Abundance

From God comes…

From God comes abundance.  

Christ came so we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) Some modern ministers want us to believe this refers to wealth and prosperity. They encourage people to go boldly before God and claim this promised abundance. These “health and wealth” or “name it and claim it” preachers measure faith by how much God blesses us materially. That is not what this scripture means.  

In fact, Jesus said that a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of the things he might possess. (Luke 12:15) If we seek first the kingdom of God, we won’t have to be overly concerned about such matters. (Matthew 6:31-33) If we humble ourselves before Him, He will exalt us when the time is right. (1 Peter 5:6-7)   

I’m not saying an abundant life precludes riches or worldly success, but it does not depend on it either. Paul knew this better than anyone. He knew how to be abased or exalted, have a full tummy or an empty one, to abound or suffer—and through it all be content and give thanks. (Philippians 4:11-13; Ephesians 5:20) In other words, we can experience the abundant life even if we are going through major trials or poor as church mice.  

The life Jesus refers to in John 10:10 is eternal life, everlasting life, or life without fear of death. The phrase “more abundantly” is the Greek word “perissos” meaning “beyond, more, and above measure.” It refers back to the word “life.” Not only did Jesus come to give us eternal life, but even more than that, He lives His life within us right now. His very presence in us adds something immeasurable to our existence. He is what makes our life worth living in spite of how much money we have in the bank.

If we read the whole passage of John 10, we see it says that Jesus is our shepherd, we sheep hear His voice, and His door is always open for us. The whole context is about us having access to God. And that, my friend, is what the more abundant life is all about. Not only do we get eternal life, but as an added bonus we can have a relationship with Jesus Christ—the very One who makes it all possible.

Man views abundance in terms of physical possessions. God has a different perspective. His abundant life is filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control, compassion, humility, character, wisdom, enthusiasm, dignity, optimism, confidence, honesty, and a relationship with Him. In other words, the more abundant life is full of all the things money can’t buy.

Abundance is not always about having more possessions; sometimes it’s about having enough.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Identity

From God comes…

From God comes our identity. Our identity is in Christ.

A lot of people are confused today about who they are and have what is called an identity crisis. People try to define themselves based on their occupation, looks, education, gender, success, lack of money, or background. Sometimes they let others define them which can be tricky since each person we meet views us differently. Images we have of ourselves can be hazy, like looking through a carnival mirror full of distortions. Our mirror needs to reflect who we really are in Christ, not some ambiguous likeness full of uncertainty.

Once we turn our lives over to Christ, our identity is in Him, not in what the world would have us think. From that very moment, we become a new person. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24) Learning to view ourselves as God sees us, can make a difference in how we live our lives.

God calls us His children. (John 1:12) He has chosen us to be His. (Ephesians 1:4-5) He loves us unconditionally. (Romans 5:8) He has forgiven us. (1 John 2:12) He accepts us. (Romans 15:7) He redeems us. (Ephesians 1:7) His grace has justified us. (Romans 3:24) He does not condemn us. (Romans 8:1) He frees us from being slaves to sin. (Romans 6:6) He lets the Holy Spirit dwell in us. (1 Corinthians 6:19) He blesses us. (Ephesians 1:3) He completes us. (Colossians 2:10)

We have done nothing to earn these things. They are freely given to us because of who we are in Christ. While we may want to change our behavior to reflect our identity in Christ, we do not need to earn our salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9) God has welcomed us into being members of His household and heirs. (Ephesians 2:19; Romans 8:17) Sometimes it helps to see ourselves as God sees us and He sees us as His children. (1 John 3:1)

Embracing our identity in Christ brings a certain peace. We have no need to seek the world’s approval. We don’t need to compare ourselves with others which usually leaves us feeling like we will never measure up. We don’t need to fear the unknown. We can even have confidence in what the future holds for us eternally because God has everything under control.

If we already know who we are, we don’t have to waste a lot of time trying to figure it out. Recognizing our identity in Christ gives us more time to live a meaningful life.  

