What God Asks of Us

Recently I have been thinking about the plans that God has for our lives and how they all work out. So today I thought I would share some verses I came across about what God asks of us and calls us to:

To be forgiving: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13

To live with honor: “If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Romans 14:8

To live with and show mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience: “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

To do what is right, love mercy and be humble: “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

To pursue righteousness and unfailing love: “Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.” Proverbs 21:21

To be a servant: “‘The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.'” Matthew 23:11-12

The things God has called us to and asked of us aren’t things we have to do alone, nor can we, they all require that we work with others to make it happen. This week I encourage you to choose one of the things God has called you to and make it a part of your life.  God doesn’t ask us to do or be things without a reason, I pray that He reveals some of that to you as you work with Him this week.

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Devoted to Positive Steps

As we continue our journey through the first month of a new year I thought we’d continue to look at some ways we can do better, be better and make this year better.

Prayer: one of the interesting things about prayer is that there are so many ways that it can be done, that it shouldn’t feel stressful or like a responsibility. Yes, it’s good to sit and do traditional prayers like are done in church, but you can also take a minute to pray before/during/after different parts of your day, and you can also keep up a running conversation with God (it doesn’t have to be this formal thing). The important thing to remember is to do it, to do it by yourslef, to do it in a group, and to do it regularly. It’s not just an expression of faith, it’s your time to talk with God, which is an incredible gift.

Pay Attention: there are lots of things that demand our attention these days, and some of us have taken to seeing the world as though we’re wearing blinders. All of us have opinions, beliefs and experiences that color how we see and interact with the world, and we’re also usually preoccupied by what’s going on in our lives. In many respects the reason the world looks the way it does to you is because of what you choose to see. The challenge for each of us is to take off those blinders and let ourselves be exposed to and open to experiencing other parts of the world. Are you open to seeing what God would show you, or stuck seeing just what you can’t ignore?

Give Thanks: one of the most powerful tools we’ve got in our lives is our ability to be thankful. Regularly expressing our thanks, showing appreciation and finding things to be thankful for can all improve your attitude, make you feel better and make you more likable and personable too. If you’re struggling with being thankful, try just walking outside your door and finding something to be thankful for. Maybe it’s the fact that snow’s not brown usually or that the sun is out or we’re one more day closer to spring or for the evergreen tree that reminds you of happy Christmas memories or the cute bunny prints in the snow. Sure, you could talk about all the not-so-great stuff and you could just see the cool/cold winter world outside your door, but why would you spend a lot of time thinking about that when you could thing on the positive?

So today I encourage you to pick one, or all of these, and commit to working on them in your life this week. Spending more time in prayer, being more open and aware and giving thanks more often can all have a really positive impact on your life, and your faith.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

Christmas Light

You really can’t miss one of the main ways that people show they celebrate Christmas, whether secular or religious; the lights. They’re on houses, trees, businesses and light poles.  People drive many miles just to see what a particular house or street has created this year.  For people of faith though, light means many things.

Light helps us see our way:
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.”  Matthew 3:1-12

Light should fill our lives:
“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”  Colossians 3:16

Light is meant to be shared:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Light means hope and promise:
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”  Isaiah 9:2

Light begins with Jesus:
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.””  John 8:12

As you look around you and enjoy the sights of the season I encourage you to take a look at your life.  Are you shining light with the words you say and things you do? Are you teaching your kids what it means to be a light, even if that light is just about being a kind, considerate and loving person?  Are you focused on the darkness around you or on what the light shows?  Are you sharing a kind smile, a helping hand, a little love or even a little hope with someone?  Are you giving someone a reason to smile? Are you smiling at the surprises and holiday cheer that you see?  Are you sharing the message and story of the First Christmas?  Are you hanging lights and decorations to bring a smile to someone?

Yes, the holiday season has created many a grump, and there are plenty of reasons to be grumpy. But I believe that being grumpy is a choice, as is being filled with Christmas cheer.  Will you choose to spread light or darkness this Christmas season?

Spiritual Labor

As we look ahead to this weekend and Labor Day here in the US, I thought we’d take a look at a few verses from the Bible about work and what God says about work.  A few of the results caught me by surprise, so as we head into the new month we may take time to dive deeper into a few of them.

