Tag Archives: joy

You Can’t Hide What’s Inside

After World War II, Germany was divided into East and West.  The eastern side was under the communist control of the USSR.  The western side was occupied by British, French and American forces.  The capitol city of Berlin was divided in a similar fashion.

Between the years of 1949 and 1961, at least 2.7 million people fled East Germany, more half of them through West Berlin.  In an attempt to stop the depletion of its labor force, East German officials ordered the building of a barrier that would one day become known as the infamous “Berlin Wall.”

As the initial barricades were going up, East Berliners were feeling powerless and resentful of West Berlin’s freedom.  In an act of antagonism, they filled a garbage truck and drove it into West Berlin late one night.  They dumped the trash all over the streets and then retreated back to East Berlin on foot.  A few days later, the truck returned under cover of darkness.  But instead of the filthy garbage that the East Berliners expected to see in it, it was full of canned goods and non-perishable food items.  On the food was a sign that read “Each gives what he has to give.”

Times of great pressure and stress tend to have a polarizing effect on people.  They bring out both the very best and the very worst of human nature.  In the same difficult circumstance, some will focus on helping others and some will focus only on themselves.  Both are responding to what is hidden deep in their character.  The trial simply brings what is hidden to the surface, to where it can be seen in our words and our actions.

Jesus once said, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”  (Luke 6:34-45)

The Apostle Paul later tells us that Christians have a war going on in their hearts and minds.  The Holy Spirit fights on our behalf against our sinful nature.  If we submit to the Spirit and deny our sinful nature, our “tree” (our life) will bear good fruit, fruit that will last – the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5)

It was this fruit that enabled the West Berliners to send love instead of hate back across that border.  It was this fruit that kept them from retaliating or escalating the conflict.  It was this fruit that made them understand the hurt and the fear behind what the East Berliners did.

If you get an opportunity to swap fruit this week, remember the good fruit of the West Berliners, and do you best to bless even when you are cursed.

(S – original story from Ron Hutchcraft Ministries)



Filed under Abundance, agape love, character, christianity, forgiveness, heart, Scarcity, unconditional love

Three-Legged Race

Marriage is a three-legged race.  When we pledge ourselves to our partners for life, God sees us in many ways as one person.  We are bound to each other.

This can cause a number of problems.  It’s awkward to try to run with someone tied to us.  We have to re-learn how to move so that we don’t throw our spouse off-balance.  If our spouse runs at a different pace or with a different rhythm (which they almost always do), we have to make adjustments to find a happy medium.

Should our spouse fall, it doesn’t do us much good to try to drag them along.  We have to reach out and lift them up.  This can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially for those of us who are goal-oriented and competitive.  We can see all the other couples passing us by, and the further behind we get, the more irritated we become.

We might feel tempted to scold and blame our spouse.  At best, these might shame our spouse into getting back up, but they won’t ever help the relationship.  Nagging doesn’t help.  Making jokes at our spouse’s expense does not help.  The only thing that will get us back into the race with a committed and enthusiastic partner is to stop and go at his or her pace.

I didn’t come to know Christ until five years into my marriage.  My wife had been a Christian since she was a young girl, and my sudden enthusiasm for following the Lord was a welcome change but somewhat shocking for her.  I quickly committed to all kinds of Christian activities that we weren’t accustomed to.  Church, Bible studies, volunteering, tithing, teaching, conferences, service projects…you name it.

Before long, I realized that I had left my wife far behind me.  Her walk with the Lord had been moving at a much slower pace for many years.  Now, I was trying to force her to go from that walk to a sprint in just a few, short months.  I was disappointed that she wasn’t growing as quickly as I was, and I tried to push her along to catch up with me.  All this accomplished was getting her to dig in her heels and start resenting me for trying to make her go faster than she was ready to go.

Over time, I’ve learned to slow down.  God won’t allow me to cross the finish line without my wife.  We are a team, and the rules of the three-legged race are that you finish together.  When I relaxed and allowed my wife to find her own pace with the Lord, she began to grow faster and faster.

