Lamenting the Hearts of Men

The daily news causes my heart to cringe. I mostly avoid the news until I become aware from other sources that something occurred that requires more of my attention. Unfortunately, most of the time the event is bad news.

News of natural disasters horrifies, and I feel sadness for people experiencing these tragedies. My prayers go out for them. But what horrifies even more are those tragedies caused by people—violence, both mental and physical, resulting from hate, rage, bigotry, pride, or other abhorrent outpourings of the hearts of men. (When I say men, of course I mean humankind.)

At a recent Cru staff conference, we were asked to lament what is heavy on our hearts. Lamenting is defined as  feeling or expressing sorrow or regret for something. Not only does a lament express sorrow, it also can voice feelings of regret.

My sorrow. People pursue their own way apart from God. People have forgotten God and show no regard for Him. Blinded by selfishness and self-reliance, men and women determine their way is the best way. If this is true, why do we consistently feel this world falling into a deeper spiral of despair and hopelessness? We see the evidence in the news and in our personal lives. But God has a purpose for each person. When we surrender to and live out that purpose, He is pleased to shower us with provision, peace, fulfillment, and hope. And that hope is in Christ.

To some, righteousness is a loathsome word. It is often viewed as self-righteousness and judgement. However, I’ve come to learn that righteousness simply means being right with God and right with people. How much more enjoyable would the news be if we all lived with this as our goal? Jesus, the righteousness of God, will fulfill all our desires and needs. Romans 9:33 says,

“I am placing a stone in Jerusalem [that is, Jesus] that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”

It hurts my heart and baffles my mind how people continue to live in ways that will bring them shame and disgrace. Why don’t people strive to live without disgrace?

My regret. I too have a heart that contains detestable things. My past actions have not always been stellar. Nor will my future actions. I am not immune to the words of sorrow I speak. Therefore, I lament not only the hearts of men, but also my own.

However, I gave and continue to offer my life in surrender to God’s plan. I trust in Jesus who willingly guides me into a life without shame. My goal is to pursue righteousness—living right with God and with people. All people.

What is your lament today?

What Was Jesus Thinking?

While reflecting on the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death, I wondered what was going through His mind.

When accusations flew at Him,
He remained silent.

When mocked and beaten by soldiers,
He remained silent.

When forced to carry His cross, and then enduring the nails, He remained silent.

During all this, what was He thinking? Was He praying? I think so considering the life of prayer He led. I believe in His suffering, His prayers and thoughts were of me—and you. He loved people so much that He willingly went through the humility and agonizing pain of the cross for them, for us.

He took His suffering and undue punishment quietly because He could see the big picture.

When we suffer through hard things, we should remember His love, and we too should think of the big picture. There’s more to come, and what we endure now through the power of the Holy Spirit will be redeemed and rewarded.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17

How Do You Define Success?

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Take a minute and think about what success looks like for you? Is it:

  • Having a high paying job?
  • Living in a beautiful home?
  • Acquiring access to influential people?
  • Enjoying a peaceful family life?
  • Fulfilling dreams of traveling the world?
  • Achieving the financial ability to retire?

These are all good things. What if you achieve them? Would you consider yourself successful? I think it all depends on what you do with them and where you give credit for the success. Did your success come from your own hard work and skill, or does your attitude reflect God as the ultimate source of your success?

Defining Success
I recently read a book by R. Scott Rodin called The Steward Leader. I will be honest; it wasn’t an easy read. But the overall message was an interesting perspective about leadership success.

According to Rodin, we become leaders when we respond to God with joyful obedience. God is concerned more with our transformation than with what we can do. Achieving success in leadership and in life requires submission to Him. We must

  • Love God before we can serve.
  • Follow Christ before we can lead.
  • Submit to His will before we can succeed.

Success means a willingness to submit in joyful obedience to God’s will. If I fight for my own way, I set myself up for failure. By giving God control and living out His way, I can’t lose. He will give me success.

A Successful Point of View
Rodin says the following in the context of organizational effectiveness, but I believe it applies to the success of individuals, as well.

When we develop definitions for “success” and “organizational effectiveness,” we must be very careful to ground them in thoroughly kingdom terms and according to kingdom values.

We must do all things out of an understanding of God’s point of view. Otherwise, we will lose sight of our purpose or even cause others to get off track. Jesus recognized Peter’s worldly view in Matthew 16:21-23 when he said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

As Christ-followers, a worldview influenced by in-depth relationship with God is key to success in His kingdom. Rodin writes

In a world that sees everything apart from Christ’s control, people still can see Jesus in the lives of the workers of his kingdom.

Reflecting Jesus and making an eternal impact on the lives of others—that’s what I call success!

Skillful Living

I’ve never been much of a worrier. I don’t generally concern myself with things that could go wrong tomorrow. As Jesus said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Amen to that! But I am a planner—definitely not spontaneous. There is wisdom in being prepared for future events. However, being a planner can create two problems:

  • Obsessive planning can be worry in disguise.
  • Constant planning can rob me of the present.

