Saturday, March 23, 2019

Dress appropriately for the day

Living in Arizona doesn't require the need for much of a "winter" wardrobe. I have an all-purpose windbreaker I can wear in rain or cooler weather. I don't invest in jackets or coats because the days of needing one are so very few, the coat would just take up space in my closet. I prefer the all-purpose version of something most of the time. I buy an all-purpose cleaner when doing the bathrooms - so I don't have to have a whole caddy of cleaners to do that job. I use the same surface cleaner to do the kitchen counters that I use to clean the stove top and the appliance surfaces. Why? It works! There are just times when the "all-purpose" is not only 'good enough', it is the best! No wonder God declares love the "all-purpose garment" we are to put on each day - it truly is the BEST!

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. (Colossians 3:12 MSG)

We are given a full "wardrobe" to choose from - not that we'd put on one without the other - but that each 'piece' of that wardrobe would serve a unique purpose in our lives. Yet, we are given that ONE all-purpose 'garment' we are to adorn ourselves with each and everyday. It is kind of like that one thing we'd never leave home without putting on. We are to put on compassion, but have you ever tried being compassionate toward anyone without realizing love is at the core of that action? We are to put on kindness, but go out there and try being kind to someone who is being a little bit of a pain in the neck and see if it is possible without the underlying garment of love. It isn't! At best, we will 'fake' a little kindness, but it won't really be genuine!

Now, there are some garments we wear that have a specific purpose - no other garment will do the same job as those garments. Think of the raincoat - it repels water, so we wear it when we need to keep our other garments dry. The shoes we wear are really to protect our feet from the hazards we can encounter on the way from here to there. Not every pair of shoes requires a pair of socks with them (that may come as a surprise to those who wear socks with sandals!) - but socks serve a purpose when worn in cold weather with our snow boots. Love is the one garment that serves the purpose of an 'all-around' covering. It does more than surround our feet, or keep us dry on rainy days. It serves to envelop us in something that not only brings us benefit, but benefits others who are 'touched' by that garment!

We may want to 'dress quickly' some mornings, running short on time, in a hurry to get at whatever the day holds. There is no short-cut to dressing well, though! We need to always find time to adorn ourselves with the garment of love, for no other garment will help us in the various encounters we will have that day, or keep us on an even keel when challenges begin to mount up. Notice all the other garments - they are 'founded' upon the garment of love. Don't let a day begin without adorning yourself with that all-purpose garment! You won't regret the time it takes to 'dress appropriately' for the day! Just sayin!

Friday, March 22, 2019

But...it is shameful

A great many of us would admit that there are "chapters" or "portions" of our lives that we'd like no one to actually remember or know about at all. We have some failures we'd rather no one really knew about, dreams that seem kind of silly when pondered by anyone other than us, and problems with memories that we just cannot seem to let loose of no matter how hard we try. These "pages" or "portions" of our lives are worked into our lives as 'indelible ink' is worked into paper. It is through the passage of time and the events of the days gone by that they form into 'permanent' parts of our lives. Most people don't have the guts to invite God to investigate their life - to read those "hidden chapters" like they were an open book. Most don't want God to get second-hand knowledge of their actions, attitudes, or attributes - we'd rather rest in the assurance that he gets this information about us 'first-hand', because we know he can be trusted to 'know' this stuff about us and still love us!

God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I'm an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I'm never out of your sight. You know everything I'm going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too—your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful—I can't take it all in! (Psalm 139:1-6)

Learning to live life as an open book is pretty scary - especially when we are living this way before others, not just God. As long as the less desirable "chapters" of our lives can be "edited out", we are okay with letting others "read us" - to know the 'details' of our lives that seem to us to be kind of shameful or distasteful. We'd like the "editing" rights to our lives - but that is not our job - we don't get to control what others observe about us. At best, we are second-rate writers - so how do we expect to be first-rate editors? There is only one editor that will do the job right the first time - that is Jesus Christ. He knows exactly what needs to be seen in our lives and what others need not ever know about us, but to live life as an open book before him means we are willing to allow him to open up those chapters for others to learn from, as well.

Why is it that we resist the "editing" work of Christ in our lives? It could be we have some element of shame attached to those hidden things - having done things we are not at all proud of now. It could be that we have secret aspirations that we have held for years, all the while too fearful to share them because we have listened to the lies of others telling us that we will never amount to much and could never see them fulfilled, no matter how hard we try. Or still, it could be that we just don't think we've done well in the "writing" of our lives and we don't believe there is much contained in the "chapters" that anyone would benefit from "reading". Here's the honest truth - your life is filled with things that bring you shame, but Christ has the ability and desire to edit those shameful events and memories so the shame is no longer there. Your life's dreams matter and Christ desires to make dreams a reality. Your life may not be monumental in the eyes of others, but in his sight, it is magnificent. Learning to live life as an open book is indeed difficult, but it is equally as rewarding. Isn't it time to allow the "editing" work of the hand of Christ in your life so that what has been 'worked in' and 'worked out' in your life can be of benefit to others, as well? Just askin!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

But...who is to blame?

A man born blind - what resulted in his blindness? In the ninth chapter of John we find the story of a man born blind - forced to spend each day begging for something to fill his belly - something to provide for his welfare. The day he met Jesus was a day just like all the rest - yet it was soon to be unlike all the rest. He was in his usual spot for begging - awaiting a passerby with a tender heart who might put a mite or two in his cup. This day, as Jesus was passing by, his disciples pose a question to Jesus about the man's blindness. Their question centered on who had sinned - the man himself, or his parents. You see, we often see the 'disease' in another and wonder who is to blame for the 'disease' rather than to recognize the heart and soul buried deep within that disease. We see the outward and question why - Jesus sees the inward and provides answers that go much deeper!

Jesus then said, "I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind." (John 9:39)

They were doing what so many did in their day - equating his blindness to some sin condition. A physical ailment in those times was often equated with sin. It was either the sin of his parents, or his own personal sin, that they were asking about - focusing on the thing they thought answered the 'why' behind the blindness, but not even seeing the man deep insight those sightless eyes. Jesus' response was quite revealing - he told them that they were looking for the person to blame. So often, we look at ailments, diseases, less than desirable conditions and all we want to do is find someone to blame - usually not ourselves, but another. We want to place blame while Jesus is all about showing what God can do in a person's life. He tells his disciples not to focus on the "fault" or the "why" for the man's condition, but rather on what God can and will do with a yielded life.

The truth of the matter is that there are those who proclaim to have all the truth, while others simply know they don't. Some claim to "see", while others clearly know they cannot. What amazes me about Jesus is that he always uses the weak to confound the strong, the lame to counter the upright and haughty, the timid to undo the boastfulness of the bold. The blind man didn't even know who was standing before him that day. When he is encountered by Jesus, he is totally blind to the deliverer at his feet. He cannot give testimony to "who" or "what" made him blind. He cannot really say he "saw" his deliverer and reached out for his help. He just knew his 'condition' and he was 'looking' in the only way he knew how to 'look' for his help - with outstretched hands, seeking heart, and hopeful anticipation.

There are times in our lives when our blindness is what everyone sees. We "get by" in our condition of blindness, but we don't really flourish. We are stuck in the rut of simply looking for enough to get by for that moment or that day - reaching out, but not for the 'permanent' fix, just the immediate one. We don't really hope for deliverance from our blindness - we just live with it. We can be blind to our faults, our fears, and our failures. In our condition of blindness, we can do nothing more than "feel our way through life". Jesus wants more for us than just "feeling our way through life". He wants us to experience it fully - the way God intended for us to experience it from the beginning. The man's eyes were opened - causing him to announce with a certainty - "I don't know who this man is...but I do know this....Once I was blind....now I see!" That day opened up more than this man's eyes. He no longer had to return to the place of begging. He was free to come and go as he desired - no longer bound to going only to the places he knew so well - now his life was opened to the possibilities of experiencing new things.

That is what it is like to be delivered from our blindness - to stop focusing on who is to blame and to just reach out with anticipation and eagerness. When we stop trying to look for someone to blame for our condition, we are one step closer to being able to see what we could not see before. When we are open to the newness of experience that comes with our deliverance, we can see that the "truth" we thought we once knew is now enlarged by our fresh vision - we see clearly for the first time what had always been there, but we just never saw. There is great deliverance at your feet - will you trust Jesus to touch you? Will you seek to see rather than to just know why it is you cannot see? Just askin!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Out of THIS you will bring WHAT?

