Thoughts From My Heart
EVERYDAY ENCOUNTERS WITH GOD
God is not some distant cosmic being who is far removed from the everyday life of us mere mortals. He is not accessible only to a select few, nor is the criteria for meeting Him based on race, age, gender, location, intellect or anything else, other than a sincere heart that seeks Him.
He provided the way to come directly to Him when He sent His son, Jesus to earth to bring salvation to all people. Jesus bridged the chasm between God & man, opening the doorway to God’s throne room. FOREVER. UNLIMITED ACCESS. 24/7. He’s always on call, never too busy and always welcoming. So for those who have accepted Christ’s invitation of salvation, there comes the assurance of His abiding presence in their lives, His willingness to participate in every aspect of their existence and His desire to share in every moment of their lives. From the mundane to the monumental. Through the tragedies and the triumphs, victories and defeats, struggles and celebrations. He’s there through it all and He wants us to learn to see Him and seek Him in the midst of every circumstance. HE IS ALWAYS THERE. Sometimes we just need our eyes opened and our spirits tuned in. I’ve found it so, and I’ve learned that some of the most profound moments with God come in the middle of everyday living. He meets us where we are and He reveals Himself in unexpected ways. We just have to be watching for Him.
Christ encountered the Samaritan woman at the well as she was doing her water-fetching chore. He called Matthew away from his work in the middle of a busy day. He recruited the fishermen while they mended their nets, calling them to a new vocation. Mary was informed that she was God’s chosen vessel while she did ordinary things on an ordinary day. Moses was out tending sheep when a burning bush ushered him into the very presence of God. The Bible is filled with these stories of God encounters during life’s common moments. Only those moments weren’t common any longer. They changed lives, they changed people, they changed history. All because God revealed Himself where and when He was least expected.
He hasn’t changed. His word tells us that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is always faithful and He walks with us moment by moment. Our eyes are sometimes blinded by unbelief or dimmed by the rationalizations of our minds, but He is still there. He abides – in us and with us, waiting for us to recognize His hand, His presence, His beauty, His strength, His peace, His comfort, His help, His wisdom, His love, His joy, His guidance. Let Him reveal Himself to you while you go about your day, living it as a sacrifice of praise to Him. When we worship Him in all we do, He is magnified, and we will see Him in a clearer, brighter way. We will be aware of His presence and His workings when our vision is altered, when we’re looking through the Son-glasses, instead of my-focals! So, start watching for what God is doing in your life, and through the eyes of faith you will see!
The last Saturday of the Olympics, I woke up early, and as I reflected on the various words used to describe the athletes, and the qualities they needed to achieve their Olympic dreams, the thought came to me that each of these attributes are necessary for our spiritual training as well. Verses came to mind that stated what was required for us to be overcomers, and as I looked them up and wrote them down, I felt to share them, so that we may all be encouraged to keep our eyes on the goal, and focus our efforts on winning that everlasting prize.
A GOAL (Dream/Vision) Having a goal or dream is the essential first step, and many of the athletes talked about having that dream of competing in the Olympics since they were children. If we don’t have a purpose, our life won’t have direction, and our efforts will accomplish little.
Philippians 3:13-15 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
COMMITMENT Athletes make a commitment to their sport, and to the effort it will require to achieve their goals. They are committed to doing whatever it takes to become the best they can be. When we make a commitment to Christ, we are making a promise to walk in God’s ways with all our hearts, and yielding ourselves to Him so that He can make us into His image and likeness. Each day we must choose to honor that commitment.
Joshua 24:15 …choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
1 Timothy 1: 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass.
1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
ENDURANCE Long-distance events especially require endurance – staying power to suffer without giving in. The athletes train many long, painful hours so that their muscles, lungs and will have the capacity to keep going when their whole body is screaming to stop. Every effort is made to reach that finish line, and some athletes collapse once they cross it, from sheer exhaustion. We know what Christ endured to purchase our redemption, and He asks nothing less of us. We may have to endure different things in different ways, but all that painful training is essential to the reaching of our goal, and the joy set before us.
Matthew 24:13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
1 Corinthians 13:7 (Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Hebrews 12:2 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
PERSEVERANCE (persisting, continuing steadfastly) Never giving up and never quitting are qualities of a champion. We’ve often seen amazing “come-backs”, which only happened because the winners didn’t stop trying, and determined not to let anything stand in their way. As with endurance, those who persevere, and refuse to allow obstacles or set-backs to deter them, are the ones who attain their goals. As has often been said, we must “keep on keeping on”, never giving up and always remembering that the Lord will supply the strength we need for each day and the power to do what He requires of us.
Ephesians 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.
2 Peter 1:5-7 (NIV) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
DISCIPLINE As unpleasant as it may be, discipline is an essential part of an athlete’s success. Their body and mind must be trained to obey, by subjecting themselves to intensive practice of various skills and conditioning. Both self-discipline and discipline from a coach are required, because consistent effort is necessary, even on days when the athlete feels unmotivated or lazy. So we also need to “practice our faith” and train ourselves to obey God’s commands, walk in His ways and exercise the ministry He has given us – daily. Sometimes He may need to “coach” us along with His discipline, but He also wants us to do our part to exercise self-discipline in making godly choices, and focusing on what will reap eternal rewards rather than seeking things that bring us very temporary gratification.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV) Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Hebrews 12:10,11 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
SACRIFICE Great achievements usually result from great sacrifices.
