Life Perspective: diy or CWS?

focus-37863944If you’re as big a fan of the game of baseball as I am, you probably think of the College World Series when you see the letters CWS.  Even Google associates CWS with the College World Series.  When I typed CWS into the search box, College World Series of Omaha appeared in the second spot.

Sorry baseball fans, but this morning CWS has a focus on Christ Who Strengthens.  CWS can be a comforting thought in a diy (Do It Yourself) world.

When I typed diy projects into Google, the search engine gave me 42,500,000 results.  The list included home decorating, cake decorating, decorating Easter eggs, recipes for cheesecake, and instructions for cheesy projects.

My problem with a diy project is that sometimes it looks like I did it—some guys have a PhD in hammerology, but I’m just a hack.

Some people are so self-sufficient, they try to approach their spiritual life with a diy mentality, and they look like:

  • Adam and Eve thought they were smarter than God.
  • Samson was blinded by his strength.
  • Peter was tripped by pride.
  • David’s morals were sucked down the drain of a bathtub.

Each of these men faltered and failed because their focus had become more diy and less CWS.  This principle is found in both Philippians 4:13 and Isaiah 40:29:

  • I can do all things through Christ Who Strengthens me—Phil. 4:13
  • He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength—Is. 40:29

Are you managing your life with a diy mindset or with a CWS perspective?

The Military Code of Conduct: Sworn to Obey

codeFrom 1971 to 1975, I served in the Air Force and was sworn to obey The Code of Conduct:

ARTICLE I: I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

ARTICLE II: I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

ARTICLE III: If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

ARTICLE IV: If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them in every way.

ARTICLE V: When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country or its allies or harmful to their cause.

ARTICLE VI: I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

Over the years of military history, The Code of Conduct has proven its worth:

  • When Air Force Capt. Scott O’Grady’s F-16 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over Bosnia in 1995, he said the Code of Conduct gave him the will to persevere and to evade capture for six days: “I knew it was my duty to survive.” Even though he had been shot down and was alone behind enemy lines, O’Grady said: “I was still part of a team working to get me out, and I had to do my part.”

In a speech following O’Grady’s rescue, Defense Secretary William Perry said the pilot actions had embodied the spirit of the code: “They shot his plane down, but not his spirit.”

  • During Operation Desert Storm, Lt. Cmdr. Larry Slade, was in the backseat of an F-14 Tomcat performing the duties of a Radar Intercept Officer when it was hit be a surface to air missile. Slade ejected, but he was captured by the enemy.  Slade said it takes “takes perseverance, motivation, bravery and courage” to follow the code, and he believes the code helped him survive his 43 days as a POW.

There’s a Code of Conduct in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and there is value in living a life that exemplifies each of them.  In the Old Testament it’s called The Ten Commandments, and in the New Testament it’s found in The Beatitudes.

While it would be wise for you to known each of these codes, I think you would also benefit from being familiar with the two verses that encapsulate each of them:

  • Micah 6:8: What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
  • Ephesians 4:1-3: I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

When you adhere to these codes, you can find the inspiration that will stiffen your backbone and give you the courage to live a life that glorifies God.

Death:  The Common Denominator

your-destination_0In 2005, Stanford University asked Steve Jobs to give the commencement address. During his speech, he made an interesting comment about death:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.

I find it interesting that Jobs, the founder of Apple, made a comment about death which is an apple-associated event.  To be fair, no one knows what Adam and Eve actually ate, but people generally think of the apple when they think of the Garden’s forbidden fruit.

Steve Jobs was right; death is the destination we all share.  Like it or not, death is the train that carries it passengers to destination death.

When Paul discussed death, dying, and the resurrection, *he said we all die due to Adam’s disobedience and sin in the Garden, but through Jesus all of us can live again.

While Adam’s way is the Path of Death, the way of life is the Am-Track Way or the Am-Way of Jesus: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

When you get on board with Jesus, you experience the wonder of salvation, and its benefits:

  • You are justified by faith.
  • You have peace with God.
  • You have access to God.
  • You have a relationship based on the grace of God.
  • You can rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

When you consider your final destination, you should also, “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either. My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. All those who focus their hopes on Him and His coming seek to purify themselves just as He is pure (I John 1:1-3 ~The Voice).”

Death may be the common denominator, but Jesus is the uncommon Mediator, and He is the only way you should travel to your final destination.

*Read The Message for an interesting rendition of this passage of Scripture.

 

Game of Thrones

game-of-thronesWith the start of its 6th season, Games of Thrones has been trending on social media.  Game of Thrones is a popular television show that is based on a series of fantasy novels written by George R. R. Martin.

The main pot of the show is the civil war between three rival families, the Starks of Winterfell, the Lannisters of Casterly Rock, and the Baratheons of Dragonstone. The story line incorporates swordplay, magic, and mythical dragons, as the backdrop in the struggle for power as each family endeavors to lay claim to the throne and to establish their kingdom.

