Safe Haven – Shelter From The Storm

Safe Haven

Christians face many challenges in their lives on a daily basis. For some, it might be health issues. For others, it may be struggles with finances. Still others face uncertainty with respect to their careers. Relationship issues burden yet others. Some are even more unfortunate as to face multiple difficulties all at once or in an seemingly unending sequence.

The Psalmist also has experiences that cause him to “wrestle with his thoughts” and to “have sorrow in his heart everyday” Psalm 13.

We do well to draw on the Psalmist’s response to the challenges that we face in this life:

“But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation.” Psalm 13:5

He encourages us to “Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22

Why Jesus

Why Jesus?

1.      Why Jesus? He Makes Sense Out of Nonsense

A man cuts down a tree, uses a part of it to create a “god” and sets aside the remainder to cook the meal that his created “god” will provide for him.

Today, we laugh at that as the nonsense that we associate with primitive minds.

Yet, celebrated lyrical icon Bob Marley declares in the anthem “Get up, Stand Up” …

“We sick an tired of-a your ism-skism game – Dyin n goin to heaven in-a jesus name, lord. We know when we understand: Almighty God is a living man. You can fool some people sometimes, But you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

Marley and the Rastafarian movement have moved the game up one notch from wood to human flesh and blood. They look to man who has no idea about the source of his first, last or next breath to guide, protect and provide for them.

So, some dismiss that set as being intellectually unsophisticated. The intellectually sophisticated do not need the drug that religion is to navigate through life.

They replace the ‘wood god’ and ‘man god’ with the idea that life is just one big accident. There is no intelligent design to be respected as the Source and to be revered and respected as God.

Knowing what we know about life, what we see about us, what our experience has taught us – does any of the above explanations provide a sensible answer about how this game of life came into being?

Can you reasonably expect that Ras Tafari –  whose rotted remains lie in the earth – can respond to your prayers? Can Jah really “Guide”?  Does Jah really “Know”?

Would you believe that it is by mere accident that the earth and the sun coordinate their movements so that they have not missed a sunrise or sunset for thousands of years?

Would you then also believe that there was an accident last month on the highway and out of it emerged a highly sophisticated space craft with a power source that is unknown to man but with the capacity to go to the moon in six hours?  Check google….

On the other hand, Jesus states clearly that He has been there from the beginning and knows exactly how it was designed and created.

John 8: 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!

John 8: 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.

John 18:37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” 

Jesus clearly states that He has the answers to our questions. He knows the truth.

The wood has not yet been able to make any claims. Selassie disclaimed divinity. The intellectuals create theories that are less rational the worshipping wooden idols. At least they could be seen. It is hard to “see” the logic in the arguments of our intellectuals.

1 Cor 1: 20 Where is the wise person?Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signsand Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified:a stumbling blockto Jews and foolishnessto Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishnessof God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weaknessof God is stronger than human strength.

2.      Why Jesus? He Answers Our Questions

Jesus and His Apostle’s who carried and reinforced His teachings give us clear answers to questions that have occupied the minds of humans throughout the ages.

What is this game of life about?

How do I know when I win?

What are the rewards for winning?

What are my chances of winning?

What are the rules?

Is there a winning strategy?

Marley expresses a philosophy that is embraced by the intellectual unbelievers:

“But if you know what life is worth, You will look for yours on earth:”

This view is that the game of live is entirely about what happens during our brief stay here on earth.

On the other hand, the Christ-anchored philosophy highlights the misery and hopelessness that is ours if everything is confined to this life on earth. (1 Cor 15:19)

Removal of intelligent design from life takes away its meaning.

If we remove the rules and objectives governing Scrabble or Monopoly or Football then they lose their meaning. Anyone could come up with their own rules and the end – confusion.

That is what we have when we remove Divine Intelligence from life – confusion.

The Christian understanding of the game of life is the clearest and most logical.

The game was conceived and created by God…..the bearer of the intelligent design that is the source of the jaw-dropping complexities and creativity that is common place in nature.

The concept of God is in itself complex but Christians understand that there is a God-head of three Divine Beings – God (the Father), Jesus (the Son) and the Holy Spirit (the Counsellor).

