Don’t Dwell On The “What Ifs”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Romans 8:28 has a small but extremely powerful word in it: ALL. 

“And we know that ALL things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” 

The verb tense here would probably be more accurate to say “are working.” God never wastes an experience, but He is using ALL those things to prepare you for the next assignment He has for you. 

Check out this brief clip from a training time I was able to share with some young ministry interns. 

Don’t dwell on the “what ifs” but let’s remind ourselves that God is sovereignly in control. Let’s learn to take God at His word—He IS WORKING ALL OF THOSE EXPERIENCES together for your good and for His glory.

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Come To God And Keep Walking With Him

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I have been so grateful for the insights of Dr. Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages. I have found this book to be of immense value in helping couple prepares for marriage, and in helping married couples get beyond a place where intimacy has become stuck. 

In short, the five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. The goal of learning the other person’s love language—and learning to speak it consistently and fluently—is an increased level of intimacy. In the book of Amos, God asks, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (Amos 3:3 NLT), and speaking the right love language definitely helps people agree! 

The whole reason we come to God in prayer as a Father, as a Brother, and as a Counselor is so that we can hear Him speaking our love language and we can continue to walk in deeper intimacy with Him. 

When my then-girlfriend Betsy and I first met, we spent hours and hours getting to know each other. We would ask questions, share stories, and tell things we did and didn’t enjoy. This is the epitome of intimate conversation: getting to know the other person’s heart as you open up your heart to them as well.

I’ve shared this analogy before, but intimacy grows stale and can eventually disappear altogether if those in a relationship are no longer walking together. It doesn’t work if I say, “Betsy, I’m looking forward to spending an hour with you each week,” or even if I say, “I’ll give you 15 minutes each morning.” Instead, our relationship needs to be one of continual walking. 

It’s the same thing for us as Christians: we cannot only give God an hour at a church service on Sunday mornings, nor is intimacy going to increase if I only walk and talk with my Savior for a few minutes in my morning devotions. 

Walking closely with Him is what God has desired right from the beginning. He walked with Adam and Eve each evening. This phrase “walking with God” is used consistently throughout the Bible of those who had an intimate relationship with their Father, Brother, and Counselor—Noah, Abraham, Isaac, the people of Israel (Genesis 3:8, 6:9, 17:1, 48:15; Leviticus 26:12). And even as the New Testament era dawns, we read, “And they [Zechariah and Elizabeth] were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6 NKJV). 

But I’m especially intrigued by the story of Enoch in Genesis 5:21-24. Twice in four short verses, we read “Enoch walked with God.” Remember that verse in Amos—“Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”—so Enoch and God had to be in agreement. In fact, that’s exactly what we read about Enoch in the Book of Hebrews: 

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:5-6)

If you’ve taken Dr. Chapman’s love language assessment, you probably found that you were pretty lopsided: maybe you scored very highly in one love language and then barely registered in another. We may be lopsided in our love language skill, but God speaks every language perfectly! 

  • Words of affirmation—Hosea 2:14; Isaiah 40:2 
  • Quality time—Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 23:3-4
  • Gifts—James 1:17; 2 Peter 1:3
  • Acts of service—Philippians 2:13; Romans 8:28
  • Physical touch—Psalm 139:13-15; Luke 24:39 

(Click here to check out all of those verses.) 

Dr. Chapman noted that when our love language is being spoken to us sincerely and consistently, our love tank is filled, and all of the love languages begin to become more meaningful. 

Just as God walked with Enoch until the day He brought him Home, so He wants to walk with us. 

  • Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper. (Deuteronomy 5:33) 
  • The Lord will establish you as His holy people, as He promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to Him. (Deuteronomy 28:9) 
  • May He turn our hearts to Him, to walk in obedience to Him and keep the commands. (1 Kings 8:58) 
  • Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him. (Psalm 128:1) 
  • And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love. (2 John 6) 

When we walk in loving intimacy with Him, our intimacy grows deeper and more mature. Sometimes they will say of couples who have been married for a long time and walk in increasingly deeper intimacy with each other, “They seem to know each other’s thoughts.” That’s because they know each other’s hearts—and that’s what God wants to do with us. He did it with Enoch, and He will do that with us too (Jude 14; Jeremiah 33:3; Habakkuk 3:19). 

Enoch walked intimately with God for 365 years. Let us walk intimately with God for 365 days a year, for as many years as He gives us until God takes us away with Him forever! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our prayer series called Intimate Conversation, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Come To God As A Counselor

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I’ll bet you have “go-to” people in your life. The ones you immediately call when you need computer help, relationship insights, household or car repairs, Bible questions, or even cooking instructions. 

We love having these go-to people in our lives, but I’m also going to guess that none of us has someone who possesses all of these go-to skills. After all, all of us are only human, with limitations and deficiencies. 

We’ve learned that in prayer we can come to God as a Father—calling Him our Abba Father. We can also come to God as a Brother—knowing that Jesus has walked every path we will ever walk, and He intercedes to the Father on our behalf. 

In fact, we saw last week that Jesus was never at a loss of what to say, what path to take, or what prayer to pray. He spoke what He did, and did what He did, and prayed what He did because of the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit. 

This is the same Holy Spirit that is in us as Christians. It’s because of this that we can come to God as a Counselor. The Holy Spirit is THE Go-To Resource for everything! 

Jesus said that both He and our Father love to give us the Holy Spirit as our Counselor, and then the Holy Spirit loves to reveal our Father and our Brother to us (Luke 11:13; John 14:26, 16:15; Galatians 4:6; Matthew 16:17). 

Andrew Murray wrote, “Prayer is simply the breathing of the Spirit in us; power in prayer comes from the power of the Spirit in us as we wait on Him. Failure in prayer is the result of a spirit that is not yielded to the Spirit of God.” 

What does it mean to yield to the Holy Spirit? It means that we don’t look for other go-to people for certain situations, but we trust the Spirit to be the Go-To Resource for everything. This is what Jesus did. 

As Jesus relied on the Counselor, so must we. As the Counselor helped Jesus, so He will help us. 

Let’s break this down. 

First, Jesus was never at a loss of what words to say, and the Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say as well (John 12:49; Matthew 10:19-20; Luke 1:67; Acts 2:14). 

Second, Jesus was never at a loss of what path to take, and neither do we have to experience any confusion about what to do and when to do it (Matthew 4:1; Luke 2:27; Acts 16:6-10).

Finally, Jesus was never at a loss of what prayer to pray, and so too will the Holy Spirit help us go deeper into our prayer time (Luke 10:21; Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 3:14-21). 

In addition, there is not one issue we will ever face that God hasn’t already addressed for us in Scripture (Ephesians 3:4-5). We see Jesus being totally reliant on Scripture (Luke 4:4, 8, 12). In an identical way, the Holy Spirit will help illuminate and apply the Scripture to our lives (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13). 

Let me repeat this vital truth: The Holy Spirit is THE Go-To Resource for everything!

  • We are vulnerable to temptation without the help of our Go-To Counselor. 
  • We are limited in our understanding of Scripture without the help of our Go-To Counselor.
  • We have a shallow prayer life without the help of our Go-To Counselor. 
  • We will be frequently confused about words to use or paths to take without the help of our Go-To Counselor. 

Let us learn to rely on our Counselor, as we keep our eyes on our Brother, and as we go together to our Father in childlike prayer. This is what leads to true intimate conversation! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our prayer series Intimate Conversation, please click here. 

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Come To God As A Father

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Jesus told us numerous times that we can come to God as our Father. 