Times come when we might just feel like things are spinning a little out of control - or at least out of our control. Those times can be disconcerting and might just send us into a tailspin if we don't maintain the right focus. There are always moments in each day when I cry out a short prayer to Jesus just because things seem to be creeping in that are capable of disturbing the control which has been maintained - because I don't want that control to go to anyone else other than him!

Every morning you'll hear me at it again. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on your altar and watch for fire to descend. (Psalm 5:2-3)

Some days just seek like chaos is created wherever we go. Yet, if we look closely, the very thing that is the same in each of those situations is US. Where we are, there is chaos. True that it may be that God brings good stuff out of chaos, we don't want to be the thing creating that chaos. Some of us feel like all that God is up to in and around us is chaos. King David was no exception. He frequently conversed with God about the "stuff" that just seemed to surround him with all kinds of challenge, busy-work, and unknown outcomes. Every morning you'll hear me at it again! These words reflect his response to the mounting chaos around him.

I honestly believe we might think God gets tired hearing about our lives. After all, how many times does he need to hear that we are frustrated with our pain, or disappointed with the loss of our youthfulness? How many times does he need to listen to the "stories" of our waywardness? How often has he heard the same story of repentance, only to hear us at it again in a short matter of time? The "chaos" just seems to keep coming - and we just seem to keep bringing it before God. Why? Because we can!

Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on your altar and watch for fire to descend. Remember we are to come EVERY morning to God. There is to be no fear in our heart that God will get tired of hearing from us or be put off by the continual struggles we have! Lay it all out before God...holding nothing back. That is how a sacrifice was prepared in Old Testament times - it was laid out for all the pieces to be seen. Sometimes, we'd like to hold a little back, but it is in laying it all out that it is available for God to affect.

If that doesn't paint the picture, we need to see that it is in the laying of the pieces on the altar that that we express our hope for the changes we desire to occur. Why is this important? Simply because the altar is the ONLY place we can actually be altered! It is the laying out of our lives that God is able to affect change - to bring order out of what looks like nothing more than chaos! Do it and then wait watchfully for God's fire to descend. This is the hardest part of bringing it to God - waiting watchfully for his move! Nothing is more of a struggle for us than waiting. In the waiting, we want nothing more than to retrieve a few pieces off the altar and tuck them carefully away for "another time". The sacrifice is only consumed if it is whole!

So, if life seems a little like CHAOS right now...don't lose hope! It probably is! In that CHAOS God is at work bringing something beautiful out of it. CHAOS is really Christ Having Authority Over Sin in our lives. CHAOS is really Christ Honoring Abandoned Obedient Service. CHAOS is Christ Healing And Opening Spirits. CHAOS is simply God at work! Embrace it! It has a purpose far greater than you'd ever imagine! Just sayin!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A full wardrobe

Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust. (2 Peter 1:4 MSG)

I have heard Christians say they don't have what it takes to live a righteous life. They bemoan the issues they still have with temptation and then when compromise inevitably hits them full in the face, they seem to say, "I told you so!" It is as though they forget these words of truth - EVERYTHING that goes into a life of pleasing God HAS BEEN given to us. There is NOTHING we haven't been given already. Maybe we just haven't PUT ON what it is we are already provided!

To illustrate this point, consider your closet or chest of drawers for a moment. How many shirts do you have in the closet? Just a ball park number will do - you don't really have to go count them. Then consider how many pair of socks you have in your drawer. How many pairs of pants are in your closet? Are some blue, others black, and maybe some even brown? You have a variety of stuff to wear don't you? Yet, how many mornings do you stand in front of those clothes and mentally declare you don't have anything to wear?

It isn't the lack of clothing that is the issue, it is the desire to put on what you have at your disposal! You have lots of clothes - you choose to see 'no choice' within the closet. You don't have a lack of anything - everything you need is right there in front of you. You are just choosing not to wear any of it! Everything we need to live godly and upright lives is right there in front of us - we choose to not put it on and then complain we don't have what we need!

The majority of us will choose an outfit from the closet for the day - not too many of us choose to just walk around naked! We might go to some particular pair of pants, socks, and shirt more than others - because they are comfortable for us and we are familiar with how they fit, make us feel, and how others see us in them. Similarly, we are content to go to certain things Christ has provided for our walk with him very frequently, but there are others we shy away from because we don't know how they will 'fit' our lives, or how others will see us 'within' them.

Sometimes the outfit I feel the least comfortable wearing is the one I get the most compliments on! The level of comfort we have 'wearing' what God gives us isn't always the determining factor of how well it 'fits' us. It could just be that thing God has been asking you to 'put on' in your life is the very thing that will bring out some element of grace and beauty that has been hidden until you do! Just sayin!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Truth confirmed

There have been moments when I find what someone is telling me hard to believe. In those moments, it is not uncommon for the individual to tell me to "see for myself" when I am having trouble accepting what they are saying. Usually, in the 'looking', I find they aren't far from the truth, and even that they may be totally 'spot on' with what they are telling me! The looking was a moment of confirmation, not really of discovery, for what I discovered had already been revealed to me. I just needed a little confirmation to totally accept the truth.

"Come along and see for yourself." (John 1:39)

The inner circle of Jesus' closest disciples - the twelve who would become the those to follow in his footsteps, learn of his teachings, and be support in his times of trial. In looking at the call to become a disciple, they heard the words, "Come along and see for yourself." Jesus was not in the business of convincing men to follow him - leaving all they had to follow along in his ministry. Instead, he asked for them to decide for themselves what it was that he proclaimed as truth by what they had already seen and heard of his works and character.

Consider first that discipleship requires us turning our attention from what it is we are doing at the moment towards Jesus. These fishermen, tax collectors, and tradesmen had to specifically turn from what they were doing to follow Jesus. This was no easy matter for them - their entire livelihood was affected by this one matter of redirecting their attention. The same is true for us today. We turn from what we have been involved in toward a newness of life, mission, and purpose. We are confirming there is something worth following when we turn toward him and focus our attention on him. It is more than smoke and mirrors - there is a confirmation in our spirit of the reality of his love, power, and plan.

Discipleship requires following - a willingness to actually investigate and confirm what it is we believe. Sometimes, we think of those that are "followers" in a negative manner - seeing them as weak, unable to make their own decisions, and not able to really step up to lead. In Jesus' eyes, the one who followed him could take no greater "stand" in life. These men were laying down their "right" to be self-directed men. They were actually exchanging the role of being "independent" to that of being dependent. Following suggests the exchange of being "self-governed" to the submissive place of being "Christ-governed".

Discipleship requires finding and aligning yourself with others that will "turn and follow". There is a sharing in the message, in the work of the gospel that brings meaning to this new life. It is in walking with others that we see the proof of what it is to experience Christ. Obedience is required of those who will seek to confirm this message for themselves. Jesus asked the disciples to lay down their nets and leave their means of livelihood - that which they were the most familiar with - and take up a new pursuit. They were expected to step out of the ordinary into the extraordinary. Their place of familiarity with what it was they were doing was being transitioned - they were moving into a place where everything was new, fresh, and vital. This would be a place of learning for them. 

Don't ever forget that discipleship requires coming to "see for yourself". They could have stayed on the shore, mending their nets, or in the tax house, recounting their money. But...they didn't. They were not willing to have a second-hand experience. They wanted to see it all for themselves. Some might label this a sense of curiosity. Others might see it as a sense of daring. Whatever it was, they saw something that intrigued them and excited them to take action. Discipleship requires an openness to the newness of revelation that God will give. Nothing matters more in our process of learning than our willingness to learn. When we are "open" to learning, there is much to be taught. The call was one of "coming to see for themselves" - stepping outside of their comfort zones and into a place where not everything was "sure", or "planned in advance". In the movement away from their "comfort zones" they would experience revelation greater than they'd ever imagined. It is as we answer the call to "come and see for yourself" that we are expanded in our revelation! The truth has always been there - we just needed to confirm it for ourselves! Just sayin!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Words like no other words

We sometimes struggle with what it takes to live a godly life, but Peter tells us that everything we need is provided to us IN CHRIST JESUS - not some of the things, not most of the things, but everything we need. Our part in the relationship is to grow in intimate relationship with him – depth and awareness come from him, consistency is what is required from us. We are called to receive his greatness and power – people who understand their calling will also understand the significance of what they have received IN Christ. We are given each of his promises and we can count on these promises because of his love for us. This type of growth comes as we apply the Word to our lives – because it has the effect of producing a life of moral excellence. If we will spend some time faithfully exploring the depths of it, it will produce the right character - but only if we are willing to be changed by it.

