Thursday Thought

“Did Jesus really exist?”

Thursday November 2, 2017

 

Verse for the week:  Luke 2:1-2 (NLT) “At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.).”

I walked into the UPS store yesterday and they were putting Christmas Decorations up.  We just celebrated Halloween, Reformation Day, and All Saints day and we still have Thanksgiving ahead.    They aren’t the only ones. Stores have been getting their Christmas merchandise out and gearing up for the season for at least a month. Stores love Christmas because American’s spend 465 billion dollars* on gifts, decorations, and goodies.  I love Christmas too with all the decorations and festivities.  It’s the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Okay, before people begin arguing with me that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, I am aware.  Actually we don’t know when He was born. Some scholars believe it was in the fall and others in the spring.  We don’t know exactly, but we Christians have been celebrating Christmas since December 25, 336 A.D. when the Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the empires religion. 
 

That’s a long time to celebrate someone’s birthday.  But did Jesus really exist?  Recently someone made a post on Facebook about the Bible being fiction and then someone else commented that Jesus doesn’t exist outside of the Bible.  Could it be that this person who changed history, changed the calendar, and has changed people’s lives really didn’t exist?   

So, is there any record of Jesus existing outside the Bible?  The answer is a resounding YES!   Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and Roman politicians Pliny and Tacitus all refer to Jesus Christ, as well as the Babylon Talmud and Lucian, a Greek satirist.  Our faith as Christians is not built on fiction, but on facts, and the facts prove that Jesus Christ did exist.  I could go on and on but I won’t.  There are books (here is a top ten list: http://reasonabletheology.org/top-10-apologetics-books/ ) and websites (here is one:http://apologeticspress.org/) devoted to apologetics and I would encourage every believer to dig in and know the facts behind what they believe. 
  
Whew… I’m thankful that I still get to celebrate Christmas, and if anyone has a problem doing it on December 25th, they should probably begin celebrating it 365 days a year.  Actually, that’s what we all should do, and one day everyone, even those who think the Bible is fiction, will celebrate because The Bible says in Romans 14:11 (NLT) “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’  I think we should start celebrating his birth, life, death, and resurrection now!  What about you? 
 

Question to ask yourself: Have you ever questioned your faith?  I have and it’s reassuring to know it’s based not just on faith but facts also!  What will you do to educate yourself on the facts today ? 

*Interesting fact: The National Retail Federation estimates. If that money was spent entirely on US made products it would create 4.6 million jobs.  http://abcnews.go.com/WN/mailform?id=14998335

 

“The Snooze Button”

Thursday September 28, 2017
 

Verse for the week:  1 Corinthians 9:25 (NLT) All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize…

Have you ever been peacefully sleeping when you are suddenly jolted awake by the shrieking of  that extremely loud & annoying BEEP, BEEP, BEEP indicating it’s time to get up? You want to smash that alarm clock into pieces!   

I’m not a fan of mornings, and when I was young I would press the snooze button several times before dragging myself reluctantly out of bed.  I remember going to conferences and hearing how Jesus would get up VERY EARLY while it was still dark so he could pray (Mark 1:35).  Seriously… my attitude was that God wasn’t even up that early.  I know, I know, He never sleeps, (Psalms 121:4) but that’s how I felt.  And then, of course, I would feel guilty.   

I just recently finished listening to Robert Morris’s book “The Blessed Church” and  Mel Robins book “The 5 Second Rule.” Both of them shared how the first two – three hours of the day after waking are the most effective. Seriously?

Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, says, “we’ve all got a short block of time every morning—roughly the first two hours after wake-up—where we’re most cognitively capable of getting work done. And most of us totally waste that time.”  It takes discipline to stop pressing the snooze button and just get up, so the day can be started by spending time reading the Bible and praying, rather than wasting our time on Facebook, Twitter, television, etc. 

If you think, “there just isn’t any way I can get myself up right away”, here is something to consider.  Did you know that hitting the snooze button actually messes your day up and makes you even more tired.  Robert S. Rosenberg, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley in Flagstaff, Arizona says,  “When you hit the snooze button repeatedly, you’re doing two negative things to yourself.  First, you’re fragmenting what little extra sleep you’re getting so it is of poor quality. Second, you’re starting to put yourself through a new sleep cycle that you aren’t giving yourself enough time to finish. This can result in persistent grogginess throughout the day.”  Wow!  That is enough to encourage me to be more disciplined.  I hate being tired during the day. 

So, start your day off right by getting up when the alarm goes off the first time, spend your first few minutes in prayer and reading the Bible, and then start with the rest of your day.  I wish I would have known all this when I was young.

Question to ask yourself: What are you doing first thing in the morning to be productive?   

 

Great Quote about Discipline: “Everybody wants to be on a championship team, but nobody wants to come to practice.” – Bobby Knight, former IWU Basketball Coach 

 
Cast aside”
Thursday September 14, 2017
 

Verse for the week:  Isaiah 40:29 (NLT) He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.

We live in a society that casts aside anything that we don’t feel is acceptable.  In America, we throw away approximately 165 billion dollars’ worth of food, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Food is one thing, but people feel as though they are cast aside as well. 

  • Truck drivers alone on the road can feel cast aside.
  • Shut-in’s, and the elderly can feel cast aside.
  • Individuals with disabilities can feel cast aside.
  • Incarcerated people feel cast aside.
  • Children can feel cast aside. (Ever heard the comment “Children are to be seen and not heard?”)
  • Homeless people can feel cast aside. 

The list goes on and the sad stark reality is that it’s true.  We can be in a crowd of people and still feel that way, but just because you may feel cast aside doesn’t mean you are.  Each of us is important to God.  Why?  Because He made us, (Psalms 139) and He gave His own Son  to take the punishment for us, for all the things that we have done wrong (John 3:16).   Maybe you are reading this and your past haunts you and you feel as though you have been cast aside, or the voices of insecurity are screaming out at you?  If so, you may think to yourself, “There is no way that God can use me.  I’m a loser.  I’m unqualified.”  If that is you, don’t underestimate what God can do!

Recently I heard about three individuals who easily could have been cast aside:  A senior adult dealing with a stroke, a five  year old with a plastic push mower, and a man diagnosed with terminal cancer.   The senior adult had always been meticulous with his yard and wouldn’t even allow his kids to play on it.  While he was recuperating from his stroke, he couldn’t mow his yard, and one day there was a knock on his door and it was the five year old neighbor boy.  The little boy said he saw his yard hadn’t been mowed so he helped him and mowed the front yard with his mower, but would have to come back the next day to finish.  The senior adult ended up inviting the little boy to church and a few years later he asked God to forgive him of the things he had done wrong.  The little boy wanted to be baptized and invited his grandfather to the service.  The grandfather came and it resulted in him asking God to forgive him.  Shortly thereafter, the grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer and God has used him to share with others how much God loves them..   The three of them could have been individuals “cast aside”, but God chose to use each of them. As a result, there have been hundreds of people impacted by their story, and many who have asked God to forgive them too.  Don’t underestimate what God can do through you! 

Question to ask yourself: Look around, is there someone that feels cast aside that you can reach out to? 

PS The senior adult now allows kids to play on his yard. 🙂
 

“Dangers of Procrastination

Thursday, September 7, 2017
 

Verse for the week:  Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NLT) “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.  If they watch every cloud, they never harvest..”

My mother would expect us to do what she asked us to do at the time she asked us to do it.  I remember her getting frustrated with me because of my procrastination and would say, “You do what you want to do when you want to do it!”  She was right.  I did procrastinate.  Thomas Jefferson once said, “Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today!”  Sadly, many of us procrastinate.  We procrastinate going to the doctor, cleaning the house, getting a term paper written, accomplishing a task at work, getting car repairs done, volunteering to help, etc.  When we procrastinate there a few things that I see that happen.   
 
  1. Often it ends up sloppy.  We don’t put in the time or energy it takes to do whatever it is correctly, because now we are short on time.  Nor do we utilize appropriate resources to do whatever the task is.  In so doing, we have not pursued excellence and may end up having to redo the task.  Daniel 6:3 (MEV) “Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and officials because an excellent spirit was in him.”
  2. It tells people the task is unimportant.  We may not be intentionally meaning to say this, but in a way, that’s what it says.  When spouses wait till the last minute to plan for an anniversary or forgets the date altogether, we get ourselves in hot water. 
  3. It causes a ton of angst trying to do everything at the last minute.  Some people say they work better under pressure, and that may be true, but as James Baker, former U.S. Secretary of State, has written “Prior planning prevents poor performance”.  I would add that it also prevents perturbation (anxiety; mental uneasiness)
  4. The task ends up not as meaningful as it could be.  Basically, we won’t get as much out of it, and we won’t reap the fruits/rewards that we could have if we would  have just invested our time at the moment. 

 

Most of us don’t like wasting time, so it’s good for us to plan ahead and get started.   With that in mind, I thought about writing this tomorrow but I decided I better do it today.  🙂

 

Question to ask yourself: What will you stop procrastinating about today? 

 

Great Quotes: 
Napoleon Hill said, “Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.”
 
Benjamin Franklin said, “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.”
 

Expecting too little –  Hazel the duck

Thursday, August 31, 2017
 

Verse for the week:  James 4:2b-3 (NLT) “Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”

Last year we received two baby ducks along with their mother, a bantam hen.  The two ducks, Hazel and Grettle, grew and learned they could fly and would fly away for the day and then come back for the evening.  This past Spring their length of time being gone increased and eventually they were gone for several months.  We thought we would never see them again but then one-day Hazel came flying back.  She never left but she began eating the chicken eggs and harassing the hens.  I decided that she needed to stop so I started only allowing her in the chicken yard at night.  While she was out I hooked her up with some food and water but not too far away from the chicken yard we have a stream with fresh cool water running through.  She could have gone down there but never did.  She could have flown and gotten back into the chicken yard, but she didn’t.  Instead she would walk around the chicken yard fence again and again all day, and occasionally would come up to the food and water or get chased by one of our dogs. 

 As I pondered Hazel the duck, I realized that she was living beneath her potential and expecting too little.  We do the same thing!  How? 

  1. By ignoring the potentials that are in plain sight. –  We get so focused on one area or one thing that we ignore the potential that is right in front of us.  For Hazel the duck, it was the stream.  For you and me it can be anything.  John 4:35b says, “But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.”
  1. By saying that it can’t be done. How often do we use the excuse “I can’t!”?  It annoys me to hear it because often we haven’t tried.  In Hazel the ducks case, she had tried but maybe there was some traumatic experience she had and decided that she no longer wanted to even though it would benefit her. We have amazing potential as humans and can achieve much even if we have had a bad experience.  We need to stop saying “I can’t!” and start saying “I CAN!”.  And for the believer, we have the help of God’s presence within us.   Zachariah 4:6 (NLT)“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
  2. By wandering around without a plan – Once we see the potential and say “I CAN!” we need to develop a plan.  Poor Hazel the duck just wandered around the outside of the chicken yard because she had no plan.   Proverbs 21:16(NLT) says, “The person who strays from common sense will end up in the company of the dead.” 

 

Are you ignoring potentials, saying “it can’t be done” or just wandering around?  It’s time to rise up and pursue the dreams that God has given you!  It’s time to start expecting more of yourself! 

Question to ask yourself: In what area of your life are you expecting too little?

 

“Moles!”
Thursday, June 22, 2017
 

Verse for the week:  Romans 12:1-2 (MSG) “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering”

I am not a big fan of moles. Moles are these awful little critters with pointy noses, webbed feet and they can tear up a yard in a few days.  You don’t usually see them but you can see where they have been and the damage they caused.  I know that they are a creation of God but they are really annoying when it comes to the destruction of my yard.  I’ve tried using insecticides because they eat grub worms, but, no success! (Hey but at least no fleas or ticks in the yard!)  I’ve tried using a repellant my wife purchased but, sadly, they are still around.  We even have a cat that we let out, but he doesn’t catch them.  The best way to get rid of them is with a mole trap.  It actually takes a bit of skill to set it up just right, but once it’s done, it’s not long before you have caught one of those pesky little critters. 

So, what do moles have to do with life?  They are like bad habits.  Bad habits are negative behavior patterns.  Common examples include procrastination, overspending, gossiping, picking your nose, stressing out, over eating, laziness, nail-biting, etc.  Did you know that nail-biting can cause dental problems, give you bad breath, raise the risk of catching a cold or other illness, and it can cause an infection of the skin surrounding the nail?  Who knew!  Each bad habit has negative consequences, and too often we don’t see the effects until it’s too late.   We need to overcome bad habits before they cause irreversible damage.  We do that by:

  1. Seeking God’s help – He understands everything we face! Hebrews 4:15 says, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin.”
  2. Making a commitment to change
  3. Being specific on which habit you want to change
  4. Replacing the bad habit with a good habit
  5. Having an accountability partner
  6. Staying positive even when you fail.  When you fail, get up, refocus and move forward

I’m sure that some people think there is no hope for overcoming their bad habit because it’s been so long.  Don’t believe the lie!  It’s NEVER too late to change!   

 

Question to ask yourself: What negative habit are you struggling with that you need to change?
 

“Welcome to Adulthood!

Thursday, June 15, 2017”

Verse for the weekProverbs 22:3 (NLT) “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.  The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”

 I’ve heard the saying repeatedly, “ignorance is bliss!”  The term bliss means; “perfect happiness; great joy.”  I can honestly say that I didn’t have perfect happiness or great joy when I was pulled over for speeding where the speed limit was only 45 but I thought it was 60. I didn’t have perfect happiness or great joy when I had to go to court and then pay a fine in a county two hours away.  People use “ignorance is bliss” to excuse not knowing things they should, like:

the speed limit
what our children are doing
how to do a task
where political candidates stand
a deadline
what’s on a test
why you should believe in and follow God
 
Eventually we find out that what we don’t know can hurt us.  Ignorance really isn’t bliss, it’s stupidity, laziness, or just being irresponsible.  Responsibility is what our parents, teachers, employers, and pastors work at developing in us.  Responsibility is an expectation of being an adult.  When we become responsible, we realize that we have an incredible brain that’s been given to us and that we need to use it.  Being responsible also means that ultimately, we answer for ourselves.  This means we can’t afford to sit back and claim ignorance.  We must educate ourselves!  I should have been observant and taken the time to know what the speed limit was so I wouldn’t have gotten a ticket.  Parents need to take the time to be involved in their children’s lives and communicate with them.  People need to take the time to learn how to do things, even if it means watching a YouTube video.  Students need to pay closer attention in class.  We need to take advantage of the wealth of educational material out there.  And on top of all that, James 1:5 (NLT) says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.”  
 

