Walk Humbly

Walk Humbly 6  When I think of the word humble, two people come to mind: Jesus is the first, and my dad is the second. All throughout my life, my dad was a living example of humility. It seemed to come naturally to him, being the very essence of his character. He was a quiet man, always willing to listen, to see another person’s point of view, to empathize, and to place his family and friends’ needs before his own. In Philippians 2:3, the Apostle Paul admonished his readers, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” My dad seemed to live this verse in every aspect of his life.

My dad truly enjoyed people. I can close my eyes and picture him conversing with others, always with a smile on his face, his cordiality a natural outflow from the warmth in his heart. My dad never thought himself so important as to feel his needs should come first or that he should complain. At least not around his children. Even our family vacations seemed to be planned around providing the best possible experience for us (though I’m quite certain we kids didn’t always appreciate this as much as we should have). He never gave us the feeling that we were simply being dragged along, a necessary evil to fulfilling his own recreational aspirations.

Once, when I was a child, perhaps 10 or 12 years old, I recall my dad stopping to help a stranded motorist. I asked him why, and rather than offer a response that would imply any heroics on his part, he simply said, “I’d want someone to stop for me.” The simple fact that this memory has remained a part of my conscious thought suggests the impact this experience had on me.  I find that his routine behavior modeled for me an ideal that simply couldn’t have been effectively conveyed with mere words. Indeed, my dad often demonstrated the principles I, and my siblings, would grow to live by.

This extended far beyond our home and, at the height of his business career, my dad took several young coworkers under his wing, becoming not only their mentor but also their friend. His kindness and soft-spoken charm allowed him to make friends easily and his genuine concern for the welfare of others reflected his love to all who knew him. Being myself a rather difficult child, I am quite certain I tried his patience more often than I care to admit, but he never ceased to live the message of James 1:19; “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” All through my formative years and well into my adulthood, I watched how my dad interacted with others and tried my best to emulate him. Like he was to his young coworkers, he was a mentor to me, too.

The prophet Micah, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote these words, “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) My dad passed from this life on March 31, 2018 at the age of 90. This verse from Micah had come to have significance to him during his last days, perhaps because it reflected so well the principles he tried to live by and to pass on to his children. While my dad would be the first to admit he was far from perfect, in the words of my youngest brother, “If I could be half the man my dad was, I’d be twice the man as most.”

The last time my father and I read the Bible together, we read from the book of John. One passage we shared was the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, in which we see how Jesus met this woman right where she was, talked to her without judgment, and humbly offered her the living water of new life in Christ. And this is how Jesus meets all of us, right where we are, offering us new life as only he can. In John 5:24, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, 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.” And in John 6, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  (John 6:35) It’s not too late for you to find new life in Jesus Christ. Just do like the Samaritan woman did in John 4:15 and ask!

In honor of my dad, I leave you with this old Irish blessing: May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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Within and Without

Within & Without  I am no stranger to difficult times. Like most of us, I have struggled through many very painful and stressful circumstances and I have felt the inner turmoil that comes with them. It seems today, more than ever, that people are really struggling. Depression, addiction, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and despair are just some of the symptoms stemming from the difficulties we face. If you are like me, you have probably even looked around at times for who to blame for the trials you’ve endured. And, indeed, sometimes our struggles do stem from the actions of others, but for me, more often than not, I’m pretty sure I need look no further than the mirror.

Like most of us today, King David was no stranger to difficulty. He was an adulterer and a murderer (read 2 Samuel 11). He was surrounded by enemies both within his kingdom and outside of it. Even his own son, Absalom, tried to overthrow and kill him (read the full story starting in 2 Samuel 15). If ever there was a person who might be tempted to blame his problems on others, one might thing King David would be just such a person. The ordeal with Absalom was devastating to David and upon hearing of the death of his son at the hands of the King’s warriors, the Bible says David was overcome with emotion and burst into tears (read 2 Samuel 18:33). David most certainly knew the reality of emotional pain.

