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Christian Thoughts

Simple reminders of God's love and some of His truths!

Good Friday

Today is a wonderful day. It is even called “good” by nature. Today marks when Jesus died for me, for you, for everyone. It’s the day He took all of the judgment for our sins. It’s the day He took our rightful place, and saved us. He redeemed us so that we could spend an eternity in heaven with Him. It’s a day we call good Friday because it signifies the best gift anyone could ever receive.

Yet, what I always think of on Good Friday, is that on the original one, the day Jesus died, it wasn’t that good to everyone who was close to Him. To the disciples and His followers, it was a day they saw someone they believed in crucified. His family and friends saw Him die. This man that so many had put their hope in, was dead. People still didn’t realize what was happening until He came back from the dead three days later. All they saw that day was that He was crucified.

I see this so often in my own life. That I focus only on today, right now. I don’t look forward to how God might be using it for good. Despite the fact that He has used countless moments in my life that seem bad for something greater. When I’m actually in the midst of some kind of hurt, or pain, or struggle, I don’t see how there is anything good about it.

I want to encourage you today to focus on what God has done in your life already, especially those of you who might be dealing with some rough times. In the moment, it might never seem good. It might seem miserable, it might seem like God betrayed His promises to you, it might seem like the hurt will never go away, it might seem like nothing good could ever come from something so bad that is happening right now. If you’re in that spot, I want to challenge you to remember why good Friday is so good. It’s because God took something that, to all of the people on that day, seemed awful. In reality, it was God saving every single one of their lives by sacrificing His Son for us.

Maybe you’re in a moment that seems like there could never be anything good that could come from it, but God promises that He works all things together for good (Romans 8:28). God sees the whole picture, He saw the resurrection, and He sees your future and how the bad things can lead to amazing things. I know that I’ve seen that in my own life. So spend some time this weekend reflecting on what the Easter story means to you, personally. And most importantly, spend some time with God, thanking Him for the sacrifice He offered two thousand years ago.

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Give What You Have

In the third chapter of Acts, the beginning of the chapter shows Peter healing a beggar who was lame from birth. In verse six, it says: “Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’” There are two things that struck me as I read that verse today. The first made me consider what the beggar’s emotions might have been like. In verse five it says that the beggar is expecting Peter and John to give him something, then Peter immediately says I don’t have money for you. The man had his hopes up to receive money which he begged for every day, and they were immediately dashed when Peter says that’s not what he was going to get. Obviously the man received a much greater gift right after, but I imagine he was upset when Peter told him he wasn’t offering anything financial.

I can see this issue in my own life. Someone can offer to help me, or God can, but when it’s not the specific kind of help that I want, I get upset. There are times that I’ve asked God for a specific kind of help, but He ends up sending me another, greater blessing. I’m sad to say that I have scoffed at those blessings before because they were not exactly what I wanted. I might get upset because I need help with something, and God decides to bless me with prayer from a friend rather than the help I was wanting. How easy it is for me to get bothered because I “only” got some prayer.

That ties into the second thing I noted from verse six. Peter says “What I have, I give you.” We may not always be able to give people what they want or even need. You might not be financially, physically, mentally, timely, or in whatever other manner able to help someone. That doesn’t mean you can’t offer them the best gift of all: God. Whether it be in encouraging words, Scripture you know, or prayer, you can always help someone. I’ve found myself in the past saying “I wish I could do more than pray,” yet that is the absolute best thing we can do for people. Do not underestimate the power of prayer. It’s not the “only” thing you can do, it is the absolute best thing.

Honesty

Being honest with God is a funny concept to me. God already knows everything. He knows what we have done, what we have even thought, He literally knows everything. Yet I still hide my true feelings from God all of the time. I still try to pretend that everything is okay, to others, to myself, and even to God, when inside I’m broken and falling apart. Have you ever had a moment where you just stopped lying and pretending and got honest with God? I’ve had plenty of those moments in my life. Usually they occur once I reach a breaking point and I can’t pretend anymore.

There are several things in my life that have been a struggle for years. I still hide from my feelings regarding those issues at times. I feel like I’ve bugged my friends enough about those issues. I feel like I’ve bugged them enough asking for cheering up or encouraging words on the same topic over and over. I feel like I’ve bugged God enough on the subject as well. I’ve prayed to Him about these issues for over a decade.

I can thankfully say that God has worked with me a lot in these areas through all of that prayer, and that they are no longer a constant, day to day struggle I deal with. Things still happen that begin to beat me down though. I’ve gone to God over and over and over about this stuff, but the problem is that I usually wait too late. I’ve had moments where these hurtful emotions and feelings come up and I didn’t want to bother Him with the same problem again. I justify not talking to Him about it by saying that He’s already helped me so much. What more will He do? He’s given me an improved mindset in this area, He’s walked with me through this issue. Yet I still don’t want to talk to Him about it when I start feeling down again.

I hide from God far more often than I need to. All that does is increase and multiply the pain I need help with. I know it only makes things worse by holding it all in, yet I still do. On top of that, God already knows exactly how I feel, yet I still don’t talk to Him about it because I’ve “done that enough.”

