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.

13
Oct
14

where is your current taking you?

cc by-nc-nd Bruno Monginoux www.photo-paysage.com & www.landscape-photo.netWho have you been hanging out with lately? That is a really important question to ask ourselves on a regular basis. Entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn astutely observed that, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The Sage of Proverbs affirms this principle when he writes, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20). The Apostle Paul adds his endorsement, in 1 Corinthians 15:33, when he says, “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”

The principle we are talking about here is simply one of current. We all understand that the current of a river carries an object in a very specific direction. The same is true of those who are influencing our life.

So who are the five people who are forming your future? And the follow up question to that is this: Is that the trajectory that you want your life to be on?

More specifically, we need to ask questions about those who are closest to us like these: “Do these individuals share my values? Do they have the same moral standards as I do? Do they encourage me to be my best? Are they achieving the results in their life that I would like to achieve?”

These are all very important questions because, we are influenced by the people we regularly associate with. To be successful in this life we have to be proactive. Jesus set forth this principle in Matthew 7:13-14 when he compared two different ways to live our life. He said there is the popular way to go, which is pretty much effortless, you just go with the flow. Or, there is the more strenuous way that is open to everyone but only a few will take advantage of it because it requires effort and focus. Although he was specifically talking about a spiritual truth here, the principle applies to all of life. There is an easy way that leads, at best, to mediocrity, or there is a more determined way that leads to fulfilling the purpose God has for you. If we are going to achieve that purpose we will need all the help we can get from those around us and so we must choose those who influence us wisely.

06
Oct
14

integrity

integrity1A number of years ago I adopted a family motto for Julie, the kids and I. The motto included the characteristics I consider to be of paramount importance and I have tried to live my life by them. The motto is: Wisdom, Integrity & Courage. I have reminded my family of it often through toasts at weddings and such, as well as regular reminders in conversation and texts.

Wisdom is something I started seeking when I accepted a call to the ministry. I was seventeen years old and knew for me to be able to accomplish anything at all in this life, especially something as important as advancing the Kingdom of God, I would need a supernatural endowment of wisdom in my life. I knew what the Bible said about God giving wisdom to anyone who asks (James 1:5). So I did, and God has repeatedly honored his word in my life.

Courage was instilled in me by the men in my life. My Dad and my Grandfather did a lot to give me the confidence to believe I could do anything if I set my mind to it. I’ve always viewed life as one big adventure. I relish new challenges and jump at the chance to tackle new opportunities. On those occasions when my confidence might not be what I would like it to be, the words of “The Duke” (John Wayne for those who might be culturally deprived) ring in my ear, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”

But then there is that integrity thing. Don’t get me wrong, I seriously don’t like thieves and liars and I will go the extra mile to avoid any appearance of those things in my life. What I have struggled with at times is rule bending for the good of the project I am working on. For me, rules can sometimes come across as simple suggestions to be evaluated and interpreted in light of my own best interest. It can be as simple as going in the “out” door because walking to the other side of the building is a waste of my precious time. Although not a big deal, what I have learned about this is twofold. First, I must keep my arrogance in check. (Man, being transparent is tough sometimes.) I have watched one to many talented people crash and burn because they didn’t think the rules applied to them. Which leads to the second lesson. I must beware of the “slippery slope” syndrome. You know, you violate your conscience once and it just gets easier the next time.

I absolutely do not want my story to become one of what could have been. I want to live my life guided by wisdom, protected by integrity and motivated by courage.