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Showing posts from April, 2015

Maintain the distance

Have you ever been roped into an argument just by being in the wrong place at the right time?  It is like some current pulled you into the raging waters and you found yourself just barely able to hold on for the ride!  It isn't enough you were there, the other person wants to make sure you don't escape without "weighing in" on the argument - giving your opinion only opens the door to a more "heated" discussion!  Sheesh!  How did that happen?  Well, it isn't always about whether we "wanted" to argue, it is about how well we "refused" to argue.  Most of the time we don't "want" to argue - we don't get out of bed in the morning with the determination to pick a fight with someone today.  Yet, we might just struggle a little with this ability to refuse to argue - especially when the subject begins to turn toward something we are passionate about, or even us!  Learning to refuse to argue is indeed a skill we each will be …

Not just a reflection

If you are not a friend to yourself, it shows in the little things you neglect and are quite critical of in yourself.  When you are not a "fan" of who or what you are, you have a tendency to be quite "down" on whatever character flaw it is that has caught your attention at that moment.  In fact, you see that flaw in yourself, and then the contradictory "perfection" in someone else.  You might even see that same "flaw" in another, but you are more likely to just look at how someone else "has it all together" in that area and then be even more "down" on yourself because of your perceived "flaw".  According to scripture, you can tell when you are a "friend to yourself" by how well you are pursuing the things in life which make you wise.  When you apply yourself to wisdom, there is little time to be "down" on the stuff which you get hung up on when all you are doing is looking at your reflection in a…

It isn't HIS fault!

When I buy something new, especially some kind of electronic device, or little gadget designed to make my life easier, I usually am pretty excited by it.  I think it will meet whatever need I have and am eager to put it into use in my home, work life, etc.  Have you ever stopped to consider just how short of a time span it really takes for the excitement to wear off?  In my youth, I would have just rushed into decisions, not really considering what I was doing, much less the "why" behind those actions.  As I have grown up a little (and heaven knows I am still "growing up"), I have come to the conclusion rapid decisions and impulsive actions actually have a cost to them I may not want to actually pay.  Excitement fades - reality sets in and it around for a long, long time!
Being excited about something is not enough. You must also know what you are doing. Don’t rush into something, or you might do it wrong. People ruin their lives with the foolish things they do, and…

Leadership matters....pray for them

There are simply times when I shake my head at the opposition I see to so many of the rulers we have in place around our nation.  People gather on the squares outside legislative halls to protest the rules made, the positions of these rulers on matters they are asked to pass legislation on, and to just plain express their opposition to the rules in general.  It is kind of like a "sport" to them - some being at every protest they can possibly attend - even if it means missing work or leaving some other commitment undone.  I don't even know if they fully understand the "reason" behind their protest as much as they enjoy the "sport" of the protest.  The truth is pretty evident - we will not always share the same opinions as others - especially those in political positions of power and decision making.  To ridicule them or point fingers at them in protest is not an effective means of helping them do their job, though.  In fact, scripture points to quite a…

Rules of Christian Living - Part Seven

Our last "to do" in our list of "Rules for Christian Living" is this idea of not letting evil get us down, but rather turning evil around in our world by us doing good. This one seems awful simplistic, especially in light of some of the evil we see around us these days, doesn't it?  It is hard to "undo" rape, terrorism, or even the plaguing thoughts of bullying.  It is harder still to "undo" the destruction of diseases such as MS, Alzheimer's, or Parkinson's.  We might be able to slow the progression of the "evil", but "undoing" the effect it has on people - that is really a thing we just haven't been able to accomplish yet.  Look again at our passage. It doesn't say we defeat the evil in this world.  It reminds us we can live in such a way that we don't get defeated by the evil around us by living in such a way that goodness if the hallmark of our lives.  The idea is that of not being "conquered&…

Rules for Christian Living - Part Six

We have all probably heard a version of this quip:  "Payback is a bummer".  You may have heard it just a little differently, but you get the idea!  The "payback" for some of our misdeeds or meddling may be something we are not really counting on, but we can almost stand assured it is coming!  When I was younger, I was much more of a practical joker and liked to pull little pranks on people.  I learned that payback was really not something I liked!  There were times some of my friends and I would try to "one up" each other in the prank, having to be very creative about how it was we'd get the other one back for the last prank they pulled.  The problem with this kind of "one-upmanship" is that eventually the pranks had to get pretty elaborate and almost a little cruel or unsafe.  There was almost no end to the places we'd invade, the things we'd use, and the mischievous ways we'd prank one another.  It had to stop somewhere, though…