As an adult, it may be easier at the moment to say, “ignorance is bliss” but the reality is, that doesn’t work.  It didn’t work when I stood before the judge and it won’t work for you because in the United States it’s assumed we have learned to be responsible by the age of 16 or so.  We may not like it, but it’s time to stop making excuses, and start being responsible before it’s too late. 

Question to ask yourself: In what areas of your life are you relying on ignorance over being responsible?
 

“Um!”

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Verse for the weekJames 1:19 (NLT) “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

Have you ever been talking to someone who suddenly stops mid-sentence and says “Um…”?   Or maybe you have talked to people who use it repeatedly.   I have heard people who say “um” a lot and I can honestly say I’ve been guilty of it myself.  I hate using the word “um…” yet sometimes it just comes out. Martijn Wieling, a professor at the University of Groningen, says that “Younger people and women relatively use ‘um’ more frequently than men and older people.” 

According to the dictionary, the word “um” is an interjection used as an expression of doubt, hesitation, deliberation, or interest.  Studies by psychologists and schools say that the word “um” is a placeholder that give speakers time to plan their next words while still holding the floor.  Most of us know it can get very annoying to hear.  I, probably like many of you, have been guilty of sitting through a speech and counting the number of “um’s” a person uses. (I hope people don’t do that to me! Oh great, now they will…)  So, is it possible that when we use the word “um” our mouths are going faster than our brains?  I’ve always heard that it’s usually the other way around.  In either case, something needs to slow down. 

Now for the point.  We live in a world where everything is in a constant state of motion. 

  • Slow down and take the time to think about what you are going to say. Sometimes it’s better not to say anything. Ecclesiastes 3:7 (NLT) says that there’s, “A time to be quiet and a time to speak.”
  • Slow down and take the time to rest our mouths and our brains.  We worry and obsess way too much about things that will never happen.  And we feel like we always have to talk. It’s not healthy for our brains, it’s not healthy physically, it’s not healthy for our relationships, and it’s not healthy spiritually.  William Penn said, “In the rush and noise of life, as you have intervals, step home within yourselves and be still…this will carry you evenly through your day’s business.” 
  • Take time to ponder the greatness of God! Pondering is a good thing especially when you are pondering on God.  Too often we don’t take the time to look around and see HIS greatness that is everywhere!  It’s in the beauty of creation, in other people, and in the complexity of our universe.  Psalm 46:10 (NLT) says, “Be still, and know that I am God!”

Maybe we should conduct an experiment to see how many times a day we say “um”.  It may be a bit intimidating but it may also be very revealing about ourselves.  Are you up for the challenge? 

Question to ask yourself: In which of the three areas above do you need to slow down?

 

“Tax Penalty!

Thursday, April 20, 2017”

Verse for the week:  Jeremiah 13:16 (NLT) Give glory to the Lord your God before it is too late

I have this sign in my office that says “If a man says he will fix it, he will. There is no need to remind him every 6 months.”  I really like the sign, but for me it’s not so funny because honestly, I sometimes struggle with procrastination.  In college, I would stay up all night finishing a term paper that was due the next day.  The assignment was given at the beginning of the semester but I procrastinated.  When I was younger, there were times I ended up having to pay a tax penalty because I procrastinated doing my taxes.  I’m getting better and have corrected some of my old habits but there are times…  

I’m not sure all procrastination is wrong.  I think it’s good when we procrastinate about saying some things that later we would have regretted. Now I’m justifying it but hey, Psychology Today even has an article on the web entitled “6 reasons why procrastination can be good for you”*.  I thought it was written by a man but it was actually written by a woman.  And all this time I thought men were the worst procrastinators and that God made wives to help men get things done.  Now I know it’s an issue that both sexes deal with. 🙂

 Even though there may be sometimes when procrastination is okay, too often it’s not healthy and can cause many more problems.   I would even suggest that procrastination can sometimes be sin. James 4:17 (CEB) says, “It is a sin when someone knows the right thing to do and doesn’t do it.”  In order to avoid sin and getting ourselves in trouble, there are a few steps to help with procrastination.

  1. Set deadlines for yourself before the actual deadline. Once you achieve your first goal you will feel a since of accomplishment and it will push you to do more.
  2. Don’t blow the task out of proportion. If I would have started on my term paper at the beginning of the semester and worked on it a little each week, it wouldn’t have been such an overwhelming task for me and I probably would have even gotten a better grade.
  3. Stop thinking and start doing. I know too often I say, “I can’t…” when I haven’t even tried.  Read the directions and then get started.  (Yes, we should look at the directions–it will help!)
  4. Remove distractions, stop making excuses, and just do it. Turn off the television, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. and get started.  Kind of like the song from the old Christmas movie, “Santa Clause is Coming to Town,” which says, “Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor. Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.”

What are you waiting for?  It’s time to get started.

Question to ask yourself: What have you been putting off that you need to begin doing today?

 

You’re such a Martyr!

Thursday, April 6, 2017!”

 

Verse for the week:  Matthew 6:2 (NLT) “When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.”
 
I’ve heard the phrase “You’re such a martyr” used on television and in real life. It’s usually said with negative connotations. Some say it when a person has sacrificed and then whines about it or feels sorry for themselves. Others say it because they feel guilty themselves for their lack of sacrifice. I don’t like it when people throw the phrase around because it’s down playing the love and devotion that was shown by those who have sacrificed and died for their faith.

The word “martyr” means “witness” – someone who has seen an event and shared what happened. That’s what the apostles did on that first Easter morning. They saw and then went out and witnessed what they saw. These apostles and the early church fathers looked at martyrdom as an honor. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:21(NCV) “To me the only important thing about living is Christ, and dying would be profit for me.” For Paul and other early church fathers, it wasn’t a sacrifice to give up their lives or their possessions. They willingly did it out of their love for Christ and the people He loves. They were being a witness. My mother didn’t die for her faith but she made a lot of sacrifices for my brothers and me. She went without getting her teeth fixed so her boys would have good teeth, she ultimately ended up with dentures. She gave up sleep so that she could work extra hours and multiple jobs to see that there was food for us. Her sacrifice was a witness of her love for us. Yes, I’m sure it bothered her when we didn’t show appreciation at the time, but it didn’t change her sacrificing for us..

To sacrifice is good, but for those who do sacrifice, please be careful. Don’t provide people opportunities to say, “You’re such a martyr,” because of your actions. When we sacrifice out of love for others, we shouldn’t brag about our sacrifices, or even worse, whine about it. Instead, thank God for the opportunities. God sees our sacrifices and He will reward us if we aren’t drawing attention to ourselves through whining. Jesus said in Matthew 6:4 “Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” The reward is coming but most likely won’t even be in this lifetime. So, hold your horses and look forward to the day when you stand before God.

Question to ask yourself: Are you guilting of whining when you do something for others? If so, how can you change your attitude?

 

“Forgotten!”

Thursday, March 30, 2017

 

Verse for the weekMatthew 5:33 (MSG) “And don’t say anything you don’t mean.…”

Have you heard the phrases: “I guarantee”, “I promise”, “I give you my word”, or “My word is my bond”?  These phrases mean you will do what you say, and that people can trust you. Throughout the years, I have heard these phrases used frequently.  My mother taught me when I was young that if you said you were going to do something, you’d better do it.  The sad thing is that these phrases don’t carry much weight anymore.  Too often people say they will do something but never follow through.  I’ve always heard that was lying.  Granted, sometimes things happen that get in the way of our commitment, but we shouldn’t just ignore what we promised.  We should try to stay true to our word and do what we committed to doing. 

In modern day society, a lengthy contract with words like: uberrima fides, quid pro quo, ab initio, repudiation, due diligence, and more, replace what once was a firm hand shake and our verbal agreement.  Our courts today are backlogged with people disputing broken contracts.  I think we need to go back to the forgotten times when a man’s word was his bond!  Despite all the contractual agreements that abound, I actually believe that being a person of our word is still a highly sought after quality.  When you are a person of your word, people know that you are dependable, have integrity and can be trusted.  Being a person of your word isn’t always easy or convenient.  In fact, it may even cost you something, but the price for not keeping your word is higher.   Not keeping your word can cost you friendships, influence, your job and even eternity in heaven.  David wrote in Psalm 15:1a, “Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?”  and then answers the question in verse 4“Those who…keep their promises even when it hurts.”
 

 Question to ask yourself: How much does your word mean?  Are you someone that can be counted on?   

Quote: “I can give you my word, but I know what it’s worth and you don’t.” – Nero Wolfe Fictional Defective 

 

“Aggressive and obnoxious!”

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Verse for the weekHebrews 12:1 (AMP) “stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us…”

Smilax, also known as catbriar, brambles, horse briar, and roundleaf greenbriar, is an aggressive, obnoxious, entangling vine.  This vine has invaded most of the eastern United States.  In my research of this plant I found that, in the past, roundleaf greenbriar was called “the devil’s wrapping yarn” because of its thorns and tendrils.  So why did I research this weed?  Because there was a large area at the edge of our woods where it was invading.  It endangered the trees, destroyed the view, and became a hideaway for varmints (a troublesome wild animal) that might want to eat our chickens.  The vines have now been cut at the base, pulled out of the trees, and burned (after they tripped me up several times and gave me several scratches.).  I’m sure that these vines haven’t always been there.  It probably started out as one little seed through some birds dropping.  Habits start small but can build into something that is controlling and destructive.  Song of Songs 2:15 (NIV) says, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards…”  Often, we will make excuses for our habits (and sins) by saying it will never happen to us, or it’s just a little habit (sin).  The problem is that just like that little Smilax seed that developed into a massive vine that can grow 33 feet tall, so will our “little” habits and sins do that as well.  When the destruction begins to take place because of our habits and sins, we have a tendency to blame others, and sometimes even God.  The Bible say’s in James 1:14-15 (NLT) that basically we have no one to blame but ourselves. “Temptation comes from our own desires…”  and when it isn’t dealt with, it will lead to death. 

Breaking these habits and overcoming sin can be a very challenging process and take some time.  The first thing we need to do is determine that we are going to overcome it.  Then we need to get to work and seek help (absolutely seek help from God, and then trusted friends). Finally we need to continually guard against allowing it to take a hold again.   We can get victory over aggressive, obnoxious, entangling habits and sin with the help of God, determination, and consistency.    

 

Question to ask yourself: What habit or sin have you been making an excuse for that you need to overcome?  Turn to God and others and begin the work at overcoming it today before it leads to greater destruction.

Disclaimer – For those concerned about the destruction of this vine because of the food that it provides for the birds, I have several bird feeders that provide even more.

 
“Blue Light Special!” Thursday, March 2, 2017

Verse for the weekLuke 13:24 (NLT) “, 24 “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail.”

When I was a young adult, I worked at Kmart.  I enjoyed it and they quickly found I was someone who could be trusted and actually allowed me to use the intercom.   Eventually they even allowed me to conduct Blue Light Specials.  It was one of my favorite aspects of the job.  I would get on the intercom and say something like, “Attention Kmart shoppers:  we have a blue light special going on over in our toy department.  For the next 5 minutes, and 5 minutes only, you will find all our games 50% off.  That’s right, all our games are 50% off, but only for the next 5 minutes.  Hurry over to the Blue Light and pick up all your favorite games for 50% off.”  After a couple minutes I, would get back on the intercom and make the announcement again and then one more time when there was 1 minute remaining. Generally, people came from all over the store to obtain the special. 
On a few occasions, I had people come up to me the day after a Blue Light Special, letting me know that they had been there the day before and, for whatever reason couldn’t get to the blue light, and now wanted to get the sale.  I had to inform them that it was too late and they missed out.  I’m not sure why they would think that they could still get the special sale price when I was very clear that it was only for 5 minutes.  There are instructions given for a purpose but people try to make up their own rules.  Their made-up rules sound good in their minds, but when it comes to eternity, if they aren’t following the directions, they will fail in a big way!  Proverbs 16:25 (NLT) says, “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”   Just like the Blue Light Special had a time limit, so it is with us.  We won’t live forever in this life and in order to spend an eternity in Heaven, we must pursue a faith journey with our Creator and follow His instructions found in the Bible.  Jesus said in John 14:6 (NLT) “…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Today would be an excellent day to begin following His rules rather than your own. 

Question to ask yourself: In what ways, have you been trying to change the rules to suit you?  What changes will you make today?

 

“Unintended Consequences!”

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Verse for the weekEphesians 4:15 (NLT) “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”

I lived in the Detroit metro area for four years.  I loved going down to Greek Town and seeing T-Shirts that said “Don’t mess with me I vacation in Detroit!”  Or “Don’t mess with me I have relatives in Detroit!” (Pastor Darren would say Flint, MI).  I learned very quickly that people in the Detroit Metro Area could be very blunt.  A person must develop tough skin when they live there.  There are a lot of people that are blunt.  According to the Urban Dictionary “a blunt person is the realest person you will ever meet, they don’t sugar coat anything and say what they mean!”  Honesty is a great quality, but I’ve observed some people having uncontrolled honesty.  They tell everyone what’s on their mind no matter what it is or where they are.  This can be very dangerous because it is like uncontrolled heat—it can injure and even destroy.  It can have unintended consequences like destroying friendships, relationships, and reputations.  What’s sad is that sometimes a blunt person isn’t necessarily stating the truth, they are stating their opinion or their perception.   Mason Cooley, American literary academic and aphorist, said: “A blunt statement can be as false as any other.”  There is a time and place for honesty, and during those times of honesty we need to make sure the intention is love.  2 Peter 1:5-7 (NLT) says, “In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly with love for everyone.”  This means we may have to think through what we are going to say (and probably why we feel the need to say it) and choose words that are not “brutally honest.”  I write from experience on this issue. Because I was “brutally honest” and did not follow the advice written in the Bible, I ended up damaging friendships and it even affected that church. Even though I apologized, the damage had been done.  I needed to remember the verse from Proverbs 17:28 (NLT) which says “Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent…”  If we struggle with the right words, then maybe we should consider keeping our mouth shut to avoid unintended consequences.
 

