Is That Prime Rib or Reheated Hash?

PrintHow many times have you pulled up to your favorite restaurant, and you think you’ve found a choice parking spot close to the door only to discover it’s posted with a sign:  RESERVED.  Be honest, you hate it when this happens don’t you?

The last time I pulled into a spot like that, I realized the sign is a good commentary on our lives.  Either we reserve the best for God, or we re-serve Him the leftovers.

It’s easy to find verses that emphasis the reserved life:

  • Honor the Lord with your substance and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine (Proverbs 3:9-10).
  • Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
  • Present your body as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2).

When Proverbs 3, challenges you to honor the Lord with your substance, it means with the essence of your being.  It means body, soul, spirit, gifts, talents, abilities, and all earthly possessions.

Are you honoring God with your substance by living a life that is reserved for Him, or are you giving Him a life that is a re-served bowl of lukewarm hash?

The Book of Ralph

ralphBooks like The Book of Ralph are seldom found on the shelves of libraries.  If you do an online search at book sellers like Amazon or Barnes and Noble, you find very little.

The reason for the scarcity is the rarity of the subject matter and the classification of the book—biography not fiction.  There are too few people who are as genuinely gentle and gracious as Ralph Lilley, the main character of the book.

I have had the privilege of knowing Ralph for over 25 years.  I have been his pastor, and he has willingly served his Lord as an elder, deacon, janitor, painter, teacher, greeter, volunteer, advocate for children, champion of the poor and needy, meals on wheels, and Chairman of Christian Service.

As I reflected on Ralph’s life yesterday, I spoke of seven lessons from The Book of Ralph, and I share them with you now:

#1—Remember your place in the line of life. 

He that will be first shall be last, and he that is last shall be first.

#2—Pick up the burdens of others, so you won’t let them down. 

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

#3—Display your manly meekness.

  Galatians 6:1:  If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of meekness.

#4—Mind your manners.

  Ephesians 4:2:  Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love

#5—Let the Spirit guide your speech.

 Colossians 4:6:  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

#6—Share the grace of God.

  Ephesians 4:29:  You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.

#7—Do more than just talk the talk:  walk the walk.

  James 1:26-27: If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.  Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Remembering Ralph’s work of faith, his labor of love, and patience of hope in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 

I Thessalonians 1:3

It’s The Season

Organize-Your-Home_chore-checklist_092011It’s one of those annual rites that’s practiced in most homes across the USA.  At some point in the Spring and the Fall months of the year, there is some time scheduled for extra cleaning.

Just as you make time to spruce up your house, you might want to examine your life as well.  Is it as tidy and clean as it was a week or a month ago?

Self-examination is a continuing theme throughout the pages of Scripture, and I’ve emphasized a word in each verse below.  While these are different words in the English, they come from the same word in the Greek which is the language of the New Testament.

As you read these verses consider them in the context of who, what, when, and why:

***1 Thessalonians 5:21-22:  Test everything. Hold on to what is good. Keep away from every kind of evil.

  • What am I doing now that I wasn’t doing that has created a void in my relationship with God?

***Philippians 1:9-11:  I pray that your love will keep on growing because of your knowledge and insight. That way you will be able to determine what is best and be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.  Jesus Christ will fill your lives with everything that God’s approval produces. Your lives will then bring glory and praise to God.

  • When did my love for Jesus quit growing and when did it cease to bring Him glory and praise?

***Ephesians 5:8-14: Live as children of light, for the fruit that the light produces consists of every form of goodness, righteousness, and truth.  Determine what pleases the Lord, and have nothing to do with the unfruitful actions that darkness produces. Instead, expose them for what they are. For it is shameful even to mention what is done by these disobedient people in secret.  But everything that is exposed to the light becomes visible, for the light is making everything visible.

  • Who has influenced me to walk in the shadowy sin of darkness instead of the light of God’s love?

***Galatians 6:3-4:  If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself; but let each one examine his own work

  • Why do I think I can live my life on my own terms and disregard the principles of God and compromise my testimony?

***Romans 12:1-2: I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship.  Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.

