Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Who’s Keeping Score?

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

In his book, Everyday Is Friday, pastor and author Joel Osteen wrote about how important it is to recognize each day’s uniqueness. Everyday is a gift of God; never are two exactly the same. We believe there’s always a tomorrow, but that’s a mistake. We fritter away our todays, because there’s another one right around the corner; or are there? No one has an ironclad guarantee tomorrow will come.

The bible describes our life as a vapor. In the context of eternity, our stint on earth is short. We haven’t time to waste. Live each day to the fullest; take advantage of the time we have now.

TGIF is a popular buzzword. It signals the impending start of our free time. Stressful jobs and difficult people give reason to look longingly ahead to a break. Unfortunately, if we concentrate too much on the future, we miss God given opportunities in the present. What if everyday were used to gain a heart of wisdom? That’s what the psalmist did.

If you knew that today was your last day alive, would you change your schedule? Probably. What would move to the top of your To Do List? Would you spend extra time with family and friends and less on the pursuit of wealth and success? Would quality time with God take on greater importance? We don’t know what day is our last, but we can re-arrange our lives and priorities as if it were. Despite the curve balls life throws us, we can recognize and appreciate each day and enjoy the possibilities it affords us.

Why wait for Thanksgiving to gather with friends and family to eat, give thanks and eat some more (just kidding about the food)? Why give gifts only at Christmas, birthdays or special occasions? Why limit displays of affection to Valentines Day and not everyday? Who said any day was ordinary? Everyday is a one-of-a-kind event, never to be duplicated.

The development of a heart of wisdom doesn’t come just through the study of God’s word and prayer; we need to apply the lessons learned in the trenches of day to day life. In order to accomplish this we must live in the present and not excessively dream of the future or ruminate about the past. When given carte blanche by God for anything, King Solomon asked for wisdom. God honored that request and Solomon is recognized even today for his extraordinary ability to solve complex problems.

God’s no respecter of persons. What He did for Solomon, he’ll do for us also. So, let’s approach today and everyday with wonder and expectation. They will provide once-in-a-lifetime events with rich, beneficial experiences. We can count on that!

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Smokey the Bear

If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his body in check.
James 3:2

Do you sometimes feel that you body has a mind of its own? Do you eat when you’re not hungry; lay on the couch when there’s work to be done; throw and/or slam things when you’re angry? Do you feel out of control sometimes? I do.

James provided insight into this dilemma and the solution is all in our mouths. James states that anyone who controls what they say can exert dominion over themselves in all areas. Easier said than done, no pun intended, James compared spoken words to forest fires. I lived in Florida and experienced several severe wildfire seasons. The amount of destruction and the breadth of the damage were enormous. Once ignited, they moved swiftly and gobbled up everything in their path. It took huge amounts of manpower and equipment to extinguish or at least control firestorms caused by a small spark. I remember when I should have had Smokey the Bear in tow to quench the blazes my words started.

How does control of our words keep everything else in line? The secret is discipline. To think before we speak can be difficult; to determine a proper response or a lack there of takes work. Our words shape our mindsets that make us who we are. Our base of operation is built on the belief system we’ve developed. At times it’s so subtle we don’t realize what’s happened. For example, have you ever said something like this? “I always get the flu!” What appears to be a statement of fact is also a declaration of expectation. Past history proved you got sick during flu season. When you made that statement did your thoughts agree or disagree with your words? Do past bouts with the flu provide validation for your anticipated results for this year? Does it drive you crazy that while you get sick all the time others around you suffer no ill effects and get off scot-free? Exposed to the same environment, they seem immune. Perhaps they’ve a different set of expectations that work in their defense.

Have you talked yourself out of something before you tried it? You failedl to experience something new because the mental picture formed beforehand over rode your curiosity and willingness to test the unknown. Your words created that image of fear and failure. Later, were you shocked and said, “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be”? To your amazement, a dreaded situation turned out much better than ever anticipated. You expected the worst. If you hadn’t been forced into action you’d have missed out on an adventure because of wrong thinking brought on by your words.