So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books. 
(2 Peter 2:5-9)

Through the Word, we will come to know God better. We cannot read for too long without coming across the evidence of his love for those in intimate and growing relationship with him. We will come face-to-face with his compassion toward sinners, his repeated interventions to keep them safe, and his own hunger to be known by his children. We will come to a place of mature self-control when we allow the Word to begin to impact our choices and actions. The Word of God has a way of dissecting the various areas of our lives where we need to focus attention. We will periodically find ourselves saying, “Ouch, I really needed that!” There are indeed habits in each of our lives that need to be broken, attitudes that need adjusting, and worries that need to be finally resolved. This happens in the quiet moments of reflection on the Word of God.

We will come to a place of learned endurance the more we get into the Word and it has a chance to get into us. In other words, when the Word of God gets into us, it helps us “run strong”. We find that we walk with a sense of assurance and don’t give up so easily on what seems impossible, is difficult to face, or is frightfully annoying. We will come to a place of godliness in our daily walk - that place where our attitude is transitioned from one of independent self-assurance into one of dependent Christ-assurance. The ultimate outcome of spending time with Jesus in the Word is that we will be deeply affected by it! It changes how we “do business” in our daily walk. It is not rocket science – get into the Word, let it get into you, and things will change. No one who allows the Word of God a chance to do what it has the power to do will walk away unaffected by it! Just sayin!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

This is taking SO long!

If you have ever lived with anticipation of an upcoming event, such as a much needed vacation, you may have engaged in some type of "countdown" activity such as keeping track of the days until you leave. Why do you do this? Isn't because of the building anticipation of how much you will get to relax, enjoy sights you haven't seen before, or experience some renewal in relationship with those you want to be closest to in life? There is no harm in anticipation as long as it is realistic and you aren't 'putting all your hope' in being a very specific way. I have gone on vacations only to find we have more than one rainy day in a row, significantly impacting the amount of outdoor time I may have desired. I have taken cruises and been unable to get of at a designated port because of choppy seas not making it safe to tender in to the dock. Anticipation is good, but we cannot be so rigid in our expectations that we cannot 'flex' when the outcome isn't exactly as we had imagined!

Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory. (I Peter 1:7)

We have expectation not because we live in some fantasy world where all things are good and life is without troubles - but because we know who it is we are walking with through this life. Indeed, God has promised a pretty awesome inheritance to his kids - a priceless inheritance. The promise of inheritance involves being kept pure and what some preachers refer to as being "un-defile" - living beyond the reach of change and decay. Oh sure, our bodies are subject to decay - we still age (some more gracefully than others)! Yet there is a promise for the exchange of this mortal body for an immortal one - that means what may be subject to decay now will one day be above that limitation.

The test of our faith is really a necessary part of our life with God - not because God doesn't love us enough to keep us safe and free of some hard stuff, but because he loves us so much that he wants us to grow through the hard stuff. A test of faith really does two things - it reveals the strength of that faith and it reveals the purity of that commitment we have made to serve God. Our walk with Christ requires faith - not a stagnant faith, but a vital and growing faith. The 'fire' in the furnace is what will bring change to those affected by the furnace. The heat emitted warms the room, taking away the chill of winter some may experience. The intensity of the fire's heat may be elevated to the point of bringing water to a boil, making it possible to steep the tea that would otherwise not be enjoyed. The furnace changes whatever it touches - the trial isn't about pain - it is about change!

There is a concept taught in scripture - it is referred to as "walking worthy". So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. (I Peter 1:14-15) There is a clarity of thought - not simply moving through life trying to rationalize everything we are facing, but a true seeking to understand and then the ability to remain unhindered in our thinking. This ability to walk worthy is hinged on one important concept - the ability to exercise a little self-control. This is much more than will-power that I am referring to here. It is the ability (which always begins with the willingness) to be in control of our own appetites and desires. We cannot walk worthy if we are always living as we want in the moment. When we are always living for the moment, we miss the plan for the future, for those around us, for those who are affected by our "living". Obedience is foundational to this walk - it is perhaps the most important aspect of "walking worthy" that we struggle with. We might be "willing" to be in control of our appetites and desires, but it quite a challenge to be continually exercising the "ability" to be so!

Obedience is really incremental. I am not saying it can be parceled out into moments when you choose to obey and others when you live as you want. What I am referring to is "baby steps" toward incremental change until our belief and character aligns. We make little steps in the right direction until we are found completely obedient. We sometimes struggle the most with this idea of obedience because we see the finished picture without seeing the process of how that picture was developed! A photographer will be able to tell about the slow process of developing a picture - it goes through several different processes until finally it resembles the finished product. The same is true with us in this walk with Christ - we are in the process of change all through our lives! We have to go through the processes before we can be a finished product! Even in this day and age of "instant everything", there is still a process from point A to point B. We still must put the food on a microwavable plate, endure the two minutes for the product to cook, and then serve it up! We can get "quick" development in our lives, but it may not completely resemble the "finished product" that God really intends for us.  Sometimes, the long process of preparation produces the closest example of the image of God in our lives! Just sayin!

Friday, March 15, 2019

More than a new paint job

What does authenticity look like to you? When I see a classic  or historical era automobile restored to all the beauty it once had, parts gleaming and engine purring away without a sputter, I know someone has been hard at work. The work of restoration has cost them hours of endless polishing and patient fine tuning, but those parts that needed a little more restorative work, such as the finely sewn hand-tufted seats catch my attention the most. That level of intricate detail - the investment of such time and effort - this is what moves my heart as I behold the beauty of the whole. I wonder if God takes such a view of us? Looking at all those areas where he has invested such time and effort into creating every intricate detail and restoring it ever so carefully to the way we were designed.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart...
(Jeremiah 1:5)

God wants us to be authentic. There is nothing more disappointing than to see someone trying to be something they are not. Try as they might, when what they are trying to be is not authentic, it just is not very convincing. They are trying too hard and what is coming across is just not all that 'real'. The 'work' might be good, but is it authentic? We are uniquely made - fashioned for a specific purpose. We have unique talents - mine do not match yours and vice versa. Even identical twins have a unique make-up of personality, temperament, and talents. So, why is it that we are often struggling to be something that we are not? It is really quite simple - we have never accepted our unique make-up and we are resisting the 'restorative' touch of the one who knows how we were made in the first place!

The uniqueness of each human is not to be mocked, envied, or feared. Yet many of us are not happy with our uniqueness - not very comfortable in our own skin at all. Not accepting the unique way we are made is really a complaint against God! We are saying we know better than God - that he did not create us as we should have been created. The more we find fault with the 'original', the less we will want the restorative power of God to work in our lives - because we aren't going to be content with ourselves no matter what God does! If we are to understand the unique call (purpose) upon our lives, we need to understand the make-up of our souls (our mind, will and emotions). We often find answers where we least expect to find them - when we examine the right stuff! It is when we stop focusing on what we see as "wrong" in our lives and begin to focus on what God sees as "possible" through our lives, we begin to get a revelation into the purpose of our make-up.

I am not a salesperson - I really don't like to have to 'sell' something to someone who may or may not really want it. I am good at some things that others aren't and I appreciate they are good at things I am not all that interested or good at, such as selling stuff.  When I explore how my mind works - analytical, organized, deliberate - I begin to see the possibilities God has created within my life and the ways he wishes to use me in this world. When I explore how my will is directed - focused, determined, and structured - I see even more possibilities. Add to those the way my emotions are formed - reasonable, not reactionary, balanced - I begin to get a picture of what my make-up really is.  I also begin to see just how much restorative work God may have to do in some of those areas of my make-up that got a little damaged by the wear and tear of time and choices!

