Getting out of bed in the morning can be a challenge or a gift. I have thankfully gotten to the place where I wake without an alarm clock, because I’m certain that the sound they make is akin to something of a demonic nature. Regardless of whether we waken to the sound of a buzzer, a rooster or simply to the sounds of the day, that moment provides us the opportunity to spend some time alone with God. We can choose to roll over and grab ten more minutes of sleep or eagerly embrace the chance to commune with the One who gave us life. I long excused my surly attitude in the early hours by simply saying that I was not a morning person. I still prefer late nights, but the practice of rising before dawn and enjoying some time with God has softened my interactions with others in the morning. [Read more…] about Starting the Day off Right
Archives for April 2011
We all have 24 hours each day with which to serve the Lord. No one gets any additional time, no one any less. The reason some folks seem to accomplish so much more for Christ is not because they have found a way to get more time, but rather have decided to be intentional with the use of the time they have been allotted. In the Western culture, everything is geared towards personal recreation and satisfaction. We have become a society inclined to entertainment; we work hard to afford the latest gadgets, televisions and music systems. Each new peripheral brings with it a brand new set of distractions, and with those, less time to spend serving the One we claim is Lord of our life.
Until we consciously choose to follow Jesus above all else, we will never find the time to serve Him. The pressures of work, friends and family consume us, and we have a tendency to fill in whatever gaps we have with personal entertainment. We acknowledge Jesus with our lips, but our lifestyle tells a different story. We have been so blessed, but the blessings haven’t been good enough for us. We crave more and more and honor Jesus less and less.
Entertainment has become the idol of our age. We would rather spend time watching reality TV than participating in the true reality of people dying every day without the hope and love of Jesus Christ. We escape the world through the music of our iPods instead of immersing ourselves in the Spirit of God. We embark upon quests vicariously through video game consoles when we could actually be taking part in the greatest adventure of all, engaged in the mission of Christ to redeem a lost world. We have exchanged gold for dust, the eternal for what is temporal.
All of the things mentioned above are activities we do by choice. Instead of spending our time as the hands and feet of Jesus, we waste away our lives being self-absorbed and mired in selfishness. This is not who we were created to be. God intended all of us to do good works for Him (Ephesians 2:10), to carry on the work He started so many years ago. The good news is that it’s not too late to change the way we live and dedicate ourselves fully to Him. It is a simple act of will to turn off a television, iPod or video game console. We can choose to be productive for the King, or be lazy and self-serving. There really is no in between here. We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24); we must choose between ourselves and God.
Don’t waste your life chasing after those things that do not last. Focus on the One who died for you and now wishes to collaborate with you in the greatest story ever told. We have been asked to write history with the Creator of the universe. What could be more exciting? Yet we will never be able to participate in this adventure unless we consciously choose to do so. It all comes down to a choice, and that choice is up to you and me. Will we decide to cast everything aside, to leave it all, and follow Him? Or will we be content with the comforts of our “stuff” and the company of our friends to ever choose to get involved in the life He has created for us to live? There are only 24 hours in each day. How we spend our time is up to us; God is waiting to see what we will do. How will you choose to spend the hours of this day?
This is my favorite day of the year. People gather at sunrise singing and rejoicing that Jesus has risen from the dead. The excitement is just as real today as it was 2,000 years ago. What must it have been like to see the empty tomb, the large stone that had sealed it, tossed aside? It all came together on that day. Everything Jesus had been teaching suddenly made sense. He had said He would rise again on the third day, and now He had. The angels in Heaven rejoiced and sang; the people on earth were in awe and full of excitement. For followers of Christ today, we celebrate the ultimate victory secured by our Savior. Jesus didn’t just defeat sin on the cross; He defeated death by rising again.
Just as the angel told Mary to go tell the disciples, the message still resonates today. This is truly the good news! The death of Christ paid for our forgiveness; His resurrection bought life eternal for all those who believe and follow Him. His death brought sorrow, His resurrection brings joy. Instead of a life that ends in death we can now look forward to healing. Our entire faith is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. By rising again, He provided the way for us to be born again. It was one thing for Him to sacrifice Himself for our sins, but by rising from the grave He defeated death and provide an escape for us as well. When Christ left this world He promised to go and prepare a place for us. Because of Him, we too will defeat death and spend eternity in His presence.
Today is a day to celebrate. For followers of Jesus, this day should kick off a season of renewed enthusiasm for, and commitment to, the mission of Jesus. He defeated death and returned to Heaven so that His Spirit might go with each of us in all we endeavor to do in His name. When we feed the hungry and shelter the homeless, He is there. When we visit the sick and those in prison, He is there. Death could not hold the Son of God; that power is now available to each of us who follow Him. Don’t waste what has been given to you; in His strength, seize every opportunity to reflect the glory of God to everyone you meet. Take a genuine interest in their lives and be the hands and feet of Jesus. This is why He died, so that we might live a life that overflows with His love.
Don’t make the mistake of considering Easter just another holiday. Recognize the significance of what this day means; it is the single most pivotal day in the entire history of humanity. Satan was defeated and he no longer has any power over us. Jesus has overcome, and through Him, we too can surmount any obstacle. Nothing is bigger than death and death no longer poses a challenge. We are free to run and tell the world about His love and His mercy. Rejoice in His resurrection; rejoice in what He has done in your own life. Revel in the thought of spending eternity with Him.
