Maybe or Maybe Not

lender-decisionsShould I stay or should I go?  Should my answer be yes or no? Some decisions are easy to make, but there are times when choices leave us baffled and befuddled.

The solutions to some problems are quickly discovered and come as easily and flipping on a light switch.  Frequently though, life can be a perplexing journey filled with head-banging frustration as you seek an elusive answer:

  • Where should I live?
  • Which doctor should I use and which treatment should I try?
  • Should I keep the job I have or should I seek employment elsewhere?
  • Is this the person I should marry?
  • Which college should I choose to pursue my education?

Psalms 25:12:12 offers the assurance that, The Lord shows his faithful followers the way they should live. And, Proverbs 3:5-6 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

The question remains: How can you know that you’re making the right decision? Let me suggest a few questions that might help you focus your thoughts:

  • Am I violating any biblical principles?
  • Will my actions be an embarrassment to my parents or grandparents?
  • Is it legal, moral, and ethical?
  • Who will it help and who will it hinder?
  • What is the financial, emotional, and spiritual cost to me and my family?
  • Will my decision lead me to do what’s good, better or best?
  • Have I prayed about my situation?

When you confuse your wants and desires with your needs, making the right choice can be difficult. Your discernment can be hindered due to either wanting too much of the wrong thing or desiring too little of the right thing—both can be obstacles when you pray for guidance:

George Muller, a champion of orphans and an evangelist, once said: Nine-tenths of difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.

Here are four steps to consider as you chose your path in life:

  • Yield to God, and be willing to will the will of God for life (Joshua 24:14-15).
  • Spend some time in prayer and meditating on God’s word (Joshua 1:8).
  • Seek the counsel of the wise (Proverbs 19:20).
  • Don’t rush your decision; take the time to think it through (Proverbs 21:5).

In times of indecision, I’ve found comfort in Jeremiah 29:11; and I think you might as well: I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. ~Jeremiah 29:11

Number 45: Donald J Trump

trump-penceThe prayers of pastors, are heard at least every four years in Washington D.C., and this was true again this year when Bishop Wayne T. Jackson prayed for President Donald Trump: We ask that you give him the wisdom of Solomon, the vision of Joseph and the meekness of Christ . . . Solomon kept peace among many nations, Joseph dreamt better for the people, and Christ who accepted us all.

Jackson was obeying the mandate of I Timothy 2:1-2: I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

Regardless of our political views and how we voted, Donald J. Trump is now the president of the United States; and, whether we like him or detest him, it is our duty to pray for him.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord ~Psalm 33:12

Together Again

togetherWhen I’m writing an article, I can get a little frustrated with my typos.  These little gaffes can be the source of large misunderstandings or they can be a bit humorous. A case in point is a verse from a song that was misprinted:  Let Us Break Bread On Our Knees.

If a group of people were going to come together to break bread to-gather, they would soon have a pile of crumbs. Togetherness is a theme of Scripture, and more often than not, we’re promised blessings instead of crumbs:

  • Paul urged people to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose (I Corinthians 1:10).
  • David said, it’s good and pleasant when God’s people live together in peace . . . the Lord gives His blessing of life forever (Psalm 133).
  • Paul worked hard to comfort and encourage people, so that they will be knit together—that many hearts would become one through His love. I do it so they will be rich in understanding and have full knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Jesus (Colossians 2:2).
  • David said God will bless the righteous and surround him as with a shield (Psalm 5:2).

Let me encourage you take a minute to reflect on God’s goodness for it is “He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations (Psalm 100).”

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance. ~ Psalm 33:12

Unwanted Memories: Is There An Answer?

droofFor many people, yesterday’ shooting in Fort Lauderdale stirred-up unwanted memories of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in Columbine and Dylann Roof in Charleston. We should not be surprised that these events are beyond our comprehension, because they are often perpetrated by people who, unlike most,  have no concept of conscious.

