Monday Motivation: Unending Love

“I love you.”

Without a doubt, the three most powerful words ever known to man. When spoken with sincerity, these simple words can literally have us floating on air and feeling like anything is possible.

Have you ever stopped to think why these words hold so much sway over our hearts?  Have you taken the time to think why we humans are able to relish in the most beautiful of human emotions?  I firmly believe it’s because we were purposefully created to enjoy that which God is at his core (1 John 4:8).

It was his love that spurred him to make mankind (Genesis 1:27).  It’s his love that sustains our daily needs and causes our cup to overflow with blessings (Psalm 23:5).  It was his immeasurable love that sacrificed his only son on our behalf (John 3:16).  And it’s his love that provides us peace and understanding during our overwhelming anxieties (Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Peter 5:7).

Whatever you face…

Wherever you are…

Never forget about the unending love of God.

-Joe Butler

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Monday Motivation: Change Your Perspective

It’s been raining a lot lately. I guess that’s appropriate considering it is summertime here in Florida. And these aren’t your run-of-the-mill showers either. The storms we’ve been having brew up during the heat of the day until they unleash their fury in the form of a torrential downpour of nickel-sized raindrops and violent bolts of lightning.

Now of course when the weather is bad, it’s the first thing people usually talk about. I’ve heard all kinds of comments lately about the “miserable” weather or how hot and stifeling the temperatures are. And it’s true, it has been ridiculously hot lately. The heat index has hovered around 105-110 degrees almost every day for the past two weeks.

But have you ever taken the time to notice how beautiful and inspiring that kind of weather is?  I love the smell of rain on hot concrete or the scent of moisture on a freshly cut lawn. I relish the sight of powerful strands of electricity playing across a cloud-filled night sky. I enjoy the calm before the storm when the winds shift and bring with them a crisp, cool breeze and the clouds advance across the sky like an approaching army.

You see, it’s all about perspective. Where some see inconvenience, I choose to see beauty. And the reality is, just about all of life is that way. In every situation, we have the choice to wallow in the negative and focus on what’s wrong and even dwell on how the day hasn’t met our expectations. Or, we can change our perspective and glory in every circumstance God has put us in. We can see the good in the bad and the lessons in the struggle.

Want to find true happiness and the genuine wealth God has offered us through this life?  Just change your perspective!

-Joe Butler

Whew!

 

Boy, life can sure get busy sometimes…and I’m not even in school right now!  The school year is over and I’ve sent my students home for a much needed summer break. I’ve been busy myself teaching two different Bible classes at church, volunteering at our Vacation Bible School, taking a week off for a family vacation to Disney World, and pretty much spending every other spare day as a daddy/daughter day with Emma. I guess that’s why I haven’t posted a blog in over a month, which isn’t like me considering that I usually put out two or three a week. And I suppose that’s ok.

At first, it bothered me that I haven’t written in a while. It’s a ministry that I’m very dedicated to and truly enjoy. But the more I thought about it, I realized that there are always other important things to be done and other ways in which to serve God and his kingdom.

After finishing a quarterly Bible class for adults recently and undertaking another one currently, I’m reminded of the vital work that all of our Bible teachers in the church undertake. If you count yourself in this category, I encourage you to continue this good work. The church at all ages needs teachers who love God and are willing to volunteer their time to teach others about him.

And to the parents out there who are spending their days raising children in this tough world we call our home. I only have one child of my own, but as a teacher of 3rd graders, I know all too well what a difficult job parenting can be. Remember, your greatest act of stewardship is raising your children in a godly manner. Do so with the mindset that God is fully aware of all the hard work you put into that endeavor.

To the community of Christian bloggers out there.  Never forget that your impact and instruction of God’s truth can be felt literally around the world. Continue to serve him and others through your writing, and I pray that you will not grow weary as you do so.

Finally, if you’re not serving the kingdom of God in some way, your talents are needed as well. Find a ministry where your God-given abilities can be used. Commit to giving of yourself in even the smallest acts of servanthood, and I promise that God will bless you in amazing ways.  And don’t forget: You may very well end some days with an audible “Whew!”  That’s just the feeling of a job well-done and that the work you did for God was absolutely worth the time and effort.

-Joe Butler

Pride

Pride is such an interesting trait.  In its positive form, it manifests itself as a necessary feeling of accomplishment  that builds self-esteem and nurtures confidence.  In its negative form, it embodies an unattractive sense of arrogance and haughtiness that no one seems to enjoy.  It’s pride in the latter form that I want to discuss today.