Question to ask yourself: Is there someone you have been brutally honest with that you need to apologize to? 

 

I can see clearly now!”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

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Verse for the week1 Corinthians 13:12(YLT) “For we see now through a mirror obscurely…; now I know in part, and then I shall fully know, as also I was known.”

I really hate wearing glasses.  I’ve had to wear them since I was in elementary school.  I’ve tried the ones that get dark outside and I’ve tried the ones that don’t fog (Actually, my current pair of glasses have this anti-fog stuff on them and because it’s almost all worn off, they always look dirty. I’m sure people wonder why I don’t clean them.).   I’ve even tried contacts but that was a bit irritating to my eyes.  The good news is that I can read without my glasses, but can’t see anything even a short distance away.  I just wish I had perfect eyesight because it would be nice to not wear glasses.  I really put my glasses through the ringer, and by the time I get new ones they are all scratched and bent.  When I put my current pair of glasses on for the first time, it was like, “WOW, I can see!”  I almost started singing the old song, “ I can see clearly now the rain is gone…” It was amazing.  You combine that with an actual rain fall that washes all of the dust out of the sky and you can see everything a little more clearly.  You can even see the lines on the stop light lenses.   New glasses and a fresh rain is pretty amazing! 
 
So often life is much like my fogged up, scratched glasses.  It’s hard to know why we are here or why things are happening, and doubt can even cause us to wonder if there is a God.  I Corinthians 13:12 lets us know that one day we will be able to see clearly and have more of the answers, but we don’t have to wait for eternity to discover God.  I’ve heard it said that “An atheist can’t find God for the same reason a thief can’t find a policeman!”  God is there if you are looking for Him.  Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT) says, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” Once we begin seeking God wholeheartedly  we will find Him, and once we find we will wonder why we didn’t look sooner (or in my case, why I haven’t gotten new glasses)!  I remember one older person that found God just days before he died.  He told me that he wished he would have looked for God when he was younger.  It’s never too early or too late to pursue a faith journey with our Creator!
 

Question to ask yourself : What is keeping you from looking wholeheartedly for God?   

 

Where there is no vision, there is no hope. – George Washington Carver

 

 

“Mirror, Mirror on the Wall!”

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Verse for the weekLuke 6:37 (NLT) “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.”

Have you ever judged someone else?  Come on now, be honest!  Of course you have.  Maybe it was someone’s hairstyle, piercing, tattoo, clothing, make-up, nationality, or accent.   Have you ever heard of “first impressions”?   (Psychologists say we have about 1/10th of a second to make that first impression.)  A first impression is a judgement of someone, but these first impressions aren’t always accurate.  
 
We live in a society where people like to focus on themselves – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, etc.  We even have mirrors all around to check ourselves out. We are all about ourselves, but, sadly we tend to focus on others faults before our own.  Matthew 7:3,5 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 5 …First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
 
I need to deal with the person I see in the mirror first before I can deal with others, and the issues we need to start with go further than just what we see in the mirror.  I Samuel 16:7 says, “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  There are a lot of things we like to cover up and hide from others but they aren’t hidden from God and eventually they will come out.  Steven Furtick writes in his book, (UN)Qualified, “People might hire us and use us for what we do, but they accept us and like us for who we are.  And ultimately, of course, who we are determines what we do.  You can pretend for only so long before the real you comes out.”  God knows the “real you” so let’s start working on what’s on the inside first. 
 

Question to ask yourself: In what ways, have you been judging others?  What will you do today to start focusing on changing yourself first?   

If you judge people, you have no time to love them. – Mother Teresa.”

 

“Please don’t use your cell phone!”

February 2, 2017

Verse for the week:  Philippians 4:5 (NLT) “Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.”

I went to a fast food drive through recently and they had a sign that said “Please DO NOT Use Your Cell Phone In The Drive-Thru.”  It has something to do with proper etiquette and not being rude.  I didn’t know until the writing of this that there is an entire blog about drive through etiquette: http://www.wikihow.com/Practice-Drive-Thru-Etiquette
.  I’m familiar with etiquette and goodness, as my mom sent me to cotillion once. Cotillions teach manners, dinner etiquette and social dance to children and adolescents.  My mother was very insistent on me having proper etiquette, so I took full advantage of the one time I attended so I wouldn’t have to go again.  I believe in etiquette.  I open the door for others. I strive not to talk on my cell phone in the drive thru.  I turn my ringer off in church.  I don’t chew my food with my mouth open.  However, I must be honest, it’s annoying that while I’m at a drive through paying for and receiving my food, the server is talking to someone else on their headset.   I haven’t said anything in an effort to be considerate– but I have thought about it!

To have proper etiquette we must intentionally think.  This seems like an odd statement because for many of us our minds are always going, thinking about something.  Intentionally thinking means focusing on what is going on at the time.  In this age of multitasking we don’t always do this well.   

To have proper etiquette we must be considerate of others.  This isn’t always easy to do because we are very “me” driven, but it’s necessary.   1 Corinthians 10:24 (AMP) gives what I believe is a great definition of being considerate.  It says, “Let no one seek [only] his own good, but [also] that of the other person.” 
When we use proper etiquette, we are actually being obedient to God and being the light that He wants us to be!  Colossians 4:5-6 (NLT) Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Question to ask yourself: How good are you at practicing good manners?  (If you aren’t sure what they are, Google search the word “etiquette” and you will find several websites for the practice of it.)

 “Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back.”  –  Thomas Sowell

 
 
“I don’t like you!” – Thursday, January 26, 2017

Verse for the weekJeremiah 1:5 (NLT) “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart…

As a child, I frequently was harassed.  I was harassed about my name, I was harassed because I wasn’t big into sports, and I was harassed because of the hand-me-down clothes I wore. (Do you feel bad for me yet?)  I remember one winter my mother bought me a purple Eskimo coat (probably because it was inexpensive).  I was oblivious, but when I wore it to school the oblivion passed as I began to be harassed.  My brother Maurice and I ended up kicked off the bus for a week because he stuck up for me and punched on of the guys harassing me.  (He’s still one of my heroes even though we always fought growing up.)  When I was harassed I remember retaliating with the phrase “

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.”  The truth was it did hurt and I felt rejected.  We’ve all been there and have faced some sort of rejection.  It could be from an   employer, a school, a finance company, a significant other, friends, peers, a spouse, or even our children.  Jesus understood rejection because He also experienced it.  The Bible says in Isaiah 53:3 (NLT) “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief…”

 So how should we handle rejection? 

  • Remind yourself that it’s not about you. Generally, when we face rejection it’s not about us it’s something that’s going on inside another.    
  • Stop obsessing and divert your thoughts and attention another direction.   
  • Write “never to be sent” letters in order to vent your feelings, then give them over to God and destroy them
  • Remember the person that rejected us does not define who we are.  God has already done that!  Our feelings will say we are worthless, but the facts are that we are made by God, we are protected by God and we are valuable to God!  Think about it….  Each of us are valuable because weare made in the image of God.  Look around you.  Each person is made by God.  Psalms 139:13-14(NLT) says, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous!”

When we begin to realize that every person is made in God’s image, it will change how we treat them, what we say to them, and what we think about them.    It will also affect how we deal with rejection! 

Question to ask yourself: Have you been obsessing over someone rejecting you?  If so, what action will you take today to become better rather than bitter?  

Do not waste yourself in rejection; do not bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.”  –  Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 
 
“Timber” Thursday, January 19, 2017

Verse for the weekEcclesiastes 4:12 (NLT) “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Have you ever watched a lumberjack cutting down a tree and then yell “TIMBERRRRRRR?”  They yell it for safety purposes so that people will be out of harm’s way when the tree falls.  This past Christmas Eve, we had a tree come down but there wasn’t any time to yell “TIMBERRRRRR!”  The tree was not outside, it was our Christmas tree and it came crashing down while we had guests over celebrating the holiday.  We all saw it fall and there was nothing we could do.  It was a very large tree….  Ornaments, pine needles, and water went flying everywhere.  This was not the peaceful moment with friends that we had anticipated.  We quickly sprang into action and got the tree standing up again, but there was no way that it was going to be the beautifully decorated tree that it was before.  The lights were all discombobulated and the tree would not stand straight up, so we made the decision to take it all down and put the tree outside.  Everyone jumped in and began to take ornaments and lights from the tree, and within 30 minutes the tree was out back, the water was cleaned up and the needles vacuumed up.   How did we accomplish it so quickly?  Team work!  Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”  That is a very true statement.  Team work is needed in families, in our churches, in our communities, at our places of employment, in sports, etc.  While I was young, my mother would gather us together and pull out some tooth picks.  She would show how one was easily broken but if she put them all together it was harder to break them.  As a single mother, she knew the importance of team work to survive.  God created us to be relational individuals who would work together.  Way back in the beginning of the Bible, He said in Genesis 2:18 (NLT), “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 
 
We may not always get along together and we may not always like those around us, but team work will help us accomplish more.  Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha, an author from Nigeria, writes, “Teamwork is the secret that makes common people achieve uncommon results.” If you want to achieve uncommon results, come together with those that you live with, work with, and worship with to see things accomplished.  When you do, you can look back with an attitude of gratitude and be thankful for those that are a part of your team. 
 

Question to ask yourself: In what ways are you working with or working against those on your team? 

Quote: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”  –Henry Ford

 
“Moderation?” – Thursday, January 12, 2016

Verse for the weekGalatians 5:22-23 (NLT) “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.

Recently I went to the doctor for a checkup.  Thankfully the concern I went to the doctor for wasn’t a concern!  Every time I go to the doctor they always make me stand on the scale, take my blood pressure, and take my temperature.  The good news is that I had a temperature, but the bad news was my blood pressure and weight were up.  Uggggh!  As I considered what I would do to correct the situation I realized that there were several reasons why those numbers went up.  The biggest reason was the lack of moderation!  According to Google, the definition for moderation is, “The avoidance of excess or extremes, especially in one’s behavior or political opinions.”   It’s hard to eat in moderation during the holidays, as well as at other times, but the negative results become apparent eventually. 
 
Over the past 200 years the use of the word moderation has decreased by about 75% in our conversations. (Seriously, who tracks this stuff?  Thanks Google for this piece of trivia!)  In the United States of America, we seem to have a thirst for more, more, more and hardly even acknowledge the word “moderation” anymore.   Even though the phrase “moderation in all things” is not in the Bible, it’s still some good advice.  Moderation is basically self-control – knowing when to say enough is enough.  I’ve eaten enough, I’ve drank enough, I’ve talked enough, I’ve spent enough, I’ve worried enough, I have enough!  Proverbs 25:28 (NLT) says, “A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.”  What this verse is saying is that without self-control, we are fighting a losing battle.   The good news is that even if we think we don’t have self-control, we do.  Joyce Meyer said, “I have learned that I really do have discipline, self-control, and patience. But they were given to me as a seed, and it’s up to me to choose to develop them.”  How do we develop moderation/self-control? 
 
  1. Start small – Too often we make these huge goals that are totally unrealistic.  Instead of saying I’m going to lose 25 pounds this month, try setting a goal of cutting back on soda or coffee to just one or two a day.  Make your goals realistically measurable and achievable.
  2. Seek accountability– Find someone that will stay on your case and continue to encourage you.
  3. Keep track of your progress – This is called journaling.
  4. Celebrate small victories–be good to yourself when you have done well. 

 

Questions to ask yourself: In what areas do you need to develop moderation/self-control?  

Remember: “The disciplines you establish today will determine your success tomorrow.

 

 

“Kicked in the Teeth”

Thursday, January 5, 2016

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

 Verse for the week:  Luke 6:38 (NLT) “38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

 The phone calls, emails, people standing on the street corner with signs, letters, and commercials, all calling us to give, seem to be incessant.  Many of us feel guilty if we don’t give, while others seem to have become hardened and insensitive after having been burned by one or more scams or unappreciative people.  We hear of CEOs of charitable organizations making lots of money, and people who beg on street corners driving fancy cars.  We have “grandchildren” that aren’t even our grandchildren calling us to help them out.    I heard a person say“

I give, and I give, and I give, and what do I get in return?  I get kicked in the teeth.”  Sadly, this happens sometimes.  But does that mean we should stop giving?  Absolutely not!  Psychologists say that generous people are happier people1 and the Bible says in Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) “The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” 

Here are some steps to help us give in such a way that we will receive the biggest joy. 

  1. Give first – When you receive your paycheck, give first. Too often we wait until after we’ve spent it all, and then determine what to give away. By then it’s too late.  The money is gone.  Even the Bible recommends we do this in Proverbs 3:9-10.  When you give first, you probably won’t even miss it.
  2. Use wisdom – There are numerous agencies that can assist. Educate yourself on reputable charities.  Also, find out which organizations give the greatest percentage of what they receive in order to make a difference. 
  3. Realize that you have done your part – Ed Cole said “After giving something to God, you are no longer accountable for it. Your blessing is based on your giving, not on what others do with the gift.”
  4. Be Thankful – A thankful heart will guard against bitterness even if we do “get kicked in the teeth.”

 

Questions to ask yourself: What have you given away recently? 

1 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/out-the-darkness/201501/happiness-comes-giving-not-buying-and-having

 
 
“U Turns”
Thursday, December 29, 2016

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” – Benjamin Franklin

 Verse for the week:  Matthew 5:9 (NLT) “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”

 Several years ago, I drove a 66-passenger church bus.  I would drive all over Huntington, Indiana picking up children, teenagers, and even adults for church.  On one occasion, I heard a commotion and realized the passengers were all yelling at me because I was going the wrong direction on a one way road!  I’m not sure how I could have done that, but boy was it a transformational moment!  I immediately looked for a way to turn the bus around or a road to turn onto so we wouldn’t crash into someone going the right direction.  For months (and even years) afterward, the students would harass me about it.  The incident was such a powerful lesson for me.  I never went that way again and I’m careful now and watch for arrows and signs (I wish others did).

The Bible is filled with individuals who were heading the wrong way and changed directions.  One of the most notable is the apostle Paul.  At one time he was arresting Christians and having them killed, and after a transformational moment he made a U-turn and began encouraging people to become Christians.  There are more books in the New Testament written by the apostle Paul than anyone else. 

Every moment we are faced with choices.  Will we continue going the direction we are going, or will we turn around?  Jesus was encouraging the church in Sardis to have a transformational moment when he said in Revelation 3:3 (NLT)“
 

Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again.”  II Corinthians 6:2 says, “…Indeed, the right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.” Today you have a choice.   Will you continue the direction you are going or will you make a change?  Today could be your transformational moment.

Questions to ask yourself:   What change do you need to make today?

 
 
“I’m Watching You” – Thursday, December 22, 2016
To download a PDF Copy of this, click here!

Verse for the week: Proverbs 15:3 (NLT) “The Lord is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good.”

Have you ever had that feeling that someone was watching you only to look up and find that they were? I love the line by Roz in the movie Monsters Inc, “I’m watching you Wazowski, always watching!” When I look around and see the security cameras everywhere I know I am being watched. I don’t know too many people who like to be watched and scrutinized, but it happens. I’ve had employers do it, parishioners do it, complete strangers do it, and my own children do it. Several years ago, country singer, Rodney Atkins had a popular song called “Watching You!” It talks about his son watching him and emulating his words and actions. Too often we don’t consider the fact that people are watching us! They watch the things that we say, our negativity, the things that we do, the places we go… We try to excuse our misbehavior by saying it’s nobody else’s business, or that our actions aren’t influencing anyone else, but the truth is everyone influences someone. We influence the people we work with, live with, go to church with, and even the people we shop with. The apostle Paul even warned people about not being a stumbling block to others (I Corinthians 8:9). I believe all of us need to be more conscientious about our words and actions, knowing that in fact, we are being watched.

Questions to ask yourself: They say attitudes are contagious, but I would go further and say our words and actions are too. How are your attitudes, words and actions? If you are okay with them, the next question to ask is, “Is God okay with them?”
 
 
“I’m offended!” – Thursday, December 15, 2016

“Good grief, we’re getting offended by everything these days! People can’t say anything without offending somebody.” – Hillary Clinton

Verse for the weekMatthew 5:9(NLT) “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”

Have you ever sent a text or made a phone call (or whatever mode of communication you use) asking a question or sharing something?  Of course, you have!   If we don’t receive a response in a timely manner, we begin to wonder what’s wrong.   Before email and cell phones we would expect a response to take a bit of time, now we expect a response almost instantaneously.  I know I’m guilty.  The more time that goes by, the more our minds kick into gear and we start thinking the worst. In some cases, we can even become offended.   I believe social media and new technology have accentuated the issue.  John Bevere says,“An offended heart is the breeding ground of deception”.  What he means is that when we become offended, our minds conjure up all sorts of things.  We begin to have a battle going on in our mind that isn’t even real.  It’s like the old cartoon that has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.  They are both speaking to us and it can get a little crazy up there.  Before things get too crazy, we need to take some steps:

  1. TALK YOURSELF OUT OF BEING OFFENDED – Don’t assume the worst!!  And even if they are blowing you off, remember President Lincoln’s wise words: We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.”
  2. OVERCOME SELF-CENTEREDNESS – Often when we are offended, it’s because we think the world revolves around us.  I know it’s a lifelong battle that we face, but when we have victory over it once, it will be easier to have it the next time. 
  3. ACCEPT IMPERFECTION –  No one on this earth is perfect, in fact there has only been one perfect person that ever lived.  That’s why the apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 4:8(NLT), “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

Three great steps for striving to avoid being offended.  In some cases, it’s too late because we’ve already gotten offended and lashed out.  In that situation, we need to seek the person out and apologize and hope they are following the steps above. 

Questions to ask yourself: Have you been offended this past week?  Which step do you most need to work on?  When will you begin working on the steps?  

 
“Stupidity”  Thursday, December 8, 2016

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

 Verse for the weekProverbs 3:7 (NLT) “Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.  Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”

 Stupidity is defined as: behavior that shows a lack of good sense or judgment.

Several years ago, Robert Overacker equipped himself with a homemade rocket-parachute contraption and rode a jet ski over Horseshoe Falls at full throttle. He planned to ignite the rocket to propel him clear of the falls, then deploy the parachute and float down to the river below, where he would be fished out by the Maid o’ the Mist tour boat.  But the water had a dampening effect on his equipment. The rocket failed to ignite and the parachute failed to deploy. His body was recovered by Maid of the Mist staff. Robert became the fifteenth person since 1901 to intentionally go over the Falls in or on a device.

 (http://darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin2000-26.html)

The above story would be an illustration of not showing good sense.  I don’t have room to talk because recently I headed to the airport for a mission trip without checking my passport.  Once I arrived at the airport it was discovered that my passport was expired.  I was not able to go.   My actions didn’t just affect me but those in the country I was headed to, the other team members, and those who were praying and gave financially.    Robert Overackers action not only affected himself but the wife that he left behind.   When we don’t use good sense or judgment, it affects others.  That’s probably why the writer of Proverbs said: (NLT) 21 My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment.  Hang on to them. 
 

What causes stupidity?  Too often we are impatient and impetuous (acting quickly and without thought or care.) Generally, we have time to think through what the consequences might be for our actions, but we don’t take the time to do it.  Had I thought of the consequences, I would have checked and made arrangements to update my passport.   Had Robert not been impetuous, he would still be around for his wife.    Some people don’t think about the consequences of missing church, drinking, working too much, or sitting around watching too much television.  The next time you are in a hurry, slow down and analyze the situation.  We can usually avoid stupidity if we just take the time to think about the consequences. 

Question to ask yourself:  What are you doing that you need to step back and analyze the situation before impetuously acting?

 
“A Lost Art?”  Thursday, November 24, 2016
 

Verse for the weekPhilippians 2:3-4 (MSG) “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.”

We live in a society that takes just about everything for granted and expects others to serve us.  We don’t even take our grocery buggies back to the store anymore. We put them in the buggy rack unless we are in a hurry.  We then try to justify our action by talking about job security.  Let’s be honest. We are “meistic!”  (Yes, that’s a new word and it’s in my dictionary.)  My definition of meistic is that the focus is always on ME.  Some would say it’s being self-centered, narcissistic or egotistical.  Someone once said, “If you live your life as if everything is about you …. you will be left with just that. Just you.”

Once upon a time we would say “thank you” if someone held the door, now we expect it.  I enjoy holding the door for others and have at times, been known to conduct experiments.  I wait to see how many people say “Thank you!”   People enjoy having someone hold the door for them, and I’ve also observed that people of all ages say “Thank you,” but more often than not they don’t say anything.  Colossians 3:15 NLT) says, “…And always be thankful.”  Being thankful is a lost art.  I know the old children’s show “Barney” used to try to teach children to say “please” and “thank you” but somewhere along the line it didn’t catch on (but it is a catchy toon – https://youtu.be/D3CgwV3o7AM).  I think it’s time for us to stop being so meistic and start being thankful!  We should start saying thank you to the custodians where we work, to the grocery clerk where we shop, to the nursing home workers, to the police men, to our parents, and the list goes on.   Most importantly we should say “THANK YOU” to God.  No matter what financial position we are in life, we have much to be thankful for!  Psalm 105:1 (NLT) “Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.  Let the whole world know what he has done.”

Questions to ask yourself: Who can you say “THANK YOU!” to right now?  

Quote: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey

 
“Just a Book”  Thursday, November 17, 2016
 

Verse for the week:  2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT) All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

 Throughout my 51 years of life I have heard all sorts of arguments against the Bible such as, “it’s a bunch of fiction”, “it’s not reliable”, “it’s just full of men’s opinions”, etc.  Because of good teachers who allowed me to ask questions, I believe the verse above.  I know I am in the minority, but recently I found out just how much in the minority I am. 

  • Only 28% of Americans believe the Bible is the actual word of God and that it should be taken literally! (Gallup)
  • A whopping 39% of evangelicals don’t believe the Bible is literal (Pew research).

It seems to me that I’m in a much smaller minority than I originally thought.  So why do I believe in the Bible?  I’ll attempt to keep this brief.   

  • The Bibliographical Test– The Bible’s reliability is attested to by thousands of ancient manuscripts!
  • External Evidence Test (Historical Accuracy)– Does other historical material (scientific, historical, or prophetic) confirm or deny the internal evidence found in the manuscripts?  Numerous discoveries have confirmed the historical accuracy of the New and Old Testament documents.
  • Internal Evidence Test– Were the messenger’s firsthand witnesses and were they trustworthy? We know that the New Testament was written in the same generation in which the events took place, and that it was circulated among the very people about whom these documents were written – while they were still alive to deny them. I know this barely scratches the surface of a sermon I preached a while back.  Here is a link to that sermon for further study: http://www.pfwc.net/hp_wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/How-do-I-know-the-Bible-is-True.pdf
 

Questions to ask yourself: 

 What do you believe about the Bible?  If you believe it’s the “Word of God”, are you applying it to your life?  
 

Quote: Isaac Newton, English mathematician and scientist, 1642-1727 “We account the scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.”

 
 
Dooms Day” Thursday, November 10, 2016
 

Verse for the week. Galatians 6:9 (NLT) “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up!”

 

Recently I preached a message entitled “What if…?”  It was about dreaming, and that in order to see dreams come to fruition we have to get off the couch, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.  Dreaming is fun but it also has a negative side.  During the political season, many candidates share their dreams.  It never fails that their opponent or one of their constituents begin to bloviate (to bloviate is to talk, but not just to chat. To bloviate means to go on and on and on and on, usually in a pompous way.) about all the negatives of the candidate’s plan.  By the time the opposition is finished, they have made it sound like if we elect the individual, it will lead to “Dooms Day” for the world.   

Every day it appears we face a battle in our minds.   We start feeling ill, and the next thing you know we have convinced ourselves that we have some disease.   We are working towards achieving a goal, and we get tired and start overanalyzing and before you know it, “Dooms Day” is just ahead.  Once we start thinking about “Dooms Day”, we become discouraged, and depressed.  Joyce Meyer, in her book Battlefield of the Mind, writes, “Discouragement destroys hope, so naturally the devil always tries to discourage us. Without hope we give up…”  This was evident in Florence Chadwick as she attempted to swim 26 miles between Catalina Island and the California coastline in 1952.  As she began, she was flanked by small boats that watched for sharks and were prepared to help her if she got hurt or grew tired. After about 15 hours a thick fog set in. Florence began to doubt her ability, and she told her mother, who was in one of the boats, that she didn’t think she could make it. She swam for another hour before asking to be pulled out, unable to see the coastline due to the fog. As she sat in the boat, she found out she had stopped swimming just one mile away from her destination.  Wow, how discouraging, and it was all because she was tired and psyched herself out.  The next year she swam it again and succeeded!  Thomas Edison wrote, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  Wherever you are right now, let me encourage you to not give up.  “Dooms Day” may or may not be ahead, but we need to keep pressing on and not give up!  The apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:14 (NLT) “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us”

 

Questions to ask yourself:  What situation are you facing that you have allowed yourself to think the worst? What will you do to begin to focus on positive things rather than the “what if” negatives?  

 
“Dreaming Big” – Thursday, November 3, 2016
 

Verse for the week:  Mark 11:23-24 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. 24 I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.” 

Great Quote: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” – Michelangelo 

Have you ever dreamed of winning the lottery, even though you don’t play it?  Maybe it was winning the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. My mother would always send hers back in and would place stickers on the envelope so that it would stand out.  Possibly you began dreaming about what you would do with all that money from your long lost relative from Saudi Arabia, 15 times removed, after receiving the email that said you had been discovered as the only living relative to the billion-dollar estate.  (That’s exciting until you keep reading and find out that you need to send them your bank routing number and account number.)  I’ve dreamed about it.  I have a rather long list that includes paying off debt, purchasing a vehicle for my wife, purchasing a building in El Salvador to open a school to train pastors, helping others in need, upgrading the heating and cooling in our church gymnasium as well as the floors, and most importantly I would purchase new chairs that connect for the church sanctuary (I guess I should get carpet too). That’s a pretty expensive list and I only mentioned a few.  It’s fun to dream.  The only problem with dreaming is that if we just sit around and dream we will accomplish nothing.  The way to see that dream come to fruition (the point at which a plan or project is realized) is when we get up off the couch, and begin to pursue it.  Some have pursued their dreams but when things didn’t happen quickly enough, they gave up and quit.  God can give us new dreams!  C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”  Whatever that dream is, you must work at it!  2 Chronicles 15:7 (NLT) says, “But as for you, be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded.” and “Colossians 3:23 (NIV) says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”  I don’t think much of anything in life comes easy.  So get up and get moving.  Don’t let past failures discourage you from dreaming but let your biggest goal and dream be to hear God say “Well Done!”

Questions to ask yourself: Have you had a dream that died and need to ask God to give you a new dream?  What dream do you have right now that you need to begin working towards?

 
“Who’s the real enemy” Thursday, October 27, 2016
 

Verse for the week: “Proverbs 24:17 (NLT) Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.”

