Count It All Joy

Monday, February 28, 2011

We don’t have to look far to see people who are struggling in their personal lives. In recent days I’ve learned of the death of a nineteen-year-old girl who died from a virus that overtook her body in a matter of days. I read with heartache about two teenagers who died in a car accident near my house. My dear friend Susan is dealing with constant headaches and a burning sensation all over her body. Another friend has been diagnosed with cancer that has attacked multiple organs. It seems my prayer list is filled with people who are suffering. When I look over this list, I begin to put my own struggles in perspective.

I realize that life in this world is filled with pain and suffering. The Early Christians dealt with pain too. In fact, they lived in constant fear of persecution for their beliefs. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote to the persecuted Christians about their pain and suffering. He reminded those faithful followers that it is through “pain and trouble” in life that we have an opportunity to grow our faith. He calls on us to count it joy when we go through trials.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, when trouble comes your way consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4

Let’s apply these four P principles to our own pain and trouble.

1. Positive outlook
First, James says to spend our time considering our joy. It’s hard to imagine being joyful during hard times but perhaps James is urging us to have a positive outlook. Can we live in God’s positivity during hard times? Can we realize that God is in control and that gives us reason to be positive?

2. Perseverance
Then he says to endure or persevere through the hard times because that’s how we grow in our faith. Perseverance teaches us to be patient and steadfast.

3. Perceive
Next he tells us to think about what we can learn or perceive from our troubles. We learn to think and speak and act differently when we allow God to help us grow through our challenges.

4. Perfection
Finally, he says we will be complete and mature in our faith when we persevere with joy. He uses the word perfect to imply that when our endurance is fully developed we will have perfect faith in Christ.

Now let’s apply these P principles to James 1:2-4.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for a positive outlook. For you know that when your faith is tested, your perseverance has a chance to perceive things better. So let it grow, for when your perseverance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4
What can you find joy in today?

Island of Stability

Monday, February 21, 2011

American writer and futurist AlvinToffler offers a perspective on the rapid escalation that humans have experienced, with his concept of “eight-hundred lifetimes.” In the introduction to his book Future Shock, written in 1970, Toffler writes that he coined the term future shock “to describe the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time. In order to create a human timeline, he divided the past 50,000 years into lifetimes of about 62 years each making about 800 lifetimes. Toffler observes the first 650 lifetimes were spent living in caves. Writing has only been available in the past 70 lifetimes, and the wide-scale use of printing has only been a part of the last 6 lifetimes. We have only been able to accurately measure time for the last four, and the electric motor has only been in existence for 2 lifetimes.

The overwhelming majority of material goods and technological advances that shape our daily lives have only been in existence during the last lifetime. We are experiencing an exponential curve caused by the compounding effects of “advancements.”

Toffler asserts that rapid change results in an inescapable level of physiological stress. He says that in order to cope with the effects of escalation that surrounds us we must create our own “islands of stability” that offer feelings of security. The islands will serve as our safe harbors and anchors for the inevitable storms of life.

Who are the people who serve as your safe harbors? Is there someone who anchors you when you go through unchartered or rough waters?
Are you the “island of stability” for someone? Has God called you to be the strong and steady hand to a loved one who is overwhelmed by changes?
No matter how grounded we are in our faith, we all need an “island of stability.”
As Christians, we have a safe harbor like no other. We have the steady, guiding hand of our Savior. We serve an unchangeable God. He is the ultimate “island of stability.”

“I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6).
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
“God is not a man. He doesn’t change His mind”
(1 Samuel 15:29).

Let this be our prayer:
Dear God, I realize there are many things in my life that are beyond my control. I sometimes have trouble adapting to the rapid escalation in the world at large and in my world. I need your security in my life, Jesus. I want you to be my “island of stability.” I want to start focusing on the things that will never change. Thank you that you will never stop loving me. Thank you for your unchanging word. Thank you for making me for a purpose. I want to get to know you better and your plan for my life. I ask you to be very real in my life. Live in me and walk beside me through the victories and the valleys of life. Amen


Sunday, February 13, 2011

When writing on paper it’s important to leave blank space around the edges so the reader can focus easier on the words. This space is called margin. In printing jargon paper margin corresponds to the physical limits of the sheet. People are supposed to have margins too. In his book Margin Dr. Swenson states, “Margin is the space between our load and our limits.” It is what we hold in reserve for unanticipated situations. It’s the gap between rest and exhaustion. It’s the opposite of overload, and it’s hard to tell when we pass from margin to overload. Unfortunately, we don’t have a gauge, like a thermometer, to measure our margin level. Wouldn’t it be great to have a light indicator like the one on our dashboard that lights up and reads, “100% Full” or “Working at Capacity?”

Airplanes have a load capacity. When the load is greater than the power, it is overloaded and in danger of crashing. We have power that is made of our energy, skills, strength, faith, finances, and social supports. Our load includes our work, problems, obligations, debt, deadlines, commitments, and conflicts. When our load outweighs our power, we are headed for burnout and are living a marginless life.

Author and nationally recognized career coach, Marty Nemko, says, “The most successful people give 90%?” He says they are “in the moment, tackle their projects slowly but steadily, and don’t waste time worrying about what’s ahead. He says they have learned to store up emotional reserves so that they can develop relationship and enjoy work.

Isn’t it interesting that the leftover percentage of 90% is 10% - a tithe! Tithing our money, time, and talents to God would be a good step toward finding margin in our lives. We just have to determine what our priorities are.

When Jesus went to the home of Martha and Mary, he spoke about priorities.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

Martha needed margin. She was consumed with many things, so she was overloaded and living beyond her capacity. Let’s know our capacity, identify our priorities, and learn to live in our margin.

Star in the Middle

Monday, February 7, 2011

In his book In Search of Balance Dr. Richard Swenson draws a comparison between balancing our priorities and the balance of the solar system. The planets in our solar system revolve around the sun. These bodies can travel in different directions and at different speeds, but their movement is always in relation to the sun. The orbiting bodies in a planetary system are never the center of gravity. That distinction belongs to the star in the middle, and in our solar system the sun is the star in the middle. Since the sun makes up 99.86% of the total mass in our solar system, earth circles a powerful center.

In our personal lives our priorities lie at the center of our existence and our lives orbit around them. What is the star in the middle of our personal solar system? Do we have a center that serves as a steady anchor during the storms of life? Is our center strong enough to help us stand against the waves that rush in upon us? Or do our values change with the shifting winds of the culture? Is the SON our star in the middle? Do we let him guide our priorities? Are our priorities chosen wisely and are God-centered? Priorities that are focused on God will provide a stable orbit for our lives.

The Sun is the richest source of electromagnetic energy in the solar system. Let’s make THE SON our source of power in our own personal solar system.

46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” Luke 6:46-49 (NLT)

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