Monday Motivation: Seeing God

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:20)

The countdown has begun!  My spring break is right around the corner and I can barely contain my excitement!  Being a teacher, there are several breaks from school that we look forward to and Spring break is one of them.  Mostly because it’s Spring, the weather is changing, and I usually go to the mountains for a little hiking and vacation time.

This year, my family and I are heading up to my brother’s house in north Georgia and then going to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.  I’ve been there countless times and I never get tired of the endless mountain vistas, the crisp, cool air, and the peace and quiet that being in the mountains provides.

Another wonderful blessing of taking trips into nature is the closeness I feel with God and his beautiful creation.  As the verse above mentions, we can see God in the world around us.  We can see his wisdom in the order of the natural world.  We can experience a fraction of his creativity when we examine the tremendous differences in plant species such as trees and wildflowers, or the wonderful variety of animals in existence.  We can even gain some insight into his love for us that he would create such a beautiful world for us to reside in.

As Spring begins to blossom in your area of the world, take time to look around and relish in the perfection of God’s creation.  Take time to meditate on his immeasurable love for you.  Allow the truth of God’s existence to be seen in the natural world around you and use that time to worship him.

-Joe Butler

 

Monday Motivation: Suffering for Doing Good

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)

“If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.  For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God;” (1 Peter 4:16-17)

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” (1 Peter 3:9, 13-14)

No one ever thinks it will happen to them.  You’re going along, doing your best to serve God and others when, out of nowhere, you face hatred or criticism or false accusation.  It’s even worse when those hurtful actions come from those within the body of Christ.

It’s comforting to know that your service and love to God and others is recognized and appreciated by those who know and have seen your spiritual fruit.  Jesus was blunt when he warned his disciples about the persecution they would most likely face (John 15:18-21).  He was also encouraging, telling them, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,” (Matthew 5:11-12).

My advice to you if you find yourself in such a situation: Do not be discouraged or lose faith in your service to the Lord.  He will reward those who serve him faithfully (James 1:12).  Do not become bitter or repay evil actions in kind.  Stand above the fray, even if it means you stand alone.  And above all, rejoice in sharing in the sufferings of Christ.  Blessed are those who love their Lord enough to follow him even in the darkest of circumstances.

-Joe Butler

Monday Motivation: Doing the Right Thing

No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

(Luke 16:13)

If I’m honest, being a Christian is not always an easy thing to do.  I know there are plenty of believers out there who will tell you otherwise.  They will tell you that following God is a simple act of the will or that its much better than the alternative.  While that may be so, we are always at odds with what our fleshy selves want.  Even the apostle Paul had this struggle.  He said…

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

(Romans 7:15-20)

Needless to say, our human nature desires one thing while our spiritual nature (controlled by the Holy Spirit) wants another.  That is why the Bible tells us that we cannot serve two masters.  The passage from Luke above is not only about money. It’s also about our ability to do the right thing in God’s eyes; to serve him and not ourselves.

The problem is, that’s easier said than done at times.  We are warned in God’s word that we cannot be just hearers of his word and not doers (James 1:22).  We are also told that it is a sin to know what is right to do and not do it (James 4:17).  Sometimes it’s not comfortable to do the right thing or we receive criticism for doing the right thing.  Either way, we should commit to following God in everything he asks of us.  That’s what it really means to make him our master.  And in the end, we receive a reward for doing so:

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

(Galatians 6:9)

-Joe Butler

Monday Motivation: The Only Way

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6)

I love many of Jesus’ teachings mostly for their straightforward nature.  Being a ‘get-to-the-point” kind of person, I love how Jesus’ teachings are so easy to understand for those who are truly seeking him.  Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)  He promises that he will give us the answers that we need to know him more deeply and serve him to the best of our ability.

One of those teachings is found in the passage above.  There is absolutely no gray area in the comment Jesus makes in regards to our coming to the Father.  Jesus says that he is the ONLY way!

The way to God is through Jesus.

The way to truth is through Jesus.

The way to find everlasting life is through Jesus.

My advice for this passage of scripture as well as most other teachings of the Bible is to read it for exactly what it says.  Don’t try to make the Bible say something it doesn’t or change its meaning to something that’s more comfortable.  Don’t try to filter the messages taught in the Bible through your own preconceived ideas and beliefs.  That’s not worshipping God…that’s worshipping yourself.

-Joe Butler

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

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

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

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

Monday Motivation: God Forgives!

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

(1 John 1:9)

Just let your heart dwell on the promise of those beautiful words above.

God is faithful.

God is just.

God forgives.

If we are willing to confess and repent of our sins, God will always forgive.  ALWAYS!

-Joe Butler

Monday Motivation: Rooted and Sustained

Our ability to transform our world for God stems from our relationship with him.  We cannot decide to surrender our life to the will of God only at the difficult hour of a trial or act of temptation and expect to rise victorious.  Our desire to stand for God in a sinful world must grow long before a crisis occurs so that when the going gets tough, we will always remain firmly rooted and sustained by the one true vine.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

(John 15:5-7)

Never forget…apart from God, you can do nothing.

-Joe Butler