Examine your life to discern who you are most like.  Are you more or less of a reflection of Jesus than you were a week or a month ago?  If you are less like Him, is it because you like Him less and some one or some thing else more?  Are you still conformed to His image or have you morphed into the likeness of the world?

Examine yourself:  Is it time for some Fall cleaning?

Discreetly Discrete

character_stonesSometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with strange or random thoughts on my mind.  When this happened recently, I was thinking of two statements that Jesus made:

  • The first is an admonition to be discreet: Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
  • The second is a command to be discrete: Be in the world, but not of the world.

As I thought about these two statements, the words discreet and discrete came to my mind.  Even though these words are homophones, they are not synonyms.  Discreet implies wisdom in your behavior or speech.  Discrete means: distinct or separate.

What section of the Bible outlines a discreetly discrete Christian life?  I think it’s the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

What change can you make to help you become a discreetly discrete person?

Paying and Staying Fit

Horizon_Fitness_T101-3_TreadmillAny town of any size in the USA has some type of a gym or health club for the benefit of its citizens.  Many Americans strive to develop or maintain a regimen that leads to and promotes good health.

According to information from Yahoo:

  • 58 million Americans have a gym membership, but 67% of them never use their memberships.
  • Health clubs have annual revenues of about $21.8 billion.
  • The average cost per person for a membership is $58.
  • 5% of gym-goers use a personal trainers at an average price per session of $65.
  • Americans spend around $30 billion a year on athletic apparel.

While we should try to stay reasonably fit, we should place at least equal or more emphasis on praying to stay fit.  How would your life be different if you started a match program?

  • For every minute you spend trying to stay physically fit, you will match it with a minute of spiritual exercise (praying, reading your Bible, or speaking to someone about Jesus).
  • For every penny you spend paying to stay physically fit, you will give an equal amount to the Lord.

When you consider eternity, which one is of the greater benefit to you?  Is it paying to stay fit or praying to stay fit?

A Heavy Mettle Discussion

867bfc01-5e47-4d5f-a8e9-9a3d2f48f421_zps40643497I heard the sad story of a man who died recently. He had crawled under a house to steal the copper wiring and was electrocuted.

This is sad for a couple of reasons:

  • Copper prices are at historic lows, and this man lost his precious life trying to take something so cheap.
  • His attempt to steal was evidence of a steel less and easily tempted character

This copper incident reminds me of the judgment discussion that Paul had with the Christians at Corinth:

“You are God’s building.  As a skilled and experienced builder, I used the gift that God gave me to lay the foundation for that building. However, someone else is building on it. Each person must be careful how he builds on it.  After all, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that is already laid, and that foundation is Jesus Christ.  People may build on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw.  The day will make what each one does clearly visible because fire will reveal it. That fire will determine what kind of work each person has done.  If what a person has built survives, he will receive a reward.  If his work is burned up, he will suffer the loss. However, he will be saved, though it will be like going through a fire.”               ~I Corinthians 3:9-15

In the verses above Paul offers a  Double M Lesson:

  • The first M is Metal or the gold and silver.
  • The second M is Meddle or the wood, hay, and straw.
  • Paul uses these objects to frame his argument in the context of a quality of life versus a quantity of life perspective.

The metal and meddle aspects of your life will be judged by fire which “will determine what kind of work each person has done.”  The difference between your metal and meddle may be your mettle or the manner in which you confront the challenges of life and faithfully persevere.

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy he engaged in a little heavy mettle discussion:  “When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.”  ~2 Timothy 2:3-5

I encourage you to do what Paul admonished Timothy to do in the verses above:  “Think it over.”

The Nasty Secret of Bloodshot Eyes

article-2358570-1A9F7641000005DC-522_634x378It’s enough to make you cry!   You know what I mean . . the stinging sensation when your eyes began to burn after jumping into a swimming pool. Up to this point, you may have attributed the red eyes and stinging to chlorine in the water. I hate to be the one who breaks the news to you, but chlorine isn’t the chemical culprit:  It’s urine.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that when pool goers go in the pool, the urine binds with the chlorine and produces chloramine.  Not only is chloramine an eye irritant, it is also a derivative of ammonia that can cause respiratory problems among some swimmers.

