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Showing posts from June, 2021

Principled Life

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? (Mark 8:36) Let him lead - how do we actually do that? Most of us actually believe we want him to lead, but we have absolutely no clue how on earth we accomplish this in our lives. We 'intend' to let him lead and then all of a sudden, like an alien possesses our soul, we are doing what we want to do and forget all about letting him take the lead. What happened? It wasn't that we weren't desiring to let him lead - it was that we just didn't know how to do it. We are going to unpack this a bit, and it may not be what you want to hear, but I

The continuation begins now

Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.  (John Steinbeck) Time as we know it will come to an end at some point for each of us. My pastor used to say one thing was pretty much assured to each of us - death. At some point, regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, or even gender - death comes to all. The conclusion to that acknowledgement was that we need to make the most of each day until that moment catches up with each of us! In the point between our birth and our death, we have a whole lot of opportunities to choose to live for ourselves or for God - how we choose to live oftentimes determines how well we will embrace our death! Why? When we choose to live for God, according to his will for our lives, eternity is assured - we aren't afraid of death. Choose to live for yourself and your death may just be a thing you aren't really looking forward to! Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for

In your desperation...

Some of you wandered for years in the desert, looking but not finding a good place to live, half-starved and parched with thirst, staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion. Then, in your desperate condition, you called out to God. He got you out in the nick of time; He put your feet on a wonderful road that took you straight to a good place to live. So thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves. He poured great draughts of water down parched throats; the starved and hungry got plenty to eat. (Psalm 107:4-9) We might find ourselves moving from this to that, relationship to relationship, without any fixed plan - seemingly just 'flitting about' with no real end in mind. We are just meandering along, kind of oblivious to the results of some of the things we might involve ourselves in, or the influence of the people we might choose to hang out with. We might call this a state of "wandering" - aimless, clueless, and kind

Traffic Jam - Exit Here

Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” (Psalm 46:10) I know life gets hairy from time to time and the busy-ness of life just seems to consume us like a black hole, but when we take time to step out of the traffic for even a short while we could just be amazed at how much smoother the journey is when we have to step back into it! There is much to be said about taking time to rest and relax, but much more to be found in taking specific time in those times that is set aside specifically to spend a little time just meditating upon Jesus. There is more refreshing to be found in those times than any other - even when he may pinpoint a particular 'rough area' of your life that requires a little attention.  Whenever we step out of the traffic long enough to just &

Dryness results in thirst

“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) Jesus is on the way to the Feast of Tabernacles, an annual celebration lasting one week in duration which fell in the Fall season of the year. The celebration commemorated the memory of the time when Israel dwelt in tents in the wilderness - having been delivered from Egypt - but not quite ready to enter into their promised land of Canaan. Jesus has stayed back a while, kind of blending in with all the crowds of friends and family, allowing his immediate family to go on ahead. He has likely been dealing with all kinds of misunderstanding on the part of his brothers - probably because they did not recognize him as the Messiah. The journey to Jerusalem will reveal the intent of the religious leaders to undermine Jesus' teachings and ministry - as their opposition is beginning to escalate by

Utter amazement

God makes everything come out right; he puts victims back on their feet. He showed Moses how he went about his work, opened up his plans to all Israel. God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him. And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins. As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him. He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud. Men and women don’t live very long; like wildflowers they spring up and blossom, But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly, leaving nothing to show they were here. God’s love, though, is ever and always, eternally present to all who fear him, Making everything right for them and their children as they follow his Covenant ways and remember t

Timeshare or Ownership

Buy truth—don’t sell it for love or money; buy wisdom, buy education, buy insight. Parents rejoice when their children turn out well; wise children become proud parents. So make your father happy! Make your mother proud! (Proverbs 23:24) What is the difference between 'buying into' and 'buying'? If you are a timeshare owner, you know 'buying into' means you own a small portion (a share) of the property - one week a year. It is a vacation spot for you, but you don't permanently reside there. You 'bought into' it, but you didn't 'buy' it. When we purchase something it becomes ours, doesn't it? We now 'own it' and we are responsible for maintaining it. That timeshare - there is a company that maintains it based upon the fees you pay each year. The home you own is yours - plumbing, roofing, yardwork, and all the rest of the maintenance that goes into it. You have responsibilities that make the 'purchase' real and lasting.

