Life’s a Grind Without the Oil of Gladness

To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 

Trying to live the Christian life without relying on the Indwelling Spirit of Christ is like running an engine without oil.

On a couple of occasions I’ve neglected the vital upkeep of adding motor oil to various vehicles. One resulted in the demise of the Wheel Horse tractor I inherited from my grandfather. And if it wasn’t for the durability of Toyota truck engines, the other would have left my brother and I stranded on the side of the highway between Columbia, SC and Athens, GA. Good thing he noticed the red light on the dash board. It was almost three quarts low.

Sometimes I’m a slow learner, but I got it now; Engine oil is critical for lubrication, minimizing friction and cooling the pistons. It’s the very lifeblood of an engine.

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Only with Jesus can we Live the Christian Life

I’m learning the same thing about the Holy Spirit in my spiritual life.[1] For years I thought my job as a Christian was to model my life after the Jesus I read about in the Bible; trying really hard to have peace, patience, kindness, self-control and joy. If you’ve tried this yourself, you know the futility of this kind of effort. Sooner or later we all discover that there’s only one person who can live the Christian life and it’s not us; it’s Jesus in us.

Coming to the End of Ourselves

Often it takes a crisis for us to realize we can’t live without Christ. We come face to face encounter with our failures and inabilities. Not fun, but necessary. More often than not these failures are revealed in our relationships with those we love. When this happens, we find ourselves at a crossroad in life.

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At the Crossroad

In the midst of emotional turmoil we often choose to numb our pain with our coping mechanism of choice, but this delays the inevitable. Pain is an alarm to be heeded. Pain screams, “Take your hand off the stove!” Denying the pain only deepens it’s affect until  it takes over our lives completely.

Another choice is to realize our desperate need for Jesus.  Humbly turning to Him, we admit  our inabilities to love without Him. There may be dark nights of the soul, huddled only with our Lord, but full surrender leads to life changes.  “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b

Summary of the Christian Life

Out of Paul’s sufferings He wrote:

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Spiritually, we have died.  Christ, by His Holy Spirit, has taken up residence in our lives. We no longer have to try harder, but must depend upon Him to be our patience, our goodness, our peace, our self control, our joy.

Ours is to rest in the fact that He is at work in us.

Ours is to yield to His Spirit, realizing that apart from our vital connection to Him, we can do nothing of true value.[2]

Trying to live without dependence upon the Holy Spirit is like an engine without oil, a ‘grinding it out’ in a swirl of activity; movement without lubrication, joyless friction.

Burnout or Joy

Recipe for a life of burnout: Live in the swirl of activities with no awareness or dependence upon the Holy Spiri; going through the motions in your own energy and strength. Just do it. It’s all up to you.

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Recipe for a life full of joy:  Realizing we were designed to run on the oil of gladness. [3]  choose a life of overflow as you yield to the Spirit of Jesus in you to love whoever God puts in your path.

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Challenge: Is there an area of your life in which you’re just going through the motions, an area in which you feel burned-out in? If so, come to Jesus.  Realize that you were not designed to operate without His Spirit, the Oil of Gladness. Recognize your inability to live even one moment without full dependence upon Christ,  allow His Spirit to refresh your life giving you His Joy.

“He must increase and I must decrease.” John 3:30

Prayer:  Dear Lord Jesus, thank you so much for dying for me and securing a place in our Father’s presence. Thank you for sealing us with the promised Holy Spirit, a pledge of our inheritance and the power and lifeblood of our lives. Keep me ever yielded to you that I might love others as you have loved me.

[1] The Holy Spirit is widely symbolized by anointing oil. See Luke 4:18

[2] John 15:5

[3] John 7:37-39

 

On the Fifth Day, God Created Dog

I went upstairs before my wife last night and Koosh, our little Shih Apso (Shih Tzo and Lhasa Apso combination), insisted on going with me. I turned the lights out and Koosh curled up close on the pillow beside me. After a while I heard him on the floor dancing around, so I opened the door and let him out, thinking he wanted to go downstairs. I shut my eyes and, in what seemed like a moment later, opened them to find Koosh right beside me again. It was a bit of a mystery. Didn’t I let him out? I thought. But then drifted back to sleep.

Later, I asked my wife if she had opened our bedroom door and let him back in. “Yes. He was whining and scratching on the door,” she said. “He wanted to be with you.”

Right now Koosh is curled up in the chair beside me, glancing my way from time to time to be sure I’m still here.

As I watch him, it occurs to me that God created so many things for us to enjoy, from magnificent ocean sunsets, brilliantly fragrant roses, dark coffee and succulent chocolate pie. We see aspects of His creativity everywhere we look, but when he created dog He gave us real companionship and a picture of His heart.

Following is a list of things we can learn about God from our dogs:

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Like God, our dog delights to be with us

Like God, mistakes we make don’t change our dog’s opinion of us

Like God, our dog loves us in ways we don’t understand

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Like God, our dog protects us (even from the walkers in front of our house)

Like God, our dog  connects with us without words

Whenever I grab my car keys to go somewhere, Koosh always looks up to see if he’s going to be invited. One of his favorite things to do is to stick his face out the window as we drive along,  lapping up all the sights and smells along the road.

