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Showing posts from 2020

A whole new wardrobe

My first week in the military was kind of interesting. Arriving at Fort Jackson on a chartered bus that had picked up a whole bunch of us in the wee hours of the morning on that October day in 1976, the 'unknown' caused all of us more than a little trepidation. As we unloaded our suitcases and gathered around it became clear this would be a life-changing venture! In rather short order, the orders were being barked out to divide each of us into groups and then serving to usher us off to our temporary housing. The dawn came way too early and those jeans, tennis shoes, and t-shirts were all exchanged for olive drab shirts, socks, caps, and pants, white undershirts, and black boots. All the same, no one standing out any longer as unique. Those clothes we brought along for the journey were all taken from us, locked away until our final day at boot camp, never to be worn again until we were officially finished 'becoming soldiers'. Why did they insist on clothing us with the…

Am I in trouble?

Gonna meddle a little here this morning. Do you ever get into trouble? I mean the kind where you just aren't really sure there is any way out of it - the trouble you make or that is made by those you associate with that is just about to bury you alive. The truth is that most of the time we make our own trouble - we don't need the help of others to really do a good job at finding and meddling around with trouble. Trouble isn't a thing - it is a set of actions that lead to a result we probably will find a little undesirable. I joke from time to time that I am 'making trouble' when someone asks me what I am up to, but if I were honest here, the times when I am really 'making trouble' in my life are not a joking matter!
I was in trouble, so I called to the Lord for help. The Lord answered and made me free. The Lord is with me, so I will not be afraid. No one on earth can do anything to harm me. (Psalm 118:5-6ERV)
As kids, we'd ask our friends if they got &…

Evolve

When we use the word "because" in a sentence, what does it mean? In the most literal sense, it carries the idea of a condition being met. For example, I could not eat another bite BECAUSE my stomach was so full carries the condition of a 'full stomach' prohibiting anymore intake at the meal. The 'condition' was met, therefore the intake had to stop. There are a whole lot of 'conditions' met in life that result in something happening or not happening, right? In our lives, we sometimes think these 'conditions' are not met, so we use the BECAUSE to explain the 'why' behind our inability to 'measure up to' or 'meet' the condition. Truth be told, we use the BECAUSE statement way to often to excuse our stubbornness or pride and not enough to describe what God has and is doing within us!
Be holy in everything you do, just as God is holy. He is the one who chose you. In the Scriptures God says, “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1…

It is obvious, isn't it?

At times, the most obvious thing seems to be the most elusive for us to grasp, huh? We think we can easily grasp something, but it seems to be harder than we imagined. We believe understand something fully only to find we don't really get it at all. Did you also realize that an older meaning of the word "obvious" is that thing that stands in your way? Sometimes the most 'obvious' things are the things that actually become the things that form some kind of obstacle for us. 
“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being." (Matthew 6:19-21MSG)
There are those who report every obstacle is just a way to develop our abilities to achieve or overcome, but there are others who look at an obstacle and see their i…

Adulting 101

Truth be told, many of us don't ever want to 'grow up' - we want to live as 'children' our whole lives. It may be the result of thinking it will be a whole lot easier to just go through life naive, but that vantage point can get us into a whole lot of trouble. It might actually be a little selfishness on our part, no wanting to actually do the 'work' of growing up because it will mean we have to stop doing some things and start doing others. Regardless of the reason behind our 'foot dragging' as we approach our growth in a spiritual sense, the fact remains that we cannot continue as children forever! We need to grow up - putting into practice over and over again the things we have learned until they become second-nature to us. Today they have coined that term "adulting' - maybe what we should admit we haven't accomplished the true consistency we need in the tasks we consider to be 'mundane' in our spiritual walk. If we want to g…

A little lesson in electricity

Yesterday I spoke a little about 'pre-planning' for temptation. I touched on the idea of the 'planning' of our response to temptation when it comes because it WILL come and we need to be prepared. Minds are a powerful thing, but most of the time we use our minds for things that only defeat us, pull us down, or keep us twisted and conflicted. The mind has to be prepared for service - it has to be prepared for obedience. These things don't come naturally to us - they are conscious choices. The unconscious mind is a powerful thing - doing things by 'memory' that we don't even know we are doing. If you have ever been a nail-biter, did you consciously say, "Now is a good time to bite my nails. I think I will give it a go right here and now"? Most likely you were engaged in some other thing and in a moment of conscious awareness you noticed you were chomping on those stubs! We cannot rely upon the unconscious for obedient choices - these come more …

Planning for Temptation

Leonardo da Vinci reminds us, "It's easier to resist at the beginning than at the end." Thinking on that one for a moment, we all probably could benefit from keeping that in mind because most of us try to resist closer to the end than at the beginning of the temptation. We go to the store hungry - then wonder why we are tempted to buy all the things we aren't supposed to be snacking on if we are to maintain our healthy lifestyle. Now, if we had planned a little better, having a nice breakfast before we head out to do the shopping, we are likely going to stick closer to the shopping list and avoid those unhealthy choices! Why? We resisted by planning on the temptation to be there!

