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Showing posts from September, 2019

More than "Miracle-Grow"

Try as I might, my gardening expeditions have produced very little fruit. I spent about three years in a row working the soil, creating flowerbeds, and then planting the vegetables of the season. My hopes were that one of those above ground beds would become a lush vegetable garden. My actual production resembled dead vines, undeveloped melons, and a tremendous harvest for the birds on my tomato plants! Did I harvest what I planted? Most would say, "No", but when you explore the work performed AFTER the planting was done, you'd change your answer!! I harvested dead, half-developed stuff, but not really much I could say was a strong 'yield' from the garden. It wasn't for lack of soil, water, or even earthworms. I'd have to say it was lack of something quite out of my control - the temperature of the sun! Sometimes we plan well, set out to execute the plan, and then we harvest very little because we could not control things totally out of our control. …

What do you see?

None of us really likes for anyone to compare what we have, or what we have done, with what another has or has done. What we have doesn't really matter, but try to tell that to some people. What we have done isn't all that important, but some amass credentials like they were something to be coveted. We don't really want anyone else assessing us, do we? There are times when an honest assessment of who we are and what we are doing is something we'd rather avoid. Facing the fact we might not be moving in the best direction at the moment is sort of intimidating, if not downright humbling! Yet, the beginning of any real change in our lives begins with the first step - the step we take to the mirror of God's Word!

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can…

Something new

If we find ourselves too busy for our neighbor's burden then we are too busy! If we find ourselves too interested in our own issues so as to miss the pressing needs of another, we are too disinterested in those God places in our lives! Live what we preach - that is the goal, isn't it? The idea of "sharing burdens" seems like a term we have utilized in Christian circles for as long as I can remember. It is usually associated with pastoral admonishments to engage in service, being available to what God urges us to do, and to come alongside one who is hurting. In reality, what does this look like? It begins by forgiving others, adding a little 'holding back' on occasion when we'd like to point out a fault, and ends up somewhere in the actions of actually helping another who is weighed down under burdens galore.

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgi…

Cookie-Cutter Images

Do you know anyone who seems to constantly want to do things 'by the book'? There can be absolutely no variation for these individuals - they can never see anything beyond the book. Legalism is the tendency to keep to the letter of the law - it lacks the spirit behind it, though. There is little wavering from the laundry list of rules because there is great determination to do everything "by the book". What we often observe in these cases is a lack of true "spirit" behind the obedience - it is a sense of obligation, not desire - doing things by rote rather than out of a sense of true connection to the one who wrote the rules. It is truly a helpless state of living life to just do things "by the book" without the animation of the Spirit within.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls n…

Networking 101

What is 'networking' in the business world? In the most literal sense it is getting to know others. Some people 'network' because they know they can be of help to others, while others do so because they hope others will help them accomplish something they desire. We all probably have asked the question, "What's in it for me?" Networking has some risks, but it also has some potential benefits. People always seem to have an underlying need to know the risks of taking certain steps - but they also want to know the benefits. This is why surgeons go over both the risks and benefits of the surgery being considered. Going under the knife carries the possibility of good outcomes (the disease is removed), but it also comes with some pretty unwelcome risks such as bleeding, infection, and even death! Knowing the "benefits" of certain actions helps us determine if they are best for our lives. If you 'network' with the wrong people you might not …

Under is not bad

Have you ever had that one true friend who pours wise counsel into your life, even when you might not always understand you are receiving counsel? I am blessed to have had several good friends over the years. When seeking defined purpose, looking into future plans, or trying to find out how we can change something that has given us issues, we seek counsel - advice to help us make wise choices. There are just times when we need the "wise advice" which functions as guidance for our lives that only comes from a loyal brother or sister in the Lord who can point us in the direction that brings out more of Christ in our lives. When seeking advice, where do you turn? Do you have one or two of those 'close allies' who help you see things through the eyes of Christ? If not, then you are truly missing out on learning to live freely - animated and motivated by the Spirit of God that dwells within you!

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spiri…

Not going there....

Have we ever been guilty of doing something not quite so well-meaning, then quickly making an excuse for our actions based on some extenuating circumstance or the behavior of the other? Probably all of us could answer this one with a hearty, "Yes!" Whenever we use our "freedom" to do or say something incorrect, we are abusing our freedom. Whenever we excuse our abuse, no matter how small it may be, we are in a dangerous place. When we make "excuses" for our behavior, we are simply implying there were "extenuating circumstances" which created the environment for our behavior. Excuses take the light off of us, placing it squarely on another, or some unforeseeable circumstance. We want to be "vindicated" in our bad behavior!

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve …

Locked up no more

If you were doing a life sentence and the review board sent you a message they were considering letting you go free, how do you think you might react? How many of us would just choose to 'live free' within those cell walls? We begin today with a very succinct message - if you are declared to be free, walk free! One of the greatest privileges we enjoy is our spiritual liberty, yet we do a pretty fair job of living somewhere just below total liberty!

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. (Galatians 5:1)

Now, if we were just to look upon those "freedoms" as something nice to have and then live in the same bondage we have been spending our entire life trying to escape, wouldn't it be silly? In this entire book Paul has laid out the plan to have anyone who has been declared "free" in Christ to live as a "free person". Escape bondage and live free - not still in a cel…

Did I imagine that?

There are always going to be things that appear to frighten us in this lifetime. The other night I had just laid down and then I heard a noise. Not unusual, knowing mom sometimes gets up shortly after I put her down. It was louder than the normal noises she makes, though, so I was a little bit concerned. She wasn't awake, nor had she stirred. So, what had I heard? I explored the entire house, garage, and looked into the front and back yards. Nothing seemed out of place. I laid awake for awhile - I had heard something and it concerned me! I have to ask how many worries we are held captive by in our lives - those things which appear as threatening as tigers, but really have no power over us until we give in to them? In some cases, we "buy into" the bondage of certain thought patterns, or activities, simply because they seem to present something of "meaning" to our lives. Rarely do we actually step back long enough to see if there is any advantages / disadvantages…

I have nothing to wear

Destiny - the purpose for which someone is destined. Destination - the place we are headed. Really we can think of being "destined" as being set apart for a particular purpose - believe it or not, we all have a specific "use" defined for our lives. Our "destination" is determined once we are "in Christ" by our coming into relationship with him. If not, our "destination" is rather uncertain because it is merely aiming, but not really being sure we will hit the target.

But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ's life, the fulfillment of God's original promise.
(Galatians 3:25-27)

The most important thing we need to understand is the "direct" relationship we have with God through (IN) Christ. The Law of Moses did the work of &…

On top of my game...NOT!

Shakespeare wrote: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts." I believe there is great wisdom in the choice of "stage" upon which we "act out" life - and the choice of the Director makes the difference with the impact of the entire production! It is not what we do FOR God that matters - it is what we do WITH God that will make the difference in life!

The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you. (Galatians 3:11)

Nobody, especially me, can be "on top of their game" one-hundred percent of the time. It is physically and emotionally impossible to be attentive to every…

Do and get...or get and do

Does God do the "stuff" in our lives he does out of obligation to us because we have somehow "earned" it - done enough, been good enough, or said enough of the right stuff? Do we obtain the blessings of God, including his attention and his directing influence, simply because we hit some point of "enough" to warrant it? The truth is that we are a church with a mixed up set of ideas at times. We believe in the work of Christ - salvation through his shed blood (an act of faith). Yet we cannot fully detach from the influence of the common beliefs of our day that you get good stuff when you do good deeds (works and right behavior). Is 'behaving good' all that it takes to get God's blessings?

Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do …

I've tried that before...

A long time ago, a friend gave me an illustration which has stuck with me through the years. He held out a beautiful Montblanc pen, (since I am a writer, pens are kind of a passion of mine), and asked me to "try" to take the pen away from him. Seeing this as an easy thing, I reached out to his outstretched hand to take the pen. Now the pen was in my possession, or so I thought. He then corrected me with the following: He told me to only "try" to take the pen! When I responded with a quizzical look on my face, he used this illustration to speak a life-lesson. Knowing my passion for words, he was showing me the very first definition of the word "try" is really something quite different than we might suppose. In fact, it means to "attempt" to accomplish something. It does not imply actually "doing" it - just attempting it! We talked for a while about "trying" versus "doing". We go through life doing a whole lot of &quo…

Which one of me do you see?

Do you have any inconsistencies in your walk and talk, or do they match up pretty much all of the time? I would have to be totally honest here and let you know my walk doesn't always match my talk! We all have times when our behavior we are engaging in just doesn't 'match' our stated beliefs - acting one way with a certain group and another with the other. When we are 'scrutinized' we may act one way, but when we aren't, how do we act? When Peter was not being "scrutinized" by those belonging to the group of the Jewish "conservatives", he did not find it offensive to eat with non-Jews. But...when the "conservative" Jewish brothers were in town, he refused to associate with the non-Jewish believers.He was definitely being a little "two-sided" in his behavior - walk not always matching his talk.

But when I saw that they were not maintaining a steady, straight course according to the Message, I spoke up to Peter in front…

Stand out

Have you won any popularity contests lately? I haven't! I imagine we have all struggled with the idea of being "popular" - being part of the "in" crowd. In school, we'd look at certain groups of girls or boys, see how they dressed, looked at the way they did their hair, listened to what the talked about, and then what did we try to do? For some of us, we tried to "fit in" by doing those things or dressing in similar fashion! If we have a tendency to be "followers" by nature, we want to "bend" to the whim of the crowd we are with. If we are "leaders", we honestly just expect everyone else to fall in line behind us! But...did you ever stop for a moment to think that a leader is no good if there are no followers? Lead or follow as a support to the leader - either role is important - but one should not desire to lead, for leadership carries a great burden and much responsibility.

Do you think I speak this strongly in orde…

Should I stand on this?

Has anyone accused you of being a little 'fickle' on occasion? Maybe you know someone who is a little bit on the 'fickle' side - constantly changing their mind, not very steadfast in their determination, erratic in their choices. Fickle people are very unstable - they lack solid roots. It is easy to get a little off-course when we lack foundation - when our roots aren't firmly planted in truth. When there is an intentional 'twisting' of the truth about Christ, in any form it may come, there is a chance the 'roots' one has planted may get challenged a little. Adding anything to the perfect work of the cross of Christ is just wrong, but how many times are we guilty of 'adding to' the required 'works' a believer must do to be 'right with God'? We are being 'fickle' whenever we do!

I can't believe your fickleness—how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant mess…

May it be complete

Paul, a disciple of Christ, born out of the ranks of the Jews - a former persecutor of the believers in Jesus. Would you begin a conversation with these "credentials"? Whenever we are establishing new "relationship" with people, isn't this similar to what we do? We discuss what we do for a living, if we are married or single, how many kids we have, where we went to school, what our hobbies might be, or where we stand on a particular topic of interest. Each of these "facts" somehow give us some "credibility" in the group we are associating with, don't they? If I had to start a conversation with my 'former' credentials (those things that defined me in my past), I am not sure many of you would ever want to associate with me!

I, Paul, and my companions in faith here, send greetings to the Galatian churches. My authority for writing to you does not come from any popular vote of the people, nor does it come through the appointment of s…

Iron-Deficiency

The Word of God can become an intensive training tool in our life - - we CAN come to rely upon hearing it, using it in practical ways to assist with the day-to-day decisions of life, and leaning on it when no answer seems apparent. It can become our source because we have come to know the one who stands behind it! Did you ever stop to think that the Word of God might just put a little 'iron in your soul'? I wonder how many of us might just suffer from 'iron-deficiency' now and again, having neglected to take in the Word, making it part of our daily intake?

I'm homesick, God, for your salvation; I love it when you show yourself! Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well, use your decrees to put iron in my soul. And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me! I'll recognize the sound of your voice. (Psalm 119:174-176)

You can ask God to "put iron" in your soul - there is nothing wrong with this request. When we think of the soul, we are reminded it …

Shhh....do you hear that?

I have seen some majestic waterfalls, but I know there are even more out there to be discovered. One thing that really catches my attention with these huge cascades of water is their intense sound. The thundering of the water as it cascades, falling upon rocks below, echoing throughout the canyons in which they dwell - it just roars and almost deafens one who gets too close. Have you heard the term, "Talk is cheap"? It means it is easier to talk ABOUT something than to do it! Another meaning would be it is easier to talk ABOUT someone than to do something for them. We could say talk is "cheap" in many respects - if our words aren't a sincere revelation of our motives (inner heart), they are simply have no real "force" behind them. They may 'thunder and roll', but do they carry any really power behind them? The words that 'cascade' from our lips should be to build up - not tear down. They should be to lift exalted praise to the one who …

A new way - a new list

God's presence - my words - his attention - answers given. Isn't that how each of us would like things to work each and every time we need his answer to something we are dealing with? God's personal attention in our lives is the hope of each believer. I have never had a personal trainer at a gym (although I could use one), or a personal financial adviser, but I imagine those who enjoy the influence of these individuals in their lives see real benefit to their advice. But...all they offer is advice - we still choose what to do with the advice we receive. When we come to God, he gives more than advice! He gives answers! I cannot imagine a better personal trainer than the Holy Spirit! I cannot fathom better advice than what we find in the Word of God! I doubt there is anyone's attention more devoted to each of us than God's!

Let my cry come right into your presence, God; provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word. Give my request your personal attentio…

Everything fits

There are times we think proudly to ourselves, "Whew! Now, did you see how well I kept everything together today?" We look back over our day, see the chaos of all the multitude of events we tackled, and proudly assess the accomplishment as "ours". In fact, we couldn't be farther from the truth! The accomplishment of "stability" in our lives is really the result of the influence of the Word WITHIN - of Christ dwelling within our spirit! We will endure slander - it is part of human nature. We will be faced with lies - even if they are maybe half-truths, they are still lies! The darkness will sometimes creep in like the setting of the sun is preceded by the dusky sky; at others, it will come with haste, making everything around us seem rather bleak and ominous. These are part of living - no one escapes these (even on a island by themselves) - things just happen. But...for those who love what God reveals (especially within them), everything fits - it all …

Noteworthy stuff

I can recall watching some of those silly sitcoms of the 50's and 60's, one of which was a 'regular' for me - Beverly Hillbillies. The characters ranged from an overgrown boy child who just had the hardest time with girls, a daughter that had no idea of her beauty, a granny who called the shots, a 'Paw' who worked to keep the family in line, a money-hungry banker, and his dutiful secretary, Ms. Hathaway. I was always caught by how 'put together' Ms. Hathaway always appeared and how she came at every call of her boss, Mr. Drysdale. Back in the day, a high-powered executive like Mr. Drysdale would speak authoritatively into the office intercom sitting on his desk, summoning an ever-waiting, always on the alert secretary to the office. Within seconds, the secretary would be "front and center", ready to do the bidding of the executive. It was not an uncommon thing to hear the words, "Take a note", implying that the secretary was to liste…

I guess I needed that....

In treating some patients, there are times when we give medications for the very purpose of acting as "antagonists" to some other medication in the body or a type of electrolyte imbalance. The purpose is to "bind" something of harm to your body or move it out of your system, such as too much narcotic, an over-abundance of potassium, or a blood-level of medication that is harmful at a particularly high level. The antagonistic effect of the medication actually ends up saving your life! The thing that the individual would otherwise not need to have administered, such as insulin, will move potassium out of their blood and into their cells where it belongs, helping to lower critically high levels of potassium. The thing we sometimes need is what we otherwise would not even consider as an 'antidote' or 'remedy' to whatever it is we are dealing with!

"Salvation" is only gibberish to the wicked because they've never looked it up in your dictio…