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Showing posts from 2010

More, More Like Him

I received an email the other day with a list of children’s letters to God. One that especially caught my eye was this one that reads, “Dear God, thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy!” It is a simple and very honest prayer.

It is obvious that this little girl’s biggest desire was for a puppy. If you’ve had one you know puppies are cute, fun to play with, make great companions and seem to be at the top of every child’s wish list. I imagine that she must have felt a little betrayed when God answered her prayer differently than she had anticipated. After all, baby brothers are okay, but for too many children that pails in comparison to a puppy.

In Psalm 37:4 David says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Here in this psalm there is a promise — an if/then statement, you could say. It could as easily read, “If you delight yourself in the Lord, then he will give you the desires of your heart.” If that is the case, how doe…

COMFORT IN TRUTH

What comfort there is during the Christmas season, which is loaded down with boxes full of high unrealistic expectations, to know that God is consistent in every way this and every season. You and I on the other hand, well if you haven’t noticed, our ways are inconsistent. “God's ways are everlasting.” That is the statement made by the prophet in Habakkuk chapter three and verse six. There are many reasons why this is a comforting truth. Let me list a few.

First, the Lord's ways are the result of wise thought. He has ordered all things according to the direction of His own will. Our actions are frequently the hasty result of passion, or fear, and are followed by regret and a change of heart. In contrast, nothing can take the Eternal One by surprise, or happen otherwise than He has not foreseen.

Second, His ways are the outgrowth of an unchallengeable character. These ways are fixed and settled attributes of God and can be clearly seen. Unless the Almighty Himself can undergo cha…

WHO HAVE LOVE

The famous story of How The Grinch Stole Christmas written by Dr. Seuss tells of a character called the Grinch who had a problem. His heart was two sizes too small. This is why the Grinch hated Christmas and everything else about the merry Whos of Whoville. By the end of the story something unexpected happens. Exhausting every resource at his disposal to ruin Christmas, the Grinch sees the Whos celebrating and loving each other even though they had nothing. “And what happened then...? Well...in Whoville they say, that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day!”

The Grinch’s heart grew because he saw how the people loved each other no matter the circumstances. Once he saw their unconditional love, he wanted to be a part of it and he wanted to have it. It is no wonder his heart grew! He had never before experienced that kind of unselfish love that was not based on getting or gaining more.

Jesus gave his disciples a new command in the book of John chapter thirteen and verse th…

THE HANDWRITING IS ON THE WALL

In Daniel chapter 5, the powerful King of Babylon, Belshazzar, is having a huge party for his friends and fans. Now, there is nothing wrong with having a party—even people who don’t claim they know God enjoy the benefits of something that the Lord created—fellowship. When people experience fellowship, when there is laughing and joy; when relationships are deepening and hearts are being shared, it is the unmistakable fingerprint of our compassionate Creator. The real issue is do we recognize this gift?

In this example from the Old Testament book of Daniel, the people did not recognize God’s gift of fellowship and were actually engaging in mocking God. Daniel tells us that during the party, the gold and silver vessels used in worshipping God that had been looted from God’s temple were now being utilized in a manner that dishonored Him. God stepped in and judged Belshazzar and his court in dramatic fashion. “Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wa…

ABOUT MOTIVES

It's hard to fully understand all that drives us. Kant said that it's the "insatiable desire to possess and rule." Former President Lyndon B. Johnson said "Sex and envy are the greatest drives in life." Former President Nixon said, "People react to fear, not love. They don't teach that in Sunday School, but it's true."

Maybe French Philosopher La Rochefoucald nailed it when he said that we would be embarrassed by our best deeds "if the world were to see all their underlying motives."

Solomon wrote, "All of a man's ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart." (Proverbs 21:2) This reminds us of Jeremiah's words, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

I gave up a long time ago trying to determine what motivates others. I have trouble reading the intentions of my own heart; how can I judge what drives someone else?

A individual's atten…

KEEP GOING

It's no coincidence that so many books of the New Testament contain verses encouraging us to stay faithful in difficult times. Persistence is an essential characteristic for anyone who wants to succeed in the Christian life.

Rarely a month goes by that I don't talk to someone who's ready to throw in the towel on some aspect of their calling. Sometimes it's a volunteer weary of the extra work that comes with being a leader. Sometimes it's a pastor weary of not seeing measurable results. Sometimes it's a believer weary of the struggle to live a holy life.

This is what Paul referred to in Galatians 6:9: 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.

The season between sowing and reaping can sometimes be long. It can also be hot, dry and difficult. There are times for each of us when saying, "I quit" seems like the most attractive option.

