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No afternoon athletic contest

God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. (Ephesians 6:10-12 MSG)
No "afternoon athletic contest" for us! We are in a life or death battle - to the finish! That means there must be consistent training and the right "arming" of one's self with all the tools we need to withstand the constant barrage of attacks coming our way. We cannot find those tools simply by being "stationary" and "inactive" in our spiritual lives. The tools we are given to resist attack are "put on" - they become part of our lives by osmosis!

Sunday church goers, you are probably going to get…

Nursing a Strain?

It was Peter Marshall who reminded us: "The measure of life is not its duration, but its donation." What has been your "donation" this past year? Have you made a difference in the life of someone? Has your life been an instrument of grace and love? Have you encountered difficulties, but steadfastly stayed the course so others who will come behind you may see plainly what it takes to reach the next destination? If 2017 didn't end on the note you'd hope it would, there is always 2018 to improve the donation!

32 “Do you think you deserve credit for merely loving those who love you? Even the godless do that! 33 And if you do good only to those who do you good—is that so wonderful? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, what good is that? Even the most wicked will lend to their own kind for full return! 35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them! Lend to them! And don’t be concerned about the fact that they won’t repay. T…

A fresh start

Did you ever stop to think the New Year is just a time where we enter into a space and place where new chapters will be written? Some of us are so "down" on ourselves because of some the chapters we have allowed to be written into our lives this year we cannot see beyond those chapters. The story isn't over - so there are more chapters to be written! That affords us a "change of venue" for the writing of the next!

13 O God, your ways are holy. Where is there any other as mighty as you? 14 You are the God of miracles and wonders! You still demonstrate your awesome power. 19 Your road led by a pathway through the sea—a pathway no one knew was there! (Psalm 77:13-14, 19 TLB)
God still stands ready to demonstrate his awesome power in our lives. We don't have to fear he has left us without any "re-writes". In fact, he may "edit" those chapters completely so they no longer have any bearing on the story that will be forthcoming! After all...he IS…

Landmines, Switchbacks, and Ice Patches

So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants. (Ephesians 5:16-17 MSG) Have you ever navigated through some place where you had to really watch your step? There have been times when I have to navigate landmines in the yard of a friend that would have caused a pretty uncomfortable odor to follow me around if I had of step into them. I have had to watch very carefully while traversing switchback trails down into the Grand Canyon, all the while watching for erosion and lose rocks. I have also had to stay upright on very slippery icy patches while trying to stay focused on getting to the destination I had in mind. When we are "watching our steps" it is pretty hard to see what is around us, though. We miss some of the beauty we all desire to take in along our journey all because our focus is at foot level! Equally important is this idea of not…

Groping?

You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.  (Ephesians 5:8-10 MSG)
All of us grope around at some point in life, whether it being while we are trying to find a career, or maybe the next step we should take in order to get to some point we imagine will make us happier. To grope means we are just feeling our way toward something. Mom is legally blind, but I have noticed her vision failing just a week bit more this year and she is now "groping" around the house a lot more. She seeks those "touch points" that are familiar to her - the back of the sofa as she makes her way to the kitchen, or the length of the hallway wall as she makes her way back to the bedroom. It is a natural part of life to reach ou…

Rubbing Shoulders With Love

1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. (Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG)
Love like that...easier said than done, huh? The key to loving is watching how God loves and then imitating what he does. That doesn't make our love "imitation" - it makes it an invitation! We learn the "proper behavior" of being truly loving by observing all the aspects of how God expresses his love in and through our lives and the lives of others. We make love so complex, but God makes it appear pretty doggone easy - he just loves us - without condition, exactly as we are, without requiring anything of us. This is one reason we need to observe how he expresses love - because we do…

Now, that's a perfect fit!

You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. (Ephesians 4:20-24 MSG)

Those who pay careful attention to Christ will see the careful attention of Christ manifest over and over in their lives. It is simple math - put in what you have to give and then watch as God takes the little you have and he multiplies it in exponential proportions until we are filled with the character of Christ within. The old way of life - given over to him - is subtracted. The new way of life - received from him - is added. In turn, there is an ex…

Damaged or Gracefully Broken?

