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Showing posts from 2021

Be Settled

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails. (Proverbs 19:21) I find we don't always get the best from the most - we often get the best when we are able to filter it down to the least. Brainstorming is a technique we employ for solving problems, amassing information, stimulating creative thinking, or developing new ideas, by unrestrained and spontaneous participation in discussion. If you have ever been part of a "brainstorming" session in a large group, you know you can generate a whole bunch of ideas in a short period of time using this technique.  We have all kinds of options and formulate all manner of plans. As we interact with God and others, we have this continual "brainstorming" session going on in our mind! We throw up ideas, often without much calculation, and see if any of them "sound okay" for us to be pursuing. The real danger comes in us "throwing up" so many ideas! Have you ever had too many o

One tiny stone is all you need

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. (Psalm 121:1-2) Look at the mountains and catch a little glimpse of just how majestic God's care must be - boulders balancing precariously on each other, one right after the other - standing there for years on end without any perceptible movement at all. The Arizona desert has many areas like this and each pass I make through those areas on various day trips makes me just pause a bit to consider the wonder of God. One tiny stone holds all the weight of those huge boulders - making it impossible for them to topple. The 'strength' of the mountain is really not in the massive stones, but in the tiny ones that are lodge into the wedges that hold those bigger ones in place! We see the massive and think the strength must be there, but in God's way of doing things, it is oftentimes the littlest things that bring the greatest strength into

Extravagant Love

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. (Ephesians 5:1-2) When you stop long enough to watch another, you might just see a thing or two which you'd have missed otherwise! The power of "observation" is a learned habit. It just doesn't happen one day. In fact, you have to learn to look beyond the surface to get really good at this - otherwise, you draw conclusions which are far from reality. It would be like the game we used to play as kids. We'd see someone or something and we'd make up some kind of story about what we were seeing. We saw what we wanted to see and formed the story around what we interpreted in our mind's eye! But...in the

More than good enough

  So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. (Philippians 3:15-16) What goal do you have in mind for today? As much as we may not think we have any particular goal in mind, we actually do have one. We may just want to make it a day of leisure and relaxation, but that is a goal. We may want to finish a project that has been looming over our heads, just waiting for the right time to be brought all together. It is good to have goals - they help to keep us directed and on course. Get distracted by something that stands in the way of your day's goal and you may just become a little 'testy'. Don't believe me? Ever plan to just get away for the day and go out to the garage to find your tire flat or battery run down, making it impossible to even start i

Backed by the right stuff

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (I Corinthians 13:3) Bankrupt : Unable to satisfy any just claim made upon an individual; lacking in a particular thing or quality. For just a moment, let's focus on something we seldom spend enough time thinking about - love. We throw the word "love" around like it is a "thing" rather than a quality, or an outflow of a person's life. For anyone who has been around a while, it is not uncommon to have heard some familiar passages quoted from scripture about love. One of the best known: "And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." I think we have this concept of love where we focus more on some emotional experience than anything else. Our exploration of love's true meaning begins with the idea of saying, believing, and doing - all devoid of meaning without the "backing" of love. I think we may go throu

Eagerly Embraced

Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ— God’s  righteousness. (Philippians 3:6-9) As I have now taken the next step in my life known as retirement, I have been looking back over the years and there is one thing I know for sure - I did a whole lot of striving for things that really didn't produce as much as they promised along the way. That isn't to say I didn't accomplish good things along the way, but I am free now to look back at some of those times when I was merely spinning my wheels on stuff that really wouldn't matter much to anyone,

Change things, God!

