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Showing posts from May, 2020

Life comes at us fast...are we ready?

I have been cleaning out small spaces lately, going through all of mom's belongings, sorting little things to give to family that will hold meaning to them. In the process, I came across a small trinket I have carried with me for years - a "Dope-Stopper" coin given to me by Art Linkletter when I was around 12 years of age. I was honored to hear him in person, having won a challenge at my local school to create a poster that spoke to remaining drug-free. In the height of the 60's, drugs were rampant and kids everywhere were beginning to experiment with the stuff. His goal was to speak truth and hope into the lives of pre-teens, on the cusp of making life-changing decisions as they entered their challenging teen years. My "Speed Kills" poster afforded me the opportunity to meet this great man, but most importantly, gave me the chance to hear his message of his daughter's addiction and her ultimate death. In the end, I walked away with his words echoing de…

Give him the pieces

What or Who is it that causes division among you right now? Maybe it is more of a 'what' than a 'who' that is creating the division between you and something you need in your life. Perhaps you are struggling with an addiction to something that keeps coming between you and true liberty from the hold that thing has on you. Yes, addiction is really the worst kind of enslavement one can imagine - being so emotionally or psychologically attached to the 'thing' that any attempt to break free causes so much trauma in your life that you just cannot imagine being free. But...God is above that addiction - he is stronger than the emotional or psychological pull that thing has in your life. Maybe the dividing force in your life right now is a 'who' - a tough relationship challenge between you and a coworker, a spouse that seems to no longer share your interests or values, or even a relative that doesn't understand some of your choices and now chooses to withdra…

He IS

Every now and again I run across an 'old school' preacher who will blurt out, "God is good", expecting the response, "All the time", from those he or she is around. It was frequently used as the 'affirmation' of our trust in his goodness and grace that we were expressing back in the day. We don't hear it very much in our local churches these days, but it is a good thing to remember - our God IS good. He isn't 'becoming' good - he IS good. He isn't enticed to 'do good' - he IS good. The state of 'IS' really means in the present tense, at this very time, without any hesitation, or without any concern that something exists - he IS good.
The Eternal One is good, a safe shelter in times of trouble. He cares for those who search for protection in Him. (Nahum 1:7)
Three short things we can learn from what our writer shares here today. First, God is good - even when we doubt his goodness, he never ceases to be good. It i…

You thirsty?

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (John 7:38)

Today, we find Jesus unfazed by the opposition of the religious leaders of the day - teaching in the Temple, as was his custom. The religious leaders are appalled at how much of the Law Jesus knows and how well he explains it. In fact, they are engaged in a heavy discussion about where he received his "credentials" to preach when Jesus responds to their curiosity with a simple statement: "I didn’t make this up. What I teach comes from the One who sent me. Anyone who wants to do his will can test this teaching and know whether it’s from God or whether I’m making it up. A person making things up tries to make himself look good. But someone trying to honor the one who sent him sticks to the facts and doesn’t tamper with reality. It was Moses, wasn’t it, who gave you God’s Law? But no…

In Season

Fruit in season - it is just about time for some of my favorite fruits to hit the market. I love cherries, sweet watermelon, and cool honeydew. When fruit comes in season, I snatch it up, as I am a big fruit eater. During the 'leaner' fruit season of winter, I only have a select few fruits to choose from, such as bananas, apples, and oranges. Now, as summer is approaching, the markets are beginning to fill with fresh berries, melons, peaches, pears, and the list goes on. The bountiful harvest of fruit is something I look forward to, while the 'leaner' times are something I endure.
The wicked envy what the evil plunder, but the root of the right-living produces fruit for all. (Proverbs 12:12)
Fruit isn't just 'there' - it has to be produced in season. We don't find watermelon grows very well when the ground is covered with snowy ice, nor trees laden with peaches or plums when there is an absence of leaves in the frightful cold of winter. There is a seas…

Period!

When someone tells you that you need to wrap your mind around some concept, they are telling you that the subject at hand will take some effort on our part to actually get enough of a hint of it in order to even remotely understand it. The subject is complex, even a little overwhelming, and we will have to apply ourselves to really grasp it very well. We cannot wrap our minds around God's wisdom and knowledge - because it is infinite and our brains are sadly finite. We can only 'think' so far and then we have to 'trust'. Some of us think there is nothing we can trust if we cannot 'think' it through, but this will never work when it comes to our faith. Faith requires trust in what is unseen and not fully comprehended. The truth we believe is really building our trust, but until we approach God with more trust than 'thought', we will never fully grasp some of the things he has prepared for us.

We cannot wrap our minds around God’s wisdom and knowledge…

God - You Got This!