In Psalm 38 we see that even in the face of his many enemies and the immense pressure he faced as king, David doesn’t start with blaming others. Rather, he starts by looking within himself and considering his own sin. Psalm 38 is an excellent example of how David cried out to the Lord in prayer, examining his own life and his own wrongs first, then the actions of others, and finally pleading with God for help and forgiveness. I have reprinted Psalm 38 in its entirety below. In verses 1 and 2 he addresses his lament to the Lord, indicating this is a prayer. Verses 3-10 address the onslaught from the enemy within whereas verses 11-20 address the enemy without. Verses 21 and 22 conclude the prayer. It is easy to see that David’s perspective was that his painful plight was, at least in part, due to his own personal sin.

A couple things strike me when I read Psalm 38; in verses 3-8, David articulates the anguish that he is feeling, describing it with words such as “crushing”, “broken”, “grief” and he likens his trials to sickness and fever. I can identify with the way extreme stress, sadness, and anguish can make me feel that the world is crushing in on me and how it can make my whole body feel sick, sometimes sapping me even of the desire to get out of bed. The second thing that strikes me is the way David cries out to the Lord, confessing his sin and acknowledging that God has the power to restore him. This is seen in verses 9, 15, and 18-22. So he starts with self-examination and concludes by reaching out to the only one who has the power to restore his spirit.

So here it is, Psalm 38, with my concluding remarks following:

1 O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your rage!
2 Your arrows have struck deep,
    and your blows are crushing me.
3 Because of your anger, my whole body is sick;
    my health is broken because of my sins.
4 My guilt overwhelms me—
    it is a burden too heavy to bear.
5 My wounds fester and stink
    because of my foolish sins.
6 I am bent over and racked with pain.
    All day long I walk around filled with grief.
7 A raging fever burns within me,
    and my health is broken.
8 I am exhausted and completely crushed.
    My groans come from an anguished heart.
9 You know what I long for, Lord;
    you hear my every sigh.
10 My heart beats wildly, my strength fails,
    and I am going blind.
11 My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease.
    Even my own family stands at a distance.
12 Meanwhile, my enemies lay traps to kill me.
    Those who wish me harm make plans to ruin me.
    All day long they plan their treachery.
13 But I am deaf to all their threats.
    I am silent before them as one who cannot speak.
14 I choose to hear nothing,
    and I make no reply.
15 For I am waiting for you, O Lord.
    You must answer for me, O Lord my God.
16 I prayed, “Don’t let my enemies gloat over me
    or rejoice at my downfall.”
17 I am on the verge of collapse,
    facing constant pain.
18 But I confess my sins;
    I am deeply sorry for what I have done.
19 I have many aggressive enemies;
    they hate me without reason.
20 They repay me evil for good
    and oppose me for pursuing good.
21 Do not abandon me, O Lord.
    Do not stand at a distance, my God.
22 Come quickly to help me,
    O Lord my savior.

The good news in all of this is that God loves you dearly. Just as you are. He says you are created in His image (Genesis 1:26) and that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Like a loving parent he created rules to guide us so we could live full and satisfying lives (as Dr. James McDonald says: “when God says ‘don’t’ he means ‘don’t hurt yourself’”). Then knowing that we had failed to meet his holy standards, he sent his one and only Son so that we could be forgiven and stand in his presence again (John 3:16).

Sometimes when we are struggling, we need the help of professional counselors and doctors, and we should always consult with those resources. But we should not hesitate to reach out to God also, for he will always respond to our sincere prayers. Jesus said these words and I hope they bring you as much comfort as they do me: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Today my prayer for you is that you will find the love and peace of our Savior and the promise of his coming.

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

And Justice For All

courtroom-898931_960_720   She was walking home from work one evening. She had made this walk dozens of times since she took the dinner shift at the restaurant where she worked. Almost always between 10:00pm and 11:00pm; her route took her down the street, through the park, and just over the bridge near her apartment. Once across the bridge it was a quick stroll across the back parking lot and she was home. Very routine. She never imagined she would one day join the list of #metoo victims but this night there was a man waiting for her.