Work:
“He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23

“The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.” Deuteronomy 28:12

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” Proverbs 14:23

“I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.” Ecclesiastes 2:18

“Whatever you do, do well.” Ecclesiastes 9:10a

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10a

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” Romans 4:4

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

God and work:
“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” John 5:17

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” Psalm 127:1a

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:4

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

“God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Corinthians 12:6

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

What are your thoughts on (spiritual) work?

Overflowing with Thankfulness

As we finish out this month this week, today I want to talk about the foundation of our faith: God.  We’ve been talking about being thankful this month, about finding things to be thankful for even when we’re feeling challenged, being thankful for each other, being thankful for blessings, finding things to be thankful for and having a daily thanksgiving practice. But where does being thankful really start, what can we do to make it easier to be thankful and how can we be more thankful on a more regular basis?

Colossians 2:7 says: “Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Colossians 2 reminds us that not only do we build our relationship with God to grow our faith and live lives that honor Him, knowing more about God, living more in ways that honor Him, learning more about the person He has created us to be and having a deeper faith will help increase the amount of thankfulness in our hearts, minds and lives.  If we want to be more thankful we need more God in our lives.  This means being open to seeing Him work in more ways in our lives, from the little things like seeing cats chase squirrels and the miracle of life, to receiving healing and new purpose in life, to receiving checks in the mail and even getting those holiday gifts on sale.

The other thing this verse reminds us is that we can only be thankful in matters that are true.  We can’t be thankful for the lies, it’s not how we’re designed.  We can only be thankful for that which is true, real, honorable and honest; all things that are good.  It’s a good reminder for our lives as well that our lives only grow and become or stay strong when we’re rooted in that which is righteous, honorable and truthful.  So if you’ve been struggling with thankfulness in your life, maybe it’s time to take a good look at what’s in your life and what you’re building your life on and around.

What are you thankful for today?

Thanksgiving Today

We’ve reached the second to last month of 2014, November. We’ve looked at a lot of the Fruit of the Spirit thus far this year and we’ve still got one more of the Fruit to discuss in December. This month we’re going traditional and will spend it talking about being thankful: a topic I believe we should all study and live more.

I think the thing that’s important to remember about being thankful is that it’s really part of everything else: either we’re thankful for how things have gone or how things haven’t gone, or we’re not. I think it’s almost like breathing that we forget what it is and how essential it is to us until we’re so wrapped up in the depths of despair that we can’t pick ourselves up.

Yes, thanksgiving is a sentiment and expression all by itself. We’re taught from an early age to say “thank you” at appropriate times. Saying “thank you” is a way of acknowledging, recognizing and appreciating what the other person did for us, something that’s essential because we all need the feedback and recognition; we crave it.

But expressing our thanks is about more than just patting someone else’s ego, it’s good for us. As it turns out being thankful is better for us than being grumpy or miserable. What does that mean? It means that when we’re thankful we feel better about ourselves, are able to do our jobs better and have healthier relationships. Being thankful is like going for a run, it releases the good stuff in us, but there’s no sweating required.

I don’t know about you, but I like feeling good and making a difference, and with as little effort as it takes to be or express my thanks, I’m all for it.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach…one another…singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:15-16

God is Gentle

I’m thankful to reach a new month, a month with lots of fresh opportunities to see God work in our lives and learn who He has created us to be.  Our topic this month is gentleness.  As I said back in January, this year we’re going through the Fruit of the Spirit and some related topics, and this month’s is gentleness.  You know, throughout the Bible we read stories of God sending down vengeance on people, usually on the enemies of Israel, certainly enough times that we knew to fear God.  But there’s another side to God that not everyone sees: the love and gentleness He has for us. It says in the Bible that God knows the full details of the lives of the flowers and birds, so how could He not know about us, being that we’re so much bigger and more important to Him than birds and flowers? It also says He delights in us. Yes, that’s a very particular word!

However, being that we’re made in the image of God we’ve got the gene for anger at the bad in the world too. That need for vengeance, payback or justice you feel when you hear about something evil happening? That’s actually healthy, and probably a small slice of how God feels about that too.

The challenge for us is to follow God’s example of knowing that some moments are for vengeance and others are for gentleness and healing. We often have trouble switching off that hard anger we feel and moving into the softer emotions of gentleness and love, but if we don’t we’re not following God’s example. Yes, there are a lot of stories in the Bible about God getting vengeance, but there are even more examples of His love.  What will you choose today?

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  Colossians 3:12