We all have moments when we feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. The possibilities of doing what it is we are called upon to do seem daunting and we just cannot possibly see how God could have plans for us in the moment. The Apostle Paul faced a little of this - knowing full well he was "schooled" in the Law of Moses, but not at all "schooled" in the message of grace. What he learned about grace he experienced the same as we all do - because the teacher embraced him with that grace! Back when Paul wrote his epistle to the Ephesian church, he admits to his absolute and overwhelming surprise at receiving grace. In fact, he says, "Hey! I now have a new life's work - helping others know what it is like to receive this surprise gift of grace!" Paul goes on to explain his absolute lack of "qualifications" to do what it is God has him doing - but God was handling all the details. Humbly, he admits he was the least "qualified" of a…

His ways are discoverable

The work of God in our lives is sometimes misunderstood, isn't it? We don't actually 'get' why some things happen, like the present pandemic. Why is it the world is set into absolute chaos, economies hit so hard, and people left jobless all as the result of one tiny virus? In this day and age, you'd almost expect the CDC and  WHO would have found a way to put a bubble around the virus and eradicate it as quickly as it emerged. The advances in medical science have come to be 'counted on' in times of extreme crisis as we are seeing now, haven't they? The work of God in our lives is sometimes as easily misunderstood as our knowledge of medical science is at times. We don't fully appreciate the extremely difficult job it is to eradicate a virus and we understand even less of how God moves or works in our live at times!

You can no more predict the path of the wind than you can explain how a child’s bones are formed in a mother’s womb. Even more, you will …

A little stuck?

Have you ever heard the story of the valley of dry bones from the Book of Ezekial? There is this place where skeletal remains all over the place, totally picked clean, dried up by the sun and time. God leads Ezekial around the valley, then through it, experiencing the full vastness of its expanse and the multitude of bones contained there. We probably won't experience anything like this, but there is significant meaning within this prophesy for the nation of Israel. I also think there could be a lesson or two for us, if we look close enough! In order to get as much out of this as possible, I am going to take you on a little "word journey", so bear with me!

Then God said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’ “Therefore, prophesy. Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says: I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I’ll take you …

Belonging brings harmony

Tax season gets everyone thinking about whatever it is they may "write off" in the interest of lowering their tax base. We search the books, attempting to find the specific expenses we may deduct, finding all the legal 'loopholes' that will reduce the overall tax penalty we are hit with each year. Why? We want all we work hard to acquire! If you have more than your high school diploma, didn't you have to work a little harder for that college degree? If you have more than an associate degree from the local community college, didn't the effort you put into obtaining that bachelor's degree require more than just another two years in school? Now, if you have gone on to achieve your master's degree or even a doctorate, think of all the effort that went into those hours agonizing over your projects, thesis, and graduation requirements. There is something within each of these accomplishments that gives us a sense of satisfaction - but even the best of write…

A little leash training required

I am considering a keyless entry lock in my garage and have been reading the online reviews, as well as the user manuals for these various models. The instruction manuals of some seem very basic, while others look like they would be more for the use of the Space Station in orbit! Isn't it amazing how some instructions can be so plainly written - easy to grasp and even easier to put into use - while others can be so vague or complex that you just struggle and struggle to make sense of it all? The Word of God isn't supposed to be one of those 'manuals' that we struggle with, but rather something we can turn to, easily embracing what is written within and easily putting it into practice in our lives. Yet, we make the commands of God so complex, don't we? We complicate them with our rules or conditions we want to 'add to' the simplicity of God's instructions. Whenever we 'add to' God's simple instructions, we are not going to find the Word brin…

Handling it?

The struggle we endure today is preparing us for the strength we will grow into tomorrow. Stop for a moment to think about the last time you struggled with something and answer me this: Did that struggle bring a new strength in you? If it did not, was it because you let go of the struggle and just abandoned it? If we let go of the struggle, but allow God to continue his work within us, we won't lose out in the end. We will grow into a strength not otherwise realized in our lives.

So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing. As the psalm says, On Your behalf, our lives are endangered constantly; we are like sheep awaiting slaughter. But no matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him who loved us. For I have every confidence that nothing—not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritu…

V-Day

Victory! What does this term mean to you? Perhaps it means you have succeeded in something you never thought you'd be able to complete, or that you triumphed over something that held you back in life. Maybe it carries the idea of having achieved superiority to your enemy - no longer having to engage that enemy in battle because you have been declared "victorious" over that enemy. If we look at this in the truest sense, any victory is really a sense of achievement where an advantage is attained and maintained. There is something in the one who is victorious that screams, "I have overcome!" There was an obstacle in your way and now that obstacle no longer stands as any impediment to your progress or success in life. I wonder just how many obstacles God has removed for us without us even knowing they were gone - allowing us to walk victoriously in areas we never really had any idea how to overcome?
Only through God can we be successful. It is God alone who will d…

The long front porch

I once was told we had to understand the intent of words in scripture, such as understanding what the 'therefore' was there for. It is a word that tells us we are about to understand the conclusion of all that has been presented. As a result of something that has been done, enacted, created, etc., we are to understand that what follows is the conclusion of the matter. With that in mind, if we were to read the scripture with an eye on the words that really help us to understand a condition has been met, or that the matter is firmly and finally settled, we might just realize we have no excuse for continuing in fear, despair, or doubt. It would settle our minds and hearts as we come to trust what has already been accomplished on our behalf.