She had served him a few times at the restaurant, and he had taken a fancy to her. So much so that, hiding along her route, he had watched her walk home night after night for a couple weeks. He knew her route and he knew her routine. She always walked with her headphones on, her waitress outfit was dark red, the restaurant’s color, so passersby rarely noticed her, but there was little traffic anyway and rarely was anyone around at that time of night. He formed a plan. He was a very troubled man, and this was not the first time he’d done this.

One night, he hid between the cars in her apartment parking lot and waited. When she crossed the bridge and started through the parking lot, he stood up behind her, followed her quietly to the door. Coming up behind her, acting as if he was just going to see friend, he struck up a brief conversation, as two people heading to the same destination might, and she easily let him follow her inside and up to her floor, where he had stated his friend lived also. But as she unlocked her apartment door, he suddenly turned around and violently pushed her inside. And there, in her own apartment, he brutally attacked & raped her.

Thanks to the video surveillance at her apartment, it did not take the police long to identify the attacker and arrest him. And the DNA evidence assured a speedy trial and easy conviction by the jury. The evidence against the man was simply overwhelming. And there he stood at the sentencing before kindly old Judge Thomas. The judge was known as a loving family man and a deeply caring friend, always putting the needs of others before his own. But here, in the courtroom, faced with such convincing evidence and the resulting guilty verdict, there was only one thing the benevolent judge could do – he handed down the maximum allowable sentence.

And would any of us handle it differently than Judge Thomas? Surely not! In fact, knowing the facts of the case, we might feel that no punishment is harsh enough; such cases usually trigger our emotions in ways that are deeply passionate. This is not really all that surprising, though, because we are created in the image of God and we know that, in addition to being a perfect, loving Father, God is also supremely just, and he punishes sin wherever he finds it. Like the judge in our fictitious story, God is loving, caring, and benevolent…but completely just.

And so while we don’t often like to talk about judgment, the Bible tells us judgment is coming and we do well to understand this. The writer of Hebrews notes that it is appointed to a person to die once and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). John the Baptist spoke about God’s coming judgment saying, “Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees.” (Matthew 3:10) and Jesus frequently spoke of coming judgment with statements such as: “But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!” (Matthew 5:22) and: “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.” (Matthew 12:36) and: “Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.” (John 16:11) So the coming judgment might not be a popular topic we see that it is one of vital importance.

At this point many might say, “I’m am not concerned about judgment because I’m not that bad of a person, surely my good deeds will outweigh my bad on judgment day.” But even a statement like that reveals what we all know to be true about ourselves, that despite the good things we have done, we all have done bad things, too. So let’s not be disingenuous by refusing to admit our sins. We all have guilt and we all know it intuitively. And God doesn’t grade on a curve like your high school teacher, he judges sin wherever he finds it.

But God, being the loving, perfect, and just judge, made a way for us to be redeemed by sending his one and only Son to the cross to pay the penalty for us. And here we find the real conundrum; regardless of our sins, we can be forgiven only if we accept God’s free gift of grace through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. But many refuse. And this is where judgment comes. Jesus said, “But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.” (John 12:48) And in John 3:19 he said, “And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” And in John 3:36, “And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”

But in Romans 8:1 we read: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” And in John 3:18 we read that: “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.” So it is really very simple, we all know we have sinned, but we can avoid God’s judgment simply by acknowledging our sin and believing the Gospel message that Jesus died and rose again for us. The Apostle John wrote: “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.” (1 John 4:9) and “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” (1 John 5:12) That is the Gospel message. If you haven’t already, won’t you please believe starting today?

And for those who may be victims, who may have suffered by a crime committed by another, please know that Jesus loves you dearly and he stands with you, arms wide open, able to understand by his own suffering, and that he will one day make all things right. He spoke these words in John 16:33: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” And we are assured in the book of Revelation that one day: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4) So we cry with you, come quickly Lord!

