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Showing posts from September, 2021

A work like no other

A workman has a particular skill or talent which becomes evident in what is produced as a result of their work. I think this is a pretty fair way to describe what God is - the one who creates not only who we are, but what becomes of our lives.  God has created us - not to live our own independent lives, but in Christ Jesus - to live lives FILLED with good works. These "good works" he has prepared for us to do - they are not random acts of kindness, but prepared, purposeful, divine appointments where we connect his love and grace with another's life through the actions we express. God has made us what we are. He has created us in Christ Jesus to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) In this same chapter, our writer focused on the church coming together, not with each individual doing their own thing, but in unity. There is purpose and intent in being in unity and it takes some getting used to as each individual has to lay

Stretcher Bearers Unite

  After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren’t able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Son, I forgive your sins.” (Mark 2:1-5) As we stop for a moment together today to spend a little time with Jesus, I want to pose a question to each of us - who would be your stretcher carriers? We all have friends, but who among your friends would actually push past the crowd, drag your sorry self to the top of the roof, deconstruct the obstacles in your way, and then ensure you were front and center with Jesus? Think on that one a bit - the ones you consider to be your friends will matter most when you stand in need of barriers being removed in your life -

How can I help?

  Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “ How can I help ?” (Romans 15:1-2) You and I have been blessed in so many ways, but did you realize the blessings we have today are often born out of times of leanness, grief, despair, and hardship? I can recount the times when the kids and I lived paycheck to paycheck, relishing a good thrift store find that helped to supplement our wardrobes, and even getting a used car that I could repair myself. We have way more blessings that we may realize, but what do we 'do' with those blessings? If we are to be obedient servants, we are to step in, lend that hand, and be of service where service is most needed. In other words, we who are blessed with so much and in so many ways are to become a blessing to others!

Be a gift giver

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. (Ephesians 4:29) Okay, so a little honesty here today, my friends. I don't always speak the most helpful or edifying words. Shocker, huh? Sometimes I just plainly put stuff out there without thinking too much about how it will make another feel, or how it will present the image of another to someone who overhears me. Not every word I speak would be considered a gift - sometimes those words are just plain garbage.  I don't think I am alone in this admission of guilt - some of your words are plain garbage, too. "Watching" the way we talk is the key to getting to the point our words begin to be less worthy of the garbage heap and more consistent with the love of God. Do you realize that words are the basis of many a break in relationships - betrayal and offenses being conveyed through the words someone speaks? If we want the 'breaks' to be mended in ou

Living in order to do that loving

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. (I John 3:18-20) To practice indicates there is a habitual or customary performance of something in your life. It is this repeated performance, or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring a skill or proficiency that we are looking at today. The difference between talk and practice is action - practice requires the action which actually backs up the talk. In other words, there is substance to it. Love is really an action, not just a "message" or a thing we "say". It requires action to back it up! As a matter of fact, the "means" by which we can evaluate if we are really living in the reality of being kids of the Ki

More than ever before

  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) We are all people-watchers of some fashion. Sometimes we don't even know we are doing it, but we are taking in how someone is talking, the way they walk, how they are dressed for the day, and even how they smell. We form some type of opinion of the individual based on what we see or sense, not always what they say, right? We watch for the 'non-verbal' to give us clues as to what the individual is really feeling or what they are 'after' in the course of their conversation with us. When we become 'God-watchers', we begin to see the world just a bit differently. We begin to see the things

Is there a mismatch here?

  Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish plotting. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats. (James 3:13) Boast if you must, but do it with a heart totally in love with Christ and your boasts will not be about yourself - they will be about the good things God has done in your life!  As we stop for a moment together today to consider the Word of God, can we focus on one portion of this passage together? I would like us to consider the words - "Its the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts." The way you live - your actions. The

Participate in this

  Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God.   (I John 4:16) The truth most of us would 'cop to' is that we have an issue with this "continuous" part of our Christian walk. We ALL waver from time to time, slip up with words and actions that don't actually reflect this closeness of relationship. God knows we will and he loves us anyway - in fact, he already has whatever grace is needed to get us right back into that 'intimate relationship'.  If you are like me, the idea of 'continuously' doing anything is kind of a daunting task. I don't have to think about my heart beating, taking a breath, or even sweating when I get hot in the Arizona sun. My body has an internal organ known as the brain that helps to keep all that going without my thinking about it. I wonder if we realize how 'uncomplicated' our lives could be if we were to leave things in the care of the one who car

Be THAT kind of friend

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 2:1-2) I revisit this passage frequently because it speaks deeply to me about the kind of friend I want to be to those God has placed in my life and the kind of friends I want to surround my life with, as well. Being in 'community' is important - but the right community is more important. If you have ever been in a relationship that is a bit of a 'drain' on you emotionally, physically, or spiritually - you know that you sometimes wish you could just escap

GOOD DAY ALL

Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what he’s asked; But he turns his back on those who do evil things. (I Peter3:8b) How many of us actually wake up on the side of the bed that has us wishing that only BAD things will come into our day? I daresay if this were the case, most of us would get a new bed! We wake up hoping for the day to bring us GOOD things, don't we? 😁We want our day to be filled to overflowing with GOOD - so shouldn't we be listening to what God says will actually produce GOOD things in our day? It begins with us - not the bed! We begin by paying close attention our 👄. We don't start the day with negative words - words that actually reek of evil intent and unkind motives. We choose to speak words that will uplift, encourage, and even create a

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