I’ve also learned that fast isn’t necessarily good.  Much of my early speed was about doing, doing, doing for the Lord, but not all of my doing was God’s will. I have a list of things I volunteered for that turned out to be disasters.  If I had slowed down and gone at the Lord’s pace for me, I might have grown more quickly.  Now, instead of doing, doing, doing for the Lord, I’m trying to learn about being, being, being with Him.

It doesn’t matter how super-spiritual you are or how much the world needs you, if you are married, you can’t go faster than your spouse and please God.  Your first ministry is to the one you’ve committed your life to.  Stop, go back to where you left him or her, and help your spouse get back on his or her feet.  Then, run (or walk) the race together at the pace of the slowest person.  You might find that there was much you were missing by going so fast – the first of which will be the joy of running the race together.

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Filed under agape love, christianity, commitment, Compromise, Daily walk, family, growth, love, marriage, Relationships, sacrifice, Serving Others, Spiritual Growth, submission

Earn vs. Return – Part 1

Much of the world throughout history has been trying to earn its way into heaven (or nirvana, Shangri-La,  Moksha, Elysium, Jannah, Fiddler’s Green, Utopia, Valhalla, Goloka…), but it’s just not possible.  We can’t ever be good enough to earn our own way.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags… (Isaiah 64:6)

Nothing we do goes toward eliminating our sin debt.  Jesus had to settle the debt for us.  He paid the price that we couldn’t pay in our spiritual poverty.

But even Christians who accept that they are going to heaven only by the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus still try to earn God’s approval.  Many of us do good works so that God will be happy with us, so that He won’t be disappointed.  We imagine that God is like Santa Claus, with a long list of the naughty and nice things we do, and we really want our nice things to outweigh the naughty ones.

Here’s a difficult truth to swallow:

God is already happy with us.

More than happy, God is pleased with us!

Read it again.

Do you believe it?

It’s hard to accept, because we know about all the bad things we do.  We know we don’t deserve God’s pleasure, because we struggle every day with submitting our will under His authority. But God’s pleasure isn’t dependent on our behaviors.  He is pleased with WHO we are even when He’s not pleased with what we DO.

And our sin doesn’t make us less righteous or less justified or less holy in His sight, because it’s really not about us.  It’s about Jesus. No matter how far from perfection we are, Jesus makes up the difference.  When the Father looks at us, He sees the righteousness of His Son.

Isaiah can help here:

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)

Jesus did two things for us:

1) He clothed us with salvation (i.e., we get to go to heaven).

2) He dressed us up in a robe of righteousness (i.e., He covered our unrighteousness with His righteousness).

Just like we can’t earn our salvation, we can’t earn our righteousness.  It’s a gift.  That’s why Jesus could tell the disciples:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  (Matthew 5:48)

There’s no way they could have accomplished perfection on their own, but God’s plan is:

You do what you can; Jesus will make up the difference.

We still have our part to play.  We are to do what we can.  But even if we turn in a miserable performance, we are still righteous in God’s sight, because Jesus makes up the difference.  And when we are doing what we can, we aren’t earning; we are returning.

Through obedience and good works, we give back to God what He has given to us.  You see, we can only do good through God’s grace.  He gives us the heart to do good; He gives us the energy; He gives us the talent or the money or the time….  Anything good we do originates with God.  And truth be told, we are only returning a fraction of what He has given us.

For example, when we tithe, we give God ten percent of what we earn.  But where did the ability to earn the 100% come from?  Where did the job come from?  Where did the talent and skill and knowledge come from?  It all came from God.  It’s like He handed us one hundred dollars and asked for only ten back.  We are only returning a portion of what He gave us, and He’s okay with that because He enjoys giving good things to His children.

So we don’t do good to earn His love; we do it to return His love.  Out of gratitude.  Out of a joyful heart that recognizes that there’s nothing to earn – that we already have all the righteousness that we need and that we have God’s pleasure despite what we DO because of WHO we are (i.e., His children)!

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Filed under agape love, christianity, Covering, grace, guilt, Religion, righteousness, Salvation, Spirituality, Substitution