Joy In The Morning

How does your morning routine start? Mine proceeds according to the following steps:

- Alarm sounds at approximately 6:30 am, jerking me out of my peaceful slumber.

- Lay in bed for 3 to 5 minutes, wondering if I was hit by a large vehicle at some point during the night.

- Crawl out of bed and stumble my way into the shower.

- Begin internal monologue as I review the previous day and ponder the upcoming day. Anxiety, fear, or frustration set in as I remember all the troubles of yesterday and all the problems of the upcoming day.

- Make large cup of industrial strength coffee.

Do you notice the problem with this picture? Let me point it out for you: I begin my day by listening to myself instead of talking to myself. From the moment I fall out of bed in the morning my mind is churning. I think about unfinished projects at work, people I need to call, ways I sinned the previous day, ways I failed to care for my wife, upcoming events that I need to organize, strategies for improving my fantasy football team, and 10,000 other anxiety-inducing subjects. By the time I step out of the shower I’m already burdened by worry. I’m starting my day by listening to myself.

I should begin my day by reminding myself of God’s truth, and responding to those truths in praise to God. I want my day to start with gratefulness to God. Here’s what I want my morning to look like:

Lord thank you for sustaining me through the night. Thank you for the precious blood of Jesus, which makes me your child this morning. Thank you that I wake this morning, not under your wrath, but under your mercy. Thank you that you have new mercies for me this morning!

I praise your for your sovereignty. I praise you that today you are working all things for my good. I praise you that nothing can separate me from your deep, intense, abiding love. You have ordained all that happens today, and I will rejoice in whatever you bring my way.

Lord thank you for this hot shower, and for hot coffee, and for my wonderful house, and my job. These are all undeserved blessings. Fill me with gratefulness today. Let all I do today be for your glory.

How does your day start? Do you begin your day by listening to yourself or by reminding yourself of God’s truth? Does your day start with anxiety or thanksgiving? Do you speak truth to your soul, or do you let your thoughts run free? Joy is found in meditating on and rejoicing in God’s truth. Let’s start our day with a good dose of truth. And a good dose of coffee.

Napoleon Dynamite and the Faithfulness of God

There are certain things that I can’t change about myself. I need a solid 7 hours of sleep each night if I’m going to function at a semi-conscious level during the day. I believe the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and New York Yankees are a result of the fall. I like drinking coffee that’s strong enough to double as paint stripper. I thoroughly enjoy the movie “Napoleon Dynamite”. I always fold my pizza in half, length-wise, before I eat it. I’m slightly obsessive compulsive when it comes to brushing my teeth. I will never wear a Josh Groban t-shirt, or purchase a Josh Groban album. I’m sorry, that’s just the way I am, and I don’t plan on changing any time soon.

But there are many things about myself that I want to change. I’m arrogant and proud. I share the gospel infrequently at best. I crave the approval of others. I’m selfish, lazy, and self-centered. I’m a sinner who needs to change.

The problem is, it often feels like I’m never going to change. My sin seems like a vast, unconquerable mountain, or a virus that simply can’t be killed. When I find myself sinning in pride for the 327th time this week, I can be tempted to despair. “I’m never going to change,” says my heart. “I’m doomed to struggle with this sin for the rest of my life. I’ll never make progress.”

It’s at these moments that I need to passionately proclaim the truth to myself. In Philippians 1:6 we read, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” What a sweet promise from God. I can be assured that I will be changed into the image of Jesus Christ, not because of anything I’m doing, but because God will finish the work He began in me. God isn’t like us. He doesn’t let His projects go unfinished. He is a master architect who always finishes what He starts. God will finish the good work He began in me. By His grace I will overcome my pride, and selfishness, and laziness.

We must take this promise and use it as a hammer to smash despair. When it seems like change is impossible, we must preach Philippians 1:6 to our souls. We cannot allow despair and discouragement to rule us. We must fight to believe this verse until we really, truly believe it. God is at work, changing us, shaping us, and conforming us to Christ.