Controlling our words is crucial for success in life not only for us but also for others. We prevent problems when we monitor our speech. It’s easy to “tell it like it is” and then regret the wild fire we created. Unfortunately the damage is done. We should heed Smokey the Bear’s words of warning, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” and exercise caution when we open our mouths and speak. When we watch what we say we’ll keep out of the heat and gain mastery over our lives. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Taking My Own Medicine

No I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 
1 Corinthians 9:27

Have you ever been impressed with someone: their accomplishments; their ability to articulate ideas; and their knowledge and skill only to learn later it was just an act? How disappointed were you to discover someone you wanted to emulate was a fraud? The probability of your success to replicate their achievements was now in serious question. If they couldn’t do it, what hope was there for you?

My sphere of influence as a writer and occasional speaker is tiny compared to the apostle Paul’s. That doesn’t get me off the hook though. If I want others to take my thoughts and insights seriously, I need to take my own medicine. Failure to do so will be catastrophic.

When I address any audience, there’s one individual I have in my sight and zero in on. This person needs to hear and implement what I’m about to share. For me, they are the neediest one in the bunch. That person is me.

Sorry if this comes across as self-centered, but it’s true. God hasn’t retired and left me in charge. I don’t have it all together all the time. I’ve got more questions than I have answers. I’m grateful that people expend their most valuable resource, their time, and listen to what I have to say. They deserve more than just a dog and pony show from a seasoned performer.

I write about issues that God has his finger on in my life. Ouch. Should I question His love, all I need to do is read Hebrews 12:6, “…the Lord disciplines those He loves.” I’m in an endless state of correction so I guess that means God loves me a whole lot.

God desires we finish our race and win the prize. Along the way our paths may intersect with others who struggle and need help and encouragement. They don’t want a spin doctor but someone real who’s been where they are and may even be there now. They need some who’s faced the heat of battle and survived.

As our routes intertwine my desire is to be more than someone who makes a flashy presentation that’s all fluff and no stuff. Maybe I should rename my blog “Welcome to my Medicine Cabinet.” Feel free to partake if you find something helpful; there’s plenty to share. When you see me, if I have a funny, sort of painful look on my face you’ll know, I just got a dose of my own medicine. I needed it.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/adrianblack/2547877832/">craig1black</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">cc</a>

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dead and Gone? Maybe Not.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds.
John 12:24

After His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus made this statement about His impending death. His words confused the crowd who believed the Law declared the Messiah would remain forever. If Jesus was The Anointed One, why did He talk about dying? The miracles they’d witnessed weren’t sufficient evidence to warrant a commitment of their faith to Him. Now the disturbing words He spoke reinforced their unbelief.

That week was unusual. It began and ended with celebrations; one in Jerusalem and one in Heaven. The festivities were interrupted, however, by a series of events so unexpected and horrific that for a time any hope of a return to normalcy was unthinkable.

Death disrupts our lives like nothing else. Its finality unhinges us. For the disciples, Jesus was the go to guy. He always had the right answers and knew what to do. Commissioned by Jesus in Matthew 10:7-8 to raise the dead, among other things, we have no biblical evidence the disciples did this. What do you do when the only one who raises the dead, dies?

To be fair, if the thought of resurrecting Jesus did cross their minds, there were serious obstacles to overcome. First a cadre of armed Roman soldiers guarded the tomb. Their primary objective was to prevent grave tampering. Would they be open to an attempt by the disciples to bring their fallen leader back to life? I doubt it. Before and during His crucifixion, Jesus was brutalized. If they did raise Him could they be sure He’d be healed. Would they want Him to suffer the excruciating pain and agony from the injuries He’d received? To raise the dead was one issue; to restore a person so broken to complete health also may have been a stretch for their faith. Finally the Roman legal system did subscribe to the concept of double jeopardy but only when the accused was acquitted. Jesus was a convict. If He came back He could be subject to a repeat of his trial and crucifixion. Maybe doing nothing was the best option.

Jesus said the death of a seed (singular) can birth more seeds (plural). That being the case, what kind of seeds do we want to produce? Hard times bring out the best and the worst in people and our reaction to them determines our seeds’ character. Difficult situations that drain life out of us are painful and at times protracted over a long period of time. It’s not easy to maintain a good attitude when under pressure but it will make a difference in the long run.

No matter how we experience death in our lifetime we can grab hold onto the hope of a resurrection. Good can come out of bad situations that will benefit us and many others if we believe and act on God’s word. Today just may be our resurrection day!

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