A Key Ingredient

Julia-ChildIn this age of reality TV there’s a vast array of channels with do-it-yourself (DIY) programs. Many of these are food-related and highlight the cooking skills of kitchen-famous chefs.

A pioneer of the DIY cooking was the Queen of Cuisine, Julia Childs. Aspiring chefs would jot down her mouth-watering and salvia-stimulating recipes and file them away for a special occasion.

Good recipes are the key to stirring-up some tasty treats, and even an inept cook can appear to be a polished chef when he measures and mixes according to a cookbook.

The recipe for a good and godly life is more likely to be found in the Bible than it is in a cookbook by Gordon Ramsay or Rachel Ray.  While your status as a cook can change by following a good recipe, your standing before God changes when you follow His Word. This is why we are encouraged to hide God’s Word in our hearts—it is the key ingredient to a robust and healthy spiritual life.

By the way, if you need to sweeten that favorite dish just a little, add a pinch of God’s Word—Its sweeter than honey and the honeycomb (Psalm 19:10).

The Ups and Downs of Life

wepnerLife is an adventure.  Some people seem to stumble their way through it, while others have the ability and agility to bob and weave their way through its obstacles.  Some people have the knack to fall face first into every mud hole that dots their path in life, while others can transform the sourest moments of life into a sweet and exhilarating experience.

Muhammed Ali’s life was more exciting than it was boring.  Ali was fond of saying that he “could float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee,” but even the Champ learned felt the brute force of a punch that was akin to the kick of a mule.

On March 24, 1975, Chuck Wepner introduced Ali to one of the universal laws of life:  Sooner or later you’re going to get hit by a punch you’ll never see coming!

Suffering is a thread that’s woven into the fabric of life, and it’s the sucker punch that can drop you to your knees.  

This universal law is the subject of discourse by both Peter and James:

  • Peter said you should not, “be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you (I Peter 4:12).”
  • Even though suffering is anything but pleasant, James said to, “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2–3).” 

It’s important to note that James did not say that the suffering or trial is a joyful experience; instead, he said the joy comes in acknowledging the result of the trial—steadfastness.  The situations that shake your faith are the ordeals that form a faith that’s unshakable.

Your faith is like your muscle tissue—to get stronger, it must be stressed.

The trials of life can buckle your knees and make it hard to see the end of the journey. It’s only from the perspective of hindsight that we have 20-20 vision.  Paul confirms this in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. When he contemplated the past through the light of the present, he could see the boldly colored thread of hope in the tapestry of his heartache.  He could see God’s purpose in the suffering he had endured: “We want you to know, Christian brothers, of the trouble we had in the countries of Asia. The load was so heavy we did not have the strength to keep going. At times we did not think we could live.  We thought we would die. This happened so we would not put our trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead.”

“This happened”, so Paul would know that God is able and that He would enable him. What God did for Paul, He will also do for you.

 

In the Blink of an Eye

USP OLYMPICS: SWIMMING-EVENING SESSION S OLY BRAI used to wonder why I wondered about certain things, but I’ve decided that somewhere in my DNA I must have an inquisitive gene that is alive and well.

So, I wasn’t surprised when I noticed my curious nature thinking about the speed of a blinking eye. After a quick Google search, I learned:

  • If you are an average blinker, you will blink about every 4 seconds.
  • Each minute of the day you will blink about 15 times or roughly 20,000 times a day.
  • The surface of your eye is cleaned and lubricated,  in the 10th of a second it takes you to blink.

A 10th of a second is fast, and this fact jogged my memory: I remembered the 2016 Olympics and Anthony Ervin. At the age of 35, Ervin set a record for being the oldest individual competitor to win a gold medal in the Olympics. Ervin swam the 50M Men’s Freestyle, and he won the gold medal; France’s Florent Manaudou finished second and won the silver.

The difference that separated these two men wasn’t the 10th of a second it takes you to blink, but the hairbreadth of just 100th of a second. Ervin finished the race in 21.40 seconds and Manaudou finished it in 21.41.

Even though the critical factor that separates the winner from the runner-up can be as minuscule as 100th of a second, the minuscule can be mighty powerful.