I begin to see that I can function well in a couple of different areas - a good leader (balanced, fair, organized); a structured teacher (analytical, organized, focused); a reliable friend (true, loving, committed). The list could go on, but I think you might get the picture by now. I did not have to go to a lot of classes or spend months in counseling to figure this out. I simply asked God to show me my make-up and where he needs to focus his attention in order to make all that 'make-up' he created original needs in order to be fully restored to the brilliance he sees. Ask him to reveal how your mind functions - what is it that you seem to get the very first time someone explains it; what comes naturally for you when you first see it. Rely upon him to show you what it is that you have a will to do, to be involved in. But...don't forget to ask him what emotions are both your strength and your weakness. Learning what we are strong in is important - but also learning what we have a weakness toward can keep us from many a wrong pursuit! Authentic people please God! Learn what it is that makes you authentic and step out in the freedom of being who you really are! Just sayin!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Am I being targeted?

If God were to point out something in your life that needs a little changing, what would that be? My attitude stinks at times toward certain people or situations and that needs a little adjustment to get back into alignment. On other occasions, my commitments get pretty overwhelming, requiring an adjustment in my schedule. At still others, my physical health requires some attention because I have let myself pack on some pounds again, or backed off on the healthier eating choices. God isn't going to point out stuff that doesn't really matter in the scheme of things. While the attitude adjustment may not seem all that important to you, he knows it is important to me because to continue with that attitude 'out of whack' would mean I might allow bitterness to take root - when that issue roots, the fruit begins to be pretty bitter, as well! God isn't pointing things out just to make us feel 'guilty' or 'ashamed'. He wants only the best for his kids, so he 'parents' us with an eye on those things that will have an influence on how we 'grow up' in his family.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24 TLB)

As I said, it isn't that God is 'made sad' by the stuff we do that needs a little changing in our lives. It is that he knows exactly how that 'stuff' will make it more difficult to find and stay on the path of life! The path of life he has planned for us to travel isn't one of heartache, remorse, or regret. He wants us to travel the path of joy, peace, and assurance. That said, any time he takes advantage of those moments when we will actually tune in and listen for his voice, he might just use those words that seem to bring conviction into our lives - these are his parenting moments. He is revealing his love in more than the warm fuzzies - he is revealing it in the moment of discipline, instruction, oversight, and encouragement. While all of life isn't going to be filled with 'parenting moments' per se, when they come, we need to tune in and listen just a little closer!

It takes a certain amount of courage to actually ask God to point out any area in our life that actually isn't going the way he'd like to see it go. It takes a certain amount of stubbornness to NOT ask him to point out these areas, as well! I can be as stubborn as the next gal - not wanting the stuff that needs attention to be focused on because it might just mean I will experience a few 'growing pains' if they are! Since God's desire in 'parenting' us is to actually get us gracefully through life's challenge, we can probably count on the fact there will come moments when we don't always 'like' him for pointing out those areas that need adjustment. Although his desire is to gracefully move us from one path to another, our impression may be that we are being targeted and his 'pointer' finger isn't letting up!

Remember God's desire in parenting isn't to scold his kids. It is to bring graceful transition from one phase of growth into the next. There will inevitably be growing pains along the way - count on it. Yet, no good growth actually takes place without oversight and a whole lot of work. God's style of parenting isn't to dictate our path, but he will challenge us to consider any path we take that is outside of the areas he has prepared for our good growth! Just sayin!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

That plane isn't going to drop right out of the sky!

If you are anything like me, you sometimes forget that God never (and I mean never) goes back on his promises. Sometimes we get so caught up in the 'delay' between the promise and seeing it realized in our lives that we get a little wigged out with God because there is such a 'gap' between the beginning and the ending. The truth of the matter is that there is meaning in the delay - while we may not understand or fully appreciate it, God is at work. God isn't hindered in his ability to fulfill the promise - but we may be hindering him a little by our reluctance to trust!

O Lord, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God; you do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them, just as you said! (Isaiah 25:1 TLB)

The other day I saw a plane at what almost appeared to be a total 'stand-still' in the sky. While I know this is impossible, the movement was ever so slight. In researching why this 'appearance' is given to those of us standing on the ground, it has to do with our point of reference. Our distance from that aircraft in the sky is still quite great and we have a decreased ability to fix our eyes on a reference point because of where the plane is in reference to our line of sight. The appearance is one of no movement, but the truth is that the plane is in a very specific movement pattern just above the 'stall' speed which will be required at the time of touchdown. 

There are times when we lose our reference when looking at what God is doing to fulfill a promise in our lives. We don't have a good fix on that reference point and therefore we believe he is not moving. We find ourselves wondering if the plane of our lives will drop right out of the sky! Will that promise stall all together and plummet headlong into oblivion, never to be seen or heard from again? Not likely, because God has the 'perfect speed' being maintained to ensure the delivery of the promise, it is more our perception of the delay that is the issue!

The approaching plane's pilot has much to do in order to deliver that plane safely to the gate. There is the whole control of speed, pitch, and descent rate. The flaps will be lowered, the gear down, and the attitude of the plane's nose will be slightly changed, but the plane is not going to stall in mid-air. Why? The pilot is in control! He knows the plane and he knows the specifics of each part of it, thereby rendering it safely into the 'landing zone' at the appropriate time and speed. Too fast and those on the plane may be injured, or the plane may break apart upon landing. Too slow and the plane will land where it is not supposed to!

There is much to be said about God's timing, but nothing remains truer than this - we lose sight of our reference point, or fail to actually have one, a great deal of the time. God isn't delaying the delivery of the promise as much as he in insuring it is delivered within the right timing, speed, and 'attitude' so as to ensure we come to enjoy it exactly as we should! We are likely going to think he has 'stalled' in the delivery, but he is just asking us to trust him a little longer. Just sayin!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What lies just beneath that layer, or maybe that one?

I'll run the course you lay out for me if you'll just show me how. I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness. (Psalm 119:32, 40) Many people restore old furniture because of the fine workmanship that went into it in the first place. They take great time to remove old layers of built up finishes and various coverings of paint. Why? The restoration will yield a beautifully crafted and solidly made item. Renewal or revival is really a process of bringing something back to life again - it has been withered under the weight of time, pressures of experience, or dismay of disappointment. With revival comes a "re-infusion" of freshness and the possibilities of something new coming forth. I have been guilty of neglecting my houseplants for a period of time, only to realize it once I see the leaves limply hanging in protest to my neglect! In the only way they know how to communicate with me, they are drawing attention to show me their need for water! God expects us to be as transparent with him - calling out to him with our need for revival - the need to be restored again to the beauty of the finest workmanship mankind will ever behold!

We have added layer and layer of things that cover up that beauty - because sin makes us want to cover-up the mars and dings that have developed in our character. Revival involves us sharing our plans and failures with God - allowing him access to the things we think we have "lined up" as the next steps with our life and the things that have been the missed-steps of our lives. Through his Word, he exposes direction to us - we are free to accept or reject it, but he will always bring exposure when we ask for restoration. Through his Word, he also exposes where we have accepted / adopted bad direction in our lives and what it is that we can do to correct that course. When I have learned things through the years in my various educational pursuits, I have appreciated that there are certain principles that apply when a certain outcome is desired. For example, you must heat a substance to a certain point and have just the right mixture of "fuel" in order to have combustion. There is a certain sense of safety in knowing what "principles" apply in a situation. Knowledge of those "principles" help me to avoid disastrous missteps and that reduces the need to have another layer of 'cover-up' in my life!

The principles we learn in our educational opportunities assist us with life's daily challenges. Each principle carries at least one condition that must be met in order for the outcome to be positive, or disaster to be averted. The principles outlined in the Word of God are not any different. Each principle carries a condition - meeting that condition produces the outcome (either good or bad). The Word of God can bring revival - it comes when we understand the force of the principles outlined.
There are times when revival (renewal) involves a process of dealing with grief - because some event or circumstance left us with pain. Each of life's decisions creates a moment of transition - we pass from one state to the next. For example, we pass from grade school to junior high. This transition may produce a sense of grief - old friends may not be going to the same school next term, teachers we have known for several years are no longer going to be around next year, etc. The sense of "transitional loss" can be experienced in our emotions, thoughts, and even in our bodies physically.

