, is full of meaning. Ephesians 2:1 teaches that people in sin are dead.

“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.”

This passage says being dead is caused by disobedience and sin. God warned Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed Him (meaning – if they sinned) they would die. God was talking about spiritual death which is separation from Him forever in hell. So, sinners are dead people, and dead people can’t go to heaven, because heaven is a place of eternal life. Something has to happen to change these people. They have to be rejuvenated – they have to be made alive, and that’s what Jesus means when He says they have to be “born again”.

Unfortunately, Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was saying. He said, “What do you mean? How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Nicodemus was thinking literally. He was accustomed to a works based system for achieving salvation. Nicodemus was a self-righteous Pharisee. He believed he could be righteous by what he did. However, Jesus said that his approach was wrong, and the only way to get to heaven was to be “born again”. Jesus said, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.”

Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand what He meant by this statement. Nicodemus was a teacher of the Old Testament, and he should have been familiar with the terms, “water and the Spirit”. These terms were used in the Old Testament to symbolize renewal and cleansing. For example, let’s look at Isaiah 44:3-4.

“For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields (that means to give life). And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children.”

Let’s also look at perhaps the most compelling OT passage which uses these terms — Ezekiel 36:24-27.

“For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. ‘Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean (same idea as Isaiah). Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.’”

There are other passages in the Old Testament which say the same thing, so, what Jesus told Nicodemus should have been clear. People have to be cleansed of their sins, and they need the Holy Spirit to change them and empower them follow God’s commands.

Jesus continued with His dialogue with Nicodemus. He said “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” Jesus is talking about HOW we are “born again”. It’s not done physically by human effort. It’s done spiritually by the Holy Spirit. Jesus illustrated this by saying, “So, don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.’”

Jesus says being “born again” is like the wind. You can’t see the wind, but you can feel it, and you can see its effects. So, the spiritual rebirth process is not visible — but its effects are visible. People who are born again are visibly different from the way they were before.

Well Nicodemus was still confused. He simply didn’t believe. Next week we will talk about the problem of unbelief.

Until then, have a good week …

Husbands and Wives Part 3

HUSBANDS AND WIVES PART 3

Ephesians 5:30 says we are all members of the body of Christ. The body of Christ is another name for the church, and all Christians are members. This is a picture of solidarity. Jesus is one with His church, and the church is one with Him. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 6:15-17.

Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, ‘The two are united into one.’ But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.”

In Ephesians 5:31-33 Paul says,

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”
32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.
33 So, again, I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Paul says the relationship of Christ to His church is a picture of the relationship between the husband and wife. In verse 31 Paul emphasized this by quoting Genesis 2:24, which I repeat:

“As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’”

This passage articulates God’s standard for marriage, and this standard has not changed from the moment God initiated it with Adam and Eve.

Jesus reaffirmed this in Matthew 19:3-6.

“Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: ‘Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read the Scriptures?’ Jesus replied. ‘They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.‘ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.’”

So, we can see that Jesus confirmed the sanctity of marriage. He says it’s God ordained, and it’s a relationship where a man and woman become one, and IT MUST NOT BE SPLIT APART.

So, back to the Ephesians 5:31-33 passage. Paul says the analogy of marriage and the church is a mystery. A mystery is a theological truth that was not known in Old Testament times but has been revealed in New Testament times. That makes sense because the church didn’t exist in Old Testament times. It started when Jesus came to establish it.

In verse 33 Paul concluded his discussion by using the word, “so”. Whenever we see the word, “so”, that means a summary is about to follow. Here’s the summary:

• Husbands must love their wives as they love themselves.
• Wives must respect their husbands.

Notice wives are not commanded to love their husbands, but they are commanded to respect them. This has been a controversial passage since the time Paul wrote it, and there have been many interpretations. The most common interpretation is that a man’s primary need is to be respected — whereas a woman’s primary need is to be loved. Now it’s true that men and women actually need both, but love is primary for the woman and respect is primary for the man. Paul says these needs can be met in the marriage relationship. However, to do that, husbands and wives MUST SUBMIT TO EACH OTHER. This has been the underlying theme of our three blogs on husbands and wives.

Now, this idea of submitting to one another always raises a question. How do we consistently do that?

That’s what we’ll talk about next week …