"And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?"
--Mark 8:36 (NLT)

Did you ever play with balloons when you were a child? If you didn’t, I would suggest you were deprived and grew up in a dysfunctional environment. If that is the case, telling you this may save you some money and explain deep-seeded issues causing you to act in unpredictable ways. (Of course I am only kidding about that.)

When I was a kid, I thought balloons were one of the greatest things in the universe. My father brought me a whole sack of extra-thick balloons one night, and I played with them for hours. I would let them go, and as the air came rushing out of them, they flew across the room, zigzagging in all directions.

The only problem was that my balloon would always pop if I blew it up too much. I remember I was shattered when that happened, and my parents took me in for counseling. No, I must correct that--they told me to quit whining, so I got another balloon out of my sack and tried blowing that one up instead.
Then there was bubble gum. I remember one time when I had just had my hair cut, and I was given a piece of it. I chewed it for a while, and then picked up a handful of loose hair. I stuck the gum on the hair, and then I stuck the mass of gummy hair on the barber’s front window. I guess I thought it would be free advertising, but to my dismay that plan didn’t work. I don’t remember what happened, but I never tried that again.

I did have a defining moment in my childhood, though. It was when someone else tried to see how large a bubble they could blow. That was great, because their bubble popped just like a balloon. But this time, it went all over their face and hair, leaving a big mess!

When we think we will find lasting satisfaction from what the world has to offer, it turns out to be like my experience with balloons and bubble gum. The world says, "Try this and you will find lasting fulfillment!" But much to our dismay, the world's offer pops like an elusive bubble. When we knock on the door of emptiness, we turn and search for something else. just like the leftover bubble gum residue, however, the emptiness that we entertain leaves a lasting scar, and sometimes that scar is pretty messy.

But the good news is that Jesus offers satisfaction, which replaces the restlessness we often feel. I know this because He has done it in my life, and I would like to share three words that epitomize that for me. They are contemplate, meditate, and motivate.

The gospel record tells us of how Jesus spent much of His time communing with His Father. While we should follow His example, most of us have minds that wander. As I understand it, contemplation is the art of disciplining the mind so that a single thought can be focused upon more clearly. But the only way we can really do that is in and through Christ’s strength. There is something about getting some time alone with Jesus and just being open with Him that is truly liberating.

You may tell God that you want to talk to Him, but sometimes He seems to be far away, and the things you are facing crowd your mind. All of us have problems that can keep us from Him, but the Bible tells us that we can cast these cares and worries upon the shoulders of a loving God.

In still another place, James makes it clear that if we draw close to God, He will draw close to us, and we can see His love on Calvary. When you are in love, you are always in a contemplative mood as you consider the attributes of that special person, and therefore you share a connection like no other. I pray you will connect with God in a special way today as you open up to Him, filling your mind with thoughts of His majesty, love and mercy.

Unlike eastern thought, Biblical meditation does not mean emptying the mind. On the contrary, meditating according to the Scriptures means filling your mind with God’s Word. But don’t stop there. Scripture-based meditation also involves studying and chewing on God's Word as though it were a piece of bubble gum. Just as you would extract every possible bit of flavor from the gum, turn the scriptures over and over in your mind so that you can understand them more completely. Let God speak to your heart, and filter everything through His Word. When you do this, new opportunities of service will open up for you.

Godly motivation is very different than the motivation that the world offers. Christian motivation isn’t about earning brownie points so that we can be better people. God's Word tells us that all of our righteousness is like filthy rags. While we do want to become like Him, our motivation ultimately must come from the fact that we love Him because He loved us first and foremost. When we really grasp this dynamic, it will give us a new zest for life.

Regardless of the circumstances, if you find your anchor in Christ, you can have love, joy and peace that the world knows nothing about. So if you know Him today, He invites you to draw on His richness in a new way. While others are falling apart under the weight of stress and pressure, God invites you to fall into His arms.

If you don’t know Him today, He wants to show you just how much He cares, so open your heart to Him right now. Tell Him that you are tired of living an empty life and running after worldly possessions that never last very long. Then you can watch in amazement as He puts the broken pieces of your life back together in ways that you may not expect.

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Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 377 E. Chapman Ave., Suite 260, Placentia, CA 92870. Finally, you're always welcome to join our Monday night Bible study or Tuesday night prayer meeting. Both are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 5:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 712-775-7031, and our ID is 607518748. We hope to talk with you soon!

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