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Fearless!

fearless 6  Halloween is when we have little candy-seeking visitors knocking on our doors, dressed in their costumes, often with scary or creepy images designed to bring an element of the frightful. But the Halloween tradition is more about fictional fear than real fear. While many of the costumes the children wear to our door evoke images of ghosts, goblins, witches, skeletons, and other characters that can have roots in the spiritual realm, in the end, they are only pretend, and not likely to elicit much in the way of real fear.

However, many of us find ourselves facing real fearful things in our daily lives. Indeed, there are many fears in the world that are all too real for those who face them. And for people facing these fears, they can be debilitating to say the least. Let’s take a look at some very well-known, and very real, fears:

Arachnophobia – The fear of spiders. This affects women four times more (48% women and 12% men).

Acrophobia – The fear of heights. Five percent of the general population suffer from this phobia.

Agoraphobia – The fear of open or crowded spaces. People with this fear often won’t leave home.

Claustrophobia – The fear of small spaces like elevators, small rooms, and other enclosed spaces.

Mysophobia – The fear of germs. Sometimes also known as Germophobia or Bacterophobia.

Aerophobia – The fear of flying. Twenty-five million Americans share a fear of flying.

Glossophobia – The fear of public speaking. Many people say they would prefer death to public speaking.

Monophobia – The fear of being alone. Even while eating and/or sleeping.

Thanatophobia – The fear of death. Even talking about death can be hard.

Do you suffer from any of these? I do…I have a pronounced fear of heights, which I have not yet been able to completely overcome. I used to have a fear of flying but God helped me overcome that many years ago. Donna suffers from arachnophobia, as does her nephew. If you suffer from any of these fears, or any other anxiety or phobia, you are definitely not alone and the Bible has plenty to say to us.

The Apostle John tells us that “perfect love expels all fear” in 1 John 4:18. And despite the fears we often experience in our lives and circumstances, when we place our faith in Jesus we are guaranteed eternal life free from judgment, so we see that those fears really are unfounded. In Matthew 8:23-27, we read the story of Jesus calming the storm. In this story, the disciples are clearly terrified and in fear for their lives, but Jesus asks them, “Why are you afraid?” This is a great question, because by this time they had already seen Jesus perform several miracles and you’d think they would understand the breadth of his power. But they still were afraid.

And often times, so are we. But God does promise to be with us at all times and the Bible tells us we can count on him in all circumstances. We have every reason to be more than confident. Here are some of God’s promises regarding the fears we feel:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.” Psalm 46:1-2

“Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood.” Isaiah 54:4

“Yes, you came when I called; you told me, “Do not fear.” Lamentations 3:57

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

“But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Matthew 14:27

“We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live.” Luke 1:74-75

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:37-38

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.” 1 Peter 3:14

There are many, many more verses in the Bible that help us know we can trust God to help us overcome our fears. Those of us who have already repented and placed our faith in Jesus Christ are fortunate to have this life assistance right now. We simply need to read God’s Word, pray regularly, and trust God to keep his promises and we can find the courage to face anything that comes our way.

And if you haven’t yet come to Christ, why not make today the day? Then you, too, can have the assurance that comes from being a Christian. As humans, there is a great chasm that separates us from God, and subjects us to the penalty for our wrongs. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) But Jesus is the bridge that spans that expanse and allows us to enjoy fellowship with our Creator again.

“The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)

Once you have been restored to fellowship with God, you will know the assurance that comes from Jesus Christ and you, too, can be fearless!

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

An Honest Man

scales-36417_960_720 Among the impressive sites we saw on our recent trip to Arkansas is a magnolia tree that was planted 178 years ago. Located in Historic Washington State Park in Arkansas, the magnolia tree is so large it now occupies an area almost as large as the entire yard upon which sits your average home. The branches arch down to the ground and back upwards, forming a large canopy under which you could easily park your car. After nearly two centuries, it’s a really big tree – the oldest known to exist in Arkansas.

