The Week That Was

159-pack13-021514-tmFriday at last! So, how has your week gone? Has it been a week of daily delights or has it been a bit different?

Was it one of those weeks where you felt like you’ve been drop-kicked through the goal post of life; bounced, like a basketball, off the hardwood floors of adversity; or, one in which the time of day never mattered because no one would give you a second of their time?

Life alone can be like that, but life aside of Jesus can be much different. Whenever you think that no one will give you a second of their time, remember that Jesus has given you His life and a promise of eternity in Heaven.

The rejection you feel from time to time—Jesus knows all about it. Remember He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and very familiar with our grief; and, for the joy of obtaining the prize that was set before Him, Jesus endured the cross (Isaiah 53, Hebrews 12:2).

So, the next time you feel rejected, remember you are accepted in Jesus. To Him, you are a keeper—a “prize” that He cherishes.

And the adversity you face—you never have to go it alone because He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. The invitation is to come along side of Him, so He can ease your burden and carry your load.

You can find some comfort and reassurance in the words of Paul: “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”

Here’s a verse or two to get you through today and to think about over the weekend: “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock. My refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge.”

Are You Brusque, Pushy or Condescending?

pusypeopleYesterday, I posted in this blog about a principle from Philippians 2. Since then, my thoughts have centered on the word “condescending.” This is due in a large part to some work done by Nic Subtirelu, a linguist at Georgia State University.

The idea behind the word “condescending” is this:
• A person with authority is abusing his/her power
• A person has an attitude of superiority in the way he/she interacts with other people.

Jesus did not think He was superior to others—He knew it; yet He willingly humbled Himself. Through His actions and attitudes, Jesus paints a stark contrast in bold strokes and with the vivid colors of humility and service.

His humility is seen in Philippians 2: “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave.”

In a loving act of humility, Jesus “emptied” Himself. He laid aside all prestige and praise, and left the fragrance of heaven to be born in a stable thick with the pungent smell of dung.

This King of kings and Lord of lords was born, not to be served; but, to serve others. Alive in Him was the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:8-9); yet, He walked down the ladder of glory, so He could be hung up on a cross. This was no display of condescension—it was an act of redemption.

Condescending people are full of themselves, and deep down inside there is a gnawing emptiness. The redeemed are full of God, and deep within them is the knowledge Christ’s love. In which group are you?

Where Is The Empathy?

Magnifier with question mark isolated on white.The WSJ online edition ran a story entitled: Little Children and Already Acting Mean (Children, Especially Girls, Withhold Friendship as a Weapon; Teaching Empathy

According to research by Charisse Nixon, chair of the psychology department at Penn State Erie, “50% of children and adolescents—grades five through 12—have experienced relational aggression at least monthly. About 7% of children report experiencing physical aggression on a daily or weekly basis.”

The article also quoted Laura Barbour, a counselor at Stafford Primary School in West Linn, Oregon: “Kids forget about scuffles on the playground but they don’t forget about unkind words or being left out.”

So how should these issues be handle before they become problems? Mark Barnett, a developmental psychologist at Kansas State University, thinks he has the answer. Barnett says parents should teach their children affective empathy. He believes children should learn to vicariously experience the emotions of another person.

As I read Barnett’s suggestions, I thought I was hearing the principles of Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Before you can guide your children down the right path of life, first, you need to walk it yourself.

Look at your life through a magnifying glass, and what do you see? Does the evidence point to a life of rivalry and conceit or one of humility and service to benefit the needs of others?

Ted Williams and TriFocals

pitching-mental-gameI’ve been wearing trifocal glasses for several years, and I’ve learned it’s important to keep them clean. A smudge can cover all three vision fields of a lens which makes focusing a tenuous task.

In most any endeavor you will undertake, your focus will determine much of your success. In the field of sports, one of the most difficult skills to develop is learning to hit a baseball.

Ted Williams was a leftfielder for the Boston Red Sox and played his last game in 1960. He was also the last major leaguer to bat for over .400 in a season. His career average was .344.

In the history of Major League Baseball only 30 players, with a minimum of 3,000 plate appearances, have batted .330 for their careers. Of all the great athletes who have stepped to the plate with bat in hand, only 205 of them ended their careers with a .300 batting average.

The difference between the 205 and the thousands of others is focus. Their focus on the ball and their ability to recognize its spin allowed them to put it into play.

When David kept his life in focus, he did great things for God. You can see the target of his energies in Psalm 34: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”

David was doing what Paul would later instruct the Colossians to do. He was setting his mind on things above, instead of on earthly things (3:2). This reminds me of Hebrews 12: “. . . lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith . . . “

When we see things through the lens of eternity, our focus is on Jesus. This allows us to see the “spin,” so we don’t get tripped up or ensnared by the things of this world.

Check List for Life

checkIt’s hard to believe, but we are just days away from the month of June and the halfway point of 2014. It has been a fast 5 months that have been full of changes.

