Meditation With Eternal Benefits

When I think of meditation, I think of praying and reading the Bible and it is something I start every day with. I find great value in replacing the worldly junk that fills my mind with the promises of God. It also reminds me that I’m not in this alone. When Jesus became my Savior, he also became my guide and it is only when I stay focused on him that everything else is put in the proper perspective. In Psalm 119, God tells us exactly what we should spend time meditating on. We should meditate on his precepts (decrees, laws, statutes) and on his ways. We should meditate on his wonderful deeds. We should meditate on his promises. The Bible is God’s letter to us, and we will never run out of new discoveries when we seek him in his Word.

There’s a lot of talk about meditation in the world today, but something about the meditation I hear so much about just doesn’t seem right to me.  It stands in stark contrast to what the Bible says about meditation. Many people spend a lot of time meditating, but not on the Word of God. Just a quick study of why people meditate makes it clear that there are a lot of people that need Jesus.

People meditate so that they can become more mindful and aware of their thoughts and actions. But the Bible says that we should become more mindful and aware of God’s thoughts and of his laws so that we can change our actions. When I meditate on the Word of God, it helps me to take all of my thoughts captive and to make them obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

People meditate to decrease stress. Meditation might help with this in the moment if you can convince your mind not to think about the things that are stressing you out. The problem is that some of these things will still be there when you re-enter the world.  Sometimes we face difficult situations that don’t go away just because we stop focusing on them. But in Christ we gain something that settles in our soul even in the midst of our struggles. When I meditate on the Word of God, I gain the peace that passes all understanding and guards my heart and mind in Christ. (Philippians 4:7)

People meditate because it will help them to be able to make better decisions. I’m not so sure how focusing on my thoughts and feelings is going to help me to make better decisions. In many cases it is my thoughts and feelings that lead me to wrong decisions.  When I meditate on the Word of God I am reminded that I must trust in God and not lean on my own understanding. Then he will guide me.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

People meditate to experience better overall well-being. Sadly, you’re missing the boat if that is how you’re searching for well-being. God created you and he created you with a purpose. To be in a relationship with him and to bring him glory in all you do. Until you realize that, you will be constantly searching for that one thing that will “complete you”. But God promises that if you seek him with all your heart, you will find him. (Jeremiah 29:13)

It is clear that many people meditate to become more connected with themselves as they seek to experience some earthly benefits. I meditate on the Word of God so that I will become more connected with my Creator and my Savior.  That kind of meditation has eternal benefits.

 

 

 

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Making wise decisions

Tune your ears to wisdom and concentrate on understanding. – Proverbs 2:2

One of the things I’ve always struggled with is understanding how to know the will of God in a particular situation.  I hear people insist that they just know that a decision they have made is the will of God and I wonder; “How do you know?”  I hear people say, “God told me…” and I wonder how they really know it was God?  I mean, it’s not likely that they actually heard an audible voice (although, I admit that sometimes I’ll hear a little whisper).  It is all of this wondering that has led me to pray many times for God to hit me with the proverbial two-by-four to make sure I really know I’m making the right decision.

For what ever reason, God has decided (generally speaking) not to use a powerful voice from heaven to give us crystal clear direction when we are trying to make a decision.  But that does not mean he has left us on our own just hoping we get it right sometimes. There are some very important steps we should take whenever we need to make a decision.

We need to read the Bible.  The Bible is God’s word and if we want to know what God says about something, that is where we can get our answer.  The more we read the Bible, the more we will become familiar with God’s voice and the more we will understand his character.  This will help us to better gauge if something is truly his will.  God will never contradict his Word or go against his character.  Searching the Bible for answers may not mean that we will see a specific answer to a specific question, but the Bible is full of laws, principles and lessons that we can apply to our own choices.

We need to pray.  Not just once – but persistently! (1 Thessalonians 5:17)  We might find that persistent prayer changes the desires of our heart and impacts the choices we make.