If you find the thought of little tykes tinkling in the pool a bit disgusting, think about your stream of sins from God’s perspective.  Jesus said, “It’s what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness—all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution (Mark 7:20-23 from The Message).”

Are the habits that define you ones of pollution or purity?  Are they mortifying to God or glorifying to Him?  I encourage you to live a life that glorifies God by clothing yourself “with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).”

Falling In The Fallout Shelter

IMG_0547 (1)They’ve hung there for over 50 years, and they’ve become so commonplace that they are hardly noticed.  For some reason though, my eyes focused on the FALLOUT SHELTER sign when I entered the church yesterday.

During the 50’s and 60’s, shelters of this kind were stocked with crackers, candy and water to sustain people if their fears of a nuclear holocaust became a reality.  In some districts, public schools would have practice drills, so the students would know what to do in case of an attack.

As an adult, I realize that the viability of some structures was more than just questionable.  There is, however, a shelter is that is much more reliable, and it is found in Psalm 91:4:  “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge. His truth is your shield and armor.”

Whenever I read this Psalm and think of being covered with “his feathers,” I’m reminded of the protective behavior of a pigeon that is sitting on a nest of eggs.  My brothers and I raised pigeons when we were kids, and our curious hands were spanked more than once by a hen who was protecting her squabs.

God does the same for us:  He covers us with His feathers; hides us under His wings; and, He is our refuge, truth, and shield of armor.  This is the same God who said He would never leave or forsake you.

When trouble comes your way, you can be confident that God is your fallout shelter or refuge.  You can fall in to his nest of care by using Psalm 57:1 as a prayer to God:

Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me, for I take refuge in You.

I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings until danger passes.

Simply and Complexly Marvelous

Beauty-of-NatureIf you want to spice up a conversation, bring either religion or politics into the discussion.  There are many diverse opinions on both subjects, and the topic of creation can stir the pot among both the believers and skeptics.

Some people believe in a random Big Bang form of creation, others espouse a view known as intelligent design, and then there are those who embrace the Genesis account of creation.

I find it hard to look at the intricate design of the world and believe it just happened by chance.  In Psalm 9, David writes:  “I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.  I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

When was the last time you paused and reflected on the “marvelous works” of God?  What would a flower be without its fragrance?  How dark would the night skies be without the light of the moon and stars?  How different would birds be if they were drab in color and whistled and sang out of tune?

The sunrise, the sunset, and the rainbow are the canvas on which the Master Artist paints in vivid colors, and the day would be much different if it began and ended in a colorless brown instead of  fire-red hues.  Speaking of fire, what would fire be without its warmth on a cold night or water without its refreshing coolness?

How about food?  What would chili be like if there was no spice or a breakfast roll without cinnamon?  And, it’s almost too painful to consider a world without ice cream!

How mundane would life be without this complicated, yet marvelous thing we call love?  Isn’t love the WOW factor in everything that God created?

When you read the book of Genesis, you see God at work.  After He had spoken the physical world into existence, God formed Adam out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life.  Next in line was the creation of the animal kingdom, but God wasn’t finished until He created woman.

Adam thought he had seen it all, but then he saw Eve.  To Adam she saw the marvelous WOW-inducing work of God

Take sometime this week, to marvel at the works of God, and the way He has blessed you.

Is Left Ever Right?

IMG_0530 (1)Have you noticed that some cities seem to be in a perpetual state of ruin?  You know the cities I’m thinking of, the ones that seem to take pride in roads lined with bright orange traffic cones:  As far as the eye can see, they dot the highway and try to guide you safely down the road.

A day or two ago, I was driving through an intersection laced with orange cones and concrete barriers, and I got a little nervous. It looked like I was being directed into the oncoming lane of traffic.  For a moment I thought the engineer had been imported from England and he had brought his, drive-on-the-left-side-of-the-road, mentality with him.

This experience reminds me of the message on a sign:  “One Way or Another.”  The sober truth is that  when you die, you will go one way or another.

The good news is that there is a road map to lead you through the detours and confusing  intersections of life.  Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  If you will make the right turn and follow Jesus, you will never get left by Him.