I have attended a few city council and county board of supervisors meetings in my lifetime.    Usually they aren’t all that interesting and are fairly uneventful, but I have been to a couple that elicited a lot of emotion.  Recently I attended one that had people so upset they were visibly shaking and their faces were red and contorted. (It intrigues me when people allow themselves to get so upset that they allow their emotions to control them rather than controlling their emotions, but that’s a topic for another time.  My wife says I would understand it perfectly if I was a woman.  I doubt it!)  The people were getting upset with the supervisors who, in this circumstance, were in the same boat as everyone else and couldn’t do anything.    Too often we direct our emotions toward the wrong person, treating them as if they are the enemy when they either disagree with us, or are not able to control any change.   Isn’t that the way it usually happens?  We’ve had a bad day and the clerk at the store is a little slow and we blow up at them. Or we come home after a bad day and “bite the head off” of those who we care about the most.  The best thing that we can do is to take a deep breath, calm down, and remember Romans 12:18 (NLT) Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.   When we do this, we will hopefully realize that the person we are being unkind to isn’t the real enemy.   In many cases, even the person who we think is the enemy isn’t the enemy.  The ultimate enemy that wants to trip us up and cause us to lash out at others is the devil.  1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  We need to be on guard so that we don’t fall into his trap and end up hurting someone. 

 

Question to ask yourself: When have you displaced your emotions, and took them out on someone else?  What will you do to rectify the situation? 

 
“Pushing the right button”  Thursday, October 20, 2016
 

Verse for the week: “Colossians 3:2 (KJV) Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

At our church we have a portable baptistery.  When the church was built there wasn’t one included so after years of not having one, we were finally able to purchase one a few years ago.  We were excited because it was so much better than the inflatable pool we had used before.  It has a pump to circulate the water and a heater.   We had used it twice when the pump and heater stopped working.  For the past 3 years we have filled it up with hot water in hopes that it would stay warm until the baptisms took place.   We have had several people look at the pump to see if there was an issue but nobody could figure out what the problem was, until recently.  We were getting ready to have another baptism and had someone come out to put a new element in the hot water heater so there would be hot water to fill it.  After he repaired the water heater we then asked him to look at the baptistery.  He took plates off that covered wires and used his electrical tester but all seemed to be in order.  But then he pulled out a cord that had a large white button on it and when he pressed it, all things kicked into gear.  The following Sunday we were able to have the baptistery filled with circulating, warm water.  It was a beautiful experience.

So what spiritual insight does this story have?  We like to be comfortable and content. Just look at all the bed commercials out there:  Sleep Number, Tempur-pedic, Posture-pedic, Beauty Rest and so on.  I can tell you that those who were baptized when the water was cold did not prefer it.  (My oldest brother was baptized in a creek where they had to bust the ice out of it. – I DON’T THINK SO!”)    The Apostle Paul writes in  Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. What was the secret?  He realized that nothing in this world could truly make us content.  Things may give us comfort and contentment for a moment, but true contentment comes only from Christ and lasts forever.  Hebrews 13:5 (NLT) says, Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you
.”

Question to ask yourself:  What are you striving to fill your life with that will bring you contentment?  Is it found in the things of this world or in Jesus Christ?  

 
“Stuffmart” Thursday, October 13, 2016

Verse for the week: I Peter 2:11 “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it.”

Christmas is coming! In Kmart they already have Christmas trees up and ornaments for sale. I love the Christmas season, the decorations, the food, the gifts and most importantly the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. As a child being raised by a single mom with four rambunctious boys, things were usually pretty tough. On Christmas morning we would wake up ready to go open the presents to see what we would get. We had no clue that socks and underwear, for many people, weren’t actually gifts and so even those excited us. One year things must not have been so tight because I remember my mom giving me the J.C. Penny Catalog and telling me I could circle 3 things that I really wanted. That was almost better than Christmas for me. I looked and looked (kind of like some people look at Pinterest today) to see what I wanted. I circled the three things I wanted and when Christmas came I received one of them and enjoyed playing with it for hours. As an adult I have more elaborate toys. I no longer get to enjoy playing with them for hours like I used to because I’m busy repairing, cleaning, and taking care of them. I have heard it said thatThe more you own, the more it owns you!” and that is so true. Yet so often we want more, more, more. We like going to the “Stuffmart” and buying more stuff and before we know it our lives are consumed with just taking care of all that stuff. We think all these things will make us happy but in reality, we end up losing focus on what’s really important and when that happens, things fall apart. 1 Timothy 6:9 (NLT) says, “But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.” I think the minimalists may be on to something.

As we look forward to Christmas, instead of focusing on all the stuff we want, let’s start focusing on what’s important:

  • Our relationship with God
  • Our Families
  • Our relationships with others

Question to ask yourself: What is there that you really want, that in the grand scheme of things isn’t all that important and will actually distract you from what is important?

 
“The World is Not Your Ashtray.”

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Verse for the week: Numbers 35:33 (NIV) “Do not pollute the land where you are…”

Have you ever driven down the road and stopped at a stop light and noticed the pile of cigarette butts piled up along the curb? Or maybe you’ve see the “Adopt a Highway” signs placed around where organizations, churches, and even families adopt a section of road to pick up the discarded trash along roadways. Our church does it and I’ve been doing it since I was a child. My mom would have us take a bucket and pick up the trash along a quarter mile stretch of road that was the distance between our home and our grandmothers. It doesn’t matter how many times we pick it up, it seemed liked within moments more would appear. Even at our church we pick up cigarette butts every week. (Lots of them pile up around the sign that says “No Smoking…”). It really isn’t an issue that just follows me, it’s a worldwide issue. I’ve been to several countries around the world and have seen the same issues. Well, there is one county that has had enough and is doing something about it. In January of 2014 the county board of supervisors in Roanoke County, Virginia evidently had enough and began a campaign to battle littering in the area. They had banners donated and placed them all around the county that said “The World is Not Your Ashtray.” Now two years later they have metal signs place at intersections and in other areas. I would like to report that after nearly two years our small place on this beautiful earth is cigarette butt and litter free but it’s not. We have actually purchased one of those containers that people put their cigarette butts in and place it by our gym door to help combat the problem. Why do people do it? I think it’s a lack of respect kind of like when people trim their finger nails in church. (I mean SERIOUSLY!?) It’s a lack of respect shown towards other people, towards God, and towards His creation. We are called to take care of the world that we live in. In Genesis 2:15 (NLT) it says, “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.” So how do we tend and watch over it? We recycle, we pick up trash, we are careful about the carbon footprint that we leave, and we strive to be contentious about being wasteful. When we begin to do these things and teach others, soon there won’t be a need for the counties to spend money on signs that say things like “The World is Not Your Ashtray.”

 

Question to ask yourself: What am I doing to help take care of God’s creation?

 

 

Kudzu

Click title for a downloadable PDF version

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Verse for the week: Philippians 2:12b (NLT) “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.”

I have a stream next to my house but we only own property to the middle of the stream. The stream acts as the property line. When we purchased the property the stream was overgrown with vines, brush, and other unknown vegetation. We wanted to enjoy the view of it without all the junk so I began to clear out our side of the stream. I asked permission to clear out the neighbors side too, but they were concerned about erosion so requested I leave their side alone. It’s been about a year since I’ve cleared it and every two or three months I weedtrim the area again. It takes much less time than when I started, and what I’ve noticed is that instead of a bunch of brush and vines, the grass is filling in. This is great because it’s helping to keep the hill along our side of the stream from eroding. However, the other side of the stream… well let’s just say it doesn’t look as nice as ours. Now I’ve noticed Kudzu growing on their side. Kudzu was taken from China and introduced to the United States in 1876 as a method for controlling soil erosion, and has since become an aggressively invasive species. Kudzu may be good for erosion but the plant climbs over trees or shrubs and grows so rapidly that it kills them by heavy shading. I’m not a big fan of kudzu or the other brush growing on the other side of the stream. So what’s the point to all of this? Too often we think that if we just keep things the way they are that we will be okay. but we don’t realize that the stuff we are ignoring could be killing us and doing just the opposite of what we hope. Just like my hillside next to my stream needs regular maintenance to keep it looking nice and to prevent it from erosion so our spiritual lives require regular maintenance. Psalm 1:2 (MSG) says, “Instead you thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night.” To do this requires work! Rarely going to church, rarely reading the Bible, and praying is a sure way to see our spiritual lives erode.

Question to ask yourself: What are you ignoring in your life that is eroding your relationship with God?

 

ONE Second

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Verse for the week: Proverbs 27:1 (NLT) “Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring.”

My son was getting ready to head to college when he realized he needed some information from the doctor. In the past we would call and request the information but we couldn’t call this time. Why? Because my son had turned 18! On the day before his 18th birthday we could have called. On the day before his 18th birthday at 11:59 and 59 seconds we could have called. But in that one second, everything changed. In one second my son became an adult. He can now make decisions for himself, go to war and fight, vote, sign for his own loans, and make his own medical decisions. All of this and more in just one second. WOW! As I was thinking about this and being a tad overwhelmed, I shared these thoughts with my wife. As we talked, she made a profound statement. She said that all of our teaching and training up until that point hopefully prepared him for that one second of change. Just as basic training is to prepare a person for what is to come, so this life is training for eternity. Unlike my son who eagerly looked forward to his birthday, we don’t know when that last second will come, when our life will be dramatically changed. One of my grandmother’s favorite hymns was “Work for the Night is Coming” based on John 9:4 (NLT) which says: “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.” Basically that verse is saying life is short and that last second could come at any second, so don’t put off saying those difficult words “I’m sorry, I was wrong!”, or the most important phrase “God please forgive me of all the things I’ve done wrong!”

 

Question to ask yourself: Who are you putting off saying I’m sorry to or admitting you were wrong?

 
 
How to plunge a toilet
Click on title for a PDF copy

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Verse for the week: James 1:5 (NLT)If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

I’ve been at the current church I pastor for 15 years and in the ministry for 28 years. Over this period of time I have frequently had people come up to me to inform me that the toilet is clogged. I go in to check out the situation, look next to the toilet and see the plunger, grab it and begin to plunge away. Usually in seconds the issue is taken care of. I’m sure it’s an entertaining sight to watch the pastor, sometimes with a suit on, plunging the toilet. I’m not sure why people feel the need to tell me instead of plunging the toilet themselves. I’m sure it must be a bit humiliating to have to tell someone the toilet is clogged, especially if you were the one who clogged it. Maybe they don’t know how to plunge a toilet, or maybe they didn’t see the plunger sitting next to the toilet. If it’s the first reason there is a website to go to http://www.familyhandyman.com/plumbing/toilet-repair/how-to-fix-a-clogged-toilet/view-all for detailed written instructions. J However, I think lack of knowledge is not usually the reason unless it is a young child.

 

I believe it’s a matter of initiative. The word initiative is a noun and means “the ability to assess and initiate things independently.” That means you don’t expect someone else to take care of the issue, you take care of it yourself. My mother used to tell us all the time “if you see something that needs to be done, do it!” Taking initiative is being a leader and a good team player. Taking initiative is being prudent, which means acting with or showing care and thought for the future. Proverbs 27:12 (NLT) says, “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” It takes effort to take initiative and it’s a matter of choosing to do it because it’s the right thing to do. The next time you see a difficult or challenging situation, take initiative and analyze the situation to see if it’s something that you can take care of yourself.

 

Question to ask yourself: What area’s in your life are you not taking the initiative to change?

 

I’d be more religious if…

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Verse for the week: Micah 6:8 (NLT) “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

I’ve heard people say that the reason they don’t go to church is that they aren’t that religious of a person. If I were to press them further usually the comments that follow are: “I’d be more religious if:

… there weren’t so many politics in the church

… they didn’t always ask for money

… there weren’t so many hypocrites in the church

… my parents didn’t force me as a child

… there was a different pastor

… it wasn’t for the people

… it wasn’t for the rules

These are all just excuses! People make excuses all the time. Why do people make excuses? Psychologists say that we make excuses from an unconscious desire to protect ourselves from anxiety and shame. Could it be that the reason we aren’t more religious and don’t go to church is because we don’t want to experience the shame for the things we know we shouldn’t be doing? If this is the reason, it shouldn’t stop us from going to church and being “more religious”. I know of at least one church, and I’m sure there are many more, where they love people right where they are. It doesn’t mean that we don’t teach what the Bible says about sin because sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). God loves us and wants us to love Him back as well as others. Mark 12:29-31(NLT) says, Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

In order for us to Love God with all our hearts, we need to stop making excuses and begin pursuing a relationship with the Creator of the world.

 

Question to ask yourself: What excuse are you using for not pursuing a relationship with your creator?

 

Wake-Up Call

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Verse for the week: Ephesians 5:14 (NLT) “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Have you ever set your alarm only to have it not go off? That happened to me recently when I was supposed to get up very early. I was lying in bed when I heard the neighbor’s donkey braying and I thought to myself, “there must be a coyote out there for him to be braying in the middle of the night!” I opened my eyes and realized it wasn’t dark, it was daylight. I quickly looked at the clock and it was an hour past the time I was supposed to get up. I jumped out of bed in order to get ready for an appointment that I was already late for. I decided it was futile to try to make it to the appointment so I called humbly and gave my regrets. I was frustrated with myself and disappointed that I missed the appointment!

According to merriam-webster.com, a “wake-up call” is: something that makes you fully understand a problem, danger, or need.” We all have wake-up calls from time to time. Maybe it’s being admitted to the hospital, getting fired from a job, getting into an auto accident, or having a confrontation with a spouse, parent, or even God. These wake-up calls cause us to realize the immensity of the situation and in many cases the brevity of life. What do you do when you get a wake-up call? Some people do nothing and let things continue to spiral downward. Others attempt to make changes on their own with no accountability. A wise person will gather accountability partners (people that will get on our case if we aren’t doing it) to help make the necessary changes in life. Proverbs 15:22 (NLT) says, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” A wise person will also develop an action plan and have a strong determination to change. When we develop a plan of action for change, gather accountability partners around us, and have a strong determination, we will change.

Question to ask yourself: What area in your life do you need to change before it’s too late? Develop a plan of action, gather some accountability partners, and be determined!

