26
Jun
17

Seasons

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It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am not a fan of cold weather. All those years in the Miami area set my internal thermostat to appreciate a subtropical climate. Perfect for me is a high of 92° and a low of 72° year-round. Granted, I’m not a fan of the humidity, but I will take that over freezing temperatures any time.

 

With that said, one of the things I have had to do since moving to Michigan is to learn to appreciate the different seasons that we experience (sometimes all in the same day) in this state.

Of course, my favorite is summer. I enjoy the whole “up North”, Michigan lake experience, thing.

But as summer begins to fade, I have to start gearing up for sweaters and sweatshirts, bonfires and changing leaves, and everything else that goes along with autumn.

The cold winds blow and Autumn gives way to winter. The first part of this season is a little easier to deal with because of the holidays. But then along comes January – April, when it seems like the cold weather and the gray skies are going to last forever.

And finally, spring arrives with all the hope and promise of life and vibrancy.

Spiritual seasons are the same I’m discovering. Although I wish that I could live in perpetual summer, spiritually speaking, the reality is God did not design it that way. Autumn is going to come followed closely by winter. Things aren’t always going to be exciting, fun, or even pleasant. Difficulties are going to come our way and we are going to have to decide on how we are going to handle them. We can gripe and complain about the cold and gray skies, or we can make a decision to enjoy the fireplace and the hot chocolate and make the best of it.

I think that’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

I am coming to understand that the key to living an abundant and overcoming Christian life is not waiting for the day when everything goes right in your life all the time, but rather, learning to embrace the season God has you in. Learn from it. Grow through it.

Most of us are in such a hurry to get through the difficult seasons of our life that we would miss the beauty – yes, I said beauty – of the season if it weren’t for the fact God will not be manipulated, by are our whining, into letting us take a shortcut through the difficulty.

Again, it was Paul who wrote, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

The key for believers is to learn to trust God with the journey. We must believe that God’s plan will never lead us to a place his grace will not sustain us. So, when the spiritual winter comes, enjoy the fireplace and the hot chocolate, and let the Holy Spirit do his work in your life.

And don’t forget, summer’s coming!

 

 

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19
Jun
17

the whys and ifs

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It seems my whole life I have been addicted to pursuing the why’s and the if’s. I suppose I could blame it on an inquisitive nature, much like Einstein, who once remarked, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” (I am, in no way, suggesting I am on the same level of curiosity with Einstein, by the way.)

The problem with that explanation is that I know better. I want to be in charge. I want to be in control. Always have it seems. Some would say it comes along with being the firstborn, but regardless of whether that’s true or not, knowing things and having information no one else has, has always been important to me. After all, “Knowledge is power”, the maxim goes.

The desire to have and share information shows up on the personality inventories I take as well. These instruments usually point out that I want to be valued for the insight I have or the information I bring to the discussion.

So, of course, when I don’t have any information to bring I struggle to know my place in the process or find my value in the eyes of the group. It’s never a good thing for any of us not to be able to operate in our authentic self.

But the real problem for those of us with “inquiring minds” arises when we begin to demand of God that He give us an answer for the whys and ifs of life.

Don’t get me wrong the scripture is full of encouragement to grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). We should be learning new things about God and the way He works all the time. In fact, 1 Corinthians chapter 2 makes it clear that one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit is to teach about the things of God.

The problem arises when (pardon my use of an old adage) we get too big for our britches. We become like Job, of whom God said, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” That is quite an endorsement!

Most of us know the story of Job. Wealthiest man in the civilized world. Satan challenges Job’s motive for faithfulness. God gives Satan permission to put Job to the test. Job refuses to curse God, even after he lost all. But Job does have a few questions for God. More than a few actually. Finally, after Job has argued every conceivable line of reasoning about why he didn’t deserve any of this (a significant over-simplification) God says, “Alright Job, I have some questions for you.” God reveals through His line of questioning that Job doesn’t have a context for the conversation he has sought with God. I remember being told in an undergrad class as I was beginning my college career, “with a bachelor’s degree you listen, with a master’s degree you can ask questions, and with a doctorate you can answer the questions.” That’s kind of the point God was making to Job. “You don’t even know how to ask the right questions.”

