Your lot in life

There are people I refer to as Eeyore Christians. You know, always depressed, pessimistic, gloomy. Glass half empty kind of people. These are the sort of people who may say that they’ve just accepted their lot in life. And they believe themselves to be of great piety as they say it.

But, guess what? These people are sorely mistaken! Too many Christians have taken that one small phrase from a larger portion of scripture and have used it to justify the fact that they refuse to work harder or find any joy at all right where they are. Accepting your lot in life has absolutely nothing to do with settling for a sub-par existence.

And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God.

Ecclesiastes 5:19 (NLT)

Have you ever heard someone say that they just had to accept their lot in life and say it with joy? I doubt it. It’s usually with that Eeyore drone as though they are meant to go through life alone, unhappy, sick, and poor.

But there is nothing in this portion of Ecclesiastes that would indicate all of those things are our lot in life. It points to the opposite.

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work—whatever they do under the sun—for however long God lets them live. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God. People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (NLT)

Is poverty a gift from God? No! Is pain a gift from God? No! Is sorrow a gift from God? No!

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.

John 10:10 (NLT)

To accept your lot in life is to accept a life of fullness no matter where you find yourself. Life may not be what you thought or planned it would be, but that doesn’t mean that you have to slog through it accepting all the junk life may throw at you. To accept your lot in life means to trust that God still has a good plan for you. It means to look for the joy in the things you see and do every day. It means be thankful and grateful for today and all that comes with it. And, above all, it means enjoying life.

So go ahead, accept your lot.

Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have.

Ecclesiastes 6:9a (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 4-6, 2 Corinthians 10

God’s gift to humanity

Have you ever known someone who acted as though they were God’s gift to humanity? This person can do no wrong. Say no wrong. They are the be all and end all. Their talent and wisdom abounds… But they’re a complete jerk. You can have all the knowledge and talent in the world, but if you have no love, it’s all worthless.

If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I know all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)

We all tend to skip down in this chapter to the part about love being patient and kind. But what about why we should love? Have you ever wondered why this chapter about love is stuck right in the middle of a bunch of chapters about the gifts of the Holy Spirit? It wasn’t so that we’d have something nice to say at weddings. It is so that we understand that, while we should desire the gifts of the Spirit, we should desire to love more—because love is what makes the gifts work. Love came before them and love will endure after them. Without love, these incredible gifts that God gives to us are useless.

Like the person who believes they are everything to everyone, but loves no one, their words and actions are meaningless. How can someone receive a word of wisdom or prophecy if the person delivering it lacks love? How can the gift of faith be activated to heal if you don’t first love the person in need of a miracle? What is a gift worth if it is not given in love?

There are three things that will endure—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

God’s gift to humanity is not a know-it-all. God’s gift to humanity is love—the love He freely gives to us and the ability He has given us to love others. As Paul begins the next chapter, let love be your highest goal.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 3-4, 1 Corinthians 13

Free gift

Like many of the Jews in Paul’s time, there are a lot of people now who are still under the impression that God won’t hand out His grace unless we work for it. If I can just do this one thing, then God will love me or if I can accomplish that, then I’ll be worthy. That’s not how this faith thing works.

So that’s why faith is the key! God’s promise is given to us as a free gift. And we are certain to receive it, whether or not we follow Jewish customs, if we have faith like Abraham’s.

Romans 4:16 (NLT)

God’s promise—salvation—is given to us as a free gift. All we need is faith like Abraham. So what did Abraham’s faith look like?

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything he promised. And because of Abraham’s faith, God declared him to be righteous.

Romans 4:20-22 (NLT)

All Abraham did was believe that whatever God said was true—whether he could see it immediately or not. In fact, the longer Abraham believed without seeing, the more he brought glory to God! God didn’t tell Abraham His promise would be fulfilled if only Abraham did A, B, and C. He simply made the promise.

But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work.

Romans 4:5 (NLT)

The law is impossible to fulfill. God knew that when He gave it to Israel. The fact that we cannot fulfill the law on our own makes our need for a covenant with God obvious. That is why Jesus was sent to be the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:17).

It takes all the pressure off of us when we come to the realisation that Jesus came and did what we could never do on our own. The only price we must pay to receive the free gift of salvation is our humility—admitting that we cannot do enough works to make ourselves worthy, but need to accept what Jesus did for us on the cross in order to be made righteous. I once heard a pastor say that the greatest fight to our faith is learning not to fight. Abraham simply believed and was made righteous. The more he believed, the more he brought glory to God.

…you are faithful to your promises, O God.

Psalm 71:22b (NLT)

Let’s stop complicating righteousness. It’s one of the easiest things in the world to receive. I was born into this world with a sinful nature. I cannot do anything to make myself worthy of God’s call. God made a way for me and it’s free. All I need to do is hold out my hand and accept it. It’s a free gift.

And really, who doesn’t want to accept a free gift?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 70-72, Romans 4

JOY!

JOY: The gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exultation; exhilaration or spirits.

I believe that there are some, or even a lot, of Christians who are under the impression that joy is not something we should feel or express on a consistent basis. Maybe someone who is struggling will be offended by our joyful mood. We don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable by being happy all the time. It’s weird to always be in a good mood.

