Joy In The Morning

How does your morning routine start? Mine proceeds according to the following steps:

- Alarm sounds at approximately 6:30 am, jerking me out of my peaceful slumber.

- Lay in bed for 3 to 5 minutes, wondering if I was hit by a large vehicle at some point during the night.

- Crawl out of bed and stumble my way into the shower.

- Begin internal monologue as I review the previous day and ponder the upcoming day. Anxiety, fear, or frustration set in as I remember all the troubles of yesterday and all the problems of the upcoming day.

- Make large cup of industrial strength coffee.

Do you notice the problem with this picture? Let me point it out for you: I begin my day by listening to myself instead of talking to myself. From the moment I fall out of bed in the morning my mind is churning. I think about unfinished projects at work, people I need to call, ways I sinned the previous day, ways I failed to care for my wife, upcoming events that I need to organize, strategies for improving my fantasy football team, and 10,000 other anxiety-inducing subjects. By the time I step out of the shower I’m already burdened by worry. I’m starting my day by listening to myself.

I should begin my day by reminding myself of God’s truth, and responding to those truths in praise to God. I want my day to start with gratefulness to God. Here’s what I want my morning to look like:

Lord thank you for sustaining me through the night. Thank you for the precious blood of Jesus, which makes me your child this morning. Thank you that I wake this morning, not under your wrath, but under your mercy. Thank you that you have new mercies for me this morning!

I praise your for your sovereignty. I praise you that today you are working all things for my good. I praise you that nothing can separate me from your deep, intense, abiding love. You have ordained all that happens today, and I will rejoice in whatever you bring my way.

Lord thank you for this hot shower, and for hot coffee, and for my wonderful house, and my job. These are all undeserved blessings. Fill me with gratefulness today. Let all I do today be for your glory.

How does your day start? Do you begin your day by listening to yourself or by reminding yourself of God’s truth? Does your day start with anxiety or thanksgiving? Do you speak truth to your soul, or do you let your thoughts run free? Joy is found in meditating on and rejoicing in God’s truth. Let’s start our day with a good dose of truth. And a good dose of coffee.

Napoleon Dynamite and the Faithfulness of God

There are certain things that I can’t change about myself. I need a solid 7 hours of sleep each night if I’m going to function at a semi-conscious level during the day. I believe the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and New York Yankees are a result of the fall. I like drinking coffee that’s strong enough to double as paint stripper. I thoroughly enjoy the movie “Napoleon Dynamite”. I always fold my pizza in half, length-wise, before I eat it. I’m slightly obsessive compulsive when it comes to brushing my teeth. I will never wear a Josh Groban t-shirt, or purchase a Josh Groban album. I’m sorry, that’s just the way I am, and I don’t plan on changing any time soon.

But there are many things about myself that I want to change. I’m arrogant and proud. I share the gospel infrequently at best. I crave the approval of others. I’m selfish, lazy, and self-centered. I’m a sinner who needs to change.

The problem is, it often feels like I’m never going to change. My sin seems like a vast, unconquerable mountain, or a virus that simply can’t be killed. When I find myself sinning in pride for the 327th time this week, I can be tempted to despair. “I’m never going to change,” says my heart. “I’m doomed to struggle with this sin for the rest of my life. I’ll never make progress.”

It’s at these moments that I need to passionately proclaim the truth to myself. In Philippians 1:6 we read, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” What a sweet promise from God. I can be assured that I will be changed into the image of Jesus Christ, not because of anything I’m doing, but because God will finish the work He began in me. God isn’t like us. He doesn’t let His projects go unfinished. He is a master architect who always finishes what He starts. God will finish the good work He began in me. By His grace I will overcome my pride, and selfishness, and laziness.

We must take this promise and use it as a hammer to smash despair. When it seems like change is impossible, we must preach Philippians 1:6 to our souls. We cannot allow despair and discouragement to rule us. We must fight to believe this verse until we really, truly believe it. God is at work, changing us, shaping us, and conforming us to Christ.

What’s one area of your life where it seems like you will never change? Take Philippians 1:6 and apply it to that area. God will change you! He will help you overcome your sin. Why? Because God always finishes His projects.

