A Kindergarten Failure

siestaNow that I’m 61, I’m starting to learn the value of some practices that I shunned when I was six. At the top of this list is nap time. I’m beginning to learn the restorative power of a little siesta.

When I was in kindergarten, my classmates and I would roll our little rugs out on the floor and at a specified time each day for a little nap. My kindergarten teacher would tell you that I flunked nap time. I wish she could see me now—she’d give me an A+.

Sometimes I think of that little rug when I lay down on the floor for a little catnap. Just a few minutes of shut-eye is rejuvenating, and what the nap does for you physically, God will do for you spiritually.

In Psalm 23, David says the Good Shepherd will restore your soul. The storehouse of God is plentiful, and when you:
• Run low on gas He will refuel you (Isaiah 40:30-31).
• Feel abandoned, He will receive you (John 1:12).
• Think your fire is about to go out, He will revive you (Psalm 85:6-7).
• Are sad and want to quit, you can rejoice in Him (Philippians 4:4).
• Are confused, you can reflect on His Word (Joshua 1:8).
• Feel weak and think you lack strength, He will replenish you (Philippians 4:13)

In Ephesians (1:19), Paul speaks of the immeasurable greatness of God’s power and the vastness of His strength. Think of how this applies to your relationship with Him in the context of the following words: rekindle, revitalize, refocus, rebuild, recover, rediscover, relax, and reshape.

When you think of each of the words above, you can confidently rely on God to recharge you.

When Did 7 Become 9?

Today is September 29th, so this 9th month of the year comes to an end tomorrow. September has its origins in the Latin word “septem” which means seven.

Why is the 9th month of the year identified by a word than means seven? On the old Roman calendar, September was the 7th month.

In 1772, Pope Gregory XII reformed the calendar, and in the new order of months September moved from the 7th month to the 9th month. I’m not sure what the Pope’s abbreviated spelling for the month was, but I know the shortened form today is Sept.

As we near the close of the month, let me suggest that you use SEPT as an acronym:
• S—Study the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15)
• E—Evangelism: Share your faith (Acts 20:20)
• P—Prayer (Matthew 7:7-8)
• T—Talents: Let God use your talent and ability for His glory (2 Corinthians 8:3-5)

It doesn’t make any difference whether it is the 7th or the 9th month of the year, SEPT will help you live a life that is pleasing to God.

More Like The Master

thinklikejesus19It’s been quite some time since I’ve heard the old hymn, “More Like the Master.” The words to the first stanza of the song are:

More like the Master I would ever be,
More of His meekness, more humility;
More zeal to labor, more courage to be true,
More consecration for the work He bids me do.

Whenever the words of this song begin floating through my mind, I think of 2 Corinthians 3:18: “So our faces are not covered. They show the bright glory of the Lord, as the Lord’s Spirit makes us more and more like our glorious Lord (CEV).”

Which influences you the most, the Spirit of the Lord or the spirit of the world? When people look at your face, do they see a mirror image of Jesus Christ or do they see a grotesque representation of Christianity? 4.2

Are you a portrait of His meekness and humility or are you rude and arrogant? Is your conversation marked by words of kindness and encouragement or is it marred by negativity and grouchiness?

Live your life for what you really are: “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10).” When you do this people will begin to notice that you are more like the Master.

A Theology of Spitting

Even though the days of cane pole fishing have been replaced by high tech fishing gear, I can still remember fishing with those glorified sticks and a piece of string. Most of these memories include a short little pudgy man with a smiling face and big heart. Edgar was his name, and he was my Grandpa Lacy.

Grandpa and I would sit on the river bank by an old stone bridge and watch the muddy water gentle flow downstream. After baiting the hook, Grandpa would chuckle and say to me: “Before you toss your line out, make sure you spit on that fishin’ worm for good luck.”

Since I was just a kid who wanted to catch some fish, I eagerly spit on the worm; and, I did this with no thought to the origin or efficacy of this tradition. As I grew older, my curious mind would reminisce about the river bank days and the lore of spitting.

In biblical days, some people believed that spittle was representative of more than just good luck and catching fish—they believed it was a window to the soul. This could be one of the reasons that Jesus used His spittle when He performed some miracles like the one in John 9: “Jesus saw a man who had been blind from birth . . . He spat on the ground and made some mud with the saliva. He smeared the mud on the blind man’s eyes and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.” So the blind man went away and washed, and came back seeing.”

