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July 29

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

If I may borrow a thought from Paul David Tripp this morning: “Too many followers of Christ have schizophrenia” (schizo from here on). He calls it “evangelical schizo.” The following is my attempt to explain it, apply it and challenge with it (in my own words).

Schizo, according to medical journals is “a long term and seasonal mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. It may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning.” We might also see them as multiple personalities.

All that psychobabble aside, it is easy to see how this applies to many follower of Jesus-not mentally-but spiritually. One glaring example is how we see and say life is forever, there is something better, yet we live as if this earth-this life- is all there is. We talk about eternity, but we live as if this earth is all there is.

Paul once wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil.1:21). He goes on to write: “I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.” (Phil.1:23-24 NLT)

Paul’s struggle was not like ours is.  He didn’t want to stay here to fulfill his own wishes and desires and wants. He wanted to stay here for the folks. His unfinished business was not material; it was spiritual.

There is nothing wrong with desiring to go to heaven. There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay here. The schizo happens when we take our eyes off our heavenly prize and live as if life on earth is all that matters.

“Father, cure me of any schizo I may exhibit. While I’m here, use me and keep me focused on my greater prize.”

June 28

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

I’m always skeptical when I hear someone say, “Jesus told me (fill in the blank)” or “God told me to do (ditto).” That is especially true when what they say Jesus or God told them to do is so far off base, so whacked, that I want to say, “No way! God would never ask you to do something so vile, so repulsive, so stupid, so hurtful to others.”

I’m not speaking of those-like the Muslims from 9/11- who say, “God (Allah) told them to hijack a plane and fly it into two towers and kill thousands.” There is a place for them alright, but it’s not with any vestal virgins.

I’m also not speaking of those who take an Uzi and open fire on a crowd of innocent people. Or the one who kidnaps another and tortures them to death.

No…that’s not God.  But we must also realize God does speak into our lives-through a still, small voice we hear in our heart/mind. He “speaks” to us through His Word, through circumstances, and other people. It is that latter one I want to focus on for a few moments.

What do you hear from others? Is it a voice of shame? A voice of condemnation? A voice of “you can’t do this or that”? A voice of “you’re nothing”? A voice telling you that you are worthless? A voice of insecurity?

If so, it is high time to change that tune, to change that voice speaking into your ear or your life.  I like what Bob Goff wrote:

We need to give the microphone to those who speak hope and joy into the world.” (p.250)

I would also add “those who speak hope and joy into your life.” We need to stop letting negative voices carry the megaphone. We need to listen to the voice of Jesus, not the dissenters or naysayers.

“Father, tune my ears to hear your voice.”

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 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 19

Monday, July 19th, 2021

I confess: I’ve never really been a fan of musicals.  My ideas have changed over time though. The first one I went to that I can remember was “Oklahoma!” Sadly, I wasn’t wise enough to keep my comments and opinions to myself and offended some people.  But over time I have changed. I realized it when we went to see The Greatest Showman featuring Hugh Jackman, Zac Effron, and others. The theater manager told me I will have trouble not wanting to move my feet and get up a dance. She didn’t know me very well. I was stubborn enough to do neither (I definitely would not get up and dance. Making a fool of myself is not in my playbook).  The second and third time I watched it -consecutive nights no less- I allowed myself the freedom to enjoy the movie…although I still didn’t dance. 🙂

One of the most moving parts was the song “From Now On” which comes after P.T. (played by Jackman) realized how he had hurt his family and friends by his actions. It still amazes me how he was able to sing while running and not be out of breath. 🙂  Anyway, the song celebrates the joy of coming home.

Luke 15, the story of the loving father and his wandering son, is a story of coming home. The cross is a story of an invitation to come home. Jesus dying on the cross because of His love for us and hatred of our sin, is a story of forgiveness and coming home.

It is actually an open invitation for all to come home. Perhaps you know someone who needs to know they can come home. Jesus is waiting for them. Maybe that person is you. Come home. The WELCOME mat is laid out.

July 16

Friday, July 16th, 2021

If I were to pick one characteristic that was prevalent during COVID, or one that it highlighted, and one that still rears its ugly head, it is FEAR. Fear of infection. Fear of transmission. Fear of death. Fear of living life. Fear of (you fill in the blank).

This morning during my Encounter Time reading, it seems like God wanted to or had something to say about fear. First, read Psalm 118:6-9,14. “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (v.6  NLT) I encourage you to read the other verses.

Second, Joshua 6: 1-7. It was totally illogical and frankly, military suicide, to do what God told the Israelites to do. In fact, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The details are in the passage. Jericho was sealed up tighter than a drum and they (the Israelites) were told to march? Are you kidding me? What is the sense in that?