What’s one area of your life where it seems like you will never change? Take Philippians 1:6 and apply it to that area. God will change you! He will help you overcome your sin. Why? Because God always finishes His projects.

My Frightening Future

I don’t watch the news. I don’t watch local news because it is mind-numbingly boring. I really don’t care about the local woman who owns a cat named “Mr. Snuffy Wuffy”, or about the elderly gentleman who won 2.3 trillion dollars in the Pennsylvania Lottery and decided to spend it all on beef jerky and Coca-Cola. I don’t watch the national news because it’s depressing, and sometimes quite scary. I don’t enjoy hearing that North Korea has built up enough nuclear firepower to wipe out the Western hemisphere, or that Iran has decided to attack the United States and will be firing missiles at the White House sometime in the next few days. There’s always a prophet of doom on the news, saying that our economic future is bleak, and that within a few short years all of us will be forced to wear nothing but burlap sacks. The news makes the future sound frightening.

I don’t watch the news because I struggle with enough fear about the future. Will I have enough money to pay the bills? Will my little girl be healthy? Will I do well at my job? Each season of our lives is filled with opportunities to worry. We worry about getting into the right college, and getting good grades in college, and marrying the right person, and getting a decent job, and being good parents, and having healthy kids, and paying bills, and retiring, and finally dying. Worry is a temptation each of us face on a regular basis.

It’s when we’re worried that we must forcefully remind ourselves of God’s truth. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

What a sweet promise for the Christian! Our future is bright and full of hope, and we can rest secure in God’s plans for us. We must fight to believe this when we’re tempted to worry about the future. When the finances aren’t there,we must remind ourselves that God promises a future and a hope. When illness is our constant companion, we must thank God for our hope-filled future. When it seems like we’re never going to get married and we’re sinking into despair, we must shout this promise at our soul until it’s power warms our heart. Don’t let worry rule you. Fight the good fight of faith by clinging to these precious truths.

What’s one area of life that you’re currently worried about? As you go about your day, meditate on how Jeremiah 29:11 applies to that one area of your life. Be transformed by the power of God’s word as you speak the truth to your soul.

Dental Condemnation

I hate dental visits. In fact, dentists frighten me (no offense to any dentists), and are ranked number three on my frightening people list, just behind car salesman and mimes (don’t ask). A trip to the dentist’s office is a trip into the land of pain. First they jab your teeth with their little pick axe. Then they go in with their high-powered roto-tiller toothbrush, determined to turn your grimy yellows into pearly whites. Finally they whip out the dental floss, invading every nook and cranny of your mouth with that ghastly piece of string, causing small trickles of blood to flow between your teeth. And of course your mouth is hanging open during this whole process, yet you can’t swallow, resulting in large pools of spit collecting in the back of your throat.

But the worst part is the interrogation that takes place after the cleaning. They always ask if you floss regularly (I believe the ADA recommends flossing between 16 and 18 times a day), which we don’t. I floss approximately three times per year, and it’s always after I eat corn on the cob. At no other point will you see floss enter my mouth. And so we walk away from the dental office feeling like a complete dental failure. We’ve failed to meet the standard set by our dentist.

Unfortunately there are many times when I bring my dentist mentality into my relationship with God. As a Christian, I must live by God’s standards. I seek to read my Bible and pray on a regular basis. I fight to kill the sinful desires that are within my heart. I make every effort to love and serve my wife. I try to be humble and teachable.

But the painful truth is, I fail to keep God’s standards. In fact, I’m not even close. Instead of rising early to read my Bible, I decide to sleep and extra 30 minutes. Instead of serving my wife, I serve myself. Instead of pursuing humility, I give in to pride and arrogance. I don’t just miss the mark, I completely miss the target.