God – not an accidental explosion of non-existent materials – created the universe. How He did it and how we choose to explain how it could have been done – using our limited scientific knowledge – is irrelevant.  Nothing about the order and the description of the creation process has been discredited by scientific research.

God states that He created man. His grand design was that man would spend eternity with Him. The concept of life being confined to our life on earth is flawed.

Gen 1:26 – 28 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 

Man has a soul that outlives his body. The soul never dies.

God is a spirit and so any image of God in us must be in spiritual form – our souls.

Our souls are of critical importance

God is particularly interested in our souls.

Gen 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

The soul is more than our physical parts.

Our souls are far more important that our bodies.

 “Soul” occurs 458 times in the King James Version of the Bible.

Our souls are to be treasured and are beyond the reach of man.

Matt 10: 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

What we do here in this life on earth determines what happens to our souls when our physical bodies die.

Matt 16: 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come  in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

This is the most credible reason why it would make sense for us not to look out for our own benefit at the expense of others.

If we are playing a game without objective rules and nothing matters outside of the game, why would I not play in a way that suits me?

If there are 10 of us and 10 pieces of chicken in the buffet, why would I not go to the front of the line and take 3 pieces?

Jesus gives us a compelling reason.

We are advised that if we play the game of life right we will be rewarded. Our reward is differential treatment of our souls after we leave this physical body. If we play the game poorly we are condemned to eternal torment.

Jesus goes further by giving us the simple strategy for winning the game:

Matt 22: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

That is why it makes sense to put the common good above our selfish desires.

Matt 16: 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

This respect for a higher authority, rules and rewards is the most credible reason for doing good.

The description of a carefully designed, ongoing game with well documented guidelines and rewards and punishment gives us clarity as to how to go through life.

We understand the why, the what and the how.

 

The Why:

We were created to fit into God’s carefully designed plan. We have one guiding principle to follow:

The key principle is the need for man to do the will of God. That is our duty.

Ecc 12:13  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.  14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

We messed up through Adam’s failure to be obedient.

Rom 5:18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people,so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one manthe many were made sinners,so also through the obedienceof the one man the many will be made righteous.

 

3.      Why Jesus? He saves us our souls

Acts 4: 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

What must WE do to save our souls?

1. Hear the Word – the Gospel

John 6: 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

Rom 10:17  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

What must we do to save our souls?

2. Believe

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

 What must we do to save our souls?

3. Repent

Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.

Luke 13: 1 Now there were some present at that very season who told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered and said unto them, Think ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they have suffered these things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.

 

 What must we do to save our souls?

4. Confess Jesus is Lord

Matt 10:32 Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Rom 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

 What must we do to save our souls?

5.  Be baptized for the remission of your sins

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

1 Pet 3:21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  What must we do to save our souls?

6. Remain in Christ

John 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

1 Pet 2: 1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.

4.      Why Jesus? He provides solutions to our problems in this life

Now that you are in Christ, the amazing rewards are open to you.

Is 59: 1.Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

Eph 1: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,who has blessed us in the heavenly realmswith every spiritual blessing in Christ.

John 14:6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

This is the Father who says:

Jer 32:27 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there any thing too hard for me?

 

Why Jesus?

Because it makes SENSE!

Free Electricity!

Free Electricity!

There is an earnest complaint in some communities that in years gone by they did not have to pay for electricity. They are upset that they are now being pressured to pay for the electricity that they use.

Many of us wonder how those people could be so unreasonable. We have to pay for water, light, telephone, food, housing etc.

The amazing thing is that even as we look in wonderment at those who refuse to pay for electricity, we do not expect to pay for our sins. We commit sin after sin without any true penitence and there is no genuine repentance from those actions that displease God.

We raise placards in our minds that read: “We want FREE SIN!!!”

Why should the living complain when punished for their sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Lamentations 3:39-40

 God is a God of grace but also a just God. He hates sin and places a heavy price on it. Woe!

 

What happens when 2012 changes to 2013?

What happens when 2012 changes to 2013?

 

We are coming to the start of a New Year. The numbers on the calendar will be changed.

