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August 3

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

It shouldn’t come as a surprise when we come to the conclusion that how we see things is determined by our perspective. Take, for example, the passage from Psalm 139:7-12. (Please take a moment to read it).

Now, the way it is taken is determined by your perspective.

For example: “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!” (v.7)

That could be a good thing or it could be a bad thing. Right?

If a person is living in sin or simply running from God, that verse is a bad thing. It tells that person that he can never run so far or so fast that he will be beyond God’s vision.

If a person is a Christ-follower and trying to live their life in surrender to Him, it is a good thing. Anywhere that person goes, anything he/she does, He is there with them.

That same principle can applied to all the verses.

  • If you are His what promises!
  • If you are a runner, what distressing verses!

God has uniquely made each of us. He cares about His creation. The words of Psalm 139:7-12 should stand as a comfort to me of His steadfast love.

“Father, may I never lose sight of You, Your concern for me, or Your watchful eye on me.”

July 27

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

For the past couple of years I have often thought that if I was to ever start a church (which I have no desire to do), I would call it “Second Chance Church.” I know. Even as I write that it sounds a bit cheesy. Corny. But please hear me out.

Having been a pastor for close to 50 years, I have seen many broken lives. Train wrecks. Twisted beyond recognition. Mangled. Messed up. Even hopeless (as in giving up). I will even admit to being close to that feeling a time or two myself.

Getting broadsided in my car- as I was recently- does not carry the same picture of a car wrecked so badly it is unrecognizable and the “jaws of life” have to be used. There are some people whose lives are dented, smashed into, even put on the shelf temporarily. Then there are those whose lives are truly a disaster. Addiction. Poor choices. Loose morals. Alone. Destitute.

No matter which…we all need second chances (in some cases third, fourth and fifth). One of the biggest roadblocks to that second chance is shame. I want to be able to help people get past shame. I want them to realize there are always second chances. Shame doesn’t have to hang around and keep us where we are; God wants to take us “onward and upward” (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ words in the Chronicles of Narnia).

Second Chance Church. Sounds like a great name. But even without that name, that is exactly what a church should be about.

“Father, my life is a testimony to second chances. May I be your church here on earth offering that to others in Your Name.”

July 26

Monday, July 26th, 2021

I’ve often heard, and have said it as well, that a person needs to be careful who they surround themselves with. I don’t know how many times I heard my parents (especially my mom) and my pastor say, “Choose your friends wisely. They will often make or break you.” I have heard it as a leader. “Choose wisely those you surround yourself with. Your success or lack of it will often be determined by your close friends.”

So I was pretty picky when it came to who I hung around with. No one who drank or smoked was in my close circle of friends. That severely limited my friends to be honest. I did have friends who liked the same music I did. I also had friends who didn’t go to church. But even they were limited.

Come to think of it: I didn’t have many friends at all. I didn’t party. I didn’t drink so I could barf and waste my money. My friends in school were more like acquaintances, pals I walked with between classes and saw on the bus. Basketball was part of the reason for that as well. Not being a great student and trying to play sports at the same time limited my exposure to others outside of school. But if the truth be known, I took seriously the words I heard.

Words like my mom’s. Words like my pastor’s.

Words like I Cor. 15:33- “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (ESV)

Words like Pr.13:20- “One who walks with wise people will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” (NASB2020)

As the king told Indy after he chose the chalice that looked least kingly: “You have chosen wisely.” I want my life to be one of wise choices…in all areas. It just may start with who I gather around me.

“Father, Your words of wisdom are not to be dismissed lightly. You had a reason for telling us to choose wisely. May I continue to make wise choices in the people I hang around with.”

 

July 22

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

As I study through Mark, there are some wonderful stories and events and teachings of Jesus. One of the most insightful is found in Mark 12, the story of the widow’s mite found in verses 41-44. Four short verses but what a wallop!

Most know the story. Jesus sat down near the collection box (interesting place to sit and observe) and was people-watching. I like to watch people too. While everyone else goes to an amusement park to ride, I like to go to watch people. (Besides, I can’t do circles). And, as you can imagine, one can see quite a diverse group of people. But to sit near the offering plate and watch people put in their money is not something I would do (and don’t). 

But as you can see, Jesus had a reason. He watched the rich people put in large amounts. Then He watched a poor widow come and drop in 2 small coins. It would be easy to be judgmental and criticize her by thinking she didn’t give much. At least not when compared to the others.

But Jesus turns that type of thinking on its head. You see, in God’s economy big is not always better. A small,  humble amount/gift given in secret is much greater than an ostentatious gift given to be seen by others. I was speaking with someone Tuesday at a funeral and commented that it isn’t the size of the gift but the size of the heart that really mattered.