Therefore, now no condemnation awaits those who are living in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, because when you live in the Anointed One, Jesus, a new law takes effect. The law of the Spirit of life breathes into you and liberates you …

The goodness of God

You are my God, and I give You thanks; You are my God, and I praise You. Give thanks to our Eternal Lord; He is always good. He never ceases to be loving and kind. (Psalm 118:28-29)
There is a certain sense of 'intimacy' in these words, isn't there? Our psalmist capture the essence of the relationship desires of his kids. The closeness of one who can proclaim, "You are MY God...", is something that isn't known by all who claim to know him. They may claim him as God, but not as 'their God'. Our psalmist starts with the acknowledgement of God being close to him first, giving praise to him, then acknowledges that God is good to all, moving from a personal to corporate view of the relationship. God always asks for us to focus first on the personal, then engage with the corporate. Does that sound a little too 'self-centered' to be something God would want? Not at all, because he created us to commune with him in a deeply personal sense and then to …

Circumstantial or Direct Evidence?

Circumstantial evidence - have you ever heard that term used? It means there is some form of evidence, but does it really prove whatever is being proven? Circumstantial evidence allows for more than one possibility to be presented - relying heavily upon 'inference' rather than a direct connection. My fingerprint on your phone doesn't mean I own it - it means I likely held it for a moment at some time. My DNA found in the genetic mapping of one of my children gives clear evidence that we are entirely related. One is circumstantial - inferring a connection; the other is direct evidence - confirming the connection without any doubt. God gives us direct evidence of his love for us in his Son - yet I wonder how many times we look at the 'circumstantial evidence' trying to convince us that God feels we still don't 'measure up'? We can give a whole lot of credence to 'circumstances' and forget there is one who has already made a direct connection that…

The chapter of grace

Have you ever picked up a piece of fruit, felt it, and then put it back down only to pick up another until you find the right one. You are rejecting some to find the one you feel is the best. One of the "darkest" places to be in our lives is in the place of being examined, but rejected by those around us. By the very nature of rejecting someone, the one being rejected is being said to be useless or unsatisfactory to the one who is doing the rejecting. They have no purpose in our lives - therefore, we discard them, refusing to accept them and what they bring into our lives. One of the toughest things to learn to do with people who treat others as though they are "rejects" in this earth is to NOT reject them because of their "actions" of intolerance or judgment! It is only natural to want to reject those who hurt others, abuse us, or treat some as though their sins are too great. It is also a very dangerous place to tread - because we move into a place…

Replant me

Compared to ............ I am like ........... This is a pretty open-ended statement, but one we run over and over in our brains, most of the time without even being aware that it is happening! Why do we find it necessary to compare - to put things within our lives on a scale against what another has, does, or is on the opposite side of that scale? I guess we will never learn that God has a purpose for each of us - independent of what another does, is, or has! Comparison is often the very thing that erodes at our faith and brings decay into what we refer to as contentment or fulfillment. We need to guard against this erosion and decay, but how?
It makes little difference to me how you or any human court passes judgment on me. I even resist the temptation to compare myself to the ever-changing human standard. (I Corinthians 4:3)
If we spend today looking at ourselves in the mirror, what will we see? Will we see exactly what is there - no more, no less? Not likely - because we will eve…

Let God Breathe

There are always going to be things in this world that are too big and way too hard for us to understand. There are things that defy our understanding really - even though we say we understand gravity, do we really? I think the force of gravity is actually a God-breathed thing - not some force of nature. Colossians 1:17 reminds us that all things are held together by the hands of God. That makes gravity something that is kind of "God-breathed" - it is there because he is there! Do I have to understand that totally, or just trust that he is looking after his creation and takes every detail of our lives into his hands each and every moment? I think the the latter is probably closer to how we all want to live, but I also know many of us are 'silenced' by the things we don't understand - we get all focused on them and lose sight of the One who is always there and in control - even when we don't see or hear him.
O Eternal One, my heart is not occupied with proud …

