No Substitute For The Right Piece

Posted in Happiness, Pursuing Jesus, Weekend Reflections by PCraig on June 30, 2016

I loved sitting and putting puzzles together as a kid.  I started with the big wooden pieces and worked my way up to the small, intricate and difficult puzzles with hundreds of pieces.  The frustrating thing that came with the more challenging puzzles was the way it seemed there were similar shaped pieces that looked a lot alike.  Invariably there would be an empty spot that would form with a odd shape, then I would joyously find a piece that appeared to be an identical match, only to have it not quite fit.  It was at this point; I would push, remove and repeat for numerous times.  My hope was that somehow it would turn into the missing piece that would exactly fit the hole.  But, in the end, it was the wrong piece.

It was not until I gave up and looked for another piece that I was able to fill the spot.  Much the same, many of us are living this puzzle called life and all of us want to be happy.  Yet, we find ourselves pushing and pushing the wrong pieces into the holes of our lives.  We think, “If I can just get married, obtain a new job, move to a new city, or reach a new high, then I’ll be happy.”  The reality is that we are trying to force something into a hole that only God can fill.

Each of us are made by a Creator that loves us and wants good things for us, but He is the missing piece for many.  We try to cram relationships, careers, money, things money can buy, positions, and other things and it leads to frustration, hurt, anguish and pain.

Just like getting the right shape in the right place can only complete the puzzle on a card table, we cannot find happiness until we get Jesus in the God-shaped hole in our lives.  Once we do, then we begin to experience life to the full that Jesus came to bring.

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Disappointing People The Right Way

Posted in Choice, Commitments, Decisions, Family, Perspective by PCraig on June 23, 2016

There are times I have to disappoint people, and I don’t like it.  I can’t be in two places at once, so I have to make a choice.  There is a call to answer and so you can’t answer everyone else’s.  Opportunities present themselves, but you can’t have it all or possibly do it all, so what do you do?

I’ve failed in this area so many times that it isn’t even funny, but over time I have learned some principles that serve as a guide and help me sleep at night.  One thing I would suggest is you must prioritize your life and do so with the idea of living your life on purpose.  What are your priorities?

Here are mine:

  • What do I feel would please God most in this situation, choice or dilemma?
  • What does my family need me to be right now?  Present? Listening? Engaged? What does that look like?
  • What does my church family need right now? Is there an area I need to pay closer attention to at this season?

Now, this list is written in priority order for me.  God first, family second and occupation third.  I would like to tell you that this is the way it’s always been, but I’m afraid my wife might write a blog someday and embarrass me.  The truth is that it used to be church first, God second (because I thought He put me in charge of the church), then family a distant third (because God liked it when I let Him be in charge of my family.  The problem came when I saw in the Scriptures that He said HE was in charge of His church and I was in charge of my family.  That changed my life!

For many I’ve witnessed, the miss-alignment looks more like family first, career & personal ambitions second, then God (and things of God) a very distant third.

So, if you were to apply the priority list of God first, family second, and occupation/dreams/goals/job third, what does today look like for you?  How about this coming weekend?  How about the year so far?

We’re about halfway through this year, so the good news is you can still turn it around and finish strong.  Here’s what else I’ve found, when I put God first, not just in my words, but in my time, talent and treasure (the real measurements); then He has a way of blessing the other areas in ways only He can do — see Matthew 6:33.

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A Sadness That Leads To Gladness

Posted in Change, God's love, Happiness, Joy by PCraig on June 16, 2016

The thing I enjoy most about going to the dentist is leaving.  Sorry to all my dental professional friends.  My reason stems from not taking care of my teeth overly well as a kid and needing a lot of fillings done along the way.  I never enjoyed them coming toward me with that big, long needle to numb me up for the procedure to follow.  Nowadays, I don’t have to worry about fillings; it’s more just the picking at my teeth with a small stainless pickaxe.  Yet, I love how clean my teeth feel when I leave.  That crystal clean sensation of teeth that have been scrubbed as clean as can be is wonderful.