God doesn’t need our money, but He does want our heart. This widow gave her heart; the rich gave their money. Jesus saw it. He even said so: “This poor widow has given more that all the others who are making contributions.” (v.43 NLT)

It’s good to give your money; it is better to give your heart.

Father, here’s my heart. I’m giving it to you in surrender. Help me to see that it is so much more important to give my heart than to try to substitute money or something else.”

July 21

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

I have a system to my Bible reading. But first, let me say this: my morning Encounter Time (ET) with God is important to me. It helps me start my day out right and helps focus me. I won’t lie and say every morning reverberates in me and I leave having to wear a veil so people won’t be able to see the glory of God wear off my face. (Think Moses). I wish it was always that way but it’s not.

That being said, let’s get back to my original thought. (Have you ever noticed that sometimes rabbit trails are attractive?)  Part of my ET is reading the Psalms. I’m almost always in a continual reading of them. Psalms every day; Proverbs every other month.

One of the highlights of Psalms is Psalm 119-the longest chapter in the Bible. 176 verses long. What I like to do is read it slowly and broken up. Today I finished that chapter-almost 2 weeks in the making. 10 verses here; 20 there. I highlight different Scriptures each reading, those which speak to me that time through.

What is unique with that chapter is the centrality of God’s Word (GW). Of the 176 verses, only a handful have no reference to GW. Here is an exercise you can do as you read: Underline all the words used to describe GW, i.e. statutes, commandments, laws, Your word, etc. Do that and the handful of verses will come out.

But be careful! You may find some gems. Verses like verse 9; verse 97; and verse 105. So, so many. You may literally find your head doing the proverbial spin.

So there is your challenge. Read. Take your time. Underline. BE CHANGED.

“Father, ‘I love your word’ is a frequent saying in Psalm 119. May it roll off my tongue as well. Let Your Word come alive in me.”

July 20

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

Influence.

That word drips with meaning.

Someone has said, “Leadership is influence.” We talk about events that “influence an election.” We call someone an MVP because of the way they have influenced a team or a game. It is a favorite word being used about people: “they are influencers.”

We also talk about influencing lives. I see that as saying that I have an affect on people. The way I live can direct or misdirect someone. The way I care. The way I talk to them. The way I teach. And yes, the way I love.

Influence is long-lasting. I can see my influence in my daughters’ lives, even today. I’m hoping I can see a long-lasting influence on my grandson’s life. I can see it in the church people I hear from. I know that in all things my influence has been both positive and (sadly) negative.

People will remember how I have influenced their lives. That’s why Paul wrote that love is the greatest of all. People remember whether I loved them or not. Just as I hope and pray Jo and my girls and grandson never doubt or forget my love for them. When I die and I’m gone, the best test of my influence is what lasts. What carries on. I like what Bob Goff wrote:

Anything is worth doing if it’s done with love, and nothing’s worth doing if it comes at love’s cost. (p.240)

What kind of influence are you having on people? is it one you want to be remembered for?

“Father, may my influence be because of Your work in my life and not because I took it upon myself. Shine though me.”

Bob Goff’s book is entitled  Live in Grace-Walk in Love.

July 15

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

I’m sure you have heard or maybe even had one of those love/hate things going on.

You love ice cream (guilty) but hate the calories (I don’t care).  🙂

You love pizza (guilty again) but hate the results (ditto).

You love feeling and looking good (guilty) but hate the exercise required (can’t say this).

Instead of the word “hate” use the words “don’t like it all that much.” 🙂

Seriously though, there are certain love/hate things that go on in my life. One occurred to me as I listened to a podcast Tuesday while driving…then I read something on Wednesday morning during my Encounter Time that cemented it. Please take a moment and read Hebrews 12:5-11. Again, I could link it here but I encourage you to get your Bible out and read it slowly.

Discipline. It took me a long time to separate discipline from punishment. Growing up I had someone who mistook punishment for discipline. As a father, I had to wrestle with my upbringing, to separate them and to realize that discipline was to teach. I didn’t always succeed (I’m ashamed to admit).

Even now I sometimes struggle with God and whether He is disciplining me or punishing me.

The truth is real though. I disciplined my girls because I love them. John Cooper (lead singer of Skillet) was a guest on the podcast (Alisa Childers) and he was telling how he disciplined his daughter and explained to her he did it because he loved her. A week or so later she came to him and said, “Daddy, that man hates his son.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because he is pushing all the kids around and his dad won’t tell him to stop.”  🙂 🙂 

Needless to say she got John’s point.