But that is not all we found in Historic Washington State Park. The park encompasses the entire town of Washington, Arkansas; a town of specific significance in our country’s history. For one, it is blacksmith James Black who made the first Bowie Knife. While there is some controversy surrounding the accuracy of this claim, Black’s knives are prized by collectors and to this day the American Bladesmith Society maintains a knife making college at the site. Secondly, Historic Washington was the Confederate State Capital of Arkansas from 1863-1865.

With my brother-in-law, Steve, as our knowledgeable guide, we toured the town and the many well-preserved and reconstructed buildings found there. While space doesn’t allow me to recite the full list of buildings, I will say that they include a recreation of James Black’s blacksmith shop, the old courthouse, circa 1874, that contains some truly gorgeous wood work and a museum, the Royston log house, and the B.W. Edwards Weapons Museum. There is also the oldest Methodist church in Arkansas and Williams Tavern, which is now a restaurant offering excellent food at very reasonable prices (including genuine southern style cornbread).

Among the things we saw was Pioneer Cemetery, which contains graves dating back as far as the Revolutionary War, but mostly is the final home to many of Washington’s earliest settlers. Among them, we found Ephraim Mirick and his wife, Mary (Belcher) Mirick. Now that big old magnolia tree was just a sapling when Ephraim and Mary were in their prime. Through a little research I found that Ephraim was a respected trader and land speculator who helped establish some of the trade routes in the area, especially between Camden and Washington, a portion of this route still exists as Nevada County Road 10. What most caught my interest about Ephraim and Mary Mirick, however, wasn’t the historical facts about them that I found, but the sayings preserved for all time on their respective grave markers.

Ephraim’s stone has the scales of justice on top and the words “an honest man” engraved on the bottom while Mary’s has the Bible on the top and the words “a Christian” on the bottom. Both epitaphs convey a decidedly positive message about the individual, but while being an honest man is certainly a good thing, it tells us nothing about Ephraim’s eternal fate. Mary’s, on the other hand, tells us all we need to know. She was a Christian and “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) Mary as a Christian and we know that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So we know on October 7, 1877 at age 71 she entered the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Ephraim’s fate, on the other hand, remains a mystery to us. We simply do not know. For the truth is, while people thought well-enough of him to inscribe “an honest man” on his stone, the Bible tells us we simply cannot be good enough to get into heaven based on how we lived our lives. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23) The great prophet Isaiah said it this way, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” (Isaiah 64:6) So old Ephraim may very well have been an honest man, he may have been generous and kind to many, but we know from Scripture that even the best of us have sinned, even Ephraim. And the penalty for sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

Now Ephraim may have been a Christian, and he may be in heaven right now with his wife, but based on his epitaph we just don’t know. But you can know what will happen to you when you die. It is very simple, we just have to believe the Bible and admit to God that we are sinners and we need him. As it says in Romans 10:9-10, “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.” So, if you haven’t already, won’t you take this step of faith today? Then you will know, with certainty, that you belong to Jesus and you will go to heaven when you die.

Want to know more about how to become a Christian? Please visit KnowGod.org

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

 

Feel The Love

Feel the Love At one time or another, most of us have had the often dreaded experience of a performance review from our employer. A typical review involves a job description or standard against which we are measured, and you know the drill; your boss describes in precise detail all of your accomplishments and shortcomings for the last year against. We always hope the good outweighs the bad and most of us wonder how our manager or supervisor can remember so many particulars about our performance when most days we’re not sure he or she even knows our name. But all we really care about is whether or not we’re getting a raise, that is, of course, until one of those negative points strikes a nerve, causing our ire to be raised and our egos to be bruised.

If you’re especially blessed, your review might even include feedback from your coworkers. This review technique goes by many names, but involves the process of your manager collecting positive and negative feedback from a select number of people with whom you regularly interface and then collating said information into a format that becomes a large dose of reality for you to digest. The positive comments are easy enough to swallow, but inevitably the negative ones come out and you’re pretty sure your coworkers just don’t see all the good you do or maybe they have formulated a plot to see you fail. Don’t you just feel the love now?!

I jest, of course, but the negative comments do tend to be more difficult to accept than the positive.