So give yourselves to God. Stand against the devil, and he will run away from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. You are sinners, so clean sin out of your lives. You are trying to follow God and the world at the same time. Make your thinking pure. Be sad, be sorry, and cry! …

Bless me, bless me, bless me

Sometimes it is hard looking at our friends, seeing them move into gorgeous new homes, driving swanky new cars, or jetting off to far away places on vacation after vacation. We get a little envious at times, don't we? We'd like a new home - ours is good, but it doesn't have all the features their new ones offers. We wish our cars ran as smoothly with less visits to the mechanic shop, but they still get us places we need to be. We have desires to explore islands afar, but a simple tent in the woods is all our budget will allow at present. Yet, when we stop to think on this just a little, we might just remember how truly blessed we are in this life - all because of the extravagant generosity of God!

Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It's way over our heads. We'll never figure it out. Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? Anyone who has done him s…

Move on

It has been a while since I have been able to break free from the day-to-day caregiving of an elderly parent, so I am a little overdue for some fishing! The great outdoors always beckon to me because I love to be out in nature. I enjoy the moments of listening to the gentle breezes bristling the tree leaves and the gentle movement of the stream's waters. I like to observe the curiosity of the birds as they explore the forest floor and the gentleness of the deer grazing in the open meadow. There is just something about being able to 'break free' for a while that helps to renew a mind and body. While some will choose to laze around the lake, taking in nature in all its beauty, others will head for a few days with far away relatives and friends, renewing the bonds and memories which the miles have imposed in their separation. Yet, others will clamor for the long lines of the amusement parks and the intense thrill of riding the latest rides. Whatever the location, the purpos…

The School of Grace

The way we should live is determined not so much by the circumstances we face, but by the decisions we make ahead of time! When God's grace enters our lives, the choices we begin to make change - sometimes quite dramatically. Grace has a way of not only 'cleaning up' one's life, but it has a way of 'keeping us washed' as we go through each day. Grace teaches us to live - not by the seat of our pants, but with purposeful steps taken consistently toward wise choices. Devotion to God isn't revealed in entering a monastery or convent. It is revealed in choosing to no longer live 'against' God - making choices that reflect our desire to live 'with' God.

That is the way we should live, because God’s grace has come. That grace can save everyone. It teaches us not to live against God and not to do the bad things the world wants to do. It teaches us to live on earth now in a wise and right way—a way that shows true devotion to God. (Titus 2:11-12ERV)

Did that just happen?

Short - how would you define it? Some might propose it means something is of little length or stature, while others may say something is about to pass very quickly. Have you ever read a 'short story'? It may have been a couple pages in a magazine, but if it actually made it to print as a book, it means the book is about half the size of a regular book! Short is a 'measurement' term and we go through life doing all manner of 'measurement'. There is a term used in woodworking that I like - measure twice, cut once. Heaven knows the times I have even managed to mess this one up! Measured twice and still cut wrong! How does that happen? Maybe because it was because of poor planning, or perhaps it was because I didn't listen and tried to take a short-cut that I really knew wouldn't work out very well in the end. We all do this at times - not paying close attention to the things in life we actually should 'measure'!

Teach us how short our lives are so t…

In 1492, Columbus sailed the oceans blue....

I can remember studying the discovery of the Americas by one very bold 'pioneer' of sorts - his name was Christopher Columbus. He was an Italian explorer of his day who made four trips across the Atlantic, with the most notable being the one where he sailed the oceans blue in 1492. His attempt to sail a direct route from Europe to Asia never really materialized as he expected, coming across the Americas instead. It was his 'discovery' of these Americas, already populated with various native inhabitants that gave him notoriety in his 'explorer' circles. He was credited for having found a 'new world' - complete with all the vast treasures it would hold for those willing to strike out to colonize these distant lands. Did you realize the purpose of exploration in those days was really to 'discover' and to 'colonize'? Did you ever stop to consider that the reason we 'discover' truths from the Word of God is so they can 'colonize&…

I am feeling rather 'dry' right now

If you have ever felt like your life is 'dry ground', you are not alone. There are seasons we all go through that feel a little 'dryer' than we'd like. It seems as though there is nothing getting through to God and he is not getting through to us. Dryness could have a few causes, but in general it is just part of life. Yes, compromise and sin can create a dryness, but if you think of the variation in the seasons of nature, you observe there are times when it is just going to be 'dry' - a season where growth appears to be stunted and a little less likely to occur. If we are truthful in our observations of these dry seasons in our lives, we'd likely admit there is much happening just beneath the surface, getting us ready for the next 'growth spurt' we are likely to experience.