While I have never read the books or watched the series on HBO, I know there is conflict among existing kingdoms—the kingdoms of light and darkness; and, it takes a certain amount of grit and courage to live walk out of the darkness and into the light.  Paul addressed this issue in his letter to the Colossians:

As you live this new life, we pray that you will be strengthened from God’s boundless resources, so that you will find yourselves able to pass through any experience and endure it with courage. You will even be able to thank God in the midst of pain and distress because you are privileged to share the lot of those who are living in the light. For we must never forget that he rescued us from the power of darkness, and re-established us in the kingdom of his beloved Son, that is, in the kingdom of light. For it is by his Son alone that we have been redeemed and have had our sins forgiven. (Colossians 1:11-14 ~J.B. PHILLIPS).

Never allow anyone to tell you they you have no right to this kingdom.  Jesus said He came to His own, but His own people did not receive Him. But to all who have received Him—those who believe in His name—He has given the right to become God’s children (John 1:11-12 ~NET).

When you walk with Jesus, you have been given the right to:

  • Be God’s Child (John 1:12)
  • Be redeemed and forgiven (Colossians 1:14)
  • Be a co-worker with God (6:1)
  • Be a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  • Be able to come boldly to the throne of grace, so you can obtain mercy and find grace to help in your time of need (Hebrews 4:16)

Life is more than just a game of King on the Mountain as you battle to claim a throne.  It’s a real fight, and you have a God who stands by your side:

Your arm is mighty. Your hand is strong. Your right hand is lifted high.
 Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne. Mercy and truth stand in front of you. Blessed are the people who know how to praise you.
They walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.  ~Psalm 89:13-15

Rogers Nelson: the prince and the The Prince

prince-2ICP_o_tnRogers Nelson, known to his fans as Prince, was 57 years old when he died yesterday.   CNN reported that, “An outpouring of grief followed as fans paid tribute to the singer who masterfully blended rock, R&B, jazz, funk and pop.”

While Prince Rogers Nelson had many adoring fans, I was not one of them. I just did not like the pieces of music he produced.

I do, however, like peace and what a real Prince has to offer.  Isaiah called this person the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

Although Prince Rogers Nelson was honored because he sold over 100 million records worldwide, I prefer the Prince of Peace who was known for other reasons:

  • Jesus healed a leper (Mark 1:40-45).
  • Jesus healed the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13).
  • Jesus opened the eyes of two blind men (Matthew 9:27-31).
  • Jesus fed at least five thousand people (Matthew 14:15-21).
  • Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-46).

I guess I have to agree with a statement found in Psalm 118:9: It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

The princes of this world have little to offer in comparison to the true Prince—the Prince of Peace.  When you get to know Him, you will begin to experience, “the effect of righteousness” and it  “will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”  ~Isaiah 32:17

Character, Faces and Names

namesDuring a recent conversation, I was asked if I knew a certain person; I replied, “I know the name, but I can’t put a face with it.”  Names are used to identify, organization, warn, encourage, and to express hope.

The name and character of God was the focus of a Psalm that David wrote after the Ark had been recovered and returned to the Holy of Holies:

Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore!  Remember His marvelous works which He has done…  ~I Chronicles 16:8-12

When a child calls out Mom or Dad, he is expressing trust and hope in the power and resources of his parents.  The same is true when God’s children “Call upon His name.”

Notice how the name of God is associated with His character:

  • Those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you—Psalm 9:10
  • The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower—Psalm 18:2
  • The LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust—Psalm 91:2
  • The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knows them that trust in him—Nahum 1:7

Whenever I discuss the name of God, I remember the words of Paul in Philippians 2:9-11:

God has highly exalted Jesus and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I want to encourage you to follow the advice of an old gospel hymn, Take The Name of Jesus With You:

Take the name of Jesus with you,

Child of sorrow and of woe.

It will joy and comfort give you,

Take it then wherever you go.

Precious name, O how sweet!

Hope of earth and joy of Heaven.

Precious name, O how sweet!

Hope of earth and joy of Heaven.

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire!

imageWhen you were a kid your integrity may have been assaulted with a blazing childhood rant: Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire!

Lying, however, isn’t in the repertoire of God—He’s the epitome of truthfulness and faithfulness:  God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent (Numbers 23:19).

The Psalms are replete with verses that testify of the faithfulness of God:

  • 15:4: He makes firm commitments and does not renege on his promise.
  • 18:30: The Lord’s promise is reliable; he is a shield to all who take shelter in him.
  • 25:30: The Lord always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant.
  • 100:5: For the Lord is good. His loyal love endures, and he is faithful through all generations.

God’s faithfulness is more than just the subject of polite conversation, it’s a concept that sustains us in those where-the-rubber-meets-the-road moments of life:

  • The grief-stricken need to know they can trust God when he says: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).”
  • To the lonely and downcast, God promises that, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you (Isaiah 43:2).”
  • The weak are energized by the potential of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me.”
  • The overwhelmed often find comfort in the opening words of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd . . .”