Sociopath and psychopath are words that have been used to described people like Harris, Klebold, and Roof, as well as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Dennis Rader. The DSM-5 classifies sociopathy and psychopathy as Antisocial Personality Disorders and sets certain criteria for a diagnosis:

  • A disregard for laws, social mores, and the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior
  • Sociopaths are agitated, disorganized individuals, and they are unable to blend in with society
  • Psychopaths are high-functioning individuals who manipulate people with their can charming personality. While they do not actually feel emotion, they can learn to mimic emotions to blends in with the crowd.

Due to their lack of conscience, people with these disorders process emotions like a blind man negotiates a maze; one doesn’t feel, the other doesn’t see, and both find the task daunting.

Dr. Martha Stout a Clinical Psychologist and former Harvard Medical School instructor, offers this assessment:

An emotional word is love, hate, anger, mom, death, anything that we associate with an emotional reaction. A nonemotional word is lamp, street, hair, rug, that kind of thing. If I had electrodes hooked up to you right now and I said a string of words, and some of them were emotional and some were not, I’d get a larger spike on the emotional words. We are wired to process those words more readily than neutral, nonemotional words. We are very emotional creatures. But sociopaths listen as evenly to emotional words as they do to lamp or book—there’s no neurological difference. ~THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR

The obvious question is: How do you treat someone who has no conscious?  The prerequisite to change is a desire to do so, and without a conscious there is no desire. Without a conscience there is no good or evil, and the need for true healing is a recognition of that which plagues the heart.

One thing that never changes in these instances is the need for prayer, and I encourage you to pray for those who were touched by the tragic events of yesterday.

Words and Worms at Sunrise

rooster-early-birdIf it’s true that the early bird gets the worm, then the authors of the Psalms must have harvested plenty of them.  Many of these poetic proclamations suggest the writers were early risers: My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up (Psalm 5:3).

Henry Ward Beecher may have been thinking of this verse when he said: The first hour of waking is the rudder that guides the whole day.

Whether it’s morning, noon, or night, I encourage you to set a time to reflect on the four verses below and use them as rudders to help guide your life:

  • Relax in His peace: “In peace, I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety (Ps. 4:8).”
  • Refresh yourself in His mercies: “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made (Ps. 145:9).”
  • Rejoice in His love: “I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation (Ps. 13:5).”
  • Remain in His presence: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Ps. 91:1).”

 

I’ll close with this thought that’s worth thinking: Remember that it’s, “Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:2-23).”

The Gratitude List

Like most mornings, I started today with a cup of coffee and my Bible. While I was reading, I thought about God’s wonderful deeds for mankind, and my lack of gratitude:

 

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

~Psalm 107:8-9

This morning I give thanks to these people I’ve never met:

  • Thomas Edison for the light that shines about my head.
  • Benjamin Franklin for the glasses I wear.
  • The Wright brothers and their work in the field of aviation.
  • Charles Babbage, the Father of Computers
  • James Watt for his inventive mind that gave us the steam engine.
  • Alexander Bell who gave the first truly functional telephone.
  • Galileo because his genius improved accuracy of the compass; without which I’d still be lost in the wilderness.
  • Henry Ford and his “moving assembly line” which allowed for the mass production of automobiles.
  • Willis Carrier for the air conditioning that I enjoy during the hot and humid summer days.

Expressing gratitude and giving thanks are themes that run throughout the pages of the Bible. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote: I thank God . . .  as I remember you 2constantly in my prayers night and day (1:3).

I encourage you to mimic Paul: Take some time today to reflect on the past year; express your gratitude, and say thanks to those who have helped you along the way and made your life a little easier.

Dallas: A Grief-Stricken City

dallasDallas, you are in my heart and on my mind.  I am praying for the people who reside within the boundaries of this great city, and those who live in the suburbs.   I’m also praying for those who do their best to serve and protect the citizens of this ever-growing metropolitan area; my heart bleeds blue for the slain officers.

Early reports this morning say these officers were shot by a black man who was frustrated by the recent shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.  Just as the actions of this man do not represent the majority of the people who marched last night in a Black Lives Matters protest, the questionable actions of a few cops do not represent law enforcement officers as a whole.

Vengeful acts of rage that are perpetrated on the innocent as retaliation against a perceived injustice are the illogical acts of malcontents who are a boiling pot of rage.  The tragic events of last night are evidence that a mind that seethes with anger is a mind that is primed to explode.