Have you ever played a word association game? For instance, if I said “winter” you might say “shoveling” (or kids might say “sledding”). If I said “summer” you might say “vacation.” But I think the word “father” may bring up a lot of very different feelings or images. Some may have fond memories of the word “father” while others may think:

  • playful but not a good provider 
  • disciplinarian 
  • hard to please 
  • absent
  • unavailable 

Even if our human fathers were good, they were still flawed. Jesus said this about us, “If you parents, that even know how to give good things to your kids are evil, how much more amazing is the goodness and love of God” (Matthew 7:11). But Jesus had something entirely different in mind for us when He told us we could come to God as our Father. And, sadly, it’s a level of intimacy that many have never known. 

All of us could only experience limited intimacy with our earthly fathers, but with our Heavenly Father we can have unlimited and unimaginable intimacy! 

When Jesus was teaching us to pray in Matthew 6:6-9, there are two thoughts that stand out to me about coming to God as our Father. First, Jesus tells us that we don’t have to use any special language. When He said some people babble in prayer, Jesus was saying they were using a language that was unnatural to them—they weren’t being themselves. 

Our Heavenly Father wants us to come to Him as children: full of innocence, and wonder, and expectation, and imagination!

Second, I notice that three times Jesus calls God “your Father,” but when He begins His model prayer He says, “Our Father.” Think of that: Jesus is saying we can approach God the same way He approached His Father! 

In His intense prayer time just before His crucifixion, Jesus used the phrase “Abba Father” to express His intimacy. This phrase is used two other times in the New Testament. Both of these times it’s telling us that we can approach our Heavenly Father the same way Jesus did (see Mark 14:36; Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15). 

The Romans understood the weight that was associated with the practice of adoption. They knew that a father chose that child to be a part of his family, giving that child full acceptance into the family. Marvin Vincent noted,

“We have but a faint conception of the force with which such an illustration would speak to one familiar with the Roman practice; how it would serve to impress upon him the assurance that the adopted son of God becomes, in a peculiar and intimate sense, one with the heavenly Father.”

In writing to the Romans, Paul reminds them that for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation—nothing holding them back from God’s presence. He also said that God has fully adopted us into His family, and that the Holy Spirit was now in us, encouraging us to call God “Abba Father” just as Jesus did (Romans 8:1, 14-16). 

Check out these two final thoughts from Jesus: He encourages us to approach God as innocent children, and He praises Our Father for then intimately confiding in His children—

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. … I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 18:3, 11:25) 

No matter what your relationship was with your earthly father, Jesus encourages us to approach our Heavenly Father in innocence, wonder, expectation, imagination, and intimacy. This is what God desires in His relationship with you! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Intimate Conversation, you can find them all by clicking here. 

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Mighty Deliverer

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The world can marshal its weapons of war. They may gain a temporary victory. They may build strongholds, and cast spells, and appear to be the unquestioned ruler. But God always gets the final word, the decisive word, and the best word! 

Don’t despair in the middle of the Story! All of History is His Story. No matter how dark it seems, we are assured of God’s victorious outcome! 

Bethlehem is our proof:

  • 700 years before it happened, Bethlehem is named as the birthplace of Jesus (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7) 
  • 700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, His titles were given and then fulfilled in the way that Jesus lived (see for example Isaiah 9:6 and Hebrews 13:20) 

Sometimes God has to let the darkness fall so heavy so that it seems hopeless. In fact, in human power alone it is hopeless and impossible. So God foretells His victory—

“Listen to this, you descendants of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and come from the line of Judah, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord and invoke the God of Israel—but not in truth or righteousness—you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city and claim to rely on the God of Israel—the Lord Almighty is His name: I foretold the former things long ago, My mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. … Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, ‘My images brought them about; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’” (Isaiah 48:1-5) 

We have seen how Micah prophesied our Messiah coming as the Great Shepherd and as the Prince of Peace, but He also comes as our Mighty Deliverer (Micah 5:1-6). He comes at an incredibly dark time that is described like this: “He will rescue us from the Assyrians when they pour over the borders to invade our land” (Micah 5:6 NLT). 