Most of us would think of a "circumstance" as something which modifies or influences what will happen next - what the outcome will be. When we have the right one in charge of the "circumstances", there is no "modifier" beyond our ability to deal! Do you know what a drought is? It the simplest sense, it is a period of "dryness". Most "dry spells" are not a matter of our doing. They are the result of some "circumstances" beyond our control. In the times of "dryness" there is much at work attempting to modify our responses - perhaps even shaping our outcome. In the time of dryness we have a couple of options: 1) scheme our way through it, figuring and refiguring a way to bring life back ourselves; 2) bolt, looking for refreshment in any other place than where we are at; or 3) hunker down, trusting God for the refreshing rains just around the corner. I don't know about you, but I don't want to the varied circums

Readily and Cheerfully

  Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. (Philippians 2:14-16) Do everything readily - promptly, easily, and willingly. Do everything cheerfully - ungrudgingly, joyfully, with brightness. These two instructions might just seem a little bit like a summary at the beginning of our study and you would be right. We are told to 'go out' and as we do we are to shine as bright examples of his grace - grace upon grace. Why? So others will have a chance to meet the living God - the God who lives and breathes in us - so they may embrace this grace upon grace for themselves. An even taller order comes when we consider there is to be no bickering - petulant arguments get u

Do me a favor

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (Philippians 2:1-4) Has God's love made ANY difference in your life? What is that difference? Most of us will likely say that our lives were changed for the good, while others will say there was a dramatic change. Some left behind lifestyles marked by all manner of outward sin - like drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, or even thievery. There are many that will admit the things they left behind were just a bit subtler - what we can call inward sin - things like jealousy,

Did I just say that?

  So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11) Have you ever been on a telephone call with someone and at the end of the conversation you find yourself proclaiming "Love ya" just before you hang up? That may not be all that bad if it is a family member, a close friend, or even a life-long close relationship - but when it is your boss, the IT guy fixing your computer tech issues, or the like . . . that is a little awkward! It is like you say it - totally unthinking - then your eyes pop open in horror at that very moment those words escape your mouth and

Shoe Leather Wearing Thin?

Between saying and doing, many a pair of shoes is worn out.  (Iris Murdoch) Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? (James 2:14-17) Outrageous nonsense indeed. Many a pair of shoes is worn out. Why? We spend way more time trying to figure out if we will move in total abandonment toward obedience than we might realize. We might not even realize how many 'steps' we are taking to attempt to find some 'other way' than the one God asks us to take! In the 'wandering' here and there, attempting to find some '

Parenthood

Point your kids in the right direction— when they’re old they won’t be lost. (Proverbs 22:6) I used to think raising kids was going to be an easy task, but even after they are grown and on their own, you are not off the hook! They come to you with problems they need help solving, and if they are fortunate enough to be raising kids themselves, they are coming to you for advice on how to tackle their present parenthood issues. While being a parent is no easy task, I wonder what it is like for God to 'parent' an entire world full of individuals bent on making their own decisions, choosing their own plans, and acting completely contrary to wisdom at times? I wonder if God is 'pointing us in the right direction' and then stands confident that we will not be lost in the end? God certainly does a great deal 'rearing' of his kids, doesn't he? Imagine how much attention he has had to pay to your own life. Don't think about anybody else right now - just yourself.

Seeing the pieces?

I love God because he listened to me, listened as I begged for mercy. He listened so intently as I laid out my case before him. Death stared me in the face, hell was hard on my heels. Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn; then I called out to God for help: “Please, God!” I cried out. “Save my life!” God is gracious—it is he who makes things right, our most compassionate God. God takes the side of the helpless; when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me. (Psalm 116:1-2) It is both heart-warming and a little bit of a bummer that we have to come to the end of our ropes to find God waiting on us, isn't it? I wonder if there is a lesson in finding ourselves in the place where we feel totally helpless - not hopeless, but helpless. In other words, we find ourselves in extreme need, but don't know how to meet that need anymore in our own efforts. I think God is right there just waiting for us to get to that very point - because when we finally admit we 'cannot', h

Stones of Honor

That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home. (Ephesians 2:19) You belong here - those are words many of us are longing to hear, aren't they? We go through life wandering from this to that, trying out one thing or another, all in hopes of finding where we 'fit'. God is building a home - not with bricks and mortar - but will lives. Your life and mine all fit together in perfect union -

I have not yet begun to fight!

If fear is cultivated it will become stronger, if faith is cultivated it will achieve mastery.  (John Paul Jones) These words were spoken by an American naval Captain who lived in the 1700's - words that remain as true today as they were when they were spoken. A lot of things attempt to create a culture of fear around each of us today - wars, rumors of wars, deadly viruses, and unprecedented disasters caused by outlandish weather fronts. We could grow quite weary trying to fight off the fear, but rather than weary ourselves by attempting to fight it off, let's work to cultivate faith instead. The more we cultivate our faith - or allow Christ to cultivate it within us - the less fearful things will intimidate us! ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side. I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’ Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. (Isaiah 41:10) If we are 'serv

Go ahead...move the pieces

“This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.” (John 6:39-40) I like it when Jesus boils things down to make them very plain - comprehensible to our finite brains. What was handed over to Jesus by the Father? You and I - mankind. What is his purpose in handing us over to Christ? To see that everyone of us is 'put together' - made upright and whole - not wavering in any regard. Align with him - enter real life! Does that mean all other forms of 'life' are not real? It means that all life without Christ falls far below the potential we could be living within if we chose

Never apologize

Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth.   (Benjamin Disraeli) Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. (Romans 12:15-16) It is hard to hear how much tragedy is touching families these days. Family members lost to this virus; others surviving it, but left with life-long debility. Jobs lost; mementos buried under rubble; homes no longer habitable due to natural disasters. Entire countries in unrest; people senselessly murdered for their beliefs or unwillingness to bow their knee to the ruling authorities. The worst of the worst can leave one wondering where it will all end. It is likely you have been 'emotionally' vested in the lives of those who have experienced such a tragedy. Crying until tears no longer come - groaning in agony with those who su

That big, huh?

God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks. (Psalm 36:5-6) Meteoric - brilliant, appearing suddenly and without warning, swiftly revealed. That is an amazing way to describe God's love toward his kids. The brilliance of his love enlightens any soul - bringing light into places where light may not have dwelt for quite some time. It appears swiftly - sometimes without our noticing it has come, but somehow enveloping us in the warmth and brilliance of it. God's love doesn't come with a 'warning' that he is about to 'love you'. A man might get down on one knee to propose - a sign that his love for a woman is greater than anything else he has felt before and his heart delights in just her. God's love isn't quite as 'momentary' - it comes when we need it most, sometimes in ways we least expect it, and always with

Our collective knowledge

People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.  (Epictetus) I cannot help but find this quote a little 'practical' today. Isn't this what all these debates on each side of an argument do to us? They disturb something within us - not because the ideal is wrong, but the view we take of the ideal might be less than 'right' in somebody's view. It amazes me that a Greek philosopher from the first century actually might remind us of something so profound. We are 'disturbed' more by the 'side' we assume than by the 'thing' we are debating! Are you also aware that Epictetus said, "If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid"? Maybe some of us just need to take our stand, but stop debating the 'views' of all the others who think us foolish and stupid! But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the

Become the means...

Get out the message—God Rules! He put the world on a firm foundation;  He treats everyone fair and square. (Psalm 96:10) There are times when we have nothing to say and at others we are unable to keep our mouths shut at all. How is it we can have so much to say on one topic and nothing on another? I purposefully stopped listening to the news channels except for on occasion here and there. In fact, my BFF oftentimes has to tell me something catastrophic has happened because I have not 'heard the news'. Why did I stop listening? It was so much of the same negative stuff and I didn't need fill my mind with a million different 'takes' on why something happened the way it did. Give me the facts - lives were lost, pray for our nation and their families - leave it there! The news stations don't do that, though. They review time and time again the same clips, factoids, and the interviews until you can almost rehearse them ad nauseum. I'd rather get the word out that

