31 August, 2007

A Few Words Go A Long Way

Bumpers stickers are designed to say a lot in just a few words so that they can be easily remembered. They can be pretty humorous.
I saw one the other day, that especially with my wife being a Math/Science teacher, I thought was funny. It said, "4 out of 3 People Have Trouble With Fractions."
Another of my favorites said, "If God Did Not Want Us To Eat Animals, He Would Not Have Made Them Out Of Meat!"
Some bumper stickers are designed to make us think, such as political bumper stickers.
My point is, you can say a lot in just a few words.

In some ways, bumper stickers are a lot like these Bible verses:

1 Thessalonians 5:16 - "Be joyful always." (NIV)

This is not telling us to ignore sadness and sorrow. It is rather, an invitation to invite the person, presence and power of God into every area of our lives; in the bad times as well as the good. It is telling us to experience the peace of mind and heart that only comes in intimately knowing Christ, so that we may possess His joy.
Always" means it is a lasting experience. A true, God-given joy does not die after serving Christ for a certain period of time. This kind of joy does not disappear when life throws challenges and pain at you. This joy allows one to remain at peace when circumstances around you are anything but peaceful.

Here's another:
1 Thessalonians 5:17 - "Pray continually."

Developing a lifestyle of prayer takes a work and persistence. It is not something we develop overnight. Anyone who tells you that it does is misguided at best.
Don’t be fooled. You have to work at it. So,
don’t be discouraged if praying is hard work at times.
I am convinced that Satan is more focused on hindering our prayer life than any other part of our lives.
May I suggest to you that prayer is both an art and a science. There are both mental and emotional components to its practice. It is a skill to be learned and it takes discipline to be put to use.
Prayer includes thanking God, asking God, praising God and even listening to God.
It is an ongoing conversation... like having an open phone line that never gets hung up. Saying "amen" at the close of a prayer is not like saying "goodbye" at the end of a phone conversation with a friend.

And how about this one:
1 Thessalonians 5:18 - "Give thanks in all circumstances."

Please understand that this verse does NOT say, "Give thanks FOR all circumstances" but rather to remain thankful IN all circumstances.
To be thankful "IN all circumstances" is to see the big picture, to be aware that God is in control and we can trust Him even when bad things happen.

I saw this in action just yesterday when one of my church members lost her job of many years. She had serious questions about why, what she was going to do, and so on... yet she remained thankful that the Lord was in her life and professed her faith in God as her provider, even though she faced uncertainty at that moment. As the day played out, within just a few hours, this same woman called me back to tell me the exciting news that she had already found another job, and while it was $1 an hour less than her previous job, this one is just a few minute drive from her home, whereas the previous job had required her to drive almost an hour each way to and from work each day, saving her not only 2 hours of her time each day, but also the expense of gas and the wear and tear on her car. She actually came out ahead in this situation!
But the key is that she was still thankful for the Lord's presence even when she faced uncertain times.
This verse encourages us to develop a grateful heart. A grateful heart responds to God’s faithfulness and brings Him the honor and glory He deserves no matter what we face each day.

Here's another: 1 Thessalonians 5:19 - "Do not put out the Spirit’s fire."

Staying on fire for God is not always easy. But it is easier if we follow the verses I just wrote about. If I’m always joyful, praying continually, giving thanks in all circumstances...the Holy Spirit will be more active and operating within me. It’s not just that I cannot serve God and others without the Spirit’s fire, I can’t even walk and talk properly without Him and His flame. When I walk this life without the fire of the Holy Spirit operating in my life, I screw up more and say more dumb things. Trust me, I've been there!

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