During these times, we've got to remember …

PRACTICE, PARCTICE, PRACTICE

With musical works like, My Fair Lady, Gigi, West Side Story, Paint Your Wagon, Porgy and Bess, Andre Previn, born in Germany in 1930 who later escaped the Nazi regime with his parents to the United States in 1939, he became a renowned naturalized American pianist, conductor, and composer with four Academy Awards for his film work and ten Grammys to his credit. Previn said, "If I miss a day of practice, I know it. If I miss two days, my manager knows it. If I miss three days, my audience, knows it."

He was talking about the piano, but the same is true about your devotional life. When you're spending time with God on a consistent basis, it shows. When you aren't, it also shows. You'll notice it first, then those closest to you, and, pretty soon, it's obvious to everyone.

Paul said that you can be "transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Romans 12:2) This renewal — this transformation — occurs during those quiet moments we spend in the presence of…

SPIRITUAL FLU

I took my Mom this week to the doctor’s and later dropped off her prescription at the Pharmacy. In both locations I was made very aware that it’s that time of year again for flu shots. These two places had signs posted offering vaccinations that reportedly increase immunity to these pesky viruses. I’m also aware that there are some other good resources for fighting the flu. This includes making sure your immune system has a boost with extra vitamins, like C and herbal supplements like Echinacea, avoiding people who are sick, washing your hands and getting plenty of rest.

Throughout God’s Word, striking differences pop up between the worldly and the spiritual. There is worldly wealth versus spiritual wealth, worldly teaching versus spiritual teaching and worldly health versus spiritual health. Ephesians Chapter 6 verses 10-12 addresses the issue of spiritual health. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand agai…

FULL POTENTIAL

Cliff Lee of the Texas Rangers has been the most heralded pitcher in the 2010 postseason and for good reason his focus and precision placement of the ball around the plate has made him “perfect” in the eyes of those who know the game. He fell short of that perfection on the biggest stage in Major League Baseball as he lost (first ever postseason loss) the opening game of the World Series, 11-7 to San Francisco Giants. Lee has not always been referred to as “perfect.” In fact when he played for the Cleveland Indians his control was so awful he was sent down to the minor leagues. He had to suffer through this career demotion that eventually transformed the way he approached his craft and to realize his full potential.

John Ruskin said, "The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it."

In what ways is your career transforming you? Since being a Christ-follower is not without its difficulties, some who serve the Lord find that un…

PREFORMANCE ACCEPTANCE

The desire to be accepted by others is a common, if not universal one. Do you know anyone who doesn’t seek to be accepted? I don’t think I do. Growing up, I felt that I had to perform in order to be accepted. When I was good at something it seemed that others would pay attention—that they would like and accept me. Experience quickly taught me that good performance equaled acceptance while poor performance often meant some kind of rejection. So, driven by the desire to be accepted, I worked to achieve. Still, I was nagged by the suspicion that whatever I did would not be enough.

Unfortunately, I also learned this same lesson in church and in a variety of ways. For example, as a kid, I was part of our church’s Bible Drill Team. Every Wednesday night, we would learn the books of the Bible and on Sunday evening we would compete against each other. If we found the most Bible verses, we’d get a gold star next to our name on our class wall. Another star was added next to our name on the churc…

ADVERSITY TOUCH-UP

I was told, by a football coach, a long time ago that adversity introduces a man to himself. When things are toughest, you find out who you really are, and what you most need to change.

Many people are willing to give to others when there's money to spare. But when there's hardly enough to go around, you learn just how generous you're really willing to be.
Nearly everyone is charming and upbeat when things are going their way. But how you treat others on your worst days tells you more about who you really are.
When you face adversity, you get a good look at you. More often than not, you see something that could use a little touch-up.

Look at the adversity you're facing today — or look back on a past episode — and ask yourself: What does this experience teach me about me? How can I better myself through this situation?

Paul said in Romans 5:4-5 that suffering teaches perseverance and perseverance builds character. So, don't waste a single struggle. In the midst of diffic…

FAITH TESTED

Moses said to the Lord, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people?”— Num 11:11 NLT

Have you ever experienced this attitude expressed by Moses? Have times of trouble put a load on your faith to the point that every fiber of your being is ready to collapse? Are you thinking God is going over board and treating you unjustly? Well take courage for indeed our heavenly Father sends us frequent problems to test our faith.

If our faith is going have value, if it’s worth anything, it will stand testing. Gold doesn’t panic in the fire because it will become pure, and a diamond has no dread of inspection because the true jewel fears no amount of testing.