And even though I am not fond of God’s discipline (sometimes it really hurts), I know He loves me.

“Father, thank you for Your discipline. It shows me You love me. Help me not to forget that truth when it hurts.”

July 7

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

As my girls were growing up, I/we tried to be good parents. The nature of our personalities and the way we were raised made for an interesting mix. I tended to be more forceful; Jo more docile. I tended to be the one who used physical discipline (God gave a place on the human anatomy for that); Jo not so much. I tended to draw a line; Jo tended to fudge the line from time to time.  All in all though the girls knew we were on the same page as to why they were being disciplined.  There was no pitting us against each other.

We were (and still are) well-meaning parents. We are great grandparents since we can have all the fun and then turn him back over after we have spoiled him. 🙂  (Although living 4-5 hours away sort of short-circuited our opportunities to do that). Anyway, back to earth. Well-meaning parents,-no matter who you are-tend to think the way to mold a child, i.e. shape, control, and regulate behavior is to legislate. We do it by threats, manipulation, and even guilt.

But the truth is that no matter how often we use those different means, behavior cannot be legislated. No matter how much we say, “Don’t do this or that” sin enters the picture. Because we are sinners, sin is a matter of the heart.

Martin Luther King, Jr said that he “longs for the day when people will be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content and intent of the heart.” He was onto something. Not in the area of race (which he was referring to), but in the area of our behavior.

Until hearts are changed, lives won’t be changed.  Until my heart is changed, my life and behavior will not be changed.

I am grateful for God’s change in my life. I just want Him to keep transforming my heart day by day.

“Father, as Romans 12 says may I be ‘transformed by the renewing of my mind.’ May transformation be more than an outward show; may it be in inward heart change.”

July 5

Monday, July 5th, 2021

HAPPY (DAY AFTER) INDEPENDENCE DAY 

If you have the day off today, enjoy it.  If you don’t still enjoy it. 🙂  Let’s start your day out right though with a devotion.

Time for a quick quiz:

Do you know what the letters ADHD stand for?

  • If you answered Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder you answered correctly.  Give yourself a pat on the back.

Do you know what the letters PTSD stand for?

  • If you answered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder you answered correctly. Give yourself a virtual high five.

Do you know what the letters RADD stand for?

  • If you answered “Cool” or “With It” give yourself a big raspberry. Or do you hear that sound from one of the game shows for a wrong answer? It means Redemptive Attention Deficit Disorder (courtesy of Paul David Tripp even though he did not put it into a highlighted 4-letter statement. That’d be me).

Explanation: We serve a dissatisfied Redeemer. He does not do His work poorly or incompletely. He doesn’t walk away from us while work is in progress.  I get that way sometimes when working a jigsaw puzzle.  I will sit and work for hours until my eyes are crossed, all pieces look the same, and my butt is tired from sitting too long. I wisely know it is time to walk away and shut off the light. I can come back later and work the puzzle.

God does not have RADD. He does not work on us for a short minute and then grow tired and walk away.  Good thing. I’m reminded of the verse which says, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil.1:6)  That tells me that God stays with the project (me) until He is done.

When I’m done with a puzzle there is a sense of accomplishment, especially if it has been a difficult one. I have learned not to get discouraged by a lack of progress. Take one piece at a time. I sometimes wonder if God sighs at my lack of progress but then jumps up and down (figuratively not literally) when I stick with it and allow Him to do His work.

I’m so glad He is RADD, as in COOL. AWESOME. And I sure am glad He does not have ADHD.

“Father, do Your work and complete Your work in me. Keep me from being distracted and help me concentrate on being fully Yours.”

June 29

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

I know I’ve written about this before but after reading something Bob Goff wrote, it struck a nerve. Bob writes:

God speaks to us through His Word, through our friends, through our desires and dreams. Are you listening to them, or are you giving the microphone to voices that make you envy what your friend has or fear that the next move will end in total failure? Have you put your head next to a megaphone that screams you back into the person you were? (p.218)

I suspect we have all struggled with that from time to time.

But here’s another thought: what kind of voice am I to others? My mind pictures the old man who has the shell-shaped device (is that a gramaphone?)  up to his ear in order to hear and another old man yelling into it.

Speak truth. Speak love. Speak beauty. Speak trust and acceptance. Speak hope. Speak life. Be the “voice of God” in their ears.

“Father, may I be the voice of love and hope to those who hear me. Help me to speak life into a person not be just another voice of disinterest and disenchantment.”

Quote from Live in Grace-Walk in Love by Bob Goff