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A little fore-thought and intentional progress here....

It is always good to have a "recipe" or "instructions" to follow - especially when you are trying to create something you are not familiar with - new experiences demand solid instructions in order to not get things messed up along the way. The same is true in our spiritual walk - we have not walked this way before, so we need the "recipe" or "instructions" for how it is that we are to live. Today we will explore a couple of important principles - contrasting the way we should live against the way we often choose to live. Probably above all, we need to understand what it is that we are choosing to have "made of our lives" - it should be to be counted wise and to build a reputation that is rock-solid. Reputation is how we are known - it reflects either the wisdom or foolishness of our choices. Some people refer to a reputation as the "character" of a man or woman. Today's 'recipe' or 'instructions' is really…

Just sayin!

A fool engages in words that are both thoughtless (not a lot of thought taken before speaking them) and careless (headstrong and determined to make one's own point or get one's own way). Put them together and you have a recipe for many an unhappy relationship, family gathering, or workplace environment! The fool is often described as reckless, unthinking, indiscreet, lacking caution, etc. Not too flattering of a list of character traits, huh? The wise, on the other hand, are described as discreet, caring, respectful, concerned, etc. The difference isn't rocket science here - it is found in the ability to "govern" one's words.

Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly; the prudent quietly shrug off insults. Truthful witness by a good person clears the air, but liars lay down a smoke screen of deceit. Rash language cuts and maims, but there is healing in the words of the wise. (Proverbs 12:16-18)

Ever know someone who has a "short fuse" - react…

Okay, I am ready now!

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...  Have you ever really stopped to consider those words, or are they just words of 'nice sentiment' to you? If the day will hold just a moment or two for contemplation, I think these could just be the words we might want to meditate upon! They are better than anything we can do to 'medicate away' the pain - emotional or physical. They are more trustworthy than even the most binding of contracts on this earth. They are more fulfilling than the biggest and best of meals we could luxuriate upon. These are words spoken with intent - they are words that are filled with hope - and they are words meant to encourage us even when all else seems to fail us!

God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I'm not afraid when you walk a…

What? It isn't all about me?

There are commands in the scripture that are not 'optional' behaviors or attitudes. We are to embrace them as a way of life regardless of how we feel. Too many of us are reliant upon 'feelings-based' actions. If we feel like it, we do. If we don't feel the urge, we don't. Don't love the world's ways is not optional. Don't love the world's goods is also not optional. Neither of these commands are 'optional' or dependent on how we feel at the moment. We might want to gloss over these commands, but there is much value in considering them as guiding principles in our lives as the consequences of being too caught up in the ways of this world system or in seeking after what it offers carry some heavy burdens for us. When we are in love with this world and what it offers us, we isolate ourselves from God - although we may align with others in this world, isolation from him is just not good.

Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the…

Plunge right in!

We all have those moments when we want to move forward, but something inside us is holding us back. We want change, but the thought of it overwhelms us. We desire newness, but the familiar often outweighs the unknown - doesn't it? As I have begun to work with wood a little this year, the thought of using some of the more 'daunting' tools is a little bit intimidating. Yes, I can put two pieces of wood together. Yes, I can sand them smooth. Yes, I can use a jigsaw, circular saw, and even a miter saw. Now, ask me how I am doing with the table saw! It sits there all ready to go, but it intimidates me! I have heard horror stories of digits severed, injuries from kickback of the wood and the like. The thought of it frightens me, but I know I can do even greater projects once I set my mind to learning the ins and outs of that thing! There are times we focus on our 'impotence' - our inability - instead of God's 'potency' - his ability. When we do, we might find…

A + B = C

There is a lot of emphasis today on getting education. We start children in educational opportunities as early as pre-preschool and encourage advancing our education by adding advanced degrees to fill the period after the end of our college days, as well. Trade schools have risen all over the place, offering degrees to those who want to simply better themselves in one particular field of study without going the long route of learning all that other stuff the 'regular' colleges and universities require for a degree. Education is at a premium in our society. Why is it then that we scoff at the wisdom God offers - at the education he provides in his Word?

Give advice to a wise person, and he will become even wiser. Teach a righteous person, and he will learn more.  (Proverbs 9:9)  Show me how you work, God; school me in your ways.  (Psalm 25:4)

King David was adamant that the one thing he wanted in his life was to know how God works - to be schooled in God's ways - not just for…

I ain't no saint!

Some try to live like saints - others know just how much of an impossibility sainthood really is! The good news is that God can make somebodies out of nobodies - he can actually make saints out of sinners! We all bear many names such as son, daughter, mother, father, worker, foreman, leader, and even child. None of these names really defines us as God would have us defined, though. We are each individually defined by the 'new name' he writes upon our hearts the moment we say "yes" to Jesus. That new name doesn't make us who we are in Christ Jesus - it is given because of what God has done in us.