God is not wishy-washy, He’s reliable and His, “word is firmly fixed in the heavens, and His faithfulness endures to all generations (Psalm 119:89-90).”

Regardless of your circumstances in life, remember this: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).”

Awe-Inspired Goosebumps

usaf-thumb-450x355I was watching Kansas City play Houston last night, and during a commercial break I peeked at a video on YouTube.  It featured military jets flying low to the ground, and it reminded me of my time in the Air Force.

There were times that I didn’t want to drive through the guard shack and risk having my vehicle searched by the military police, so I would sneak on and off base through a little-known passage.  To navigate this route, I had to drive by the end of the runway.

Whenever a pilot saw my vehicle at the end of the tarmac, he would hug the deck until he was almost on top of me and then go full throttle. To be rattled by the power of the jets was an exhilarating and awe-inspiring experience, that left me covered with goosebumps.

I’m not sure if Isaiah was ever covered with goosebumps, but I do know that He had an awe-inspiring experience when he saw the Lord in His splendor and glory and heard the voice of angels:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” Isaiah cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” ~Isaiah 6

To emphasize the majesty, purity, and holiness of God, Isaiah didn’t say God is holy; he said God is holy, holy, holy.  This means the holy Creator is wholly unlike His creation:

  • He has never felt the pain of a stubbed toe.
  • The ups and downs of the stock market never worries Him.
  • He has never had an infection and never had a shot of penicillin.
  • His resources are limitless.
  • He has never been puzzled by a puzzle.

Our holy God invites the whole of His creation to approach Him in a time of need: We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin; therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time. ~Hebrews 4:14-16

It’s awe-inspiring to think that our mountain moving, mercy-filled, and gracious God, invites you and me into the realm of His glory with three simple words— “Come to me.”

The *At-Risk Asterisk

AsteriskSometime during the day, I usually stop by McDonald’s and grab a cup of coffee.  When I made my caffeine pit stop yesterday, a sign caught my attention.  It was promoting McDonald’s 2016 version of the Monopoly game.  At the bottom of the sign a red circle was emblazoned with the words, 1 in 4 Win*.

I’ve learned that a person can be at-risk, if he doesn’t pay attention to an asterisk.  After a quick search about the significance of the 1 in 4 Win asterisk and the odds of actually winning, I discovered the following:

  • The odds of getting the exact combination to win the $1 Million prize is 1 in 513,591,720.
  • The odds of winning one of the instant cash prizes is 1 in 45,000.
  • The best odds of winning are associated with the food prizes, and they equate with the advertised 1 in 4 Win*.

An asterisk offers essential data about information that has been changed, is missing, or has been updated.  It’s a coach that guides you through the mental gymnastics of comprehension.

When I think of the asterisk in this context, it reminds me of the work of the Holy Spirit who will offer an at-risk warning.  The ministry of the Spirit is multifaceted, and he empowers, guides, and convicts of sin.

Jesus said the coming of Spirit would be a great benefit to His disciples:

The truth is that My departure will be a gift that will serve you well, because if I don’t leave, the great Helper will not come to your aid. When I leave, I will send Him to you. When He arrives, He will uncover the sins of the world, expose unbelief as sin, and allow all to see their sins in the light of righteousness for the first time.  This new awareness of righteousness is important because I am going to the Father and will no longer be present with you.  ~John 16:7-11, The Voice

Whenever you feel an impression to take some action or you hear a small voice within you, it might be the whisper of the Spirit attempting to give you a new awareness of righteousness.

Paul contrasted the new awareness with the old nature in Romans 8, and I think I’ll use it as an * to share some essential information with you concerning the transforming power of God’s Spirit:

Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. ~Roman 8:5-8, The Message

Bread, Benefits, and Priorities

benefitsMy morning routine usually begins with a cup of coffee and a piece of toast with peanut butter and honey.  As I sip my coffee, I read some Scripture, check the news, and I think about my To-Do-List for the day.

I then do the necessary but mundane tasks of showering, shaving, brushing me teeth, and combing my hair—notice that I didn’t say hairs. While I was doing this yesterday, I thought of the correlation between the “daily” words of Jesus in Luke 9:23 and Matthew 6:11:

  • Luke 9:23: If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
  • Matthew 6:11: Give us this day our daily

The thought of taking up your cross daily, might seem to be a monumental task, and it would be if it were not for God’s provision.  He promises the daily bread you need to accomplish His will for your life.

Psalm 68:19: Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation!

God  will never tell you to “go” without showing the way, and He will never say “come” without leading you to Him. This is the benefit of knowing Him as your Shepherd and the God of your salvation.

God will show you and lead you with with His Voice of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:32-35: Now therefore, listen to me, my children, for blessed are those who keep my ways.  Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord.

Discovering God’s will and finding the necessary bread to accomplish it, requires a daily trip to the food pantry: These Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures (food pantry) daily to see if these things were so. ~Acts 17:11

When you consider your  T0-Do-List for tomorrow, I suggest you start by making God a daily priority.

I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. ~ Psalm 16:7-8