Pride, in its negative appearance, is probably best examined by looking at its opposite…self-control.  Where pride and our desire to serve ourselves try to override the commands of God, self-control seeks to do what’s in our best interest according to God’s will for our lives.  Read with me this admonition from the Bible:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,”

(Titus 2:11-13)

The grace of God is a mighty thing indeed!  It not only brings us salvation, but it also assists us in living self-controlled lives in the sight of God.  Our fleshly, sinful nature usually seeks to serve itself first.  We can even serve ourselves to the point of self-destruction, introducing things into our lives that can put us in danger both physically and spiritually.  It’s our fleshly selves that separate us from God through the sin we partake in.  We can be inherently good but not good enough, consistently enough, to stay away from this prideful behavior.  It’s only with God’s help that we can distance ourselves from pride and live upright, godly lives.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”

(Romans 8:1-5)

The very scary truth is that Satan is out there every day waging war against our hearts, trying to convince us to live according to the flesh.  To love the world and its fleshly desires is actually showing hatred towards God (1 John 2:15-16).  It’s the epitome of pride to allow the temporal passions of our flesh and of this world to distract us from God.  But we do, and we do it all the time.  We are set free from prideful living when we walk according to the Spirit.  All the more reason why we must seek the fruit of  self-control.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

(Galatians 5:16-23)

A great way of looking at this idea of self-control is to really think of it as “God-control.”  The more God is in control of us and the more submitted we are to him and his will, the less we tend to mess up and succumb to the temptations of sin.  Self-control is also about being disciplined enough to practice healthy spiritual activities such as prayer, worship, giving, encouraging, love, and forgiveness.  When we bring ourselves closer to God and others in these ways, we can’t help but depart from prideful behavior.

Remember to always remind yourself, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  This promise will undoubtedly apply to a life of self-control.

-Joe Butler

Monday Motivation: 24/7

My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.

(Psalm 121:2-3)

I’m tired!  It’s about the end of the school year for me, and by this time of year I am mentally exhausted.  When you have a classroom full of 8-9 year olds all day, you can’t help but feel spent when the final bell rings.  It’s hard to imagine not feeling tired when we deal with stressful situations or an utterly taxing day.

But God never tires!!!!!

He is always looking out for you.  He shares your joys, walks with you through your struggles, and celebrates in your victories.  Isn’t it amazing to know that we have a God who never rests until his children are blessed and well-cared for?  Just remember that God is there 24/7.  No matter the need, no matter the worry, just call on his name!

-Joe Butler

This is Personal (Or at Least it Should Be)

Have you ever met someone who only showed love to you or others out of personal responsibility?  Whether you’ve experienced this yourself or have seen it manifested in the relationships of others, we are all too familiar with a fake version of love.

Now I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely not the kind of love that I want to experience in my relationships.  I want my wife’s treatment of me to be genuine and sincere.  I desire my daughter’s response to my parenting to be filled with gratitude and appreciation.  I hope that my friends truly enjoy their time spent with me and are not simply faking it in order to be nice.

The reality is, sometimes our relationships do experience these negative side effects and it never feels good.  None of us want to face the fact that sometimes our love for others is not always reciprocated.  Doesn’t it make you wonder whether God feels the same way at times?

You see, there’s a distinct difference between knowing God intellectually and knowing him personally.  We can have all the Bible knowledge in the world and not necessarily have an intimate relationship with God.  What’s interesting is that you can have knowledge of him without love, but typically, if you really love God, you will seek to know him more completely.  If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37-38), you would naturally seek to learn more about him.

Also, an unwavering commitment to serving God and submitting to his will usually only stems from a deep-seated desire to nurture an intimate relationship with him.  The more personal we make our walk with God, the more likely we are to trust and believe in him and his goodness.  The entirety of the Bible reflects God’s desire to be close to his children and for us to look at him as our Father and guide.  A Christian can only do that if they are committed to making their faith a personal one.  The most alarming evidence that God desires an intimate relationship with us can be found in the book of Matthew:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

(Matthew 7:21-23)

I can’t imagine how terrible it would feel if I were to hear those words from Christ.  “I never knew you,” says that we never took the time to really get to know God.  We never took advantage of the opportunities to speak with him in prayer or grow closer to him through his word.  It means that we were too busy being prideful and living our own lives when God just wanted us to feel loved like his dear children.

Ask yourself today whether or not you’ve truly desired and nurtured a relationship with God.  Resolve to make your walk with him more personal and I know you’ll soon enjoy the fruits of that beautiful relationship.

-Joe Butler

Monday Motivation: What Good Works Will You Do?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

(Ephesians 2:8-10)

Just imagine a master craftsman.  He puts a tremendous amount of attention and detail into everything he creates.  Every part has a purpose, every piece has a role.  A designer always creates with an end result in mind: What work will this object do?  What purpose will it fulfill?

We are the workmanship of the Almighty God, created to fulfill a unique calling that no one else can fill.  We were created to perform good works.  Not to earn our salvation.  That would contradict the definition of grace.  But we were created and molded and made with a purpose in mind.  God planned these works before we were ever born and designed us in such a way that we would have the talents and resources to fulfill them.

What good works will you do today?

-Joe Butler