 

 

Nobody wants to hurt a horse

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Verse for the week: Psalm 139:13-14 (NLT) You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

Recently there has been a lot of news about violence towards police officers and concerns about protests. Because of the concerns, at a recent convention they built walls, beefed up security, and brought in extra police officers with several on horseback. As I was listening to the news, they commented about how few protests there were, and seemed astonished at how little violence there was. One female commentator stated that having the police on horseback really made the difference because “nobody wants to hurt a horse!” I’m not sure she meant anything bad in her statement, but what I heard was that it’s okay to hurt people but not animals. In the world today there are all sorts of animal rights groups and laws that protect animals. Here are just a few:

  • In Colorado the dog catcher must notify dogs of potential impounding by posting a notice on a tree for three days before they can impound them. (I didn’t realize dogs could read!)
  • In Oklahoma there is an ordinance that forbids making “ugly faces” at dogs.
  • In Virginia if you have an annoying groundhog and you catch it, you can only release it somewhere else on your property. (That’s not good if you live on a small piece of property.)
  • In Utah, birds have the right of way on public highways. (Interesting!)
The list goes on and on, and it seems that people care less about human life than they do for animals. I believe that God made animals, and yes, we shouldn’t abuse them, but I also know that God made humanity. Genesis 1:27 (NLT) says, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” We are created in the image of God! In Jeremiah 1:5a (NLT) it also says, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.” So, if God created and formed us, shouldn’t human life be valued from the womb to the deathbed? YOU… are highly valued and cared for! Yes, God cares for the animals and has given us the responsibility to care for them, but God loves each person reading this even more! How do I know, because He sent His only son to take our punishment for all the things we have done wrong (John 3:16-17)! The next time you hear someone talking about animal rights, remember, you are even more valuable! Also, the next time you see a police officer on a horse, go up to them and say “Thank you!”
 

Questions to ask yourself: How valuable do you feel? How do you treat others?

 

Just like in the Movies

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Verse for the week: 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT) Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

I was driving on the highway heading home after dropping some students off at camp. I was listening to talk radio and enjoying my time to myself. I was enjoying the beauty of the scenery when all of a sudden up ahead and to the left I saw a car heading over the median. Granted it’s kind of fun to go driving through the grass but in this case the driver wasn’t just going for a Sunday drive. This car was tumbling over and over and over again just like in the movies. I immediately pulled over and grabbed my phone to call 911 as the car stopped rolling and landed on all four tires. I’m not sure what caused the accident, maybe they were changing their radio, or reading a text, or fell asleep. What I know is that I could just imagine the person’s life flashing before them. Many of us live life as if we are going to live forever, but that isn’t the case. James 4:14 (NLT) says, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” Some people will read that verse and think, “Wow… I better live it up today because there are no guarantees for tomorrow”. What we need to be doing is making the most of each and every day that we live because when this life is over we will stand before God. Hebrews 9:27 (NLT) says, “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment.” Live for eternity and make each day count.

For those who were wondering…. yes I did stop and call 911. However, after seeing several more capable people stopping to help, I headed on home. I’m not sure what happened to the person but it appeared that they were buckled up. Finally, yes, I did pray for the person.

Questions to ask yourself: Are you living your life as if you are going to live forever, or are you prepared to face God in eternity?

 

Rejected

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Verse for the week: Romans 5:8(NLT) But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Mandy received a text asking if we wanted two baby ducks and of course, she said yes. Evidently a chicken decided to start setting on two duck eggs and when they hatched the chicken became their mommy. I’m not sure why the people didn’t want them but Mandy arranged to go pick them up. On her way she received another text asking her if we wanted the “mommy” too because there was just too much angst when they were split up. Once again Mandy said “yes!” We received them and the baby ducks were very cute and the “mommy” was very protective. We watched her guide her babies to food, call them back to her if they went too far away, gathered them close to her if she sensed danger, and brought them to the duck house when it was time for bed. After a few weeks the ducks were exploring even more and behaving very independently but still looked for their “mommy” to make sure she wasn’t too far away. Finally one night the baby ducks went in the duck house but their mommy went in the chicken coop. The babies survived the night and so did mommy but something had changed. No longer did she want them near her, nor did she look after them. Evidently she thought they were old enough to take care of themselves now because every time the babies go close to her she would drive them away. It hurt me to think that she was rejecting them.

Many of us have felt rejection before. Maybe it was the rejection of a parent, a spouse, a friend, etc. Whoever it was that did the rejecting, if we are honest, it hurt! We aren’t alone in being rejected, even Jesus was (Isaiah 53:3) yet He keeps reaching out to us. In fact, Revelation 3:20 (NLT) says, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” He is reaching out to us and desiring a relationship with us. He isn’t the one rejecting us, we are the ones that are rejecting Him but the good news is that as long as we have breath it’s not too late. If God cares about us enough to reach out to us when we have done so much, what is there keeping you from being reconciled with God and with others.

 

Questions to ask yourself: Have you rejected God? What about others? What can you do today to begin rebuilding those relationships?

 

 

Bumper Stickers & Chickens

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Verse for the week: Romans 12:2 (NLT) Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

I find it very relaxing being outside on our porch, sitting in my rocking chair and watching our chickens. At times they can be mean, but usually they are quite humorous. If one chicken spots a bug across the chicken run, they will run after it and soon all of the other chickens are running over to see what’s going on. They are very curious creatures. At night when our alpha rooster says it’s time to go to bed, they all follow him into the chicken coop. I find it interesting how the chickens flock together and follow each other. Chickens aren’t the only ones that flock together and follow each other, people do too. Have you ever seen the bumper sticker “I hope you are following Jesus this closely!”? I have, and to me it’s kind of annoying. I think this sign has little to do with Jesus and more to do with tailgaters. I like to read bumper stickers, and sometimes you have to get close to read them. Seriously, isn’t that bumper sticker (and others) encouraging tailgaters? Okay off my soap box… My mother always said that “Birds of a feather flock together.” I understand now what that means. We tend to hang around those who are like us. The deeper meaning behind my mom saying that phrase repeatedly is that we are who we hang out with, and we need to choose our friends wisely. Far too often we choose friends who we are comfortable with and that keep their mouths shut when we are doing something stupid. We pick people who will agree with us no matter what we are doing, but Proverbs 27:5-7 (CEV) says, “A truly good friend will openly correct you.” I believe that we should choose friends who can say as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV) “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ…” I hope I have chosen my friends wisely, and that I don’t just follow the flock because that’s what everyone else is doing!

Questions to ask yourself: When is the last time you had a friend correct you or you corrected them? Who are you and your friends following?

 

Airport Attitudes
Date: Thu, 30 Jun 2016

Verse for the week: I Corinthians 10:24 (NLT) “Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.”
Waiting in an airport gives a person a lot to observe. You observe a plethora of expressions: smiles, frowns, looks of exhaustion, concern, seriousness, anger, etc., all in people either rushing to catch their flight or waiting during a layover. You also observe actions, such as people being considerate: holding the door, volunteering a seat, etc. I appreciate it when people are considerate. However, more often than not, I observed people being inconsiderate: allowing the door to go shut on the people behind them rather than holding it, not saying thank you when the door was held open (more people should learn Barney’s “Please and Thank You” song), begrudgingly moving when asked to move so a family could sit together, not helping when an elderly person is struggling or not getting up so they could sit while waiting for the plane, treating employees rudely and then expecting them to be nice after having had a long day dealing with many temperamental individuals.

As much as we don’t like to admit it, we are self-centered people living among self-centered people. I believe it’s time that there was a resurgence of consideration, and that those who profess to be Christians should LEAD the WAY! Phillipians 2:4 (NLT) says, Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. This is an instruction not just a suggestion! Today would be a great day to get your focus off yourself and onto others.

Question to consider: What will you begin doing TODAY to show consideration to others?
 

6-23-16 I Can’t

Verse for the week: Philippians 4:13 (NLT) “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Have you ever heard someone use the words “I can’t” when asked to do something? It seems to be a phrase that people now use in epidemic proportions. I was recently talking to a friend of mine about the issue and he said that when people say “I can’t!” what they are actually saying is “I won’t!” If we are honest with ourselves we will agree with him. My brother, Mark, has pretty much outlawed the word. When he hears someone use the phrase, he immediately challenges them. Why? Because by saying you can’t do something, you’re doubting yourself and submitting to defeat! I now think twice about saying that phrase. So why do people use the phrase?

  1. Fear– they are afraid that they will mess up!
  2. Perception– People fear what others may think of them if they aren’t successful.
  3. Self-judgment– You don’t believe that you are capable of doing it.
  4. Convenience– Some people use the phrase because they don’t want to disrupt their day and be inconvenienced.

 

That’s a pretty good list for us to ponder, but I’ve found that there are a lot of things that we say we can’t do that we actually can do if we put our mind to it. In order to do this, we may need to:

  1. Get more information from the directions, books, websites or people with experience.
  2. Build up our confidence by taking small steps
  3. Become more determined
  4. Admit the only thing holding you back is you.
 
We are amazing creatures, created by God with great abilities.

Psalms 139:13-14 (NLT) says, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” It’s time that we stop underestimating ourselves because we have been made in God’s image! Let’s stop saying “I can’t!” and begin saying “I’ll try!” or “I will!”

 

Question to ponder: When is the last time you said “I can’t” but actually meant “you won’t”? Take time to evaluate the reasons and ask yourself if they are valid. If not, stop making excuses and try.

 

6-9-16 Road Rage

Verse for the week: Romans 12:10 (NLT) “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

 

We were leaving the civic center after the graduation of our son. The parking lot was crowded and there was a bit of a wait as we were trying to leave. We were looking forward to lunch with family and friends in celebration. Graduations are filled with mixed emotions; joy, excitement, and sadness. My wife had them all going through her. We were sitting in the vehicle and slowly advancing forward while my wife sobbed. As we neared the exit I saw a man waiting to pull out and decided to be a nice guy and let him out. As he pulled out he waved and I began to pull forward when out of my peripheral vision I see a car pulling out of a parking spot and racing towards the gap between me and the other guy. I kept moving forward but more slowly as we almost collided. I gently tapped the horn to let the woman know that we were there and to nonverbally say she was being foolish. She cut in front of us and as she did my wife immediately stopped crying and almost climbed into my lap as she began slamming on the horn. I pushed her back gently and said her name. She then responded with, “Well, she thinks she’s more important than anyone else!”

After everything happened we began laughing about the situation. There are so many things that I could write about but the one thing that stuck out was that “she thinks she’s more important than anyone else.” It’s not just this woman who thinks of herself so highly. If we are honest, we all have those tendencies. Think about the times you’ve gotten frustrated at the grocery store because the clerk was going too slowly, or there was a price check and we have someplace to be. What we need to do is calm down, slow down and realize that the world doesn’t revolve around us! Jesus said in Matthew 20:26-27 (NCV) “Whoever wants to become great among you must serve the rest of you like a servant. 27 Whoever wants to become first among you must serve the rest of you like a slave.” Wow, that’s deep! What he’s saying is what I already said, “the world doesn’t revolve around you!” If it doesn’t revolve around us, then who does it revolve around? Jesus also answered that question when He was asked what the greatest commandment was. In Matthew 22:37-39 (NLT) Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
 

Question to ponder: When is the last time you acted as though the world revolved around you? What can you do to serve others today?

 

6-2-16 Hearing Voices

Verse for the week: Matthew 7:24 (NLT) “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.”

I’m not a big fan of water, bridges, or white water rafting. However, I do get into the water, I drive over bridges (with clenched hands on the steering wheel) and I have gone white water rafting on a few occasions. On one of the rafting trips, I remember listening to the guide giving us instructions. He told us what to do if we fell out and I remembered the story of a friend who fell out and the raft went over him and he almost drowned. Why was I going white water rafting? Oh yeah, because of teenagers who think they are going to live forever and nothing will ever go wrong. Okay, back to the story… the instructor showed us how to paddle and from which side to help us get through the rapids. He then proceeded to tell us that there would be a lot of voices out on the water. There would be people in other rafts talking and other guides giving instructions. In addition to those people, there would also be people talking in our raft. He shared that it would be very important to listen to his instructions and not anyone else.

I’ve thought of that story often and thought of how it’s so easy to be distracted. Sure enough, while we were rafting down the river and things started getting a little rough one of the people in our raft, not the guide, started yelling instructions and the guide had to correct him and remind us to listen only to him. Our world is full of voices telling us what to believe, where to go, what to do, etc. The advice of the world isn’t always correct. In fact, frequently it’s wrong. But the advice that comes from God is wise. Proverbs 3:6 (MSG) says, “Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” I have found that the best place to go to hear God’s voice isn’t around a crowd of people, but in a quiet place with your Bible. I’ve had people tell me that “God spoke to them” yet it contradicted what the Bible said. God will never contradict Himself, He isn’t fickle (adjective – changing frequently, especially as regards one’s loyalties, interests, or affection.)!

 

Question to ponder: Whose advice, instructions, counsel are you listening to? If it contradicts the Bible, it’s not from God.

 

 

5-26-16 Ignoring Car Trouble

Verse for the week: Proverbs 6:4 (NLT) “Don’t put it off; do it now! Don’t rest until you do.”

I left church on Sunday and was heading to lunch when we were stopped behind a long line of cars at a red light. The light turned green and the lane next to us proceeded to go but we didn’t. Why weren’t we moving? Soon we noticed a couple of cars going around the right side of a vehicle that had its blinkers on. The thought went through my mind that someone needed to help them but I said nothing to Mandy who was driving. She then spoke up and said “he needs to move his vehicle before there’s an accident!” I jumped out and said “I’ll offer to push him off to the side.” When I got to him he thanked me and said he’s had this problem before and it usually starts. I then went to start pushing as someone almost hits me as they go flying by on the right side of the vehicle (it’s a good thing I’m a preacher if you know what I mean.). I was soon joined by my boss, my district superintendent (kind of like a bishop), and we pushed him to the side of the road where the gentleman’s vehicle promptly started. He thanked us and we all proceeded on our way. I was glad that I helped even though it took a little extra prompting from my wife. I thanked her for doing the right thing and asked God’s forgiveness for my delayed obedience.

