Showing posts from January, 2022

This is not unspoken

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?" (Matthew 7:7-8) I know it is sometimes pretty hard to admit our true need, but try as we might to 'skirt the truth', the first step to seeing that need met could just be our admittance of that need. There are times we go all around the issue when we talk with our Lord, trying to get it out without really having to say what it is we are looking for in our meeting with him. We seem to want our need met, but we aren't being direct about what that specific need really is. This is one reason I cringe when someone says they have an unspoken prayer request. God

Tell him what you think...go ahead

So tell me what you think. Look at the evidence. Put your heads together. Make your case. Who told you, and a long time ago, what’s going on here? Who made sense of things for you? Wasn’t I the one? God? It had to be me. I’m the only God there is—The only God who does things right and knows how to help. So turn to me and be helped—saved!—everyone, whoever and wherever you are. I am God, the only God there is, the one and only. I promise in my own name: Every word out of my mouth does what it says. I never take back what I say. Everyone is going to end up kneeling before me. Everyone is going to end up saying of me, ‘Yes! Salvation and strength are in God!’” (Isaiah 45:32-23) When we 'get' to say all we want to say, it is not always what you might want to have anyone else hear! Sometimes you actually learn things about yourself - other times you learn things about the other person - and sometimes you learn things about other people not even involved in the conversation! Imagin

Is it really a way of escape?

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-3) Is anyone else like me, trying to get out of something a bit 'prematurely' because they are harder than you expected when you went into it? Trust me on this one, you and I will just find the next challenge a bit harder, so we might as well buckle down and finish this one! There is something that is 'required' of us and we need to see it through, or else face the next 'something' in order to do it all over again. What is required? I don't know what your particular 'challenge' is right now, but whatever it is, God has a plan in it. That may seem a little hard for some to swallow, especially when the issue at hand seems kind

Dazzle 'em

“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them." (Matthew 7:12) A lot of times we make things so complicated in terms of defining 'good behavior'. I think God put it out there quite plainly - figure out what you would want others to do for you - then turn the tables and do it for THEM. Grab the initiative - this means we have to pay attention, be on top of our game, be looking for ways to be a blessing. Too many times we miss the moments when we could have made a difference if we'd have just 'grabbed the initiative'.  Initiative is all about 'taking charge' - it is the 'setting in motion' of one action that may just lead to another. Don't take the initiative unless you are committed for the long haul - there may be more actions God will ask of you and you must be willing to step forward with the next action, not just the first one. If there is

We need a playbook here

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. (I Corinthians 10:13) Pay close attention to the words here - nowhere in scripture does it ever say a Christian will be 'problem-free' in life, nor that temptation and testing will somehow just magically never come our way. In fact, it promises there will be both testing and temptation - trials of our faith; testing of our conviction and dedication. What is promised is that God will ALWAYS be right there to help us come THROUGH it. He never leaves us defenseless - he expects us to set up good defenses BEFORE we have to go THROUGH them! All of us have to face trials and temptations - there is no way to escape the fact they will come our way. If we prepare AHEAD of time, going THROUGH them with Christ at our side will mean we s

A tough place

But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you. (Isaiah 43:1-4) Israel finds themselves in the midst of a tough place - kind of like when we find ourselves somewhere we got ourselves into and don't have a clue how to get out of on our own! As faithful as God is, he speaks into their "tough place". "But now...." Remember, I have a fascination with words - so even th

What could go wrong?

Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping. (I Corinthians 16:13-14) Keep your eyes open. The eyes are the window to the soul - they give insight into the condition of the man in what they reveal. Having our eyes opened is the beginning of seeing. Try to see with your eyes closed! You probably do a poor job of actually avoiding the hazards in your path when you do! Eyes have the purpose of allowing input - taking in what they behold, interpreting that input as either pleasant or not, beneficial or not, or even beautiful or not. The eyes are the gateway into a man's heart - the input we receive moves us in some respect. It is almost impossible to take input without some form of output! We are asked to remain in a position of taking in what God puts in our path. Be vigilant and aware, for in being alert, we can respond to what we receive as input. We can plan our escape, our response we will have in the

Make some sawdust

Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (John 8:31-32) There is nothing that frees an individual quite like God's truth. Truth is worthless if it is not embraced - trusted, put into practice, and worked out in one's life. We can 'know' all kinds of truth, but if we never use it, it is just knowledge. I 'know' a woodworking tool known as a router can be outfitted with a bit that can help me make dovetail joints. With the right jig, I can create wonder 'connections' for boxes, drawers, and shelving. I 'know' it can be done - I have never done it. I have knowledge, but I lack the practical application of what it is I know. When we treat God's truth as 'knowledge' and don't actually get to the point of practical application, we aren't going to

I'm right, aren't I?

If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. (I John 4:20-21) This one may seem like a tough one for some of us because there are some individuals we really don't have any positive feelings toward, aren't there? Try as we might, we just don't understand what they are doing, how they are behaving, or where they seem to be headed, oftentimes taking others with them on their misguided journey. We 'want' to love them like Christ asks us to, but we struggle with actually finding much of any type of 'redeeming qualities' in those individuals. I am by no means an expert example in this area of loving ALL people, but just some thoughts on how I deal with the ones I find it hard to 'like', much less 'love&#

Seeing and Hearing

Ears that hear and eyes that see—we get our basic equipment from God! (Proverbs 20:12) If you have ever looked into buying some new appliance, a new car, or even a new home built to your specifications, you probably have had to consider just how many "bells and whistles" you wanted (or could afford within your budget). The basic model comes with just the minimums - the more you add, the more the costs add up. The $799 "deal" you saw advertised becomes $1599 because you just could not imagine life without the extra spin cycles, steam feature, and the automatic sensor for this or that! Sometimes we find the "extra" stuff we just "had to have" gives us more headaches than they are worth in the end! The "basic equipment" given to us by God are ears that hear and eyes that see. We take the "basics" for granted, focusing more on the "bells and whistles" we'd want to have, don't we? Whenever I hear someone say

Not every stone is a stumbling block

While Samuel was offering the sacrifice, the Philistines came within range to fight Israel. Just then God thundered, a huge thunderclap exploding among the Philistines. They panicked—mass confusion!—and ran helter-skelter from Israel. Israel poured out of Mizpah and gave chase, killing Philistines right and left, to a point just beyond Beth Car. Samuel took a single rock and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it “Ebenezer” (Rock of Help), saying, “This marks the place where God helped us.” (I Samuel 7:10-12) Israel had allowed the unthinkable to happen - they had compromised their stand with God by taking on the worship of idols and the practices of the lands around them. This was something God had warned them not to do. As a result, they lost the help of God in the midst of their battles - to those who don't know this portion of the Old Testament, it was the Ark of the Covenant - the 'place' of God's presence. The armies of the Philistines were known fo

Another 'can', please

He asked the boy’s father, “How long has this been going on?” “Ever since he was a little boy. Many times it pitches him into fire or the river to do away with him. If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!” Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!” (Mark 9:21-24) We have probably heard the saying, "No ifs, ands, or doubts..." - meaning we need to finish a task and make absolutely no excuses for not having it done when the time comes for it to be completed. Our teachers in school set deadlines for reports - meet the deadline or the report would be reduced a full letter grade for each day it was late! Our parents left us with lists of chores, expecting each one to be marked off as complete before we ever turned on the TV or meandered throughout the neighborhood with our friends. Even our employers give us tasks and expec

Prepare for the worst

Guilt is banished through love and truth; Fear-of-God deflects evil. (Proverbs 16:6) Guilt is a tough opponent, isn't it? That guilt we all carry around in our lives is like a 'cling-on' - kind of undetected but wearing away at us as time goes by - it resists separation at all cost. I have some sweaters that have those balled up pieces of lint that gathers everywhere and make them look a little less than stellar. They are comfortable, but they don't look very nice anymore. Those 'cling-on' bits and pieces refuse to separate themselves from those sweaters - even when I pluck them away, it just leaves a place for another bit or piece of lint to gather. Guilt is kind of like that - we get rid of some of it, but it leaves 'raw places' in our lives that seem to get 'filled' again with memories of the 'bits and pieces' that were shed from that spot. When mom was alive, she used to buy things from one of those places that sent the catalogs all t

Planning ahead

Have you ever made a bad decision? Have you ever made more than one followed by another? If so, you are in good company. I have made good decisions, followed by bad. I have made wrong choices, letting my emotions over-rule what I know to be true. I have also made some impulsive decisions, while taking way too long to make others and found I missed the opportunity I was hoping to get by taking all that time to make. We make decisions at times that are more than 'momentary' decisions - they will impact our future for a lot longer than we expected. It is hard to decide before we have to make a particular decision to make it a certain way, but 'pre-deciding' makes it easier to make the right decisions later on. Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place. (Proverbs 16:3) If we take the steps today to determine our course of action before we have to make a choice, we are more likely to make the best choice in the moment. I get my groceries once a

Seek good and not evil

Seek good and not evil— and live! You talk about God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, being your best friend. Well, live like it, and maybe it will happen. Hate evil and love good, then work it out in the public square. Maybe God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, will notice your remnant and be gracious. (Amos 5:14-15) I know today's passage was written during Old Testament times, but it bears looking at today. The message doesn't grow old just because of when it was written - those words to seek good and not evil apply to any generation. The hope is that we will not only 'live', but live well. Hating evil and loving good is kind of a moving target for some these days. It is something my college instructors used to call 'situational ethics'. When the 'norms' of society are shifted in one direction or another, the 'ethics' of yesterday may not be the ones we maintain today. I honestly think our world is constantly in a state of flux when it comes to eth

Observe to Serve

Sometimes people tell me they don't know how God 'works', or what he 'expects' them to do. They are really trying to tell me they are having a hard time discerning God's will for their lives. The truth of the matter is that all of us struggle with this from time to time, but we don't have to look very far to find answers to our questions. 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) Watch what God does - first in your own life, then in the lives of others who have chosen to follow him. Why? God knows we learn best by example. We see, do, then teach. This is the natural cycle. As we become familiar with what he does in our lives, w

