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Showing posts from June, 2020

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 …

No hold-back and no reserve

Do you ever put God to the test? By 'testing' God, I am not saying you stubbornly do something you have been wanting to do that you know is clearly outside of his will, but really just wholeheartedly leaning into him so much that you don't lean on anything or anyone else in your life for that thing you are seeking. Trust isn't established in the absence of doubt, is it? It isn't built in the absence of fear or even frustration. Trust is formed when we let go of doing something ourselves and allow another to come alongside, take over, and begin to lead us. Putting God to the test begins when we let go - when we fully lean into him and allow him to really move within our lives in the way he desires to move. Not just in areas where we 'feel comfortable' allowing him to move, but even in those areas of our lives where we find he might just do a little 'meddling'!

Oh, put God to the test and see how kind he is! See for yourself the way his mercies shower …

Listening, but not prepared to learn

School ended early for most students this year in the states due to the outbreak of Coronavirus. Kiddos were forced to stay home, parents being forced to educate them the best they knew how, and in the end, I am not sure how much real 'learning' happened with that option! If you are like my daughter, math isn't your strongest suite, and although she got passing grades, I know she struggles dearly to help the boys with their homework, let alone be in the role of needing to actually 'educate' them on principles and concepts they lost out on learning because school came to an early end. Learning is a two-way street. Someone has to be willing to learn and someone else has to be willing to teach. Do you know that willingness is the biggest part of learning? It isn't our 'smarts' that make us good learners - it is our willingness to sit there long enough, ask the right questions, and then experiment with what we are being taught until you finally lay hold of …

Light received is light reflected

A gift is something given voluntarily without payment in return, but how many of us attempt to 'pay for' some gift we have been given? If we have to pay for it, is it really a gift? I would say it is likely a “purchase”, not a gift. Why is it we treat God’s “gifts” in our lives as something similar to a purchase - something we must 'do something' in order to get? We try to “pay God back” for his grace – a gift of undeserved favor on his part - something we definitely will never be able to repay. We try to “pay God back” for the gift of salvation – a gift whose “purchase price” we were totally incapable of paying in the first place, so why even try? We need to recognize the “gifts” God gives are not something for which he ever expected payment in return - so we need to stop trying.

Receiving a gift is like getting a rare gemstone; any way you look at it, you see beauty refracted. (Proverbs 17:8 MSG)

Gifts are given – but they are also received. If I sent a gift each da…

Are you grazing?

There is a strange truth we might all want to consider when it comes to our hunger and being sated. The hungrier we are, the more we will 'take in' whatever is in our path. It might not even make sense, but we will eat and eat until we are no longer hungry. Come upon the same things when you are already sated and you will be less likely to find any appeal at all in them. Why? Sated bodies don't crave things the same way a hungry body does. The same holds true with a sated spirit and soul!

When you are full, you will not even eat honey. When you are hungry, even something bitter tastes sweet. (Proverbs 27:7)

A sated spirit and soul are going to help us avoid the 'intake' of things that are wrong for our lives. We are less likely to just 'bite into' whatever comes our way because we have been filled to overflowing already. Nothing appeals to us outside of what we have already enjoyed by sitting in the presence of Jesus and 'taking in' what he provid…

Let Christ Abide

I was speaking with my daughter this week about the senseless riots, protests, and negative things we see displayed everywhere in social media about those who serve our country in the capacity of law enforcement. I was disheartened to hear how one of our local law enforcement officers (the husband of one of her close friends) is being treated in the light of this latest unwarranted loss of life so many miles away across our country. Even our local law enforcement officers are receiving unwarranted threats, being harshly criticized for their choice of profession, and even live with the fear their parked cars may be vandalized because they bear an emblem in honor of a fallen police officer. Many of these men and women have chosen to serve, not to use their power or authority in any untoward manner, but because they want to serve and protect in ways that genuinely honor life. Many are believers themselves, raising up families within the faith, and trusting God with their lives each minut…