Rules for Christian Living - Part Five

It is said when an individual is able to empathize with another they are able to associate with the feelings, attitudes, and sometimes even the pain of another. It is as though they have walked through, or are currently walking through the same stuff the other person is at that moment in time.  There is an "association" with the other person's plight, joy, freedom, etc.  To suffer "with" another is different from entering into the suffering with the individual.  Sympathy is something which occurs because two people are so similar in tastes, opinions, etc., that they often see things the same way.  When God asks us to be happy when others are happy, sad when they are sad, he is asking us to use a little of both.  He desires nothing more than we become like minded - developing the same tastes and opinions.  He also wants each of us to learn to walk with one another in the challenges of life we have also walked through - not alone, but with each other.  Sympathy s…

Rules for Christian Living - Part Four

If you have ever stood in the midst of accusers or those who just don't make life very pleasant for you, you know what it is like to feel a little mistreated. Mistreated people actually feel like they are being "abused" a little - the things being done to them are just plain wrong. The one being mistreated feels like they are standing alone - no help in sight, no end either!  To be the receiving end of abuse is just not pleasant, but to actually turn "toward" your abuser and then bless them is quite another thing altogether!  To return good when all you are receiving is bad or harmful is almost like asking for the impossible, but we need to keep in mind God's plan is to always do the impossible through us. 
Ask God to bless everyone who mistreats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them. (Romans 12:14 CEV)
It doesn't say we are to be the ones giving the blessing to another - it says we are to take that individual to God and ask God to bless him o…

Rules of Christian Living - Part Three

Impoverished people understand their need, don't they?  The one living on the street longs for a roof over their head and warmth in the cool of winter.  The one eating from the trash receptacles nightly longs for the privilege of purchasing a hot meal or buying a basket of groceries fresh from the market. The one clothed in the same garb from day-to-day longs for the ability to launder their things and to enjoy the luxury of having choices about what to wear.  We might not understand poverty if we have never really experienced it. Mother Teresa once said, "Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty."  I guess there are more forms of poverty than just being without food, clothing, or shelter, huh?  If what she said is true, then many of us have known a form of poverty at one time or another, right?  Lonely, feeling unwanted in a world crazy enough to make a sane person spin, we wander almost in a daze - hungering for someone to care, somebod…

Rules for Christian Living - Part Two

Yesterday we began a study into some "Rules for Christian Living" as outlined in the twelfth chapter of the Romans.  We began with the importance of loving others, honoring them, and to actively engage in practices within relationship which build up the relationship rather than tearing it down.  The focus was on the vigilance required to maintain solid relationships - beginning with the one we have with God and then spreading out to those we enjoy with each other. Today, we will move into the ideas of tenacity, endurance, and patience - three things which just about every one of us has a little struggle with at one time or another.  We begin with the reminder to never give up.  In the realm of relationship, this is probably one of the most important things we can learn. The desire to give up is there more than we probably want to admit.  It doesn't matter if we focus on our relationship with Christ, or those we call our "everyday" relationships right here on ea…

Rules of Christian Living - Part One

There is this list of things called "Rules for Christian Living" which appears in the twelfth chapter of Romans.  Almost all of them are "relational" in one form or another, but as we look into those over the next couple of days, let's seek to really avoid using them as a "checklist" of Christian behavior and more of a little bit of insight into how God created us to interact with him and each other.  The ideas conveyed in this chapter are not just "rules" we check-off each day and then go around thinking "I already did that today".  They are ways of living "outside" of our selfishness - the tendency we had before we said "yes" to Christ which kept us totally self-directed in our focus.  We are going to look at these in segments, not as a long "laundry list", but as building upon each other.  The first is pretty straight-forward:  Be sincere in your love for others.  Sincerity is this idea of being fre…

Not just your body

If you have ever been asked to make a "sensible" decision, you probably knew that meant you were to give it a little extra thought, not just acting upon a whim or fancy.  You are "aware" of what is happening and then you are making actively engaged decisions based on this awareness.  There is something about serving God which is kind of sensible - because we actively engage in this relationship with him.  Yet, there are parts of serving God we cannot "over-think" - because then the relationship becomes kind of just a "religious pursuit" and not a relationship.  The idea of presenting our bodies to Christ as a living sacrifice is kind of something we cannot pour a whole lot of thought into or we will get kind of "weird" in our beliefs!  First of all, God doesn't actually want any of us "burning our bodies" on an altar in a literal sense.  What he does want is this idea of yielding something which we treat with so much atte…

God will...