Yet, each of these transitional moments are an opportunity for growth - the opportunity to develop new strengths, to embrace new ways of thinking, etc. This is no different in the spiritual sense. The opportunities of "transition" in our spiritual life are riddled with grief, and often many forms of 'cover up', as well. We look back at what we had once experienced, sometimes grieving that we are moving on, and then come head-on with what it is that we are being transitioned into, and then we realize just how many 'layers' have been added into our lives along the way in an attempt to cover up some missteps. In those moments of time, we can either panic, begin looking back, try to hold onto the past, or plunge ahead and allow the layers to be peeled back. The plant can suck up the water and be renewed, or it can choose to say it is beyond revival, wither and die. We can do the same at our points of transition - "suck up" the refreshment of that which is being offered to us, or wallow in the dryness of our past experiences. What we choose to do with the moments of transition determines our future growth! Just sayin!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Do I really want this?

You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.  (Matthew 5:6) There are various types of hunger and desire. We have "appetites" for different things at different times in our day. We don't necessarily want a bag of M&Ms for breakfast, but by our two-o'clock slump we might fancy them - then again, I have been known to down one for breakfast! There are times we eat just because the clock says it is time to eat, or the opportunity is before us. There are other times when we work so intently, caught up in the task at hand, only breaking to find nourishment when we finally realize an intense sense of hunger and fatigue in our bodies. There is appetite and hunger - both pretty similar in meaning. APPETITE: An inherent craving. A preference. A taste for something. That which we strive after. HUNGER: A craving, or urgent need, for that which will satisfy. A longing.

Then there is this little idea of a craving. CRAVING: Something that you earnestly desire. That which we yearn for. A strong inward desire. DESIRE: A longing or hope. A conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction once attained. All these words have something in common - the urgency of attaining that which will satisfy. They focus on what it is that we desire - what we believe will provide us with a sense of reward or satisfaction. We all know that we can be "hungry" for all the wrong things. We also know that changing our mindset (and our "heart-set") to desire things that are good for us is a little more difficult at times. There are several things that we need to ask God to give us a true "desire" for in our lives if we are to grow up into well-rounded believers - but we need to be open to having those desires met by him, as well.

Discipline - we need to begin by asking for the desire to have our lives trained in such a way that we see correction of negative behavior and attitudes as something we need rather than something we dread. We need the "mold" to be changed - and to be truthful here, this only comes through discipline. Along with discipline, we need to be equipped. Equipping - we need to learn how to find our own nourishment from God's Word instead of always having to be fed from the hands of another. This is really the desire to be pursue both God's provisions and his promises - in order that we would be "fit" for service and action. It is fine to be fed, but when we do a little toward the preparation of what it is we partake in, we sometimes value it a little more.

We all want to realize a place of satisfaction in our lives, but we seldom realize that the greatest satisfaction is found in the place of our lives being sanctified (made holy) by our God. As we desire to grow in the grace of God, truly being set apart as an example of his grace, we develop an intense longing to be free of the sin that clutters our lives. We all probably want a sense of closeness with our Savior. This desire is really for "contact" with our Lord - there is a need to know him, but also to be known by him. With this desire for contact comes this idea of renewal or refreshing. Contact with our Savior makes for an open pathway that leads into places where we are deeply touched and constantly renewed. We all need times of inner renewal or a refreshing of our spirit man. There is a desire to be vitally connected with God - so that we are renewed (made fresh) each day.

Enlightenment - we all want to "be in the know" as it comes to the things God is doing and showing us. With illumination comes exposure - this is the rub. We want to know much more than we are willing to expose ourselves - we need to have this desire expanded in our lives if we are to really have our 'appetite' for the things of God expanded and fully met. We may not know the true value of our hunger until we experience the results of having that hunger truly satisfied. I know from personal experience, I can eat and eat in the physical sense, all the while just not having whatever it was that I was really craving truly satisfied. The problem is that I have failed to recognize the specific craving - it was probably not really for chocolate, but for an apple! We need God to begin to show us what it is that we really are craving in our lives and then begin to trust him to meet those cravings out of the storehouse of his love and goodness. Where the cravings aren't going to satisfy, he will help us to change them to the ones that will! Just sayin!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Anchored for good

A promise - do we really understand the meaning of that word anymore today? It seems like words are spoken these days, with no real intention of keeping those "promises". Sometimes it is because they were made in the spur of the moment. At other times, it is because they were made at a moment when we were emotional vulnerable. In fact, many people who raise money for various projects count on us being too busy to really explore what we are giving the money toward, or that their marketing tactics will tug at our heart-strings enough to get us to give. A promise is an expression of assurance that we base our expectation on - not a stipulation, or an undertaking that might or might not work out. When God made a promise to his children, he made it with a commitment to fulfill every aspect of that promise, regardless of the cost. He didn't make those promises us to either at the spur of the moment, or because his emotional strings were pulled. They were made out of intense love.

Remember what you said to me, your servant—I hang on to these words for dear life! These words hold me up in bad times; yes, your promises rejuvenate me.  (Psalm 119:49-50)

Hope comes on the wings of a promise. Comfort is contained in the heart of the promise. The Word of God is filled with promises God has made toward his children. So, why is it that we view God's Word as something that is laborious, hard to grasp, and something just way too lofty for our understanding? If it is filled with hope and affords comfort, why do we resist the study of that Word? It really only becomes a comfort, a hope for our daily lives, when we discover it and then live by it, counting on those promises contained within and living by the standards proclaimed there. For David, God's Word had become his night reflection. In the wee hours of night, his mind turned to God - his thoughts were carried into the presence of his loving and compassionate heavenly father. As a child of God, he reflected often on his heavenly father - on the heritage of being one of the children of his household. Reflection is a learned process - it comes through practice - it becomes part of our regular lives. As he got acquainted with what his father spoke to him in the Word, he allowed that Word to have a life-transforming impact on him. As a matter of fact, the more we make God the focus of our reflection, the easier it is to reflect him to others in our life. The more his Word will have a life-transforming impact on us.

You might just have notices how often David declared with an assurance, "Lord, you are mine!" This was not just a saying for him that was without any basis. He stood assured that he belonged to his heavenly father, and that he could proclaim that he had a strong connection to his heavenly father. When we begin to ponder his ways, our ways no longer seem that attractive. We begin to really follow him when this occurs - we lose focus on the things of this world and begin to really tune into him. In that exchange of focus, there is an assurance that every promise is ours. Following begins with "pondering" - we have to consider something before we will just begin to move in that direction.  Pondering is the initiation of action. What we "turn over" in our minds is what we often act upon. Therefore, if our minds are focused on the promises of God, we will hope and trust in them with an assurance. No wonder why David pondered these promises in the stillness of night reflection!

The process of following moves from pondering the truths of God's Word, to allowing that Word to deeply affect our lives. We hurry, without any signs of lingering or hesitation, to obey what is contained within those words. Sometimes we get in trouble at this point - not because the Word of God is not trustworthy, but because we look back - we consider for longer than we should what it is we are leaving behind and forget about what we are moving toward. We don't keep our focus straight ahead. Whenever we spend our time looking back, we lose focus on what lays ahead - God is not at work in the past, he is at work in the present and in the future (this requires a forward focus). There is a step in our following that is what I will refer to as "anchoring". We anchor ourselves in him - fully trusting his promises, standing assured in his presence, reliant on his direction. We can simply "believe" the commandments and promises of God - but that doesn't "anchor" us to him. Anchoring comes in the moment by moment reflection upon him. It is in the consistent reflection that we are made consistent in our reflection of him. We become anchored to that which gives us assurance. Where are you anchored today? To what promises are you holding onto for the fulfillment of your dreams today? Discovering and holding onto the promises of God will give you firm "anchorage" in troubling times. We have all we need to face the challenge of today when we are anchored in him for good! Just sayin!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Not quite ready yet

When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. (Hebrews 6:7) There are lots of soil types that a farmer might come across in his journey to bring forth a crop. There might be rocky soil that is able to bear some crop, but then it soon withers because of the lack of both nutrients and the intensity of heat scorching the tender new growth. The soil could be hard, unyielding to the seed sown, allowing the seed to be easily snatched away by scavenging birds or carried on the wind to parts unknown. Regardless of the type of soil, it has to be "tended" in order to bring forth a crop. The farmer has a great deal of work which must be accomplished PRIOR to planting the seed, doesn't he? Then why would we expect anything less of our hard hearts? God has a lot of work which must also be done in the soil of our hearts if it is to be readied to receive the seed he plants there!

Renewal is the process of something being made new or refreshed. The process of renewal for the one who farms is often a process of plowing the earth - turning over the soil time and time again until it is "fit" for the reception of the seed. In the plowing process, renewal occurs because that soil is broken up, allowing the farmer to see what is hidden below the surface. The plow has a purpose - it is to create a newness in that field. The plow cuts up the fallow (hard) areas - those that have remained un-turned, trodden down by constant wear and tear, scorched by the heat of day. Those fallow areas are often barren of any real growth because they simply have not been touched by the farmer's plow. Once the plow is brought to that soil, it has a chance to yield a crop. The surface has been opened to accept what might be sown, but it is still not ready despite being opened. The plow often digs deep, opening up the soil, but that first pass of the plow is not the last. It is by the frequent and consistent passage of that plow over that soil that it is made receptive.

The plow's work is not done until what is hidden is exposed - in a spiritual sense, these might be the hidden areas of our heart that have been carefully guarded against exposure. We often "tuck away" certain areas of our hearts (of our emotions) that have been hurt by others, neglected through misuse, or simply ignored because of a lack of interest. The Lord is a compassionate farmer - he knows that what remains hidden will only hinder the growth of the crops he desires to produce. It is only in the exposure of what lies beneath the surface that he can truly ensure hindrances to our growth are removed. The plow takes what is unyielding and makes it broken - it is always in God's plan that the soil of our hearts be open to receive what he has for us. When the farmer first passes the plow, the clods of dirt are huge! In the frequent passage of that plow, those clods become more broken, smaller in size, and more receptive to the seed. Huge things in our minds and hearts are made smaller by the passage of God's "plow". The impossible become possible because he breaks it down to manageable size.

It is by the plow's passage that what is untouched is made fresh. Rocks are exposed and in the exposure of those rocks, there comes the possibility of finally removing them. The rocks serve no purpose in the field, but they may make a nice fence - their usefulness in the field is limited, but in the master's hand, even rocks have a purpose. In the passage of the plow, weeds are removed - allowing that which only sucks away our strength to be removed and the soil of our hearts to be available to bring forth the fruit he promises. The plow is never easy, but it indeed has such huge potential. The heart is made ready for God's seeding. New areas of our spirit, mind, and emotions are opened to the possibility of God's new growth - through the process of the Spirit's plow. I don't know what God uses for the plow in your life, but I have experienced loss of job, sickness, trouble in relationships, financial stress, turmoil at work, and infinite other things. Each served a purpose - although their purpose may not have been readily evident in the midst of the plowing! The important thing is that he knows what plow brings us to the place of our optimal growth opportunities! So, instead of resisting his care, we need to yield ourselves to it. In so doing, we enjoy the possibility of renewal. Just sayin!

Friday, March 8, 2019

But you....

Whom have I in heaven but You? I want nothing more on earth, but You. My body and my heart may grow weak, but God is the strength of my heart and all I need forever. (Psalm 73:25-26 NLV) We could ask ourselves this question daily and if we were really, really honest with ourselves and others, we might just admit we have a whole lot of things and people who get in the way of our closeness in relationship with God! We have all manner of media to distract us. We engage in all manner of 'hobby' to fill our downtime. We masterfully add events and meetings into our schedules until we realize we haven't left any time for even a bio-break! The more we ask if we really have the right focus, the more we may discover we don't.

We cannot be afraid of asking, though, for it is oftentimes the point of discovery that sets in motion the change we really need in order to 'right' that focus once again. I know I speak for myself on this one - the more I find myself 'empty' - the more I find my relationship with Jesus has had some 'interrupters'. It isn't that I fall out of relationship with him, but our time together is more superficial instead of deeply meaningful. Our time is rushed and our moments grow less frequent. Have you ever found yourself there? You only need to keep in mind the heart of our psalmist to understand what God is after  ---  that God is our strength, all we need, and nothing makes our heart grow weaker than to be out of that close relationship with him for any length of time.

My mother is 100 and she has lived a long, long life. Her heart is still 'strong' in the sense that she doesn't take a lot of medications to support it, but it is growing weaker by the day. You will notice her slowing her pace, taking more and more time to accomplish even the smallest of tasks, and requiring lots more breaks in between those tasks to 'recover'. Her heart has lost some of the strength it used to possess. A weak heart needs rest - when we see our 'hearts' growing weak, it isn't more we need to pile in as much as it may be less we need to be doing so we have time to recover!

We all need time well spent in times of spiritual rest in order to recover our spirit, regenerate our heart, and bolster our soul. We do well to ask if Jesus is really the strength we seek, or is he something we try to 'pile in' at some point in our day that we just know we need, but don't really give a top priority. We do well to evaluate if he is all we need, or do we live with a Jesus AND.... kind of focus. If it is the Jesus AND.... kind of focus we have had, we might just need to come back to the place we let go of that which has been making our heart weak! Just sayin!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

What is your 'back story'?

Are you a people person? You probably know the type of individual I am referencing here - that one who is so comfortable around everyone and just 'fits in' wherever they go. There are those who just like the comfort of a few close friends and then there are others who seem to flourish in huge crowds of friends. I am probably more like the former than the latter - just really comfortable with a few close friends and a little less comfortable with those 'larger crowd' of friends. Did you realize the Holy Spirit actually helps us be good friends - to be comfortable around people - and to have those really good relationships with them? He is God's gift to us in so many ways, but this particular 'gift' to us is significant because it is often in others that we see elements of God's love and grace in ways we don't always see it in ourselves. We have the opportunity to get to know God when we get to know those God brings into our circle of influence - because the Holy Spirit is helping us to see him there!

For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them. (2 Timothy 1:7 TLB)

God gives us glimpses into who he is, how he operates, and what his grace can do in a person's life as we observe those ones God places within our circle. We see glimpses of his power - because those individuals reflect that power in the "miracle moments" when God intervenes in their lives and shows himself strong on their behalf. As we behold his power on display, we are gaining knowledge of how God's power can also be displayed in our lives. We see glimpses of his grace - because God doesn't just surround us with individuals who have no issues or problems. He surrounds us with others who are just as 'faulty' as we are - those who 'mess up' sometimes as much and perhaps even more than we do. It isn't because God wants us to see their flaws, but because he is helping us to see how limitless his grace really is - and how his grace goes about restoring individuals, not just to their former state, but to a better state than they ever knew before.

Some of us will freely admit we are not always comfortable with others. It may be that we are a little intimidated by how 'perfect' their lives look on the outside. Yet, the Holy Spirit helps us see what those individuals are really like just beneath the surface - as 'imperfect' as we are and on this same journey toward 'getting things right' just like us! We don't need to be intimidated by others - we need to be embraced by them. We need the strength they have experienced and we also need to understand they haven't always stood strong. It is that developed strength that we behold, but it is the 'back story' that we don't always understand. The strength is there because of the work of God in their lives and we need to get close enough to see how God helped take all those things in their 'back story' and work them together to produce this strength in them. We learn as we relate - we receive as we embrace each other. We need each other and we need the Holy Spirit to help us get close enough to the other person to actually understand and learn from that 'back story'! Just sayin!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

How much harder...

Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions. (1 John 3:18 TLB)  Just how hard is it to love someone? If we are really honest here, it is much harder than just saying we love them, right? In fact, it is quite easy to say those words at times, and in the back of our mind we are really saying, "You have no idea how much everything has been getting on my nerves lately," or maybe "I do love you, but I have no time to really show you that love right now." It is much harder to show we love someone than it is to speak the words. We mask our true feelings many times with those three words - they are like a bandage we can apply that will actually mean very little to the other person because they are just words spoken into the air. Words mean very little if the corresponding actions are not there to back them up!

