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Mug Monday: Rejoice Always?

It’s Mug Monday! Our summer series is almost over. Enjoy today’s wisdom from the side of a coffee mug! “A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition!”

cloudy dayPicture the most positive person you know, that “glass half-full” friend. She’s the one who always has a good word and a smile, even when things aren’t going her way. I do know a few people like that. But I’m not one of them. My glass is usually “half-empty.”

Today’s “coffee mug wisdom” implies that a cheerful attitude is possible all the time. Really? Trials, pain, loss, and grief fill the world and spill into our lives on a regular basis.

Do you believe you can be joyful when everything is crashing down around you? Do you buy that?

The apostle Paul sure did. In his first letter to the believers in Thessalonica, he commanded them to “be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Paul repeatedly told believers to rejoice (Romans 5:11, Philippians 3:1, Philippians 4:4-7). And he wasn’t the only one. James and Peter did too (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:3-7). And it sure wasn’t because their lives were trouble-free. No, they lived lives of joy despite their earthly circumstances.

“Joy” is primarily a verb in Paul’s writings. Paul himself demonstrated how a believer can actively choose to “rejoice in the Lord” despite the condition of our physical circumstances. We humans are so physically focused. We tend to allow the stuff of earth to capture our attention and fill our thoughts. Yet, real joy can only be fostered when we focus on our spiritual circumstances.

Christ and His saving work creates eternal reasons for us to rejoice. His presence and power in our lives. His working in and around us. The comfort and guidance of His Spirit within us. Our sure hope of eternal life with Him. Christ is our source of real, lasting joy. He is our joyful “circumstance.”

A constant attitude of rejoicing does indeed transcend our earthly circumstances because it is founded in the eternal. We can even rejoice in and through earthly trials because we know that God is using them to accomplish His spiritual transformation within us (1 Peter 1:3-7 and James 1:2-4).

Today, let’s choose to focus on our eternal circumstances and our spiritual condition rather than our temporary circumstances and our physical condition. What are some practical ways we can do that?

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Contentment without Coffee?

contentmentI love coffee. After my initial morning glass of water the coffee begins to flow. A “coffee-free” morning is rare – and extreme. It requires something dramatic like a required fast for blood work. Or a direct word from God.

Even after my disastrous “coffee accident” last Friday – I knocked a full mug over into the keyboard of my laptop – coffee is not a luxury but a necessity. I always pack coffee when I travel just in case it isn’t readily available. Depending on the circumstances I may also pack my own mug and my handy little water heating tool.

I can adapt to just about any conditions. I have slept in a tent in Africa. I have pottied in a hole in the ground. But a morning without coffee?

The apostle Paul could teach me an important lesson. Paul knew what it was like to have more than he needed. He also knew what it was like to be in great physical need. But in both situations he had learned to be content.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 3:12-13

Paul relied on Christ’s strength to experience contentment no matter his circumstances. Whether he was hungry or well fed. I have a long way to go. I can’t even be content without a good cup of coffee in the morning.

What about you? Do you struggle with finding contentment through strength in Christ no matter your circumstances?

Related post you may find helpful: Do you misuse Philippians 4:13?

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Mug Monday: Need a Filter?

FilterIt’s Mug Monday! Each week this summer we will seek to make some sense out of the wisdom or humor written on the side of a coffee mug. Pull up a chair and join me in a cup of coffee!

A friend I worked with for several years worked hard to control his speech. Whenever he naturally would have made a sarcastic or quick comeback, he would pass his hand in front of his face as a physical reminder to “filter” his words. It was a visible reminder to himself to think before he spoke. It gave him pause.

Of course we all knew he had left something unsaid. Perhaps something biting that may have been funny, but not kind or helpful. Like my friend, when we “filter” our words before we allow them to leave our mouths, we check our speech for any impurities or damaging elements.

Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t much value the verbal filter today. Instead, we want to hear every cutting, rude, crude, hurtful word. In fact, the more outrageous the better. All we have to do is tack on a “just saying” and it’s all good. Today’s mug reflects our society’s desire to hear every unfiltered word. (I know it’s only been two weeks since we talked about our speech, but seriously, we can’t talk about it enough!)