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Power

From God comes…

From God comes power.

Often we hear the adage that there is power in prayer. That may be a little misleading because prayer by itself has no power at all. The power actually comes from the One to whom we pray—God!

David understood this. In 1 Chronicles 29:12, he praised God by saying, “Both riches and honor come from You and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might.” In God’s hand is power! We pray to the One who has all the power!

Prayer is not a means of coercing or manipulating God into doing what we want. It is a process of recognizing His power and plan for our lives. We yield our lives and circumstances to the Lord and trust Him to act in His time and in His way. We have faith in on God‘s grace, not only for the outcome of our request, but for the process as well. We can trust God’s wisdom in our situation because we know He loves and cares for us. (John 3:16; 1 Peter 5:7)   

For our own growth and edification, God may think it’s best not to give us everything we want instantly. Instead of healing, He might give us strength. Instead of deliverance, He might give us perseverance. Instead of a sparing a loved one’s life, He might give us peace. Instead of winning the lottery, He might give us a job.

How foolish we would be not to continuously access power that is available to us! God wants us to pray. Prayer acknowledges that we know how great God is. Prayer lets God know we depend on Him, not only for our emergencies, but our daily needs. Praying that God’s will be done and not our own shows God that we trust Him!  

Trying to rely on our own feeble attempts to produce a desired result is shortsighted. Only God has the power to mend the broken heart of a mother or father whose son has died. Only God has the power to grant peace and calm to someone facing a cancer diagnosis. Only God has the power to give a caregiver strength to deal with a spouse who has Alzheimer’s. Only God has the power to restore a family full of grudges and deep resentment. Only God can grant understanding. Only God can reveal Himself to others.

God has the power, but we have to pray to access it. You might say that a day without prayer is a day without tapping into the power available to us. Life is hard. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need all the power I can get to just make it through one more day!   

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unlimited Access

From God comes…

From God comes unlimited access to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Today our access to many things is quite restrictive. Guest lists are screened. Only certain ones get invited to prestigious events. Sometimes extensive background searches are conducted to keep out those who don’t measure up.

Plus, there are many places we cannot enter with signs stating No Trespassing, Authorized Personnel Only, Keep Out, No Parking, Restricted Area, etc. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Certain boundaries are necessary in today’s society. However, we all have unlimited access to God.

This was not always the case. Having an intimate relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is a big deal and was not really possible for the common man before the death of Christ.

In Old Testament times, the High Priest was the mediator between God and the people. Only he could enter the Holy of Holies in the temple. (Hebrews 9:7) The Holy of Holies was a special place, considered the earthly dwelling place for God’s presence. A veil or thick curtain divided it from the rest of the temple, where man could dwell.

However, when Jesus died for our sins, that veil or curtain was miraculously “rent” or torn from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50-51) God no longer dwells in temples made of hands. (Acts 17:24) The way to God the Father is not through the temple, but through Christ His Son, because Jesus is now our High Priest. (Hebrews 10:19-22) We don’t need to go through another person like a priest, a minister, a guru, a psychic, or an angel to have access to God.

We now have direct unlimited access to the Triune God. (Ephesians 2:17-18) And God places no restrictions on who can come to Him. He places no restrictions on how often we can come. He places no restrictions on what we can discuss.  

In fact, God beckons us to come. If we are tired and weary, God says if we come to Him, He will give us rest. (Matthew 11:28) If we are thirsty, He will fill us with living water. (John 7:37) In fact, He says that He will not drive away any who come to Him. (John 6:37)

You might say God has an open door policy. God is always available and His door is always open to any who want to come. You might say that we always have a VIP ticket of entry. I find that kind of comforting in a world where my name is not on the access list to many prestigious places.  

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Acceptance

From God comes…

From God comes acceptance, not rejection.