I have had the opportunity to ponder about what took place. There are several life lessons that I could pull from the incident but the phrase that stuck in my head was when the driver said that he had this problem before and it eventually starts. There was a problem with his vehicle and he didn’t want to take the time to look into it and correct the situation. In the meantime, he endangered his life and the lives of others. Too often we have sin in our lives and instead of seeking help to correct the issue, we ignore it hoping that it will go away. Sadly, when we ignore sin it gets rooted in like an annoying unwanted weed. The longer we ignore it, the more damage that it causes. If we continue to ignore it in this life it will lead to greater issues in eternity! The gentleman with the car problems may have thought he couldn’t afford to get his vehicle fixed, but thankfully we can go to God and get fixed and it won’t cost us anything because it’s already been paid. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you would like to know more about this, please feel free to contact me and I’ll happily talk with you. As my mom always said, “Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today!”
 

Question to ponder: What issue are you putting off dealing with that you need to take care of today?

 

5-19-16 False Advertising

Verse for the week: James 1:8 (NLT) “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

 

Most people have a favorite place they like to buy pizza. It may be Little Caesars, Dominos, Pizza Hut, PaPa Johns, Franks, etc. My favorite pizza place is Pizza King Pizza in Marion, Indiana. They make an incredible pizza that has thin crust and is cut in squares. Whenever I’m back in Indiana I like to stop and grab a pizza. Needless to say, I was very excited when I was driving around Rocky Mount, and what do I see but a Pizza King Restaurant. My mouth began to water and my mind filled with memories of the delicious pizza. Anticipation continued to grow and the opportunity came for me to stop and order a pizza. I walked into the restaurant but the familiar smells weren’t there. In fact, as I looked at the menu I noticed they didn’t have pizza even listed. I felt foolish in asking, but the name was “PIZZA King”, so I asked if they had pizza. They gave a very lengthy answer that boiled down to “NO!” I was so disappointed! Their sign said one thing on the outside but there was something totally different on the inside.

There are many people who are like that. They promote themselves at work, on Facebook, with friends, and at church one way, but who they really are is something totally different. It sounds a lot like the word hypocrisy (noun – the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense). Jesus confronted the religious leaders of His day in Matthew 23:27-28 (NLT), He said, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
 

It’s easy to point the finger at people and say they are hypocrites. I often hear people say that they won’t go to church because there are too many hypocrites there. If we are honest with ourselves, we all have some hypocrisy in us. There are things that we know we should do and we don’t do, and things that we know we shouldn’t do and we do them, and there are times we put on a front to hide who we really are. This isn’t a healthy place for us to be. It can damage us, our relationship with others and our relationship with God. Today is a great day to begin making the necessary changes, if you aren’t going to serve pizza then take the sign down and begin to get real with God and others.

 

Question to ponder: What area in your life are you being hypocritical? What will you do to be more consistent in this area?

 

5-12-16 Excruciating Pain

Verse for the week: Isaiah 53:5 (NLT) But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

There is a saying in exercising that’s used to encourage people not to quit, even when they are hurting. The phrase is: “No pain, no gain”. Recently this term took on new meaning as I began to experience excruciating pain in my side. I knew immediately it was a kidney stone because I’ve experienced this before. I had never heard of a kidney stone the first time I encountered one at the age of 22. Kidney stones are small, hard mineral deposits that form inside your kidneys. (Too bad these minerals aren’t diamonds; I could be wealthy). Sometimes they leave your kidneys and cause terrible pain. Anyone who knows me knows that I DO NOT like pain. Actually I don’t know too many people who do, but some can tolerate it better than others. I would say I have a low tolerance to pain. Kidney stones cause pain when they are moving. So in a weird way, some degree of pain is good because that means you are on your way to freedom!

 

In thinking of excruciating pain, I think of the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” This movie is based on the historical event of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. What I feel in having a kidney stone is nothing compared to what Jesus experienced in the last 24 hours of His life. In fact, as graphic as the movie was, it doesn’t share how horrific it was. The Romans had perfected torture. Hebrews 12:2 (NLT) says, “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” What!!!! “Because of the joy awaiting him…” It’s in a very small way like me knowing that the pain isn’t all bad because the stone is moving its way out. Jesus knew that through His death we would find forgiveness of our sins and a restored relationship with God. Romans 5:10a (NLT) says, “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son…” Jesus continues to experience joy when we confess our sins (Luke 15:10) and choose to follow His example (I Peter 2:21). Unlike my kidney stones, His death had purpose and that purpose was to bring us life!

 

Question to ponder: Life is short and eternity is forever. Have you asked God for forgiveness?

 

Out of control temper 5/5/2016

Verse for today: Ecclesiastes 7:9 (NLT) “Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.

Several years ago I was driving a church bus one summer afternoon, taking home children from Vacation Bible School. As I was driving, I looked over and there was a man in his yard who was very visibly angry. His face was red and his arms were flinging around as he was yelling at his wife. It was at that moment I saw him slap his wife and was getting ready to hit her again when I started honking the horn. He looked over and stopped but not before I got the house number. When I dropped the child off I asked the parent to call the police and report what was going on, and then met the police officer back at the church to file the report. I’m not sure what caused the man to get so angry, but I do know that he was allowing his anger to control him.

Emotions…. We all have them: anger, depression, grief, joy, indifference, sadness, fear, etc. One piece of advice that I was given many years ago and have passed along to others is: “Learn to control your emotions rather than allowing them to control you!” This is true for all of the emotions, but I think especially true for anger. Proverbs 29:11 (NLT) says, “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” It’s easier said than done to control our anger sometimes!! So what are some ways we can help control our anger? I took these from: http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx
  1. Relaxation– Breathe deeply, slowly repeat a calm word, visualize a relaxing experience, etc.
  2. Cognitive Restructuring– Change the way you think by being empathetic and wise. Be careful with words like “never” and “always”. Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything. Use logic because it defeats anger, because anger, even when justified, can quickly become irrational.
  3. Better Communication– Angry people tend to jump to conclusions and act on incorrect assumptions. Listen to understand.
  4. Use Humor– Humor can help diffuse rage in a number of ways, including helping to gain a more balance perspective.
  5. Change your environment– Make sure you have some “personal time” scheduled for times of the day that you know are particularly stressful.
A great reason to learn to control our anger is because as Psalm 37:8 (NLT) says, …it only leads to harm. The man that I referred to earlier not only harmed his wife but harmed himself because he ended up getting arrested. The consequences for out of control anger are not healthy and can lead to a lot of regret. It’s much better to learn to control our temper rather than allowing it to control us.
 

Question to ponder: What steps do you need to take today to control your temper?

 

Frogs 4/28/2016

Verse for today: Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Recently a friend of mine told me a riddle. “There were 5 frogs sitting on a log, 4 decided to jump off, how many were left?” Did you guess 1? I did, but then I thought, this is a riddle so maybe that’s not the correct answer. Maybe when the 4 jumped off they jumped off with such force that it caused the log to spin and the 5th frog fell off the log. Neither answer was correct! The correct answer is five! Why? Because four “decided” to jump off. It didn’t say they did. In fact, they didn’t jump at all. There’s a big difference between deciding to do something and actually doing it. Doing requires intentionality! The word “Intentionality” is a noun and means: “the fact of being deliberate or purposive.”

If we are going to accomplish anything in life, it’s going to require that we deliberately get up out of our recliners (or logs) and get to work. We (Mandy and I) wanted to build a chicken coop and have chickens. We talked about it, dreamed about, looked into different types of chickens and even printed off a plan to use to build the coop. That was all well and good but it wasn’t going to appear all by itself. It was going to require some intentional action. I had to go out and purchase the materials and then begin the tedious job of building it. I then had to enlist help to move it and put up a fence. We now have chickens! Grandiose ideas and goals mean nothing unless you take action. Proverbs 13:4 (NLT) says, “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” and Proverbs 14:23 (NLT) says, “Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!”

Question to ponder: What is it that you have been dreaming about and talking about but haven’t pursued? Decide to be intentional today!

 
“Rooted in!” – 4/21/2016

I like the different kinds of decorative grasses and I like to use them in landscaping. Pampas grass can be a very beautiful decorative grass until it takes over an area and kills out the other plants. I never realized how deeply rooted Pampas grass became. I read on the internet that it was almost impossible to kill so we decided we would transplant it. What we found is that it is VERY difficult to dig up and you end up using a lot of energy, determination, and effort.

 

Pampas grass is a great illustration of sin. Sin can look very attractive and the Bible even says that it’s fun for a season (Hebrews 11:25), but it can get very rooted in, and like cancer it begins to take over our lives slowly killing out the good. (Romans 6:23). I’ve heard it said that sin takes us farther than we want to go, causes us to stay longer than we should, and costs us more than we can pay. This is the reason why it’s vitally important to confess those sins to God and surrender our desires to Him. (I John 1:9)
 
True life and hope only comes through Jesus Christ! John 10:10 (The Message) says, “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” It takes some effort to dig sin out but the good news is you are not alone! He will never leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5) and He will guide you and help you. (John 16:7-15)

 

Challenge Question: What deeply rooted sin or habit do you have that you need to confess to God and seek His help to overcome?

 

Getting Fat 4/14/2016

Verse for today: Proverbs 15:13 (NLT) “A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.”

I remember early on in ministry going to visit an individual who was homebound. The Lead Pastor and I would visit them every month. I quickly found that no matter what positive statement the Lead Pastor made, the response was always negative. On one visit, prior to our arrival, I asked the Lead Pastor how he could stay so positive. He responded that he made it a game. Every time the person said something negative, he would respond with something positive. During the years that we visited the negativity continued to flow. I came to the point that I dreaded going over there, and eventually my schedule became so busy that I wasn’t able to go.

We all know people who are negative, and certainly all of us have moments when we aren’t all sunshine and roses. It’s one thing to “cry it out”, or “speak our minds”, but quite another to be a constant downer. According to Science, being negative does NOT make us feel better and it causes those around us to feel worse. Negativity is contagious! It’s also bad for our brains and overall health. Steven Parton, an author and student of human nature, says that being negative will “interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease….”. The list goes on and on. Wow…maybe there is something to thinking on the bright side.
 
The apostle Paul must have understood the dangers of being negative and that’s why he wrote in Philippians 4:8 (NLT) “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” and then in Ephesians 4:29 (NLT) “…Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” It’s a constant battle to stay positive, but the alternative is not healthy for anyone, and the benefits of being positive are amazing. I’m so thankful for the example of Rev. Eldon Nelson who gave me great advice for life and ministry: “Stay sweet!”
 

Question to ponder: What do you need to begin thinking about that is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable?

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Wild Turnips? 4/7/2016

Verse for today: Joshua 1:9 (NLT) “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Last spring, I planted a new yard (actually there are parts I’m still working on). I put the fertilizer down, spread the grass seed, and then spread the straw. Since there wasn’t availability of water to water the newly planted yard, I needed to let nature take its course. It was a challenging summer last year with periods of dry spells but the grass came up even though there were bare spots. In the fall, I fertilized and put more grass seed down in preparation for winter. After a long winter, spring finally arrived! Once again, I added fertilizer and, mixed with the rains, the grass began to turn green and grow.

I would love to say that all the bare spots filled in and I had a beautiful yard, but that would be too easy. As the grass grew, I noticed the weeds were too, but not just any weeds, these were wild turnips. I couldn’t spray them because it’s a new yard with young grass so I decided to start pulling them. As I did they left large craters in my yard, and new grass was pulled up with them! It was as if I was fighting a no win battle!

There are times in this life when it seems as though we are doing everything right, yet things keep going wrong. Too often we mistakenly believe that as a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, we will never have any problems. That is not what the Bible says, nor is it what Jesus said. Jesus said in John 16:33 (NLT) “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Yep, we are going to be facing a battle in this life. Paul said in Ephesians 6:12 said that it’s not just any battle, but a spiritual battle against some strong unseen forces. While we face this battle, we are NOT alone! Matthew 28:20 tells us that Jesus is with us and then in 1 John 4:4(NLT) we read, “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world!” We don’t have to be discouraged because we WILL win the battle! Today if you are discouraged or overwhelmed with the battle that you are facing, be encouraged! You are not alone and God is fighting the battle for you! Just as I know that I will win the battle over the annoying wild turnips and eventually have a nice green, thick, and lush front yard, so I also know that I will win the battles of this life. It may take some time but victory is assured.
 

Question to ponder: What battles are you facing right now that you need to be reminded that victory is assured?

Stink Bugs! 3/31/2016

Verse for today: Proverbs 15:22 (NLT) Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.

Have you ever experienced an infestation of stink bugs? Actually any kind of bug, but stink bugs are some of the worst. They are nasty, annoying, and they stink! During the construction of our home it seemed as though one was sitting on every piece of wood or insulation. They were everywhere! I was a bit concerned because we are not necessarily fond of bugs in the house, especially ones that stink. We definitely didn’t want to finish building our home only to have no room to move in because of all of the stink bugs. I spoke to the contractor and to some others about the issue and discovered a spray that will kill them. I went out and purchased some Talstar Pro, mixed it up in my sprayer and sprayed it everywhere it would reach. The next day there was a sea of dead stinkbugs that had to be cleaned up. Several months later, though the battle continues, it’s no longer an infestation, but more of an annoyance and each day there are less and less.
 

What do stink bugs have to do with our spiritual life or even just life in general? Actually, a lot!! There are always going to be things that annoy us or that go wrong (sometimes terribly wrong). That’s part of life! So what should we do?

  1. Develop a strategy– I realized that I couldn’t sit back and do nothing, so I began to research and put together a plan. Proverbs 21:5 (NLT) says, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.”
  2. Follow throughOnce I had the strategy in place, I needed to act. This meant an investment of time and resources. Ecclesiastes 4:5 (NLT) “Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin.”
  3. Be persistent– We live in a microwave world that wants instant results. Usually results take time. Sometimes it’s a lifetime of persistence before our plans come to fruition. Galatians 6:9(NLT) tells us, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up!
  4. Enjoy the victory– One day there will be victory, if not in this life than in eternity, for those who put their faith, hope, and trust in Jesus Christ!