Please allow me to tell you, go to God right away. It doesn’t matter what it is, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been dealing with a hurt, pain, struggle, addiction, or whatever the case may be. He won’t think any less of you for it, He will always love you the same. Plus He already knows all about it. So stop hiding from God, stop running from Him when He is the only one that can give you real help. Holding it all in isn’t going to protect you. You’re going to have to deal with the issue eventually. The longer you wait though, the worse it gets. Take it from someone who knows (yet still makes that mistake constantly).

God has given us so much, He has given us His Son. The least we can do is to go to Him and not pray generic, nice sounding prayers. Go to God, yell and scream about the things going on if that’s how you feel. Cry if the sadness is overwhelming. Shout praises when things are going well (or anytime really). The important thing is to just be honest with Him. If it matters to you, it matters to God…even if you’ve brought it up to him a thousand times.

The Jesus Diet

Getting into shape is difficult. I know that I would absolutely love to wake up one day and be in perfect physical shape. That’s not how it happens though. If I want to get into shape, I have to workout and exercise, I have to eat healthy, and it’s not gonna happen if I do those things for one day. It has to be a constant, daily effort to focus on healthy food options rather than delicious chocolatey ones. A daily effort to get up and exercise rather than to sit down and play video games or watch TV all day. It’s the same way in our walk with Christ. Notice it’s called a walk with Christ, because you’re not supposed to be sitting down and doing nothing. It is a daily commitment to choose the healthy option of following God, rather than the unhealthy one of following myself and the world.

I really would be excited if all of a sudden I was in great physical shape, but I find myself less excited as I get into better spiritual shape. It’s easy for me to get more excited about things like losing weight, getting good grades, getting a raise, or things that are more tangible. I find myself celebrating less often when God works with me so that I don’t get angry as quickly as I used to. Sure, things like work and school are important, but they aren’t going to shape your eternity. Following God will.

Perhaps you need to work on your spiritual diet so you can get in better shape spiritually. Maybe instead of having one big meal of God a week on Sunday mornings, you should have little snacks with Him throughout each day. You might need food and water to live, but if you truly want to live, you need God. You need constant time with Him. He is far more important than anything else you can do today.

Pestering Sin

Fighting sin and temptation is a constant struggle. It’s a daily struggle. Sometimes a sin can seem completely unappealing to you at first. It can look like nothing you would ever want to take part in, but then it begins to chip away. A temptation can keep at you until you’re tired of saying no, tired of fighting it, and instead decide to just give in. In Judges 14:17 and 16:16, Samson is a victim to this. The women in his life pressed him and nagged him until he revealed his secrets to them.

I can see sin being that way in my own life. I can be resisting it fine at first, but then day after day it keeps tempting me. Eventually I’ll say “I’m tired of fighting this constant temptation, I’ll just give in to it so I can quit being bothered by it.” This is especially true in addictions that I’m trying to overcome. I’ll resist it for a while, then get tired of the constant fight and just give in. That can’t be the way that we live though. For Samson, it eventually cost him his life by giving in to Delilah’s nagging. In the same way, it will cost us our own lives if we give into sin when it continually tempts us (which it always will). Perhaps not physically, but spiritually it will kiss us.

God will always forgive us, but that’s not an excuse to sin. He will never give us more than we can handle. He will always provide us with the strength needed to withstand temptation. We have to be willing to rely on His power and not our own though. The next time you’re being tempted by that sin that never seems to go away or leave you alone, just stop and pray and remind yourself of the power of God, and that He is always with you. Remind yourself that His strength will never give up, no matter how much nagging and constant irritation a temptation might be giving you.

Constant Time with God

Joshua 1:8 says “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

This is what God said to Joshua after Moses had died, and Joshua was becoming the leader of the Israelites. He was telling Joshua to always be talking about the Scriptures. They didn’t have the entire Bible as we do now, but they still had enough to always be talking about it. How little do we talk about the Bible now, when we have so much more than the Israelites did at that point? I know that outside of church or church events, the Bible is not a topic of conversation very often. Yet God is telling Joshua, right before he takes charge, to always keep it on His lips. Not just to be talking about it, but to meditate on it day and night. God wanted Joshua to be talking and thinking about the Word constantly.

God didn’t just tell this to Joshua as a command and only a command. He gave Joshua a promise with it. That if Joshua actually followed through and meditated on the Word, and talked about it, that “then you will be prosperous and successful.” It’s funny how often I complain about things not going my way, yet this is an obvious verse about why that may be. I know that a lot of times, my plans and ideas are not God’s ideas or plans for me. It’s when I’m digging into His Word, when I’m really spending time with Him in prayer and focusing on God throughout the day that I actually can get a glimpse as to what God wants me to be doing. That’s when things start to go right for me, when I’m actually doing the things I know that God is calling me to do.

