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April 2017

Turning 18

(http://orig07.deviantart.net/e35e/f/2016/231/b/a/flat_night_landscape_4k_wallpaper_by_charlie_henson-daehs6k.jpg)

(For Michael)

In the eyes of the law, you’re now an adult. Some cultures celebrate with elaborate rituals this transition from childhood to adulthood. Americans, not so much. About the closest we have to a rite of passage is high school graduation.

You spent more than two-thirds of your life in schools getting ready for–what? Where do you go from here? What’s next? How do you decide?

Listen to God’s advice:

“Prepare your work outside and make it ready for yourself in the field; afterwards, then, build your house.” – Proverb 24:27

“Prepare”

You’re at the beginning of adulthood; it will take time for you to get to where you need to be. Before going on this trip, pack well. Take with you whatever will help you travel, and keep your eyes open all through the journey. The world hasn’t changed, but you have; so the world’s different. Bring with you the familiar to ease you into the unknown.

“Your”

This adventure can feel selfish, but God wants you to contemplate yourself. He rejoices when you discover who He has made you to be. Don’t hide from your desires and interests; they’re your friends.

“Work”

School is like work–you have assignments, duties, responsibilities, and evaluations. But too much of childhood education is imposed; you have little choice about when, what, and even how you learn.

Now, you can determine where to invest your time, talents, and treasures. Intimidating? Yes, but God has made you strong, so devote your energy to what accords best with who you are in Christ. In the words of Frederick Buechner, “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

“Outside”

To detect the problems society faces, look around you. Find out for yourself what people deal with and investigate how your skills and talents can provide solutions. Remember that the Lord has put something special inside you for the benefit of others. Don’t keep it locked away.

“And”

God repeats Himself because we’re slower to absorb what He’s telling us than we’d like to admit. We need to hear it twice but that’s okay! There’s biblical precedent:

“Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” – Philippians 3:1

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” – Philippians 4:4

“Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.” – 2 Peter 3:1

“This will be my third visit to you. ‘Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’” – 2 Corinthians 13:1

“Make”

Preparing your work is going to require, well, work! It takes effort. There will be days when demands seem light and you handle everything easily. Other days, the labor will weigh on you and you’ll feel like giving up. Stay consistent in your work; doing a little bit each day adds up, so persevere. As James Clear recommends, fall in love with boredom. It’s the secret to success.

“It”

What are you sinking your time into? A college major? A business venture? An invention? Whatever it is, it’s not fixed. It’ll morph as you develop your idea and learn your craft. But you’ll also discover that God’s Spirit has been giving you direction all along; you’re not wasting your time.

“Ready”

“Patience,” as Joyce Meyer puts it, “is not simply the ability to wait–it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” You won’t earn your degree in 10 minutes, so you’ll have to develop patience. But do more than endure; enjoy the process. Thrive as you prepare your future and you’ll find even greater delight when it arrives.

“For”

Your life has to have a purpose. You can live an unexamined life for so long before the deeper issues emerge from your heart and demand a hearing. Simon Sinek suggests that you “start with why.” This does more than keep you from wasting time. According to Jason Burnham, “Your purpose should ignite your passions and inspire you to be the best you that you can possibly be. It should utilize your skills and past experiences, while stimulating personal growth and future opportunity.”

“Yourself”

The greatest gift you can give someone is yourself. Jesus says as much:

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

But He also demonstrates it:

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” – 1 John 3:16

Do you have a self to give? Do you know who you are? When you do, you have something wonderful to offer to God and to the world.

“In the field”

If “what do you do” is the most repeated question at get-togethers, “where do you work” may run a close second. At this stage of your life, you don’t have to answer those. Yet!

But you’ll encounter similar ones: “what’s your major” and “where do you go to school?” The world’s messy; we like to organize it and categorizing people is one such trick.

Don’t feel hemmed in by such talk. View these conversations as invitations to focus and clarify. God will guide you, but He may not spell out every last detail. That’s because a field is broad; you have plenty of room to run around and explore. So take advantage of the opportunities He’s giving you.

“Afterwards, then”

Work isn’t everything; school shouldn’t swallow your soul. You want to share what you’re learning, what you’re becoming. To use a different analogy, the path you take will cause you to meet up with like-minded travelers. Your friendships will be deep because the Lord is enriching your heart.