Darkness may appear to have a stranglehold even now in our time. One of the verses in the New Testament that pretty accurately sums up a Christ-less culture says, “The god of this world has blinded the unbelievers’ minds that they should not discern the truth, preventing them from seeing the illuminating light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4 AMP) . 

But this is only temporary darkness. When the mob came to arrest Jesus, He said, “This is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53). Darkness only gets an hour, but the Light of God shines for all of eternity! 

One of my favorite Advent texts is found in Hebrews 2:14-15:

Since the children have flesh and blood, [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 

Our Mighty Deliverer came to destroy satan’s power and free those held hopelessly in darkness. The word “destroy” is a powerful, all-encompassing word. Imagine a tyrannical ruler who sent one of his strongest police officers with an arrest warrant, who then grabbed onto you and subdued you with his vice-like grip. 

Only someone stronger than that officer can release you from that grip. That’s what Jesus did when He destroyed satan’s ironclad grip on your soul. Paul asks mockingly, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

Now you may be free of the grip of that officer, but the arrest warrant still remains—you are still subject to the penalty. But that word “destroy” also means that the charges against you have been set aside so that there is no penalty outstanding against you. The apostle Paul again addressed this when he wrote, “For we know that our old self was crucified with [Jesus] so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. … Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (Romans 6:6, 8:33). 

You are now set completely and irrevocably free! “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). 

The Messiah—our Mighty Deliverer—destroys darkness and delivers those who believe in Him! 

No matter how hopeless it may seem, the Mighty Deliverer always prevails! Jesus has destroyed every enemy that has opposed God’s people! Jesus our Champion shines a light so brightly that nothing in satan’s arsenal can ever diminish it. 

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:5 NLT). 

So allow me to repeat: Don’t despair in the middle of the Story! All of History is His Story. No matter how dark it seems, Bethlehem is our proof that Jesus has destroyed our enemy and removed from him all grounds for charging us with sin. Bethlehem is our proof that we can live assured of God’s victorious outcome! 

What a great Christmas gift that truly is! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this Advent series, you can find a list of all of those messages by clicking here. 

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The Prince Of Peace

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Last week we saw the dark times in which Micah lived as he prophesied the advent of the Messiah. Israel was both surrounded by enemies as well as lots of practices within their borders that were heartbreaking to God. Many times, our lives can feel the same way: enemies of God all around us and our own turmoil and doubts inside our hearts and minds.      

In this dark, hopeless time, the Messiah came as our Great Shepherd. Take a look at what this Shepherd brings us:

He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the Earth. And He will be their peace. (Micah 5:4-5)

We see this idea of Jesus our Great Shepherd bringing peace to our hearts in the New Testament as well: 

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21) 

This peace is also implied in Psalm 23:1 when David wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” That phrase “I shall not be in want” really captures the definition of peace. 

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. An easy-to-remember definition of shalom is “nothing lost, nothing missing.” Our Great Shepherd makes sure nothing is lost or missing that would cause us anxiety or doubt, so we can have total peace—we can have shalom!

Jesus said the devil’s agenda was for everything to be lost or missing—“the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy”—but our Great Shepherd’s agenda is for there to be nothing lost or missing—“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). 

Isaiah, who was prophesying at the same time as Micah, sounded a similar note:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel. … And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6) 

When this Great Shepherd was born in Bethlehem, the shepherds in the field were the first to hear the good news. Notice what the angels announced: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14). 

Who has God’s favor? Those with faith in Him: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). So those with faith in God have God’s favor. 

Faith in what? In all that Jesus purchased for us by His blood shed on the Cross: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). 

Check this out: The root word of shalom is a word that means, “It is finished.” These are the exact same words our Price of Peace announced from the Cross! Jesus finished the work that brings us peace from the turmoil and anxiety of sin! 