What else will be new in your life?

For some of us, the change of dates will be the most significant difference between this year and the next.

If we are brutally honest, aspects of our lives have become stuck in a rut. The time, place and faces may change but the events seem all too familiar. Deja vu is a constant companion.

For others, the New Year promises to bring developments that we dread. We will need to face realities that make us uncomfortable.

Still others are bursting with excitement as they look forward to new achievements in the New Year.

The underlying theme of most of my presentations this year has been the need for the renewing of our minds. (Rom 12).

Today, I want to share some thoughts related to the adjustment of our mindsets that you could consider taking on board in 2013.

 

Bucket list clarity

Spend significant quiet time going through a careful analysis of what is your purpose in this life and what are your core priorities.

What is it that you feel committed to becoming, doing, experiencing before your life on earth ends?

Compile a list and assign priorities to the each item. In the final analysis, you should be able to identify a bottom-line “must” that should give direction to all your thoughts, words and deeds.

We expect that at the top of the list will your preparation to spend eternity in heaven.

Ecc 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

 Be mindful of where you anchor your goals and priorities. Gamaliel’s counsel is wise:

Acts 5:38 “….if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

In addition, I am urging you to go further and to earnestly commit to documenting your vision, mission and goals in clear terms.

Review from the Scriptures and adopt the philosophy of:

  • Moses’ plan with respect to the occupation of the Promised Land
  • Nehemiah’s plans for the rebuilding of the wall
  • David/Solomon’s plans for the building of the temple.

Let 2013 be different with respect to:

  • greater clarity of purpose
  • more detailed planning
  • increased commitment to documentation of goals, plans and progress.

 

Expanded horizons

 

One of the by-products of stress and a harried lifestyle is the tendency to become increasingly inward looking.

As we grapple with life’s challenges, they tend to consume more and more of our being and we risk losing sight of the bigger picture.

Matt 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 

Some of us are walking with our heads bowed and only have a view of the pavement.

Let 2013 be different as we look beyond our challenges.

2 Cor 4: 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewedday by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Let us dream big dreams in 2013. Let us set lofty goals individually and collectively.

1 John 5: 14       This is the confidencewe have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Our horizons tend to be influenced by age and by gender.

Some of us have given in to a philosophy that says “at my stage in life I will just watch the dates change until time is called on me.”

Gen 12: 4 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s householdto the landI will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

At age 75 Warren Buffett set up a $30 billion contribution to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for use in various world-wide charitable causes.

Cancer survivor Barbara Hillary became one of the oldest people, and the first black woman, to reach the north pole.

At age 70 Benjamin Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence; Judy Brenner ran the Boston Marathon.

At age 60: Frieda Birnbaum became the oldest woman in the U.S. to give birth to twins.

At age 40: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.

At age 30: Donald Trump persuaded bankers to lend him $80 million so he could buy the Commodore Hotel. Bill Gates was the first person ever to become a billionaire by age 30.

At age 20: Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and cofounded Microsoft. Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, her second and most famous novel.

At age 19: Keshorn Walcott from the little island of Trinidad beat the entire world at the Olympics in a discipline (javelin throw) that is unusual for athletes outside of Europe and the USA.

At age 16: Tennis player Tracy Austin became the youngest person to win the U.S. Open.

You are not too young or too old to achieve more. Broaden your horizons!

Incredible does happen. It can happen at your location if you welcome it.

Dare to be the difference and break new ground in 2013.

 

Positive expectations

 

We serve a mighty God and we cannot go about with a defeatist’s mindset.

Numerous examples are provided to indicate that once we walk with God we need not rely on our strength but on His. And so, there is every reason to have positive expectations.

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Let 2013 be different in the level of confidence that we display.
Can there be a greater sense of faith and assurance in our prayer life, in our decision-making and in how we present ourselves?

I love the frightfully stark manner in which James addresses the issue:

 “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1: 6 – 8 (NIV)

We can take encouragement from Apostle Paul’s admonition that we should not be anxious for anything (Philippians 4:6). Think also on Christ’s challenge that if we ask, seek and knock we will receive, find and have doors opened to us. (Matthew 7)

Let us break down psychological, financial, health, relationship, career, self-esteem “walls of Jericho” in 2013.

 

Spring cleaning

 

The tendency to gather baggage appears to be common to most humans. Physical clutter attracts our attention perhaps because it is visible.

Our lives are also cluttered with things that do not add value. Let us welcome 2013 with a spring cleaning of our minds.

There are thoughts and habits that are weighing us down and limiting our effectiveness. We know clutter when we see it. Take time to clear out some of the negative things that have started to define you.

Phil 4: 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Bad habits and wayward thinking have a way of becoming addictive. Breaking loose from them might be challenging. Step up to the challenge and break free in 2013!

 


Shared vision

What is your favoured operating style when you encounter challenges?

Do you prefer to tough it out on your own or do you seek early support and assistance?

Independent thought and courage are important as we strive for success. At the same time, we are not intended to be islands unto ourselves.

Let 2013 be different because of our increased willingness to share our visions and our burdens. Let us set up support mechanisms and seek out the specific input of wise and like-minded individuals who are firmly grounded in the faith.

There is immense value in wise counsel. Hear Solomon on the issue of advice:

 Proverbs 12:15 The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

Out in the wilderness animals move in closely-knit packs. This is designed to provide a solid front against the threat of predators. The strategy of the predator has consequently shifted to picking off the strays, the weak and the lame. They do not succeed in getting animals that are in the centre of the pack. There is safety in numbers.

As you strive to be the best you can be, take care to take up a secure position in the pack.  Never put yourself out of the reach of well-meaning, supportive and firmly grounded individuals.

No matter how shy or private you are, take care to identify at least one tower of strength to whom you can look for support and guidance.

The persons you choose must be able to command your respect and be able to put themselves in a position to understand your situation. You cannot rely on persons who will let you have your own way or who will provide the spiritual equivalent of ‘take 2 aspirins and go to bed’ for every situation.

If there is no one that fits the bill readily accessible to you, you should set about coaching someone to play that role for you. Work with them to bring them to the required level of maturity and sensitivity.

Just DO NOT try to go it alone!!!!!

The shared vision is also about being there for others and for letting them into your dreams.

Gal 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

 

Get to heaven

 

We end where we started – the imperative of getting to heaven. The scriptures outline a clear plan of salvation.

Christ tells us that the way to the Father goes through Him. (John 14:6).

The conversions reported in the New Testament reflect these steps:

1. Hear and believe:

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

 2. Repent:

Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

3. Announce Jesus as Lord of your life

Rom 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;   That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.   For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

4. Be immersed in watery baptism for the remission of sins (Act 2:38)

5. Live by the Spirit

 Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Where was God?

When tragic events occur, many voices are raised in a mighty chorus asking “Where was God?”

Many of the voices in that chorus have not spoken the word “God” in a while….not since the last tragedy.

A simple series of answers come to mind:

God was where He was when by His grace He gave you the life that you now claim to be yours.

God was where He was when He allowed you to bask in His sunshine or play in His snow.

God was where He was when He allowed you to benefit from so many things that you now take for granted. You even claim them to be yours: “Mine and my” roll off your tongue easily without respect for THE SOURCE.

Critically, God was where He is now, as by His Grace, He allows you another breath to be able to read this.

God is where He has been before the creation of the world: Everywhere.

If you are really serious about finding Him, you will. He promises to reward those who diligently seek Him.

God created man in His own image. Man was intended to be different from plants and animals. He gave man the option to choose. Free will was to be a special gift for man. We messed up and now that freedom to choose is more like a curse.

The abuse of free will is what causes us to have to endure the bad and the good.

Understanding who God is and His will for our lives allows obedient believers to better weather the storms of life.

Here are some thoughts that I support:

God’s test?

God’s tests?

 

C002_Woman wCrumpled paper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear XY,

I think I understand how you feel about the tests – challenges – that life sets us. At times, most of us have felt that they are too difficult. That has prompted them to wonder why God sets such difficult tests.

I have not personally experienced some of the traumatic events that others have faced.  Yet through my experience as a Christian, I have come to the understanding that it is not God who is setting the tests. The tests came into being when man opted not to follow God’s plan. This created the environment in which all of us are caught up in the battle between good and evil and many “innocent” bystanders become casualties.

What I have found out through study, observation and personal experience is that while God does not set the tests, He provides the answers. Since the tests are not about avoiding crises, the answers do not tell us how to avoid them. Instead, the answers guide us as to how to deal with them.

Are believers sheltered from pain?

No, but they have access to a pain release valve that makes coping easier.

Are You Enduring or Enjoying Your Life?

Are you enduring or enjoying your life? That is question that I put before you.

Even as we reflect on our own lives and try to come to some conclusion, I am going to  assume that some of us have less JOY in the mix than is desirable.

I am guessing that in some of our lives ENDURE has got the upper hand on ENJOY.

Today, I present the first step in a formula for tipping the balance back in favour of ENJOY.

STEP 1: SELF

Re-visit how you see yourself.

Enjoy is incompatible with low self-esteem; self-hate or compounded frustration.

The greater the level of discomfort with yourself the lower the chances of experiencing JOY in your life.

If you listen to your “self talk” you can establish the level of JOY that you are experiencing and that you are likely to experience.

The less you love yourself and the worse you feel about life the lower will be the fount in JOY in your life.

Conversely, the more comfortable you are with who you are and the more fulfilled you feel about who you are the greater the prospects of experiencing unbridled JOY.

So, what am I saying? I am saying that whether you experience joy or not starts with you and how you think about yourself.

I am saying that JOY is not totally dependent on others and what happens outside of you.

Joy is yours to grasp. You too can ENJOY life…but it starts with coming to grips with yourself. It starts with understanding who you are and respecting yourself.

This does not mean that there are not things to be fixed and adjusted. But, you can only experience JOY when you learn to love yourself – blemishes, warts and all.

Tips for improving your self esteem include:

1. Watching your self talk

2. Not comparing self to others

3. Using valid and reliable yardsticks

4. Being realistic

Keeping An Open Mind

I had a visit with a very communicative medic. He shared insights from a recent conference that he had attended. As it turns out, it may result in a change in how he addresses some situations that he has to treat.

It is instructive, that after years of rigorous study and significant experience, he stills finds it necessary to expose himself to new ideas and to actually move to implement them.

I am concerned that this level of hunger for knowledge is being swept aside by the pressures of daily living. My own confession is that I am spending a lot less time searching out new information that I did years ago. Access is easier but the distractions are greater. In reality, I think it is the commitment level that has waned. My mind is not as open to new information as it used to be. It is too caught up in daily struggles.

But what of our medic?

What if he got stuck in his practice and never took the time to open his mind to new information? The very patients that he would be slaving to serve would in fact be the worse for it.

So, having read this, what are you going to do?

I am committing to keeping my mind open to a much greater degree than at present.

Engage, Encourage, Enable

Engage, Encourage, Enable

As we move forward in this new year, I want to share some options for your commitment.  Many of us fail to follow through on our resolutions. Here is hoping that this year you will make one or more of these options come true.

The resolutions fall into 3 basic categories:

Engage, Encourage, Enable

Engage

The invitation is that this will be a year in which we strive to be more engaging. Let us seek to look beyond ourselves and our inner circle.

I am suggesting that this should be a year in which we widen our sphere of influence. Let us be more open to the possibility of interacting with others.

Instead of holding our heads straight and avoiding contact let us change our mindset and actively seek to connect with others.

Let us banish the word “Shy” from our vocabularies and work to broaden our network of friends and associates.

Each new contact that we make represents an option for new possibilities. So the more contacts we make the more possibilities become available to us.

Proactive networking and being open to engaging new contacts is one of the keys to success.

“To the weak I became weak in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some of them.” 1Co 9:22

 I would also like for us to commit to making real connections this year. Move at least one of the surface interactions that we have to a genuine friendship.

Move from exchanging pleasantries to a genuine interest in issues of concern to the other party.

Is there scope this year to learn more about someone’s hopes, fears and aspirations?

Can we take time to go beyond the warm greeting to better appreciate what makes someone else tick?