We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God co…

The best gift is...

Wouldn't it be great to have someone just tell us everything was going to be all right in our life? There are moments in time when things just seem to spin out of control and all we want to hear is that it is going to be well with us - we are going to make it through, survive, and rise above this current unease or unrest. We are loved by God and kept by Jesus Christ - therefore, what spins today is still in his control. Some of us just need to hear, "Relax, everything's going to be all right; rest, everything's coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!"

But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God's love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life! Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not so…

The gift

How much is a fair day's wage? I sometimes watch these shows depicting how life was in the earlier days, when men and women plowed fields, laid up stores from their gardens, and raise livestock to support their families. Some were laborers in the fields, others worked at 'trades' such as carpentry, stone mason, or storekeeper. Yet, one common theme seemed to emerge - the day's wage. It wasn't much, but it usually helped with the bare necessities - such as new shoes when the soles of the present ones had worn thin. The day's wage was well-earned by the sweat of one's brow and heavy lifting of one's back. The worker did a good job and he earned his wages - he deserved his pay. It wasn't a gift to him - it was hard-earned. There is one thing we can never earn - that which is given as a gift. A gift is something given from a heart that knows the specific need and desire of another.
If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’…

We need zero skipped beats!

God is not after a big church or even 'big names' in Christian circles - he is after an obedient church and obedient children who are not concerned with making a 'name', but in sharing his love in big ways. It really doesn't matter the size of the church or the years we have been a believer. The number of pews or the size of the building really doesn't matter - nor the number of times we have read through the Bible from cover to cover. The thing that matters is the condition of the hearts that make up the "church" - the condition of our hearts - yours and mine. God often deals with obedience as he speaks with his kiddos - "Do what I tell you". There is to be evidence of obedience in our lives. The first evidence we should see is that we "treasure" God's instructions. They are not given haphazardly - they are "careful" instructions. The requirement of an obedient heart is first to learn to treasure the things that brin…

Nope, it is a God thing!

It is a "God thing". Have you ever heard anyone say that? I had a friend who always marveled over what God was doing in her life and she'd be heard exclaiming those words. What she meant was that we mere humans couldn't take credit for how things turned out, or what transpired to get us to the outcome we were seeing at that moment. It was a God thing. Since the beginning of time, we can see accounts of men and women, all trying to somehow get an outcome they desired, but even after lots of struggle and willpower, the matter still 'came together' by God's doing. None of us are ever accepted or made "right" by our own deeds. For the nation of Israel, it took a realization that it was in the "keeping of the letter of the law" that they were "made righteous" was not exactly correct. They missed the boat as it applied to seeing God's provision for their holiness through the life of his Son. Abraham was pointed to as one of the…

Uh...you might want to share that with someone

When was the last time you had a deeply intimate conversation with anyone? Most of us would think of an 'intimate' conversation as one that got deeply personal - there was some sharing at the most 'confidential' level. Whatever was shared wasn't meant for public knowledge - it was between you and the one you were sharing it with. Sadly, there are those who have never really gone beyond the surface in sharing with others - sometimes even keeping a very superficial relationship with God, as well. They might have trust issues, but it could also be pride issues - their pride keeps them from sharing too much of themselves because they believe themselves to be better or worse than another. The bottling up of emotions and the hiding of these things that really need to be shared is just not good for us, though. We need the freedom of sharing our innermost self - even if it is worse than what we want to 'portray' for anyone else to see! God isn't surprised at ou…

You don't need a new lampshade

All of us need to be 'set straight' from time to time - some of us more frequently than others. I have a lampshade in the house that seems to always be askew, no matter how many times I make those adjustments, I will return to find it is somehow out of whack again. I could just toss the thing and start from scratch, but it is a perfectly good lampshade! Why would I get a new one? Well, some would think the straightening was not worth the hassle, while others would see the shade as defective. Too many times, I think we see the obstacle and give up on it rather than dealing with it. I guess some may flee when obstacles stand in their way, but I tend to see the obstacle as just another bump in the road!

I've already run for dear life straight to the arms of God. So why would I run away now...  God's business is putting things right; he loves getting the lines straight, setting us straight. Once we're standing tall, we can look him straight in the eye. (Psalm 11:1, 7)

Da…

More than bending over backwards

I think we shall always be among those who don't approve of what we say, what we do, the way we dress, or what we take joy in discovering. The world is full of people who think they know best, not really knowing much more on the subject than we do, but they think they do. There also all of those in this world who find fault in what we do, but all the while they are secretly admitting they want to do the same thing, or probably are! One day, Jesus and his disciples are walking to their next destination. They find themselves in the midst of a field of grain. Hungry from their journey, they reach out to take some of the grain as a little snack to get them through. What they do is forbidden - not because this was not their field to harvest, but because it was the Sabbath. To the Jew, this was a day of rest - commanded by God many years prior to be kept holy; a day when men cease from work and pay attention to God. A day in which there was absolutely NO flexibility for these Jewish …

Need a little glue?