Alive and Well - Because of Him

Were you fortunate to have the kind of friend on the playground who actually stood up for you when the bullies came to make trouble for you? I remember more than one of those occasions when the group of playground thugs would be headed my way - a loner on the playground, nary a friend close by to stand up for me. It made me very uncomfortable and the rest of the day usually went fairly poorly because others would have observed their ability to put me down, driving home some point about how I didn't really 'fit' in their crowd. Amazing what a bully can do to one's self-worth - making one feel lower than dirt. I no longer face 'bullies' in this life alone - Christ stands up for me! Who stood up for me against the wicked? Who took my side against evil workers? If God hadn’t been there for me, I never would have made it. The minute I said, “I’m slipping, I’m falling,” your love, God, took hold and held me fast. When I was upset and beside myself, you calmed me down

Things that go thump in the night

So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or de

Just asking....

When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you...(Psalm 42:8) Do you ever end up in the mulligrubs? Oh, you don't know what mulligrubs are - let me tell you a little about that place. It is a place of despondency, sullenness, or even an ill-tempered mood. Now, answer my question honestly - do you ever end up in the mulligrubs? As hard as you tried not to end up there, your day started wrong, went on being wrong, and ended even more wrong than it started! The outcome - mulligrubs. Grumpiness is another term we may hear used for this old-fashioned word. If we were to say this of a baby, we'd say they have the 'colic'. Misery and woe - pain they cannot explain - pain no one else seems to know how to fix. The 'toned down' meaning of this term is kind of feeling 'blah', or being in a 'funk'. Truth be told, we all 'get there' from time to time, but probably have learned to mask it a little better than someone else! In the dum

Are you evangelical?

The wise counsel God gives when I’m awake is confirmed by my sleeping heart. Day and night I’ll stick with God; I’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go. (Psalm 16:8) I have been asked why I am not a bit more 'evangelical'. What is really being asked is why am I not a bit more ardent in my message, or zealous in the presentation of the gospel truth? Why is it I am not 'shouting from the rooftops' the hope that dwells deep within my heart? Why am I not 'out there' more? Truth be told, it isn't about the 'forwardness' or 'religiousness' one exhibits, but the ability for others to see Christ in your life and want what you have. I haven't had too many positive responses to 'hell fire and damnation' sermons - but I have seen others develop an honest hunger for Christ because the 'thing' I have made them more than a little curious how they could have the same thing! I am probably going to step on a few toes today, so h

A shelf vs. a closet?

  So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books. (2 Peter 1:5-9) Have you ever frittered away a day, only to find at the end of the day you didn't accomplish as much as you set out to accomplish? There have been days when my list was so long and my accomplishments so few - leaving me with an even bigger list the next day. Early on in my career I learned to do something called 'prioritizing my goals'. I had work that required my immed

Your last resort?

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with  getting,  so you can respond to God’s  giving . People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  (Matthew 5:32-33)   I saw something on Facebook some time back that simply read:  "Make God your first priority...not your last resort". Short and sweet, but quite accurate.  "Seek first the kingdom of God..."  It is easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of seeking all kinds of bargains in life, but are they really 'bargains' at all?  I use this passage this morning because it really captures well what I feel in my heart right now.  Sometimes we think the gift WE give or the talent WE bring is meant to fulfill the desires of the hearts of someone other than God.  In rea

Holy Spirit Come

Post a guard at my mouth, God, set a watch at the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3) Before thermometers were a common thing in every medicine cabinet, parents used to "test" their children for fever by placing their lips on the forehead of the child. It seemed like an odd way to do it since we have seen people repeatedly use their hands laid across the forehead to "evaluate" the feverishness of another. Using one's lips to judge 'fever' was a pretty doggone accurate process! More accurate than the hand. The lips have a great many "sensitivity" receptors which allow them to be pretty accurate at interpreting what touches them. The "sensitivity" receptors of our lips should actually work both ways - affected by what leaves our mouths, and by what touches it! Maybe this is why our psalmist prayed for God to post a guard at his mouth - the entry and exit point for many a good or bad thing in his life! He is actually probably asking God