Had Anthony Ervin succumbed to the power of a negative thought for just 100th of a second, he may have returned home with the silver medal and not the gold.

Ervin achieved his dream because he trained hard in preparation for the Olympics.  To have success in life we should do the same. This is why the Scriptures encourage us to discipline the body and to focus the mind.

Another Olympian who attained great success is Jesse Owens. At the 1936 Olympics, he won four gold medals, turning his dreams into reality. Later in life, Owens said: “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”

I encourage to keep your eyes on the prize and run life’s race with determination, dedication, and self-discipline.

Remember When

rememberThe older I get, the more often I ask, or I am asked the question: Don’t you remember how it used to be?

This question was repeated several times this morning in a conversation, and it reminded me of a tender scene in The Lion King when Mufasa challenges Simba: “Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true King. Remember who you are.”

Like Simba, there are times we need to remember who we are—We are children of the King. This is not some simple mantra to be repeated; it is a truth full of practical applications when, like Simba, you lose your way.

When you truly realize you are a child of the King, you can:

  • Worry less by spending more time in prayer as you turn your problems over to God.
  • Stand tall when you feel like you are in over your head; God is in it with you.
  • Remember that God is bigger than any of your problems.
  • Be certain that you will never be so lost that you can’t be found.
  • Be assured that when you feel like no one likes you, God still loves you.

As a child of the King, God speaks to you and says: I will hold your right hand: Fear not, I will help you.

Strength for Today

bicepI started today as I do most days–with a cup of coffee and the Psalms.  As I was reading Psalms 31, I stopped to consider the 24th verse: Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
When you step outside of the safety of your house to face the world today, do so with the confidence that God’s:
  • Strength will build you up
  • Love will fill you up
  • Arms will lift you.
Keep this thought with you today, and you’ll begin to know the power of God’s promise to Paul:  My grace is sufficient.
The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He drives out the enemy before you and commands, “Destroy!”
Deuteronomy 33:27

Scripture: Breaking It Down

MorningDevotionsFrom time to time, a person will say to me: “I know that I am to meditate on Scripture, but I’m not sure how to do that.”

When I meditate on God’s Word, I try to break it down by asking myself some questions that will help me see what it suggests, implies, or commands.

Since Psalm 16:11 has been on my mind for several days, I’ll use it as an example of how I approach a verse of Scripture:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

  • What does This Psalm mean when it says: You make known to me the path of life
  1. There is more than one path in life that a person can follow.
  2. If there is a path of life, then there must be a path of death.
  3. While God will reveal the path of light to you, He will not force you to walk it.
  4. Companion Scripture: Proverbs 3:5-6
  • What does This Psalm mean when it says: In your presence, there is fullness of joy
  1. A person is either in or out of the presence of God.
  2. If fullness is a characteristic of being in His presence, is there a sense of unfulfillment or a lack of satisfaction when a person is absent His presence?
  3. If there is a correlation between joy in His presence, is there a lack of joyfulness in His absence?
  4. Companion Scripture: Psalm 1
  • What does this Psalm mean when it says: At your right hand are pleasures forevermore
  1. If there is a place where there are pleasures evermore, is there a place where there are pleasures nevermore?
  2. If these pleasures are associated with God’s right hand, what’s left when a person steps away from the hand of God’s provision?
  3. If these pleasures can be recognized, they are to be utilized.
  4. Companion Verse: Philippians 4:19

I hope this example of how I examine a verse of scripture will help you as you study God’s Word.

Monikers and Meanings

baby-name-surprisedMost people who know me call me by the shortened form of my name.  Although my birth certificate reads, Stanley Lee Seymour,  most people call me Stan.   An etymological search of Stan reveals that it is Old English in origin and means rocky meadow or from the stony field.

Etymology, however, had nothing to do with the selection of my name.  Because my last name starts with an S, Mom and Dad thought it would be trendy for the first name of each of their children to start with an S.  My older brother’s name is Steve and my younger brother’s name is Brad.