This is a similar feel to what Jesus described, when He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  It doesn’t sound like we will be happy if we’re mourning, but it depends on how you look at it.  We try to numb ourselves from our unhappiness by using alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, sexual adventure, entertainment, food and even work.  All of these things are an effort to escape or produce a fix.  But, not only are these temporary, they can lead us to addiction.

Rather than trying to escape or mask our sorrow, we would do better to address it.  Jesus promises comfort to those who do.  How do we do it?  Realize that a loving Heavenly Father waits for us to come to us with our brokenness.  Many have a warped image of God, but the Bible says (Ps.119:76) that His “unfailing love” will be “my comfort.”

Much like going to the dentist, if we will come to God in sorrow for our sins, He can help us bring about the change we need.  His cleansing power can do for us what we cannot do ourselves.  This is how mourners can be happy.  Or to put it another way, happy are the sad.  When we declare ourselves spiritually bankrupt, then God can step in and begin the process of recovery.  As we take the crud of our guilt, shame, bad choices and sin to God, He can scrub away the past and clean us up for a sparkling future.

When was your last appointment for soul cleansing?  Don’t let the plaque of sin build up on your heart any longer.  Enjoy the freedom, joy, relief, and relief that only an appointment with God can produce.  Do it today.

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It’s Not God’s Fault

Have you ever taken the time to ask yourself, “What is the common denominator in all my bad relationships?”  Think about this – it’s you!  How many of our issues, challenges and problems are the result of us trying to play God.  When I act like God, I’m going to make choices that I want regardless of what God has spoken.  So, when my life is going in a bad direction, who’s fault is it?

The Bible talks about how there is a way that seems right, but in the end it leads in death. What it’s saying is that we think we know what will make us happy, and way too often we get our cues from the culture. I wouldn’t get my advice from a bunch of people addicted all kinds of stuff and still can’t get happy.  Just saying!

When Jesus wanted to tell people how to be happy, He starts off with be “poor in spirit.”  That doesn’t sound like something you read in a magazine.  Yet, the encouragement is to admit some things about you, to get authentic.  Admit you are broken, because we all are, just maybe in different locations.  Set your pride aside and declare that you are not enough on your own.  Then, ask God for help. We move from confession to petition. With less of you, there’s more room for God.

Finally, we accept help from other people, because God uses others when we dare to be honest.  We all need a place to go where people won’t judge us, but hear us and pray for us.  When you admit you are poor in spirit, that’s when the power comes.  As you position yourself, then Jesus comes in His power and takes us to places we could never go on our own.

Don’t be the reason you’re not happy.  Humble yourself, admit you’re not enough, ask for God’s help, and accept help from others, in so doing, you’ll find a joy you never dreamed!

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Tear Up That Bad Picture

I can remember reading a fitness article a long time ago saying you need to picture yourself getting stronger while in the gym.  Now, the key is you also have to work out while you’re there!  When I read it, I have to confess that I thought it was a bunch of junk, but now I’m not so sure.  Not because of just physical fitness, but because of a universal principle.

The way you see yourself pulls you toward that image as your future.   Those who see themselves as intelligent, move the direction of good grades and honor’s classes. People who think of themselves as movers and shakers tend to do a lot of moving and shaking.  It’s not the results first and the action later, but the thought or mindset first, then the results.

Those who see themselves as fat and hopelessly addicted to food, eat too much.  They sabotage their own future by picturing it in their minds.  “I always eat too much, or whatever they put on my plate, I’m gonna eat it!”  So, they do.

The Bible shares with us that God chose us and that this decision caused Him great delight, therefore, we are beautiful in God’s eyes.  When you start seeing yourself as the beautiful child of God that is worth dying for, guess what?  It starts impacting your decisions for the day, the places you go, the people you hang around.  You start acting and looking a lot more like God.

You are no longer a slave to fear, bad past, mistakes, habits, hurts, hang-ups, or anything else you can name.  You are a child of God.  Say it out loud, “I am a child of God.”  And, keep saying it and you’ll start to live that way and be renewed from the inside out.

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