Is it well with my soul?

I saw someone post on social media the other day that it was well with their soul. In context I believe they were referring to a thing going well in their life, and for that they wanted to thank God; absolutely and entirely appropriate. As a matter of fact, in the Joseph's Pictures 219“Law” we are instructed to bring sacrifices of thankfulness on the occasion that our hearts are so moved. God does a thing and we are excited, bring a sheep, bring some grain, bring some kind of sacrifice (that costs you something besides energy) to God to say, “Thank you God.”

When was the last time you stopped complaining and said, thank you to God? Seriously. In the midst of all the political pandering still going on, all the hate that is still being perpetrated in the guise of pretend offendedness, personal family drama, work place struggles, financial ruin, have you even stopped to look around and see what all you have to be thankful for?

When God does something wonderful in my life, I say thank you. The other day I was at home and I mowed my yard. As I mowed I thanked God for a yard to mow. I thanked God for our home, our dogs, food, a sunny day and a hot wife. (Or was that a hot day and a sunny wife I confuse them some times.) I stopped to thank God in the midst of a good day for all the good in my life.

What about when it isn’t fun?

As I sit here remembering that person’s “It is well with my soul” post, I wonder, shouldn’t I thank God when things don’t go my way? Don’t I believe he is always sovereign?

James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Are you focused on coasting?

Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to go. It isn’t always easy. I have also come to the understanding that just like church, there is never really a “coasting” time: a time when things are perfect and we could live like this all day. There is always, I say ALWAYS, something coming at us. What I see determining peoples “joy factor” is their focus. Are you focused on the “coasting life?” If you are, let me tell you, it will NEVER come, but you will live in a state of constant frustration, discontentment and grief as you strive for it.

Rejoice, rejoice and then rejoice

Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica and tells them,

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

This is Paul; ship wrecked, left on the open sea, beaten and left for dead, persecuted over and over, jailed and beaten but singing through the night. He found it inside of his belief in God that he could learn and grow in the midst of suffering if he changed his focus. I cannot recall a single passage from Paul where he is in jail and says, “Pray for me to get out this is awful and unjust.” No, he says, pray that I might have boldness to proclaim the gospel in these chains.

Thunder Hole, Acadia National ParkAnyone can bring a thank offering when things are going their way. The question is, will you do it when you are floating in the ocean, hanging on to a piece of the boat that just broke up, and you see the sharks? Can you count it all joy then? Can you see God trying to teach you something eternal, or do you just scream at God because this isn’t fair?

Joy is found in a long range, eternal, “I’m here for a moment,” focus. Happiness is found in our circumstances. Happiness is a wave that crashes on the beach over and over, but it can drown you. Joy is a buoy that you can hang on to and it will keep you from drowning.

CUT IT, BURN IT, POUR IT OUT

DO IT

I had the opportunity today to be out and about in some of my favorite spots. I over heard a man say that there was something he would like but he was still negotiating with his wife about the purchase. Let’s admit it, some of us have to spend much time gently convincing our spouse that what we WANT is actually a NEED. It doesn’t always work. Not motorcycles however, those are prescribed for men by God. In any case, I heard the Lord very quickly let me know that I had the ability in the moment to meet this person’s want; so I did. Why?

Jesus doesn’t want my latte’

We are doing kind of an “anti-Lent” on the way to Easter here at our church. We aren’t Lent-haters, I promise. With a little bit of study, you can see that Lent is really an extra biblical church activity. I struggle with Lent a lot because I really don’t see how letting go of my coffee habit is going to somehow connect me to the sufferings of Jesus leading up to his crucifixion. I already cannot fathom his depth of pain and suffering, I don’t think he wants my latte’.

What we are doing instead is looking at four things that Jesus DID do all along his way to the cross. He invited people to follow him, he invited people to give, he invited people to serve, and he invited people to celebrate.

Lamb of GodSacrifice

This week is all about Giving, specifically, sacrifice. Do we ever sacrifice? In biblical days they knew what that meant. You grab a sheep, a goat, a jar of grain, some herbs or spices, maybe even a child or some other livestock and you bring it to the temple and leave it there in the hands of the priest. You gave it to God. It was cut up, burnt, poured out, cast outside, gone. That means you went without it. It cost something, and it hurt a little bit to do that.

Going without

The truth is, I used to think of sacrifice as giving, but not the other part, the going-without-because-you-gave-it-away part. Sacrifice means I don’t have something any more. So if I sacrifice money, then I cannot spend it. I don’t have it. A guy once said, “You can only spend money once.” What a genius. I say that because not everyone I know (certainly not me a while ago) believed that. Sacrifice means that you are going to do without something. In this case so that you can give it to God, or someone in need, or want.

Not just money

Sacrifice is not always just about money. You can sacrifice your pride, your time, your energy, your love, your dreams, your desires, your attitude, there are a lot of things you can sacrifice. When you do sacrifice them, you don’t get to use them again. Think about time. If I were to sacrifice my money, I could earn a little more to make up for it. But, if I sacrifice my time, I can never get it back. When I stop what I am doing and love on someone by spending time or working for them, I can never get that time back again. I let it go, I gave it away as an act of worship.

“PRODIGAL”

Sacrifice isn’t always only for desperate people. We are not called to only help or give to people who are destitute. Sometimes we need to be like God and remember that he described himself as lavish. The story of the “Prodigal” in the Bible is actually a story of a “Prodigal” father, not a prodigal son. The lavish, wanton, ridiculous love of the father that took the boy back was the focus of the message. I don’t know why people always focus on the boy, he isn’t the context of the metaphor. The sacrificial LOVE of the Father is the message, the point of why “who-so-ever-will” may come.

The life that Jesus came to give you and I, according to John 10:10 is described in the Greek word, “Perssisos”. Look it up.

 

What sacrifice do you bring to God this year at Easter? Who do you sacrifice for intentionally to love God?

 

Think about it.