We all have a fear of rejection. The roots for this can start with childhood experiences. Maybe it stems from parents constantly belittling their children or being chosen last for a team. We feel like failures when we are turned down for dates, don’t get into the college of our choice, don’t get the job we want, don’t place in the contest, don’t receive the promotion, don’t win the election, or a loved one leaves us for another. Most of us writers have more rejection slips than pay stubs for manuscripts we’ve submitted to editors.

Fear of rejection has us look for the approval of others, rather than God. Many build walls of protection around themselves hoping to never get hurt again. Most spend their lives trying to avoid rejection rather than learning to deal with it. Unfortunately, there are no courses on “How to Bounce Back 101” so we travel life’s highway feeling unwanted and unloved. This feeds into lies Satan wants us to believe like: we are alone, we aren’t good enough, no one cares, and God has forsaken us.

The Bible is full of stories of rejection. Joseph was rejected by his brothers. (Genesis 37) Moses was rejected by those he put himself in jeopardy to help. (Exodus 2:14) David was rejected by King Saul although he was Saul’s loyal servant. (1 Samuel 18:7-11) Paul was rejected, stoned, and left for dead by those to whom he preached. (Acts 14:19-20)

No one is immune from rejection—not even Jesus Christ. Jesus was rejected by those in His hometown. (Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6). He was rejected by many of His followers. (John 6:60) He was rejected by those He came to save. (Isaiah 53:3) After everything God had done for the Israelites, they rejected Him and wanted a physical king like other nations. (1 Samuel 10:19)

Perhaps this is why in God’s plan of salvation everyone is accepted. (Acts 10:34) No one is unloved or unwanted. God loved us from the beginning. While we were sinners He died for us. (Romans 5:6-11) God wants us and loves us just the way we are. Of course, we might want to make a few changes but not so we can earn God’s love because we already have that. God does not want anyone to feel inferior. We are automatically part of the in-crowd, on the team, chosen, winners, and loved.

God created us for acceptance not rejection. That’s why He accepts us and will never reject us. God will not force Himself on us, but He will invite us into a relationship. The tricky part is that we need to say, “Yes!” We have the power to reject God, but He will never reject us.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Our New Name

From God comes…

From God comes our new name.

Changing one’s name is not a unique concept. Movie stars used to do it all the time. Doris Kappelhoff became Doris Day. Marion Morrison became John Wayne. Issur Danielovitch became Kirk Douglas. Leonard Slye became Roy Rogers. Eugene Orowitz became Michael Landon.

Most film stars don’t change their names anymore. We just learn how to pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Seyfried, Lupita Nyong’o, Joe Manganiello, Saoirse Ronan, Zach Galifianakis, Gal Gadote, Idris Elba, and Timothee Chalamet or go see a different show. Annette Funicello once asked Walt Disney if she should change her name. He advised her not to do it because once people learned how to enunciate Funicello, they would never forget her. And although Schwarzenegger rolls off the tip of our tongues now, doesn’t mean it came easy the first few times we tried to say it.

God was not beyond changing a few names in the Bible, usually to remind people of their new identity in Him. (Isaiah 43:1) Or perhaps to let them know He had something special in mind for them.

For example, Abram means “high father,” but God changed it to Abraham meaning “father of multitudes.” (Genesis 17:5) Sarai means “my princess,” but God changed it to Sarah meaning “mother of nations.” (Genesis 17:15) Jacob means “holder of the heel” or “supplanter,” but God changed it to Israel which means “having power with God.” (Genesis 32:28) Simon means “God has heard,” but God also called him Peter meaning “rock” to indicate that he would help lay the foundation for the church. (Matthew 16:18; John 1:42)

Saul became Paul. (Acts 13:9) We have no reason given. However, Paul means “little or small.” Saul was a haughty, proud man until his transformation. He then became a humble servant of God. (Philippians 3:7-11)

Name changes can have a profound effect on people. Years ago, I heard an NPR interview with Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries which works with L.A. gang members. He said that when kids get inducted into a gang, the first thing done is to give them new names like Scrappy, Bugsy, or Spike. These new names give a sense of belonging and become their new identities. They write them on walls to acknowledge their existence.   

