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Showing posts from October, 2019

Casting the right shadow

Abraham Lincoln said, "Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." We all have a reputation - that shadow of our character - some of us better in some ways than another, but we all have our "bad stuff" we'd rather nobody ever associated with us! A reputation is the "estimation" we have of someone simply by what we observe, or don't observe, in their performance / behavior. It is only an "estimation" as scripture clearly reminds us we cannot really know a man's heart - only God can truly see "into" a man's heart. We see the shadow - God sees the roots.

Don't lose your grip on Love and Loyalty. Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart. Earn a reputation for living well in God's eyes and the eyes of the people. (Proverbs 3:3-4)

We "earn" a reputation - growing like a shadow we can see it is not given to us!…

Garbage pick-up day

There are times we all feel like quitting. We also have heard the words of Vince Lombardi, "Winners don't quit and quitters don't win." Another quote goes something along the line, "Quitters are good losers." Nobody wants to be labeled a loser, nor do the want to really be at the point of being so 'under water' that they feel they have no other choice than to just walk away. So, we keep plugging along, hoping not to be labeled as a quitter, trying hard not to be thought of as a loser in some fashion. I think God may look at us, realize our desire to quit, and then somehow begin to meet this despondency with his provision. In those moments, what we do with what he gives us matters. We can embrace his provision, or we can continue to stumble along as we have been doing. The choice we make in those moments will determine our outcome.

God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit. (Psalm 145:14)

Robert Inger…

I can hear you now

Agreeable conversation is indeed a pleasure, is it not? We all like it when we just find pleasant things to talk about. The words might actually be described as 'sweet', 'kind', or 'gratifying'. The moments spent in this type of conversation actually uplift us and make us feel 'refreshed'. Yet, the right word at the right time - there is nothing like that! Spoken words carry so much meaning - but when they are divinely directed into your life, they are amazing!

Congenial conversation—what a pleasure! The right word at the right time—beautiful! (Proverbs 15:23MSG)

A friend speaking the 'right' words at the 'right' time is priceless. Have you ever had a stranger speak those words into your life - without even knowing they were doing it? I have and it shocked me to hear just the right words from someone I didn't even know. Then I remember God even uses donkeys to talk to men at times! So, who am I to suggest only a friend can share thos…

Not just words

We all probably have different things written on our hearts, don't we? I have been loved, committed to love, and then have had that love broken. The words written then maybe went something like, "You didn't really matter to me", "Your trust wasn't important to me", or perhaps "You weren't what I really wanted." I have been guilty of writing some words there over the years, as well. Words like "You aren't good enough at that", "You won't ever measure up", or "Your best will never make you as popular as that one." Words get 'written' on our hearts as we live life, don't they? Some of them are 'written' there by others and others are recorded there because we write them ourselves. Either way, most of those words aren't really the truth God believes about us. In fact, he goes to great lengths to reveal to us what he has written upon our hearts - the truths he places there are what w…

Motivated, but not determined

There is a 'determination' and 'willingness' phase to repentance - but I think we forget about the latter. We get all the determination we can muster, but we sometimes don't do very well in the willingness component because our 'will' is kind of selfish. Some say motivation is based on what we 'want', while determination is based on what we 'need'. For example, I 'need' to lose weight - I don't always 'want' to go to the extremes it takes to get to my desired goal! Motivation doesn't come from without - it is based on wanting something so bad we will do whatever it takes to get it. Determination can be spurred from without, coached to do something we may not have had the know-how to do on our own. We actually need both for repentance to actually 'work' in our lives.

Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. (Psalm 51:12TLB)
Of all the things I can be 'made' to do in…

Fair isn't always fair

Have you ever heard someone say, "That wasn't a fair fight"? In terms of "fairness" they were looking at the two parties in the fight and seeing if they were "matched up" evenly. When I was young, Dad liked to watch an occasional boxing match on TV - it was a pretty big deal back then. There was always lots of talk about "heavyweight", "lightweight", "welterweight", and "featherweight" - something I just never really understood, but knew it meant how someone was matched with someone else. The term described their overall weight - giving the boxer a "competitive class" ensured they were not pitting a man over 175 pounds with a man of 130 pounds. This was designed to give a man a "fighting chance" at winning. Each of the fighters had someone in their "corner" who fulfilled the role of their "trainer". This individual had the responsibility to keep track of how the oth…

Redo's aren't easy

Patience and impatience are separated by a paper-thin border in my life. How about you? I am learning to make things from wood and it requires a great deal of patience. It forces me to keep myself in 'check' - sanding, aligning and cutting just right, sanding again, clear coat after clear coat...the process requires patience. Drive a screw in without a pilot hole and you split the wood. Us wood with too much moisture in it and it will crack, separate at glued seams, and warp. Maybe this is a good hobby for me - because it is teaching me to wait, be quiet, and just be present in the moment! There is something about 'impatience' that comes from not being 'present in the moment' - we want something we don't have in a place we don't have it - seems to me if we were a little more 'present' in the moment, we'd stop focusing so much on what we don't have right now!

Don’t be impatient. Wait for the Lord, and he will come and save you! Be brave, …

My own two feet

I used to wear more types of shoes that required lacing up, but not so much anymore. You'd think that not having laces to come untied and tangled up in your gait would make it less likely that you'd trip yourself, but let me assure you it doesn't take laces to do that! I can trip over air on the sidewalk! Upright one minute and splayed out in the dirt the next! That said, have you ever noticed it isn't all that hard to 'trip up' when it comes to our spiritual walk? The things that manage to 'trip us up' are sometimes not all that 'apparent', such as the untied shoelace flapping about. They are subtle, sometimes not even noticed, and all together as dangerous as can be!

God-friendship is for God-worshipers; They are the ones he confides in. If I keep my eyes on God, I won’t trip over my own feet. (Psalm 25:14-15MSG)

The thing God desires is for our attention to be fixed on him. Now, that said, let me be the first to quickly admit keeping one'…

Just idle words

Do you know anyone who talks and talks? They have a tough time sitting still and just not having to say something about what they have done, who they have been with, what they saw, and the list goes on. In fact, the topic they choose to talk about can sometimes just be 'talk for talk's sake', if you know what I mean. There is a problem with talking too much - too much gets known! I think God may have so many warnings in scripture about speaking against another person, gossip, and the like, simply because of the tiny spark it takes to ignite a huge fire! Today's "rule" for living is dealing with the words we speak about others.

“You must not testify falsely against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16)

In the simplest sense, this translates as engage in "no lies about your neighbor." I think the warning is best understood by another simple statement (not really from the Bible, just my own observations): No neighbor is THAT interesting so as to alway…

Whew! Glad that is off my mind!

I am not proud of those things I did 'before Christ', but there are things that taught me life lessons. There are things 'after Christ' in my life that have still been struggles and those things have taught me even bigger lessons. Lessons come in the oddest ways sometimes. I remember one lesson that came while holding a pen. Have you ever looked down, found you are using a really nice pen, then wondered, "Where did I pick this up?" Then, as quickly as you realize you have walked off with someone's pen, there is a twinge of guilt about having absconded with something which clearly does not belong to you! Or perhaps you have been in the grocery line, received a bundle of change from your purchase, then on the way to the car, you count it to make sure it is all there. To your surprise, there is an extra ten dollars in the mix! Some would face each situation with a triumphant, "SCORE!!!" Others would likely take a few moments to consider if any…

Selfish to the core

Do you always know the meaning of a word? In the English language some words mean one thing when said in a certain context and another at other times. For example, you say 'there' and you are referring to a place, but when you say 'their' you are referring to something that belongs to someone. They both sound the same, but are they even close to the same in meaning? Nope. There are times when words in the Bible are plain and simple - they mean what they say. At others, the words may be "types" or "symbols" of something else - similar to when we say something was "bad", but we really know it means it something way cool. The words are used in a way which describes the action or attitude behind the action. Today, we look at our next "rule" for living under the safety of the wing of our Almighty God. The word we will look a little bit at is 'adultery' - something most of us equate with someone being with someone's spou…

Was it emotional murder?

Hey, dealing with others is just not easy! This should come as no surprise to any of us, but it needed to be said. We deny relationship woes like denying them somehow makes them any less real. These relationship woes grow and never go totally away until they are finally dealt with. Have you ever been so frustrated with someone, boiling over with all kinds of not so nice kinds of thought, or in some other world, just as long as it was not YOURS! Most of us would never consider murder as an option for dealing with someone we'd rather eliminate from our lives, though! So, why does God feel it is so important to tell us not to murder someone?

“You must not murder." (Exodus 20:13)

Society classifies murder into two buckets - premeditated (deliberate and planned) and without premeditation (more of an accidental thing in the commission of another crime such as speeding and causing an accident). Without getting too deep here, God really does not approve of the loss of life at the h…

Are you qualified?

Have you caught any shows on TV lately that depict the 'family life'? I have seen one or two, but let me tell you - they aren't the Waltons or Cleavers of days gone by! In fact, I usually don't go back to watch more than one episode because what I see is just too hard to watch! It seems parents are just not held in the same "honor" as they were in times past. Look at an old episode of the Waltons, Leave it to Beaver, or Little House on the Prairie - then compare the "honor" a parent received in the past with how a parent is treated today in one of these newer 'family life' shows! You may be saying, "Yeah, but come on, those shows depicted the ways families should be!" Exactly! the fact remains, we have been instructed to "honor" our parents, something we do well at times, but then we fail miserably at others.
“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you…

How much more fits?

How many of us find ourselves rushing and rushing through life wondering all the while if we will ever get caught up with all the commitments we have made, the deadlines imposed upon us by others, and the silly pursuits we carelessly call our "leisure time"? We 'over-commit' repeatedly, then feel the stress of it all, getting weighed down under the pressures of those things that are really 'self-imposed' burdens, don't we? Sure enough, the demands of life are many! Yet, in it all, we are reminded of the importance of keeping our perspective in the chaos - even in the chaos we create in our own lives!

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." (Exodus 20:8)

For most, we "celebrate" the Sabbath day each weekend. I used quotations marks around the word CELEBRATE simply because most of us don't really treat the Sabbath day as anything all that special. We call it our "Sabbath" day, but we don't treat it any d…

My name is...

We have much emphasis today on "name recognition". In fact, there is a process in business referred to as "branding" in which an organization seeks to get its product or service identified with a particular name. In contrast, the organization never wants its name to be associated with a BAD product or LOUSY service. The "name" has a great deal of importance - even when it is more of a 'label' than a true name. For example, if I refer to someone as "Loser", what am I saying? It isn't likely that I am telling them they lost the tennis match! It is more likely that I am 'labeling' them as acting in a way that isn't really all that 'top-notch'. They don't 'measure up' to my expectations - whatever they may be. The good news is that God doesn't give us a 'label' - he gives us a 'name'. The name we bear means a lot about how we act, the choices we make, and the evidence our life display…

Let him free

Many people live by some unwritten code that implies rules are for breaking, not for keeping - do you know any of them? There is just some inward "pull" to break a few rules once in a while, or perhaps all of the time. While I am not a 'rule-breaker' all of the time, I definitely do my share of pushing the limits of the rules and/or breaking them all of the time. Yesterday we began to look at the sensibility of "following the rules" God sets out for us. His first "rule" was very clearly stated: No other god but me. His second is almost along the same line, but with a little different "twist":

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea." (Exodus 20:4)

No other god but me focused on any affection or attention we directed toward another person or pursuit which clearly took our affection and attention off God himself. Today's "rule" deals wit…

But me....

Throughout life there have been times all the "rules" just seemed to do little more than aggravate me or make me envious of those who could blatantly ignore them. I wanted so desperately to just ignore all those rules and have a little "fun" in life! If you were totally honest, you would say that sometimes you wonder what value the rules play. Well, even when we don't fully understand the rules, they play an important part in our safety. For example, driving down an open highway at a straight stretch allows speeds of 75 miles per hour. Why? The road is straight, you can see oncoming traffic, and you have less chances of losing control of your vehicle when you are going in a straight line! Get that same vehicle onto a winding road, tall trees all around, with the road barely built into the side of the mountain and you may WANT to drive at 75 miles per hour so you'd get to your destination faster, but there are all kinds of barriers in your way. There i…

Junk it!

Most of us don't think of ourselves as 'idol worshipers', but in reality, we likely have a few we have placed on a pedestal. Lest you think I am suggesting they are the little Buddha dolls, patron saint figurines, or other religious paraphernalia we keep laying around, I am not. Idols are things we elevate to some place of adoration in our lives - even our own ego! The things we hold onto soon have a hold on us, so we might do well to do a little 'inventory' of what we have 'lifted up' in our lives. Even things from our past can be 'idols' we have held onto. What "dead idols" from our past do we need to finally let go of? I think if we look hard enough, we will probably find a few lurking in the back of the recesses of our minds!

Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master's Word, not only in the provinces but all over th…

Is this for real?

Whoever said we could walk through this life without worries, difficulties, or unresolved issues was probably not a well person! Choosing to serve Christ does not elevate an individual above the ebbs and flows of life. In fact, it almost guarantees a few more hurdles! If we really are living for Christ, we will face challenging people, circumstances, and moments of potential compromise which we may not have encountered otherwise. Worries are still going to come, simply because we all have a tendency to want to 'hold everything together' ourselves. We just don't get used to turning things over to God quickly, bearing much more weight upon our shoulders than we really need to bear.

You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the tro…

More than just a nice feeling

Winston Churchill once said, "Without courage, all other virtues lose their meaning." C.S. Lewis echoed his words when he penned, "Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point." I used to have a pastor who always said you needed to stand for something or you'd stand for nothing. Some refer to this as 'steel-strong' convictions. Steel in your convictions - what does this mean?

It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn't just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions. (I Thessalonians 1:3-5)

God's hand is on us for something special. We serve a God who is not only supernatural, but he actually influences us to move beyond the natural into the abundance of all he is! Our holy and mighty God wants us to live in the abundance he knows! It…

What are you doing with today?

The preparation of today makes us ready for tomorrow. Without the work of today, the events of today won't matter when tomorrow comes. When others look at our life, do they see evidence of our faith? Do they see us laboring in love, or resisting every move we make? Do they see us patient in our waiting, or chafing in anticipation, hating the wait and disgruntled by not getting our way? Many of us can claim to be believers, but do our lives indicate we live like believers? Three things that are just not arbitrary in our live are faith, the labors of love, and the patience we exhibit toward each other (and ourselves). In fact, these things speak volumes about the work which has begun in our lives - a work God is going to finish, no matter how hard it may appear to us!

Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you're in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, befor…

Greeted by Grace

God's amazing grace and his robust peace go hand-in-hand. The peace of God is really not totally understood, or experienced, until one has an encounter with the amazing grace of God. Grace is like a pathway to peace - know grace and you will know peace. Don't ever think peace means the absence of anything disturbing, though. We will still find many a 'disturbance' in our lifetime, but we don't have to face those disturbances without absolute and lasting peace. We will 'rest' even though the demands are great. We will 'abide' even when the pressures try to move us out of that zone of peace. Peace isn't a place, or even an 'achieved ascendance' - it is a person - Christ. Know Christ, live in him and walk close to him, and you will know peace.

I, Paul, together here with Silas and Timothy, send greetings to the church at Thessalonica, Christians assembled by God the Father and by the Master, Jesus Christ. God's amazing grace be with yo…

So, that's what you are doing!

I really don't like books that are a 'slow start' when you get into them - those books that just don't grab you very well to begin with - kind of hard to get into and just poking around at all kind of details that don't really need to be shared. I love to read - my favorite venue being mystery novels that keep me enthralled until the very end. I like the suspense of seeing the plot unfold until you discover the "who done it"! By definition, a mystery is anything (or anyone) which presents features or qualities so obscure that they are going to arouse our curiosity. The "fun" comes in unraveling the obscure features - no matter how 'buried' they may be. I think God likes mysteries, often unveiling a little tidbit of something we need to know and then getting us ready to receive the next!

Just as you'll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman, so you'll never understand the mystery at work in all that Go…

Every bit counts

We have times in life when we just feel like the harder we try, the farther behind we manage to get - like we are chasing our tail the entire way. In looking forward, we see only those things and others who are out ahead of us. It comes as no surprise when someone even begins to describe their impression of God being somewhere, anywhere, but not in the moment of their need - because their 'moment of need' is so far away from where they are right now. We had the need a whole lot earlier than 'now', but we just finally realized we actually needed him! The trial gets hard and we often think we have lost touch with the very one who has the ability to help us get through it all. Listen to these words:

Long enough, God— you've ignored me long enough. I've looked at the back of your head long enough. Long enough I've carried this ton of trouble, lived with a stomach full of pain. Long enough my arrogant enemies have looked down their noses at me. Take a good lo…