 

As a result of me following the steps above I am winning the battle over the annoying stink bugs! I look forward to the day when I receive the ultimate victory of standing before God and hearing him say “Well done!”

Question to ponder: What obstacle is there in your life that you need to confront?

 

Pursuing Excellence 3/24/16

Growing up, in elementary and middle school there were several times that I would bring home my report card with the teachers having marked “lack of application.” What did that mean? It meant that I didn’t apply myself to my school work. Evidently this wasn’t some unusual thing because they had a spot on all the report cards that teachers could mark. Thankfully, in my junior year of High School, something clicked and I broke that trend.

As an adult I’ve wondered, if we still received report cards, what would our teachers put down? Colossians 3:23 (NCV) says, 23 “In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people.”
(See also I Corinthians 10:31 and Ephesians 5:1) This verse should challenge us not just to do enough to get by, as my mother would sometimes accuse me of doing, but to pursue excellence because we are doing it for God, not people. This means that I should pursue excellence in whatever I do; cleaning (yes toilets too), working, parenting, studying for school, serving at church, etc.
 

Pursuing excellence requires balance! Too often people will pursue excellence in only one area of their life but neglect all the others. Parents often see this in their children as they work to excel at beating a video game but not working to excel in their school work. As adults, we too can fall into this trap. As a pastor, too often I see people pursuing excellence at work, or in sports, but neglect spiritual matters such as daily times with God, worship on Sunday, or serving in the church.

Let me challenge you this day to pursue excellence in ALL you do, because in the end you are not doing it for yourself, you are doing it for the Lord!

Great Quotes:

  • If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception; it is a prevailing attitude. –Colin Powell
  • Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way. –Booker T. Washington

Question to ponder: What area in your life are you just doing enough to get by?

 

 

 

3/17/2016 Failure to Yield to a Funeral Procession?

Verse for Today: Matthew 25:40 (The Message) “Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”

A few years ago I was pulled over by a police officer (no, I don’t get pulled over all the time!). Anyway I wasn’t speeding (whew). I don’t drink nor was I on any medication so I wasn’t driving under the influence. I wasn’t driving recklessly. I wasn’t driving on a suspended or expired license. I didn’t pass a school bus while it was stopped, even though one did speed past me on a city street when I was picking up children. I didn’t run a stop sign. I wasn’t even stopped for failure to yield to funeral procession. (I didn’t even know they had a ticket for that one, but they do! I’ve seen a bunch of people do that.) So, what was I stopped for? I was stopped for failure to yield the right of way to a stationary emergency vehicle!
 
What is a stationary emergency vehicle? A stationary emergency vehicle is one that is pulled over to the side of the road with their lights on. For years it has been my habit to move over whenever I see any vehicle that’s pulled over to the side of the road. On this occasion, though, I was within a quarter mile of where I would be turning, so I went to the left of the lane that I was in but didn’t cross over to the next lane. When I received the ticket I thought… this is ludicrous (besides the officer was standing on the opposite of the car in the grass! – Good Grief!). After receiving the ticket with a mandatory court date I proceeded home.
 
After calling a police officer friend to see if this was serious, I finally calmed down and then I began to think about it in spiritual terms. How many times do we see someone hurting spiritually or in any other way and we just pass on by? In Luke 10:25-37 Jesus tells the story of a Jewish man who had been robbed, beaten, and left to die. He went on to tell of three people that went past the injured man, two were Jewish but the third was a Samaritan. Generally, there was tension between Jews and Samaritans, yet in this instance the Samaritan not only stopped but also took care of the man and paid for medical services. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus tells us that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” I wonder, if we knew that we were going to have to stand before a judge and give an account of our failure to yield to a stationary hurting person, how might we begin to respond. Oh wait… we will! Romans 14:12 tells us we will give an account to God. Instead of being in a hurry and focused only on ourselves, let’s be attentive to the needs of others and reach out to them with the love and hope that Jesus Christ offers.
 

Question to Ponder: Who have you ignored recently that you need to slow down and reach out to?

 

3/10/2016 The Myth About Ostriches!

Verse for today: Psalms 59:16 (NLT) “But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.”

Have you ever heard the question, “Have they buried their head in the sand?” It comes from people referring to ostriches. It is commonly believed that the ostrich will bury its head in the sand when it senses trouble. However, avoiding or ignoring a situation is a dangerous defense mechanism. Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand. If they did, they would be a prime target for their enemies. Ostriches are the largest birds, standing seven to nine feet tall and weighing as much as 350 pounds. With their long, powerful legs they can run and maintain a steady speed of over 30 miles per hour, with short bursts of up to 43 miles per hour. In addition to being able to run fast, the ostrich has four-inch claws on a cloven foot and can kick hard enough to kill a lion. So how does an ostrich defend itself? It takes action!

I’ve been accused of sticking my head in the sand. At the moment, sticking my head in the sand was a peaceful place to be, but only for the moment. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not a safe place to be! By ignoring a situation, choosing to be oblivious to it, it causes more problems.

What are some ways people ignore problems? Some people turn to alcohol or drugs. Others immerse themselves in work or activity. Some live in denial and say there isn’t a problem, while others get overwhelmed and fall into a state of depression. Do any of these coping mechanisms solve the problem? NO! Actually they accentuate (verb – make more noticeable or prominent) the problem. So how should we deal with problems in a constructive way?

  • Turn your problem over to God– You don’t have to handle your problem on your own. God will be with you and help you. Psalm 50:15 (NLT) says, “Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” Just because the Bible promises that God will rescue us doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility for action, so keep reading.
  • Seek counsel from professionals.Proverbs 15:22 (NLT) says, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” Far too often we go to everyone else for counsel rather than seeking it from someone who knows. Not going to a professional is like seeking marriage advice from someone who’s been married 5 times.
  • Develop a plan and take one step at a time– I’ve encountered a lot of people who will “listen” to advice and maybe even develop a plan, but never put it into action. James 1:22 (NLT) say’s “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says.” Whether it’s a problem in marriage, financial debt, or some other issue in life, in order to overcome it, it starts with a plan. But it’s not enough to stop there, you have to follow through one step at a time. This reminds me of the 1970 Christmas special “Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town” where Kris Kringle is talking to Winter about changing from bad to good. He tells him it’s as easy as taking your first step. “Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor…” It may take a long time, but progress will be made.
  • Celebrate little victories– Too often we focus on the overwhelming obstacle and don’t step back and see the progress that has been made. It’s important for us to do just that and celebrate the little victories. In the celebration, don’t forget to give God praise too! (1 Corinthians 15:57) When we constructively begin tackle our problems it will help us to avoid other problems and dangers and come from avoiding them.

Question to ponder: What problem or situation have you been avoiding that you need to take action on today?

 

3/3/2016 I don’t need any directions!

Verse for today: 2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT) All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right

Have you ever tried to put something together, thinking you know how to do it and NOT following the directions, only to have it not work when you get finished? I’ve done it with baking, putting together appliances and making repairs. It’s completely annoying because I just wasted time, in some cases money, and it usually causes me a lot of angst. Recently I spent two hours on a project that I thought I knew exactly what I was supposed to do only to have it not turn out. After wasting all that time, I found the directions and watched a YouTube video on how to do it.
 
Why do I continue to do this? Because I don’t think I need any directions. I think I know best! Yep, I have a problem and it’s a problem that everyone reading can relate to. It’s a pride issue! Proverbs 16:18 (NLT) Pride goes before destruction! When I choose not to listen to instruction it boils down to pride. It’s a problem that’s been around from the beginning. Lucifer aka Satan, the Devil, thought he knew more than God and then proceeded to persuade Eve to eat the forbidden fruit because she would be like God. The ramifications were that Lucifer was kicked out of Heaven and has a nasty eternity ahead of him, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the utopia that was found in the Garden of Eden, and we all deal with a messed up, sickness- filled, broken world.
 
What is the remedy for this issue? Begin to read the instructions, aka The Bible. Proverbs 8:33(NLT) says, “Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it.” There is a ton of great advice, direction, and wisdom in the Bible. When we apply it to our lives it can help us succeed in business, live healthier lives, avoid problems, and overall live at peace knowing that this world isn’t the final stop. Recently I was reminded of an acronym for BIBLE – Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Spending time reading the Bible will help us avoid a lot of wasted time, angst, and ultimately an eternity separated from God. It sounds like a no brainier to me and it makes sense why my mom had my brothers and me memorize Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) “5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Go pull the directions out and start reading! 🙂
 

Questions to ponder: What are you striving to do that you have ignored the directions? When is the last time you dusted your Bible off and read it? – The book of Proverbs and the Gospel of John are two great places to begin.

 

 

Garbage and organic toilet paper – February 25, 2016

Verse for today: 1 Peter 1:13 (NLT) “So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world“.

We’re living in a time where people are very concerned about being healthy. There are warnings on everything from prescriptions, (if you listen to the warnings on commercials, you won’t want to take any of them) to the food we eat, and the liquids we consume. People are looking for organic vegetables, beef, chicken, eggs, makeup, and the list goes on, even including toilet paper (http://www.lahealthyliving.com/health/why-your-white-toilet-paper-is-toxic/) all in an effort to be more health conscience. Even here at the church, we strive to recycle and are conscientious of the cleaners we use. A few years ago we planted a 10,000 square foot garden in front of our church. The purpose was to grow vegetables for those in need. We decided that since we everyone was on an organic kick, that we would do the same. It’s a lot of hard work and because we didn’t use insecticides, the bugs had a feast. It takes a lot of work to be healthy!
 

In the midst of all the health craze, it seems there is one area people have totally ignored. That is the area of our minds! It’s as if we don’t care what we put into our minds anymore, the raunchier the stuff, the better. Too often we aren’t very selective of our music, the movies, and YouTube videos we watch, the books we read, or the jokes we listen to.

My mother used to say when you put garbage in your minds, garbage will come out. That’s not far off from what Jesus said in Luke 6:45 (NLT) A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” It reminds me of when Paul said You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7).
In our health conscience craze, let’s start being much more conscientious about what we put into our minds, because that’s what will live on forever! Philippians 4:8 (NLT) “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
 

Question to ponder: : What type of things are you putting into your mind?

P.S. Don’t forget being respectful of God’s name! It’s become common place for people to say “Oh G–” or any number of variations. (Exodus 20:7 (NLT) “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.”)

The Value Words! – February 18, 2016

Verse for today: Proverbs 12:22 “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are His delight.”

Recently I was dealing with a sales woman at a particular company. I asked her if she could call me back, she agreed, and we set a time. Prior to that time, I received 3 phone calls from other sales representatives trying to steal my business. One went so far to say that the woman I had been talking to was in a meeting, and she had asked him to call me. I took him at his word, but when the time previously arranged came, the phone rang again while I was in the midst of the conversation. I asked him to hold, and low and behold, it was the first sales woman calling me back. She was not in a meeting, nor had she asked any of the other 3 people to call me back! Those 3 other sales people acted unprofessionally, unethically, and they lied to me.

My mom ingrained in my brothers and me that lying was sin. Not only did she hate lies but she let us know that God hated lies. She instilled within us the importance of telling the truth. If she caught us in a lie, the punishment was much more severe than had we told the truth. As adults, my brother and I like to joke around a lot. Those who are closest to us and know us best sometimes suspect when we are joking and will ask, “Do you give me your word?” If we say “yes”, they know we are telling the truth. Staying true to our word is part of having integrity. Proverbs 11:3 (NIV) says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity (dishonesty).”

It appears that we live in a day and age when lying (bending the truth, white lies, fudging the facts, omitting the truth) has become a very acceptable thing. People lie on their taxes, lie to their bosses, lie to their spouses, and they lie to themselves. It’s an issue that has seemed to reach epidemic proportions. Our sports heroes lie, elected officials lie, CEOs of businesses lie… all in an effort to get ahead or protect themselves. My mom always said “The truth stands but a lie will run itself out!” I always thought this was just a mom quote, but King Solomon said something similar hundreds of years ago when he wrote in Proverbs 12:19 (NLT),Truthful lips will endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only for a moment.

The next time we feel tempted to lie we need to remember that even though it may appear that we could get by with the lie, one day we will stand before God who knows all secrets, and we will be judged. (Proverbs 19:9, Romans 2:16). “Do you give me your word?” 🙂

Question to ponder: Is there an issue that you have been lying to yourself and/or others about that you need to correct? Do it today!!

When You’re Going Through Hell… – February 10, 2016
 
Verse for the week: Matthew

10:28 ESV
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Winston Churchill once said “If You’re Going Through Hell Keep on Going!” This quote inspired country music artist Rodney Adkins to write a song by that name which rose to #1 on the charts in 2008. The first verse starts off with:

Well you know those times when you feel like

There’s a sign there on your back
That says I don’t mind if you kick me, seems like everybody has
Things go from bad to worse
You think it can’t get worse than that
And then they do…

Chorus

If you’re goin’ through hell keep on going
Don’t slow down if you’re scared don’t show it…
We all go through experiences in life that seem like hell, but in reality we’re not even scratching the surface of how intensely horrible the real hell will be. I have frequently said that certain experiences that I’ve gone through were as close to hell as I ever wanted to be. Before I get to the positive side… the real hell will be eternal separation away from God and will NOT be a party. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (ESV) says,

“They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

So what should we do when we go through a terrible, earthly, hellish experience? We should follow Paul’s example. As I shared last week, he went through a lot and kept a joyful attitude. He told people in 1 Corinthians 11:1-2

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” So how did he keep from getting overwhelmed and discouraged in the midst of the experiences? He gives us the answer in Hebrews 12:2 (NLT) “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”

Because of the joy awaiting Jesus, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”

We have our focus in the wrong place. Instead of focusing on ourselves and our own hellacious experiences, we need to turn our eyes on Jesus and ask what we can learn from those times. As we focus on Christ, we remember what he has done for us, the forgiveness that He offers, and the place He is preparing for us!

Revelation 21:3-4 (NLT)”

3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying,

“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.[a] 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Question to ponder
: What hellacious experience are you going through that you need to turn your focus from and instead turn to Jesus Christ and our hope?