Today, when we encounter Christ, God changes our names as well. We are called Christians. Our personal encounter with Christ is just as significant as when God changed the names of those in the Bible. We put off our old identity and get a new one in Christ. We are not the same person. (2 Corinthians 5:17) We belong to Christ.

People will know us by our God given new name because metaphorically we write it everywhere we go by the way we live our lives.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Something New

From God comes…

From God comes something new.

The word “new” sounds hopeful and happy. As kids we relished that new toy. As a teen we loved getting that new car. It might have been a second hand Toyota, but it was new to us. As adults we dreamed of moving into a new home or getting a new higher paying job.

God likes giving us new things, too. In fact, He tells us in Isaiah 43:19, “Behold I will do a new thing.” He loves to give these new things to His chosen people. (Isaiah 43:20-21)

In the Bible, the word “new” is often used in reference to the Christian life. Once we surrender our lives to Christ, new things begin to happen. Our old selves pass away and we become a new creation in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17) God actually makes us a new creation. This is a miracle! We begin to realize that we should no longer live for ourselves but live for Christ. It’s a new concept for us but we discover that we actually belong to Christ. We are His and He lives in us. (Galatians 2:20)

This gives us a new focus. We see the world through spiritual eyes. It doesn’t happen instantly but progressively as we journey with Jesus. We learn to abandon our old ways and embrace a new way to live. (Colossians 3:9-10) Kindness, humility, meekness, forgiveness, and love become our new motivation. (Colossians 3:12-17) By following Jesus, we learn how to put off our former conduct so we can live a new and better life. (Ephesians 4:20-24)

When we become a new creation, God puts a new song in our mouths to praise Him. (Psalm 40:3) He gives us a new commandment which is to love others the same way He loves us. (John 13:34-35) He gives us a new heart and spirit so we can walk with Him. (Ezekiel 11:19) One day, God will give us a new body to replace one filled with aches and pains. (Philippians 3:21) Until then, God’s love and mercies are brand new every morning so we can benefit from receiving them daily. (Lamentations 3:22-23) Each day is an opportunity to experience every new thing God makes available to us. (Psalm 118:24)

A life lived for God is never dull or boring. It’s full of joy and hope for the future. We can anticipate the new heaven and earth that is coming. (2 Peter 3:13) We can look forward to the time when God makes all things new. (Revelation 21:5) God is amazing and He is always doing something new!

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reminders

From God comes…

From God comes continual reminders.

My life is an endless cycle of walking into rooms and forgetting what I went in there to get. Although some of this can be attributed to aging, humans in general have a memory problem. That’s why we continually need to be reminded of certain things.

God was well aware of this, so the Bible is full of exhortations to remember who God is, what Christ did for us, why we are here, where we are headed, and how we will get there. Philippians 1:6 reminds us that we are work in progress. God began that work in us and will faithfully complete it. To help complete this work, God sends us continual reminders of His greatness and who we are in Christ.

Sometimes a ritual can help us remember things. Baptism reminds us that Christ died for our sins and we should die to self as we are resurrected into a new life in Christ. Partaking of the bread and wine in a Communion service reminds us to stay connected to God. It helps us remember who Christ is and who we are in Christ. 

Other Christian habits such as going to church, reading the Bible, meditating on God’s words, or praying reinforce this as well. Just like Communion reminds us to stay connected to God, going to church reminds us to stay connected to others. Reading the Bible reminds us of who God is and His plan for our lives. Meditating on God’s Word reminds us to apply it in how we live. Prayer reminds us that God is in charge.

C.S. Lewis put it this way in his book Vice and Virtue, A Dictionary of the Good Life: “…once you have accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious reading and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.” 

If we are spiritually receptive, we can sense God’s reminders every day. The sun, moon, and stars can remind us of God’s vast power as Creator and Sustainer. The spring season can remind us of God’s message of rebirth, renewal, and hope. A hymn can remind us of God’s faithfulness. The sound of an ambulance can remind us we live in a hurting world that only God can heal. A child’s laughter can remind us to become like little children so we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The list is endless.

