It’s Time To Look Up and See Our Saving Grace

Jude 1:24 (WEB)

Promise 270: I will keep you from falling until you joyfully stand blameless in My presence.
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The Dark Side Of Self Defeating Jealousy

 The Dark Side Of Self Defeating Jealousy

A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones.
— Proverbs 14:30

It could be your neighbor’s new car or maybe it was your fifth-grade teacher praising your best friend, but not you. There are so many scenarios that can catch us off-guard and bring out one of the ugliest traits that we are all susceptible to — the experience of jealousy. Whoever came up with the expression “eat your heart out” in reference to producing jealousy in another person was speaking a truth. In Proverbs we learn “envy rots the bones.” Jealousy destroys us from the inside out.

But there is a flipside to self-defeating jealousy. The very same verse begins, “A heart at peace gives life to the body.” Literally translated from the original Greek, “a heart at peace” is called “a healing heart.” The sages explain that a healing heart is a soft heart, one that accepts and forgives and is kind and generous.

A healing heart is the exact opposite of a jealous heart. A jealous heart wants what others have. A healing heart is happy for others when they succeed. A jealous heart is never satisfied. A healing heart is always content. A jealous heart is focused on its own personal gain. A healing heart looks out for the well-being of others.

Yet, for all jealous people do to better their own lives, they only bring ruin upon themselves. In contrast, kind, content, and generous people will bring peace and healing to themselves and to others. People with such a positive and peaceful attitude allow the body to function properly while spreading peace and health to those with whom they interact.

Of course we’d all prefer to have a healing heart over a jealous one. But how can we avoid jealousy?

The following story can help us. Once there were two eagles who would fly together. One eagle was able to fly higher and faster than the other, making the less adept eagle very jealous. One day, the jealous eagle spotted a hunter and asked him to shoot the other eagle. The hunter said that he could, but needed a feather for his arrow. The jealous eagle was happy to oblige, plucking one of his own feathers.  The hunter missed and needed another feather, and then another and another. The jealous eagle supplied so many feathers that soon he didn’t have enough feathers to fly. The huntsman turned around and shot the eagle who could no longer fly or escape.

This story shows us how to avoid jealousy — by knowing deeply that it harms us most of all. When we feel jealousy beginning to grow and fester inside us, we must allow our hearts to be healing hearts, bringing life and joy to ourselves and those around us.

djs

Living Well & Living Fully

Living Well & Living Fully

Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion! — Ecclesiastes 9:4

It shouldn’t take a near-death experience to get us to finally live. It shouldn’t take an illness of a loved one, or God forbid, ourselves, to get us to appreciate the precious gift of life. Yet, often it does. Sometimes, it’s only when we are facing death that we understand the power of life.

Professor Randy Pausch became famous after he learned that he had terminal cancer and then delivered an extremely powerful lecture in which he gave soulful and powerful advice for living. Later, Randy was asked to give the graduation address at Carnegie Mellon University where he had taught.

In his opening remarks, Randy explained that he had been given three to six months to live and that now he was on month number nine. When he had mentioned that to a friend, the person said, “Wow, so you’re really beating the Grim Reaper.”

Randy immediately responded by saying, “We don’t beat the Reaper by living longer. We beat the Reaper by living well and living fully, for the Reaper will come for all of us. The question is what we will do between the time we’re born and the time he shows up, because when he shows up it’s too late to do all the things that you always wanted to get around to.”

Life is so precious and so often taken for granted. Yet the sooner we understand how fragile life is, the sooner we will live life more fully.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon taught this idea when he wrote, “Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!” The sages explain that a “live dog” refers to the lowliest of men who is still alive while a “dead lion” refers to the greatest of men who have already died.

Basically, Solomon was teaching that the worst person alive is luckier than the best person who has already passed away. Why? Because being alive means you still have the opportunity to change, to do good, to be good, to choose good, to choose God while His presence is still hidden. That is something only the living can do.

The sages taught that a person should repent one day before their death. However, they also explained that nobody knows when that day is so we need to live every day like it could be our last.

The day to begin living our “last day” is today. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the gift of life. What goodness can we bring to the world today? How can we be a better person today? The time to be the person God placed you here to be is now.

djs

The Perfect Driven Life

The Perfect Driven Life

All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
— Proverbs 15:15

I once heard a sage describe life like a blanket that is too short. If your feet are cold and you pull the blanket down to cover them, then your arms are cold. If you pull the blanket up, then your lower half will be cold. There’s never a happy medium!

The sage was teaching that life was not meant to be comfortable. If it’s not one set of challenges, than it’s another. Yet, that’s not a bad thing. God gives us difficulties so that we might grow and prosper. However, just because life requires constant work and stretching our souls to the limit, doesn’t mean that it can’t also be wonderful, exciting, and festive – all the time.

I love this quote from Proverbs: “All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.” Life can be a perpetual feast for the person with the right perspective. And just to further emphasize the point, the Hebrew word for “oppressed” used in the original Scripture is ani which means “poor.” This is extremely significant because the sages teach that determining who is rich or poor has nothing to do with money.

The sages answer the question, “Who is rich?” with “he who is content with what he has.” So it is the person who is never satisfied with what he or she has that experiences a wretched life no matter how much wealth that person might possess. In contrast, a person who is content with what God has given them is cheerful and grateful, and consequently, can experience life as one continuously amazing experience.

What a refreshing idea in a world where so much complaining abounds! Moreover, in today’s world, the bar has been set so high for what one must have and achieve in order to have a “good life” — a certain income level, a certain standard of living, a certain career path. This verse in Proverbs, however, teaches us that having an amazing life is really quite simple — just rejoice in what you have and never mind what you don’t.

