Perfect Love

“Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. ~ John 19:30

That, my friends, is what today – Good Friday – is all about. Jesus, fully God and fully man, was the one perfect sacrifice to redeem all sin. He could have stopped this at any time; but He didn’t.

There is but one Source of Perfect Love: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

May He richly bless you on this Good Friday.

Note to Self: Put ‘Busy’ in Perspective…..

KellerTxDad:

Here is a healthy perspective on Easter preparations posted by a sister in Christ. Enjoy!

Originally posted on OH, THE THINGS WE SHALL SEE ~ Photo companion blog to TheSanctuaryofMyHeart.com:

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I love Easter. I admit that I get caught up in the fun side of the holiday. I mean really, how could you not–especially with young kids around. Coloring eggs, eating jelly beans, egg and spoon races, and hunts to find those marvelous treat-filled plastic eggs–all spell fun for kids both young and old. As I began to mentally prepare for a party I will host on Saturday with friends, I sensed I was beginning to feel the pressure of wanting to make it perfect. Tuesday would be a hurried day of shopping for the event, and my focus was shifting–it was becoming all about me and how I will make that day memorable.

As I sat with my Bible Monday evening, the party and plans still lingering in my mind, I thought about Tuesday for Jesus. I have heard it referred to as “Busy Tuesday” by some…

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Complaining Or Celebrating?

When we grumble and complain about our circumstances – whatever those may be – against whom are we really grumbling and complaining?

When I read about the history of Israel in the Old Testament, I am always struck by their grumbling and complaining. They complain they have no food. They complain that they are thirsty. They complain that Moses was on the mountain for too long. Each time they complain, Moses goes to God and He addresses their complaint. What they seem to forget, however, is where they came from. They came from bondage in Egypt where they were forced to labor in hard conditions. Through the power and intervention of Almighty God, Israel was freed from their bondage with the promise of a new land reserved by God just for them – a land flowing with milk and honey. But in the heat of the moment, all perspective is lost as the immediate circumstance takes center stage in their lives.

It’s easy for us modern day Christians to look down our noses at Israel’s lack of faith and perseverance. But, on closer examination, are we really much different from them? Of course, few of us come from a life of enslaved bondage. But think about this: God has delivered us from a different sort of bondage; a more sinister and evil bondage called sin. God tells us in His Word that all have sinned and have fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Our sin separates us from God, and a life of sin condemns us to an eternity of torment.

Just as God rescued Israel from their enslavement to Egypt, so He also rescues us from our bondage to sin – not because we are deserving; not because we are worthy – but because He loves us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). What amazing news!

So what does this have with Israel’s grumbling and complaining, or mine for that matter? Here is where the rubber meets the road: I grumble and complain often; don’t you? I complain about traffic rather than thanking God for my air-conditioned vehicle and the nice roads that take me to and from work each day. I complain about ownership changes to my employer rather than thanking God for a fulfilling career that enables me to provide for my family. I complain that my steak isn’t prepared exactly as I like it rather than thanking God for a full stomach. I complain about my shortcomings rather than thanking God for my strengths. Even knowing the reality of eternal life by my faith in Jesus, I find reasons to complain – just like the Israelites. My complaining is evidence of misplaced trust, just as theirs was. May God forgive me for my lack of faith.

This is Holy Week. This week we Christians remember and celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection that delivers us from the bondage of sin into His eternal presence. This week especially, let us not allow life’s circumstances to derail our worship and replace it with grumbling and complaining. Instead, let us pray that every time we are tempted to gripe or complain, God will remind us of the rich blessing we have through His Son, Jesus Christ as we celebrate the Good News of eternal life through Him.

Perseverance and Wisdom ~ James 1:1-5

I remember when I purchased my MacBook Air that it came with a Quick Start Guide while offering the full user’s manual online. I purchased my Mac; I made that commitment. To learn the essentials I referred to the Quick Start Guide; but to master it I must read the user’s manual.

I have read James’ Epistle in its entirety several times. The Book of James is sort of like the Christian’s Quick Start Guide. You’ve come to faith in Christ and you want a quick, easy to understand overview of what your life in Christ should look like – read the Book of James. To work towards “mastering” the Christian life (“mastering” in quotes because we will not “master” the Christian life until we are reunited with Jesus in Heaven) we must study the entirety of His Word as He revealed it to us in The Holy Bible.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

From the moment we come to faith in Jesus, we Christians face a barrage of challenges. We often find ourselves in situations and discussions that pit our faith in Christ and our knowledge about God’s ways against worldly views that seek to usurp His sovereignty. Proponents of worldly values forcefully argue their position and challenge the faithful to overcome them. Persecution abounds and is quick to raise its head when we who are faithful share views grounded in Scripture that are against the grain of modern societal thought. The path of least resistance is to be quiet; to shrink back and let the prince of the power of the air (see Ephesians 2:2) have his way. Sadly, we even see this phenomenon in the church as some churches have adopted worldly views and watered down teachings so as to avoid offending the “seeker” that might wander inside on any given Sunday morning.

