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Showing posts from March, 2019

Be quiet - - - very, very quiet...and hear

What or who do you listen to because you feel you "have to"? For some of us, it is our parents - we listen because we know we are to respect them and to listen to their wisdom. For others of us, it is our supervisors - because they are the ones who guide our days and provide that paycheck at the end of the week. For still others, we listen to no one and nothing, other than our own minds and hearts. How's that one been working out for you? I know it didn't work out for me! My heart and mind doesn't always know what it wants - it can be rather indecisive and vacillate with the ups and downs of what is going on around me. It isn't worth listening to sin tell us what to do - and it isn't worth thinking our own mind will actually always know how we are to respond. We need to be aware of the presence of God in our lives, learning to listen to him FIRST and foremost. Only then will we experience all the glory of the goodness he has prepared for us!

But now that y…

Do you clam up?

How good of a test-taker are you? I have met individuals who really struggle with this one because as soon as they get that exam in front of them they kind of 'clam up' and shut down. They just cannot focus and their efforts toward studying / preparing for the exam all go out the window. They are frozen in time. They have an anxiety moment that initiates the 'shut-down' and then they cannot seem to 'reboot' to get back on track. The testing challenges of life can sometimes put us into a mode where we find it hard to 'reboot' and get back on track again, right? There are just some challenges we don't imagine we will ever make it through, but let me assure you of this - you are prepared more than you will ever know!

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. (James 1:12MSG)
Let's face it - testing is hard - even a bit of a…

What's that filter for?

I am going to issue a challenge this morning - just a little one to ask each of us to consider something we may not have really considered before. How would others describe you? Who would they say you are? Would they describe you by your title, such as a great pastor, a good teacher, a talented musician? Would they describe you as the one who is aloof, too sensitive, or kind of timid? Would they say you were the one always bragging about your greatest accomplishments? There are lots of ways to describe someone, aren't there? Yet, the toughest thing to ask someone is to be genuine about who they really think we are! It might not be as comfortable as we'd like to think!

When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?” (Matthew…

Is this really creme brulee?

The believer comes to a place of revelation and deep introspective consideration from time to time - pondering the greatness of the gift they have received in their redemption from sin. The realization of just how selfish one had become before Christ bestowed such magnificent grace on their life can bring a person to their knees in grateful adoration. The truth be told, many of us need those 'knee bending' moments because they are what help us realize just how much God has done for us in the gift of grace. Most of us want more than just a 'basic salvation package' from God, though. We want the initial forgiveness of our sins, but we also want the ongoing forgiveness we will need because we 'keep on' sinning. We also want to be embraced in God's goodness from day to day, with a fresh revelation of who he is, what he is doing in our lives, and how much more he has prepared for us. We don't want to miss out on any of the blessings he has prepared for us. W…

Grace Guides

"Who has a harder fight than he who is striving to overcome himself?" Thomas a Kempis
There can be some pretty tough fights we go through in our lifetime, but I think this clergyman of an era gone by hit the nail square on the head! There is no harder fight hand the one we fight with ourselves - especially when there is some 'flaw' we see within ourselves we feel must be overcome. The more we strive to overcome it, the harder the battle gets, and the worse we feel when we find ourselves not 'doing well' in the fight. We are invited to live life to the fullest - in Christ Jesus. Attempting to find a 'full life' outside of that relationship is impossible and can yield some of the toughest fights we will ever have to fight in our lifetime. Our sins are dealt with once and for all. The freedom to live the right way and the desire to live as we should are both provided at the foot of the cross.

This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind o…

This or That?

By now you know that I am rarely content with the 'mundane'. I find 'commonplace' to be a little less than challenging for me. I need to always be learning, finding satisfaction in even discovering one little solution to a problem, or realizing where a phrase came into origin. There is something good about not settling for the mundane, but for some this is a very frightening matter. The ordinary is where they are most content and there is little desire to go beyond it. Why? It is 'safe' and it requires very little to 'maintain' that 'safe place'. Get into areas outside of the 'ordinary' of life and the demands increase - for our time, effort, and even our talent!

Jesus said, "You're tied down to the mundane; I'm in touch with what is beyond your horizons. You live in terms of what you see and touch. I'm living on other terms." (John 8:23)

Jesus is answering the accusations of the religious leaders - they are all hung …

This moment in time....

Oh, how sweet the light of day, and how wonderful to live in the sunshine! Even if you live a long time, don't take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour... (Ecclesiastes 11:7-8)

How many light-filled hours have you been given on this earth? How many will you use to the fullest? It is just about time for the sun to creep slowly over the horizon and bring the light of a new day here. For those of us that live in Arizona, we don't celebrate the sun as much as we celebrate those infrequent breaks we get from the sun! A few clouds are a welcome thing once in a while around here - a relief from the scorching of the sun is accomplished in those passing shadows above. I imagine that those facing day after day of tornadoes, cloud cover, and incessant rain that produces flooding would love nothing more than to say, "Here comes the sun!" It is all about perspective - whatever we live with for a while becomes something we often take for granted in …

True to your word....

There aren't too many of us who can honestly report we are 'true to our word' all the time. We might intend to live with integrity and not make empty promises, but truth be told, we all struggle with saying things we will eventually forget or not find significant enough to focus our energies on any longer. The commitment may have been made, but that promise kind of takes the backseat when something more 'urgent' comes along. It is a good thing God doesn't get distracted by the 'urgent' and forget his promises toward us! His word is true and consistent - not moved by the distractions of life. One of the most significant ways he keeps his word is when he gives us space to just breathe a little in life. Space to catch our breath comes in many forms, even when we find the going is tough and the way seems to be riddled with all manner of things trying to get us down or off course.
God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meado…

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…

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 'fir…

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 o…

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 aroun…

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 1:4MSG)

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 …

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 - leavi…

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 basi…

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…

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 …

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 h…

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 25:1TLB)
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' i…

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…

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 i…

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 lo…

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 n…

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 73:25-26NLV) 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'…

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 - beca…