I think this is why the Apostle Paul penned the words of I Corinthians 13 - to help us see that words were insufficient when it comes to really connecting others with the love of Christ. The ideas expressed in that chapter aren't just 'good stuff' - they are life choices that are backed by life actions that express life changes taking place within us. When the words, "love is patient" or "love is kind" are spoken, what does this say about you? It should say the life of Jesus within has impacted the way we respond and react to each other. The action of being patient isn't all that simple, is it? Go ahead, explain what patience really looks like. It is action based, isn't it? It is refraining from speaking while the other person has a chance to really begin to share what is on their heart. Yet, it is more than not speaking...it is actively listening without prejudging what the other person will say. It is hearing what is behind the expressed words. It is seeing their eyes, feeling their touch, and even tuning in when they are struggling to make sense of the words they want to say, but are having a hard time getting out. 

Love is action-based. If there were no actions behind those words, they would be said to be shallow and often might be viewed as insincere or meaningless. I think Jesus illustrates this for us in so many different ways. His words were never without action of some kind. His love was always evident in the actions that accompanied the words...so a connection would be made. How is your love evident to those in your inner circle? Or to those in the fringes of your circle today? Maybe it won't look the same, but it should be evident regardless of the place someone has in your 'circle'. There should be a connection made. To be truthful here, our passage betrays a pretty common practice on our parts...we say, but we don't follow up with the action. We are not alone in this mess, my friends. Most of us struggle with this.

This is why we need the Holy Spirit in our lives...because we need help aligning our words with our actions. This doesn't just apply to being obedient to the rules and regulations we sometimes associate with the "have to's" in life...it applies to being the best examples of God's love someone in our circle may ever see! Let that one sober you up a little - it did me! We could just be the best example of God's love that person will ever experience in their lifetime. Our actions can help that individual make a connection with Jesus that they would never have made on their own. Don't settle for merely saying the words. Find ways to reveal a little of Jesus ... that goes much deeper than the words every time ... it touches the heart and Jesus is always most concerned about the heart, isn't he? Just sayin!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Not giving up, just giving in

How many times we would love to throw in the towel, give up the fight, and move on without another thought - especially when the answers don't come easily, we are facing yucky stuff that is harder than we ever realized it would be, or the resistance we are facing is just astronomically huge! Then we get just a glimpse of hope from the Word of God, the counsel of a wise friend, or the unsuspecting message of a total stranger. God's faithfulness comes through - in that glimpse of truth, the word of hope, and the totally unexpected reminder of his care.

If your revelation hadn't delighted me so, I would have given up when the hard times came. But I'll never forget the advice you gave me; you saved my life with those wise words. Save me! I'm all yours. I look high and low for your words of wisdom. The wicked lie in ambush to destroy me, but I'm only concerned with your plans for me. I see the limits to everything human, but the horizons can't contain your commands! (Psalm 119:92-96)

Many times we may have heard that everything serves God's plans - even the worst of things. Nothing escapes his attention - that is true. Nothing happens by chance - this is also true. The most amazing thing someone once told me was that my misery was optional - there was no mandatory requirement to be miserable, even when miserable stuff is happening to or around me. The bad times come, but what we make of them is what counts. We can choose to wallow in our self-pity, or we can choose to be stretched to new capacity. When we choose the latter, we need the words of wise counsel to sustain us in the midst of the trouble or trial. We need the strength that comes from knowing we are listening to truth.

One thing is very clear to me - obedience is not by accident - nor is it optional. It is purposeful. It is a matter of choice - it is a matter of the application of truth. There are certain things that we can expect from God as we make the decision to live obediently, but we must choose the path of obedience. When we choose the path of obedience over the path of ease, he makes us wiser than our enemies! Ever want to outwit your enemy? You can - through obedience to God's counsel. He becomes a guide for us to help us navigate even the most difficult  and dangerous of stuff. It is important to remember here that the starting point in the process of navigation is to actually ascertain the course one is about to travel. In that "plotting" of course, the one navigating takes over control and then brings us to the desired destination. If we only followed half of the directions of the GPS in our cars, we'd still be lost!

When we choose obedience, he actually gives us more might and wisdom than our teachers. How can that be? When a student begins to grasp truth, it is possible for truth to expand because it is seen through fresh eyes. He has the ability to make us wiser than our elders. If you've ever heard the saying, "She is wiser than her years", this is what that is referring to. God's wisdom outshines all other. Probably the most valuable outcome of obedience is the certainty of our path. Embracing obedience begins to help us with the decisions of what to do with the evil around us - rather than being caught up in it, we reject it. We may have looked a lot at what the "longings" of our hearts might be. If we found they are more and more frequently the things revealed in the Word of God, we are probably pretty sure that our way will be made "plain" - easier for us to see, grasp, and understand. God promises to make our path straight (plain) - but this comes out of our choice to make him the center of our path! It comes as we choose obedience. Just sayin!

Monday, March 4, 2019

What are they saying about you in heaven?

There is a longing of heart that almost causes one to feel faint. This passionate response is part of the sense of urgency that one has when some condition just MUST absolutely be met - no if's, and's, or but's about it - there is a need and it demands to be met. It is the type of urgency that God wants us to have as it applies to him being the center of all we are and all we do. There is much we long for in life, but not all of it is truly rewarding. Not all of it will satisfy us. Not all of it will keep us going way past the point others think we will quit. Yet, there are words spoken today - words specifically designed to lift your heart, to call you close, and to encourage you to take that next step - words spoken because you have a need that must be met. Words spoken in heaven have a great influence over our lives - they are like the wind that directs the sails of the great ships of the sea!

I'm homesick—longing for your salvation; I'm waiting for your word of hope. (Psalm 119:81)

Times change all around us - making us feel like we might not keep up, or worse yet, that we are 'going under'. Our psalmist reminds us to put our hope in the Word of God - the promises and commandments that give us the certainty of a reliable foundation for our lives. We are to strain to see the promises contained therein - awaiting with constant awareness (attentiveness) that God never makes a promise he will not fulfill. These are more than words on a page - when spoken by heaven's voice deep into our hearts, they are all powerful and life-giving! Cling to the principles laid out throughout the pages of his Word - even when spiritually exhausted and overwhelmed by the course that we are on, we must learn to cling. Refuse to abandon the truths of God - holding onto them with a tenacity that just won't let go, even when the answer is delayed.

To long for something implies that we yearn for it - there is a desire for that object more than anything else we could consider. When the heart longs for something (or someone), that becomes the constant object of their attention. Both conscious and unconscious thought become consumed by the object of our longing. To cling to something implies that we will adhere to something - because there is constant contact with that which we are clinging to. No child of God can walk close to God and avoid his Word. They go hand in hand. The Words spoken to us and about us are powerful - God knows we need both! To those who will long for God, cling to him with passion, and not faint in their pursuit of him, there is a promise that his Word will stand forever. In other words, every promise contained within will stand true and certain. Whatever is established in heaven can be enforced on earth. I would like you to consider this question: What do you know for a certainty is established (spoken and agreed upon) about you in heaven?

That which is established about us in heaven can be enforced upon this earth. In other words, if God has established in heaven that we are a new creation (old things passed away, all things becoming new within us), then the fact is that we can enforce that on earth. We no longer need to be bound by the old (the past) - we are set free to pursue the newness of life that God gives. The first truth established in heaven about you is that God loves you immensely. His love is unconditional - no matter what we have done, will do, or are presently doing, his love is reaching out to us. This truth should cause us a sense of awe when we consider God's faithfulness toward us even when we were (or are) engaged in our sins. This truth is certain - God loves us. Whatever is established in heaven is certainly worth establishing on this earth, as well. Isn't it time that we begin to cling to the truths proclaimed about us in heaven? Just askin!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Invitation NOT accepted

Oscar Wilde once quipped, "I can resist everything except temptation." He may have more telling in his words than we may first want to admit! Temptation can give the lot of us a huge headache - if not for the temptation we pursue, then for those that others pursue that affect us in the end. We don't commonly speak about temptation in our communications today, especially if it will 'meddle' in our personal business. We might admit we are tempted to eat something we should not, or to make a purchase that is probably not the wisest. Temptation is really to be lured into something, so it is more common than we think. It might begin with a little bit of what we call "fascination" with something we really should not indulge in, but then it becomes something that we have to put a great deal of effort into if we are to resist it. Why is it that the simplest "fascination" can have such a big "pull" on us? Simply put, it is because we don't learn to manage the invitation.