God not only tells His children we should use filters for our mouths, He tells us very specifically what we should filter out and what we should allow through:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 NIV

The Greek word translated as “unwholesome” refers to far more than foul language or curse words. It means we shouldn’t say anything that tears down or deflates the one who hears our words. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever say anything hard of difficult to hear, but that the goal of our speech is to help and build up the other person.

This is so challenging for me! Think about this, what percentage of what comes out of our mouths helps and builds up the hearer? What percentage hurts or tears down the hearer?

Yes, I long for 100% of my words to build up and 0% to tear down. Unfortunately, my filter is often faulty. How about you?

God commands us to control our speech, so in part, using our filter is a step of obedience. But we also need the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit because “no man can tame the tongue” (James 3:8) on our own. We need His divine power!

If you want to tame the tongue and control your speech, join me in this “filter prayer”:

“Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3, NIV

Here’s the good news: God is waiting to help us control our speech! Let’s ask Him to help us keep that filter in place!

What about you? Have you ever taken pride in your “anything goes” speech? Have you struggled to control it only to fail time and time again?

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Mug Monday: Designed to be Unique

Uniquely You

 

It’s Mug Monday! Each week this summer we will seek to make some sense out of the wisdom or humor written on the side of a coffee mug. Pull up a chair and join me in a cup of coffee!

There are over 7 billion people on planet earth, but no one is exactly like you. There is only one “you.” You are unique.

Your uniqueness extends far beyond your physical characteristics. No one else has your exact life experiences, gifts, talents, personality, passions, knowledge, wisdom, or skills. You are uniquely you.

The wisdom on today’s coffee mug reflects a truth we see in Scripture:

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10, NIV

The Greek word translated as “workmanship” in the NIV is poiema. The English word “poem” is derived from it. We are God’s spiritual “handiwork.” If you have been born again through a personal relationship with Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-10), you are a “thing of His making,” God’s own design.

Every believer has not only been chosen by God, He has also prepared a specific purpose, an individual set of “good works” for each of us to accomplish. Then He gifts and equips us so we have what we need to fulfill our purpose (Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11). Isn’t that amazing?

God establishes a unique purpose for each of us. He prepares us to carry it out by equipping us with a unique set of gifts, talents, passions, and experiences. Yet so often we expend our energy trying to be something we’re not. We waste our dreams wishing to be like someone else. We squander our time pursuing the wrong passions.

My challenge for us today is to embrace God’s design and purposes for us. Let’s stop trying to be someone else and rejoice in the unique person God has designed us to be!

Have you ever wasted your time and energy trying to be someone other than the unique individual God created you to be?

 

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Mug Monday: Bite Your Tongue!

Mug MondayIt’s Mug Monday! Join me this summer for the weekly mug (some mine, some yours, & some borrowed). We will seek to make some sense out of the wisdom or humor written on its side. Pull up a chair and join me in a cup of coffee!

I need to drink my coffee out of today’s mug every day. The wisdom recorded on its side highlights an area of weakness in my own life and voices a prayer for God’s divine and supernatural help. Yes, Lord! Help me to hold my tongue!

The Bible is not silent – yes, pun intended – on matters of our speech. Jesus’ half-brother James described the tongue like this:

“So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.  And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” James 3:5-6, NLT

Mug Monday tongueOn first read we may roll our eyes and think dear James is a bit dramatic. But if we are totally honest with ourselves we know he’s right. I’ve seen it happen in my own life. More times than I’d like to admit.

My words have wounded. My words have torn down. My words have defeated and deflated and even destroyed. And they cannot be taken back. What takes only a second to do, then takes a long time – if ever – to heal.

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about our tongues as well. Here are two that have specifically spoken to me recently:

  • “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.” Proverbs 10:19, NLT
  • “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” Proverbs 12:18, NLT

So, if you’re like me and struggle with keeping your tongue in check, what can we do? First, we must realize that what comes out of our mouths is only a symptom of the real problem. Jesus Himself got right to the heart of the matter:

“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 9:34, NLT

While discipline of our speech can help, we can only “hold” our tongues for so long. To get to the root of the problem and permanently stem the “flow,” we must have a heart change. We must ask, then allow, the Holy Spirit to change our attitudes and thought patterns. And unfortunately, this won’t happen overnight. It will be a long – and sometimes painful – process.

Are you up to the challenge? Join me in this prayer of David:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24, NLT

Give this some thought: Name one attitude of your heart that directly impacts what comes out of your mouth.