Encouraged, Uplifted, and Protected

There is one statement we might just want to consider this morning: "I know ONE person who will never give up on me . . . GOD!" There are always going to be times when we find ourselves thinking everyone has given up on us, (it could be we are the ones giving up on ourselves), or that we want to give up on everyone else! When we feel like giving up, we are simply acknowledging we are at the end of our resources, aren't we? We are exhausted by the fight, worn down by the demands, or simply frustrated with the seemingly impossible odds. King David reminds us there are more "options" available to us than to just "give up" on life or ourselves. I think God wants us to hear this when we feel like the going is too hard or the times are too rough:

Let all who run to you for protection always sing joyful songs. Provide shelter for those who truly love you and let them rejoice. Our Lord, you bless those who live right, and you shield them with your kindn…

Holding those cards close to the vest...

Can I get you to stop what you are doing for just a moment to consider something? Do you have 100% confidence God hears you when you speak with him? I really would like you to consider very carefully your answer to that question. We don't always live in this bold confidence, do we? We sometimes just 'float things out there' past God's hearing ears in an attempt to see if we might be "on track" with what he might be 'inclined' to do in our lives. It is like we ask, but we don't really know for sure that God will honor our 'ask'. Scripture assures us that we can and should live in this bold confidence - God hears our voices. Sometimes he hears our collective voices - like when we are all gathered together and praying for a matter that we are all intent on seeing him take action in. Most often he hears our singular voice - when we cry out to him for those deeply held secrets and pains of our heart. I don't think the 'collective' …

A little game of hide and seek

Do you remember that old time game of hide and seek? All the kids in the neighborhood would gather together, then we'd pick someone to be the 'seeker' and all the rest of us would dash hither and yon in hopes of finding that perfect hiding spot so we would go undiscovered until we heard the loud cry of "All come free!" hollered across the yards. The one who had the task of seeking had to explore all the nooks and crannies, under objects, behind them, and even inside of them. We'd scamper up trees, nestle back inside a bushy hedge, or scramble into an empty box beside the house. All of this was in the hopes of not being found by the one doing the seeking. I wonder how many of us think God is the one 'hiding' while we are the ones doing the seeking? We may even be at the point in our lives where we feel like we need to call out, "All come free!", simply because we have been seeking way too long and been totally unable to find what it is we ar…

Time for a reset

Can you say you exercise 'good sense' the majority of the time? I know I can have moments of nonsense in my life - those times when the decisions or actions just did not make total sense. In fact, they kind of bordered on the ridiculous on occasion! The majority of the time, I exercise good sense by listening to wise counsel, heeding scriptures warnings, and not doing whatever my conscience says I should not do. These three don't always keep me out of trouble, but they go a long, long way toward helping me avoid those 'nonsense activities' that would only bring more trouble into my life.
Good sense brings blessing, but the road of the treacherous is long and rough. A clever person acquires knowledge and then acts on it; but a fool advertises his folly for all to see. (Proverbs 13:15-16)

Think of a clever person as one who is quick in their intellect, mentally bright, and quite able to handle issues as they arise. If that isn't how you'd describe yourself t…

Let's shed a little light on it

I don't know what God has planned for me or you or anyone, but I do know that in darkness, you discover an indistinguishable light.  (Cory Booker)
There are seasons in our lives that we might call those 'dark' times when we just feel like the clouds are closing in around us emotionally, physically, and even spiritually. We cannot avoid them anymore than we can avoid the influx of clouds up in the sky. We could try to outrun them, but then would we ever truly appreciate the light that comes after the darkness passes? Would we ever truly begin to influence the darkness if we never let our inner light shine? 
The light of the right-living brings joy as it burns brightly; the lamp of a wrongdoer will be snuffed out. (Proverbs 13:9)
The light within burns brighter than any darkness we can experience - even those times of deeper emotional darkness when we think we might just become totally undone, destitute and alone. I am not ashamed to say I have stood squarely in the midst of…

What's in your wallet?

True wealth is not of the pocket, but of the heart and of the mind.  (Kevin Gates)
I'd have to say there are a whole lot of 'posers' in this world today - people who proclaim great wealth and tend to 'flaunt it' a little at times. These same people are oftentimes poor in the true sense of the word - deficient, lacking, impoverished in the spiritual and emotional realm. Why is it that material wealth really doesn't satisfy us all that well? I think it is because we are made as 'tri-part' beings - body, soul, and spirit. All have to be fulfilled for their to be a true balance in life. We cannot neglect the spirit and feed only the body or soul. One cannot exist without the other. Wealth does little to feed the spirit, while it oftentimes overfeeds the body and soul. There is a lot of pretense in life, but we cannot pretend to have a healthy spirit apart from it being indwelt by the Spirit of God.
One pretends he is wealthy but has nothing, while another …