Get your head in the game

If someone were to tell you to 'roll up your sleeves', what would that indicate you were about to do? If they told you to 'get your head in the game' at about the same time, do you think that might just challenge you a bit to 'refocus' - pay attention, be alert, stop ignoring stuff around you? If those words came from God, would they carry any greater meaning than if I said them to you? They should! God isn't about to let us sit around being 'lazy Christians'. He wants us alert, active, and attentive to his direction. So roll up your sleeves, get your head in the game, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.” (I Peter 1:

Learn to do good

Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless. (Isaiah 1:16-17) Yesterday we looked at the meaning of fairness and justice - the hallmarks of one who is developing a close, intimate relationship with Jesus. Today, let's look at some other things God defines as 'hallmarks' of a dedicated life. There is more than a desire to resist wrong in life - there is an 'active engagement' in resisting wrong. That which deviates from truth or fact is resisted - actively, intentionally, and with great effort at times. It is far from easy to 'say no to wrong' because wrong has such an appeal to our earthly nature. How is it we stay true and plumb in our walk? I think it comes by learning to do good - not just 'do' good, but embracing the goodness of God within us and then walking in that goodness. We allow our actions to align with that truth. Work for justice - as indicated yes

Taking God seriously?

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously. (Micah 6:8) On occasion someone will announce to me that they aren't sure what they are supposed to be doing with their lives - they are not certain God is using them, where he wants them to be or go, or that they are 'in his will' in a particular situation. Truth be told, all we have to do is ask God's direction and he is sure to let us know. If we explore scripture, we see examples of both what we are supposed to do in this life and the things we are not supposed to be pursuing. Live honestly - forsake anything dishonest. Avoid the green-eyed monster - be humble and gracious. Don't steal - work for a living. Avoid self-dependence - trust in God's plan. Do - Don't Do - given to us all throughout the s


If your local car dealership advertised a weekend sale that boasted a 'buy one, get one of equal value free' deal, how many folks would you think actually would look the other way on that deal? For the most part, if the deal was genuine, there would be a line down the block awaiting such a 'deal'. We almost always go after things that are 'freebies' in this life, don't we? I scour the local grocer ads hoping they will do those BOGO deals - it helps to keep my pantry stocked. There are some things I pass up because they don't 'apply' to my life - like men's deodorant or shaving cream. I don't have any need for those things in my life, but if it was coffee creamer, heads of lettuce, or even an extra loaf of bread, I'd be adding those things to my shopping list for sure. If we have 'need' of something, and it is offered for free, why on earth would we pass it up? It makes no sense when there is a need and a totally free way to ha

Intentional or Actual

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in th

It is over

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Are you in 'union' with Christ? If so, you got a fresh start - the past has been erased. Before you roll your eyes on that one, let me assure you I know being totally free of our past it is easier said than done. In the ey

Comfortable in my own skin

True confessions this morning - I spent a great deal of my youth and young adult life trying to 'fit in'. Have you ever tried to "fit into" some other person's image of you? I wasn't comfortable in my own skin - trying to always be something that I just wasn't. Do you know how miserable you can be when you try to 'fit' and you just 'don't'? You allow the "remake" because you figure you need an improvement on what it is you already have. What you and I fail to recognize is that you usually "fit" pretty well because you are exactly how God made you! Jeans and comfortable shoes are who I am - not frilly, painted, and bound up! David, a young shepherd boy, planned to go out against Goliath with nothing more than outfitted as a "shepherd". King Saul tried to "outfit David as a soldier in armor". David couldn't even move in the stuff King Saul tried to 'put on him'! He could barely take a

Unshakable Lives

I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world. (John 16:33) Anyone live in a world that seems to shake all around them? Things are looking up one day - making it easy for you to let down your guard, but then down the next, making 'holding on to God's promises' more difficult on those down days. Trusting God when things are shaking all around you is kind of hard - we don't always feel 'assured', much less 'deeply at peace' with all the garbage going on around us. Our peace isn't in any 'thing' - it is in a person: Christ Jesus. Our assurance isn't based on what man knows, but rather on what God knows. There will always be times when we need to remind our hearts (and minds) to 'take heart' - because as long as we on this earth, we will be 'riding' those 'shaking w

Bigger, Better, Bolder

God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. (Isaiah 40:28-31) We all have clothes in our closets, which by today's "fads" are outdated and just totally behind the times. We have shoes, well-worn and comfortable, but definitely yesterday's fashion statement. Car manufacturers change some features on our favorite cars each year, not because they have to, but they know they won't sell new ones if the old was all they promoted. Nothing seems to last like it once did. My parents were used to buying products "back in the d

Breathe in to breathe out

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28) Have you ever been so short of breath you just didn't think you were going to be able to get enough air? I remember being up to bat in softball in High School. The pitch was wickedly hard and it hit me squarely in the side of the chest, throwing me to the ground with quite a bit of force. I laid there for the longest time panicking because I could not take in any air. The air had been knocked from my lungs and I was gasping for my next breath. It was scarier than scary and I never want that to happen again! The 'natural rhythm' of my breathing in and out was disrupted just long enough to give me those few moments