“Build your house”

When you’ve chosen your vocation and prepared your work, you’re in the right circumstances to start a family. You’re settled in your spirit and established in what you do. You’ll attract others who complement you and you’ll seek out those whom you admire.

“Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” – 2 Timothy 2:22

In those friendships, one will stand out. This is love! Not self-possessed, amateur infatuation. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery describes it, “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

Start looking now.

Happy birthday. I love you!

 

God’s Wish for You

    (https://image.freepik.com/free-vector/yellow-mailbox-background-with-envelope-in-flat-design_23-2147606009.jpg)

Did you ever get someone else’s mail and open it by mistake? When you realized that the letter didn’t belong to you, how did you feel? Ashamed?  Embarrassed?

We want to respect the privacy of people because we’d like them to treat us the same way. That’s the golden rule.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:12

But sometimes God reveals our personal information with others. I’ve been in situations where a person praying for me covered exactly what I was facing, even though I hadn’t disclosed any details.

I’ve also been on the other side, where I had to pray for a line of people, one at a time. I didn’t know what each individual needed and I didn’t have time to ask; the line was too long. So I just trusted that the Lord would speak through me as I prayed, and based on their reactions, I’d say that He did.

We used to refer to this as “reading your mail.” It was like skimming through private correspondence but without the guilt!

Many of what we call “books” of the Bible are actually letters. Addressed to churches or individuals, they deal with the spiritual and social circumstances of the original recipients.

But do they apply to us?

(http://www.gocomics.com/peanuts/2011/11/04)

When Paul composed his letter to the Romans, he had in mind the Christians in Rome, not us. Yet because Romans is part of the Bible, it’s God’s Word to all believers, so it’s meant for us, too.

What about specific verses? I have in mind a greeting contained in a small epistle in the New Testament.

“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” – 3 John 2 (NASB)

I’ve heard preachers dismiss this verse because it’s a greeting. True, that’s the form it takes, but why would that require us to reject its content?

They must feel that because it’s a greeting, it’s only a wish; the verse expresses John’s sentiments rather than the will of God.

But is that a safe assumption?

To find out, let’s explore the verse.

“Beloved”

John the church elder valued a fellow Christian named Gaius (vs. 1). He knows that Jesus loves Gaius and died for him.

Does Jesus love you? Did Christ die for your sins? Yes, yes indeed!

“I pray”

John didn’t just love Gaius; he interceded for him. If you care about people enough to mention their names and their situations to the Lord, you care! That’s love in action!

Does God want you to pray for others? Does He inspire others to intercede for you? Yes, these describe the blessing and responsibility of the Spirit-filled life.

“That in all respects”

John neglected nothing; he strove for Gaius to enjoy favor in every way. That’s wholehearted devotion and commitment.

Do you love others like that? Does Jesus treasure you halfway or all out? Has He put people in your life who give you their all?

“You may prosper”

John was probably in his 90s when he composed this letter, so he’d seen a lot in his life. He’d witnessed successes and failures and sought for Gaius to flourish, his needs met and his desires fulfilled.

Does the Lord intend for you to succeed? Will Jesus provide for you? Does He call you to help others so they can advance?

“And be in good health”

From his years of apostolic work, John recognized the significance of health. He’d seen Jesus heal the sick and he’d participated in healing miracles himself. These experiences convinced the apostle that good health was God’s will.

Does the Lord want you healthy? Can you say a prayer for or lend a helping hand to someone battling sickness or disease?

“Just as your soul prospers”

John had brought many people to faith in Jesus. Their salvation, the redemption of their spirit, occurred the moment they trusted in Christ. But the transformation of their personalities would take a lifetime. John desired Gaius to become more like Jesus every day.

Isn’t this God’s plan for you, too? He wants you to take on the image of His Son. That’s why the Holy Spirit lives inside your heart. He’s not a spectator; He’s an agent of change.

Financial prosperity and physical health are wonderful, but in God’s kingdom, they depend on the ongoing work of the Word and the Spirit on the soul.

Does this verse apply to you? Dare to believe that it does!

 

with Bob Condly

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