Every athlete who attains his or her goal has sacrificed something to get there, whether time with family or friends, other social activities, certain foods, etc. etc. And most of them also acknowledge the sacrifices made by others on their behalf, especially family members who may have to move, travel excessively or be separated to accommodate their training needs.
Galatians 5:24,25 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit.
Matthew 16:24,25 Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it.
Romans 12:1 (NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Romans 12:4-8 Just as each of us has one body with many members…
Ephesians 4:15,16 (NIV) Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Hebrews 3:13 (NIV) But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today,…
1 Thess. 5:11 (NIV) Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in , in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Titus 2:7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works; in doctrine, shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity.
1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.
1 Peter 3:10,11 (NLT) So dear friends, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Doing this, you will never stumble or fall away. And God will open wide the gates of heaven for you to enter into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Our rewards are not earthly possessions, or the praise and accolades of men, but we have an eternal prize – one that can never be destroyed, lost, forgotten, corroded or taken away. There is nothing else in life more worth investing our efforts, time, abilities and heart in than God’s Kingdom. Our greatest rewards will not come while we are here on earth – but we can be assured that they are waiting for us.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1Peter 1:3-5
So, together let us strive for that eternal goal…
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23,24
TRUTH AND INTEGRITY
God is a God of Truth. "He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He," (Dent, 32;4) He desires His people to walk in His ways - in truth and integrity. "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies," (Psalms 25:10)
Integrity means living and telling the truth. Its definition is "behaviour in accordance with a strict code of values" - by our behaviour, integrating truth into our daily lives. A while ago I read an article on integrity which convicted me, and caused me to search my heart. The author, a father of young children, wrote how they caught him in a lie as he paid the entry fee at a zoo. He tried to pass his youngest son off as "5 and under", to get free admission, when his son piped up, "Dad, I'm 6, not 5! " Not a big deal? Well, maybe it doesn't seem like it, but what kind of a message does it send? That we tell the truth - most of the time - but sometimes it's OK to lie? How can we teach our children to be honest when we demonstrate that telling a lie can be to our advantage? Society already teaches them that truth is relative, but God, and the Bible give us an absolute standard for judging right and wrong. God doesn't change, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, and the word of the Lord endures forever. The Bible is our guide book, and it has much to say about truth and integrity, and the importance God places on them. Psalms 15:1, 2 asks, "Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in this heart", and Psalms 101:7 warns, "He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight". Proverbs 12:22 says, "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are His delight", and Zechariah 8:16 declares, "These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates." A note in my Bible states that truth is the basis of a lifestyle that pleases God, and if that is our desire, we must strive to live in truth, and integrate what we believe into how we live. Our Christian beliefs must be evident in the things that we do and say, not only because that is what God requires, but also because of our example to others. "Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." (2 Corin. 8:21) "Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men." (Romans 12:17) "Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." (1 Peter 2:12) As Christ lives in us and changes us, all our actions should be under His control, and our Christianity should affect every aspect of our life. His truth, and our integrity must be evident in our relationships, our business dealings,our work or school ethics, our response to regulations and our every decision. The truth can't be turned off and on at our convenience.
And what about those "unseen"choices we make? They may be unknown to men, but God sees them, and He sees our heart. "Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom." (Psalms 51:6) The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, 0 Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me." (Psalms 7:8) That's really where integrity counts -when it's just between God and me. May I be able to say as David did, "Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity; I have trusted also in the Lord;" therefore I shall not slide." (Psalms 26:1) Besides a clear conscience, there are other benefits to a life of truth. Proverbs 20:7 says, "The just man walketh in his integrity; his children are blessed after him," (Prov. 11:3) "The integrity of the upright shall guide them; but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them." (Prov. 10:9) "The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out," (NlV) So, we don't have to bear an unnecessary burden of guilt, because truth brings freedom in Christ. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)
The Bible sets the standard for what is right and wrong, so I believe it really does matter if we tell "white lies" about our child's age just to save a dollar. It does matter that we are honest on our income tax forms, that we return to pay for the item we weren't charged for, that we have honesty in our families and homes, and that we play by the rules. Whenever there's uncertainty in our minds, we need to ask ourselves, What would Jesus do? He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), so anything else compromises our faith and mars our testimony.
We need to pray for one another, that we will each allow the Holy Spirit to direct us and to examine our hearts, for "...it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth, "(1 John 5:6b) May it be said of us, "For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." (3 John 4)
May the words of this song the Lord gave to me encourage us all to walk in our integrity.
1) O Lord You know my heart, You see the struggles there
To follow in Your steps, daily is my prayer
For every moment choices come, but if I look in the mirror
And ask myself, what would Jesus do, the answer becomes clear
(Cho) I will walk, in mine integrity
For I know the truth, and it will set me free
To live a life of victory
That reveals the Christ in me
2) O Lord, so many times, I've failed to do what's right
Forgive and cleanse me Lord, so I can be a light
That brightly shines into the dark, so that all can plainly see
Because You're living in my heart, I ive what I believe