I have been fortunate to be through many more performance reviews than I can count in my nearly four decades of professional service. I can say with all honesty that most of my reviews have been more positive than negative, but I certainly have endured my fair share of negative commentary as well. I especially remember one particular boss, with whom my working relationship could only be described as tenuous, looking me right in the eye and telling me, “your problem is that you’re arrogant.” Nobody wants to hear that about themselves, but I am quite convinced that the negative feedback that I have received, while maybe outnumbered by the positive, is still the most useful. Is it not by facing the truth about oneself that one experiences the most rewarding growth?

In the spiritual realm, we also find that there is a standard against which we are measured. God’s Word serves as that standard; as the Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Indeed, God’s Word is the standard by which we can measure our performance. But, unlike our work performance review, there is no regularly scheduled time where someone else will do the work for us. We have to examine ourselves. Paul instructed us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves.”

For those of us who have already turned to Jesus in repentance and faith, we read the Bible and make every effort to put into practice what is says: “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” (James 1:22-25) It is through our daily Bible reading and study, interaction with other Christians, and church attendance that we grow and improve and we are blessed for our effort.

For those as yet spiritually uncommitted, please consider carefully these words: “the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” (Romans 3:19-20) The fact of the matter is that while your good deeds may outweigh your bad, when you are measured against God’s law, the verdict is already in: we all fall short. But this is nothing to fret over, because God has already solved the problem for us. “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” (Romans 3:22) And that is the good news: God loves you so much “He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) And now there is “no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

So if you have not yet given your faith to Jesus Christ, won’t you do so now? I guarantee you have never known love like this before. Come, feel the love!

To learn more, please visit: needGod.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Real Love

Heart-cross  There can be little doubt that people are interested in love. We talk about it, we sing about it, we spend our lives looking for it. Studies have shown love to be one of our most basic and crucial needs. When we feel we have the love we desire, we are happy and content and full of smiles; but when love fails us, our entire countenance changes and some of us may slip into utter despair. So basic and essential is love that it is the subject of books, poems, plays, movies, songs, paintings, and many other forms of art and entertainment.

Our first tangible experiences with love often come from our parents, and research has shown how vital this parental love is to our development. Parents hold us, care for us, sing to us, talk to us, play with us, teach us, dress us, set rules and boundaries for us, and become our first role models. But even parental love often falls short of our needs and expectations, manifesting dysfunction in our lives that affects our ability to give and receive love as we mature.

Eventually we seek romantic love beyond our families of origin. It is here that we tend to experience our biggest hurts and frustrations. We extend ourselves toward others in hopeful expectation and often experience rejection and letdown. Many of us try multiple times before finding that one special person with whom we feel we can spend our lives. And then, in the midst of what we were sure was the perfect relationship, we find futility and heartache. Indeed, we often find, as the popular hit song declares: love hurts.

Maybe another popular love song has it right when it proclaims that we are looking for love in all the wrong places. The fact is, as vital as it is for us to have love in our human relationships, the starting point in our search for love must be with God. For it is only in God that we can find and experience perfect love. The Bible teaches that “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and it gives us the perfect description of love: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

The Bible is filled with examples of God’s love and assures us that “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) When we seek His love we find all that we have been searching for; we find perfect, endless, limitless love. He will never forsake us despite our mistakes, our struggles, our bad habits, or our shortcomings.

And when we experience God’s perfect love it becomes our example of love: “We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19) and our definition of love: “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10) And it is because of God’s love for us that we can approach Him in confident expectation. For we know that Jesus has experienced all our human struggles and He has empathy for us. “This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

So are you ready to lay aside your struggles and receive His love? It’s easy to get started, just get alone and talk to Him. Acknowledge He is Lord and that you need Him. “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 10:8) It’s that simple and if you are humble and genuine, you will experience new life and new hope in a way that is real and tangible. And you will know real love at last!

Our hope for you, then, is summed up in this verse from Ephesians 3:19: “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

Want to know more about how to experience His love? Please visit KnowGod.org

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.