Matt Redman sings a song entitled, "Gracefully Broken", in which the chorus of the song really depicts an image we all need to grasp fully. Listen carefully to these words: "Here I am God, arms wide open, pouring out my life, gracefully broken."  The image is one of submission - lifting arms - not just a little bit, but totally and completely wide open. Wide open - does that frighten anyone else? Wide open means nothing is hidden, but it also means nothing is unable to enter into the space created by being open to receive!

But you’ll welcome us with openarms when we run for cover to you. Let the party last all night! Stand guard over our celebration. You are famous, God, for welcoming God-seekers, for decking us out in delight. (Psalm 5:11-12 MSG)

God has a special way of welcoming those with open arms - for open arms depict an open heart - and an open heart is the best ground for God's grace to work. God can take what we offer with open arms - open heart. He can…

One Teacher, Multiple Lessons

When one teaches, two learn.  (Robert Half)
21 Jesus and his companions now arrived at the town of Capernaum and on Saturday morning went into the Jewish place of worship—the synagogue—where he preached. 22 The congregation was surprised at his sermon because he spoke as an authority and didn’t try to prove his points by quoting others—quite unlike what they were used to hearing!(Mark 1:21-22 TLB)
They say any teacher really has to learn the subject matter prior to teaching it themselves. Does that mean I perfectly "get" every lesson down pat before I teach it and can replicate it time and time again without variation? Not hardly! It does means I learn a little more each time I teach it, though! It means I come closer to replicating the lesson without variation each time I revisit that lesson. It means there has been growth to some degree in my life. I am human, so my teaching isn't always my own - sometimes I reteach what I have learned from others - things that spoke tru…

We can fill up in a lot of ways

8 The psalmist tells about this, for he says that when Christ returned triumphantly to heaven after his resurrection and victory over Satan, he gave generous gifts to men. 9 Notice that it says he returned to heaven. This means that he had first come down from the heights of heaven, far down to the lowest parts of the earth. 10 The same one who came down is the one who went back up, that he might fill all things everywhere with himself, from the very lowest to the very highest.   (Ephesians 4:8-10 TLB)
Christ came down from the heights, but his return to those heights made possible the "filling" - not with a temporary filling of power, but with a permanent presence of himself wherever we are and go. That means everywhere you are, if Christ's presence dwells within your heart, then Christ is right there in the midst of the present moment. Many times we focus on the coming of Christ, but forget there is a "remaining" part that actually was the purpose for his entir…

Help me to handle this well

4 But remember this, that if a father dies and leaves great wealth for his little son, that child is not much better off than a slave until he grows up, even though he actually owns everything his father had. 2 He has to do what his guardians and managers tell him to until he reaches whatever age his father set. 3 And that is the way it was with us before Christ came. We were slaves to Jewish laws and rituals, for we thought they could save us. 4 But when the right time came, the time God decided on, he sent his Son, born of a woman, born as a Jew, 5 to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law so that he could adopt us as his very own sons. 6 And because we are his sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, so now we can rightly speak of God as our dear Father. 7 Now we are no longer slaves but God’s own sons. And since we are his sons, everything he has belongs to us, for that is the way God planned. (Galatians 4:1-7 TLB) A long passage this morning, but it speaks …

I'm hungry again!

Jesus replied, “I am the Bread of Life. No one coming to me will ever be hungry again. Those believing in me will never thirst." (John 6:35TLB) What makes you hungry? As I catch the fragrant aroma of baking cookies or fresh bread, I get hungry! Walk into the putrid smell of old pine cleaner in a musty bathroom and that appetite just takes a hit in the old nostrils! It is amazing how we can be so hungry one moment and then have that hunger almost turn to a sour stomach in such a short period of time. How it is that happens? In the natural sense, hunger is made up of many 'senses' - smell, taste, texture, not to mention hormones triggering the desire to eat, etc. We can realize tremendous hunger, and then there are times we can ignore that hunger to the point it becomes a devastating thing to our physical bodies. In a spiritual sense, it is possible to ignore hunger so long we just don't realize we are becoming malnourished! Hunger is satisfied as we partake - plain and…

Enter and Enjoy

Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.” (Matthew 11:28 TLB)
You know that every now and again I share some lyrics from a song I find speaks to me, or is just one I like because the song lifts my soul and spirit into the presence of God. Today is one of those days when I feel compelled to share one of my favorite songs from Sidewalk Prophets - "Come to the Table". The intent is for us to get only a highlight a few things from this song. If you'd like the complete lyrics, please go to the link at the bottom of the post and enjoy!