Your faith is a pitiful faith if it can only trust God when friends are true, or your body is healthy, and your business profitable. True faith holds-on by the Lord's faithfulness when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when spirits are depressed, and the …

MAKING SHADE

We planted four oak trees in the front of the church fifteen years ago. Didn’t think they would be this large this soon. Some say it takes twenty five years for this type of tree to make shade. They have grown each year to become a mighty shade against the heat of our western exposure to the sun. Warren Buffet said, "Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."

We are worshiping this Sunday because a handful of people sacrificed years ago…decades ago, to get a fledgling idea off the ground. Olive Place aka Ambassador Baptist Church purchased the land on November 20, 1952. We should take a minute to say “thank-you” for those who paid the price to make our current ministry possible. (This also applies to where you worship or work— someone planted and watered)

Now consider this question: Who will be sitting in the shade of your hard work twenty years from now? Or more to the point: Will there be shade to sit in? It depends on you plant…

CRUMMY ASSUMPTIONS

Have you heard the story about the lady who purchased a small package of cookies at an airport before her flight? When she got to her terminal gate she took a seat while waiting for her departure and began to read a newspaper. During that time she gradually became aware of a noise coming from the seat next to her. From behind her paper, she was stunned to see a man helping himself to her cookies. Not wanting to make a scene, but wanting the man to know she noticed him, she reached down and took a cookie for herself. A few moments went by, and she heard more rustling. She looked down to see the man taking another cookie. So, she reached down and took another cookie as well. Finally, she watched the man take the last cookie, break it in half and push the other half over to her. He ate the half-cookie, got up and left. The woman was furious! Later, on the plane, the woman opened her handbag and was both shocked and embarrassed to find her package of unopened cookies.

Has something like th…

CHOOSE JOY

Did you hear the story about the elderly blind woman who was being moved to a nursing home? Upon arrival, she was escorted to her new living quarters. When she entered the room she told her attendant energetically, "I love it!" The attendant questioned the blind woman, "How can you say you love it, when you've never been in it before — and you can't see what it looks like?" The woman spoke up, "Seeing the room doesn't have anything to do with it. Happiness is my choice. I have decided to love my room. Every morning, I have a choice on whether I focus on what I don't like about my life or what I do like about it. I'm choosing right now to love the new room where I'm going to live."



Let’s face it, life has its share of trials and everyone will face situations that are less than desirable. Yet, so much about the quality of our lives is determined not by the situation itself, but rather how we respond to it. Honestly, I don't know i…

NOT-TO-DO LIST

It’s been twelve weeks since we began the long overdue remodel of our front restrooms. With the project near complete, except for a few minor but important details, I made a final to-do list. The list consisted of eighteen small projects to complete within the larger scope of this restroom / parlor restoration. The finish line was in sight. At the end of the week six remain. Honestly these six were the hardest of the final eighteen. Why do I always leave the hard things until the end? I guess because I didn’t want to do them yet. Well, “yet” has arrived!



In your work there are probably a few little things that you don't want to do: items that should be done, but don't have to be done — at least not yet.


Legendary football coach Tom Landry said, "The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don't want to do, in order to achieve what they've always wanted to be."


It's also said that successful people become successful by doing the little things th…

JOGGIN the NOGGIN

Studies conducted recently by neuroscientists have brought to light new and great discoveries about the functioning of our minds. Our noggins can think up to 60,000 thoughts each day. Most thinking is done on autopilot with the mind thinking the same habitual thoughts over and over again. If it seems like you’re hashing out the same mental routine each day, there’s a good chance you are.



Our brains protect their storehouse of information — good or bad. Engrained habits are protected so the autopilot lifestyle can be maintained. But when we’ve repeated a new thought or practiced a new behavior for about 90 days, it becomes part of the brain architecture; voila, we have new hardwiring!


The good news is that we CAN change the way we think. After that, those new-and-improved – redemptive thoughts become habit. A new lifestyle can become the new norm. The Bible says we can challenge false thoughts by “taking every thought captive.” The apostle, Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothe…

LIFE AND LIMITATIONS

Do we really live in a world of limitations? We see athletes break records we once thought impossible. Some set goals to break record sales. Many of us push ourselves until the brink of fatigue and exhaustion. Just how far can we go and still remain healthy?



Physical limitations are probably the ones you will first notice. As you live, you realize that aging is inevitable. You might ache more than you did last year. Your eyes might not focus as well as they did last year. You might not be able to eat the same way you did when you were a twenty-something and expect to maintain a healthy weight. Physical limitations are hard to accept, but truly a part of living and aging.