I want to expand on this second point.

Today is the day that matters.

Each day offers something to learn and something to do. We have opportunity to build relationships with God and people, growing our faith in the process. Some days are tough, some wonderful, and some seem uneventful or ordinary. God wants us to rely on Him, lean on Him, to come to Him, and learn from Him. He has wisdom to reveal if we’ll keep our attention on TODAY. When we learn from Him, the day becomes much more than ordinary!

This week I read a comment about Proverbs 1. The Bible in One Year used an interesting word in its definition of wisdom, which was described as “living skillfully in whatever conditions you find yourself.” To do something well, one must possess knowledge and skill. As we attain wisdom, we learn to navigate skillfully through life’s twists and turns. The only real wisdom is that which comes from growing closer to the Author of wisdom.

Learn to balance healthy planning while living fully and skillfully today.

Light or Dark. It’s Your Choice.

img_2132Light and dark—these are common metaphors for good and evil, and very real in the spiritual world. We have a choice to turn toward light or into the shadows of darkness in any given circumstance. Being aware of this choice and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide every moment is crucial. He desires to walk with us into the light. My daily devotional put it this way, “[He] seeks to guide us into the light with every thought, emotion, action, and decision.”

In even a little thing like a thought, the dark lures us. We must choose to take every thought captive before it manifests into emotion or action, and allow the Holy Spirit’s power to work within us. When we do, we resist the dark. Make wise choices as filtered through James 3:17.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Are your choices:

  • pure?
  • peace-loving?
  • considerate?
  • submissive?
  • full of mercy and good fruit?
  • impartial?
  • sincere?

If so, then they are wise choices.

In the final days before the 2016 presidential election, questions abound. What will our nation look like in the next year? It already feels chaotic and without a moral compass. Can it get worse? My prayer is for hearts to open to God’s love and truth. I pray Ephesians 5:14:

…’Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’

We desperately need the light of Christ to turn back the darkness.

I also pray Matthew 4:16, that before we fall into even greater darkness, the people of our nation will see a great light. On we who dwell in the shadow of death, the greatest light will dawn.

In God We Trust.

Full of Strength

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Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”
1 Chronicles 16:11

Some days I feel weak. I grow weary doing what God has placed on me, even though I know His calling is amazing and full of adventure. I still find myself tired when tasks take longer than expected, people don’t respond how I think they should, or I simply get physically worn out. Learning how to tap into God’s strength appeals to my weariness.

Nehemiah 8:10 says, ” … for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” When I read this, I began to wonder how the joy of the Lord is my strength. We learn from Galatians 5:22 that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. True joy comes from the Holy Spirit, not from ourselves.

How do we experience more joy? Psalm 16:11 tells us, ” … in your presence there is fullness of joy … “ Being aware of and enjoying God’s presence infuses us with incredible joy. His presence fulfills us in so many ways!

What is it about joy that gives us strength? Joy motivates. Motivation empowers. According to Proverbs 17:22, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Think about a patient with a life threatening illness. Patients who have internal motivation to live often recover or live longer. In contrast, those who let go of life often take a turn for the worst. Our personal motivation hugely influences our physical selves. Joy from God that surpasses human understanding motivates and strengthens us to continue through trials.

My conclusion is this:

Experiencing God’s presence produces joy,
which produces strength.

Therefore, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” tells us exactly how to live full of strength. I love the use of the exclamation point in this English Standard Version translation. What an exciting life we can lead when fully experiencing God’s presence!

The Power Within

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The focal point of my devotional time this year came to rest on God’s presence and His Spirit within me. I’m learning how marvelous it is to live with the knowledge that God desires me to be fully present with Him! Through awareness of His presence, I am able to make wise choices, go in the right direction, hear his council, tap into His strength – and His power. It’s from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7) and from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18) that God guides us through this journey called life.

As He does the work of conforming me into the likeness of Christ, He reveals His glory in me. This happens because His powerful Spirit lives inside of me. In the Old Testament, God gave no one but the high priest the authority to enter the area of the temple where the presence of God resided. This “Holy of Holies” hid behind a massive curtain. Only at specified times could the high priest enter this area, and then, only after fulfilling certain requirements. Otherwise, he would die.

The solemn job of the high priest had to be taken with all seriousness. I don’t think I can truly understand the nervousness and anxiety the priest must have felt leading up to the day on which his duties required him to disappear behind the curtain! According to Exodus 28:33-35, the high priest wore bells on his robe so people could listen for him moving around – an indication that he had not been struck dead!

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, this awesome, powerful God lives in me. He forgives my wrongdoings because of Jesus’ obedience and my belief. This is why I can approach Him with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), not trepidation. Because of his desire for relationship with us, He made a way for us to come to Him. Through this relationship, we receive the power to live and work according to God’s perfect will, which offers unimaginable joy and satisfaction!