And neither do we in a significant number of situations. We try to hold God to our standard and demand that he does what we think is best. Even in our discussions with Him we argue from a flawed position not realizing that there is so much more to the situation, that we can’t see. We demand that God present Himself, along with His plans to us for final approval as if we have any inkling of what is best or proper, or even logical.

We worry and fret, proving that our trust in God is tentative at best. And because of our lack of trust in God, the whys and the ifs consume our minds with fear, uncertainty, and distrust, leaving us as ineffective, defeated, and discouraged disciples who live with little joy, peace, or hope.

It seems what God is saying to me, can best be summed up in the words of a contemporary praise and worship song, by Casting Crowns, when they admonish, “Stop holding on and just be held.” Sounds inviting, doesn’t it? When you’re not equipped for it, being in charge is exhausting anyway.

18
Nov
14

goodness and mercy

6271471373_a3b811c732_zI was driving along in my SUV a few mornings ago, praying about everything going on in my life. To be completely honest, I was worrying as much as I was praying. At that moment the words of Psalm 23 came to my mind, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me.” I thought about that phrase for a moment and, as I was reciting it in my mind for the third or fourth time. I heard the Holy Spirit ask, “Has that not been true for your entire life?” After a moment of reflection in which I came to the realization that, yes, in fact, goodness and mercy have accompanied me my entire life. Then the Holy Spirit followed up with a couple more questions. “Why do you assume that is going to change? Why can’t you assume that I will continue to bless you and provide for you just the way I always have. And why can’t you assume that when difficult times come that I will deliver you just as I always have, rather than worrying yourself over the challenges you are facing right now?”

I have to admit, I was taken back. I had fallen into the “what if” trap. I was operating as if God had completely abandoned me and I was on my own to figure everything out. I felt completely ridiculous. God has never failed me. In fact, God has always been faithful to guide me and shield me through every difficult situation I have ever faced. Why would he change his behavior now? Why would I ever assume that goodness and mercy would not continue to follow me?

I’m not completely sure how that happens, but I do know the antidote. It is the same strategy Jesus employed when he was faced with temptation. He simply quoted the Word of God. And so now, when I am tempted to worry, I simply breathe the words “goodness and mercy” reminding myself that God was faithful yesterday and he will be today and tomorrow as well.

11
Nov
14

new wine, new bottles

Picture-6-300x239In the daily devotional guide, “Connect the Testaments”, John Barry writes…

“In the face of perplexing situations, we naturally respond with what we know and understand—we even take refuge in familiar traditions. This is precisely how Jesus’ disciples respond when Jesus is transfigured before them.

After Jesus is transformed and Moses and Elijah appear, Peter says, ‘Rabbi, it is good that we are here! And let us make three shelters, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah’ (Mark 9:5). Peter is drawing on the Festival of Tabernacles (or Booths), which celebrated God’s dwelling among His people (Lev 23:42–43). Peter isn’t certain how to respond, so he evokes a tradition. At least Peter understands that this confusing event shows God at work among His people.

But is Peter’s response the correct one? Mark gives us a hint in an aside: ‘For [Peter] did not know what he should answer, because they [Peter, James, and John] were terrified’ (Mark 9:6). It’s not surprising that Peter has trouble understanding this situation—who could? But his response, underscored by the editorial aside in Mark, suggests something larger about how we, as the audience of this Gospel, should understand Jesus.

When Jesus reveals Himself to us—really inaugurates His reign in our lives—it may be terrifying, but we do not need to resort to our traditions to understand it. By going back to our old ways, we might lose sight of the point of God’s work altogether. Instead, we must be ready to accept what is new.”

When I read that this morning I was reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 9:17. “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”

We all want a fresh revelation from God, but that revelation always comes with the challenge of following the leadership of the Spirit into a paradigm of living and serving.

04
Nov
14

just the right time

Story4The Bible says, in Galatians 4:4, that when just the right time came, God sent his son. I’ve often wondered what made it the “right time?” I know what the scholars tell us about this verse. They say the “right time” had a lot to do with the colonization of the known world by the Roman government and the subsequent building of the road systems throughout the Empire, as well as the expansion of trade routes, common culture and commerce. This certainly seems to be a reasonable explanation, but I do wonder if there might have been other factors as well.