The Lord is making roads through the sea. He is making a path for his people, even through rough waters. The Lord says, So don’t remember what happened in earlier times. Don…

Not chiseled in stone

Back in caveman days, the hammer and chisel were employed to record specific details that may have needed recording for others to see. The stone would be carved out, or perhaps a large section of fallen tree. The use of such rudimentary tools to communicate are a thing of the past. In today's electronic age, we seldom resort to "snail mail" as a means of keeping in touch with others in our lives, much less the use of hammer and chisel on stone. It is the "immediacy" of email and instant messaging which makes it all the more appealing to us - the ability to 'get the message out' to the intended audience in record speed draws us in. In the past, the "news" we'd share about changes in our lives would come via the postal service, arriving to the recipient days after the "news" was indeed "news". In the military, we had mail call. It was a time when we'd all gather around in hopes of one link to home in the form of a …

Get up, you're all done here

I like the song, "Rise", as sung by Danny Gokey. Why? The words speak to me because they speak of the brokenness inside each of us - the wounds that still remind us all so often of the fear we have faced, the shame we have endured, and the rejection that seems to come on the heels of wrong actions. He goes on to tell us we all know it is time to get up - to rise up from our fear, shame, and rejection - but we are paralyzed, stuck in place, no idea of how to rise above these things. Does that speak to anyone else other than me? As the song continues, we are reminded that we hear a clear voice calling us to rise - even when we see no way out, when life is too hard to handle. Rise - the heart once so hardened by life's tragic choices is made new once again - beating, coming back to life, all because of the call of our Creator.
You can be sure of this: The Kingdom of Christ and of God will never belong to anyone who is impure or greedy, for a greedy person is really an idol…

Tossing and Turning

Restless nights, busy days, more restless nights - does this describe any of our lifestyles? I know I can run so hard that I am exhausted at the end of the day, only to be too tired to actually get a good night's rest. My body yearns for a little rest, but my mind just won't shut down. I toss and turn - hoping to drift into a restful slumber - but realizing it evades me more than I thought it would. There are all kinds of definitions for 'being tired', but not all of them end with us getting the rest we actually desperately need. 
Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.” (Matthew 11:28TLB)
Weariness of soul really has no other resting place until we are willing to let go of the burdens we feel we must bear alone. It was George Bernard Shaw who told us, "People …

Well done

I wonder how many of us could say we have done well with Mother Teresa's challenges to "be faithful in the small things because it is in them that your strength lies." Our strength lies not in the greatness we achieve, but in the faithfulness we manifest in doing the things that it is likely nobody will notice! I think that is what Jesus had in mind when he challenged his disciples to tell them what they had spent so much time arguing about while on a journey one day. It was right after they had been out on a mission with Jesus, listening to him teach, seeing him work miracles, observing great deliverance from lifelong disease and demon-possession. They find themselves right where we find ourselves many times - wondering who will be the greatest among them - who will be the 'most favored' of all the disciples Jesus. Isn't it strange that we worry about who will 'rise to the top' more than we think about all that can be accomplished just by being faith…

He is richest who is....

It was Socrates who reminded us, "He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature." Contentment evades so many of us today - always striving to get more, so we can have more, so we can be more, so we can get even more. The problem is that the journey toward 'more' is riddled with all kinds of potholes and switch-back turns we can get all tangled up in if we are not careful. Thomas Fuller reminds us, "Contentment consists not in adding more fuel, but in taking away some fire." Maybe it is time for us to think about what is 'fueling' our motion. Motion is good as long as it is in the right direction. Remove some the fuel that is taking us in the wrong direction and we may just find our journey is more enjoyable!

But as for me, my contentment is not in wealth but in seeing you and knowing all is well between us. And when I awake in heaven, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see you face-to-face. (Psalm 17:15)

Seeing …

So, that's how you see me!

Debt carries a different meaning for some of us. There are those who run it up without any thought as to how it will be repaid, or even it it will ever be repaid. There is just no concern other than having whatever it is they wanted at that moment. Have you ever run up a debt on a credit card? It may not have been all that much in terms of financial debt, but when you ran up the debt, how did it make you feel? It is likely the "emotion" you attached to the spending frenzy had now become one of being "obligated" to someone. You now were indebted to another who extended you the credit. Some of us have a tendency to view "love" in a way that leaves us feeling "indebted" to another - always trying to "pay back" the debt we "owe".

Don't run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don't sleep with another pers…

I'm desperate again

Back some time ago, Michael W. Smith put out a song simply entitled, "Breathe". It starts with three simple lines: "This is the air I breathe. This is the air I breathe. Your holy presence living in me." Stop to think on that a little and you will soon realize every breath you take is God's presence flowing into your life. His presence permeates us much as breath enters our lungs and is soon taken into the body to be used up time and time again. Have you ever thought of God as "giving you breathing room"? I never really thought of it this way, but our devotional times are kind of "breathing room" - times to take in his presence as we would breath. The time we take to settle ourselves long enough to reflect on God's word and then to begin to allow it to impact us is really readying us by providing us with some "breathing room" from the hub-bub of everyday life.

You've always given me breathing room, a place to get away fr…