We all know there are things in this world 'joined together' that just don't stay together very well! I have had chairs get wobbly over the course of scooting in and out, with joints coming loose and requiring much effort to get them 'firmed up' again. I have had papers placed in right order, stapled and bound, only to find that after repeated examination those pages 'wear loose' and sometimes even tear away from their bound edges. Heaven knows there are tons of relationships, once strong and vibrant, now withered and worn, no longer with anything holding them together - although once bound together, they are now separate and standing alone. It is not God's plan to have what he joins with him ever loose that connection, though. His intent is that we are joined with him - in an intimate and growing relationship - not to be separated from him again!

I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and o…

Road - Truth - Life

The road often reveals the journey, does it not? Along the way, we make discoveries - some major, others less, but all have significance regardless of big or little. In the end, we hope to have a look back and make the determination we have lived well - life has been a little up and down at times, but it has been a great life nonetheless. When Jesus told his disciples he was the road, the truth, and the life, he wasn't waxing poetic. He was describing what it means to embrace a life lived in the safety and provision of walking with him.

Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”John 14:6MSG
When he describes himself as the Road, he isn't just saying he is 'a way', but 'the' way. There are lots of roads to take in life, but none is quite as significant for us to traverse as the Road which leads us r…

A gift requires a giver

Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store. (Dr. Seuss)
Maybe we'd find more joy in our Christmas if we really believed this to be true! Christmas isn't about the amassing of things given - it is about the acceptance of the ONE given. There are about two weeks left before the 'big day' when families will gather in homes, celebrating the festivities and wonders of time together. Snow will fall for some, others will enjoy touch football after gorging on Christmas delights. Let us not forget those who are far from home, who yearn for time with family, but whose duties keep them engaged in the fields of battle. Let us not overlook those who will spend their day ministering to the sick and frail, at the bedside of the ones facing imminent death, and helping those who struggle to feel at ease. Let us not gloss over those who walk the streets, searching for their Christmas meal, and hoping for just a little rest from the weariness of living on those st…

Wrapped, settled, and at ease

Times of transition can be both upsetting and thrilling at the exact same time. We get scared because of what we are seeing an end to something we have held dear or worked with for quite some time, but we are awesomely excited about what may be forthcoming as we take on the new venture. The moment we commit to take those steps forward, we are lambasted with all manner of doubt, anxiety, and maybe even a little bit too much adrenaline! The emotions evoked in transition can be undeniably hard to maneuver through, but when we move from one thing to another, there will always be a little bit of emotional 'build up' experienced in making that transition. Transition is a time of unrest for all of us. We like the familiarity of what we have come to know as "constant" and "secure" in our lives. When transition is called for, we often feel like our "legs are being pulled out from under us". This might be why we are as apprehensive in transition as we appea…

Passport stamped?

A few years after my dad passed, I was feeling a little nostalgic and I decided to go looking for our first home in Arizona. Mind you, the home was built probably somewhere in the 1940-1950 range, and we all know how things change over time. Trees get bigger, neighborhoods morph from one look and feel into another, and what may have been a 'majestic mansion' when we were little kiddos is not always the same when we return to it some 30-40 years later! I eventually found the street I was seeking, now almost unrecognizable because of the transformation of the surrounding neighborhoods. I recall knowing quite clearly the house was the second on the right, so down the lane I went and there it was, but...what a different scene than the one I remembered or imagined! The gnarled mulberry tree was there, but the branches were all cut off and it no longer spread out over the corner of the yard. The once whitewashed fence still stood, but the faded appearance told me keeping it whitewas…

Just one degree....

Robert Half is credited with reminding us, "When one teaches, two learn." I've said it before, we can 'learn' only so much until we match the 'learning' with 'doing'. The action of 'doing' puts into practice what we have been learning up until that point. In the 'doing' we often learn just a little bit more. Recently I decided to take up a new hobby. I finally had my workshop built and have been enjoying filling it with all manner of tools. Now, I am experimenting with this and that - until I become proficient with the tools. Let me be the first to admit - there are a few scraps in there that weren't created as 'scraps', but ended up there! I make mistakes and in the process learn a little by my 'doing' of some step that didn't work out as well as planned. The learning continues - not merely by reading, but by actually 'doing' some woodworking!

But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned a…

Hike up that skirt and run!

You have probably heard the saying, "Actions speak louder than words." While this is very true in life, there are times we 'discount' the actions of another - especially if we don't think those actions line up with what we expected or what we believe. I think Jesus must have encountered more than one or two of such individuals in his ministry on earth - somewhat resistant to his love and hope just because his actions didn't 'line up' with what they believed would be the actions of their "Messiah" (deliverer).

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent…