Tag Archives: Praise

The Practice of Focus

MY sweet husband, in pain, says, “This is the worst day yet,” as he struggles to move. Then he begins thanking me for my care for him. That’s my husband: realize the struggle, but focus on the blessings in the midst of it.

The Apostle Paul of the Holy Bible encourages us to realize the importance of contentment in all circumstances (Philippians 4). One of the greatest aids to contentment when trouble screams for our attention is the practice of focusing on the blessings all around us, being grateful for the good that trouble seeks to rob from us. Learning to see the beauty in life and taking time to smell the roses helps us walk a life of contentment in the midst of pain.

“I AM THE LORD”

Today, as I read through the Scriptures, I am reminded of an insight found in Leviticus last week. As I read that book, I realized that God began telling Israel of all He expected of them. On one directive after another, He ended the command with the reason for obedience being simply, “for I am the LORD.” If God is LORD, we obey. It is that simple.
 
As I underlined one “I am the LORD” after another, I found 51 such proclamations. The last two grabbed my attention with rejoicing as God put the shoe on His own foot. Speaking to Israel about the fact that failure to obey would lead to exile to foreign lands, he tells them:
 
“Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; FOR I AM THE LORD THEIR GOD. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I AM THE LORD.” Leviticus 26:44-45, NASB.
 
One of the 51 times that I marked as being the same as saying, “I am the LORD,” gave definition to God’s proclamation of LORDship as He commanded, “revere your GOD” (25:43). God still today expects us to prove He is our LORD through our obedience, but He also still knows the responsibility of LORDship. Second Timothy 2:13 tells us “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” Like with Israel, though we may well have hard consequences to face for actions against His LORDship, He is still God. He remembers His LORDship, to keep His promises, and He will do what is best for us even when we fail Him.

Take Up Your Cross—Made Easy!

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith ~ 1 John 5:4.

God speaks so clearly to my heart today, and He does it through a picture search. My thoughts on “Take up your cross daily and follow me,” looking for just the right pictures to portray that thought, I come across two that add new meaning to my understanding. Before covering that, lets cover the usual thought people have in that and the understanding I have long held that was added to today.

Most people I hear from on the subject believe carrying our cross means accepting our lot in life and bearing up under it as pleases and portrays Christ. The problem I too often see with this ideology is the person bearing it most often hangs their head, shakes it, and says, “Oh, it is just my cross to bear.”

Now I have no doubt that ideology can be part of bearing the cross, but it falls short of God’s teaching in that passage we use as our instruction on cross bearing. The preceding ideology hears the words of Christ, “Take up your cross daily and follow me” while forgetting the rest of the passage, and they do so with a defeated spirit that oft does more harm than good to the cause of Christ. God taught me much about cross bearing through the rest of that passage, so we go there for my understanding to date and what I call cross bearing.

“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” ~ Luke 9:23-24.

The clue to true cross bearing is the denying of self and the losing our life now so that we can gain it for eternity. It is to say as Jesus did, “Not my will, but Thy will be done, O God.” It is the practice of Philippians 2:1-8:

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Before today I would have said that this is cross bearing at its best. Then I ran across two pictures that added insight to my understanding of the best cross bearing, whether we are accepting our lot as Job did, or denying self as Jesus did.

Picture 1: Praise and Promise!

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Taking up our cross is made better than best when we take it up as one who is grabbing hold by faith to the promise and praiseworthiness of God, trusting Him despite our lot, knowing that as we deny self for the sake of others, He will meet us at our need and we will not miss our sacrifice for His name’s sake.

Picture #2: VICTORY!

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Taking up our cross means to walk out the challenges of this life realizing the victory is already won in Christ. No thing we face in this life can defeat us if we are bearing our cross in faith, believing Christ who says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” ~ John 16:33.

Taking up our cross is not a drudgery to be born. It is not hard. Because as we learn how to take it up, it is done with hope of promise, assurance of victory, and joy of glory in Christ the King, and God our Father. So take up your cross daily, my friend, and press forward in faith with strength, believing.