Emotional limitations also impact your work. Your emotional involvement with your family might be too intense in crisis situations for you to truly function in the workplace. People in caring professions often become too emotionally involved in too many people’s lives, ending up fatigued and exhausted.


We are also impact…

TRAINING vs TRYING

Imagine if you were selected to participate in the Olympics. You received a call from the Olympic committee who through their records determined you were the most qualified to win a gold medal in the marathon. This is your chance. You picture yourself walking through the opening ceremonies with the most elite athletes in the world, waving to the crowds, and accepting your medal. In your head, you hear the National Anthem being played and know, without a doubt, this is your destiny.



But then reality sets in. You can't run a marathon right now. You haven't trained. Even if you tried REALLY REALLY hard, the best you might do is crawl through the finish line. You can't even remember the last time you ran around the block, let alone around a city! In order to run the marathon you will have to turn your life around. You will have to enter into a life of strict and disciplined training. You will have to sacrifice. No matter how hard you try, you must train to be successful.


The Chr…

IN OR OUT?

In February of 2001, national news media sources reported a man was arrested after trying to scale a prison wall—from the outside! Wayne Starkey was charged with burglary after trying to climb the west guard tower of the Volusia County Correctional Facility in Florida, according to police. Starkey said he climbed the tower in search of mail from his girlfriend who was detained in the prison. He claimed that her letters to him had not been properly delivered.



While most folks want to stay out of prison, a story about someone breaking in grabs your attention. However, this bizarre event sadly reflects the spiritual habits of countless professing Christ-followers. Every day, multitudes of people climb back into prisons—prisons of addictive behavior and enslaving attitudes. Others live behind bars of abuse, pornography or even workaholism. Within these cells reside anger, bitterness and an unwillingness to forgive. Some are prisons of our own making. Others are prisons of our culture. And …

PERSISTENCE

Author and public speaker Seth Godin says, "Persistence isn't using the same tactics over and over. That's just annoying. Persistence is having the same goal over and over."

Not that it needs elaboration, but Seth is saying that persistence (and the success that persistence leads to) requires unwavering focus on the end result, not on the strategies we use for getting there.

Are you driven by goals or strategies? When success is elusive, we're sometimes tempted to dump the goal: "I just can't get out of debt; I just can't improve my marriage; I just can't be effective in my Bible study skills."

It's usually not the goal that needs to be re-evaluated, it's the methodology. Once you've nailed down a goal, and you know that it's worthwhile, don't abandon it. Just change your approach when you need to. Like apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:14, "I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, th…

BLIND SPOTS

A few weeks ago, as I was leaving the Home Depot parking lot, a fellow driver pulled up next to me and motioned for me to roll down my window. My thoughts raced. I didn't think I had cut him off and taken his parking spot, or gone too slow. What had I done? With some apprehension, I rolled down my window without any indication of the problem. The driver, friendlier than expected, informed me that my back right reverse light was out.

As I drove away, I became aware that I would never have known my reverse light was out without that person making the effort to tell me. I needed someone with a different viewpoint and angle to see what I couldn't. I would have continued to drive unaware of any problem. The burned out light was in a spot I could not see.

You and I both have blind spots in our lives, don’t we? Just like the driver who helped me in that parking lot, the Lord uses other people in our lives to give us wisdom and correction. It is easy to get so caught up in me, that I am…

CHOOSING YOUR WAY

Think of all the things you can't control: the economy, your health, your income, the choices that your kids make, the decisions that your boss makes...You may have some influence over these things, but not complete control.

But there is one thing you can control: How you respond to every situation. You can respond with anger, doubt, and self-pity ... or with faith, hope, and love. It's your choice.

Again and again in the Psalms we encounter David in difficult situations — surrounded by enemies, struggling with sin, sinking in despair — and again and again we see his absolute resolve to think right:

“Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 43:5)

You can't control what happens today, but you can control your actions. Don't let any situation get the best of you. No matter what you face, you can choose your own way.

WORK HAPPY

The Society of Human Resources, in a survey conducted in 2003, found that eight out of ten workers wanted to leave their jobs. I’m thinking that today in the 2010 economy, with almost 10% unemployment, that survey may not hold true. No doubt every one of us knows what it's like to wake up thinking, "Not another day. Not another week. Can I somehow get out of it?" Being happy and being employed seem to be mutually exclusive concepts.

There's a verse in Ecclesiastes 3:22 that says, "So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is why we are here!"

I want you to notice this key distinction in what Solomon says: He didn't say, "There is nothing better for people than to have work that makes them happy." The emphasis is on you being happy in your work, not on your work making you happy. This is important to understand.

In my experience, some people get bored with great jobs; others approach the most mundane ta…