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.

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?

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.

Indoor-fins: The Science of Laughter

fish-bowl-small-sizeThe health benefits of laughter were known centuries before recent studies discovered the connection between laughter and endorphins (indoor-fins).

Somewhere around 900 BC, King Solomon assembled his collection of wise and pithy principles for life. Proverbs 17:22 is a good example: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

An article in Forbes does more than just confirm the words of Solomon, it lists six benefits of laughter:

  • Laughter is a potent endorphin releaser.
  • Laughter contagiously forms social bonds.
  • Laughter fosters brain connectivity.
  • Laughter is central to relationships.
  • Laughter has an effect similar to antidepressants.
  • Laughter protects your heart.

If you’ve been sick, down-in-the-dumps, needled by pain or coping with stress, laugh a little and let your brain release the endorphins that will kick-start your immune system, enhance your mood, soothe your pain, and tame your stress.

I hope the words of John McLeod will nudge you in the right direction and put a smile on your face:

Can I give you a handful of laughter

A smidgen of giggles to boot,

A cupful of tease and a comical sneeze

Followed by a hilarious hoot.

Life’s Trials and Trails

pathA person’s path in life will be shaped by the trails he walks and the trials he endures. I’ve walked many trails that have been scenic adventures, and I’ve encountered several trials that were dismal and disappointing.

There will be times in life when nothing makes sense.  The trail will seem too steep to climb and too long to endure. When David experienced a situation like this, he realized that God had already walked where he had never gone and could see what was beyond his vision.

David said: When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path (Psalm 142:3).

The next time you have a tussle with a trial, remember that:

  • God never leads His children down the wrong path
  • You may not know where the path will lead you, but God does.
  • Just because you’re confused, God isn’t confounded.
  • God is present, and He will not abandon you.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

 

Attitude’s Cradle of Forgiveness

ForgivenessWinston Churchill was right when he said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”  For better or worse, your attitude has life-changing potential.

Some people have never looked at life through rose-colored glasses; instead, they seem to be prone to a negative bias. On the other hand, there are some who find the silver-lining in every cloud.  The difference between the two is Churchill’s little thing.

This is even true with the way people read the Bible.  Some people are more apt to see a negative theme when a verse is every bit as ripe with a positive principle.

A case in point is the New Testament principle of sowing and reaping. Stated in a few words it says that you will reap what you sow. Far too many people try to put just a negative emphasis on this passage when it is positively pregnant with potential.

Newton’s cradle is a good demonstration of the principle of sowing and reaping.  Newton posited that “action and reaction are equal and opposite.”  When one ball is released (action), a ball from the opposite side swings out in equal distance (reaction).

Jesus used this principle in a discussion of forgiveness:  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).

How much different would your world be if you retrained your attitude to focus instead of the negative?

I encourage you to begin this week by sowing the positive seeds of kindness and giving the gift of forgiveness to those who have wounded you.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

What is it that lies within you?  It’s your attitude and the potential to love others as Christ loves you.  I encourage you to give some thought to Paul’s exhortation to the church at Rome:

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good (The Message).

Beat-up and Worn-down?

stressedAre there times in your life when you can’t seem to shake the petty frustrations of the day, and you plop in your chair feeling beat-up, worn-down, and thoroughly annoyed?

I never want these moments to become marathons, so I try to get a grip on my gripes by redirecting my attention. I do this by thinking less about my perceived misery and more on the character and promises of God.

A passage of Scripture that picks me up when I’m feeling down is Psalm 136. It’s a reflection on God’s mercy or the “steadfast love of God.”

The first three verses of this Psalm begin will a call to give thanks to God and each of its twenty-six verses reminds us that God’s mercy endures forever.

This Psalm is a diary of some of the defining moments in history when God intervened in an awesome display of His power:

  • The power of God is seen in His creative acts (136:5-9).
  • The power of God is seen in His faithful deliverance of His people (136:10-15).

The last four verses of this Psalm can strengthen your resolve when you realize that you are never beyond the reach of God, and He will remember you (136:23), rescue you (136:24), and He will restore you through His steadfast love endures forever (136:26).

Gratitude

gratitude-noteOn March 8, 1713, Matthew Henry experienced an unfortunate incident that offered proof that he was a preacher who could not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk.

Henry had preached a sermon in a London church that focused on the joyful sound, and based on the words of Psalm 89:16: They rejoice in Your name all day long, and they are exalted by Your righteousness.

Shortly after he left the church, Henry was robbed by a couple of thieves. As Henry reflected on this incident in a prayer, he said:

Lord, I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.

Henry’s prayer is an expression of gratitude.  He chose to focus less on what he had lost and the danger he had faced and more on what he still had, what he had never been, and that he remained safe and secure in Christ.

Instead of allowing bitterness to take root in his life, Henry chose to cultivate a spirit of forgiveness and nurture an attitude of gratitude. Can the same be said of you?  Which of these three is indicative of your attitude today–bitterness, forgiveness, or gratitude?

To help you stay focused on this discussion I’ll end with the words of Zig Ziglar:  Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.

A Season of Lists

article_post_width_santa_naughty_listMost of us would find it difficult to manage the hustle and bustle of Christmas without the help of a few lists. These are scribbled on a piece of paper, written on a white board, or perhaps they pop up on a To-Do-List on your computer.

Lists are used to organize the events of our day and to lessen the stress of forgetfulness. Hosts pencil in names on guest lists; benefactors write gift lists; and wives scribble grocery lists to guide their husbands as they search for food items. Perhaps the most famous list is that naughty or nice one that’s frequently checked and monitored by old Saint Nick.

As I was rummaging through a desk drawer this week, I found a list that Mom and Pop had clipped out of a paper. It’s called the Ten Commandments For Right Living, and it offers some practical wisdom for life:

  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 life principles. 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 an ocean of difference between “doing in” others and “doing for” others. Which “doing” do you do?