The world’s arguments can be persuasive. But they are not grounded in Truth.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Our only source of true wisdom is God Himself. We seek His wisdom through study of His Word and through prayer. Only when we seek God’s wisdom are we properly equipped to discern His Truth and stand firmly upon it. Only with God’s help are we equipped to witness to the truth in a world that is increasingly rejecting it. On our own, this is an insurmountable task. But by trusting God for wisdom, and armed with the true wisdom that comes only from Him, we can persevere.

Bounty in God’s Word

This year I’ve embarked on a plan to read the entire Bible over the course of the year. This morning I completed Deuteronomy, thus having read the five books of Moses in sequence for the first time in my life. In reading these first five books of the Bible, one truth continually rings loud and clear: We serve The Holy, Sovereign, Awesome, Almighty, All-Powerful, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent God of the Universe! He is not our “buddy; He is not the “man upstairs.” He is Almighty God!

It saddens me that many modern day Christians view the Old Testament as irrelevant for these modern times. I know that some churches rarely, if ever, preach and teach the Old Testament. I can understand that, in a way, because there are some difficult passages there. But not reading it and not studying it tends to, over time, cloud our understanding of who God is and what He’s all about. Satan is overjoyed when we whittle away at God’s Truth in this manner.

In the days of the early Christian church, the Old Testament was used in presenting the Gospel message. Consider this, one of my favorite accounts from the book of Acts:

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road–the desert road–that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. (Acts 32:26-38)

See? The Old Testament isn’t a collection of outdated and irrelevant writings. It is all about Jesus! All of it! The entirety of the Old Testament points straight to Him as God works out His plan of salvation for the world.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What Paul understood, and what he wanted those of us coming after him to understand, is that a whole and complete understanding of Scripture is essential to gaining a whole and complete understanding of God and His Good News of the Gospel. If we don’t study Jesus in the context of the Old Testament, our understanding of Him becomes skewed.

As we believers seek to build a life that faithfully serves the Living God, we must be in His Word – all of His Word – so that we stay grounded in the Truth. God’s Word is an incredible, beautiful gift to His children. Let’s unwrap it and enjoy the bounty therein.

My Foundation for a Successful Vacation

When is the last time you took a vacation? I’m not necessarily talking about an expensive trip to an exotic destination; I’m talking about a simple break from your daily routine. Merriam-Webster defines vacation as, “a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel” (Merriam-webster.com). Speaking strictly from personal experience, we all need to retreat from routine once in awhile to reenergize ourselves. Our minds need a break and our bodies need rest.

We work in an age of immediacy. People send email and expect a (sometimes unreasonably) quick reply. Instant messaging, a means of communication even more immediate than email, is becoming more popular at work. I’ve heard of 2-hour voice mail standards in some work places. Pile these communications on top of increasing workloads and multiple projects and we have created for ourselves a stressful work environment that leaves us exhausted at the end of the day. Multiply that day by weeks and then by months and, at some point, our minds and our bodies say, “Enough already!”

Sadly, along with the convenience and immediacy of modern forms of communications comes what I call The Fear of Disconnecting. Many of us cannot or will not disconnect from work, even when supposedly on vacation, because we suffer from The Fear. Seriously? Are any of us really so important that our workplace would collapse if we disappeared for a week or two? Unfortunately, I know many colleagues who, by their actions, seem to take that notion to heart. I’m asking you to consider otherwise.

After years of vacationing with my laptop and smart phone as travel companions, I wondered why I returned from vacation pretty much as stressed as when I departed. Then it hit me: I never really disconnected. I checked email once or twice each day and replied to most messages. I checked voice mail one or more times daily and returned or forwarded important calls. I found that I was spending an hour or more of each vacation day – working! No wonder I couldn’t relax! No wonder I was stressed! “But this is what’s expected; this is what is necessary these days,” I thought.