Faith comes from believing that God has made the promise of peace, that God has fulfilled the promise of peace through Jesus, and that God is bringing us to His eternal peace. So now our lives of peace in a world of turmoil can serve as a testimony to others. 

Jesus called His followers to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) but we cannot do this while we are experiencing anxiety or doubts. To be peacemakers we must be full of peace because of our relationship with the Prince of Peace, who has ensured that nothing is lost and nothing is missing! 

If you feel anxious, remember that Bethlehem is your proof that the Prince of Peace has come to remove doubts, anxiety, fear, and inner turmoil. Let every pang of anxiety be immediately a call to run to the Prince of Peace. He has paid an incalculable price to purchase your peace, so don’t leave this gift unopened and unused. A dark, anxious world is looking for peace. Know the author of shalom so that you can introduce others to this Prince of Peace. 

If you’ve missed any of the message in this series, please check them out by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Beware Of Grumblers

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Beware Of Grumblers 

     None is so wise as the man who knows nothing. His ignorance is the mother of his impudence and the nurse of his obstinacy; and though he does not know a bee from a bull’s foot, he settles matters as if all wisdom were at his fingers’ ends—the pope himself is not more infallible. Hear him talk after he has been at a meeting and heard a sermon, and you will know how to pull a good man to pieces if you never knew it before. He sees faults where there are none; and if there be a few things amiss, he makes every mouse into an elephant. … 

     Those who know nothing are confident in everything; hence they are bullheaded beyond measure. Every clock and even the sundial must be set according to their watches. … Venture to argue with them, and their little pots boil over in quick style; ask them for a reason, and you might as well go to a sandpit for sugar. … 

     Faultfinding is dreadfully catching: One dog will set a whole kennel howling, and the wisest course is to keep out of the way of a man who has the complaint called the grumbles. … Dogs, however, always will bark; and what is worse, some of them will bite, too. But let decent people do all they can, if not to muzzle them, yet to prevent them from doing any great mischief.

From John Ploughman’s Talks of Plain Advice For Plain People

Charles Spurgeon—the prince of preachers—could also use a sarcastic tone to a great effect when it was needed! This whole book was supposed to be a sort of “shop talk” to the everyday working man. These are not flowery sermons, but straight-shooting for decent people. 

I have just completed a short series of messages on the distinct ways grateful people stand out from the crowd. But isn’t it just as true that those who constantly grumble about anything and everything also stand out from the crowd? 

Spurgeon was right that grumbling and faultfinding are dreadfully catching! King Solomon says that we waste our time trying to reason with such foolish people who believe themselves to be smarter than the rest of us. So Solomon’s advice is to simply leave them alone. 

Indeed, the best way to avoid catching the contagion of grumbling is to stay away from grumblers. If you have the misfortune of living with a grumbler or perhaps working next to a grumbler, the best way to “walk away” is to simply not engage in their faultfinding “barking.” Maybe you could even answer their complaint by pointing out something for which you are grateful. 

Let’s all make sure we’re not the grumbling, barking, growling dogs that Spurgeon identifies in this passage, and then let’s do all we can to keep the contagion of a grumbler contained. To paraphrase the apostle Paul, “Don’t be overcome by grumbling, but overcome grumbling by walking away or with gratitude” (Romans 12:21).

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The Gratitude That Influences

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Last week I mentioned over-dramatic kids complaining, “I’m starving!” Or people with expensive phones complaining about a slow internet connection. We’re really good at expressing what we want, aren’t we? In fact, we’re really good at loudly letting everyone around us know that we want something. 

But here’s a good question: Are we just as quick to loudly express our gratitude?     

It’s innate human nature to behave this way. No one has to teach a child to express their desires—loudly! But we do have to teach our children to say, “Thank you.” And sometimes it takes even more prompting to get them to say it loud enough for others to hear, and sincere enough for others to believe that they are truly grateful. 

So why would we expect it to be any different just because we happen to be older? That’s why we’ve noted that the attitude of gratitude is a great attitude, and it’s also an attitude that makes the grateful person stand out from the crowd. 