Please join me in praying for the people of Dallas and the LEOs and first responders across this nation who enter harm’s way to serve and protect us.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. ~I Timothy 2:1-6

Grumpy or Gracious?

grumpyWhenever I read the opening verses of Psalm 92, the number 1,440 flashes through my mind.  1,440 is the number of minutes in a day, and Psalm 92 is a positive motivator on how to manage these precious moments:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and sing praises to Your name, O Most High. It is good to tell of Your loving-kindness in the morning, and of how faithful You are at night, with harps, and with music of praise.  For You have made me glad by what You have done, O Lord. I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands (Psalm 92:1-4).

Think about the words you spoke yesterday; was your vocabulary more grumpy than it was gracious?  How would your life be different if you would spend more time counting your blessings than tallying your slights?  Would you be happier and healthier?

Barbara Fredrickson, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, has examined the power of positive and negative thoughts. She has found that positive emotions enhance your sense of personal potential; opens your mind to new possibilities; and, they allow you to develop new skills and resources that add value to your life.

Fredrickson’s premise is a conformation of a principle from the Proverbs: Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. ~Proverbs 16:24

Over the next week, I encourage you to use some of the 1,440 minutes of each day to put Psalm 92 to practice:

  • Focus on the blessing of God, and give thanks.
  • Whistle a tune, hum a favorite hymn, and sing a song of praise to God.
  • When you get up in the morning, start with a God is Able thought, and end your day by rehearsing the history of God’s faithfulness.
  • Begin and end each day with the following prayer:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~Psalm 19:14

Flags, Banners, and the Cross

Banner_smYou’ve probably heard it said many times, and I agree: “If you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.”  This simple phrase means there needs to be some consistency between what you say and what you do.

Since I attempt to practice what I preach, I try to read my Bible every day.  When I find a particular verse that speaks to me, I will read it in several different versions, and I’ve found that Biblegateway is a great resource to do this.

During my Bible time this morning, I was reading from I Corinthians, and the 18th verse of the first chapter caught my attention.  Notice how it’s rendered in the J.B. Phillips version:

For people who are stumbling toward ruin, the message of the cross is nothing but a tall tale for fools by a fool. But for those of us who are already  experiencing the reality of being rescued and made right, it is                        nothing short of God’s power.

One of the realities of being rescued, is the person who needs help has to ask for it. Safety and protection is usually a concern in times of danger and distress. The same was true for David, and he spoke of this in Psalm 60:4-5:

You have raised a banner for those who fear you—a rallying point in the face of attack. Interlude. Now rescue your beloved people. Answer and save us by your power.

Whether it’s a flag or a banner in the Psalms or the Cross in the New Testament, both give strength to persevere during the ups and downs of life.  Paul said:

We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

I recommend that you bookmark Psalm 71:2-4, so it can be a prayer the next time you’re fearful or need some encouragement; and, it might be helpful to go to Biblegateway and read it in several different versions.

Psalm 71:2-4

Save me and rescue me, for you do what is right. Turn your ear to listen to me, and set me free. Be my rock of safety where I can always hide. Give the order to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked, from the clutches of cruel oppressors

I hope you will have a good week as you discover the power of the Cross and find comfort in God as your rock and fortress.

 

Standing in the Need of Prayer

boy-and-dog-prayingI rolled out of bed at 4:30 this morning with the same thoughts that were on my mind when I crawled into it last night—the prayers of Samuel and Paul.  Both of these men, one from the Old Testament and the other from the New Testament, were prayer warriors.

One word in particular was on my mind, and it was used by both men.  It’s the word “ceasing.”

  • I Samuel 12:23: God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way.
  • I Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without

When you read the writings of Paul, it’s easy to see that he was a man of prayer:

  • Colossians 1:9-10: We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will…so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects.
  • Ephesians 3:16-17: I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
  • Philippians 1:9-11: And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

I think the Achilles heel of too many people is that we cease without praying instead of praying without ceasing.  Only heaven knows how many lives have benefitted from and were changed by the prayers of Samuel, Paul, and people like you and me.

May we not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray. . .

 

Standing in the Need of Prayer