Two years ago, I decided to conduct a personal experiment by adopting my own personal vacation policy centered on a complete disconnection from my work routine. While the benefits of such a policy are numerous, here are three benefits that should resonate with most of us:

  1. When I disconnect completely I truly enjoy the vacation experience. Whether visiting an exotic location or doing yard work at the lake (yes, that is R&R for me) the experience receives my full attention. My mind is focused on something other than routine. That’s the point.
  2. When I disconnect completely I am a better travel companion for my family. They get all of me for those few days.
  3. When I disconnect completely I return to work from vacation feeling refreshed and rejuvenated – a win for my coworkers and a win for me.

That all sounds great, but how do we pull this off in today’s world of immediate communication? How do we disconnect while respecting the expectation that we be immediately available? Friends, it’s all in the planning. Two to three weeks before my scheduled vacation, I let my boss, my coworkers, and my direct reports know of my plans. I give them the dates of my vacation and remind them that I will not check email or voice mail while I’m away. This gives them ample time to request things from me before I leave, thus mitigating the possibility of somebody needing something while I’m away and feeling frustrated because I’m not there to deliver it. I give similar notification to important business partners outside my company – in my case those include our insurance broker, our claims representatives, and our outside law firms. I give my first notice three weeks ahead of time if possible, and I repeat the notice at least once each week leading up to my scheduled vacation.

Before leaving the office, I update my voice mail greeting and my email auto-reply to clearly state that I am unavailable while offering a means of reaching a qualified coworker. If you email me today, for example, this is the message you will receive: “I am out of the office on vacation. I will not be checking email while I’m away. I will return to the office on Friday, March 28 and I will receive and reply to your email after my return. Should you require assistance before then, please contact…” Similarly, if you call my work number today, you will receive this voice mail greeting: “This is Jeff Strege with CEC Entertainment. I am on vacation. You may press zero now to be transferred to another member of the risk management team. If you’d prefer to leave a message you may do so at the tone, but I will not receive your message until I return to the office on Friday, March 28.” My goal is to clearly state that I will not receive the message until my return while giving the sender or caller a means by which they can reach somebody else for assistance.

I offer this side comment on out of office messaging: If you say you’re out, you’re out. If you set your out of office message to say you’re out, but then reply to emails or return phone calls your Out of Office Credibility is shot. When you try to disconnect for vacation, people who know you well may expect a reply anyway. Set the message and let it be.

This system has worked beautifully for me. Fortunately, I work with people who understand the needs and benefits of a real vacation – and I bet most of those reading this do as well. I dare you to try it. If it’s a scary proposition for you, take a Friday off and allow yourself to disconnect completely for the 3-day weekend. If you haven’t tried it before, you may be surprised at how refreshed you feel when you return to work on Monday.

P.S. I am not a psychologist or a human behavior expert, nor is this piece intended to persuade anybody to behave in a manner not consistent with company policy or procedure. This piece is based solely on my personal experience. Good luck!

A Quiet Witness

I often ponder what my outward life says to those around me. When people look at me, who or what do they see? In this age of social media, the question is even more impactful as I consider what every Tweet, every Facebook post and every Yelp review conveys to the world about who I am and what I stand for. I confess, I can have a quick tongue, or in the case of social media, a quick hit to the “Post” button before really considering how what I’m about to say will impact those who hear or read it.

But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12

As I was leafing through my prayer book this morning, this passage that I wrote down a few years ago jumped off the page. What is this “quiet life” that Paul speaks of? What does it look like, and what does it convey to those “outsiders” he mentions?

Taken in context, Paul is praising the Thessalonians for living a life that honors God by loving their neighbors and sanctifying themselves by avoiding sexual immorality and other sins that tarnish the soul as they mislead unbelievers about what the Christian life is really supposed to look like. As Paul encourages them with this praise, he exhorts them to “excel still more” – to continue to strive to live holy lives as God instructed.

I know Christians who lead the “quiet life” Paul speaks about. These men and women are not recluses; they do not hide from the world. Indeed, they walk among us. Their very faith, their very resolve to seek to live for the Lord emanates from their being. The Christian who lives in this manner witnesses to the world (“outsiders”) without uttering a single word; the world sees Christ through these people. These people are not perfect; they sin just as I do. But they are so tuned in to the Savior that they have a sense of peace about them that draws others to them, often opening the door to a dialogue about sin, death, and the forgiveness and everlasting life that is available only through faith in God’s Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus calls each believer to witness for Him; to share the Good News of salvation that only He offers. By honoring Him with my life I am as available to witness as I can be. To dishonor Him by how I live or what I say discredits me and my witness is called into question.

I’ve taken a hiatus from Facebook during Lent. I’m using this time to reflect on my own life and what it conveys to the “outsiders” I meet every day. I pray that God will forgive my shortcomings as He leads me to that quiet life that speaks volumes to the world. Amen.

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