The song begins with a statement: "We all start on the outside - the outside looking in. This is where grace begins." Oh, these words are so very true - we ALL begin on the outside looking in - hungry for grace's satisfying filling. …

Maybe it doesn't come from a store....

Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store. (Dr. Seuss)
“Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing. My true disciples produce bountiful harvests. This brings great glory to my Father." (John 15:5,8TLB) Could it be that Christmas begins with "connection"? It took Christ's "connection" with human form in order to actually re-establish "connection" of the human with the divine! I have had some times of "loose connection" in my life - with Christ, others, and tasks or responsibilities. Let's just be honest here - maintaining "tight" and "permanent" connections is kind of hard sometimes. It requires constant attention to the details because it doesn't take much to disturb connection! In what ways are connection lost? The first thing that might come to mind is by it coming "loose&…

Frame me

Choose your friends with caution; plan your future with purpose, and frame your life with faith. (Thomas S. Monson)

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds. It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness. (James 3:17-18 TLB)

We are all in the process of "framing" our lives each and every moment we make split-second decisions. It is what precedes those decisions that often determines the "steadiness" of the course we will take. As Monson stated, we need to ensure our lives are "framed" with faith - in other words, we have the firmest of foundations upon which to allow our steps to be taken. That foundation is Christ - it begins with saying "yes" to him, but it continues each a…

What do you believe?

25 Jesus told her, “I am the one who raises the dead and gives them life again. Anyone who believes in me, even though he dies like anyone else, shall live again.26 He is given eternal life for believing in me and shall never perish. Do you believe this, Martha?” (John 11:25-26 TLB)

Could we insert your name in place of Martha's for just a moment? If we were to do so, this would read "Jesus told Jane" or "Jesus told Rebecca" or "Jesus told Harry". There is much impact when we make scripture apply to us as individuals rather than just accepting that Jesus was talking to just one individual in history. Martha received these words, but we can, as well. "Anyone" can be us - short and sweet - the "anyone" Jesus came for is right there staring back at you in the mirror!

Jesus may have been asking Martha if she believed he was the one who could give life - eternal life. The question is important - not just so her brother could be raised fro…

White waters

While the river of life glides along smoothly, it remains the same river; only the landscape on either bank seems to change. (Max Muller)
Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should. (Psalm 90:12 TLB)

There are some days I am up to whatever comes my way, while others seem to be carrying me in a current all their own and one I cannot seem to master any control over whatsoever. We probably all experience those moments where it feels like we are totally being tossed to and fro in the white-waters of life. In those times, we can panic, or we can recount how well-equipped we really are, with life jacket secured, a guide who knows the waters like the back of his hand, and who knows some of the most beautiful things we will see are those we observe once we take our eyes off the churning and tossing waters. The banks carved by those churning waters are a sight to behold!

Not all of life will go as it "should", but I have to ask you who…

Seasonal Service

10 It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. (Ephesians 2:10 TLB)

This time of year lends itself to people doing kind deeds for those they really know. It seems to be part of the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Food banks pile higher with food items donated at the local grocer in collection bins dedicated to ensuring those "less fortunate" have a nice meal for the holidays. Soup kitchens see an influx of volunteer help to prepare meals for the homeless. Red kettles get filled with pocket change and spare dollar bills. It is the season of "doing for others" and it is seen in many ways. As good as it is to serve others in some small way during the holiday season, God has called each of us for "bigger" purposes - to spend our entire lives helping others!

Needs are all around us each and everyday. We don't need a &quo…

Navigation, please

Later, in one of his talks, Jesus said to the people, “I am the Light of the world. So if you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, for living light will flood your path.” (John 8:12TLB) I usually do pretty well navigating someplace I am quite familiar with, even when the light has faded and I am faced with total darkness - I just traverse that space a little slower than usual and with a whole lot more caution. Why? Darkness doesn't allow things to reveal themselves to us in quite the same way as light does - they get revealed, just with a whole lot of stumbling! At night, I often navigate mom back to bed several times, not turning on any lights. I act as her navigator - she follows my lead. With her macular degeneration, even when the lights are on, she still has a whole lot of darkness to overcome, especially with the advancing of dementia on top of the blindness. So, as long as she is following someone, she does pretty well. Some of us would do well to realize…