This is another occasion where I have not been able to find scripture to back up a pervasive idea that has invaded so many churches and Christians. There is nothing in God’s Word that would suggest that Christians must be a somber folk, not given to smiles our bouts of laughter. Everything I’ve discovered would indicate the exact opposite.

What joy for those you choose to bring near,
those who live in your holy courts.
What joy awaits us
inside your holy temple.

Psalm 65:4 (NLT)

We should be joyful because God has brought us near and that joy doesn’t even have to wait because we are His holy temple. Joy should be an overwhelming experience that saturates every day of our lives.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Philippians 4:4 (NLT)

Joy isn’t just an experience or an emotion.

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

Joy is a byproduct of the Holy Spirit being active in our lives. According to Proverbs 17:22, a cheerful heart is good medicine. Nehemiah 8:10 tells you not to be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! Our joy should be contagious, infectious, making us stronger.

By allowing ourselves to experience a gift that God has given us, we not only strengthen ourselves, but we then have the opportunity to pass on that joy and strength to others. Google a video of a baby laughing and see how long you can keep a straight face. Joy is meant to be shared.

When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

John 15:10-11 (NLT)

Joy is simply the overflow of the love of God in our lives. Try spreading a little joy today. Smile at a few strangers. Laugh with a friend. Take note of how you are affected. See if you can improve someone else’s day.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 65-67, Romans 2

Opportunity knocks

OPPORTUNITY: Fit or convenient time; a time favorable for the purpose; suitable time combined with other favorable circumstances

Opportunity sounds like a good thing to me. Who wouldn’t want a time favourable for a purpose? Who wouldn’t want favourable circumstances?

Many people, though, through the misguidance of others or through their own ignorance aren’t even aware of the greatest opportunity that will ever be offered on this side of eternity.

The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by crucifying him. Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this to give the people of Israel an opportunity to turn from their sins and turn to God so their sins would be forgiven.

Acts 5:30-31 (NLT)

Jesus died to give us an opportunity—a suitable time combined with favourable circumstances—to turn from our sins and turn to God so we can be forgiven. When is that opportune time? Right now. It is always right now.

For God says,

“At just the right time I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.”

Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT)

Today is the day of salvation. Today. Right now. This moment. For one reason or another, there are a great many people who believe that they must wait to receive salvation. That they have to somehow make themselves better in order to be even offered the gift. Nothing could be further from the truth! The gift has already been offered. The opportunity given. The only thing that can prevent anyone from receiving the gift is themselves by not reaching out and accepting it.

Too many people have made salvation far more complicated than it really is.

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9 (NLT)

Can it get any more simple than that? Stop waiting for the right time. The right time is now! Jesus is waiting for you with open arms in whatever state you’re in at this very moment. Go answer the door because opportunity is knocking.

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Revelation 3:20 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Esther 4-6, Acts 5:17-42

Proof

Life is all about proof. We all need to prove ourselves. When you’re looking for a job, you need to prove that you’re qualified. When you want to buy a house, you need to prove you can make the mortgage payments. When you want to cross a border, you need to prove who you are.

When he [Abraham] had proven himself faithful, he [God] made a covenant with him…

Nehemiah 9:8a (NLT)

Abraham had to prove himself worthy before God would cut a covenant with him. God wanted proof that this guy was going to be faithful before He bestowed blessings on him.

Many Christians are still acting like Abraham, trying to prove themselves worthy of a covenant with God. While Abraham was required to offer proof of faithfulness, God cut a covenant with us knowing full well we were all unfaithful. He knew when He sent Jesus to the cross that He was making a covenant with generation after generation of unfaithful people.

There is nothing that we can do to prove ourselves worthy of the covenant God has made with us. Our worth comes when we accept the gift God has so freely given to us.

Under the old covenant, the priest stands before the altar day after day, making sacrifices that can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as one sacrifice for sins, good for all time. For by that one offering he perfected forever all those whom he is making holy.

Hebrews 10:11-12, 14 (NLT)

Our proof is in Jesus’ sacrifice. In his blood. It is the only proof of worth we need when we come to stand before the throne of God. Works will not make us more or less worthy of the covenant, because by that one offering Jesus perfected forever all of us whom the Father is making holy.

There’s your proof.

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 9-11, Acts 4:1-22

Bonus post: Already passed

When you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, did you feel any different? Did you feel invincible? As though you could take on anything and triumph? Did you feel as though you’d live forever? If you felt any of that, how long did it last?

Ask anyone who’s been a Christian for more than ten years. Odds are that they do not feel invincible. I can guarantee they’ve aged since their conversion. And they’ve probably failed at more than a few things.

After being in the faith for a while, verses that claim we are more than conquerors can become challenging to truly believe. We may even begin to doubt what the Bible says about us, yet wait for the day when we can claim eternal life.

But did you know that, if you’ve accepted the incredible gift of salvation, you are already alive? As in alive forever? Never to die. I don’t mean physically. I’m not sure I’d even want to live forever. But that moment when your spirit cries out to the Holy Spirit a miracle takes place. That dry, dead spirit is brought to life.