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it. (I Corinthians 10:13)

We probably all get tons of advertisement each week in the mail. In fact, if it was not for the advertisement, our mail service might just go out of work! The desire behind the ads is to entice us into the various eating establishments, shops, and businesses who create those advertisements. Once they get us into their establishment, or making contact with their company, they hope to "hook us" into buying their product or service - by the offer they promise in their advertisement. You probably have heard it said that nothing is as good as it looks. Over the years, I have come to understand the meaning of those words. I have been "hooked" a few times too many into believing the "lure" of the thing as it was advertised, not as I should have known it would be!

In our daily walk, we have opportunities to both embrace or resist temptation. It could be as simple as saying we won't eat that extra serving of carbs at lunch, or it might be as complicated as resisting the urge to be involved in gossip in the workplace, or resisting the offer of an illicit affair. Regardless of the temptation (the lure), there is a corresponding struggle of the mind and will that ensures. We all probably understand the need for discipline and the need for taking accountability for our actions. Well, dealing with temptation requires accountability - the purposeful behavior that says we take responsibility for our actions.

Instead of blaming those advertisers for misleading me, I need to own up to the fact that I did not do my research well on what was being offered. Instead of blaming another for my behavior, I need to own up to the fact that I am entirely responsible for my response, my investment of energies, and my heart motivation in doing whatever it was that I did! Whenever I blame another for my action, I am denying that a need exists in my life - that need is to be free of the enticement's pull! I might actually want to make another responsible for my behavior - but we probably all know very well that the other person really does not make us behave a certain way. They may elicit a certain response - but WE have the ability to either respond or walk away!

It is always amazing to me whenever I hear someone telling me that I don't know what they are going through. I may not have walked EXACTLY the same steps that other person is walking, but if the truth be known, the steps we all walk are pretty similar. It is an age-old argument that we want to have a unique set of reasons for why we pursue what it is we pursue - like no one else could possibly be dealing with the same stuff we are. If we isolate our temptation as unique to us - we don't reach out to others for aid in resisting it! So, whatever it is that is enticing you to compromise your stand today, just know this....you are not alone! Your enticement is not unique to just you. If you were honest with the other individual that God has placed in your life to walk alongside you, you might just find out how "common" your temptation is! No temptation is greater than God's ability to overcome! In fact, it is already a done deal! Just sayin!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

What type of planner are you?

Do not those who make sinful plans go the wrong way? Kindness and truth are for those who plan good. Proverbs 14:22 NLV Planning is a good thing - most would agree - but the wrong set of plans, even in the hands of a good man may not turn out right! Why? Good plans usually produce a better 'end result' than bad plans. Yet, the hands in which the plans are organized and carried out matter a whole lot, don't they? 

I am a novice wood-worker. Plans in my hands need to be very, very simply illustrated and the tools need to be quite basic. Yet, even with the simplest of plans, plainly laid out, I can mis-cut a piece of wood and end up with ends that don't match as they should. Why does this happen? It is usually because I didn't read the plans all that well! Good plans are only part of the end result - the guidance of the hands combined with the engaged mind go a long, long way toward producing a better result!

The same is true in our daily walk with Jesus. We get some pretty well-defined plans when we explore the Word of God, but in our hands, there can be some end results that 'vary' from the intended result! Why? We forgot to engage all the parts of our being behind the execution of those plans! We might have engaged our minds, but forgot to engage the heart. We perhaps engaged the heart, but the mind was elsewhere! The end result is far from what God intended by giving us those well-defined instructions! 

Put a little effort behind the plans and they turn out a little differently. Really study the plans well, then take 'ordered' and 'consistent' steps in executing those plans and see where the end results differ from when we didn't take such ordered and consistent steps. The plans matter, but the execution of those plans is equally important. The more we learn to take the right steps in a consistent manner, with the right focus and attentive engagement in the process, the more chance we have of the plans producing what they were intended to produce.

We can come up with some wild schemes in terms of what we believe will yield the right results in our lives, can we not? The wilder ones may have even managed to land us in quite a pickle from time to time. The plans were there, but the actual 'putting things into motion' didn't come until we engaged some or part of ourselves into the process. We 'get behind' the plans - then they are set in motion. We choose the first step, and often the timing of that first step is our choice. When we choose well, the steps are better ordered. When we keep choosing well, the steps become more consistent. The plans matter, but those plans are mere words until they are executed, my friends! Just sayin!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Do you fear punishment?

Have you ever been so afraid your heart is pounding right out of your chest, there is a little bit of sweat developing, and the escalation in your rapid breathing can be heard across the room? Yup, been there, done that! I have been hit from behind in my vehicle while stopped at a light, trapped by the cars around me, but seeing that vehicle approaching so rapidly in the rear view mirror and feeling totally helpless. I have felt myself falling rapidly to the ground, unable to right myself by any stretch of the imagination, and praying quickly that I survive without breaking anything! I have heard that 'unknown noise' in the dark of night, laying there awake, listening intently for the next noise to come and imagining all manner of intrusion! You've probably got a few tales of your own, but nothing makes us more fearful deep down inside our hearts than to fear some form of punishment for something we did wrong. As a kid, I know I'd tremble when mom would get close to discovering the broken dish or the missing sweets. I remember pinching a few dollars from the cabinet and then realizing someone had discovered it missing - the panic rose! You been there? Panicked, dreading being 'found out', and fear mounting with all the force of a hurricane within you? Nothing quite deals with fear - real or imagined - like the love of God, though. Nothing!

There is no fear in love. Perfect love puts fear out of our hearts. People have fear when they are afraid of being punished. The man who is afraid does not have perfect love. 1 John 4:18 NLV

Some of the worst fear we can face is that of being unforgiven - of being found guilty and receiving the punishment we deserve. I didn't tell you about the time I was foolish enough to shoplift some candy from the local grocer and then was locked up by the police in a holding cell until my parents could be found. That fear was twofold - I was in trouble with the police AND my parents were going to find out, as well! The thing that caused the most fear to mount was the 'unknown punishment' that awaited me. Yes, I deserved it. Yes, I was guilty. Yes, it was a very foolish thing to do. Yes, I knew my parents would be humiliated to find out about my actions. Yes, I brought this on myself. Nothing prepared me for the level of fear that would mount as that day went on, though. Or the fear that would mount for the next few days until the magistrate would see me before his bench in that hall of justice. The sheer panic mounting each day was almost unbearable. I should have known better - I had been taught better. I should have realized my error - I had already asked Jesus to be my Savior. Yes, even believers make very stupid mistakes!

Punishment is one of our worst fears. Punishment comes in many forms, though. Sometimes the greatest punishment is the lapse of time it takes from 'doing wrong' until we hear the 'verdict' for the wrong we have done! I didn't expect the magistrate to look me in the eye, sound me out to see if I had learned anything from the experience, and then to remand me to the care of my parents. I never expected mercy - but I received it. I never expected forgiveness - but it was given. I never expected trust to be regained - but it came in time. I don't understand all that happened that week, but I do understand something about the grace of God as a result. You see, I think that magistrate was giving me a glimpse into heaven that day. He was helping me to understand God places us in caring and loving relationships, watches over us, and then helps us stay right within those relationships, even when we mess up beyond what some might believe to ever be repaired again. Grace isn't something earned - it is something given when we are incapable of earning it!

I guess one of the biggest lessons I received in that moment came in the form of understanding just how paralyzing the fear of punishment can be - it brings us to a stand-still in life. I wonder if we were to take those moments of 'stand still' and use them to find a clear pathway into the halls of grace if we'd come away just a little fuller and with a sense of restoration that is just not possible to gain elsewhere? Fear paralyzes, if not forever, at least for the moment. It stimulates within us imaginations that may not be well-founded, all the while able to open us up to possibilities not yet realized. Fear can drive us inward, closing us off from what we need most. It can also drive us upward, toward that which meets needs we didn't even know we had. I know modern psychologists will tell us there is more motivation in reward than in punishment. Consider for a moment the power of 'punishment' in our minds and hearts - real or imagined - it carries great potential. It can drive us into hiding, or escalate us into grace's presence. I choose the latter? How about you? Just askin!