Before he was born Brad’s name was going to be Stuart, but Mom was already having trouble calling Steve, Stan, and Stan, Steve, so Stuart became Brad.

Had Mom continued her practice of using an S in the naming of her sons, Brad would have been Stuart; and, his name would carry the idea of one who is a guardian or steward.

Here, in America, we seem to be more ambiguous than rigorous when we consider the meaning of the name written on the birth certificate that labels our children for life.

This has not always been the case. In the biblical eras, names were pregnant with meaning and often prophetic in nature. The best example is the name that is above all names and the Old Testament descriptor assigned to Him: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Little did Mary know the angelic proclamation and the meaning of her son’s name would be as full of pain as it was promise:  You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

When that babe lying in Bethlehem’s manger was named Jesus, it was not just a slip of the tongue or a casual moniker, it was a bold declaration: The Savior has been born.

May we all remember the reason for this season.

Rituals and Wrinkles

mirrorIt is 4:19, and I’ve finished the first part of my morning routine: I just swallowed the last drop of my first cup of coffee.

The next item on my morning ritual will be the couple of minutes I spend facing a mirror to examine my wrinkled mug, to apply some shaving cream, and to wield the razor as I shave my whiskers.

When I check the stubble on my face, I often think of Paul’s statement to the church at Corinth: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).”

When you think about it, isn’t life one examination station after another?

  • In your bedroom, do you examine your shirt for wrinkles before you button it up?
  • In the grocery store, do you check the apples to see if they are bruised or too green before you place them in your cart?
  • After you buy something, do you check to make sure you have been given the correct amount of change?

Do you take any time during the day for a spiritual examination?  The Psalmist said: “I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies (Psalm 119:59).”  Are there times when you use God’s Word to iron out the wrinkles of your life?

The methodology of the Psalms was the same message espoused by James (1:21-25):

Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the

When you use the “perfect law of liberty” as a mirror to examine your life, what do you see?

  • Do you see a reflection of righteousness?
  • Is there an image of personal purity?
  • Do you recognize the features of faithfulness in the face you see?

Let me share a favorite verse that I use as a mirror: Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

When you look into God’s Word, what do you see?

The Weary and Wonderful

wonderfulThe older I get the more truth I find in an old cliché—Whatever gets your attention gets you. Some mornings, it’s my aches and pains that get my attention.

I’ve found that when my mind is full of misery, I’m mighty miserly in my praise for God.  Instead of focusing on a sore muscle or a stiff joint, I make it a point to learn from David who contemplated the splendid and wonderful things of God: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 139).

When was the last time you considered how “wonderfully” you are made? Here are three facts to get you started.

  • You are unique: When you were still in your mother’s womb, you developed your fingerprints when you were three months old.
  • You are a person of rhythm: At 80 beats per minute, your heart beats about 4,800 times an hour or 115,200 times a year pumping blood through the 100,000 miles of blood vessels in your body.
  • You are no dimwit. When you are awake, your brain is producing enough electricity to light a lightbulb.

Each of us is unique and have a special purpose in the grand scheme of life as designed by God.

This may be what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he said: We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10); or, as The Voice says, we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives.

Those Who Know

6325259a3ec2cdd15a2b3fbf87cf9de4It happened yesterday; it was one of those bright light moments of fresh comprehension. As I was reading Psalm 9, a verse stood out from the rest like a sunflower in a field of bluebonnets.

The words that caught my attention were a positive affirmation of God’s faithfulness: those who know Your name will put their trust in You.

At certain times and places, God would use a specific name to reveal His character to His people.  Many of the Psalms speak about the nature of God. From the many, I share a few that encourage me to put my trust in God:

  • Psalm 3:3 tells us that God is a shield.
  • Psalm 5:11 where God is seen as a defender of His people.
  • Psalm 13:6 states that God provides for the needs of the faithful.
  • Psalm 19:14 praises God because He gives the strength we need, and He redeems us.
  • Psalm 23:1 reminds us that the Lord is our Shepherd.

Then, there is Psalm 18:2 which is a compendium of God’s attributes. As you begin a new week, I encourage you to think about it today:

I will love You,  O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock  and my fortress  and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.