God was teaching them to stop seeing things from their perspective and their vantage point; He had a better idea. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 12:9- “My grace is all you need. My power words best in weakness.” (NLT)

When I can’t, God can.

When I’m unable, God is.

When I’m lost, God is my direction.

When I can’t see, God is my light.

It’s a promise. One I can count on and cling to. I am never alone. I am never wandering aimlessly in the desert. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” (Ps.118: 8-9 NLT)

“Father, You are my refuge and my strength; my wisdom and life-giver. I have nothing to fear when I see things from Your perspective. Please help me to see things from Your point of view.”

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 12

Monday, July 12th, 2021

Back in the ’80s I saw a movie that I haven’t been able to forget the main point.  It was about a young man who wanted to serve God but always saw himself doing it on a “big screen.” I don’t mean the “big screen” as in movies, but in doing big things. Like a big evangelist preaching to thousands (think Billy Graham big). The crux of the movie is that he realizes that to serve God and make an impact does not always mean b-i-g.

I’m not sure of the movie title (although I think I know it) so I’d rather not say it here. But I’ve never forgotten the premise of the movie.

A lot of Christ-followers think they have to do big things for God. They seem to always be scheming for their “next big venture.”

Two things seem to happen there. One, they keep striving for that big thing, and two, others feel inferior because what they do for Jesus seems so small. The Bible says we are all gifted differently. Some are gifted with those “up front” gifts, while others are gifted with more of a “behind the scenes” one. When it all shakes out, every gift is just as important. Go look at I Cor. 12 if you doubt that.

Long story short: we are all necessary. God’s kingdom and God’s work are not limited to the “biggies” and those up front. Where would the main actors be without the make-up artists, the stagehands, etc?  I have gone to several plays and shows where the props were moved by all those involved. Where would the pitcher who throws a no-hitter be without the other 8 players? That speaks volumes (or should) to the pastor, missionary, or Christ-follower who thinks its all about him.

“Father, help me to realize living for You and serving You is not a one-man team. It is a total effort of all involved.  Help me not to get too big for my britches.”

July 9

Friday, July 9th, 2021

I apologize for the late entry and also the light entry. We left Ohio early so I could get back for an appointment. After the appointment I did some office work, we went to the Owen County Fair then came home and vegged. So I am sharing something short and late with you this morning. It is from Bob Goff’s book, Live in Grace-Walk in Love:

We don’t need to have all the information to start; we just need courage to take the first step. Don’t worry about next week’s potential problems. Give today everything you’ve got. Our stories are written as we live, so live fully. Our love is refined as we give it away genuinely, so love the people around you authentically. Let the story you’re writing be a page-turner.

Starting out on a task is hard, especially because we can’t see the end. We have no clue what the future holds (even with a DeLorean). 🙂 But we will never know the impact we may make or the influence we may have or the lives we may touch unless we get started.

“Father, help me to trust you in spite of the fact that I don’t know the end. But you do and that should be all I need to know.”

July 2

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Bob Goff tells the story of Walt Disney (WD) which I suspect many of us have heard:

Before WD dreamed up Disneyland, he was fired from his job at a newspaper in Kansas City because his editor said he “lacked imagination.” Can you believe it? Whenever I’m at Tom Sawyer Island (note: his personal retreat), I think about what would’ve happened if WD had dug in his heels at the newspaper instead. The world would have never met Mickey Mouse. Failure forced WD to pursue his passion.  (p.224)

He went on to say elsewhere:

Our habits shape our days, and our days make up our lives. Without much thought, we can settle into routines that keep us stagnant for decades. (p.224)

While Mr. Goff went in one direction, I want to go in another. I want to talk about failure. It is something most, if not all of us, hate to discuss or consider. None of us go into a venture, no matter what it is, thinking we are going to fail at this. If so, it is wise not to even get started.

I recently read some quotes attributed to the late coach, Vince Lombardi:

“If you accept losing, you can’t win.”

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

There are more but these ought to suffice in making my point. Failure happens. But there is a big difference between thinking you are going to fail from right out-of-the-box and failing because you tried.  WD failed at his newspaper job, but did not allow it to curtail his dreams. There are many (and I know some) who are glad he didn’t give up.

Perhaps another quote by Mr. Lombardi will be a good ending:

It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men.  It starts in ours.

“Father, help me to believe in Your dreams for me.  Help me not to cower in fear over seemingly overwhelming odds.”

Bob Goff’s quote from Live in Grace-Walking in Love.