Life can be full of joy in spite of the challenges we face. The trick is to see God’s hand and perfection in all that happens to us. As we keep our focus on God continually, we will experience His blessings constantly.

Shalom…..Peace,

djs

Happy No Matter What!

Happy No Matter What!

Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs. —
Psalm 100:2

Everyone is in the pursuit of happiness. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself!” But for most people, happiness is elusive. We say, “I will be happy when . . . .” And then fill in the blank — when I have more money, when I get that promotion, when I get married, when I have kids, when the kids move out, when I retire, and so on and so forth. It’s no wonder so many people feel like they just can’t catch happiness.

In Psalm 100, however, King David lets us in on a little secret about happiness. He wrote: “Worship the Lord with gladness . . .” The sages understand it this way: If you want to be happy, then worship the Lord.

Truly, few things bring us greater joy than serving our Creator. When we are serving God, we are focused on what we can give and not on what we are lacking. We focus on what is good in our lives and not what is wrong. When we contribute to God’s world we feel good about who we are instead of upset about who we could or should have been. When we bring joy to others, we can’t help but light up with joy ourselves!

What’s more, serving the Lord is something that we can do anytime, anywhere, and under any circumstances. In times of abundance, we can give. In times of scarcity, we can have faith. When things are easy, we can sing out praises to God. And when times are tough, we can call out to Him in prayer. In our homes or in our workplaces – there is always someone to help or God’s Word to share. The possibilities are endless.

We can always worship God, which means that we can always be happy. No matter what! We don’t have to pursue happiness. We just have to stop running away from it – and serve the Lord today!

Let’s try this ancient advice and think of how we can serve the Lord today. How can we worship Him throughout the day? Let’s try dedicating just one day – or even better – one week, to give of ourselves to God, to His children, and to His world. We will be happy we did!

Shalom, Peace To All,

DJS

Take A Ride Through The Country

Take a Ride Through The Country!

Proverbs 15:15 All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.

A new driver for an interstate trucking company was having a difficult time. He found the long cross-country trips extremely tiring. The older driver who traveled with him, however, seemed to thrive on those long trips. He always seemed to look as fresh at the end of the ride as he did at the beginning.

One day, the young man asked the older what his secret was. “Well, it’s really all in the way you look at it,” he replied. “While you went to work this morning, I went for a ride through the country.”

Our focus will determine whether life is work or a ride in the country. We are privileged to be here in this day and age. God is doing awesome things right before our eyes and He’s allowing us to take part!

Let’s get excited about taking a ride with the Lord today! He has great things to show us and teach us along the way!

DJS

The Gift Of Joy and The Holy Spirit

The Gift Of Joy And The Holy Spirit
Relationship with the Holy Spirit empowers us to live a lifestyle of consistent joy. It’s only by the filling of the Spirit that we have access to the deep reservoirs of joy found in the heart of our heavenly Father. Galatians 5:22 is clear that the fruit of the Spirit for believers is to be joy– so as temples of the Holy Spirit we need to search out what it looks like to allow the fruit of joy to be evident in our hearts and lives. 

Scripture is filled with direct connections between the filling of the Holy Spirit and joy. Romans 14:17 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:52 says, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 says, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” 

We are not designed to have joy in ourselves, but by the dwelling of the Holy Spirit within us. As the disciples began to be filled with the Holy Spirit, their lives changed dramatically. They went from fearful, fair weathered followers of Jesus to joy-filled, sacrificial and empowered world changers. They had joy in the midst of intense persecution because they had the Holy Spirit filling them with the fruits of his indwelling. 

We have the same Holy Spirit the disciples had, and he longs to do the same kind of works in you and me today as he did in them thousands of years ago. He longs to fill us with joy in the midst of any trial or pain. He longs to heal and transform our hearts into greater reflections of God’s goodness. He longs to make us a people so joyful that there is no other explanation for our joy other than God is with us. 

So, how do we allow the Spirit to bear the fruit of joy in our lives? How do we grow in our relationship with this mysterious part of the Godhead? It all starts with a posture of humility and prayer. The Holy Spirit never forces us into deeper relationship with him. He is peaceful, powerful, loving and patient. You must make time to respond to his small tugs on your heart in order to walk in greater relationship with him. You must humble yourself and ask for more of him– whatever that looks like. Allow the truth of God’s love and faithfulness to cast out any fear or reservation about a lifestyle of total connection with the Holy Spirit. Ask him to fill you to overflowing today and guide you to a lifestyle of bearing the fruit of intimate relationship with him. 

The Spirit knows how to guide our hearts. He knows if we were made more introverted or extroverted. He knows if we are made more intuitive, pragmatic or logical. And he knows the perfect ways to guide us into deeper, more fruitful lives. Spend time allowing the Spirit to lead you into a life filled with more joy. Allow him to speak to you and lead you in whatever ways he desires. And rest in his loving presence as you learn what it is to reach greater depths of relationship with him. 

Guided Prayer:

1. Meditate on the importance of relationship with the Holy Spirit in having joy. Allow Scripture to stir up your desire for deeper intimacy with the Spirit. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17 

“And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:52 

2. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal his nearness. Ask him to help you become more aware of his presence in your life. 

3. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to greater depths of joy. Ask him to bear the fruit of joy in your life throughout any and every circumstance. Spend time allowing him to show you what might be in the way of you and the portion of joy afforded to you by his dwelling within you. 

The absolute best way we can live is in total and complete surrender to the Holy Spirit. When we allow him to take the reigns of our lives, he guides us to far greener and more abundant pastures than we could ever find ourselves. He has the ability and desire to lead us into the fullness of God’s plans for our lives, but we must be willing to follow him wherever he would lead us. Follow his direction today. Look for his guidance. And walk into a life filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
for Holy Ghost Catholic School/ Church, Houston Texas…..DJS