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Do you fall apart when your plans do?

Mug MondayToday’s mug speaks to me – and not just because it begs to be filled with coffee. The “wisdom” recorded on its side also reflects my personality.

I am a planner. I make to-do lists. I put everything that’s happening in my calendar. And when my plans fall apart, so do I. At least a little bit.

Unfortunately, life is full of surprises and unanticipated bumps. And even though I usually act like I’m in charge, in reality I’m not. When it gets right down to it, I have no control. And that’s exactly the way it should be. Because if I’m totally honest, in the grand scheme of things I have no clue what I’m doing.

Flexible editedOh, but praise God, there is One who sees all and knows everything. He is always right. His plans are never thwarted. His will is never derailed.

So, setting aside our own plans and ways to follow His just makes sense, doesn’t it? So how come I still so often fight to have my own way? Why do pout when my plans fall apart?

The Bible book of Proverbs is full of wisdom regarding our plans compared to the Almighty’s. Here’s a sampling:

  • “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9
  • “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:21
  • “How can we understand the road we travel? It is the LORD who directs our steps.” Proverbs 20:24

Oh, we are so limited in our human knowledge and understanding. But thankfully, our God is not limited! He sees all, knows what’s best, and has the power to accomplish it! On a world-wide scale and for you. Individually. Personally. You and God.

“The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

Wow! Think about this. If you submit yourself to God’s authority in your life, He will not let you stumble or fall. He takes delight in caring for every detail of your life. Why in the world would we want to try to do it all ourselves?

Who would you rather follow? Someone who doesn’t know the future and has no power to intervene in or control the circumstances? (By the way, that’s you or me.) Or Someone who knows everything that lies ahead and has the sovereign and absolute power to intervene?

So, who you gonna follow?

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Mug Monday: Are You a Good Example?

Mug MondayIt’s Mug Monday! Join me each week through the summer to see the featured mug (some mine, some yours, & some borrowed). We will seek to make some sense out of the wisdom or humor written on its side. Pull up a chair and join me in a cup of coffee!

People are watching you. Oh, yes they are! As a Christian, you are setting an example. The question is – Are you a good example or a bad one?

Many Christians don’t want to be an example. We point to Christ and say “There’s our example. That’s who we follow, not another person.” Ah, yes, that let’s us off the hook. Let’s take the humble route and say, “Don’t look at me. Just look at Jesus.”

Good exampleToday’s wisdom from the side of a coffee mug reflects this “humble” stand with a bit of sarcasm.

There’s just one problem with that. It isn’t biblical.

Yes, our ultimate example is Jesus. In fact, the Holy Spirit is constantly working to conform us to His image. But God wants to give us flesh and blood, in our face examples too. The apostle Paul knew those first century believers needed that and he strove to be a Christ-like example for them.

To the believers in Corinth, Paul wrote: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Those folks were surrounded by a plethora of bad examples. They needed someone who could say, “This way. I’m following Jesus, so you can follow me.”

That’s the kind of Christ follower we should be. We should be following Christ so closely that others could follow us and be going the right direction.

It’s not that we’ve gotten things perfect. Even though we still have a ways to go, we can still guide others in the right direction. Hear Paul’s words from Philippians:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus… Join with others in following my example, brothers and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” Philippians 3:12-14, 17

Did you hear that? Paul did not consider himself perfect. He was still learning and growing spiritually. But he was running hard after Jesus and that made him a good example. Others could follow him and be headed in the right direction.

What about us? If others follow us will they be headed in a Christ-ward direction? What does it look like to “strain ahead” and “press on toward the goal?”

 

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Mug Monday: Thankful for Gratitude

Mug MondayIt’s Mug Monday! Join me each week through the summer to see the featured mug (some mine, some yours, & some borrowed). We will seek to make some sense out of the wisdom or humor written on its side. Pull up a chair and join me in a cup of coffee!

Gratitude doesn’t always come easy. Oh, sometimes it does. Like when everything seems to be going our way and there’s money in the bank and the family is healthy. Or when someone does us a big favor or helps us out of a problem of our own making.

But the Bible tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Really? Thank God in everything? Yes.

Trials? Yes. Struggles? Yes. Losses? Yes.