This is the day that Jesus set himself apart from anyone else that ever lived. No one else ever raised themselves from the dead. No one who has ever died and come back to life has avoided death again at a later time. Only Jesus can claim either of these achievements. In so doing, He proved He was who He said He was – the only Son of God.
On her 2005 album, “If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something”, Rebecca St. James wrote a beautiful song entitled “Lest I Forget”. The song’s melody is at once haunting and peaceful. I have often used the song to enter into a state of contemplative worship. The words are both simple and powerful.
I sit in silence here
I’m filled with wonder once again
I’m overwhelmed by Your beautiful love
Now I, I’m falling to my knees, so grateful for the grace You give
The love I need I’ve found in you
I recently wrote about finding some time to just sit in silence (see “Taking Time to Breathe”). This is such an important discipline, to shut out all distractions and focus solely on the Lord. When was the last time you simply marveled at the wonder of God? The Creator of the universe has chosen to collaborate in writing the history of the world with the likes of you and me. He has redeemed us from the life we deserve and instead has promised us eternal life in Him. We consistently rebel against Him, fall repeatedly into the same temptations and yet He is always eager to welcome us back into His arms. No other love on earth can match the amazing love our Father has for us. Take some time to think on His wonder, His love, and His glory. I guarantee it will drive you to your knees in awe. God has provided everything we will ever need in the person of Jesus Christ.
Lord, You wept tears of blood for me
You hung in agony so deep
Carried my sin away for good
It is a newer tradition in my household to watch the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” on Good Friday each year. Put aside the controversy that surrounded the film and more recently its producer, and concentrate on the depiction of suffering that Christ endured for us. It is so difficult to watch. Who would do such a thing for the life of someone not yet even born? Jesus would have known that I might spend my whole life rebelling against Him, yet He chose to sacrifice His life for mine, just for the chance that I could one day experience His love. He wept tears in my place and withstood torture that I can scarcely imagine. He did this so I might live. His only motivation was a love so outrageous that I will never fully comprehend it.
Lest I forget
All of your goodness
The blood you have shed
The cross I now remember
Lest I forget
I don’t ever want to take for granted what He did for me. I never want to lose the wonder of His love and mercy, and I refuse to overlook the price He paid. Our busy world affords us little opportunity to slow down and ponder the majesty of God. It is important to the health of our soul and our relationship with Christ that we do so. In all of our hurry we must take some time to get alone with Him and reflect on His glory and remember exactly what He went through on our behalf. It’s not a feel good story that is often articulated from our pulpits. There are far easier passages of Scripture on which to meditate and study. Without the reality of the cross though, nothing else would matter. Everything hinges on the sacrifice of Jesus for an undeserving world. We must always keep His life and death at the forefront of our minds. I could never repay what He has done for me. All I can do is obey Him and follow the instructions He gave. Nothing I can do will ever be enough to return the love He lavished on me. He died for me, so I am compelled to live for Him. I will always vividly remember the cross… lest I forget.
Each of us wants to be successful; we all want to win. There is an innate drive inside of us that compels us to compete and prove we are the best. Being the best means we are successful. If we drive the right car, live in the right neighborhood or have the right job, we consider it proof that we are winning and have become successful. For all those I know who have found themselves driving that car or living in that neighborhood, the vast majority are not entirely happy. If that’s all there is to their life, then a sense of emptiness remains; they lack a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Rabbi Harold Kushner once said, “The purpose of life is not to win. The purpose of life is to grow and share. When you come to look back on all that you have done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you have brought to other people’s lives than you will from the times that you outdid and defeated them.
Life is more than keeping score, and this is especially true for followers of Christ. Our goal should not be to outdo someone else, but rather to out-love and out-serve everyone. Our heart’s desire must be to live a life that looks like that of Jesus. If we concern ourselves only with that, we will find our lives are far richer and more fulfilled than if we had achieved material success beyond measure. We are spiritual beings at our core, and spirit cannot be soothed or satisfied with the physical. Beyond what it does for us emotionally, anything we can touch, taste, smell, or hear will never fully quench the longing we have inside. It is only through spiritual communication with God and sharing His love with others that we will find peace and contentment. Nothing satisfies except Jesus.
It is incredibly easy to get caught up in the ways of our culture, but we are called out of a life of normalcy to live as strangers in this world. We are set apart to be different. If we chase after the things that society dictates we must have, then we are worshipping the material rather than the spiritual, and we are not following Jesus. Christ never cared for temporal possessions. He warned His followers that they would have no place to call home and sent them out into the world virtually empty handed (Luke 9:57-58; Luke 9:1-6). The reality was that while they may not have had anything they could physically hold, they were filled beyond measure because the spirit of God was within them.
True success is measured by how closely we are following Jesus. It is determined by our resemblance to Christ and by doing the things He told us to do. If we are continuing His mission on earth, then we are indeed successful. While it may not look like it to your friends, you know the peace and comfort that is within. You can’t put a price tag on the feeling that comes from being fully surrendered to Jesus. In the midst of the worst of troubles, He provides calm and courage. In the darkest night, He provides rest and comfort. Nothing is impossible through Jesus; nothing can stop us when we are truly following Him. There is no greater power than the power of God, and this power lives within you. You can keep your cars and your fancy neighborhoods. You can keep your physical power and influence. I have found all I need in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the true power, and true success is found only in service to Him.