I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.

John 4:24 (NLT)

Already passed. As in it’s happened. Done. Not something we need to wait for. Our eternal life doesn’t begin when we die. It begins when we come alive in Christ. Hey Church, let’s stop acting like dead people who have no life! We have the Way, the Truth, and the Life living inside of us! Because Jesus is alive, we’re alive.

Do something. Anything.

In Luke 19, Jesus tells a story of a wealthy man who went away for a time. He gave a portion of his finances to three of his servants. Each servant received a different sum. When the master returned, the two servants who had been given the most had doubled the initial amount. The one who’d been given the least had buried the money and returned to his master with the original amount.

Many would be inclined to think, hey, at least the last guy didn’t lose any of it. But what is that compared to the opportunity he had to double it?

‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘but to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, but from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away.’

Luke 19:26 (NLT)

God has given us so much to begin with. Far more than the man who received the least from his master. Are we the first two who put it to use and make more from it? Or are we the weak man who feared the wrath of his master and did nothing but return what he started with?

Is doing something, anything at all, with what God has given us so difficult—even if what we have doesn’t seem like much? The story went on to say that the master would have been more pleased had the man put the money in the bank so it could have gained a little interest.

Many of us hesitate to do anything for the Lord because we perceive what we have as too little to bother. But how will you ever get anything more if you never do anything with what you’ve got? I’ve seen people in the church wither away because they refused to offer even a tiny portion of themselves. And I’ve seen others grow and thrive when they decided to set out with just a little.

If you want to see God do something in your life, you have to give Him something to work with. Rather than just give up because you perceive what you’ve been given to start with as too small to bother, do something. Do anything. Just use it.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 7-9, Luke 19:1-28

Great Value

As soon as I typed the words Great Value, I’m almost embarrassed to say that my first thought was Walmart. For those in countries where Walmart exists, you’ll know that Great Value is their house brand. But I don’t want to talk about Walmart today. I want to talk about great value. Something valuable.

VAL’UABLE, adjective. Having value or worth; having some good qualities which are useful and esteemed; precious.

While Walmart’s house brand might be useful, I’d hardly go so far as to call it precious.

Jesus points to a gift of great value in Mark’s Gospel.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poo as she is, has given everything she has to live on.

Mark 12:43-44 (NLT)

I know what that widow felt like. I’ve dug through my wallet and dropped literally every last penny (well, nickel, since we in Canada no longer have pennies) into the offering bucket.

From a monetary perspective, the widow gave the least, but from a perspective of need that widow gave the most.

Too often, we withhold a gift because we don’t believe it is valuable enough. We’re ashamed at how little we have to offer. But the true value isn’t in the price of the gift, it’s in what it costs us to give it.

In Mark, those who gave much could have given much more. They didn’t need what they put in the offering. The widow, on the other hand, could have used those last two pennies to buy her next meal. Instead, she gave all she had on faith.

God isn’t looking for us to wait to give until the monetary value is what we think it should be. He just wants us to give. Period. I know of people on welfare who keep a pocket full of gift cards just in case they come across someone who may be in greater need than they.

To God, great value isn’t in the price tag, it’s in the attitude of the heart.

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 8-10, Mark 12:28-44

Lavish

LAV’ISH, adjective. Expending or bestowing with profusion; liberal to a fault; wild; unrestrained.

Lavish is a pretty amazing word. I don’t think we use it enough. I also don’t think most of us really know what it means. Our society tends to hold things close. We clutch whatever we have to our chests in hope that we are never called upon to release whatever it is we hold.

What if we were a lavish society? I don’t mean the kind where everyone walks about in silks and satins with cigarettes at the end of impossibly long holders. I mean the kind where we’re completely selfless. Where everyone, no matter who they are, is generous to a fault.

What’s stopping us?

But I lavish my love on those who love me and obey my commands…

Deuteronomy 5:10 (NLT)

It’s a common complaint among church-attenders that they don’t feel God. They keep waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever does. These are usually the fringe people. Those who never truly involve themselves in much of anything, but come to church waiting for something to happen. Something rarely happens for these people. Why?

Notice that God didn’t say that He would just lavish love on everyone. He loves everyone—never doubt that—but the lavishing is His response to our response to His love.

How likely are you to bestow great love and gifts upon someone who is continually sitting in front of you with arms crossed and a scowl on their face? The more likely response is a kick in the shins. I think God sometimes feels the same way about us. We’re made in His image, after all, and even God vented a lot of frustration with Israel on a regular basis.

But lets say someone knocks on your door and you answer in your bath robe. This person at the door is dressed to the nines (I never really did understand what that’s supposed to mean) and has with them a home-cooked gourmet meal. The works. Not only that, but they’ve left a brand new car in your driveway—full of gas and insurance paid. After dinner has been served on starched linens and fine china, a group of maids comes in a cleans your house top to bottom. This person no longer deserves a kick in the shins. You’ve probably spent every moment since the doorbell rang trying to figure out how you can show your gratitude for this lavish gift.

It’s easier to love someone who loves you back. If you’re looking for the lavish kind of love from God, why not try showing a little to Him?

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 5-7, Mark 12:1-27