We need to think.  God has given us a brain so that we can reason.  When we’re making a decision we should consider how God made us.  What are our strengths and weaknesses?  What are our passions?  How does the way God made us align with the decision we’re about to make?  We should also consider our life experiences and the lessons God has allowed us to learn from past decisions.  We also need to use plain old common sense.  God knows that we have to live in this world and that our choices have earthly consequences that could impact us and our family.  We have a responsibility to the people around us and we need to carefully consider the fall-out of our choices.

We need to seek counsel. God has put us in relationships with people that can counsel us. From the very beginning God decided that we should not do life alone.  That is why he created Eve for Adam and that is why throughout the Bible we see the importance of families and communities.  The people that love us and have our best interest at heart can offer great insight into decisions we face.  They can see things from a different perspective and without the anxiety and emotion we may be feeling.  Seeking Godly counsel is Biblical and a crucial part of making a wise decision.

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. – Proverbs 12:15

Once we’ve searched the Word of God, prayed persistently and carefully considered our options we need to make a decision! Then we need to have faith that God’s Sovereignty will cover even our failures and his grace will give us second chances.

Remember – God is Faithful

I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! – Psalm 116:1-2

It only takes a moment to look back on my life and be able to see that God has proven to be faithful! Even if it takes hindsight to see, his faithfulness is always evident. I don’t know about you but even though I know this, I still allow myself to worry about situations in my life. How quickly we forget! I must remind myself daily of God’s faithfulness and rest in the fact that he is always good.

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. – Psalm 116:7

The following verse provided me with a nice template for a quick review of God’s faithfulness:

For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. – Psalm 116:8

First and foremost, he has delivered my soul from death. Jesus’ death paid my sin debt and his resurrection assured my eternity with him. That alone is enough to give me confidence in his faithfulness. If he has saved me from my sins he can surely save me from [insert problem here].

He has delivered my eyes from tears. I’ve felt sadness and fear before and he has been there by my side every time. Only the arms of a loving and faithful Savior can offer the kind of peace that provides hope even in the midst of sorrow. God keeps track of my sorrows and collects all of my tears in a bottle. (Psalm 56:8) And one day he will wipe every tear away from my eyes when I finally see him face to face. (Revelation 21:4)

He has delivered my feet from stumbling. Walking through life on earth is much like trying to walk along a broken up sidewalk.  It’s uneven with holes and cracks that cause us to stumble. But we have a Savior that will pick us up, clean us up and bandage us up every single time.  I have stumbled many times, and I will no doubt stumble many more.  But I’ve gotten back up every time because of God’s faithfulness. And one day I’ll be walking with him on streets of pure gold! (Revelation 21:21)

Whenever a situation comes up that I can’t control and all of the sudden I start to panic – I need to remind myself to reflect on the faithfulness of God. He’s never let me down before, and he has promised that he never will!

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentation 3:21-23

Your grief will turn to joy

This morning while I was reading the book of John, I was struck by a verse that spoke to me.  Jesus was comforting his disciples as he tried to prepare them for his upcoming death. He knew the sorrow and dismay they would feel when they saw their Lord crucified and buried, and he was preparing them and assuring them that everything was going to be o.k.

He assured them that their love for him would sustain them. That they needed to trust him no matter what. That he would give them peace. That as long as they remained in him, they would bear fruit. He promised them that even though he was going to be gone, they would be receiving the Holy Spirit and that he would be their Counselor and would guide them into all truth. He promised them that he was going to prepare a place for them and that he would be coming back to bring them home! It should be a great comfort to us that these promises were not just for Jesus’ friends 2,000 years ago, but for all of us who make him the Lord of our lives.

Then something Jesus said really hit me! I felt like he was saying it directly to me. “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the whole world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:20)

Now-a-days in this world of Facebook feeds and news notifications, we are constantly made aware of the sadness and sin all around us. And the worse part about it is how often we see these things being celebrated. The world is literally rejoicing over things that make me weep and mourn. But thanks be to God — he promises that my grief will turn to joy! Jesus is coming back – and everyday this world demonstrates more and more why I can’t wait for that day!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Why he came…

Isaiah 53 has always been one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It so clearly describes the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and the purpose for it.