Many of my changes have been associated with my mother. Her declining health has meant a move to assisted living, and selling her house. As we went through the tiring process of sorting her papers, heirlooms, and “stuff,” an article was found. Either Mom or Pop thought there was some significance and truth to the following Ten Commandments For Right Living:

1. Thou shalt not worry, for by so doing thou shalt relive the same disaster many times.
2. Thou shalt not try to dominate or possess others, for it is the right of every man to govern his own actions.
3. Thou halt not seek after fame, for unless God is glorified, greatness is a burden.
4. Thou shalt not work for money only, for money was meant to serve. Money is a poor master.
5. Thou shalt harm no other person, by word, thought, or deed, regardless of the cause: for to do so is to perpetuate the sorrows of the race.
6. Thou shalt not be angry at any person for any reason, for anger injures most the one who is angry.
7. Thou shalt never blame another for thy misfortune, for each man’s destiny is in his own keeping.
8. Thou shalt relax, for tension is an abomination unto the flesh.
9. Thou shalt have a sense of humor or thy years will seem much more tedious and painful.
10. Thou shalt love the beautiful and serve the good for this is according to the will of heaven.

While I might take issue with the way some of these are worded, they do offer some good principles for how to live your life. Most of the 10 can be summarized in one statement that Jesus made—The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

There’s a lot of difference between “doing in” others and “doing for” others. Which “doing” have you been doing?

Is Your Bottom Right Side Up?

happy-coffee-92313-436Keurig—if you’re not familiar with the word, you may think I’ve started speaking a foreign language. If, however, you recognize the word, you know it’s a handy device for quickly making a fine tasting cup of coffee.

Even though I rarely have any problems with my coffee maker, I do have an “oops” moment from time to time. Because I had one such moment yesterday, I’ll share a tip with you: Make sure your coffee cup is right side up when you place it under the spout of the coffee maker.

If you place the coffee cup under the spout upside down you end up with a rather large mess—coffee everywhere except in the cup. When the cup is inverted it’s impossible to fill it with freshly brewed coffee. You can smell the tantalizing aroma of your favorite blend; however, you there’s no tasting what you’re craving.

A person’s life can, at times, be a mess because he is out of position with God. The blessing is present and ready for you to receive, but you are upside down in your relationship with God.

To get your life headed in the right direction, listen to the words of the Psalmist: “The Lord is good and upright; therefore He shows sinners the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. All the Lord’s ways show faithful love and truth to those who keep His covenant and decrees (Ps. 25:8-10)”

Commit yourself to keeping “his covenants and decrees,” and you’ll be at the right place at the right time to drink from the fountain of His “faithful love and truth.”

Spare Dimes

Broken Piggybank Shows Financial DepositWhat is it that gets your attention? Is it a shiny new sports car or a rugged new four wheel drive pickup? Is it a new piece of furniture to replace a well-worn family heirloom?

What is it that turns your attention from stylized consumerism and an inward focus to one that is beyond rank me-ism and centered on the needs of others? When was the last time you gave a needy person a spare dime or found some time you could give to a worthy cause?

By worthy cause, I don’t mean something that will help you achieve a higher position on the social rung of some ladder. Jesus wasn’t nearly as worried about climbing ladders and pampering the high and mighty as He was helping the down and lowly.

The power brokers of the day were the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and they caught the attention of Jesus more than once, and He chided them for their abuse of privilege.

The under-privileged also caught the attention of Jesus. He loved the outcasts of society—even the untouchable lepers felt His compassionate touch. The blind and lame who had been falsely accused of suffering due to sin, were helped and healed by the touch of the Master’s hand.

Jesus never turned a deaf ear to those who pleaded for help or a blind eye to the less fortunate who were within the scope of His vision. Regardless of who they were; what they needed; or, where they were, Jesus recognized their individual needs and they gave them His full attention.

Here’s a question or two to keep you thinking: Are you aware of what you deem worthy of your care? When was the last time your fingernails got dirty as you ministered to the needs of others?

The Commotion of Emotion

primary-emotions-christina-boytI’ve been reflecting on the life of Moses over the last few days. I’ve have been interested in his actions when he had his back to the Red Sea and was about to be slaughtered by the Egyptian Army.

Notice what Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever (Exodus 14:13).”

If you thought you were about to be the centerpiece of a massacre, how good would you be at standing still? I’m not so sure I could stay calm, but this is what Moses instructed the people to do; and, it seems to be a frequent theme of Scripture:

• Psalm 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
• Psalm 27:14: Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!
• Psalm 40:1: I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.
• Isaiah 30:18: Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.
• Isaiah 40:31: Those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

The decision to stand still and wait on God is proof of your faith in the character and care of God. Any commotion in your emotion can be soothed by the words of Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Even when things are going miserably wrong, remember that God is mighty and right; and “He will not leave you nor forsake you,”

Pun, Puny, or Powerful;?

ernestThe character in the photo to the left is Ernest P. Worrell. A few years ago, Ernest provided quite a few laughs for people.

I’m not really concerned with the puns of Ernest, but I do have some interest in the prayers of earnest. When I think of my life and the prayer principles of Scripture, I wonder if my prayers are puns, puny, or powerful in comparison.

Do your prayers manifest the same sense of urgency and importance as those in Scripture? Can you see any resemblance in the verses that follow?
• Earnestly seek God and make your supplication to the Almighty (Job 8:5).
• Jairus “begged Jesus earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live’ (Mark 5:23).”
• Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2)
• Elijah “prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months (James 5:17).”

The simple thought and profound truth of the verse above, is explained for us in The Message: “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again (James 5:16-17).”

Is prayer a “common practice” in your life? Is it an earnestly practiced discipline or is it a ho-hum after-thought?