In the Bible, blindness is symbolic of spiritual darkness. This man’s physical condition represented his spiritual need—his eyes were unseeing and his soul was blind. Jesus healed the one, so He could save the other.

When questioned by the religious authorities about his prior condition and his present and miraculous healing, the man simply said: “All I know is that I was blind and now I can see.” This man knew that the healing of his body and soul was more than good luck, it was the good Lord at work.

When Jesus began His public ministry, He went to the synagogue and read from Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to tell them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read (Luke 4:18-21).”

Notice two of the phrases from above:
• He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind
• The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him.

Jesus came to restore sight to the unseeing eyes and the blind souls of the people seated in the synagogue, to the blind man in John 9, and to you and me as well.

Praise God for His goodness, grace, and mercy!

Developing the Habit

consistency_quoteEven though he did not use the exact words each time, there are at least four distinct places where Paul calls you to a life of disciplined prayer:
• Pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17)
• Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer (Romans 12:12)
• With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity (Ephesians 6:18)
• Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.

When you read the verses above are you overwhelmed? Do you wonder, “How can I pray without ceasing?” Does God actually expect me to do what Paul instructs these believers to do—pray constantly and consistently?

The answer is to this is yes and no. Practically speaking, it is impossible to be on your knees and in prayer every moment and second of life, but that isn’t what Paul calls you to do. I think Paul’s idea of prayer is to have an attitude of prayer.

You begin to maintain the habit of prayer when you “set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2).” How will you know when you are doing this?

A habit of prayer is being developed when you:
• Begin to live with a God-consciousness—everything you see and experience becomes a kind of prayer
• Are tempted, you immediately go to God and ask for His help
• See the good in someone or experience the beauty of nature, you thank the Lord for it.
• Meet someone, you have a concern for their spiritual well-being

Paul may had an extraordinary prayer life, but remember that he was still just an ordinary person; and, what Paul did, you can do as well. I encourage you to fine-tune your attitude of prayer by giving careful consideration to these words of Paul:

“Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.
Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a chance to make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not to cut them out. (Colossians 4 ~The Message).”

To get started, read the Scripture above with each meal you eat, and before you go to bed. Do it more than just today—practice it each day for the rest of this week.

When The Lights Go Out

lightI spent a few hours late last night sitting beside my water garden. The cool night air, the hot cup of coffee, and the sound of the water cascading down the rock and into the pool beneath made for a relaxing evening. It reminded me of the many times I had paddled my canoe down a river, camped on a rock ledge and listened to the soothing sounds of the river as I drifted off to sleep.

As I sat there last night I noticed what often goes unnoticed—the lights across the street at Forest Park. They were shining brightly—doing their best to dispel the darkness of the night.

During the daylight hours, parents with their excited children rush by the lights without giving them a second thought. The patrons of the pool are so focused on their immediate pleasure, the lights are unnoticed.

How often do you think about the value of the light? You may give careful consideration to its convenience during a power outage. You may wish for a flashlight when you try to find your way through a house that’s so dark its ebony in color. But, how often do you neglect it.

At 12:05 Tuesday, the first 5 minutes of today, Forest Park went black. The lights went out. In the sudden darkness of the moment I noticed what I had taken for granted earlier, the comfort and the security of the light.

As I sat there, I was reminded of a verse from the book of Daniel: “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

Does this verse remind you of your responsibility to share the light of God’s love, grace, and mercy? When will you let your light shine today? Where is it needed most?

Do you remember what Jesus said? “No one, after lighting a lamp, covers it with a basket or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand so that those who come in may see its light.”

Decadent Desires

decadentEven though I’m no dentist, I know I have a serious problem. I have an unusually large and powerful sweet tooth! The presence of this tooth isn’t felt in the form of throbbing pain, but in the desire for food that is salty or sweet.

Sometimes I have an almost undeniable urge to indulge in my favorite foods (ice cream, popcorn, waffles, etc.). I sent a dietitian into orbit one day. I said: “I’ve heard cinnamon is good for you.” She replied: “Yes, it’s reported that it has some health benefits.” I said: “That’s good because since I heard cinnamon is good for you, I’ve been eating two of them every day.” With a stern look and a firm voice, she said: “That’s not the way it works!”

Temptation is a powerful presence that must be controlled. You either control your emotions or they control you. In the book of James, the writer says: “A man’s temptation is due to the pull of his own inward desires, which can be enormously attractive. His own desire takes hold of him, and that produces sin. And sin in the long run means death—make no mistake about that, brothers of mine!”