God knows we can be forgetful, so He arranged that everything we experience can be a continual reminder of who He is and who we are in Christ. They are there if we know how to look for them.

****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Victory Over Death

From God comes…

From God comes victory over death.

Thousands of years ago, Job asked a question about death that has continued to plague mankind. “If a man dies, will he live again?” (Job 14:14) Science may be able to prolong life but not cheat death. Everyone knows death is inevitable and it’s only natural that people want to know what happens after we die.

Death can be hard to face. The Bible refers to it as our final enemy. (1 Corinthians 15:26) A loved one’s death can fill us with helplessness or if it comes quickly, anger. Facing our own death may have us feeling fearful, uncertain, perhaps defeated. Even those who bail out of life with suicide are hoping for something better.

At this time of year, we are reminded of the One who lived and died for us. Jesus Christ loved us so much He came to earth, lived among us, and freely died for our sins. But death was not the end of the story—for He rose from the dead and is victorious. 1 Corinthians 15:42-55 says, “…Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is thy sting?”

The good news is that Christ’s victory over death is ours as well. He fought the battle for us. All we have to do is to choose to partake of this victory in Christ. John 5:24 tells us, “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” This has nothing to do with living a good life or earning salvation. It comes from believing and trusting God.

When we understand this concept, singing old hymns like “Victory in Jesus” have so much more meaning—for His victory is our victory too!

Christ was crucified and died willingly for our sins. Because of this we are forgiven and no longer condemned. This is great news, but without Christ’s resurrection it would be null and void. Christ was delivered to death for our sins, but raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:23-24)

Death no longer holds us in bondage. (1 Corinthians 15:55) Christ’s victory over death is our victory, too. (1 Corinthians 15:57) Because Christ lives, we can live also. (Romans 6:8, 9) We who believe in Him will live—even though we might die, we will live again. (John 11:25-26)

Job’s question can be answered because at death our “perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Death doesn’t have to be the end; it can be the beginning. Death is swallowed in victory.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Resurrection

From God comes…

From God comes the resurrection.

When the women went to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his dead body with spices, they were surprised to find that He had risen from the dead. (Mark 16:1) When they told the disciples, the disciples had a hard time believing it. Peter went back to the tomb to check for himself. (Matthew 24:8-12) Although, Jesus had told them this would happen, it was still hard to believe. (John 20:9) But now Christ’s words rang true!

Belief in the resurrection is an integral part of the Christian faith. Jesus tells us in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

Some doubt the resurrection of Christ happened. It was the same in Jesus’s time. Rumors spread. It was said that the disciples stole the body to make it look like Jesus had risen. (Matthew 28:13) Or the Roman authorities removed the body. Or eye witnesses who actually saw Jesus were hallucinating. Even when the more than 500 saw Christ at the same time, some surmised that they were all caught up in a “mass ecstasy.”

However, the disciples believed and some even died because of it. They would not have been willing to die for a lie. Realistically, the Romans would have gladly produced Jesus’s body if they had it to debunk Christianity. It’s doubtful that all the eyewitnesses would have hallucinated the same thing. And “mass ecstasy” sounds like a feeble attempt to find anything to support a losing battle.

When Paul spoke to the philosophers in Athens, the intellectual center of the world, he preached Jesus and His resurrection. (Acts 17:18) This message was so remarkable and amazing that it turned the world upside down. (Acts 17:6) God has given assurance to all men because He raised Jesus from the dead. (Acts 17:31) 

Critics don’t deny that Jesus lived. There is too much evidence to the contrary. But it wasn’t Christ’s life that led to the spread of Christianity; it was His death and resurrection. The late German Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch said, “It wasn’t the morality of the Sermon on the Mount which enabled Christianity to conquer Roman Paganism, but the belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead.”

Without Christ’s resurrection, Christian faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:17) In other words, the resurrection declares that Christ is Lord. Without it, He would be just another moral teacher or dead prophet.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment