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A little bent

The heart is fooled more than anything else, and is very sinful. Who can know how bad it is? I the Lord look into the heart, and test the mind. (Jeremiah 17:9)

It probably goes without saying that we are seeing some pretty unruly behavior these days. From refusing to mask-up in public to help reduce the spread of this virus to protests turned into violent looting sprees, it all just saddens my heart. Some ask why people act this way, but I'd just have to begin by saying that the heart of man is fooled by many things. There will be those who believe the COVID-19 virus is a 'scam' or 'hoax' - something cooked up by the government, healthcare community, or other 'big brother' entity, so they won't 'buy-into' the plans to slow the spread. Some will say that violence begets violence, thereby justifying their own violent outbursts. We listen to reports - some given with all the wisdom and light man can shed into a circumstance, while others are lacking…

Used

God has given me His loving-favor. This helps me write these things to you. I ask each one of you not to think more of himself than he should think. Instead, think in the right way toward yourself by the faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3)

I allowed these words to sink in a bit this morning because there are just some days when I sit to study and write my blog, but nothing 'new' or 'exciting' comes. I just read, reread, and then attempt something. Ever have those moments? This morning I think God was showing me there is no 'thing' within me that writes these blogs - it is HIM in me that helps me write them! The thought crossed my mind that there are others who might be reading this post today who feel like God will never, or could never do anything good through their lives. The word to you today is this - God has given you his loving-favor AND because of that, you are able to do the things he has designed for you to do. There aren't going to be big flashi…

A little 'wheel-time'

Drift happens - little by little - almost without ever noticing just how far off-course you have gone. Isaiah is an Old Testament prophet sent to Israel to encounter them for their "drift" - having become "like the other nations". If you have never really read the entire message of Isaiah, you will have missed special words such as: Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow. If they are red as crimson, they will become like wool. (1:18) Then they will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools. Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war. (2:4) Doom to those who call evil good and good evil, who present darkness as light and light as darkness, who make bitterness sweet and sweetness bitter. (5:20) The list could go on and on, but I would like to focus us on one of the latter chapters of this great book. There we find these words: Still, God, you are our Father. We’re t…

How "tight" are your thoughts?

Man, we sure have seen some nasty stuff lately, haven't we? Between this virus and the viral protests, rampant natural disasters, and destructive fires, things have gotten pretty hairy. I think it is pretty apparent - we live in a world where people just don't seem to fight fair, and not everything is fair in this life. It becomes very apparent in times when disaster strikes - not just that this "unfairness" existed exist all along, but the fierceness of the competition seems to bring out the worst in mankind at times. True enough, it is a dog-eat-dog world out there! That is not a very pleasant thought to me - dogs eating other dogs - but it definitely paints a graphic picture, does it not? What's more, the world just doesn't fight fair. But...as a believer in Christ, we have a different way of fighting our battles!

The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never h…

Delayed, not dead

The Lord is not slow about keeping His promise as some people think. He is waiting for you. The Lord does not want any person to be punished forever. He wants all people to be sorry for their sins and turn from them. (2 Peter 3:9)
I would like us to stop for a moment this morning to think on these words - the Lord is not slow about keeping his promises as some people think. If you promise me something, I am looking out for the fulfillment of that promise. I am eager to see it come to pass - whether it is a promise that is for me, or one for somebody else I care deeply about. If we see a delay in the promise, we might just think God isn't going to bring it to pass, or that he has forgotten us, or even that we might not have heard God right when we stood upon that particular promise. We are like that because we expect the fulfillment to be one way, but God may be coming about it in a totally different way than we expected. 
I think I shared this before, but it bears repeating. There a…

Does this really require me to think?

Does your 'thinker' always work? Mine doesn't! There are lots of times I'd have to admit I might have totally disengaged my 'thinker' and was acting merely on 'feelings'. Thinking is hard enough when we 'have to' do it, but when we don't feel like investing the time or energy into thinking things through, we usually find we get down the road and don't have what we needed for the journey. Some of us shut off that 'thinking' side of our lives on purpose, while others of us abandon 'thinking' almost without even knowing we have done it. There are things we do by 'instinct' now - like putting on our socks or lacing up our shoes. We don't have to really engage our 'thinkers' to get those tasks done. It has become what most refer to as 'muscle memory' - really showing our 'thinkers' don't have to continuously be engaged in order for us to have purposeful action take place!
Good thinking wi…

Stop hating each other

I have to ask - how easy is it for you to hold a grudge? That old adage that time heals all wounds is really not all that relevant if you are really, really good at holding a grudge! In fact, the more you nurse a grudge, the longer it will hang around in your life, impacting not only the relationship you are so unwilling to forgive, but it begins to affect all the other relationships in your life, as well. Hurting someone who has hurt you - it is kind of an innate thing - it is just part of defending one's self, isn't it? Since the beginning of time, we have lashed out against things that hurt us - destroying them if we could, but at least distancing ourselves from them as much as possible. I gotta ask - is that really the best way to deal with people, though?
Do not hurt someone who has hurt you. Do not keep on hating the sons of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)
While we might want to distance ourselves from the lion who prowls t…

Hey, I am having a hard time seeing

The division in our country just amazes me sometimes, but then I need to come back to reality and remember we are humans and humans sometimes don't act so well when we get together in the same sandbox. There will always be those in life we just don't see eye-to-eye with. The very fact we are each individuals, given to our own special talents and unique method of reasoning makes us "individuals". It is much easier being around people who all believe the same way we do, isn't it? There is less friction, everything going a little smoother. I wonder what WE learn in those moments of time when we are with someone who just "grates" at us - who doesn't think exactly as we do, getting a little too close to being 'on the other side' of the issue from us. You know the one I mean - just never seeing things from any other perspective than their own. They "get our goat", don't they? Be truthful! You know they do!

Welcome with open arm…

Your promise me what?

Have you seen the hope of a promise and what influence it has over a person? The "pulling" or "pushing" effect of the promise they hold onto is often the only thing keeping them going, isn't it? If you have ever really taken any kind of look into scriptures, you will see they are filled with promises. Some make immediate sense to us, causing us to just simply latch onto them quickly, while others take a little "getting used to" in order to have any real kind of impact on us. By definition a promise is something which gives hope - it is what we base our expectations on. If we have been given a promise - we hold out for the fulfillment, don't we? Now, in terms of God's promises, they actually serve to "pull us on" when we don't have the energy to make another move ourselves!

With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s…

Blow my mind, God!

I saw this post today that simply stated: "Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations." The quote belongs to Zig Zigler and ends with, "The best is yet to come." This thought captured my mind for just a few moments. Why? Some of us are on the most difficult road of our lives right now, while others of us are enjoying our destination! Why is it that we cannot all enjoy the destination without the difficult roads? I think there is much to be learned in the journey, complete with all the twists and turns, perilous drop-offs, and even those rutted paths that seem to jostle our fillings loose! That said, perhaps the journey may be equally as important as the destination!

He gives strength to the weak. And He gives power to him who has little strength. Even very young men get tired and become weak and strong young men trip and fall. But they who wait upon the Lord will get new strength. They will rise up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. T…

We don't need longer ropes

God isn't looking for us to serve him out of duty, but out of enthusiasm. How many times do we find ourselves caught up in 'service', but there is a total lack of enthusiasm behind it? In fact, it is more or less what we'd refer to as 'duty'. Passion is lacking. There is no real heartfelt commitment to the project ahead of us - it is performed by rote or meaningless repetitive action. A hard thing for me to learn is that we don't lose our passion or enthusiasm, we actually leave it. We walk away from our passion - not quickly, mind you, but little by little, subtly drifting away from the very thing that once ignited a great passion within us. Most of us don't need more of God in our lives - we just need to realize where there has been this subtle change in our focus.
Call out with joy to the Lord, all the earth. Be glad as you serve the Lord. Come before Him with songs of joy. Know that the Lord is God. It is He Who made us, and not we ourselves. We are …

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holy living

As I was listening to the online church service this week, I began to ponder the word, "Worship", and a couple thoughts came to mind. It is more than just singing a few nice songs. That is good, but it doesn't end with singing. It is more than just lifting our hands in surrender, although that is a good thing to do because it means we are ready to 'give it up' to him. It is more than getting down on our knees, but that isn't a bad posture for us to assume before the majesty of the Almighty God. The moment we really begin to 'worship' God is the moment we cross-over from being consumed with ourselves and just begin to bask in his presence. There is this emptying process that happens in order that we might be filled to overflowing. If you have ever wondered why you can become tearful in worship, it might just be this emptying process that is happening. You are beginning to experience God's touch in your life just where you needed it most. Worship is…

Is this really as bad as it gets?

Sometimes I think we imagine the worst, hope for the best, but really have no idea what to expect when life gets a little crazy all around us! One thing we should keep in mind is that the 'worst' is never really the 'worst' - the 'worst' has a way of morphing over time! Lamentations is not the most well-read book in the Bible, but it is there for a very specific purpose. Jeremiah is the writer and this is considered to be one of the poetic books of the Bible - not really my idea of poetry, but it is in biblical writings. The primary purpose in writing was to mourn the huge loss of Jerusalem, and more importantly, the Holy Temple. The nation of Judah is taken into exile, probably under the Babylonian rule, and there is great turmoil and sorrow in the land. Nothing has been the same since they lost their Holy City. In fact, the Book of Lamentations is read at the Wailing Wall today on a weekly basis as a memorial of the great sorrow and tragedy of losing their…

Stirred, but not shaken

We are living in troubling times. Our country is a mess, quite frankly, and we are seeing all manner of chaos as a result. We'd like fix blame for all the calamity we are experiencing right now with civil unrest, viral attacks on our bodies, and even failed fiber circuitry that cripples millions of cell phone users. We have to assume some of this blame ourselves. It isn't the government that is to blame for civil unrest - it is human nature at its worst. It isn't medical science or some evil terrorist group to blame for a virulent virus attacking our world right now - it is part of viral mutations that occur all the time and get an inroad into human hosts, oftentimes quite undetected until it is too late to stop the inevitable spread. It isn't one cell service provider to blame for the massive outage in service - it is likely our overuse of these devices we have come to rely upon that tax an aging system of very intricate circuitry. "Fixing blame" isn't r…

We aren't equal

Is it hard to live and work without pride getting in the way? I think we all know the answer to this is a resounding 'yes', but many times we forget just how much responsibility we each have in actually keeping our pride out of the mix. We cannot let pride get the inroad in our relationships, because if we do, we are bound to see a lot of arguments, hurt feelings, and even a little bit of envy entering into them. Why? Pride is going to set us against one another since it raises the opinion of one's value over another's value. 
Live and work without pride. Be gentle and kind. Do not be hard on others. Let love keep you from doing that. Work hard to live together as one by the help of the Holy Spirit. Then there will be peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)
Where there is an inordinate amount of focus on what 'we' do and what value 'we' are in a situation, there could be a little bit of a problem with pride that is revealing itself. You might not realize it, but this ca…

Is that a blessing-blocker?

It was Eric Hoffer who reminded us: "The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings." These are indeed good words, for we oftentimes forget about our blessings until they are taken from us, or no longer are appreciated in our lives. We cannot escape God's blessings - they are inherent in serving him. We can, and oftentimes do forget them, though. For the most part, it isn't that we want to forget them, but that we become complacent with them. We don't recount them enough and this leads to us almost taking them for granted. It would be a good exercise for each of us to regularly and quite deliberately taking inventory of the many ways God blesses us each day.

Training your body helps you in some ways, but serving God helps you in every way by bringing you blessings in this life and in the future life, too. (I Timothy 4:8)
The more we 'train' our bodies, the more our bodies are able to do for us, right? The more we train our …

Let's hang out, or maybe not

Right now many of us have gone through periods of extended isolation because of COVID-19 and the need to 'stay-at-home' in order to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease. Hanging out with each other hasn't been all that simple, has it? We miss those interactions and almost crave them a little. Who do you "hang out" with? You probably have a pretty "routine" group of acquaintances who you associate with more than others. Sometimes, we have groups at work or school, others at home and at church. They can overlap a little, but seldom are they all the same. When we have all these groups to associate with it is easy to be one person with one group and quite another with the other, isn't it? There is not a great deal of consistency between the members of the groups, so being a little different with each group usually doesn't present a problem. Until....one day, you find a member of one of your "groups" crossing-over into anoth…

Not just another net

Keep on working to complete your salvation with fear and trembling, because God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him. (Philippians 2:12-13)
What work goes into 'completing' our salvation? Isn't everything complete in Christ? Isn't that what we are told in scripture - that his work on the Cross took care of all of our sin and made us right with God again? If this be the case, what 'work' do we have to engage in so that we will have a 'complete' salvation? I think we sometimes get 'salvation' mixed up in our minds as an 'action' done for us by another and nothing we have to do for ourselves. In a sense, this is correct. Salvation was accomplished by Christ and Christ alone. There is no other sacrifice that needs to be offered to make man right with God again. We do have to say "yes" to Jesus, though. We have to welcome him into our lives and begin to make choices directed and encouraged by hi…

Let's get rid of that bow, shall we?

We oftentimes are exposed to things in the lives of others that we know full-well they should not be pursuing - things that will eventually do them harm. What do we do when we recognize this type of thing occurring in the lives of others we know? To be truthful, some of us merely bury our heads in the sand, so to speak, looking the other way and hoping for the best. It is just too uncomfortable for us to 'intervene' with any words of wisdom or support them as an accountability partner, so we avoid the issue entirely. Others of us will put our foots in our mouths right out of the gate, saying something that drives a wedge between us and then we walk around all 'prickly' with each other for days. Either way, we aren't responding in ways that are going to help the other person. If we let them just go their own way, we are saying we don't value the relationship. If we allow ourselves to go around all 'hurt' and 'wounded', we are not really going to …

Just like that...

Back in the day, we taught our kids to pray the Lord's Prayer in Sunday School. We had specific times in service when we'd all pray it corporately. Some of us even learned to break down the Lord's Prayer into segments that really describes how it is we 'work through' prayers to God by following the pattern laid out in that prayer. Most of us really don't know 'how to pray' - we just wing it. We might have memorized a few prayers when we were growing up, able to recite them verbatim now, but is that really prayer? I think God is most 'impressed' with our simple sharing of our hearts and souls with him, not the big words we might memorize, the 'pattern' we might follow, or the 'corporate' recital of a few verses. He is more interested in making that 'connection' with us. 
We do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain. Go…

Observe to Hear

Are you a story-teller? If so, what type of stories do you relish telling? I like to hear stories, even enjoy reading them. I also like to observe stories - yes, you read that right - observation is a huge part of interpreting the story. We observe and then we form conclusions as a result of what we observe. For example, we see a person standing in a take-out line who is probably a little poorly dressed, maybe even with clothing overly soiled, and we tell ourselves a story that they are likely homeless. If you observe them a little while longer, you may notice they get into a fancy pick-up truck just outside in the parking lot, ladders and tools in the bed of the truck. What you observed in the take-out line didn't match the story you now are telling yourself, did it? You observed the person who was clad in dirty attire was really a workman, probably going home after an extremely hard work day. Observation is often key to understanding the stories we not only tell ourselves, but t…

Issues in your tissues?

I have found myself just walking around, looking down a little way too much these days. "Pick up your head" might just become a new theme song in my life! Before some of you think I am drifting into some type of major depressive episode, don't fret! It has been a rough couple of weeks, losing mom, breaking my toes, and summer fully closing in upon us. I simply find myself deeper in thought, but even in my "mulling things over" in my head, I can find myself showing some signs of worry. The slumped shoulders, the down-turned head - signs of carrying a "weight" I really didn't need to carry on my own, my friends!

Worry weighs us down; a cheerful word picks us up. (Proverbs 12:25 MSG)

Did you ever stop to consider the meaning of worry? It means "to torment oneself with disturbing thoughts". Now, lest we glance over the word "oneself" in the definition, I will point it out once again! It isn't someone else tormenting us - it …

What do you love the most?

Name some of the things you love. Go ahead - say them out loud right now. Some of us immediately went to individuals we hold close, like our spouse, kids, or grandkids. Others of us went right to the newest toy we have in our arsenal of toys, like that new big screen TV, the latest tool in our shop, or that shiny new car in the driveway. Many of us went to the things like chocolate, coffee, or fresh baked bread slathered in melting butter. We all had different 'places' we went when we described the things we love, didn't we? Why is that? I think it is simply because we are each individuals and as such, we have different likes and dislikes, impacting the things we'd say we 'love'. I don't know about you, but on occasion I like to do a little inventory of what I am spending more time thinking about, engaging in, or just plain talking about the most. I am sometimes quite surprised to find I am spending the majority of my time and my attention is most consisten…

Called to be

I once heard it said that our graveyards are full of potential – meaning there are lots and lots of us that find our ways to the grave without ever really fulfilling our full potential in Christ. I wonder just how often that has happened, but at the very end of life the one that is facing the grave really looks back and sees just how many wrong turns they took on their way. The way we take today makes all the difference in the way we will take tomorrow. We aren’t always assured of our tomorrow, are we? Some of us live as though our tomorrow was a guarantee – leaving things undone today that really need to be done now. We find our pursuits get sidetracked – all because something seemed too hard, another opportunity arose, or we just plain lost interest. The road to somewhere may be hard, windy, and even a little rutted by time. It doesn’t mean we don’t take it! We might find we are not surrounded by tons of others taking the same road, but it doesn’t mean it was the wrong road for us t…

Fan the Flames

What is the difference between passion and obligation? We can do a whole lot of stuff out of duty or obligation that we exhibit very little passion toward, right? I do the laundry and clean the toilets, but trust me on this one...there is very little 'passion' behind either of those obligations! When you have an obligation to do something, it is kind of tedious and you know it is because you are the one being held responsible to get it done. A job can be done out of obligation, done well, but lack any sense of really bringing fulfillment into our lives. I have a carpet shampooer and when the carpets get a little soiled looking, I schlep it out, move the furniture, and spend the next couple of hours filling the reservoir with clean water and cleaning solution, emptying the dirty water receptacle, and then cleaning everything up afterward. There is very little passion behind the cleaning frenzy, but the results are still good. I have clean carpets, pile freshly plumped, and the …