GratitudeThis does not seem logical to our human thinking. Why would we thank God when things are bad and times are hard? The Bible says that an attitude of constant gratitude is God’s will for us. The Bible also says that God is constantly working in all things for the good of those who love Him.

Let’s put this together. No matter our circumstances – seemingly good or bad – God is working in them to bring about good for us. That is always something to be thankful for!

On top of that, purposefully fostering an ongoing attitude of gratitude towards God benefits us. I just found 4 specific things in Scripture (and I’m sure there are many more!).

4 Reasons to be Thankful for Gratitude:

1. Peace – A constant attitude of gratitude eases our anxiety over trouble and trials and shifts our focus to the One who is able to work in them all. (Philippians 4:6-7)

2. Dependence – Consistent thankfulness keeps us dependent on God and not ourselves because we constantly recognize His authority and purpose. (Colossians 2:6-7).

3. Fellowship – Gratitude forges the bonds of Christian love and fellowship as we humbly walk in faith together. (Colossians 3:15-17).

4. Presence – Thanksgiving paves the way into God’s presence. (Psalm 100:4)

A constant attitude of gratitude glorifies God (Hebrews 12:28) and is for our good. Let’s practice a little gratitude today.

Let’s share with each other. What are you thankful for today?

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Mug Monday: Sit Still

Mug MondayIt’s Mug Monday! Join me each week through the summer to see the featured mug (some mine, some yours, & some borrowed). We will seek to make some sense out of the wisdom or humor written on its side. Pull up a chair and join me in a cup of coffee!

You’ve seen it happen in the movies. When a physical disaster strikes, everybody starts running. They may run to safety. Or run to help. Or just run away. But almost everybody runs.

When trouble of various kinds hits our lives we want to run too. Run for help. Run to safety. Run to fix things. Or just run away.

But today’s wisdom from the side of a coffee mug reminds us what God wants us to do in times of trouble.

“Sit.” This mug reminds me of Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Be still This verse has often challenged me to not allow the busyness and distractions of life to spend slow, intimate time with God. To meditate on His Word and allow His Spirit to pierce my soul with a deeper knowledge of who He is.

And I should apply the verse this way.

But there is far more application to be made from this well known passage. Let’s look at it in its context – the 46th chapter of the book of Psalms – to get the bigger truth. The psalmist David described times of trouble:

Though the earth gives way, though the mountains fall into the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake… we will not fear.

Why? Why should we not fear even though everything is falling down around us?

Because God is our refuge and strength, an every-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Because God is with us and with help us; He will not let us fall (Psalm 46:5).

And what does God tell us to do in the midst of trouble?

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

When trouble comes, when hard times hit, when trials overwhelm us… let us stop. We can rest in the knowledge that the LORD Almighty is with us. He is our refuge and strength. Our ever-present help.

Be still. And know God the God who is able is also on your side. Be still and know.

Do you face trouble today? Do you need to stop running and remember that God is able?

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Mug Monday: Let Me Drop Everything

Mug MondayIt’s Mug Monday! Today’s mug intends to be sarcastic and snarky. It reflects our busy, self-centered culture. Taken at its best, it sighs:

“I am so overwhelmed with everything going on in my own life, as much as I’d like, I simply can’t help you.”

Taken at its worst, it huffs:

“My life and my stuff is so much more important than yours, I simply won’t be bothered to help you out.”

Mug MondayOur culture teaches us that we are the most important person in our lives. That we must put ourselves first. That it’s okay to use others as needed. That it’s every woman for herself.

But let’s read the mug with a different attitude. Let’s read it with humility, love, and concern. Do you hear it? When we read the mug’s slogan with the right attitude, it reminds us of an important biblical truth.

Checkout the following few passages:

  • “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
  • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21
  • Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10
  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4

I could have shared many more verses, but I think we get the idea. Jesus commanded we love each other as He loves us. He put our needs before His own. He even gave His life for us.

Caring about others and loving them doesn’t mean we neglect our own needs (Philippians 2:3-4). With the right attitude and God’s guidance we can do both. Yet most days we are too busy to let the young mom with the fussy toddler have our place in line.

It’s up to us to choose. Sarcasm or humility. Selfishness or concern. What’s going to be our attitude today?

Is there someone you can reach out to today? A need you can meet before the sun goes down?

 

 

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