G.K. Chesterton noted, “In life you can take things one of two ways: you can take them for granted or you can take them with gratitude.” Sadly, it seems that “for granted” is what is typically exhibited. In fact, I think the granted-to-grateful ratio is 10-to-1. 

Luke alone tells a story in his Gospel about ten men with leprosy (Luke 17:11-19). All ten lepers had no problem calling out their need for healing “in a loud voice.” And they called out to the right Person, as they called Jesus “Master.” This word shows that they believed He could do something no one else could do. Indeed, Jesus shows His authority over leprosy with just the word, “Go” and “as they went, they were cleansed.” 

All ten were quick to loudly express their desire for healing and to call on the authority of Jesus, but only “one of them…came back, praising God in a loud voice.” Both Luke and Jesus affirm that all ten men were cleansed on the outside—their skin no longer showed the ravages of leprosy, but only to the one grateful man did Jesus say, “Your faith has healed and saved you” (v. 19 MSG). 

The Greek word here is sōzō. This is the same word used for the eternal salvation that Jesus alone can bring. Check out John 3:17, John 10:9, Acts 2:21, and Romans 10:9. This is better than just physical cleansing, it’s wholeness that lasts for eternity! 

E.M. Bounds wrote, “Gratitude and murmuring never abide in the same heart at the same time.” Sadly, the ratio of grumblers-to-praisers is only going grow as we move closer and closer to the end of the age, culminating in people who have the outward appearance of godliness (like the nine cleansed lepers) but ignore the true power of God for salvation (see 2 Timothy 3:1-5). 

In this take-everything-for-granted, focus-on-the-outward culture, those 1-in-10 stand out. Those who have gone beyond skin-deep cleaning to soul-deep salvation, and who loudly express their gratitude, are the ones the apostle Paul declares shine brightly and influence those around them (Philippians 2:14-16). 

The origin of the word influence comes from a power people thought those bright stars had to affect the lives of humans. So your consistent gratitude is influencing those around you, and giving them a star to chart their course, more consistently than almost anything else you can do. 

So shine on! Praise God loudly, quickly, and sincerely for what He has done for you! Be the 1-in-10! And then watch your influence impact everyone who encounters you.

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series The Great Attitude of Gratitude, you can find a list of all of the messages by clicking here. 

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More Than Worth The Wait

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Our cravings are implanted by God and are fulfilled solely in our relationship with Him. Sometimes the journey seems long. If you have been in the car with kids, you know they are infamous for asking, “Are we there yet?” just a couple of minutes into the trip. We adults aren’t much better. Perhaps we have a little more patience but if we’re honest we may find ourselves asking, “How long is this going to take? It seems like it’s soooo long!”  

We’ve discussed that a maturing attitude shift for us is exchanging “have to” for “get to.” This is when we begin to understand that something good—something far better than what we have now—is coming. This is the starting point to help us to wait well, to not get frustrated and bail out. 

Jesus did this: “For the joy set before Him He endured the Cross” (Hebrews 12:2). He could see what was coming so He wouldn’t accept any lesser substitutes. But that same verse also calls us to be “looking away from all that will distract to Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP). 

This attitude exchange helps us in three ways: 

  1. Maturing self-control 
  2. Understanding the rewards of delayed gratification 
  3. Having a joyful expectation of both what’s coming and what’s happening now 

Self-control, delayed gratification, and joyful expectation are also the key components of a satisfying relationship. These then allow me to make another important exchange: “don’t” for “won’t.” 

For example, in my relationship with my wife Betsy, no one has to tell me, “Don’t speak to her unkindly.” I won’t speak to her unkindly because that would damage our relationship. No one has to tell me, “Don’t flirt with other women.” I won’t do that because I know that would jeopardize our relationship, perhaps causing me to look elsewhere to satisfy my craving for a meaningful relationship. 