Not a solitary existence any longer

Wind...stop for a bit with me today to consider the power of the wind around you. The passage I chose today deals with a prophesy given to the prophet Ezekial about an entire valley of dry bones - parts and pieces of life, scattered all around and in great mass. Skeletal remains all over the place, totally picked clean, dried up by the sun and time - bleached white because of how long they have been there. God leads him around the valley and then through it, experiencing the full vastness of both the expanse and the multitude of bones contained there. We probably won't experience anything like this in our lifetimes, but there is significant meaning within this prophesy for God's people of that time. I also think there could be a lesson or two for us - there is power in God's Spirit! 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.’ “Therefor

No bail out needed

Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. (Luke 11:13) Do you bargain with God? You know what I mean - those little prayers where you promise to do something if God does something you need him to do. It is never wrong to ask God to intervene when we need help, but have you ever stopped to consider if the 'mess' you need help in might have been avoided if you'd have spent a little more time 'up front' asking God if this was the direction you were to take in the first place? I know I am guilty of plunging ahead and then stepping back at some point wondering how on earth I "missed God" along the way! The truth is that I didn't miss him - he wasn't there to be found! It was a path he had advised me to not take in the first place - so when I took it, it was like he was just standing there waiting for me to realize I needed to turn around! That is how I get into those 'bargaini

Going down....I need you!

A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.  (Arnold H. Glasow) I've heard it said that it takes a very long time to grow a friend. I wonder how much time it takes to grow a best friend? A true friend that sticks with you through thick and thin - the good and the bad. I like the idea of a true friend getting in our way every time we might be going down a path that we would best leave untraveled. Isn't that what friends do for each other - looking out for the best interests of the other? That kind of friend is hard to find. I would like to suggest it is not that we 'find' a friend like this, but rather that this type of a friendship is 'grown' over time.  The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, and a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger. (Proverbs 25:11-12) The timely reprimand of a friend - we somehow have missed the importance of helping each other remain on the r

Remembering ...

Fathers, don’t frustrate your children with no-win scenarios. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. (Ephesians 6:4) I came across this passage today and wanted to just consider the impact of a father on his children. If you are without your father this Father's Day, you are likely to recount some of the terrific times, as well as some of those moments when you were frustrated with each other. If you never knew your father, or perhaps he had less than a desirable influence in your life, there are still lessens for us as we consider the role of a father today. Most importantly, I'd like us to consider the one Father above all other fathers today and remember how well he parents each of us on this journey. My father was a great man - I was blessed to have known such a tremendous influence in my life. He took me by the hand, teaching me skills most women don't ever get the chance to learn. I learned to drive a nail, cut wood with power tools, build an a

The time is NOW

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it . It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. (Ephesians 2:7-10) Here we are presented with the idea of comparing the "old" life we lived "before Christ" and the "new" life we now live "after Christ". Truth be told, the old way of life was stagnant - nothing good coming out of it. If you have ever tried to get clean in stagnant water, it leaves you feeling every bit as dirty as you did when you got into it

Ctrl+Shift+EasyMeal

Are you a shortcut kind of person? I like the quick keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste instead of right clicking, selecting from menu, each step of the way. I like the quicker kind of meal preps like one skillet casseroles. I also like it when God gives me a word to brighten my day or bring much needed wisdom so I don't have to hunt for it very hard on my own! Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention. (Matthew 7:13-14) Shortcuts to God aren't going to get us what we hoped to gain. We might find we can read a short 'prepared' devotional passage in a really neat devotional book, and it will even speak to our spirit on some level, but it shouldn't be our 'steady diet plan' for how we hear from God. The truth is that God wants

But I don't feel loved...

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, you’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. (Psalm 139:7-12) Useless. Unsatisfactory. Not measuring up. One of the "darkest" places to be is in the place of rejection. There we find the individual actually believing they have no purpose in our lives - discarded by those who should accept them, oftentimes refusing to accept them and what they bring into their 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 super

Guided or Herded?

I don't know about you, but I need to be taught to make the right choices. I might 'know better' than to do some things like putting my hands on a hot stove or getting my thumb too close to the hammer when driving a nail, but did I just 'get that' intuitively? No, I had to learn the hard way - through experience. It wasn't that mom didn't warn me the stove was hot - she did many times. It wasn't that dad didn't show me the right way to hold a nail and hammer - he did many times. I just didn't listen - I didn't learn the first time, either! I had many a 'hot moment' experience and have hit that same thumb more times than I can count! With each time I made the wrong choice, there was the opportunity for me to learn to make the right ones. In all of life wrong choices aren't 'wasted' - they are times when we can 'come back around' to the place where we learn to make the right ones the next time. Oh! Teach us to live

No more brute strength

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19) I know I am guilty of trying to do things in my own 'brute strength' from time to time, but that 'brute strength' doesn't always help me get it done as well as I'd like. When God's inner strength is what is innervating my actions, the outcome is quite different. His strength comes by simply opening the door. How many times we keep that door so tightly shut, avoiding at

No one left out, none left behind

God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) I emphasized those words today because the idea of building one another up has come up twice in my daily devotions in the past two days. If God gives us a word over and over again, it is time to sit up straight, pay attention, and see what he wants for you to do. Speaking encouraging words may sometimes seem like it borders on what some call 'flattery'. It is like we think hearing we are valued, doing a good job, mean a lot to someone, and are appreciated is not all that true or just 'empty words'. You could be right when the words are spoken from

In his hands we find...