When I fail to meet God’s standard, I feel condemned. I feel like God is just barely tolerating me, like He’s cold towards me, like He doesn’t particularly like me anymore. This condemnation weighs me down, stealing my joy and robbing me of my peace.

It’s in these moments that I need to speak the truth of the gospel to myself. I need to grab my soul by the ears and remind it of 1 Timothy 1:15, which says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” I can’t allow myself to wallow in condemnation and discouragement. I must fight for faith in the truth that Christ Jesus died for all my sins, and that God delights in me because of the cross. I must speak this truth to myself, and thank God for this truth, and rejoice in this truth until my heart believes every word of it. The gospel is the antidote to condemnation.

Do you experience condemnation when you fail to meet God’s standards? If so, you need to preach the gospel to yourself. Preach it until you believe it with both your head and your heart. Don’t allow condemnation to rule you. Fight the good fight of faith by believing the gospel.

Interrogating Your Soul

I see a man around town from time to time who is always talking to himself. Unfortunately, I believe this man suffers from mental illness, and it’s a strange, sad sight to see him pacing back and forth on the street corner, with an intense look on his face, muttering words under his breath. I’m not sure if he’s talking to himself, or to some imaginary companion, and I don’t know if he hears the other side of the conversation. Either way, it’s an odd sight. But I’ve come to a realization: I want to be more like the street corner man.

The Psalmist was a little bit like street corner man too. In Psalm 42:5 we read, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.

Do you notice what’s going on in this verse? The Psalmist is discouraged and feels turmoil within his soul. The difficulties of life are weighing him down, like a great weight upon his chest, depressing his soul and sucking the joy from him. He was down in the dumps. I can relate to this, and I think you can too.

But the Psalmist isn’t content to wallow in his discouragement. He won’t allow his feelings, and fears, and doubts to steal his joy. And so he begins to interrogate his soul. Can you hear him talking out loud to himself? Can you hear him performing his soul interrogation? “Hey Soul, why are you so down? What’s the deal? What are you so discouraged about?”

Notice though that the Psalmist doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out why he feels discouraged. Instead he starts talking to himself, addressing his soul. He begins to speak the truth of God to himself. He says, “Hey Soul, hope in God. Enough of this discouragement. I’m not going to listen to you anymore. We are now going to hope in God, because we will praise Him.” The Psalmist refuses to listen to his discouraging thoughts, and instead speaks truth to himself.

I want to be like the Psalmist. My tendency is to listen to myself far more than I talk to myself. I listen to my discouraging thoughts, and fears, and doubts. What I should be doing is reminding myself of God’s truth. A good dose of truth is the antidote to discouragement.

What’s one area of your life where you feel discouraged? What is one truth about God that you can speak to yourself when you feel discouraged? As you go about your day, ponder these questions, and ask God to help you be like the man on the corner.

8 Signs That You’ve Eaten Too Much At Thanksgiving

Men, wondering if you’ve indulged a little too much during your Thanksgiving dinner? Here are some top signs that you have:

  • At any point during dinner you use the phrase, “I really shouldn’t but…”
  • After dinner you change into sweatpants
  • Your sweatpants don’t fit
  • You’re sweating…Cool Whip
  • You would use any of the words to describe the way you feel: bloated, ballooned, or blimpy
  • Your mother feels compelled to tell everyone that you’re big boned
  • You find yourself licking out any form of food container
  • You eat leftovers…on Thanksgiving

Our Singing God

Mr. Kazbark never liked me much from the moment he hired me to be the summer maintenance lackey at his Ocean City, New Jersey hotel. True, I was pretty much a lazy, hippie college student essentially squandering my summer in Ocean City, only working to get enough money to sustain life and have fun. True, I really didn’t know how to do anything even remotely related to maintenance and I moved slightly slower than a three-toed sloth. So there was not a lot for Mr. Kazbark to like about me other than my sparkling personality. But I always found ways to provide more fodder for his disgust.