An article in The Atlantic, sheds some light on the temptation to yield to your food cravings. It seems there is a link between food cravings and sleep deprivation:

“In one 2012 study, researchers found that when people were sleep-deprived, the reward centers of their brains lit up more when they looked at pictures of junk foods than when they saw pictures of healthy foods (in well-rested people, the brain response was roughly the same for both food groups). And another study, also from 2012, found that lack of sleep led to reduced activity in the areas of the brain that controlled decision-making—and, as a result, to greater cravings for fattening foods over healthier ones.”

The next time I crave something sweet, I guess I should substitute a sweet dream for the sweet cream. I also need to remember something else that James said: “The man who patiently endures the temptations and trials that come to him is the truly happy man. For once his testing is complete he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to all who love him.”

Grace For The Moment

mercy-and-graceWhat picture comes to your mind when you think of Psalm 23? Is it a shepherd tending his flock? Do you have a vivid image of luscious green pastures where sheep are feeding? Perhaps your mind is fixed on the image of a stream of crystal clear water—water that quenches your thirst and refreshes your tired and weary body.

Whenever I read this Psalm, I think of three words that form a phrase that appears twice: “He leads me.” Shepherds are to lead sheep and sheep are to follow the shepherd.

When you follow the lead of the Good Shepherd, you will experience His grace for each moment of your life. This is an important truth—God does not give grace for the future. Just as the Israelites could not collect manna for a future day, but only the present, you cannot collect and hoard grace for a future need.

God’s grace is sufficient for your every need and for every breath of your life. This truth is proclaimed in Hebrews 4:16: “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.”

Here are the key points of the verse above:
• As one of God’s children, you have a family right of access to the throne of grace.
• It is the throne of GRACE, not philosophy.
• You can approach the throne of grace with confidence.
• You can have the expectation of receiving the mercy and grace you need for the moment.
• The mercy is designed to help with your “failures.”
• The grace is focused on providing “help.”
• All of this is for the exact moment you need it—“in the hour” of your need.

The key to all of this is found in the three words of Psalm 23: “He leads me.” When David followed the Good Shepherd he was blessed. When he strayed from the path of the Shepherd, he failed. In each case the mercy and grace of the Shepherd was present in his hour of need, and both are present for you as well.

What’s in a Name?

nameThe marketing power of today’s professional athlete never ceases to amaze me. I was listening to a report on either ESPN or CNBC that detailed the earnings power of LeBron James, and they are seen in the table below .

james

While there is a lot of dollar value to the name, “LeBron James,” there is still no comparison to power of Jesus name; and, Scripture testifies of this fact:
• Philippians 2:9-10: God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth
• Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved
• Psalm 7:17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
• Psalm 9:10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
• Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
• Psalm 29:2 Give to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Even though LeBron just inked a new deal with Nike that is incredibly lucrative, I still think the name of Jesus has more staying power, and His name is good for all eternity.

Take Time To Read The Fine Print

read-booksFrom the time I first learned to read, I’ve had a love for books, and an article I read in WSJ Online, reminded me of the importance and great benefit of reading.

The author, Jeanne Whalen, believes that reading just 30 minutes a day will:
• Improve your ability to concentrate
• Reduces your stress levels
• Deepen your ability to think, listen and empathize

Whalen isn’t alone in touting the benefits of reading:
• The Journal of Neurology cited a study of 300 elderly people that suggested regular engagement in mentally challenging activities, including reading, can slow the onset of memory loss.
• Developmental Psychology (1997) showed a correlation between a student’s first-grade reading ability and his 11th grade academic achievement

As I read this article, I thought of the promise and encouraging words that God spoke to Joshua (1:5-8): “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Mark Twain once said: “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” It is to your advantage to take time to read. I have often been blessed by reading a good book, and every time I read The Good Book, I am doubly blessed.

I conclude with a statement made by David Josiah Brewer (1837 –1910) who was an associate justice of the Supreme Court for 20 years: “No nation is better than its sacred book. In that book are expressed its highest ideals of life, and no nation rises above those ideals. No nation has a sacred book to be compared with ours. This American nation from its first settlement at Jamestown to the present hour is based upon and permeated by the principles of the Bible. The more this Bible enters into our national life the grander and purer and better will that life become”