Riches and glory come from you, you’re ruler over all; You hold strength and power in the palm of your hand to build up and strengthen all. (I Chronicles 29:11) This is only part of the verse, but it is that last sentence that captured my attention this morning. I took a short walk by myself as the morning began to heat up around here and spent some time just meditating on what God was going to have me 'do' once I move into my retirement. I asked questions, pondered the family, thought about my best friend, heard him remind me of some things I had desired to do 'when I had time', and then I just plain listened. You might just be overwhelmed with the sense of his presence and the strength that comes as he builds you up in it. God really does hold all strength and power in the palm of his hands - to build up and strengthen us all.  As I pondered my next steps, I spent some time thanking God for what he has done for me in the realm of my finances - making it possible for

Get rid of the sack

A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. (Proverbs 15:1) It is fire season here in Arizona - summer storms bringing lightning strikes that catch very dry timber on fire very easily. With the approaching monsoon season, the winds begin to pick up and the afternoon winds seem to carry those embers to new areas very easily, allowing the fire to spread sometimes with wild abandon. Add to this the complexity of rocky crags that make doing any kind of fire-line breaks almost impossible and you have the makings of very resistive fires. What the firefighters seem to dread more than anything is that weather report indicating the winds will pick up, or never die down for long periods of time. Why? They realize every wind gust means longer days and nights of fighting that fire! Gentle breezes are one thing, but the gusts of our rainy season are another. Gentle breezes mean you might just get ahead of the fire's spread. The billowing gusts of up to 60 mph sign

Be good or be made good

It was Henry David Thoreau who reminded us, "Be not simply good - be good for something". I am reminded today of what it means to be good - because I see around me lots of individuals who have allowed the creation of a rewarding and fulfilling life flow within their lives. How? By inviting Christ into their lives - not as a guest - but as the one to take control, guide their steps, and fill their lives with a totally different meaning than they had known. In short - they were made good - then they were made good for something! Apart from Christ, we can do 'good actions' and even have a little 'good intent' within our hearts. With Christ in control, our lives are more than just 'good actions' - they are good to the core. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and wha

You want me to be real?

In the same way, I urge you who are younger: accept the authority of the elders. And everyone, clothe yourselves with humility toward each other. God stands against the proud, but he gives favor to the humble. (I Peter 5:5) If you have ever looked at someone and thought how miserable their life must be, you may just be right. I often think some people want to walk a different road than they are traveling. Their way is complicated with all kinds of relationship issues, their daily path riddled with things which have spun out of control, and their way forward is just plain hard for them to understand, much less walk. When I look upon these individuals, my heart breaks. Their choices have resulted in more hardship and "heart-hurt" than anyone would want to face. Yet, they often refuse the very advice they need to get them out of the place they are in! If you have ever encountered an individual like this, then you probably have tried to give them some "good advice",

What do your clothes say about you?

Mark Twain once said, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." Now, give this one a little thought! I guess Mark Twain did not stop to consider what would come almost a century later! Yet, he made a very pointed observation which has remained a frequently repeated mantra throughout the generations - "Clothes make the man" may be very well true in corporate America, but I'd like us to consider a different type of 'clothing' this morning. Naked people - people without strong moral character - they have little or no influence on society - at least not in a very positive manner.   I will sing for joy in God, explode in praise from deep in my soul! He dressed me up in a suit of salvation, he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo and a bride a jeweled tiara. For as the earth bursts with spring wildflowers, and as a garden cascades with blossoms, so the Master, God, brings righteo

Two keys

Many of us attempt to talk to God without ever entering into his house - into his presence. I guess we could talk to someone outside of our house by opening the door and shouting through the screen door, or through the screen of the window. There are seasons when the door or window are just not practical to be opened, though. If we really want to share communion with the each other, isn't it more practical to be invited in and to actually enter? Being face to face is a much better way to hear each other and it is much better to be free to be right there next to each other. There are times we try to relate to God without ever entering into his presence - like we are shouting through the screen door, but not really getting close enough to actually be touched by him. We have been invited, but we don't actually turn the 'knob' that opens the door to allow us to enter in fully. On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence. Know t