One afternoon he called me into his office and told me to go up to a room on the second floor, remove an air-conditioner the size of King Kong, then using a dolly, bring it down the outside cement steps and place it in one of the first floor units.

“I can’t do that,” I protested, “it’s too heavy.” I know he thought I was just being lazy. “Just do what I say,” Mr. Kazbark barked.

Straining every fiber in my being, I managed to muscle the massive air-conditioner out of its hole in the wall and onto the dolly. The thing weighed slightly less than a grand piano. Somehow I managed to maneuver it to the top of the cement stairs. How was I ever going to get it down? I shuffled around the side and with one hand under the air-conditioner and one hand gripping the dolly, began perilously rocking it from side to side, sliding it down the first step of about 20. Suddenly the air-conditioner launched itself into the air, bouncing down the steps in slow motion — nuts, bolts, coils and other unidentifiable parts flying off in all directions. I’ll never forget the sight. It was beautiful, in a twisted sort of way.

Like I said, Mr. Kazbark never liked me much. But after that, every time he looked at me I couldn’t help but think he regarded me as a life form somewhere between a cockroach and a garden slug.

How does Christ look upon his children whom he purchased with his blood? With delight or disgust? With pleasure or annoyance? Is he like the character from Jane Austen, “Mr. Darcy, who never looks at any woman but to see a blemish?? Does Jesus never look upon us but to see our failures, shortcomings and sins?

Zepheniah 3.17 says:

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

What an amazing Scripture. Christ looks upon his children with utter delight. He actually rejoices over us with gladness. He?s happy with us. He?s glad he saved us. He?s so delighted in us he sings loud songs over us. Wow. What does that sound like? I can?t wait to hear Jesus singing.

God?s delight in us originated in his own heart in eternity past. He loved us with an everlasting love. Not because we were lovable or worthy or desirable, but simply because he chose to love us for his own reasons. The Father’s love moved him to send Jesus to live and die for sinners, that he might bring us to himself, wash away our sins and clothe us with the beautiful garment of Jesus? righteousness.

God rejoices over us, exults over us, jubilates, is elated over us. He doesn?t just tolerate us – he sings loud songs over us. Meditate on this wonderful truth this week and give thanks to our loving King.

O Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, thank you for your love for me today. Thank you that you sing over me in love.

My Mickey Mouse Hammer

I once did a brief stint working construction. My boss was a bear of a man who slept with his tool belt and hard hat on. He had a perpetual chew in his mouth and spoke to me only when absolutely necessary, usually in grunts.

On my first day a truck delivered huge prefabricated walls for the second story of an apartment building. We had to set them on the deck and nail them to the floor, then together at the corners. I noticed that I was pounding each spike approximately 35 times to sink it, whereas the other guys did it in two strokes. My boss, standing down on the ground, noticed too.

?Toss me that hammer,? he ordered, bristling with all the warmth of Jabba the Hutt. I tossed it down to him. He examined it with utter disdain. ?Where?d you get this Mickey Mouse hammer?? he sneered. All the crew?s eyes were on me. Trying to inject a little humor into the situation I replied, ?Disney World.? Somehow my boss failed to see the humor in my comment, despite it being the funniest comeback in the world. The rest of the crew stood there mutely, like pall bearers at a graveside service. My boss gave me a withering glare and spat, ?This is a finishing hammer. Take this little girl’s hammer home and get yourself a 20-ounce framing hammer.? Suddenly the crew erupted, guffawing and yammering as if my boss had told the funniest joke in the 20th century. Yeah, even the aborigines in the remotest parts of Australia know the difference between a finishing hammer and a framing hammer. Week-old babies know the difference. Garden slugs know the difference. That?s so hilarious.

Throughout the rest of my short construction career, my boss always looked at me with as much delight as he would while examining a plantar wart on his foot.