When God came to earth he didn’t come as a great and powerful conquerer (as some were hoping for). He came as a simple baby and lived life as a simple man right alongside all of the “regular” people. Yet every person he met was changed to the core. People who saw him face-to-face made the decision to spend their life either following him or denying him. No one that encountered him remained ambivalent.

And in the end, they all watched him carry his cross to Calvary, be beaten and die as a common criminal even though he did no wrong.

Sadly some of them then, and still many to this day, missed the point. They fail to see that it was so they could live that he died. That ultimately his victory was not about defeating one specific empire but about defeating death and sin for all time. That eventually what they did with Jesus would determine which side of eternity they would come out on.

Ultimately it comes down to this. Follow Jesus, experience eternity with God. Deny Jesus, experience eternity in hell, separated from God. It really is a life or death choice and there’s no middle ground. If any other way was sufficient, then why would Jesus have had to die?

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (Romans 3:23)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. (Romans 10:9, 10)

Isaiah 53 —

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested?

For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Palm Sunday … Victory Parade

It’s March and March Madness is in full effect. Whole communities will be celebrating with their teams as each victory brings them closer to the ultimate prize. No doubt there will be victory parades in the streets as ecstatic fans welcome the players home. And those closest to the players will be proudly alongside them basking in the glory of the moment.

When I read the story of Palm Sunday, I can picture a victory parade like none other. I can see Jesus riding into town on a colt. The people welcoming him in excitement as their king. And the disciples walking proudly beside him, glowing with joy as Jesus finally made his Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. I can hear the cheers of the crowd shouting, “Hosanna!” – drowning out the protests of the Pharisees. The people were so excited to welcome their King, but they were so misguided about who he really was.

I can also picture Jesus as he saw the victory parade and wept. He knew they were not ready for the truth. It wasn’t time for him to reign here on earth. Not yet. First he had to finish what he came to accomplish. First he had to pay the ultimate price for their sins. A price they could never pay on their own. First he had to suffer and die.

But Jesus also knew that although “Good Friday” was coming soon, Resurrection Sunday was not far behind. And that Victory parade would last for eternity!

Don’t die in your unbelief – TODAY is the day of Salvation!

A few weeks ago I wrote about how the death of the Reverend Billy Graham had impacted me.  How the thought of his glorious homecoming after a life of faithfully sharing the gospel was a reminder that we all need to be following his lead.  Today I read that the famous scientist and self-proclaimed atheist Stephen Hawking died.  And this served as another reminder of the importance of sharing the gospel from a completely different perspective.

It is possible that in the waning hours of his life, Mr. Hawking acknowledged that there is a God and that the only way he could have an eternal relationship with him was to turn to Jesus Christ for salvation.  But if he stubbornly held to his espoused views until he breathed his last breath then he was immediately met with the horrible truth that he refused to acknowledge before he died.  There is a God and he is now separated from him for all of eternity in anguish and torment.

Jesus tells a story about a man who ended up in this very situation.  (Luke 16)  Many believe it is not just a parable but an actual story since it is the only time Jesus uses a name – but regardless, it illustrates the scary truth of hell and eternal separation from God.  The man in the story lived his life without acknowledging the truth and when he died he ended up in torment and agony in the fires of Hades. He begged for someone to come from heaven and provide just a little bit of water to relieve him but was told that there was a chasm between heaven and hell that no one could cross over. Realizing that he would never have relief and suddenly being terrified that those he had left behind would follow him to hell, he begged for someone to at least go from heaven to his loved ones to warn them. But no one would go because the truth is that if they did not listen to the Word of God revealed through Scripture and proclaimed by the many faithful witnesses, then nothing would convince them.

This is a terrifying thought!  One that should create an insatiable sense of urgency in us to tell people the truth!  That there is a God!  That he loves them and wants to spend eternity with them! That their sin has separated them from him and there is nothing they can do to make themselves good enough. But – God made a way!  He sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for their sins.  The only thing they need to do is grab onto that truth and accept that it is Jesus alone that can usher them into heaven.

Don’t miss the chance!  Don’t ever let it be too late!  TODAY is the day of Salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:2)