My Frightening Future

I don’t watch the news. I don’t watch local news because it is mind-numbingly boring. I really don’t care about the local woman who owns a cat named “Mr. Snuffy Wuffy”, or about the elderly gentleman who won 2.3 trillion dollars in the Pennsylvania Lottery and decided to spend it all on beef jerky and Coca-Cola. I don’t watch the national news because it’s depressing, and sometimes quite scary. I don’t enjoy hearing that North Korea has built up enough nuclear firepower to wipe out the Western hemisphere, or that Iran has decided to attack the United States and will be firing missiles at the White House sometime in the next few days. There’s always a prophet of doom on the news, saying that our economic future is bleak, and that within a few short years all of us will be forced to wear nothing but burlap sacks. The news makes the future sound frightening.

I don’t watch the news because I struggle with enough fear about the future. Will I have enough money to pay the bills? Will my little girl be healthy? Will I do well at my job? Each season of our lives is filled with opportunities to worry. We worry about getting into the right college, and getting good grades in college, and marrying the right person, and getting a decent job, and being good parents, and having healthy kids, and paying bills, and retiring, and finally dying. Worry is a temptation each of us face on a regular basis.

It’s when we’re worried that we must forcefully remind ourselves of God’s truth. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

What a sweet promise for the Christian! Our future is bright and full of hope, and we can rest secure in God’s plans for us. We must fight to believe this when we’re tempted to worry about the future. When the finances aren’t there,we must remind ourselves that God promises a future and a hope. When illness is our constant companion, we must thank God for our hope-filled future. When it seems like we’re never going to get married and we’re sinking into despair, we must shout this promise at our soul until it’s power warms our heart. Don’t let worry rule you. Fight the good fight of faith by clinging to these precious truths.

What’s one area of life that you’re currently worried about? As you go about your day, meditate on how Jeremiah 29:11 applies to that one area of your life. Be transformed by the power of God’s word as you speak the truth to your soul.

Dental Condemnation

I hate dental visits. In fact, dentists frighten me (no offense to any dentists), and are ranked number three on my frightening people list, just behind car salesman and mimes (don’t ask). A trip to the dentist’s office is a trip into the land of pain. First they jab your teeth with their little pick axe. Then they go in with their high-powered roto-tiller toothbrush, determined to turn your grimy yellows into pearly whites. Finally they whip out the dental floss, invading every nook and cranny of your mouth with that ghastly piece of string, causing small trickles of blood to flow between your teeth. And of course your mouth is hanging open during this whole process, yet you can’t swallow, resulting in large pools of spit collecting in the back of your throat.

But the worst part is the interrogation that takes place after the cleaning. They always ask if you floss regularly (I believe the ADA recommends flossing between 16 and 18 times a day), which we don’t. I floss approximately three times per year, and it’s always after I eat corn on the cob. At no other point will you see floss enter my mouth. And so we walk away from the dental office feeling like a complete dental failure. We’ve failed to meet the standard set by our dentist.

Unfortunately there are many times when I bring my dentist mentality into my relationship with God. As a Christian, I must live by God’s standards. I seek to read my Bible and pray on a regular basis. I fight to kill the sinful desires that are within my heart. I make every effort to love and serve my wife. I try to be humble and teachable.

But the painful truth is, I fail to keep God’s standards. In fact, I’m not even close. Instead of rising early to read my Bible, I decide to sleep and extra 30 minutes. Instead of serving my wife, I serve myself. Instead of pursuing humility, I give in to pride and arrogance. I don’t just miss the mark, I completely miss the target.

When I fail to meet God’s standard, I feel condemned. I feel like God is just barely tolerating me, like He’s cold towards me, like He doesn’t particularly like me anymore. This condemnation weighs me down, stealing my joy and robbing me of my peace.

It’s in these moments that I need to speak the truth of the gospel to myself. I need to grab my soul by the ears and remind it of 1 Timothy 1:15, which says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” I can’t allow myself to wallow in condemnation and discouragement. I must fight for faith in the truth that Christ Jesus died for all my sins, and that God delights in me because of the cross. I must speak this truth to myself, and thank God for this truth, and rejoice in this truth until my heart believes every word of it. The gospel is the antidote to condemnation.

Do you experience condemnation when you fail to meet God’s standards? If so, you need to preach the gospel to yourself. Preach it until you believe it with both your head and your heart. Don’t allow condemnation to rule you. Fight the good fight of faith by believing the gospel.