Is this how God looks at his children? Is this how Christ looks on his bride? Or does he look up from his desk full of papers, peering over the top of his glasses, stifling his annoyance and disappointment, growling in a gruff tone, ?What do you want now??

Paul gives us some insight when he exhorts husbands, ?He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.? (Eph 5.28-30).

Did you catch the word ?cherishes?? Christ cherishes his bride. To cherish means to take joy in, delight in, treat as dear, care for tenderly. If you have a cherished family heirloom, you take pleasure in it, treasure it, prize it.

I?ve known people who have inherited their grandmother?s china. They put it in a special cabinet. They don?t use it for everyday meals. They don?t put hot dogs on it and stick it in the microwave. It?s different from all their other china. They handle it carefully. They cherish it. A friend of mine was given a document signed by Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th century preacher. He had it framed and displays it in a prominent place in his home. He doesn?t leave it out on the table, to set his coffee cup on. He prizes it, cherishes it.

Jesus cherishes his bride. If you?re a believer, you?re part of his bride. This means Jesus cherishes you, because of his free love that moved him to shed his blood to purchase you. He takes pleasure in you and delights in you. Joy rises in his heart when you come to him. His eyes light up with love. We should always think of Jesus as being full of love to us. Meditate this week on Jesus? steadfast, tender, affection for you, and respond to his love with gratefulness and praise.

O Jesus, thank you for your cherishing love for me. I love you, worship and adore you.

Disappointed or Delighted?

How does God look at you?

Let?s take a simple test. How would you answer the following question: When Jesus Christ looks at me, he:

1.? Feels slightly disappointed.
2.? Feels angry at me and wants to punish me.
3.? Feels annoyed. Thinks, why can?t you get it right? How long do I have to put up with you?
4.? Feels genuine pleasure in me.
5.? Feels tender affection and love for me.
6.? Delights in me.

Over the years many fellow believers have told me they believe in their head that God loves them, but have nagging doubts that he really finds them pleasing in his sight. Many of us are like the servant who buried his talent in the ground, who said, ?Master, I knew you to be a hard man.? We think of God as a ?hard man? who scrutinizes us for every flaw. We think of him as shaking his head in disappointment and saying, ?Is this the best you can do for me?? We?re so aware of our shortcomings and sins we can?t believe that Jesus could possibly take pleasure in us.

But Christ?s love for those he redeemed is the tender, cherishing, delighting love of a husband for his bride. Paul exhorts husbands to ?love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her? (Eph 5:25). Christ loved his bride so much he eagerly left heaven to endure poverty, hunger, weariness and thirst to redeem her. He was glad to be rejected, mocked, tortured, crucified, and drink God’s foaming cup of wrath to purchase us, his bride, with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

Genesis tells us that Jacob so delighted in Rachel, he was glad to work for seven years to obtain her as his wife: ?So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her? (29:20). Jesus? ardor for his bride is infinitely greater than Jacob?s. Jesus didn?t grouse and grumble about coming for her ? he rejoiced, even though it meant he?d endure infinite pain.

Every believer is a part of Christ?s bride. As Jesus delights in his bride, he delights in every believer individually. If you have trusted in him as your Savior and God, he regards you with fondness, affection and pleasure. This love originated in the Father’s heart and his own heart in eternity past and has nothing to do with anything desirable in you. He simply loved you with an everlasting love. Then he redeemed you with his blood, and clothed you in the bridal gown of his righteousness. And now as his bride, he yearns for you and rejoices over you.

Do you believe Jesus sees you this way? He does. He cherishes you. He?s glad he redeemed you. He can?t wait for you to see his glory and be with him face to face. He eagerly looks forward to the marriage feast of the Lamb, when your fellowship with him will be complete and unhindered.

Meditate this week on Jesus? cherishing love for you. Doing so will produce gladness in your heart, love for Jesus, and anticipation of heaven.

O Jesus, thank you for your tender, affectionate, cherishing love for me. I love you and delight in you, and want to love you even more.