In the book called Song of Solomon, the word “lovely” is used frequently between lovers who only have eyes for each other. Paul uses this keyword when he talks about us only having our eyes, and heart, and mind on Jesus—“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). 

David, who is described as a man after God’s own heart, wrote several psalms expressing his longing to be in God’s presence both now and for all eternity. Especially in Psalm 16 and Psalm 37, David shows us the don’t-for-won’t exchange (Psalm 16:1-11; 37:1-4). 

Sometimes we will experience some lovely things here on earth, but those are nothing compared to the eternal rewards awaiting us. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” 

Even if we experience unpleasant things here, the apostle Paul reminds us, “But what of that? For I consider that the sufferings of this present time—this present life—are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us!” (Romans 8:18 AMP). 

The marshmallow test is a famous experiment. Kids were given the choice to eat one marshmallow immediately or be rewarded with a second marshmallow if they waited. Researchers found that those who practiced self-control, delayed gratification, and joyful expectation faired much better later in life. 

So I would encourage you to keep your marshmallow somewhere you will see it often. It will harden, but it will not mold or spoil. Every time you look at it, let it remind you that what’s coming is so much more than anything you could ever find here! Let this reminder help you exchange don’t for won’t as the Holy Spirit helps you keep your eyes only on Jesus. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Craving series, you can find a list of all of those messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

God’s Pleasure In Our Relationships

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Last week we talked about God’s pleasure in our good work ethic and our good attitude about work. We have a God-implanted craving to do excellent work because God is an excellent Worker. 

We also said that although we would all like to have the job that was wonderful, even the crummy jobs deserve our best attitude and our best effort.  

This is very much the same for our relationships. We would all love to only have relationships in our lives that are energizing, fulfilling, and win-win. But the reality is that many of our relationships may be the exact opposite of this. 

Jesus said our love for others would show the world that we are His disciples. Oh yeah, and the love we show is supposed to be a “10” on the Jesus Love Scale (John 13:34-35). Why? Because that’s how Jesus loved us:

Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die. But God shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us. (Romans 5:7-8 AMP)

Remember we said that God is Love? But love needs to have both a lover and beloved—someone reaching out and someone receiving. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit so God is Relational. The Father loving the Son and Spirit, the Son loving the Spirit and the Father, the Spirit loving the Father and the Son. All loving and promoting the Other. 

God is also Happy in this Relationship. 

Because we are created in God’s image, we have a God-implanted craving to love and to be loved, to have meaningful companionships (Genesis 1:26; 2:18). 

Remember that Jesus was all-in for us so that we could have this love relationship with God.  This same passage calls us to have the same attitude as Jesus had. But we can also back up just a couple of more verses to find out what fuels the relationships that satisfy our craving for companionship and please God (Philippians 2:1-11). Those characteristics include:

  • being like-minded in striving to find agreement with others 
  • having the same love as Jesus demonstrated  
  • being one in spirit—this unique Greek word reminds us we all have immortal souls. As C.S. Lewis reminded us, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one of these destinations.”
  • being one in purpose  
  • giving up selfish ambitions as we trade “me” for “we” 
  • not indulging in vain conceit, but thinking more highly of others 
  • being humble 
  • always striving to find the win-win 

When Alexander Dumas wrote The Three Musketeers his Musketeers have been given a famous line: “All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.” This is actually quite biblical because the Bible only has saints in the plural form, never in the singular. And the apostle Paul reminds us, “And if one member suffers, all the parts share the suffering; if one member is honored, all the members share in the enjoyment of it” (1 Corinthians 12:26 AMP). 

God is pleased when our attitude about our fellow saints is all for one and one for all—when all the saints love and nurture the individual saint, and when each individual saint loves and supports all the other saints. 

We were created for this. We crave this. God is pleased when we live and love like this. And this is the only way we will experience the joy of God’s favor on our relationships.

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series called Craving, you can find a list of all of the messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

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