In an increasingly sceptical and untrusting world, the call of the Great Commission to go into the world and teach is going require us to engage others on a real basis.

“Show me that you care, if you want me to listen to you.”

The politicians are increasingly being confronted with the phenomenon of people simply opting out when they fail to get the feeling that their interests are of genuine concern.

Let us reflect on Christ’s genuine concern about the well being of others. He dealt with their health concerns and took swift action to deal with their hunger.  He sought to resolve their understanding of the law and how to relate to the authorities.

Above all, He was open to contact from anyone. He was not a respecter of persons and His mission led Him to constantly make new contacts.

Let this year be a year of engagement.

I suggest that we do not limit our commitment to engagement only to connection with others.

Let this be a year in which we open ourselves to something new.

This might be a new hobby, or a new type of book or show. Initiation of a fitness routine.  Going on a diet.  Going back to school.  Starting a new business.

Let this be a year of new beginnings…  a year in which we engage something different.

I would also like for this year to be a year of encouragement.

The environment is overrun with negative sentiments. Predictions of hard times abound. Doom and gloom have been our constant companions.

I suggest that we lift the veil. I suggest that we replace the forecast of dark clouds with expectations of bright sunny skies.

The potential impact of a change of mindset is generally under-estimated.

“Peter answered him, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus said, “Come on!” So Peter got down out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came to Jesus.” Mat 14:28 – 29

I was able to walk on hot, flaming coals bare footed without being seared because of a change of mindset.

Let us focus our energies on being encouraging in our thoughts, words and action. Let us adopt positive mindsets this year. Let us recall that with God all things are possible Matt 19:26.

Let us base our faith on the fact that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13.

So, in our conversations let us strive to sound notes of encouragement versus discouragement.

We can take the commitment to be encouraging further. We can actively cheer on others in their pursuit of positive goals or in the honest performance of tasks that they have been assigned.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24

Let the phrase “Well done!” roll off our tongues more often. Let us be there to say “Don’t give up! You can do it! Persevere, the victory will be yours!”

Lay any temptation to tear down to rest this year. This year you only have eyes for positive outcomes. Thoughts of failure are banished. Disappointments may come but we know that they will be fleeting and victory will be yours in due course.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 New International Version (NIV)

Our encouragement should also embrace helping others to remain in the faith.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness”. Heb 3:13

Let us make it a point of duty this year to help others in their Christian walk. Let us encourage a brother or sister to greater levels of commitment and service.

If the opportunity presents itself, strive to restore someone who has fallen away.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal 6: 1 -3

Our next commitment is to be enabling this year.

As we become more engaging and widen our network of contacts. And as we encourage others and ourselves to positive achievement, we will have created opportunities for us to become enablers.

Each of us has the capacity to help someone to achieve one of their goals.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17

This year we should strive to translate “good wishes” and encouraging words into tangible action.

As we becoming more engaging and as we strive to be encouraging let us find ways to actively enable others as well.

Our enabling action may come in many different forms. It need not require material resources. A simple word of advice could make a huge difference in someone’s life.

Maybe just sitting quietly with someone as they work through a challenging situation may enable them to move forward with their life.

The key is to be on the lookout for opportunities to make a difference. No longer opt to be a bystander. Put up your hand and be counted. Reach out and lend a hand or provide a shoulder. Be a sounding broad. Give someone the assurance that you are there for them.

This year commit to enabling others on their life journey.

In closing, your most significant action in enabling others would be to share the Gospel with them.

No act of empowerment can compare with that of leading someone to Christ. In order to do so you will have to engage and encourage them.

Share the good news of Christ’s sacrificial death to reconcile us to God, the need for repentance, public acknowledgement of Jesus and baptism for the remission of sins.

On a personal level, this is a year for getting things right with God.

We are committing to obeying the plan of salvation before it is eternally too late.

We are committing now to being fully aware of our deceitful SELF and to call out the impostor every time it appears.

We are committing to hungering after righteousness.

We are committing to devoting ourselves to immersion in God’s word on a daily basis.

We are committing to applying its teachings to our lives.

This year we will engage, encourage and enable.

God bless you!