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He does the same thing when my wife and I get ready to take a walk. If we pick up his leash, he knows he’s going with us and begins to tremble with excitement. Walks allow him to be with us and to savor the riches of mailboxes and  blades of grass.

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Following is a list of things we can learn by imitating our dogs:

Like our dog, we can learn to fully embrace each moment

Like our dog, we can learn not to worry about our next meal, but to trust our Provider

Like our dog, we can learn to be joyous about the simple pleasures of life

Like our dog, we can learn unwavering, long lasting loyalty

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Like our dog, we can learn to snuggle close to those we love

Like our dog, we can learn never to pass up a chance to play ball

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Challenge: Be a student of your dog.

Watch them as they try and sneak into your car as you’re leaving. Notice how their eyes drop at the sight of your suitcase. Appreciate the gusto of their wild “kisses” when you return from a vacation.

As they jump in your lap when you open the car door, forget your perceived failures and bask in their unconditional love.

Even though you may think you don’t deserve it, realize they’re wagging their tail just because you’re you.

When you’re sitting by the fire and your dog jumps in your lap  and follows you from room to room, realize that God wants to be with you even more than your dog does.

 “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Zephaniah 3:17

 Prayer of Thanksgiving:  Lord, we thank you so much for Your creation. You have given us so many things to enjoy.  We realize that joy, true joy is found in your presence. Thank you for giving us a great picture of your love and your delight in us when you gave us dogs. Help us appreciate the aspects of Your love we see in our dog’s heart.

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Turning Failures into Joy

I started the morning bemoaning. Rather than focusing on Christ and His work, all I could think about were my failures. They were like pesky gnats swirling around. But these unwelcomed intruders of my peace and joy found nowhere to land. God is doing a deep work in my heart. Father is teaching me that if I’ll bring these feelings to Him and not stuff them under a rock in my heart, He’ll expose them. So, I sat down, asking Him to center me in His truth.

Opening my Bible, headed one way, He redirected. Philippians 2:21 leapt off the page, “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ.”

Isn’t that what I’m doing? I thought, looking after my own interests. Worrying about how I did instead of what Christ accomplished on my behalf, seeking my identity again in success instead of the fact that I’m loved by the Creator of the universe.

So what are Christ’s interests? Digging into the passage more, I see Paul is comparing Timothy to others. And in the verse before, I see my answer. Speaking of Timothy, Paul writes.

“For I have no one else of kindred spirit, who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.”[1]

What are you showing me God?

Following is what I hear in my heart:

“Robby (this is my childhood nickname and I hear God speak to me tenderly as speaking to His loved child), you see I’m teaching you slowly, but very deeply that you can truly rest in what I’ve done. Those lies you woke up with can’t penetrate My love. Before they would have landed, taken root and spread. I’m healing your heart from deep lies and making you whole.

What I want to show you this morning is that you can trust Me with you. I’ve got you. I always had you and nothing can disrupt My incredible love for you. Being loved and cared for by Me completely frees you up for the work I have for you.

Look at every person I put in your path, starting with your wife and family, as my invitation to you. When you are with a person, or a person comes to mind, know these are from me. Don’t worry about what you think your work is. Trust all that to me.

My work for you is this:

Love them as I have loved you.[2]

I’ll show you how.

And it’s not really you doing it. As you yield to My Spirit in you, I’m the one really loving them.

And by the way, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:11

You will stay rooted in My love and walk around in full joy as you love others as I have loved you.”  [3]

Challenge: Think of an area of your life which consistently makes you feel like a failure, an area you blew it big time. It’s okay if there’s more than one.

Assuming you are a believing child of God, does God see you as a failure in this area?

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The answer is no. Remember, When God sees you, He sees His Son Jesus Christ, in whom He is well pleased.

You have a choice. Do you want to assess your value based on what God thinks about you? Or do you want to assess your value based on what you perceive others think about you because of your failure?

Based on your answer, either joy or sadness awaits you.

If you are not a child of God,  this one failure does not define you either. In fact, feel free to replace the failure you’ve been thinking about with your most shining achievement. The result will be the same. Or, feel free to use the moral record of Billy Graham or Mother Teresa. Same.

All fall short of the glory of God. If it weren’t so God wouldn’t be God. And the penalty for not being perfect is separation from God. Sounds very harsh if you don’t understand Christ’s rescue and deliverance.

Without Christ, we live with our failures. We aren’t identified as His children. We can’t be with Him now or ever. We’re left to fight for purpose, identity and hope in the roller coaster of  the human struggle to survive in a world filled with evil.

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With Christ, all our failures are taken away as far as the east is from the west. Our past, present and future is swallowed up in His great love. We have moment by moment purpose, joy and hope.

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There is great joy in resting in what Christ has done, forgetting failures and delighting in His everlasting love for you.

[1] Philippians 2:20

[2] John 15:12

[3] John 15:9-12