The one thing I do know is that God’s timing, although not always fully understood, is always perfect.

I had a great example today. Let me start by saying that the last month has presented a few challenges, a few disappointments, and a few questions. Don’t misunderstand; God has been good and over all, things are good. (The Lord willing, we are going to have our kids and grandkids home for Thanksgiving! Thanks Father!) But life is life and the enemy is relentless. So for the past couple of weeks I have been talking it out with God and trying to come to some understanding of things. In my devotion this morning I decided I was just going to give God thanks in spite of the fact I didn’t have all my answers yet. I finished my devotion and got busy with my day. When I returned to the office after lunch one of the men of our church was in the receptionist office. I stuck my head in to say hello and talk for a minute. I finished chatting and got up to go back to my office and the man stood up as well, walked over to me and said, “I noticed your demeanor of late and it looks like you’re struggling a little bit.” He grabbed me, hugged me and said, “It’s going to be all right.” I thanked him and walked back to my office thinking, “At just the right time…”

28
Oct
14

know thyself

mirror and womanWho are you? No, I mean really. Not who you wish you were. Not who you try to convince others you are. But who are you when no one is looking? Who are you when fatigue, fear or anger slip in? Who are you when you don’t get your way or when you feel as though you have been taken advantage of? Who is the you that everyone else sees in spite of your efforts to conceal and camouflage?

Although the ancient Greeks held as a maxim, “Know Thyself” it seems that humankind does everything possible to keep that from happening. Instead of spending our time trying figure out what makes us tick, and then making necessary adjustments so that we might function in a healthier way, we busy ourselves doing everything within our power to deceive ourselves so that we never have to come face to face with the truth about ourselves.

I am constantly amazed at how painfully obvious someones dysfunction is to everyone around them and yet they continue in their dysfunction as if they are fooling everyone. But worse than that is when I stop to consider how often I have done the same thing! I tried so desperately to act as if I was completely whole and healthy and the whole time my brokenness was obvious to anyone with the slightest amount of discernment.

David’s petition, in Psalm 51:6, reveals God’s desire for you and I. “You desire truth in the inward parts,” David prayed. In other words, God desires authenticity on our part. His desire is for us to take an honest look at ourselves; our motives, our hangups, our anger, our competitive drive, our distrust, our fear, whatever defines us, and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, ask, ” Is this who God desires me to be?” And then allow him to begin a process of transformation and forgiveness in our life that will produce the wholeness he desires us to walk in.

21
Oct
14

the magic bank account

sundial-considered-clock-ftrI recently read this story about legendary football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. According to the story, the following note was found in his wallet after his death in 1982.

The Magic Bank Account

Imagine that you had won the following *PRIZE* in a contest: Each morning your bank would deposit $86,400 in your private account for your personal use.

However, this prize has rules. The set of rules are as follow:

1. Everything that you don’t spend each day will be taken away from you.
2. You may not simply transfer money into some other account.
3. You may only spend it.
4. Each morning, upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400 for the new day.
5. The bank can end the game without warning; at any time it can say,“Game Over!” It can close the account and you will not receive a new one.

What would you personally do with your prize?

You would buy anything and everything you wanted right? Not only for yourself, but for all the people you love and care for. Even for people you don’t know, because you couldn’t possibly spend it all on yourself, right? You would try to spend every penny, and use it all, because you knew money would be replenished in the morning, right?

Actually, THIS GAME IS REAL. Shocked ? Yes! Each of us is already a winner of a much more valuable *PRIZE*. We just don’t seem to realize it.

The prize is *TIME*

1. Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life.
2. And when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is NOT credited to us.
3. What we haven’t used up that day is forever lost.
4. Yesterday is forever gone.
5. Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time WITHOUT WARNING.

So, WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH YOUR 86,400 seconds today?

Those seconds are worth much, much more than the same amount in dollars. Think about it and remember to enjoy every second of your life, because time races by so much quicker than you think.

So take care of yourself, be happy, love deeply and enjoy life! Here’s wishing you a wonderful and beautiful day. Start “spending” your valuable *PRIZE* wisely.