It isn't just osmosis

Have you heard of the process referred to as 'osmosis'? In a very simple sense, osmosis is the movement of water, not the particles dissolved or contained within the water. It is the process whereby our cells allow water to move in and out of them. Think of a dried up raisin for a moment. Have you ever put it in your oatmeal while you are cooking it? What happens to the raisin in the water mixture? Doesn't it swell up a bit, getting a little plumper and less 'hard'? What has happened? The water entered into the raisin because the sugar concentration of the raisin's inside is greater than the sugar concentration of the water on the outside. The equilibrium must be re-established and so the raisin takes on water. Did you ever stop for a moment to consider that wisdom and common sense are kind of like wrinkled up raisins in us? They are quite 'concentrated' until we allow the water of his Word to draw out the richness contained within them! As they stand, …

Stirring the coals a little

I have a tough question for us this morning - I will not apologize for meddling a bit. What is it you find your greatest contentment in? Is it your job? Perhaps your hobby? Some relationship that is blossoming or being renewed? Or maybe it is in what you have been able to accomplish in your community? If we are honest about what we find our contentment 'in', we might be more concerned about what we are 'in' and desire to change what is 'in us'.

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)

Contentment is really that deep sense of satisfaction we find in what we engage in, but more importantly in what engages within us. When God's grace engages within us, we find our focus on 'things' or 'others' who attempt to substitute for the contentment we find in him begins to dwindle away. The more …

The real issue is....

We can sometimes get ourselves into trouble without even knowing it because we try to make God's Word 'fit' our perceptions or lifestyle rather than the other way around. Our lifestyle is to 'fit' what he lays out for us in his Word, but we find it too hard to conform to the lifestyle sometimes and choose to 'bend the rules' a little to make it easier on ourselves. Any opportunity to bend the rules is really not an opportunity - it is a pitfall!

Every word of God proves true. He defends all who come to him for protection. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you, and you be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6)

If we would just keep in mind what God tells us about his Word, we might not resist following it so badly. EVERY word of God proves TRUE. Plain and simple - nothing discounted or left out. ALL of it proves TRUE each and every time we count on it and apply it to our lives. It is there for our safety - providing a 'hedge' of protection around us whe…

Empty so we can be filled

When something is hollow, it could be said to be empty, right? It has capacity inside that is just not filled up yet? A hollow barrel will have a resonance to it. Something extremely hollow, like a deep hole in the ground totally lacks resonance - we can throw a stone in it, but we may never hear it hit bottom - there is no "return" of sound to confirm the vastness of the hollowness. Some things are purposefully created hollow - such as a water pitcher, or the kitchen sink. They have a purpose in the way they were created, right? Guess what? So do we! We are created with a "hollow" deep within where God's Spirit is intended to fill us up. When this "hollow" is filled with anything other than his Spirit, the hollow may be "filled" but it often leaves us unsatisfied. Think about the kitchen sink for a moment. If it were filled with greasy, cold water, just how well could it accomplish its purpose of cleaning our dishes when we placed the…

Sleepless Nights

Have you ever had one of those 'sleepless nights' where you just toss and turn, taking short cat naps here and there, but not really getting a great deep sleep that lasts for hours? This happens to me maybe way more than I should admit! I usually get off to sleep well, but then awaken in a few hours, only to find that my mind starts working on something I was musing over, looking for a solution to earlier in the day. In those wee hours of the night, I often come to some pretty great conclusions, finding solutions that had evaded me earlier, and creating things in my mind that I could fashion in my workshop. Why is it that nighttime brings that solution or creative surge? I think it might just be our being environment being quiet enough to listen - both the one we live in and the one that lives in us!
I praise the Lord because he advises me.Even at night, I feel his leading. I keep the Lord before me always. Because he is close by my side, I will not be hurt. So I rejoice and am…

So, help is on the way

So I will look to the Lord for help. I will wait for God to save me. My God will hear me. I have fallen, but enemy, don’t laugh at me! I will get up again. I sit in darkness now,but the Lord will be a light for me. (Micah 7:7-8)
Do you ever have those days when all you can do is just look up or around, kind of dazed by the things you have encountered that day, and then just wonder if anyone else noticed you actually fell down? Falling down, or being pushed down by our enemy is quite easy - it is getting back up that is the hardest part! Some of us don't even have the energy to try because the things that led up to the falling down left us drawn, worn, and just plain empty. Isn't it a hard thing to wait for the Lord to be our help when all we want is to be free of whatever it is we managed to fall into? The truth is that quicksand only holds us more tightly, consuming a little more of us each time we attempt to struggle to find our way our alone! God didn't intend for us to …