So if you feel like things are going poorly for you, or that lately a lot of things have been going wrong, read this verse and think about it. Are you keeping the Book of the Law always on your lips? Are you meditating on it the entire day so that you can follow it? Or, are you more often like me, and you’ll talk about it once or twice a week and that’s it? That you’ll think briefly about the Bible during your daily quiet time but nothing besides then? I encourage you to really spend your time meditating on God’s Word. Maybe it’s this verse, maybe it’s another passage God has been trying to get you to focus in on, but spend your day thinking about God’s Word, His promises, what He says about you, what He says to do or not to do, or what He’s been teaching you. Just spend time thinking about God and the amazing love story the Bible holds.

Be Strong and Courageous

The book of Joshua is filled with one phrase spoken by God over and over: “Be strong and courageous.” Joshua had been Moses’ number one guy for most of his life. He had fought battles already, he had helped Moses in leading the people. He was one of the two spies that went into the land God promised the Israelites and came back trusting in God’s power rather than the earthly might they saw. Yet, God very regularly reminded him to be strong and courageous.

This is a man that was one of Isreal’s greatest leaders. He continually did what God told him to do, and it always worked out just like God said when he and the Israelites obeyed. God still commanded him to be strong and courageous. That encourages me. It encourages me to know that this man, someone who had followed God his entire life, who learned immensely by following in the footsteps of Moses, that won battle after battle and led the Israelites into the land God had promised them so many years earlier, still needed God to remind him on a rather regular basis to be strong and courageous. It encourages me to know that a highly respectable man in the Bible still needed reminding to not be afraid.

When I follow God, it can be scary sometimes. Even when I know it’s the better choice, when I know that things will ultimately work out if I follow what God wants me to do, it’s still terrifying to actually step out and follow through. Joshua helps to remind me that in those moments, God is looking at me and commanding me: “be strong and courageous.” It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command from God. Joshua 1:9 demonstrates that. God commands us all to be strong and courageous in all of the areas of our lives, because we’re not relying on our own power. We’re not just hoping that things will somehow work out. We know that God is in control. So even when I’m fearful and need reminding to be strong and courageous, I know it’s because I don’t need to worry about things. God’s got it.

Sin is Ugly

When was the last time you stopped and thought about how bad your sin is? I know I tend to not think about it. I don’t want to think about just how ugly it is…How ugly it makes me. The fact is that we all sin. That sin separates us from God. He is completely holy and righteous, there is no way He could ever be near us when our sin makes us so unholy and filthy. That’s what the cross was for.

Have you thought about what Jesus did for you recently? Not in passing while you do communion at church, but really thought about it? Jesus suffered for your sin. He endured the most miserable death you could imagine. He was beaten, whipped, had nails driven into his hands and feet, and then very slowly died of suffocation. As if that weren’t enough, He took the weight of everyone’s sin on that cross. My sin, your sin, the entire world’s: past, present, and future. God’s wrath, his just judgment of sin poured out on Jesus on that cross. Jesus suffered more than anyone could ever imagine, just for you and me.

Yet how do we treat sin? I treat it as nothing most of the time. I’ll sin, and then I’ll go to God and passively say that I’m sorry and ask forgiveness. How can that be my mindset? Sin is serious. It is not something trivial we can shrug off because I’ve sinned a million of other times. My sin is something I need to go to God and beg His forgiveness for, not say a little prayer and barely mean it. Sin separates us from God. It creates a gap that we could never fill. Jesus came to earth and suffered the most agonizing death imaginable to get us back to God.

Please, spend some time reflecting on what sin really looks like. Don’t look at it lightly so that you can feel better about whatever things you might be doing. Understand how hugely serious sin is, and by doing that, you’ll see even more how much God loves you. That He is willing to forgive anything that’s been done, that He was willing to sacrifice His Son so that we could spend eternity with Him. Our sin might be big, but God’s love and mercy is so much bigger.

God Loves You

God loves you. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done today. It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday, this year, or at any point in your entire life. God loves you no matter what. Jesus still sacrificed Himself for you two millennia ago even if you’re caught up in sin today. There are times this is so hard for me to believe. I get so focused on the good and bad things I do that I forget that the point is the relationship with God.

There are so many times I give into a temptation and beat myself down over it because I messed up over the same sin I always give in to. I’ll look down on myself because after years of following Christ I still struggle with some of the same things I did when I first dedicated my life to Him. I look at all my mess ups and mistakes and the countless times I don’t even try to fight temptation and just give in to it and sin. I see myself as unworthy, not good enough, and unlovable. That’s not true though. We might all fall short of God, but Jesus came to earth and died so that wouldn’t matter. Jesus loves us so much, that He chose to die rather than spend eternity away from us.

It’s easy to feel like God doesn’t love you. It’s easy for me, I know that much. Let me remind you though, that even on your very worst day, if you are not hearing “beloved,” then it’s not God’s voice that you’re hearing. God says that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. He calls you His friend, His son/daughter, and over and over again the Bible says that God loves you.

The next time that you hear a lie saying that you are not good enough, that you’re a screw up, or anything else, stop and ask yourself “Would Jesus say this about me?” Then you can remind yourself of what He does say about you over the lie that tries to break you.

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