We all have a tendency to complicate the gospel message a little, making a few extra hoops to jump through, or explaining it in terms so hard to understand. We don't mean to, but we just do because we cannot fully comprehend the simplicity of faith.  I used to think of faith as some really big deal - something we had to attain, grow into, etc.  In actuality, when we truly grasp the idea of faith being something as close as the words of our mouth or the niggling in our heart, we begin to understand the meaning of faith.  Faith isn't a set of actions on our part, but a word spoken in earnest, or a turning of our heart toward the one who created the very rhythm of its beat.  The Old Testament is full of individuals who complicated faith into some system of works and rules to be followed.  Moses said to Israel, "If you want to live, you must do all the Law commands."  Now, I don't know about you, but I have never been all that good at keep all of the rules all of the…

More than a little water, please

I have watched my grandsons grow older, smarter, and bigger.  They are now 6 and 11, great students in school, engaged in creative activities which occupy their minds and time, and loving as all get out when it comes to caring for others.  I have seen them wrestle with each other, kind of taunting one another one minute to see if they could get under each other's skin, while they are embracing and telling each other how much they love the other one the next. One thing I have noted is just how much they are like fresh sponges - absorbing not only what they hear, but what they see modeled.  It is not uncommon to see one or both of the boys jump up to help their great-grandmother locate her walking stick she has absently left somewhere, or to open a door for her on her journey out to the car.  It is also not uncommon for them to bring handwritten notes and handcrafted cards to each of us just telling us how much they love and appreciate us in their lives.  Early in their wee lives, t…

Promise, Purpose, & Intiative

Three important truths became apparent to me in listening to the Easter sermon this year.  I didn’t really expect to hear much of a different “story” of Easter, but I really “got” something different out of the story I did hear!  Isn’t that just like God?  He brings about something new even when we think there could not be anything new possible!  It had to do with promise, purpose, and initiative.  God’s promises overriding our “try harder” kind of mental belief we will be able to do enough to save ourselves from our own sin.  God’s purpose determining our course right into the very presence of God and into the waiting arms of his embrace.  Lastly, God’s initiative to make a way for each of us where absolutely no other way existed.  All be it we try to live right, we don’t really “do” the work of salvation – the basis of our salvation is all in the promise, purpose, and initiative of another – Christ Jesus himself.  Although this wasn’t the passage my pastor spoke from, it caught my e…

No one and Nothing

The question is posed:  "If God is on our side, can anyone be against us?"  I'd have to answer, "Sure, just because we have God on our side doesn't mean we will never be opposed by anyone or anything else for the rest of our lives!"  It DOES mean that nothing which opposes us will ever win the upper hand! Whether it is an enemy of our own "doing" such as addiction to some substance or habit, or some enemy we have absolutely no control over such as the senseless tragedy of someone taking the life of another just because they are in school or the theater that day - we have enemies around us.  They work to create as much "mess" in our lives as possible - sometimes because the mess of their own lives just is too much for them to handle themselves!
In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us. (Romans 8:37 CEV)
I have often pondered this idea of why bad things happen to good people.  In the recent weeks we have l…

What you "toying with"?

Desire:  Those things we long for or crave; the hope for satisfaction of some sort.  I think we would all admit to the fact of having desires - some are quite innocent, while others give us a little bit of a challenge in life.  Some desires are easily fulfilled, while others will be the things we chase after repeatedly and find no satisfaction in ever obtaining.  What we forget is the "hold" desires place on us as we pursue whatever it is which becomes the object of our attention (focus).  It is almost impossible to have a desire and then not to want to "go after it" with some form of passionate pursuit.  In the evenings, I will look over at mom and see her pondering something.  I know this usually means she is thinking about what might be in the house which she can "nibble on" for a wee snack to tide her over till bedtime.  She isn't really all that hungry because we had a good dinner - she just wants something crunchy, chewy, or sweet to satisfy a l…